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Mr. Jose Hernandez M.S.

NASA engineer Jose Hernandez wanted to fly in space ever since he heard that the first Hispanic-American had been chosen to travel into space. “I was hoeing a row of sugar beets in a field near Stockton, Calif., and I heard on my transistor radio that Franklin Chang-Diaz had been selected for the Astronaut Corps,” says Hernandez, who was a senior in high school at the time. “I was already interested in science and engineering,” Hernandez remembers, “but that was the moment I said, ‘I want to fly in space.’ And that’s something I’ve been striving for each day since then.” And now that hard work has paid off. He was selected to begin training as a mission specialist as part of the 2004 astronaut candidate class.

One of four children in a migrant farming family from Mexico, Hernandez –who didn’t learn English until he was 12 years old — spent much of his childhood on what he calls “the California circuit,” traveling with his family from Mexico to southern California each March, then working northward to the Stockton area by November, picking strawberries and cucumbers at farms along the route. Then they would return to Mexico for Christmas, and start the cycle all over again come spring. “Some kids might think it would be fun to travel like that,” Hernandez laughs, “but we had to work. It wasn’t a vacation.”

After graduating from high school in Stockton, Hernandez enrolled at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering and was awarded a full scholarship to the graduate program at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he continued his engineering studies. In 1987, he accepted a full-time job with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he had worked as a co-op in college.

While at Lawrence Livermore, Hernandez worked on signal and image processing applications in radar imaging, computed tomography, and acoustic imaging. Later in his career, Hernandez worked on developing quantitative x-ray film imaging analysis techniques for the x-ray laser program. Hernandez applied these techniques in the medical physics area and co-developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system. This system has proven useful for detecting breast cancer at an earlier stage than present film/screen mammography techniques. Hernandez has won recognition awards for his work on this project. He has also worked in the international area where he represented Lawrence Livermore and the U.S. Department of Energy on Russian nuclear non-proliferation issues.

During the astronaut application process, Hernandez had to meet with a review board. That’s where he came face-to-face with his original inspiration: Franklin Chang-Diaz. “It was a strange place to find myself, being evaluated by the person who gave me the motivation to get there in the first place,” Hernandez says. “But I found that we actually had common experiences — a similar upbringing, the same language issues. That built up my confidence. Any barriers that existed, he had already hurdled them.” Hernandez smiles. “Now it’s my turn!”

Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, Ph.D.

Diana has over 30 years of experience as a full-time science teacher, Adjunct Professor, and owner of a science education consulting company. Diana conducts STEM, NGSS, MakerEd professional staff development, and Family STEM workshops for school districts, private schools, libraries, and educational organizations throughout the world. She is an advocate for hands-on-minds-on inquiry-based teaching and learning, and transforming teaching and learning environments for 21st-century learners.

Doug Clements

Douglas H. Clements, Distinguished University Professor, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, and Executive Director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning at the University of Denver, has published over 166 referenced research studies, 27 books, 100 chapters, and 300 additional works, including the development of new mathematics curricula, teaching approaches, teacher training initiatives, and models of “scaling up” interventions.

Julie Sarama, Ph.D.

Dr. Sarama received her PhD from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.  She designed and programmed over 50 published computer programs, including her version of Logo and Logo-based software activities (Turtle Math™, which was awarded Technology & Learning Software of the Year award, 1995, in the category “Math”).  Dr. Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, enriched math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers.  Her research interests include developing and evaluating research-based educational software and other technologies, using learning trajectories in standards, assessment, educational technology, curriculum, and professional development, developing and evaluating research-based curricula, and asking successful curricula to scale using technologies Portfolio

Ahmed Muhammad

Ahmed is a senior at Oakland Tech. He was born and raised in Oakland and has attended Oakland schools all his life.

As a student who loved science, he started Kits Cubed with a simple goal: to excite younger students about the wonders of science. As a member of the Black community, he found this especially important because communities of color often lack access to the hands-on science experience that makes learning so enjoyable.

Ahmed founded Kits Cubed, hoping to engage and ignite every child’s scientific imagination. Their science kits are purposefully designed to require little to no internet or computer access and are created to be both fun and affordable.

Scott D. Sampson, PhD

Dr. Scott D. Sampson is the Executive Director and William R. and Gretchen B. Kimball Chair of the California Academy of Sciences, where he leads the institution’s world-class museum as well as its programs of scientific research, sustainability, and education. A renowned paleontologist, passionate science communicator, and seasoned museum leader, Sampson joined the Academy in September 2019.

To some, namely preschoolers and their parents, Sampson may be best known as “Dr. Scott the Paleontologist,” the on-air host for the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS television series Dinosaur Train. Outside of this enthusiastic audience, however, Sampson is better known for his many other contributions to scientific research and public engagement. Among his peers in the scientific community, Sampson is highly regarded for his expertise on Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, from theropods in Madagascar to horned dinosaurs in North America. And in the museum community, Sampson is celebrated as a skilled organizational leader, a passionate advocate for connecting people to nature, and a champion for the critical role that collections-based scientific institutions like the Academy play in global efforts to understand and sustain life on Earth.

Before joining the Academy, Sampson served as President and CEO of Science World British Columbia, one of Canada’s premier science centers. There, he launched a suite of bold new programs designed to dramatically scale STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/design & Math) literacy across the province and facilitate a more sustainable future. He also focused on operating a sustainable, equitable institution, which included introducing a number of new initiatives aimed at increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, including community access and engagement programs for underserved and Indigenous communities.

Sampson has also served as the Vice President of Research and Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and, prior to that, Chief Curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah. He has also worked as an independent museum and media consultant, advising on fundraising and exhibition design for clients including the American Museum of Natural History and the Oakland Museum of California.

In addition to his role as a science advisor and host for Dinosaur Train, Sampson has extensive media and science communication experience, including as the science advisor and host of the four-part Discovery Channel series Dinosaur Planet and as the author of multiple books for general audiences, including Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life (University of California Press, 2009); How to Raise a Wild Child, a book aimed at helping parents, teachers, and others foster a deep connection with nature in children (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015); and You Can Be A Paleontologist, a book for young enthusiasts of dinosaurs, science, and nature (National Geographic, 2017).

Sampson has won numerous awards and honors, including the Public Service Award from the Geological Society of America, the Lifetime Legacy Award from Environmental Learning for Kids, and Time Magazine Canada’s “Who Defines the new Frontiers of Science” list. He also served as the National Ambassador for Nature Rocks, a global initiative of The Nature Conservancy aimed at inspiring families to explore nature.

Andres Sebastian Bustamante, Ph.D.

Dr. Bustamante designs and implements play-based early childhood STEM interventions in places and spaces where children and families spend time (e.g., parks, schoolyards, grocery stores, etc.). He maintains an intentional focus on translating rigorous science from the lab, into meaningful research in the classroom, and the community. Dr. Bustamante is also committed to sharing and interpreting early childhood research with a broader audience through blog posts for the Brookings InstitutionHuffington Post, BOLD Blog, and other media outlets.

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