Exploratorium: Home

Meet Some Staff Scientists

Meet Some Staff Scientists

Richard O. Brown

Richard O. Brown, Ph.D., is the Exploratorium’s senior neuroscientist. He has degrees in neurobiology from Caltech and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and he was on UC San Diego’s research faculty in the Center for Brain and Cognition before joining the Exploratorium in 1998. Richard’s specialty is perception and psychophysics, and in particular the science and art of human color perception. He is also an internationally recognized expert on visual illusions and demonstrations and has taught visual perception at both UCSD and the San Francisco Art Institute. At the Exploratorium, he has been the primary developer or co-developer of almost 100 new exhibits on topics including seeing, listening, attention, biology, AIDS and immunology, the human body, the outdoors, and the mind. He is presently devoted to applying knowledge from neuroscience and psychology to the problems of human behavior in the climate change crisis.

Charles Carlson

Charles Carlson, a Senior Scientist at the Exploratorium, has been in the field of informal science learning since 1971. He’s built over 150 exhibits and led the development of many large exhibitions, and he founded and directed the life sciences department at the Exploratorium. His formal training was in biology and human behavior at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became fascinated with marine biology and life’s diversity, and he also developed a deep interest in the cellular aspects of science. Charles worked closely with the Exploratorium’s founding director Frank Oppenheimer as the field of informal science education and interactive exhibits blossomed, and he’s created technically advanced exhibits including microelectrode recordings from individual neurons and sophisticated presentations with microscopes, as well as some of the first-ever displays using sterile technique and cell culturing.

Paul Doherty

Paul Doherty graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a PhD in physics. He was a tenured professor of physics for twelve years at Oakland University, Michigan, where he taught courses ranging from physics, astronomy, and geology to electronics, computer programming, and meteorology. In 1986 he came to the Exploratorium Teacher Institute, where he develops and teaches workshops and publishes them on his webpage. He is the author of many books, including the Explorabook, The Exploratorium Science Snackbook, the Klutz Book of Magnetic Magic, Color of Nature, and Traces of Time. Paul was given the Faraday Science Communicator award by the NSTA and chosen as the “Best Science Demonstrator” at the World Congress of Museums in Helsinki in 1996. He plays music on the whirly—a corrugated plastic tube. He is also a rock climber, and has climbed the face of El Capitan as well as making the first ascent of a 20,000-foot peak in the Sierra Nevada de Lagunas Bravas in the Andes.

Jennifer Frazier

Jennifer Frazier is a cell biologist whose current obsessions include plankton and data visualization. Jennifer has been at the Exploratorium since 2004, focusing on finding new ways to help visitors explore worlds they normally can’t see. Her projects include the Microscope Imaging Station and the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network’s Visualization Laboratory. Before joining the Exploratorium, she created exhibits, multimedia, and documentary films at NOVA, the National Academy of Sciences, and several multimedia companies. Jennifer received her Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of California, San Francisco, where as an NSF and AAAS Fellow she used advanced imaging techniques to study polymer assembly during cell division. She has a B.S. in bioethics and genetics from the University of California, Davis.

Isabel Hawkins

Isabel Hawkins is an astronomer and educator with a Ph.D. in astronomy from UCLA, and she spent 20 years as a researcher and science educator at the University of California, Berkeley, Space Sciences Laboratory. While at Berkeley, she consulted on several astronomy projects at the Exploratorium and was the bilingual (Spanish/English) host of the museum’s live webcast from Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, on Maya astronomy in 2005. She joined the Exploratorium staff in 2009, and became the project director for the Never Lost: Polynesian Navigation website. Isabel has published more than 100 articles on a variety of astronomy and education topics, and in 2009 she received the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Klumpke-Roberts award for her work in astronomy education and public outreach. Her interests include salsa dancing, yoga, drawing Maya classic period glyphs, and the study of native languages.

Ron Hipschman

Ron Hipschman has worn many hats since he joined the Exploratorium in 1971: exhibit developer, author of two of our three Cookbooks (manuals for building Exploratorium exhibits), and frequent writer for the Exploratorium magazine. In 1993, Ron established the museum’s presence on the World Wide Web, making it among the first 600 websites in the world. In 1996, he spearheaded the museum’s experiments with webcasting; he’s contributed technical expertise and has hosted many shows, both locally and from locations as far away as the South Pole. He’s currently responsible for the Exploratorium’s web, streaming media, and digital asset management servers. Ron also taught undergraduate physics and astronomy for 16 years, and he was a laser artist for Laserium concerts at the Morrison Planetarium for 20 years. He has a B.A. in physics and an M.A. in physical science from San Francisco State University. 

