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See our official Symposium schedule here!

Confirmed Speaker Bios: 
Friday October 1st, 2021

Ariel Ekblaw

Ariel Ekblaw 
Ariel Ekblaw is the founder and Director of the MIT Space Exploration Initiative, a team of over 50 graduate students, staff, and faculty actively prototyping the artifacts of our sci-fi space future. Founded in 2016, the Initiative includes a portfolio of 40+ research projects focused on opening access to life in space, and supports an accelerator-like R&D program for payload development and flight testing across MIT and many outreach communities. For the Initiative, Ariel drives space-related research across science, engineering, art, and design, and charters an annually recurring cadence of parabolic flights, sub-orbital, and orbital launch opportunities.  Ariel graduated with a B.S. in Physics, Mathematics and Philosophy from Yale University and designed a novel space architecture habitat for her MIT PhD in autonomously self-assembling space structures. Her research work and engineering lab builds towards future habitats and space stations in orbit around the Earth, Moon, and Mars. Ariel’s work has been featured in WIRED (March 2020 cover story), MIT Technology Review, Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, CNN, NPR, PRI’s Science Friday, IEEE and AIAA proceedings, and more. Ariel serves on the NASA Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) Executive Committee, guiding and shaping the coming decade of burgeoning activity on the moon, and is the author/editor of the forthcoming "Into the Anthropocosmos: A Whole Space Catalog from the MIT Space Exploration Initiative" with MIT Press (September 2021). Ariel has had the rare honor and pleasure of working directly on space hardware that now resides on the surface of Mars. Humanity stands on the cusp of interplanetary civilization and space is our next, grand frontier. This opportunity to design our interplanetary lives beckons to us—Ariel strives to bring our space exploration future to life.


Carter Emmart
Carter Emmart is the Director of Astrovisualization for the American Museum of Natural History.  While attending the University of Colorado for a BA in Geophysics, he co-founded the Case for Mars conference series, from which he pursued a career as a space illustrator of human Mars missions. Working at NASA Ames and the National Center for Atmospheric Research led to his work in data visualization design, which he applied to the museum’s Digital Universe 3D Atlas, his direction of the planetarium’s space shows, and the NASA-supported OpenSpace software.


Karen Lopez
Karen is a senior project manager and architect with an extensive background in development processes and information management. She specializes in taking practical approaches to systems development. She has 20+ years of public speaking (keynotes, speeches, and demonstrations). She wants attendees to have fun, gain insights and take away inspiration for working with new technologies and methods. She's known for her slightly irreverent and practical approach to IT training and speaking. She wants you to be part of #TEAMDATA.

Wade Minter
Wade is a Product Principal at Dualboot Partners, where he helps companies build great software. He was a member of the founding team at TeamSnap, and headed up Engineering at Adwerx, WeaveUp, and Custom Communications. He is also the arena public address announcer for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, a 20+ year improv performer, ring announcer for a professional wrestling federation, and beer league ice hockey player/goalie. He leads a weird life.


Fernando Salvador
Founder of STEM the Violence, a non- profit organisation which aims to use STEM as a tool to empower youth to veer away from crime. STEM the Violence was fuelled by personal experiences from having worked in an area with troubled youth, engagement with communities and my own love for STEM. Being a father of two and having seen the rise of crime in London and across the UK, it has raised my concerns for what the future holds for generations to come and so with this platform my long term goal is to disrupt and make change. If there is something that I can take from my experience so far is that STEM is for all, no matter what background you are.  Together we can make change and STEM the Violence at this core. Fernando would like to especially thank his team - Chris Ogunlesi, Alexander Schwertheim, Dr. Simon Foster, Maria Than and John Akpenyi. 

Irene Pease
In another time, Irene Pease shared views through her telescope with her fellow New Yorkers on busy sidewalks and under darker skies in Prospect Park as their Friendly Neighborhood Astronomer. In 2020 she began hosting a weekly livestream tour of the night skies and local universe. She is producer of the Hayden Planetarium video blog, Skylight; a co-host and frequent presenter for Astronomy on Tap NYC; co-host of the podcast AAASky; and the pilot of Hayden Planetarium’s Zeiss Mark IX Universarium. 
Irene has a degree in Physics from the University of Arizona. She currently teaches physics at York College CUNY and a high school in Brooklyn.


Prosper Otemuyiwa
Software Engineer - Sourcegraph


Lisa Tagliaferri, PhD
is Director of Developer Education at Sourcegraph where she is leading a team building an open access and open source Learn platform. She is the author of the open access books How To Code in Python and Python Machine Learning Projects. She was previously a researcher, educator, and builder of open source digital humanities software at the City University of New York, MIT, and Harvard.


