About Us

Content Developers

Dr. Bryan Mendez

Photo of Dr. Bryan Mendez showing head and shoulders.Bryan is the director of Calendar in the Sky project. He hails from Traverse City, Michigan where the dark 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 now works at the Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory to educate and inspire others about the wonder and beauty of the Universe. His work in space science education and public outreach involves developing programs for the public through the web and museums, developing classroom materials for students in 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.

Nancy Alima Ali

Nancy Alima Ali, M.Ed., is currently the Coordinator of Public Programs at the Center for Science Education at Space Sciences Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. For over 13 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. Prior to joining the Center for Science Education, 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.  



María O. Ávila Vera

head shot of María O. Ávila VeraMaría O. Ávila Vera, is a Maya elder born in Xul and raised in Peto, Yucatán, México. Through her native language, Yucatec Maya, and life experience, she is a steward of the traditions of her ancestors. Mother of eleven children, she shares her time between Petaluma, CA, and Mérida, Yucatán. She actively researches the knowledge of the Maya by capturing the oral tradition of her people and sharing native knowledge with her family, her friends, and her community. Over the past six years, she has collaborated with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia in México, UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory’s Center for Science Education, as well as the “Cosmic Serpent” and "Native Universe" projects funded by the National Science Foundation. Doña Maria Ávila serves as a bridge between native and western ways of knowing in museums, the classroom, and community settings.


Amy Grochowski

Combining a love for science and nature with a passion for world cultures, Amy has been an informal science educator at museums and science centers for over 12 years. Receiving biology degrees from Michigan State University in 1988 and Wayne State University in Detroit in 1992, her early background was in laboratory and field biology. After an amazing experience teaching science for the Peace Corps, she has presently settled in to informal science education, sharing her love of learning to inspire others. Returning home to education positions at the Detroit Science Center and later NM Museum of Natural History and Science, she added the wonderful fields of astronomy and space science to her teaching. Now the Curator of Education at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of NM, she develops education programs in science, culture, history and art. Always recognizing the powerful connection between people and the natural world, Amy hopes to instill an understanding and appreciation of the importance of this link to all audiences she works with.


Dr. Isabel Hawkins

Photo of Dr. Isabel Hawkins shower her head and shouldersIsabel Hawkins, Ph.D., is a bilingual and bicultural native of Córdoba, Argentina. Dr. Hawkins received her Ph.D. in astrophysics at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1986. She worked for 20 years at the University of California at Berkeley as Senior Fellow on several NASA satellite projects, and as Director of Science Education at the Space Sciences Laboratory. Currently, she is Astronomer & Project Director at the San Francisco Exploratorium. In 2005, she hosted a live webcast from Chichén Itzá during the March Equinox, and was executive producer of the award winning book and website “Traditions of the Sun” featuring the astronomy at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, and the Yucatán, México. Her work focuses on broadening access to science and enhancing participation by all communities through the appreciation of the cultural roots of science. Dr. Hawkins received eight NASA awards between 2004 and 2008 for her work on NASA education and public outreach. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific awarded Dr. Hawkins in 2009 the prestigious Klumpke-Roberts Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.

Laura Huerta Migus

Photo of Laura Huerta Migus showing her head and shoulders
Laura Huerta Migus is Director, Professional Development and Inclusion Initiatives at the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). In her role at ASTC, she is responsible for leading the association’s professional development team and implementing the association’s equity and diversity initiative through delivery of direct technical assistance to member institutions; gathering and dissemination of evidence-based practices; and representing the association in national informal education initiatives. As a diversity practitioner, Ms. Huerta Migus’ passion is assisting service-oriented and educational nonprofits in developing inclusive organizational practices that maximize the assets of diverse staff and support culturally competent engagement with diverse audiences. Prior to her position at ASTC, Ms. Huerta Migus also held positions at the National MultiCultural Institute, the Association of Children’s Museums, and the National Association for Bilingual Education. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University.


Alonso Mendez

Photo of Alonso Mendez leaning against the sarcophagus lid of Pikal at Palenque Born in San Cristobal de las Casas on February 6, 1964, Alonso spent much of his youth surrounded by the vibrant highland Maya culture of the Tzeltal and Tzotzil, as well as the emergent movement in anthropology and ethnography that occurred during the ‘60s and ‘70s. His Father, Alonso Mendez Ton, a Tzeltal Maya of Tenejapa, Chiapas, participated prominently in these studies as a cultural informant, translator, and liaison, while his Mother, Francisca T. Mendez, also played a key role in the Maya communities as an historian, facilitator, and participant in the social and ritual life of the Highland Maya. In this atmosphere of dynamic contact between cultures Alonso grew and witnessed critical changes that altered the physical and cultural landscape of Chiapas. Alonso attended Middlebury College, graduating in 1987 with a degree in Fine Arts. His skill as an artist would prove critically useful when in 1997 he joined the archaeological projects in Palenque, first as project artist with the Palenque Mapping Project and subsequently with the Proyecto Grupo de las Cruces and the Proyecto Arqueológico Palenque. During this time Alonso produced drawings that documented the new discoveries and developed 3D reconstructive drawings of the site. In this atmosphere of discovery, he began to conduct astronomical investigations at Palenque and other important sites in the area, and discovered many new astronomical alignments in the major temples as well as new understanding of the hieroglyphic texts. He has published these findings and presented many of these in symposiums and conferences, and has participated in educational programs with focus on Indigenous science and knowledge. His most recent participation is as co-scriptwriter for the full dome planetary production of Maya astronomy for the Chabot Planetarium in San Francisco.

Marco Antonio Pacheco

Photo of Marco Pacheco wearing traditional modern clothing of the Maya of the Yucatan Mr. Marco Antonio Pacheco is President of Casa De La Cultura Maya, a Non Profit Organization dedicated to promote and preserve the Mayan Culture in the United States and Mesoamerica. Mr. Pacheco has been developing, along with NASA; UC Berkeley; the governments of the State of Yucatan, Mexico, Guatemala and the City of Los Angeles, educational programs and workshops to develop skills and knowledge among Mayan Communities about their ancestors' perspective of history and sciences. With studies of Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and Mexican American Studies at California State University Northridge and West Coast University, Mr. Pacheco is a Senior Management Officer for American Building Management Corporation in the Southwest Region. He is a Board Member for the BOMA Outreach Committee, Member of the Latino Heritage Month Committee, Member of the Binational Health Initiative for the Americas, Member of the Westlake and Pico Union Collaborative, Member of the Okinawan Karate Federation, Member of the Elder Council in Guatemala and Yucatan, Consultant for the State Government of Yucatan, Consultant to NASA related programs, and has worked with numerous Community Based Organizations as a volunteer and a member. Mr. Pacheco has been committed to work with the community for equal education and the respect for their civil rights of its community. Also for the past 20 years, Mr. Pacheco has been involved in the area of immigration reform, joining forces with other organizations to look for a possible solution. Mr. Pacheco has been recognized by the Government of the State of Yucatan, Mexico, the City of Los Angeles, NASA and the University of Berkeley for his arduous work with the Mayan Communities of Los Angeles and Mesoamerica.

Dr. Laura Peticolas

Photo headshot of Dr. Laura Peticolas Dr. Peticolas is Director of the Center for Science Education, 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.