About Us

Geza Gyuk is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and a life-long space exploration junkie. He’s been interested in space flight for as long as he can remember (not very long these days!). Back in the seventies, when he was young, Geza was sure that by 2000 he’d be somewhere on Mars or perhaps the Moon. Maybe a member of some sort of “Space Patrol”. Since that didn’t pan out he studied Astronomy. But his desire to “really” participate in space exploration is still as strong as ever.

When he isn’t running a space exploration program he studies high energy gamma-ray astronomy, asteroids, and astrobiology.

Mark Hammergren is a planetary scientist at the Adler Planetarium. Some of his research interests include asteroids, meteorites, impacts and mass extinctions, and the history and sociology of the flying saucer phenomenon. He also directs the Astro Science Workshop (ASW), a summer program for high school students now in its 45th year, funded in part through the National Science Foundation. Mark finds it amusing and interesting that for much of its history, ASW was directed by astronomer J. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University, who in addition to being a serious astronomer was also the world’s most prominent UFOlogist. For the past five summers, ASW has featured student-run high altitude balloon experiments. Mark can’t wait until his interests all collide when an ASW “weather balloon” gets reported as a UFO.

Ken Walczak joined the Far Horizons program in 2010 and hasn’t looked back. As the Far Horizons Lab Manager, his early years on a cat ranch come in handy every day. Trying to launch an honest to goodness space program is a full time and thoroughly inspiring job. A voracious appetite in all things astronomical keeps him primed and ready to explore the stratosphere and beyond. He studied film and photography, worked on a Tuscan vineyard, owned a furniture design business and a cafe’ among many other things. His hobbies include playing and designing Eurogames while trying to keep up with the department PhDs. Presently, his biggest goal is getting the Adler into space.

Lou Nigra joined the program in 2013 as Far Horizons Engineer. The path to what he considers the best job he’s ever had is a bit unconventional. In 2003, he left a long career in Electrical Engineering as a specialist in radio frequency systems to pursue a Ph.D. in Astronomy and got a M.S. in Physics along the way. His engineering career spanned a wide range of products from military radar countermeasures equipment to mobile phones and was awarded four patents. His astrophysical research is grounded in Radio Astronomy. After getting his Ph.D. he joined the Zooniverse team in the Adler Planetarium Citizen Science department to work on the SETILive project. After that, he was taken in by the Far Horizons program where he helps keep the lab stocked with the right stuff, teaches how to use it and heads the development of key components and subsystems for the program.

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