The SOFIA E/PO program is subcontracted
by USRA to the SETI Institute and the Astronomical
Society of the Pacific.
Dana Backman is the director of SOFIA’s education and public outreach effort. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in physics from MIT, Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Hawai'i, and was a post-doctoral research fellow at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, and at NASA-Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California. In the subsequent 12 years he served as professor of physics and astronomy at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. In 2003, he moved west to become director of SOFIA’s education and public outreach effort at NASA Ames.
Working with Michael A. Seeds, Backman has co-authored two college introductory astronomy textbooks, Perspectives on Astronomy and Horizons: Exploring the Universe. In addition to his textbook work, he has also taught introductory astronomy at Santa Clara University and in the Stanford University Continuing Studies program.
Backman’s latest discovery was made using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Along with his research colleagues, he determined that the Epsilon Eridani system, the solar system nearest our own, has two asteroid belts, one of which is in the same location as the one in our solar system. The second, denser belt, most likely also populated by asteroids, lies between the first belt and an outer disk of comets, in a position equivalent to where the planet Uranus orbits in our system. The presence of the asteroid belts implies additional planets in the Epsilon Eridani system.
Kassandra Bell is the Education and Public Outreach Social Media Specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Relations, with a focus in Communication Studies, from San Jose State University. She assists with many aspects of SOFIA’s EPO program, including the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, social media, and events.
Mike Bennett was half of the SOFIA EPO team (with Edna Devore) from its inception in 1996, and was the Executive Director for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in San Francisco until his retirement in 2007. Mike has been an astronomy teacher and a planetarium director in many corners of the US and remains active in informal science education.
Coral Clark currently manages and coordinates Education and Public Outreach team efforts for SOFIA, which includes flight opportunities for educators with the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. She also is PI and manages the Education Associates Program (EAP) at NASA Ames with USRA, which supports higher education opportunities for over 300 students annually.
Ms. Clark has over 20 years experience in education, including 10 years middle school science instruction and 15 years in teacher professional development. She served as Science Teacher-in-Residence at the Exploratorium's Teacher Institute and Director of Education at the Resource Area for Teaching (a hands-on education support and innovation non-profit).She also contributed to the SETI Institute’s integrated science curriculum, Voyages Through Time, as a science writer. In 1995, Ms. Clark had the honor of flying on NASA's predecessor to SOFIA, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) with the FOSTER program.
Edna DeVore is Director of Education and Outreach and CEO of the SETI Institute. She is also co-investigator for E/PO on NASA's Kepler Mission and SETI Institute's astrobiology research. Edna was a science teacher and planetarium director in several parts of northern California before directing the FOSTER program that put teachers on board the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, the predecessor to SOFIA's Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. She co-managed the SOFIA E/PO program until Dana Backman became the Director of SOFIA's Office of Outreach. She continues to be involved with SOFIA on a part-time basis.
Pamela Harman is the Co-Manager of Education Programs for SOFIA, and the Education and Outreach Manager, at the SETI Institute. She has an engineering degree, a science teaching credential, and high school classroom teaching experience. Prior to teaching she was a project manager in the construction industry and mentored engineering students. She began her career at the SETI Institute as a part time tech writer on the Voyages Through Time curriculum development project, then piloting part of the curriculum in her classroom. When she became full time at the institute, she managed a pilot test of Active Astronomy Kits and Classroom Activities and continued to work on VTT as curriculum writer, eventually working with the project director managing the completion and the revision process. She has served on a county-wide biotech education steering committee, and served lead teacher for the PBS Evolution project. In these roles and at the SETI Institute, she has managed conference exhibits, professional development workshops and short courses, established an educator network, edited a quarterly e-newsletter, facilitated workshops and short courses, and given numerous talks. Pamela shares her sense of humor and her enthusiasm for science in her work, and is particularly motivated to be a model for life long learning.
John Johnson is SOFIA E/PO's Administrative Assistant. John is a certified paralegal and a graduate of Tulane University’s paralegal program. He holds a BA in Human Development from Cal-State Hayward. John assists with many aspects of SOFIA’s EPO program, including the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program, all out-reach events, coordinates AAA logistics, as well as day to day procedural duties.
Darlene Mendoza joined SOFIA in January 2004, starting as an intern under the Foothill/DeAnza Internship Program. Now she orchestrates all of SOFIA’s Education and Public Outreach efforts: i.e., science and engineer talks, events, conferences and resources. Darlene earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations from Santa Clara University.
Leslie Proudfit is SOFIA E/PO's Media Specialist,
responsible for creating exhibits, flyers,
brochures, and other materials for the SOFIA project. She also maintains the SOFIA Science Center website.
Leslie has worked with SOFIA since 1999, when the E/PO
department consisted of 3 people in one room of
a trailer. She is also the senior designer and webmaster for the Astronomical Society of the
Nicholas A. Veronico serves as the Public Affairs Officer for the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Science Center at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. His prior positions at NASA Ames include serving as a senior science writer for the center’s public affairs office as well as the Exploration Technology Directorate, and as editor of Gridpoints: The quarterly publication of the NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division. Veronico holds journalism and business management degrees, and is the author or co-author of more than 30 books on aviation, military, and local history subjects. His SOFIA and astronomy-related articles have been featured on Space.com, in the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Mercury magazine, in Airways – A Global Review of Commercial Flight, and the SETI Institute's Explorer magazine.