Dr. Raymond Capra 
  Dr. Capra is from California and educated at UC Santa Barbara, The University of North Carolina, and Fordham University. He received his doctorate in Classical Philology at the latter. Previous to coming to Queens College, Dr, Capra taught at Seton Hall University and Brooklyn College. Dr. Capra's research is two-fold, focusing on Greek Literature and on the culture and history of Greco-Roman Spain.  He is interested in ancient and medieval poetry and how it has shaped cultural perceptions of its own period and those of the modern era, as well he edited and translated the life of the 1oth century Saint Neilos the Younger of Rossano. His research on Greco-Roman Spain deals with urbanization and the relationship between cultural production and identity. He is presently working on a book about the development of ancient Tarraco (modern day Tarragona, Catalunya).

Robert Jacobson
Robert Jacobson is a multi-faceted entrepreneur, advisor, and space advocate who believes that space is the key to humanity’s successful future. Jacobson is the founder of Space Advisors®, a strategic and financial consulting firm and cofounder of several other space focused businesses. Jacobson is also the author of the new book, Space Is Open for Business: The Industry That Can Transform Humanity.


Sean Keegan 
 Sean is a developer advocate for Postman, an API collaboration platform used by 17M+ developers and 500K companies to access tons of APIs every month. Sean loves video games and ultimate frisbee, and has a newfound passion for houseplants.


Dr. Laura Kreidberg
 Kreidberg is an observational astronomer and founding director of the Atmospheric Physics of Exoplanets Department at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. Her research focuses on exoplanet atmosphere characterization, with the goal of turning these distant planets into real places - revealing what they're like and how they came to be.


Riccardo Rambaldi
 Riccardo Rambaldi was born in 1999 in Bologna, Italy. He earned his BSc in Aerospace Engineering in 2021 from Politecnico di Milano and began, in the same year, his first year of MSc in Space Engineering at the same university. 
In September 2020, he got hired in PoliSpace, a newborn space-related university association, as an editor and author. After six months he got promoted to Board Member as co-manager of the Marketing & Communication department. In the Board, he also takes care of the wellness of the whole association.
In October 2020, he participated in the NASA Space App Challenge in Rome, designing, with his team, a simple approach to enable and facilitate in-space assembly. The project won two local awards and ranked in the top 14 among 2,303 global nominees and was chosen as an Honorable Mention. He will be an author in a paper that will be presented at the 72nd edition of the International Aeronautical Congress in Dubai.


Prosper Otemuyiwa
Prosper Otemuyiwa is a software engineer who has worked on biometric, health and developer tools. He is a seasoned developer advocate, community leader and a firm open source hacker who believes immensely in the intersection of people & technology. He co-founded Eden Life & forloop, the largest African developer community (currently in ~8 countries). He's currently a GitHub Star.


Pia Blumauer
Pia has been a UX Researcher for 5 years, mostly focusing on web and app interfaces for different clients. She is a usability expert 
and assists her clients by designing interfaces so that users can easily understand, use, and make the most use of it. In addition Pia facilitates workshops conducting collaborative workshops as a part of an user-centric design.


Francesco Ventre
Francesco Ventre was born in 1995 in Caserta, Italy. He earned his BSc in Aerospace Engineering in 2018 from Università ";Federico II" di Napoli. In September the same year, he started his MSc in Space Engineering at Politecnico di Milano.
After his enrollment, he started working with the ARACNE team on Structural Health Monitoring for spacecraft delivering papers for the 70th and 71st International Astronautical Congress (IAC). He will be an author in two more papers for the 72nd edition of the IAC in Dubai.
In 2019 he joined the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) and served as Local Coordinator for the "1st Italian Space Startup Competition." In March 2020, he entered the Walle Mobility team as an Aerospace Engineer intending to set up the first air shuttle service for people and goods in Italy by 2025. Since May 2021, he is the CEO of the company. 
In September 2020, he co-founded and became the president of PoliSpace, the first space association of Politecnico di Milano, currently developing a CubeSat. In October of the same year, he took part as a judge in Brescia's NASA Space Apps Challenge. In November, he completed a two-months hackathon on science communication proposed by CERN. In April 2021, he completed the Analog Mission Basic Training course offered by the Austrian Space Forum. 
In summer 2021, he completed the Space Studies Program at the International Space University in Strasbourg with a team project about an Earth-Moon transport system. Francesco is currently working on his thesis “Asteroid ejecta dynamics around binary systems” in collaboration with the University of Liverpool. His passions include cooking and listening to music.


Divya M. Persaud
Divya M. Persaud (she/her) is a planetary geologist, writer, and composer. She is a postdoctoral scholar supporting the Europa Lander concept and Europa Clipper missions at NASA JPL, and has been completing her Ph.D. at UCL, where she is applying 3D imagery to probe Mars geology. Divya is passionate about bridging science, engagement, activism, and the arts.


Dr. Martin Fengler
Dr. Martin Fengler studied at TU Kaiserslautern (Germany) where he received his PhD in applied mathematics. After his studies he developed several numerical weather prediction codes for Meteomedia AG (now MeteoGroup Switzerland) where he became responsible for the technology & innovation department. In  2012 he founded Meteomatics in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Since then, he has been running the company very successfully, trying to develop new and disruptive industry standards for weather forecasting. Besides being a family man with two kids, Martin enjoys also climbing, hiking and other outdoor activities.

See our official Symposium schedule here!

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