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Staff Bios

Cliff Athorn, Director of Exhibit Production

Cliff Athorn

Cliff joined the Science Museum as Director of Exhibit Production in 2001, before which he spent about fifteen years as the technical and production director at the Minnesota Opera Co. In his time at the museum he has led our production team through a period of dramatic growth in staff size and work volume. When asked what he values most about his job, Cliff quickly pointed to the talent, dedication, and professionalism of all of the production staff. "We all learn from our work, and from each other on every project we undertake. It's a pleasure and a privilege to come to work with such an extraordinary group of colleagues every day."

Cliff has an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and graduate degrees in music theory and conducting. His wife, Liz, is a middle school English teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. They have two adult sons.

Roger Barrett, Exhibit Design Group Manager

Roger Barrett

Roger studied graphic design at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and City College of San Francisco. Before joining the Science Museum of Minnesota, Roger worked as a graphic designer for Urb magazine and as a freelance designer for various local and national clients. Roger came to he museum in 2000 as an internet developer and youth instructor in the museum's Learning Technologies Center. There he developed the Studio 3D website and taught children ages preschool to high school in how to playfully integrate art and technology.

Currently, Roger manages an exhibit design team that includes 3D, graphic, lighting, and technical designers. He has been a designer and art director for many projects including: Perot Museum of Nature & Science, Arkansas Museum of Discovery, Living West (History Colorado), Wonder Years, Ecosystems (California Science Center), Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear (California Science Center), Science & Art (Arkansas Discovery Network), Wild Music, Robots and Us, and Explore Evolution.

Marjorie Bequette, Director of Evaluation and Research in Learning

Marjorie Bequette

Marjorie joined the Science Museum in 2007, and worked in Teacher Professional Development and as a Senior Evaluation and Research Associate before becoming director of the department in 2010. Marjorie leads evaluation and learning research across the institution, including work for the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network and Conner Prairie's Prairie Science, the Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center, the museum's School Network and other projects. Her research interests include improving evaluation for informal settings (as in the CASNET research project), and how people see the relevance of science to their everyday lives, work that draws on her experience with the world of formal and informal educational research. Marjorie earned her PhD in science education at Stanford University.

Marjorie's favorite exhibitions share a common theme. Mathematica, which she visited frequently at the Museum of Science, Boston as a child and as an adult, was designed by Charles and Ray Eames. The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention, organized by the Library of Congress, explores more broadly the work of those truly original thinkers. "Their focus on the power and beauty of science and mathematics, and the importance of design and aesthetics, provide new insights into the world around us."

Mark Dahlager, Director of Exhibit Development and Design

Mark Dahlager

Mark has an extensive background in biology and natural science. He has completed the coursework for an MS in Biology and Plant Ecology at St. Cloud State University and has worked as a naturalist at several local nature centers. At the Science Museum of Minnesota, Mark started as an interpreter and demonstrator before joining the design and development team. He assumed his current position in 2004 and has led the department through the design and development of a great many exhibits.

Mark's favorite museums are the City Museum ("obviously") and the Corning Museum of Glass: "beautiful objects, nice architecture, cool demonstrations, challenging and engaging programs that allow visitors to make glass stuff to take home." In his free time, Mark leads a team of treasure hunters every year in the St. Paul Winter Carnival Medallion Hunt (their record: 0 for 12, with 11 "real close"). He is also an accomplished crop seed artist. (It's a Minnesota thing.)

Laurie Fink, Director of Science Programs

Laurie Fink

Laurie leads the Science Programs group, a team comprised of Science Museum of Minnesota staff scientists, researchers, curators and program directors. In addition, Laurie heads up our Health and Human Body projects including Tissues of Life, Cell Lab, Disease Detectives, and Wonder Years. Laurie has a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Pharmacology, both from the University of Minnesota. Before coming to the museum, she was a research scientist at a start-up biotech company; worked in quality control and assurance in the pharmaceutical industry; and was a medical research assistant at the University of Minnesota, where she identified and investigated a novel gene that plays a role in tumor formation.

Laurie enjoys playing soccer, which she claims makes her "a true soccer mom," but especially relishes adventures with her family.

