ASP Board Bios
Chris Ford is a leading authority in computer graphics (CG) software technology with over 25 years experience in feature film visual effects, game development and scientific visualization. Chris is currently Product Director for Studio and Developer Services at Roblox Corporation building content creation tools for the worlds largest social platform for play and imagination with over 56 million monthly users. Previously as Business Director at Pixar Animation Studios (Walt Disney Co) from 2005 to 2016, Chris grew the studios RenderMan photorealistic rendering software to a dominant market position of 75%+ of all feature films rendered. Prior to Pixar, Chris held key positions at Autodesk where he was Director of Product Management for all 3D Media & Entertainment software applications between 2002 to 2005 including 3D Studio Max, and at Alias|Wavefront (Silicon Graphics Inc) as Senior Product Manager between 1997 and 2002, introducing to market Maya now the worlds leading professional CG digital content creation software. Film industry applications managed by Chris have been awarded two Academy Awards for technological innovation and he is credited in twelve feature films.
Chris is an active amateur astronomer and astrophotographer with a specific interest in explaining the universe through advanced visualization techniques. He was formerly president of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society between 2010-2013, is currently co-chair of the societies imaging special interest group, and has spoken at many events featuring the intersection of 3D visualization and astronomy including SETICon, The Advanced Imaging Conference, Contact, and at various planetariums and astronomical societies. Chris joined the Board of Directors of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 2012 and was elected President in 2017.
University of Virginia/National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Kelsey Johnson is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Virginia, adjunct faculty at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the founder and director of the Dark Skies Bright Kids outreach program. Her research is focused on star formation throughout the universe, and in particular the impact of different physical environments. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 2001, where she held a NASA Graduate Research Fellowship and was awarded the Dorothy Martin Woman Doctoral Student Award, awarded annually to top female graduate student in any discipline. After earning her doctorate, Johnson held a National Science Foundation Fellowship, followed by a Hubble Fellowship. She has received the National Science Foundation CAREER award, a Packard Foundation Fellowship, a Distinguished young investigator FEST award, and an Excellence in Diversity award. The Dark Skies Bright Kids program that she created and directs was named a 2012 “Program That Works” by the Virginia Math and Science Coalition. A new course that Johnson created, entitled “Unsolved Mysteries in the Universe” is among the most popular in the department. In 2013 Johnson won an “All University Teaching Award” from the University of Virginia, and in 2015 she was elected to the Academy of Teaching at UVA. She gives numerous public lectures and interviews each year, as well as participating in Space Science for Teachers workshops.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)
Connie Walker is a Scientist at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, USA. For the past 17 years at NOAO, she has enjoyed managing several education outreach programs for the public, students and teachers on hands-on general astronomy, dark skies preservation, optics and solar research. Two highlights of her job are directing the popular international light pollution citizen-science campaign Globe at Night and the high school science café project, the Big Data Academy. To help make a difference, she is past-president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, vice-president of the International Astronomical Union’s commission on light pollution, and on the board of directors of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). For her efforts in bringing dark skies awareness to the public, the IDA awarded her their Hoag-Robinson award in 2011. Her amazing astronomer-husband, daughter (22), son (18) and cat (10) thankfully tolerate her interest in the dark side of astronomy.
Gordon Myers was raised in New York, Connecticut and Ohio. After graduating from Caltech (BSEE) and the University of New Mexico (MSEE) he joined IBM working on the Apollo Space Program. He later managed the organization that developed the flight software for the Space Shuttle, receiving NASA’s Public Service Award for his work. During the 1980s he became General Manager of Vice President of IBM’s Gaithersburg facility. In the 1990s he was Vice President and General Manager in IBM Global Services and helped lead IBM’s transition into the IT services business.
Since retiring he’s worked to improve public education – particularly to the underserved community – and to increase young people’s interest in science. His is an active observer of cataclysmic variables supporting professional research.
He served on non-profit Boards in Stamford, Connecticut including Stamford Achieves, the Business Council of Fairfield County, YMCA, Yerwood Center, and Fairfield County Community Foundation. Since moving to California in 2009 he’s been a Board member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and was Board President from 2013-2015.
