Interim Executive Director, Melanie Evans
Dudley Observatory and its Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Melanie Evans has joined us as interim Executive Director. She will be replacing outgoing director, Dr. Valerie Rapson, who has taken a faculty position at SUNY Oneonta in their Physics and Astronomy Department.
Melanie comes to us from a long career in the more terrestrial and aquatic world of zoos and aquariums, and is very excited to expand her enthusiasm for science to beyond our atmosphere. Melanie has more than 15 years experience in non-profit management focusing on guest relations, adult and youth volunteer engagement and informal educational programming. She served as the Guest Services Director at Mystic Aquarium for over three years, and before that worked at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois and Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix, Arizona. Ms. Evans has a Bachelor of Science from University of Manitoba, a professional certificate in Nonprofit Management from Arizona State University’s Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and a certificate in Positive Youth Development from the University of Arizona.
Melanie is very excited to help Dudley continue to bring the wonders of science, particularly astronomy, to people of all ages. She will be responsible for managing our Board of Trustees, marketing and communications, program scheduling, and fundraising activities. She will serve as the main public contact and spokesperson for Dudley Observatory, and will represent us in all professional business capacities.
In her personal life, Melanie has always had an interest in all things science related, especially the natural world, and enjoys exploring the beaches and woods of New England with her family. Her family kindly tolerates her endless photographing of obscure plants, fungus and terrestrial invertebrates during these walks. At home, Melanie spends a fair amount of time gardening and rearranging an entirely too large collection of small orchids and other houseplants around her windowsills.
Dr. Valerie Rapson, Astronomer Emeritus
Valerie’s interest in astronomy started when she was a young child. She watched endless Star Trek episodes with her father and hoped to one day better understand how the universe works. During her undergraduate career at the University of Rochester, Valerie had the opportunity to teach a summer physics course for young women, and this is where her passion for science education and outreach blossomed.
Valerie went on to get her Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her dissertation focused on the chemical composition and structure of planet-forming disks around nearby young stars.
Valerie spent much of her free time during graduate school educating the public about astronomy. She taught summer camps, visited senior living communities, and presented star shows at the Strasenburgh Planetarium. For two years Valerie was also president of the Rochester Academy of Sciences Astronomy Section, a large organization of amateur astronomers that love to share their passion for astronomy with the world. In 2014 Valerie was inducted into the American Astronomical Society’s Astronomy Ambassadors program, recognizing her extensive participation in astronomy outreach throughout Rochester, NY. In 2018 she received the Emerging Leader Award from Girls Inc. of the Capital Region which recognizes a young professional who is a role model for girls and women and is blazing a trail toward personal advancement.
Valerie hopes to reach out to all members of the public, both young and young-at-heart, and teach them the wonders of outer space. Her motto is: “You don’t need to be a ‘rocket scientist’ to learn about, understand, and enjoy astronomy”.