Robert Garfinkle, Project Leader, Science and Social Change Initiative

Robert Garfinkle

Robert leads exhibit projects and spearheads the Science Museum's commitment to exploring the intersection of science and social issues. Robert has led two projects for the Science Museum that have won the American Association of Museum's annual Excellence in Exhibition Award: Invention at Play (2002, in collaboration with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation) and RACE: Are We So Different? (2008, in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association). Recently he has helped lead the museum's work with the Arkansas Museum of Discovery (Little Rock) and is currently leading a collaboration with the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Robert has consulted with other museums on master planning, exhibit development and design, project leadership and conceptual planning. He has a master's degree in educational technology from Indiana University, but is most proud of still playing basketball three days a week against kids half his age.

Patrick Hamilton, Program Director, Global Change Initiatives

Patrick Hamilton

As Director of Global Change Initiatives at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Patrick Hamilton develops projects that explore the challenges and opportunities of humanity as the dominant agent of global change. In recent years, these projects have included Water: H2O = Life, an international traveling exhibition developed in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History; the Big Back Yard, the museum's outdoor environmental science park; Science House, the museum's net-zero energy building; and Future Earth, an exhibit at the museum about how we thrive on a planet with 7.2 billion people and now home to the wealthiest, healthiest, most educated, innovative, creative and interconnected populace in history.

New projects being developed by Patrick include The Observatory, which will provide museum audiences with novel opportunities by which to examine the world around them and in so doing collect scientific observations that help make Minnesota and the Twin Cities better places in which to live; Exergy, which involves using the museum itself as a model of advanced building energy efficiency; and the Cities Initiative, a traveling exhibition with complementary programming about the past, present and future of cities. Patrick also is a Fellow of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment and a Board Member of District Energy St. Paul, and is a Principal Investigator with the University of Minnesota's Urban Heat Island Network.

Away from the museum, Patrick and his wife J. like to kayak and grow organic, blue-ribbon-winning pears, peaches and plums in Saint Paul.

Joe Imholte, Program Director, Special Exhibits and Exhibit Services

Joe Imholte

Joe started at the Science Museum of Minnesota as a visitor assistant while still in college. After securing a BA in Environmental Science and Political Science from Hamline University in 1996, he added responsibilities as Omnitheater usher and console operator, circulation manager for The Big Frame, Visitor Relations Manager, Exhibit Operations Manager and Project Leader. Joe has been involved with every traveling exhibition hosted by the Science Museum since 1998.

When asked to name a favorite museum, Joe came up with two. "The City Museum is a total blast and awesome in nearly every way. And the Durham Museum of Life and Science—you can see the passion of the people that work there in the exhibits and experiences out on the floor and in their incredible outdoor exhibits."

Joanne Jones-Rizzi, Director of Community Engagement

Joanne Jones-Rizzi

Joanne began her career as an exhibit developer, Cultural Program Director, and Community Program Director at the Boston Children's Museum in 1985. During her 20-year tenure she was the lead concept and content developer for the internationally acclaimed Kid's Bridge exhibit, as well as TV & Me; Arthur's World; and Boston Black: A City Connects. Joanne joined the Science Museum of Minnesota as an exhibit developer for the award-winning exhibition RACE: Are We So Different? In the process she introduced innovative forms of public dialogue that created local relevance while resonating at a national scale. Her collaborative model of community engagement is integral to both the exhibition and public program development processes. In her role as Director of Community Engagement she leads a group that is committed to being thoughtful and intentional about defining community and creating approaches that advocate equitable access, reciprocity, meaningful participation, and cultural relevance to a broad range of communities. The recipient of an invitational Osher Fellowship at the Exploratorium and awards for her anti-racism work in Boston, Joanne advises museums nationally and internationally on culture, identity, anti-racism, and community engagement.

Joanne cites Mining the Museum as her favorite exhibit. "I saw this exhibit in Baltimore in 1992 and I still think about it: the juxtaposition of objects; the reactions of visitors; the combining oil paintings, audio and lighting to communicate being 'the other.' The use of objects to communicate slavery, racism and what they did to the people involved was profound. The collaborative aspect of the project also resonated with me. I am always looking for new models for bringing ideas to the public."