University of California, Berkeley
Gibor Basri received his PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1979. An award of a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship brought him to UC Berkeley that year, where he joined the faculty of the Astronomy Department in 1982. He has worked on stellar magnetic activity and low mass stars (including the Sun) throughout his career. He was an active user of the Lick and Keck Observatories as well as a number of space telescopes. He was a pioneer in the discovery and study of magnetospheric accretion onto newly forming stars. He was a co-discoverer of brown dwarfs, and found and helped characterize the death of stellar chromospheres at the bottom of the main sequence. He has pioneered several means of directly measuring stellar magnetic fields, and studied their role in the angular momentum history of stars and brown dwarfs. Recently he has been utilizing stellar data from the Kepler mission to learn more about starspots. Back on Earth, he stepped down in 2015 from 8 years as the founding Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion at UC Berkeley.
Big Kid Science
Jeff Bennett, founder of Big Kid Science, received a B.A. in biophysics from UC San Diego and an M.S. and Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Colorado (1987). He specializes in science and math education and has taught at every level from preschool through graduate school. Career highlights include serving 2 years as a visiting senior scientist at NASA headquarters, where he developed programs to build stronger links between research and education, and proposing and helping to develop the Voyage scale model solar system on the National Mall (Washington, DC). He is the lead author of bestselling college textbooks in astronomy, astrobiology, mathematics, and statistics, and of critically acclaimed books for the public including Beyond UFOs, Math for Life, What Is Relativity?, On Teaching Science, and A Global Warming Primer. He is also the author of six science picture books for children, including Max Goes to the Moon, The Wizard Who Saved the World, and I, Humanity, and creator of the free, Totality app for learning about upcoming solar eclipses. His books have received numerous awards, including the American Institute of Physics Science Communication Award, and all six of his children’s books are currently aboard the International Space Station where they have been read aloud by astronauts for NASA’s Story Time From Space program. Jeff lives in Boulder, CO; his personal website is www.jeffreybennett.com.
University of Texas at Austin
William (Bill) Cochran is a Research Professor in the Department of Astronomy and McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin. He holds a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Princeton University. As a professional astronomer, his workhas centered on searching for and characterizing planetary systems orbiting other stars. He has been a Co-Investigator on the NASA Kepler space mission, which has revolutionized our understanding of extra-solar planetary systems. Bill’s interest in the area of science literacy, education and outreach centers on the professional development of middle- and high-school science teachers. He has co-led extended summer programs in cooperation with the Chicago Public Schools and Loyola University Chicago. He has also been active in teacher development workshops at McDonald Observatory. He is eager to seek new opportunities to bring astronomy into the classroom, and to excite young students about the universe.
Sonoma State University
Lynn Cominsky is the Chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department at Sonoma State University (SSU), where she has been on the faculty for over thirty years. She is an author on over 120 research papers in refereed journals, primarily in high-energy astrophysics, and serves as a scientific co-investigator for NASA’s Swift, Fermi and NuSTAR missions. In 1999, Prof. Cominsky founded SSU’s Education and Public Outreach Group, which develops educational materials for NASA, NSF and the US Department of Education. Since that time, she has written proposals that have brought in over $22 million in education funding to support K-12 STEM teacher training, curriculum development, and the development of interactive web activities for students that teach math and science. In the past, she has served as the scientific director for the PBS NOVA television program “Monster of the Milky Way” and accompanying planetarium show “Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity.” In 1993, Prof. Cominsky was named SSU’s Outstanding Professor, and the California Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the California Council on Science and Technology, in 2009, a Fellow of the American Physical Society and in 2013, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Recent awards include the 2014 Aerospace Awareness award from the Women in Aerospace organization, the 2015 Sally Ride Excellence in Education Award from the American Astronautical Society, the 2016 Education Prize from the American Astronomical Society and the 2016 Wang Family Excellence Award from the California State University.
