ACEAP 2105 Ambassadors

Dr. Brian Koberlein
Dr. Brian Koberlein ( is a Senior Lecturer of Physics and Astronomy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and an RIT media expert in astronomy, astrophysics and physics. He has authored several research articles, as well as Astrophysics Through Computation, an undergraduate textbook on computational astrophysics. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Koberlein is a tireless promoter of scientific understanding. His articles on physics and astronomy have appeared on numerous science websites including EarthSky, Nautilus, Universe Today and From Quarks to Quasars. He makes daily posts on physics and astronomy on his blog Once Universe at a Time (, where he also hosts a weekly podcast on a range of science topics. Dr. Koberlein is also a founding member of Prove Your World (, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit using online media to promote science literacy and scientific habits of mind in children ages 8 - 13.
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Jim O'Leary
Jim O'Leary is Maryland Science Center (MSC)’s lead space science and astronomy specialist. He has produced dozens of programs for MSC’s Davis Planetarium, some of which have played in planetariums worldwide. He has received NSF, NASA and NOAA grants for production of space and Earth science programs, and was awarded the NASA Excellence in Outreach Award. A current NASA grant, partnering with Heliophysics researchers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, is producing educator professional development and creating library exhibits on the topic of the Sun and space weather. Jim has worked with the STScI on a number of education initiatives and with Smithsonian Institution creating a Hubble Space Telescope exhibit. Jim oversaw the renovation of MSC’s Alvan Clark & Sons 8” refractor, now computer controlled with video links to the Planetarium and exhibit floor. He managed four live conversations between Baltimore City students and astronauts aboard the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle, and has organized multiple astronaut appearances at MSC. He has also overseen educational outreach for the IMAX films Flight of the Butterflies 3D, Dinosaurs Alive 3D and Star-Spangled Banner: Anthem of Liberty. Jim hosted a radio program for 12 years on the local NPR affiliate, reporting space science and astronomy news, regularly appears on radio and TV to explain science stories, and is a lead partner in Project ASTRO for the Baltimore-Washington region.
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Mike Prokosch
Mike Prokosch runs the SHSU Planetarium and Observatory and has worked for the Sam Houston State physics department for over 12 years. In that time he has assisted in the Astronomy of East Texas Summer School program, the The Hetu'u Global Network observation of 2012 Venus Transit, and attended 2009 summer workshop in Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in preparation to make public outreach efforts observing the eclipsing binary star Epsilon Aurigae under Citizen Sky. He joined the AAVSO as a member in 2012, but has been contributing primarily visual observations for 5 years. He founded the Huntsville Amateur Astronomy Society in 2004, a member of the Night Sky Network. He has written a column titled Seeing Stars for the Huntsville Item for the past 5 years. His activities at SHSU include star parties at the observatory for the general public, monthly free planetarium shows with weekly shows during the summer, assisting with the Scouts@Sam program for both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the Sibling Program of Freshman Orientation. He has hosted star parties and planetarium shows for the local chapter of the Audobon Society, various homeschool groups, and local high schools and junior highs. He enjoys observing variable stars, watching Jupiter, comets, and supernovae with his 235mm Celestron SCT, making contributions to the Globe At Night Project, and occasionally fidgeting with his homemade Itty Bitty Radio Telescope. He also teaches fulltime: 2 years as a middle school science teacher and 12 years in special education.
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Peter Detterline
Peter Detterline is an avid astronomer whose interests cover a wide range of the astronomical spectrum. He teaches astronomy to people of all ages as Director of the Boyertown Planetarium, and runs a dual credit astronomy class at the school. He was a mentor for students chosen by NASA to work with the Mars Exploration Rover mission, and the Mercury Messenger mission. He is a professor of astronomy at Montgomery County Community College and has worked with the Tzec Maun Foundation providing state-of-the-art Internet telescopes in New Mexico and Australia for student use. He has coauthored numerous papers on eclipsing binaries and contributes to the International Meteor Organization and the American Amateur Variable Star Observers. His interest in archeoastronomy has led to a patent on a ”Rock Fashionable Calendar Horologe” which is the discovery of a reproducible calendar stone used by early man. A founding member of the Mars Society, he is responsible for the design, construction, implementation and documentation of the Musk Observatory at the Mars Desert Research Station. He continues to work with Mission Support as Observatory Director for international astronomers who wish to use the facility. As an amateur astronomer he has traveled the globe to view solar eclipses, built his own observatory, and has completed many observing programs including the Astronomical League’s “Master Observer”.
