Board of Directors


Heidi Jo Newberg, Ph.D.

Heidi Jo Newberg, PhD

Heidi Jo Newberg, Ph.D. serves on the Dudley Observatory Board of Trustees and is a Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She received her BS in Physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her Ph.D. in Physics at UC Berkeley.  She did her Ph.D. with the Berkeley Automated Supernova Search and the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP).  As a member of SCP, Heidi shared the Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery of dark energy, which causes the Universe to expand every more quickly.  As a postdoc she worked on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), a highly influential international collaboration that surveyed a quarter of the sky and enabled advances in a wide variety of astronomy disciplines.  Newberg currently heads the US participation in the Chinese LAMOST project, which is undertaking a spectroscopic survey of millions of Milky Way stars, and MilkyWay@home, which harnesses the power of volunteered computers around the world to further our knowledge of the Milky Way galaxy.  She is best known for her pioneering work in understanding the structure of the outer parts of the Milky Way, which appear to be assembled by the cannibalization of smaller galaxies. Newberg joined the board with interest in promoting astronomy in the Capital District, and hopes the connections and resources she brings to the Dudley Observatory will create synergy.

Vice President

Francis P. Wilkin, Ph.D.

Francis P. Wilkin, PhD

Francis P. Wilkin, Ph.D. began as an amateur astronomer and received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997. His research has focused on the study of the formation of stars in our galaxy, and includes multiwavelength observations from X-rays through the radio, as well as theoretical modeling. At Union College since 2004, Dr. Wilkin manages the Union College Observatory’s 20-inch telescope and teaches courses in both Astronomy and Physics. Recent studies using the observatory have detected planets around other stars using transits, when a planet passes in front of its star as seen from the Earth, with a noticeable dimming.



Paul Schoch, PhD

Paul Schoch, Ph. D. is an associate professor in the Department of electrical, computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also runs summer robotics camps for children at RPI.






J. Douglass Klein, Ph.D.

J. Douglass Klein, PhD

J. Douglass Klein, Ph.D. is the Kenneth B. Sharpe Professor of Economics at Union College. Klein joined the Union faculty in 1979, after earning a BA in Mathematics at Grinnell College, and a PhD in Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has written on the economics of auctions, the measurement of economic efficiency, and the intersection of engineering and the liberal arts. Klein served as the Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2006 to 2011, and has been appointed Director of Union’s Environmental Science, Policy and Engineering program.




Kevin Knuth, Ph.D.

Kevin Knuth, PhD

Kevin Knuth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Physics and Informatics at the University at Albany (SUNY). He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Entropy, the co-founder and President of a robotics company, Autonomous Exploration Inc., and a former NASA research scientist. He has 20 years of experience in designing Bayesian and maximum entropy-based machine learning algorithms for data analysis applied to the physical sciences. His current research interests include the foundations of physics, autonomous robotics, and searching for extrasolar planets.




Joan Wagner

Joan Wagner

Joan Wagner has taught Middle level and HS science for 34 years and today provides professional development for teachers in addition to writing. She is the past-president of the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS), now organizing its state speakers and grant chairperson. She has been a consultant for the NY State Education Department in several capacities, including the Intermediate Science Core and State assessments. She has numerous publications in professional journals and is the author of the Big 8 Science Review Book for N&N Publishing and the Learn Science activity book series for DK Publishing. She received her BA in biology from Syracuse University and her master’s in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University and holds a School District Certificate (SDA) from NYS. Joan is the recipient of a number of teaching and service awards in science education. She enjoys skiing and tennis.


Thomas Whalen

Thomas Whalen

Born and raised in Albany, N.Y., Tom Whalen was a distinguished and experienced fundraiser and program manager in higher education for many years and is now an independent consultant and financial adviser.  He is actively involved in several community organizations in the Capital District area and lives happily in southern Albany County with his wife and young son.






Greg Nowell, Ph. D.

Greg Nowell, PhD

Gregory Nowell, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at SUNY Albany. He specializes in international relations and international public economy. Greg is an avid amateur astronomer and represents the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers (AAAA) on the Dudley Observatory Board.







John Sherman

John S. Sherman, JD, a graduate of Dartmouth College and University of Connecticut School of Law, has practiced law in the public interest for more than 35 years.  Delo E. Mook, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth, first sparked John’s interest in Astronomy, which continues to inform John’s life-long interest in the Environment and Civil Rights. Following years litigating civil and employment rights cases, John served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York under Robert Abrams, where John pioneered the use of computers by lawyers.  John has also served as confidential law clerk to several New York State Supreme Court justices. John is active with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy in preserving open spaces and making them available to the public.



John Cummings, PhD

John Cummings, PhD

John Cummings, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Siena College, where he is currently serving as Interim Dean of the School of Science. He is an experimental particle physicist, and has contributed to experiments ranging from exotic meson searches to the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment, which shared the 2016 Breakthrough Prize for it’s measurement of neutrino mixing parameters. Like so many scientists, his passion for studying the Universe began at a young age by exposure to the wonders of Astronomy. John is excited to be on the Dudley board so that he can help to spark that same passion in others and contribute to building the next generation of scientists and science lovers.




Stephen C. Ainlay, Ph.D.

Stephen C. Ainlay, Ph.D.

Stephen C. Ainlay, Ph.D. became the 18th president of Union College on July 1, 2006 and was inaugurated on Sept. 16, 2006. He is a sociologist with a distinguished record as a teacher, scholar and administrator. Before joining Union, he was a professor at College of the Holy Cross since 1982, and a dean since 1996. His research projects, published articles and books, have focused on investigations of blindness, aging, spirituality and various aspects of Mennonite life, all aimed at better understanding the ways in which people find meaning in their lives. He is a frequent presenter at conferences of scholars and academic administrators. He has served as a board member and vice chair of the American Conference of Academic Deans. A native of Indiana, Ainlay earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Goshen College, and both his master’s and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. He is married to Judith Gardner Ainlay. They have two sons – Jesse, a 2005 graduate of Holy Cross; and Jonathan, a student at the University of Arizona.


Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., is the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has held senior leadership and advisory positions in government, industry, research, and academe. Her research and policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis.” She is the former president and chairman of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); a member of the National Academy of Engineering, The American Philosophical Society, the Council on Foreign Relations; and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the AAAS. She serves on the board of directors of NYSE Euronext and chairs the NYSE Regulation Board. She is a director of several major corporations. Dr. Jackson served as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1995 to 1998. Describing her as “a national treasure,” the National Science Board selected Jackson as its 2007 recipient of the Vannevar Bush Award for “a lifetime of achievements in scientific research, education, and senior statesman-like contributions to public policy.”