I have always lived in cities where the lights tend to obscure the stars. This may be why I appreciate a Planetarium theater. I was born in Toronto, Ontario and I grew up in Athens, Greece where my mother claims I showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five. To understand better how the universe works I studied Physics (University of Athens). My honors thesis was on the planet Neptune, which spurred me to cross the Atlantic to get a masters degree in Astronomy (Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia) and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics (University of Waterloo). From 1998-1999, I was involved in an infrared satellite called WIRE as a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Since September 1999, I have been teaching Astronomy at various levels at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and, in 2007, I became director of the UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium. In 2014, I was selected by NASA to be an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador and to spend 20 hours in the stratosphere on SOFIA, the largest moving observatory in the world. In 2017, I was chosen for the University of Wisconsin System Regents Academic Staff Excellence Award. I am very proud to have shared the beauty of the cosmos and the elegance of the cosmos with over 100,000 members of our community.
It was a teacher’s enthusiasm that sparked my interest in physics and astronomy and led me to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from UW-Milwaukee. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to work at the UWM Planetarium while I was a student. After graduating, I entered the field of mathematics and science education as a research coordinator and copyeditor. It is my pleasure to return to the Planetarium in 2018 as Assistant Director. I look forward to sharing my passion for supporting exciting, meaningful, and accessible astronomy programs for the community. When I’m not daydreaming about the mysteries of the universe, I’m tending my community garden, playing music, and plotting my next travel destination.
Katie is a UWM undergrad student majoring in Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies, as well as pursuing a minor in photography. She has had a love for stargazing and an interest in astronomy since childhood. Working at the planetarium is an excellent way for her to express her appreciation for the universe through various forms of media outlets. Besides stargazing and photography, her hobbies include painting, drawing, and hiking.
Allison Beebe (Fall 2017 – )
I am a UWM undergrad pursuing a Journalism major with an emphasis on science writing/communication. I’ve had a deep fascination for space and astrophysics since I was young so working at the planetarium targets that interest perfectly and serves as an outlet for my space-brain. I’m also working as an undergraduate researcher for the physics department and enjoying the wide variety of astronomy-related opportunities from the combination of jobs. The universe is full of thrilling concepts and I’m so excited to work with the planetarium to promote them to the public and the community. My unrelated interests involve violin and other music, drawing, and travel.
Adam Gaff (Fall 2017 – )
I am an undergraduate student here at UWM working towards a BS in Information Science and Technology. I play CS:GO almost religiously, and like to make little movies. I’m a huge lover of technology and space, and working at the planetarium feels like fate and a true honor to be here. My focus is on production and website design, making pretty space images for others to enjoy. I’ve co-lead the website’s redesign in Winter of 2017, lead the production of the show Exoplanets and Ice Cream, and more!
Evan Dujardin (Fall 2016 – )
I am currently an undergraduate student here at UWM majoring in Geosciences. I have always been in love with the cosmos since I was a kid. I remember asking my dad these tough questions that he couldn’t answer. But by working here and being exposed to all the interesting topics we research and cover many of those hard questions have been answered. On my free time I enjoy being outside hiking, biking, running, and playing soccer. One of my favorite hobbies is photography and even more specific, astrophotography. But, when I’m not outside enjoying the sun, I am doing the complete opposite and playing videogames with my friends.
Elise Murphy (Fall 2016 – )
I am currently an undergraduate student here at UWM working towards a BA in Communication and a minor in Psychology. I’m really excited to be involved with the presenting aspects of the Planetarium, considering it relates to my major. My fascination for astronomy is something I’ve had since I was a little girl and having a job that I’m passionate about is such a privilege. In my free time I enjoy hiking, socializing, and editing videos or taking photographs. I’m thrilled to discover everything the Planetarium has to offer here at UWM, and continue my passion for space and the stars.
Derek Palecek (Fall 2015 – )
I’m currently an undergraduate at UWM majoring in Computer Science. My fascination for the stars has traveled with me throughout my life and is the reason I decided to work at the planetarium. Helping invigorate curious minds about the wonders of the cosmos is my dream. Being employed here is an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to help spread my love of astronomy to others. If I’m not already busy learning more about astronomy, I enjoy playing video games and socializing with friends.
Nikolaus Prusinski (Fall 2015 – )
Stargazing’s youngest team member is from Saint Francis High School’s Gifted and Talented Program. Nik is in a two year HS program, having matriculated at UWM in the fall of 2016 majoring in physics, emphasis in astronomy. Since Nik’s youth, he’s demonstrated an acute appreciation of Mathematics, Physics, Robotics Programming and Music. His interest in astronomy started here at the Manfred Olson Planetarium with Dr. Creighton’s Friday Night Shows. Nik’s ambition is to perpetuate this team’s enthusiasm of astronomy to our visitors. Find more information regarding Nik’s endeavors in the blog post written about him.
Nathaniel Schardin (Winter 2014 – )
Nathaniel Schardin graduated from Milwaukee Area Technical College with a degree in Television & Video Production and a certification in Advanced Video Post Production. He has been nominated for 4 different Chicago/Midwest Chapter Emmy’s in the student category and has won 5 Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Awards for Excellence. In his free time he enjoys visiting and camping at National and State Parks as well as teaching himself all that there is to know about landscape and astrophotography. He is very excited for this opportunity to work at the Manfred Olson Planetarium as he hopes it will expand his knowledge of and further ignite his passion for the universe in which we all live.