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Renae Kerrigan
Renae Kerrigan, Planetarium Curator at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, has worked in informal astronomy education since 2009. Kerrigan first became interested in astronomy during her tenure as an Education Intern at Lakeview Museum. She quickly became immersed in planetarium programming,presenting shows to the public and school groups. After receiving her Bachelor of Science from Bradley University in 2011, she began working full time for the museum as a Learning Coordinator. In this role, she regularly presented science and astronomy programs to a broad range of audiences. In 2014, she assumed the role of Planetarium Curator, responsible for managing all aspects of the planetarium, including staff, budget, show creation, presentation, maintenance, participation in national and local astronomy organizations, and outreach activities. Quickly becoming known as the “Space Lady” in Peoria, Kerrigan regularly appears at public events and uses social media to promote science and astronomy, and hosts a popular series of adult events at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. She is incredibly excited for the chance to visit the observatories at the top of the world in Chile. Check out her blog at
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Ryan Hannahoe
Ryan Hannahoe is a middle school science teacher at Monforton School in Bozeman, MT. Ryan has been fascinated with the science of astronomy from an early age. He designed and built a telescope when he was in middle school and helped to pioneer remote astronomical observing during his years in high school. Ryan has been imaging the night sky digitally since 2001. Several of his deep-sky images have been featured on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. Before becoming a teacher, Ryan worked for New Mexico Skies Observatories, where he provided technical support for telescope projects for NASA, NOAO, Caltech, and PBS. Ryan is passionate about sharing the night sky and science with others and has contributed to educational content for NASA and the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. Ryan also serves on the Education and Public Outreach Team for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). He has represented NASA to thousands of students, teachers, and community members across the country. His efforts with JWST have been recognized with the John C. Mather Nobel Scholar Award. During the summer months, he is the director of STEM camps for the Montana Learning Center (MLC), where he leads instruction for their Innovations in Engineering & Science camps. Having never traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, Ryan is looking forward to ACEAP. He aims to bring back his experiences in the program and observatory resources to benefit students and teachers in Montana.
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Sarah Komperud
Sarah Komperud is the Planetarium Educator at the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She travels around the state of Minnesota and western Wisconsin with the ExploraDome—an immersive, mobile planetarium that uses authentic data to bring the wonders of the Universe to over 11,000 people each year. Her tenure as an astronomy educator (and lover of astronomy) has led her to unexpected places including working in observatories, college labs, museums and planetariums; developing museum exhibits; and traveling to observatories in Australia and New Zealand. Actively involved with astronomy outreach, Sarah runs observing nights for scout groups and the public, gives talks at local astronomy society meetings, and develops fun, hands-on science activities for budding astronomers. In her free time Sarah enjoys rock climbing and tango dancing.
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Shannon Schmoll
Shannon Schmoll started teaching astronomy while an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where she helped coordinate observing nights at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory, taught intro astronomy lab sections, presented planetarium shows, and worked with K-12 students in their classrooms. She went to graduate school at the University of Michigan to be an astronomer and originally studied supermassive black hole spin. While she loved it, her love of teaching and outreach caught up with her. She became the graduate student outreach coordinator and continued to teach undergraduate classes, primarily teaching Naked Eye astronomy in a planetarium at UM. She realized she wanted to make a career out of teaching astronomy to the public and switched gears to complete a joint PhD in astronomy and education. Her dissertation research was on how to integrate planetarium field trips into formal K-12 education using the digital planetarium at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. While there she also finished a certificate in museum studies to gain a different view on informal learning. After graduating, she worked as the STEM education specialist at the Field Museum in Chicago before returning to astronomy. She is now the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University and serves on the International Planetarium Society’s education committee where she continues to explore new ways of teaching the public the wonders of the universe.
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Vivian White
Vivian White has been an astronomy educator with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific since 2006. She uses her degree in physics, a Dobsonian telescope, and a fascination with human learning to inspire people to look up in wonder at the riches of the night sky. Working mostly in informal science settings, her background has also included training classroom teachers in hands-on astronomy through Project ASTRO and inspiring middle school students with practical math. She currently designs activities for amateur astronomers engaged in public outreach through the NASA Night Sky Network, a coalition of over 450 astronomy clubs across the US. She is also researching meaningful astronomy experiences for preschool children in museums through an NSF grant. A suite of activities for 3- to 5-year-olds will be released in early 2016 through the Astronomy from the Ground Up community. Vivian enjoys sharing the splendors of the night sky on sidewalks, in observatories, through camps, and in local and national parks. Her love of the sky has taken her far and wide - the most recent adventure involved teaching astronomy to Buddhist monks in India. When not pondering our path through the universe, she can be found musing off center at her kick wheel or splashing in tide pools of northern California with her young son.
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