Bill Maloney, Director of Traveling Exhibitions

Bill Maloney

The first thing you need to know about Bill is, when asked for personal info to include in his bio, he wrote, "I secretly want to be the voice of a movie animation character." That off-beat perspective has served him well in the crazy world of traveling exhibits.

After earning a BA from Tufts University, Bill spent several years working in retail display production and design, and medical education media design and production. Bill manages all aspects of the traveling shows the Science Museum of Minnesota circulates to other institutions. Beyond the current roster, past touring exhibits include Wolves and Humans; Bears: Imagination & Reality; Hunters of the Sky; Bionics & Transplants and Cenote of Sacrifice.

Paul Martin, Senior Vice President, Science Learning

Paul Martin

As Senior Vice President of Science Learning, a title he's held since March 2010, Paul Martin oversees the museum's development, design and production of exhibits and related science learning programming. Martin leads a staff of exhibit and education professionals whose work towards fulfilling the Science Museum's mission of "turning on the science," both at home and around the world, is recognized industry-wide. He has a long, varied and esteemed career in museum programming and is known nationally as an innovator in creating physically, emotionally and intellectually interactive visitor experiences.

Under Martin's leadership, the Science Museum's Exhibits Services business has grown into the leading museum-based exhibit development and production operation in the country, with clients including the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian Institute, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science (Boston), the California Science Center, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Minnesota Zoo. Martin oversaw the development, design, production and installation of exhibits in the Science Museum's 400,000 square-foot riverfront facility, which opened in 1999 and has established itself as one of the most popular museums in the Upper Midwest.

Martin has worked with over 50 museums and science centers. Prior to his current position at the Science Museum of Minnesota, he held leadership positions with Museum Content Builders Inc., The Field Museum, Jim Henson Productions and the Minnesota Historical Society.

J. Shipley Newlin, Program Director, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics

J. Shipley Newlin

J. has 40 years experience in museum education and exhibit development. His career has included tenures at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (1973-1983) and the New York Hall of Science (1984-1986). At the Science Museum, J. was the project director for the development of the Experiment Gallery and for the series of eleven acclaimed "Experiment Benches" funded by the National Science Foundation's Informal Science Education program in the early '90s. He has led the development of such projects as Atmospheric Explorations, Handling Calculus, Wild Music, and Math Moves! J. is a product of the 'Great Books Program" at St. John's College, Annapolis, MD and continues pursuing a broad interest in the history and philosophy of science, mathematics, literature, and music.

When asked to name a favorite museum, J. can't pick just one. "I love several museums, each because they give visitors a deep and enriching experience. Among them, the Deutsches Museum in Munich, which has wonderful exhibits on science, industry and technology. I particularly love the exhibit of harpsichords and pianos in which a curator plays music written for each instrument and talks about the technology that makes the music sound as it does. The Art Institute in Chicago because its permanent collections and special exhibits never fail to give me new insights into human culture. The Exploratorium in San Francisco because the exhibits there illuminate the way the natural world works and how we perceive it. And Science North for its appropriate scale and the sense it can give to visitors that they are themselves science investigators."

Bette Schmit, Exhibit Development Group Manager

Bette Schmit

Bette leads a team of nine exhibition developers at the Science Museum, a group with a wide breadth of expertise and experience, assuring that "the right person is on the right project at the right time." She and her team are committed to creating museum experiences that are visitor-focused, inclusive and informative, and that provoke curiosity. As an Exhibit Developer and Project Leader, her recent projects include the Moody Family Children's Museum at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, Math Moves! and Engineering Studio at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Science & Art for the Arkansas Discovery Network and Water: H2O = Life, co-developed and produced with the American Museum of Natural History.

Prior to joining the museum, Bette worked at Minnesota Children's Museum for 11 years, holding a series of positions, from exhibit developer to project leader to department director. During her tenure as department director at the Children's Museum, she oversaw exhibit development, design, production and maintenance, as well as a traveling exhibits program. Bette holds a BA in Music History from the University of Minnesota. Before finding her true calling as a museum professional, she worked for several years at United Arts, an organization supporting small- and mid-size arts organizations in the Twin Cities.