Our Team

group of smiling people outside a Lab

The Multiverse group outside the Space Sciences Lab.
L to R: Leitha Thrall, Dan Zevin, Bryan Méndez, Nancy Ali, Igor Ruderman, Laura Peticolas, Ruth Paglierani, Renee Frappier, rikki Shackelford, Claire Raftery, Karin Hauck, Darlene Yan.

Dr. Laura Peticolas

Multiverse Director and Space Scientist
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 205
Phone #: (510) 643-6295, Email: laura {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Dr. Peticolas is the director of Multiverse, housed at the Space Sciences Laboratory at University of California Berkeley. She has been studying the aurora (on Earth, Mars, and Io) and teaching physics to undergraduates, K-12 teachers, and the public for over 10 years. She has led NASA large-scale and small-scale Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) programs such as the E/PO efforts for FAST, STEREO, Wind, and RHESSI. She currently leads an effort to coordinate and support the Heliophysics E/PO programs and projects of NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), works on NASA’s MAVEN and THEMIS satellite E/PO missions, and is the principal investigator of a program bringing solar wind science to teenagers in public areas. She also works with the Indigenous Education Institute (IEI) and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center on an NSF informal science education professional development project, called Native Universe, bringing together multiple world-views to create better access to science and ways of understanding Earth and the Universe in museum settings. This project builds on a previous professional development project with similar goals, called Cosmic Serpent.

Nancy Alima Ali

Coordinator of Public Programs
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 229
Phone #: (510) 643-0012, Email: nancy {dot} ali {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Nancy Alima Ali, M.Ed., is a dedicated and innovative leader in developing communications programs and resources for mission-based educational organizations. For over 15 years, Ms. Ali has been active in both formal and informal education as a classroom teacher, college instructor, museum educator, curriculum developer and program manager. She specializes in respectfully engaging people from diverse worldviews in conversations that matter. Ms. Ali is the Principal Investigator of the NASA-funded "Five Stars Pathway" project, the Education & Communications Lead of the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission, a content contributor to the "Calendar in the Sky" project and leads the diversity professional development team for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Education & Communications Forums. Prior to joining the Multiverse team, she served as the Science Education Manager at Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ms. Ali also managed the Imaginarium planetarium and taught archaeoastronomy at Windward Community College in Kaneohe, Hawaii. A graduate of Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, her Master of Education thesis focused on integrating astronomy and culture in informal education settings.

Renee Frappier

Program Manager
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 202
Phone #: (510) 643-8130, Email: reneef {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Renee has worked in the education field at UC Berkeley for over 20 years and has more than seven years experience working with NASA Education and Public Outreach programs, including events in the Yucatan and Chiapas. Renee has a BA in Anthropology (with an emphasis on Maya archaeology) and a Masters in Public Administration.

Karin Hauck

Communications Manager & Graphic Artist
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 233
Phone #: (510) 643-2343, Email: karin {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Karin has a dozen years of experience at UC Berkeley working with the NASA E/PO and science museum communities to foster diverse partnerships and collaborations in the context of informal education and public outreach. Her joy is to see others rekindle their sense of wonder at the natural world. Ms. Hauck taps her writing skills to share NASA SMD content through engaging stories for broad audiences. She has led the communication between NASA E/PO and science museums for eclipse webcast programming, and continues to support, promote and engage NASA’s Heliophysics Education Forum through internal and external communication. Since she loves color and finds plain text to be much too plain, she balances a plate of writing/editing with an equal helping of designing for print and web media. Karin has a background in communications, film/video and desktop publishing. She worked as a communications coordinator for the American Association of Variable Star Observers, and as a desktop publisher and writer/editor at the Environmental Protection Agency. Karin graduated with high honors from the University of Massachusetts, where she majored in English.

Dr. Bryan Mendez

Astronomer and Education Specialist
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 222
Phone #: (510) 295-3735, Email: bmendez {at} berkeley {dot} edu

Headshot of Bryan Mendez
Bryan hails from Traverse City, Michigan where the beautifully dark night sky enthralled him from a very early age and inspired him to study astronomy. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1997 with degrees in Astronomy, Physics, and Saxophone Performance. Bryan continued his education at the University of California at Berkeley, where he researched the large scale flow of galaxies in the nearby Universe by measuring their distances. He received a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from UC Berkeley in 2002. Bryan works at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory educating and inspiring others about the wonder and beauty of the Universe. His work in space science education and public outreach involves developing programs for the public and resources for K-12 classrooms, and conducting professional development for science educators. Bryan is bicultural, of Mexican and European backgrounds, and strives to foster diverse perspectives in his work.

Ruth Paglierani

Coordinator of Public Programs
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 200
Phone #: (510) 643-5669, Email: ruthp {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

A lot of my work focuses on coordinating and implementing education and public outreach products and programs that feature NASA Sun-Earth Connection discoveries, missions, and research for three of my favorite audiences: elementary teachers, their students and the general public. I have been fortunate to work with a great team of teachers and scientists on the development of three NASA curricula-Eye on the Sky, Reading Writing and Rings! and The Solar System Through the Eyes of Scientists. I am proud of them as each one shows how language arts and science can be effectively linked in the classroom. And since I earned my Teaching Credential from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education and an M.A. in English with an emphasis in language acquisition, I'm please to be putting my background in language to work in a science education setting. In the area of Informal Education, I am part of the leadership team for the Earth to Sky project partnering NASA, the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide interpreters and environmental educators with training on NASA's amazing climate science. I have also been very involved in an NSF-funded project, Cosmic Serpent, which brings together museum professionals and Native knowledge holders. And last, but certainly not least, I am working with another great team on the Energy from the Sun, Solar Science and Solar Energy project doing teacher workshops. When I'm not working on projects or making presentations, I love to garden, travel with my husband and take our giant dog for walks.