Dr. Christine M. Darden
NASA Langley Research Center (retired)
Dr. Christine M. Darden retired from the NASA Langley Research Center as a member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service in March 2007 after nearly 40 years of service. At NASA, she worked five years as a “Human Computer” (Data Analyst) in the Re-Entry Physics Branch, twenty-three years as an Aerospace Engineer in supersonic flow and sonic-boom minimization, and 8 years as an executive.
During her NASA career, Darden authored over 57 technical papers and articles, primarily in the areas of sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization, and supersonic wing design. She is recognized as an international expert in these areas—having given technical presentations at many U.S. Conferences, in Germany, England, France, Greece and Japan.
Darden has been recognized with dozens of awards and honors—including two NASA Medals, one for her work and leadership of the Sonic Boom Program, and the other for her active involvement in working with and encouraging students to pursue careers in Math and Science. In addition, she received the Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement in Government Award and the Women in Science & Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.
Darden has the BS Degree in Mathematics Education with a minor in Physics from Hampton Institute (now University) in Hampton, VA, the MS Degree in Applied Mathematics from Virginia State College (now University) in Petersburg, VA, and the D.Sc. Degree in Mechanical Engineering from George Washington University in Washington, DC.
She and her husband of 55 years, Walter, are the parents of 3 adult daughters, 5 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
Steven Dupree helps organizations to grow and scale exponentially. He was most recently VP, Marketing at SoFi, where he led growth, acquisition, and product marketing for the world’s largest provider of student loan refinancing. Under Dupree’s tenure, SoFi increased monthly loan volume more than 30x and funded its first $8 billion in loans. Prior to SoFi, Dupree served as VP, Online Marketing and Operations at LogMeIn (NASDAQ: LOGM), a prominent software-as-a-service company, where he oversaw customer acquisition and conversion from startup (employee #5) through IPO. He also launched LogMeIn’s international marketing program from Budapest, Hungary.
Dupree is currently the Program Development Chair for the M.S. in Digital Marketing and Design at Brandeis University, where he received his B.A. in mathematics and economics. He also has an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar (Top 10%). Dupree is actively involved in the Growth Marketing Community here and abroad, advises several early-stage companies on customer acquisition, and mentors entrepreneurs through Endeavor, 500 Startups, and the Stanford Venture Studio. Dupree has passion for astronomy since childhood, and he’s eager to amplify interest and knowledge of astronomy across a whole new generation.
piZone.org public outreach & education
Noelle Filippenko, CMM, CMP has held positions as the VP of Operations, Director of Meeting & Incentives, and Director of Marketing for an international planning company. Clients have included Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Oprah. She has served 4 years as a VP on the Board of the Northern California Chapter of ISES (International Special Events Society), and was one of the first in the hospitality industry to earn both a CMM (Certified Meetings Manager – Director Level) and a CMP (Certified Meeting Professional). She joined the ASP in 2000, and she assisted in the design, budgeting, planning, and operations of two of the annual meetings; each successfully achieved its marketing and financial goals. She has also worked with the ASP’s outreach to arrange for hands-on activities and star parties for children with special needs, as well as outreach at the Chabot Space and Science Center. In 2010, she coordinated a sold-out event for The Planetary Society and Chabot that sought to increase visibility and outreach for both groups. She recently assisted as the Co-Chair for the Gala opening of the Bill Nye Climate Lab at Chabot, and is advising on the 2016 Gala Event.
Noelle’s current passion involves the August 2017 total solar eclipse, and the opportunity it creates to spark interest in science and education within our nation. She is on the committee of the eclipse Mega Movie, whose members include the ASP, UC Berkeley (Multiverse & SSL), National Geographic, and Google. As a resource for this event, Noelle is assisting with TotalSolarEclipse.com and PartialSolarEclipse.com to curate a directory of information for the public, on the path and off, to create an inclusive experience for this special event.
One of Noelle’s other major projects is the experience schools and the public have with Pi Day, March 14th (3.14), through NationalPiDay.org. Pi Day was originally created by the Exploratorium, and it piqued her interest as a means to engage in STEAM outreach. As a Board Member of the Piedmont Makers Faire, the creators of the nation’s first School Makers Faire, Noelle has embraced the Maker Movement as a catalyst for project-based learning in schools.