Thomas Humphrey

Thomas Humphrey is a physicist, teacher, exhibit developer, artist, and guitar player with a Ph.D. in elementary particle physics from Caltech. His research was done at Fermilab. Thomas joined the Exploratorium staff in 1973 and worked closely for many years with Frank Oppenheimer, the museum’s founder and director. An Exploratorium Senior Scientist, Thomas has been principal investigator on dozens of projects involving exhibit development and teaching in the areas of seeing, listening, physics, feedback, mathematics, and navigation. He’s also been involved with exhibits developed through our artist-in-residence program, and he’s tested innovative exhibit techniques.

Karen Kalumuck

Karen Kalumuck studied the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to earn her Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology from Rice University. She subsequently researched the molecular basis of human disease, and, as a college professor, taught a variety of biology courses including cell biology and genetics. Karen joined the Exploratorium in 1994 and established the teacher professional development program in biology. She is the author of Human Body Explorations, which presents ways to explore, experience, and understand the workings of one’s own body. She’s currently developing new exhibits and public programs in the life sciences that help visitors experience the natural world in novel and personal ways. Karen serves on the Education Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and on the editorial board of ASCB’s education journal CBE—Life Sciences Education.

Sebastian Martin

Sebastian Martin grew up in a small town in Germany with a rich tradition in toy making, and he attributes his interest in learning through experimentation and play to this early experience. Before coming to the United States, he studied earthquakes in the Chilean Andes, satellite imaging in the boreal forests of Ontario, and physics and math in Erlangen, Germany. He earned a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Potsdam. Throughout his studies, he retained a playful approach to science and research, and he developed interactive exhibits at Phenomenta, a science center dedicated to inquiry and direct contact with phenomena. In 2005 he joined the Exploratorium, where he found a happy symbiosis among science teaching, playing, and making things. An exhibit developer at the museum, Sebastian also enjoys teaching physics and interactive design at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

Hugh McDonald

Hugh McDonald is a Project Director, Senior Science Writer, and Associate Curator for the museum’s West Gallery, which focuses on the interplay among science, society, and culture. He is the Principal Investigator of Science of Sharing, an NSF-funded initiative to develop exhibits that let visitors experiment with resource-sharing and collaborative problem-solving, link their experiences to larger societal issues such as climate change and environmental destruction, and learn about the scientific study of human behavior. Hugh was the lead writer/editor for the museum’s Mind and Seeing exhibit collections and the Pirelli Award–winning Global Climate Change: Research Explorer microsite, and contributing writer/editor for numerous other exhibitions, sites, and publications. He received his doctorate in social psychology from Indiana University in 1997.

Robert Semper

Robert Semper, Associate Executive Director and Director of Laboratory, coordinates the museum’s overall content-related R&D development and manages the institution’s relations with the external science, education, and funding communities. His areas of responsibility include the museum’s science and art development, public understanding of research activities, and creative application development. He provides oversight for the Museum Experience, and has also guided the development of the award-winning Exploratorium website. Rob is the author of many journal articles and invited papers, and he has been the principal investigator on projects that include developing new Internet resources, experiments using technology to enhance the museum visitor experience, and programs for teachers and museum educators. Awards include AAAS Fellow, 2006, and the NSTA 2006 Faraday Science Communicator Award. Before joining the Exploratorium in 1977, Rob taught physics and conducted solid state and nuclear physics research. He received his PhD in solid state physics from the Johns Hopkins University.

Julie Yu

Julie Yu is a staff scientist and Director of the museum’s Teacher Institute, where she works with teachers to create hands-on activities for teaching math and science. With a broad interest in all sciences, she has a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, with a minor in molecular and cell biology. Since joining the Exploratorium, she has developed ways to do numerous science activities (from making batteries to gel electrophoresis) at a fraction of their typical cost. When not in the classroom, Julie is usually doing science in her kitchen, pursuing a tender roast or the perfect soufflé.

Kristina Yu

Kristina Yu is the Director of the Exploratorium’s Living Systems Department. In this position, she oversees the biology laboratory and the staff who support the Exploratorium’s unique collection of life sciences exhibits, and she has curatorial oversight over the collection. The laboratory includes the Microscope Imaging Station (MIS), a facility that allows museum visitors to control research-grade microscopes to explore living biological samples and provides high quality imagery for educators. Kristina also collaborates with researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she is building an archive of microscopic movies and images that are available on the Web. She earned a Ph.D. in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kristina spent her childhood on her parents’ organic pear farm in rural northern California.