Dr. Claire Raftery

Solar Physicist and Education Specialist
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 222
Phone #: (510) 642-3010, Email: claire {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Dr. Claire Raftery is a space physicist and science educator at SSLShe received her Doctoral Degree from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and has been working as a research scientist and education specialist at UC Berkeley since then. Coming from a background in solar physics, she is never happier than explaining the difference between flares and CMEs with the help of a helium balloon and some twine!

Dr. Raftery is passionate about translating complex scientific concepts for the general public. She is the Communications Lead for the upcoming NASA ICON mission, and is the Project Manager for the Mars orbiter – MAVEN. She is also focused on providing research opportunities for students in engineering and science and, as the SSL Undergraduate Coordinator, runs the undergraduate internship program at the Space Sciences Laboratory. She has also had experience in designing and implementing workshops for teachers and teenagers to increase their knowledge and passion for space science. 

Igor Ruderman

Systems Administrator & Programmer
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 229
Phone #: (510) 643-8122, Email: igor {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Igor hails from Moscow, Russia. Since getting the astronomy bug as a kid, he’s been an avid amateur astronomer. While studying astronomy at UC Berkeley, he started working as a programmer for Multiverse (formerly the CSE@SSL) and he’s been a member of the team since 1996. In addition to handling all of the computing needs of the group, he enjoys participating in public outreach events. You will usually find him with one of his telescopes at such events. He’s been on multiple astronomy and education & public outreach related trips, including trips to observe solar eclipses, Venus transits, and trips to promote science education in Yucatan, Mexico. He is also an amateur astrophotographer.

rikki Shackelford

K-14 Education Specialist
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 229
Phone #: (510) 642-2343, Email: rikkishack {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

rikki (with a small 'r') Shackelford is a native of Pittsburgh, PA and joined our team in December of 2012. He brings over 20 years of experience creating educational opportunities for K-14 learners. As an award-winning environmental educator, rikki has directed programs in Arizona, California and Hawaii. Throughout his career, he has participated in programs that embrace multiculturalism and encouraged diversity in science education. As a graduate of the University of Redland’s Johnston Center for Integrated Studies, he appreciates the desire for an education that informs one's interactions with one’s environment. rikki is a writer, poet, professional storyteller and a licensed falconer. His unique life experience allows him to bring a fresh perspective to our team.

Leitha Thrall

Program Coordinator
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 233
Phone #: (510) 643-0011, Email: leitha {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Leitha grew up in Colorado. Her high school years were in California as her family moved west. She earned her B.A. degree in studio art at San Jose State University. She took a break before graduating to live and work in Italy and England. After college, she landed a job at NASA/Ames Research Center in the Animal Care Facility of the Space Life Sciences division. She was also one of the first female human test subjects in a study designed to obtain data for women astronauts. With a move to the East Bay, she started working at Space Sciences Lab in the Cosmochemistry Department at UC Berkeley. In 2009, she switched jobs to work for Multiverse doing outreach, program support, and design work. When not at SSL, she still does sculpture and shows work throughout the United States. She has many classroom hours throughout the years, but mostly for teaching the arts in elementary schools. She believes that science and art are integral as we view and interpret the wonders of the world and universe.

Darlene Yan

Program Coordinator
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 233
Phone #: (510) 643-3936, Email: darlene {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

An avid Legos player as a tomboy, Darlene unwittingly enjoyed the wonders of science as she took apart her mother’s phones and built strange contraptions that lofted G.I.Joes high up in the air. Despite this early affinity for physics, she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and a minor in English. Yet Fate was kind enough to return Darlene to her youthful awe of figuring out how things work, and opening her mind and lifelong learning to the fields of astronomy, space weather, and solar physics. Now she works in Multiverse, helping to pass space science education to K-12 teachers, their students, and the general public, with much of the same enthusiasm inspired by her childhood toys.

Dan Zevin

Senior Public Education Specialist
Office number at SSL Addition Building: 233
Phone #: (510) 642-8326, Email: dzevin {at} ssl {dot} berkeley {dot} edu

Dan has been working in a variety of STEM-related fields for over 25 years. He currently manages a number of education and outreach efforts for the Multiverse team, and founded the Bay Area Teen Science (B.A.T.S.) initiative. Most of his work with Multiverse involves important partnerships with other University of California departments and Bay Area education organizations. Prior to joining our team, Dan was Senior Project Manager at the Exploratorium for the National Science Foundation’s NISE Network. He also worked for five years at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific where he managed several multi-year National Science Foundation programs. Dan’s other past career efforts focused more on environmental education and wildlife conservation, including three years as Program Director at NatureBridge's Golden Gate Campus, which initiated the first-of-their-kind San Francisco Bay Area STEM-based “Youth Summits” through the TEEM program. He also served as Project Manager/Associate Zoologist with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, and Research Assistant at the Los Angeles Zoo very near where he grew up. Dan received his B.S. degree in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State University.
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