Council

Brandon Rodriguez

Charles Takalana

African Astronomical Society (AfAS)

Charles Mpho Takalana completed his Ph.D. in physics, focusing on astronomy and astrophysics at the University of the Witwatersrand in December 2020. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. Charles currently works at AfAS as the head of secretariat. He supports the AfAS Executive Committee, Committees and Working Group, manages the AfAS secretariat, and coordinates all AfAS projects to ensure that they achieve their objectives within the timelines and funding provided. He serves as a co-chair of the NOC of the IAU General Assembly, taking place in Cape Town in August 2024. He was an astronomy policy researcher at SARAO based at the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

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Vivian White

Vivian White

Night Sky Network

Vivian White is currently the director of Free Choice Learning, administering the Eclipse Ambassadors Off the Path program and the Night Sky Network (NSN). A community of more than 400 amateur astronomy clubs across the country, NSN has been supporting club outreach and events with an interactive website and webinars since 2004. Vivian designs astronomy activities and demos specifically for informal settings, working with citizen scientists, Girl Scouts, Buddhist monks, undergraduate students and many others to expand the ways we learn astronomy out of school. Beyond the night sky, her passions include pottery, poetry and social justice. She can often be found building something outlandish with her kid out of found materials.

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Rachel Freed

Rachel Freed

Institute for STudent Astronomical Research (InSTAR)

Rachel Freed has been teaching double star astrometry research seminars since 2016 after teaching high school chemistry and astronomy for 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology, Master of Science in neuroscience and Ph.D. in astronomy education and has been an amateur astronomer for 24 years. She currently conducts educational research on programs in which students around the United States use robotic telescopes in their introductory astronomy courses in college.

InSTAR Website

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Kevin Govender

International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)

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Kelly Blumenthal

Kelly Blumenthal

International Astronomical Union Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO)

Kelly Blumenthal holds both a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and an Master of Education in education policy and management from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. In the past, Kelly has worked on projects focused on developing inclusive and equitable programs to engage a large sample of the population. Now, as the director of the International Astronomical Union Office for Astronomy Outreach (IAU OAO) at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Kelly has the opportunity to continue this work on the international stage.

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Saeed Salimpour

Saeed Salimpour

International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE)

Saeed Salimpour is an Alfred Deakin Research Fellow at Deakin University and associate scientist at the IAU OAE/Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy, focussing on astronomy education research. His background in cosmology, visual art/design and education enables his research to cross disciplinary boundaries and includes science and astronomy education (focus on cosmology), creativity, representations, aesthetics, big data visualisation, learning progressions, concept inventories, VR/AR, curriculum development and Indigenous/cultural astronomy. He has worked with international collaborations, implemented research-based astronomy projects, conducted teacher training, taught high school physics and design, lectured at university, exhibited in art exhibitions, and given public talks about the Universe. 

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Steven Gullberg

Steven R. Gullberg

International Astronomical Union Working Group for Astronomy in Culture (WGAC)

Steven Gullberg holds a Ph.D. in astronomy and is a professor of cultural astronomy at the University of Oklahoma. He has a significant background in archaeoastronomy course development and serves as chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group for Astronomy in Culture. He is also managing editor of the Journal of Astronomy in Culture. He has conducted extensive field research on the astronomy of the Incas in the Peruvian Andes and, in addition to his books, has written many research papers, which he is regularly invited to present at international conferences as part of his work to globally advance the field of cultural astronomy.

IAU WGAC Website

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Shannon Schmoll

Shannon Schmoll

International Planetarium Society (IPS)

Shannon Schmoll, Ph.D., is the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University and president-elect of the International Planetarium Society. She holds a joint Ph.D. in astronomy and science education and a certificate in museum studies. She participated in the first cohort of both the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador Program and Mission Patagonia to learn about astronomy and conservation research. She was the research lead on the Big Astronomy Project, studying how virtual programming during the pandemic compares to in person visits to a planetarium. As part of IPS, she is working on building infrastructure to support planetarium education research.

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Karly Pitman

Anne Holland

Space Science Institute (SSI)

Anne Holland, Ph.D., is director of education and a senior education associate at the Space Science Institute, where she has led PI informal education projects and exhibits for NASA, NSF, NIH, IMLS and foundations since 2012. She is also the manager of the STAR Library Education Network, a group of over 10,000 library staff committed to increasing STEAM programming in their libraries. Anne holds a Ph.D. in eesearch methods and statistics from the University of Denver.

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Pedro Russo

The Astronomy & Society group of the Leiden Observatory (Leiden University)

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María Fernanda Durán

The Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS)

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Michael Fitzgerald

The Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education (RTSRE)

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Lars Lindberg Christensen

Lars Lindberg Christensen

The National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab)

Lars Lindberg Christensen is an astronomer and science communicator. He has authored a dozen popular science books translated into more than 10 languages. Lars has directed more than 10 documentaries and planetarium movies that have received critical acclaim around the world. He is responsible for the communication, education and engagement for NSF’s NOIRLab, consisting of Cerro Tololo, CSDC, Gemini, Kitt Peak and Rubin operations. Lars has more than 200 publications to his credit, most of them in popular science communication and its theory. Lars received the 2021 Klumpke-Roberts Award and the Tycho Brahe Medal in 2005 for his achievements in science communication and has been credited with leading the most successful outreach efforts in ESO’s history. Lars is also the IAU director of communication.

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