I have always lived in big cities where the city lights tend to obscure the stars of the night. 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 me, Physics was the gateway to Astronomy, and so I studied (in the Physics Department) at the University of Athens, graduating in 1991. My honors thesis was on the planet Neptune. Researching and writing about this great planet caused me to realize that I really wanted more Astronomy in my life; and so much so that I was willing to cross the Atlantic to get a masters degree from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With that, I was on a roll, and attended the University of Waterloo, graduating with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics in 1998. After that, I was fortunate enough to be 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. It’s great fun to share my excitement with my audience as well as with my own two boys.
John “Jack” Fennimore (Spring 2016 – )
Jack has lived all his life on the edge of Milwaukee in Greendale, WI but he has come to view the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the city that surrounds it as his second home. He is currently studying Journalism (with an emphasis on media studies) and psychology at UWM. He feels very blessed to have the opportunity to work directly with the UWM Planetarium promoting all of the wonderful events it has to offer. He also enjoys writing video game, movie, and theater reviews for the entertainment section of the UWM Post (aka The Fringe) as well as biking around the beautiful parks in and around the Milwaukee area.
Sam Gallagher (Fall 2015 – )
I am an undergraduate student here at UWM working towards a BS in Information Science and Technology. I’m a huge nerd and lover of science, and working here at the planetarium brings me childlike joy. My focus is on production and website design, making pretty space images for others to enjoy. The size of space is astronomically huge, so huge that we will probably never stop asking questions about it. I’m excited to join the planetarium team here at UWM and plunge into the unknown of space, telescope in hand.
Aidan Hunter (Spring 2015 – )
I’m currently an undergraduate here at UWM majoring in film. I help with production at the planetarium, which is great because I get to do something related to my major. Visiting the planetarium was always my favorite field trip in elementary school, so getting to work at one is awesome for me. I enjoy helping with stargazing, and I hope to make the planetarium a fun place.
Madeline Jordan (Fall 2015 – )
I am an undergraduate student going into mechanical engineering. In addition to a love of building, designing and drawing, I also find astronomy fascinating. It is always exciting to me to talk about things that the human race doesn’t understand yet. The planetarium will always inspire my sense of wonder.
Charo Martin-Kingsby (Summer 2013 – )
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Physics/Astronomy, however I wish it were just an astronomy major then I could possibly finish sooner. I have always been fascinated with the skies and beyond. For me working at the planetarium is one step closer to my dream of becoming an Astronomer. This opportunity will give me the chance to learn as many things. I love It! I also have a BA in Anthropology, which is my second love. I enjoy other things that take me to far out places like, watching anime, and reading fantasy/sci-fi novels. This is my first step to the worlds greatest advantage.
Elise Murphy (Fall 2016 – )
I am currently an undergraduate student here at UWM working towards a BA in Film. I’m really excited to be involved with the production 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.
Maria Pretzl (Summer 2014 – )
Maria graduated from UWM in Spring 2014 with a BFA in Film and BA in Theatre Studies. A spring 2014 SURF grant recipient, her previous experience includes assistant directing Ruined at UWM, Projections Assistant on the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of The Detective’s Wife, working on the documentary Healing Hearts and Transformers: Dark of the Moon and directing the Midwest premiere of Songs of Love: A Theatrical Mixtape. In her free time, she likes to watch movies/Doctor Who, go on adventures with her boyfriend and write things. She’s excited to work at the planetarium and expand her knowledge of Astronomy.
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.
Rebecca Van De Laarschot (Spring 2016 – )
I’m an undergraduate at UWM working towards a double major in English and Political Science. Space has always intrigued and fascinated me. I’m from an area with low light pollution, giving me the ideal conditions for stargazing as I grew up. Astronomical curiosity lead me straight to the planetarium when I came to college. I hope to help out with production at the Manfred Olsen Planetarium to learn work and life skills while simultaneously learning about space. When I’m not learning about the stars, I’m watching Star Trek or Star Wars, or reading X-Men comics.
Dave Wichlacz (Fall 2016 – )
I am a senior this year at UWM and I’m currently pursuing a degree in journalism, advertising and media studies. (JAMS) As of this semester, I am an intern for the planetarium and I mostly focus on promoting through various channels. This job is great because I get to gain experience and I enjoy science as a hobby. Having an interest in the subject matter makes everything I write a learning experience and I often find myself researching astronomical subjects in my spare time now. Having stumbled into this opportunity by word of mouth, I truly appreciate everything that I can work on and create with the amazing staff. My other interests include the Green Bay Packers, long boarding, fishing, wearing hats, and the Green Bay Packers.