Bessemer Venture Partners
Sunil Nagaraj is a Vice President at Bessemer Venture Partners, focuses on investments in space, developer tools, internet of things and security companies.
Sunil serves as a Board Director for Auth0 and Zoosk as wel as a board observer at Rocket Lab, Spire, and Tile. His past investments include Twitch (acquired by Amazon), Defense.net (acquired by F5 Networks) and Grow Mobile (acquired by Perion). Prior to joining Bessemer, Sunil was the founder and CEO of Triangulate, a venture-backed online dating startup that used social media behaviors to drive algorithmic matching.
Sunil holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he graduated with honors. Sunil is Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the NextGen Board of the Computer History Museum and is Co-Chair of NextGen Partners, the largest pre-partner VC networking group in the Bay Area. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Harvard Business School California Research Center and the Volunteer Council of the SETI Institute. In his free time, Sunil enjoys sailing and stargazing.
Voices College-Bound Language Academies
Alma Rico is the COO at Voices College-Bound Language Academies, a dual immersion charter school network serving low income Latino students in San Jose, CA. Prior to Voices, Alma was the COO at Alpha Public Schools, where she led business operations. After nearly 10 years as a tutor in a number of STEM and after school programs, Alma became inspired to merge her business experience with her passion for lifting academic achievement among low-income and minority children. She began her career in education as a Graduate School Fellow with Education Pioneers, where she worked with Alpha to develop the network’s strategic plan and multi-year financial model. She co-founded the Young Education Professionals – Bay Area network and served on the board of Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland. Prior to transitioning to the world of education, Alma was a management consultant in Washington, DC, where she developed strategies for senior decision-makers at NASA and the Department of Defense. Alma holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT and an M.B.A. from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
M. Katy Rodriguez Wimberly
University of California, Irvine
M. Katy Rodriguez Wimberly is a graduate student at University of California, Irvine (UCI) in their Physics & Astronomy Department. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and the first Junior Board Fellow of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree, with a math minor, from California State University, Long Beach in May 2015.
At UCI she is working with Prof. Michael Cooper on galaxy evolution research, which studies the coming together of satellite galaxies onto massive clusters of galaxies by comparing large cosmological simulations to observational data. Katy’s research interests lie in galaxy evolution and observational cosmology. Additionally, she loves and conducts astronomy outreach with underrepresented minorities, focusing primarily on K-12 Special Needs students (including children on the Autism Spectrum and those with Down Syndrome).
California State Polytechnic University
Alexander Rudolph is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). He received his bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in 1982, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1988. Before joining the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona, he was on the faculty of Harvey Mudd College from 1994-2001. He also spent a year teaching high school science and math. Professor Rudolph has conducted research with over 20 undergraduates on the properties of outflows from forming stars and circumstellar disks around such stars; the dependence of abundance gradients on galactocentric radius in the Milky Way; searches for Brown Dwarfs; and the properties of HII regions in the outer Galaxy. He is Director of two NSF-funded programs, CAMPARE and Cal-Bridge, to promote minority and female involvement in research in Astronomy, Planetary Science, and Astrobiology, and to increase their numbers obtaining PhDs those and other related fields. CAMPARE consists of students from 33 community college and California State University (CSU) campuses in California participating in summer research with scientists from 13 world-class research institutions in California and across the country. The Cal-Bridge program is a partnership of over 50 faculty from 15 CSU and University of California (UC) campuses forming a CSU-UC PhD Bridge program designed to help qualified minority and female CSU students bridge into UC or other PhD programs in Astronomy, Physics, or related fields. Professor Rudolph is also involved in research into the effectiveness of interactive learning strategies in general education astronomy (Astro 101) classes, publishing results of his research in numerous journals including Physics Today. Professor Rudolph has significant K-12 outreach experience, including yearlong partnerships with elementary school teachers (Projects ASTRO, FOSTER); conducting an Astrobiology workshop for elementary school teachers; and promoting interactive learning and the use of clickers at local schools in Pomona, California.