PLEASE NOTE: tickets should be purchased in advance.

Museum staff are passionate about STEM and about helping our community discover their world. Some staff have taken that passion to another level to become subject matter experts in specific areas. Like crush-it-on-Jeopardy-level knowledge.

If you're looking for someone to talk about just about any area of science, technology, engineering and math, contact us and we'll see which of our experts might fit the bill.


Matt Baker

A long-time member of the education team, Matt is the Museum’s resident HOMAGO expert – hanging out, messing around, geeking out. That may seem antithetical to getting work done, but that philosophy guides Matt’s team of educators in both The MiX and The Forge, the Museum’s makerspaces. Pedagogical methods, such as constructivism, constructionism, project- and problem-based learning, and hands-on STEM lessons, plus cross-generational and teen-focused instructional design and facilitation, are Matt’s specialty. He has dual undergraduate degrees in history and education studies from Guilford College, and his masters in curriculum and instruction from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Justin Bartel

Justin turned a lifelong interest in space into a professional immersion. After earning an astronomy degree from the University of Arizona, he worked at museums in Kansas and Florida before coming to the Science Museum of Virginia. Justin manages the Museum’s Dome, utilizing the Digistar system to create unique astronomical visualizations for in-person and online audiences. Museum-produced planetarium content has been shared with colleagues around the world and recognized with multiple awards. Justin has served as president of the Digistar Users Group, and is a member of multiple planetarium associations and the American Astronomical Society. Whether it’s astronomy, planetary science, space exploration or planetariums, Justin’s expertise is out of this world.

James Blow

Jim came to the Museum after a 28-year career with the United States Army, during which he earned numerous medals for his service. He is the Museum’s administrative coordinator and host of the long-running Lunch Break Science series. Jim earned B.A. in history from the University of Washington and a M.A. in ancient and classical history from American Military University. A frequent contributor to Museum content and programming, his areas of expertise include, but are not limited to, the history of science and medicine, U.S. and European military, pop culture and all things morbid, shocking and macabre.

Richard Conti

Appointed director of the Science Museum of Virginia in January 2008, Rich is only the third person to serve in that role since the Museum opened in January 1977. As Chief Wonder Officer, he oversees a 223,000-square-foot building that houses four floors of interactive experiences, a 33-acre campus, and two satellite locations. In addition to facilitating new exhibits and major infrastructure upgrades to enhance the guest experience, Rich orchestrated a master planning and fundraising effort, which generated more than $50 million in capital investment and led to the building of a new multipurpose space. Before coming to Richmond, Rich was the Executive Director of Nauticus and an Assistant to the City Manager in the City of Norfolk. Rich has degrees in business management from Tulane University and public administration from the University of Southern California, and is a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TopGun). As a U.S. Naval Aviator, he amassed 1,000 flight hours and 250 carrier-arrested landings as a backseater (RIO) in the F-14 Tomcat. If it’s aviation technology, museum management, strategic planning, the importance of STEM in everyone’s life or pop culture puns you want to discuss, Rich is your guy.

Dr. Catherine Franssen

Catherine joined the Museum as scientist in residence in 2020, and became a permanent part of the family in 2021 as the organization's life scientist. Prior to entering the Museum field, she spent 12 years in Virginia higher education, teaching at Randolph-Macon College, James Madison University, and as a tenured professor at Longwood University. A broadly trained neuroscientist who holds a Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of Chicago, her research has been published in numerous academic journals as well as featured in books, magazines and popular news outlets. Catherine is a gifted communicator, whose mission is to make neuroscience approachable, interesting and applicable to everyone. She uses the lens of neuroscience to help audiences better understand stress, parenting, addiction, joy, decision making and much more by highlighting the intersection of the three Bs: brain, behavior and biology.

Dr. Jeremy Hoffman

The Museum’s David and Jane Cohn Scientist, Jeremy is a nationally renowned public speaker on the broad impacts of climate change, including health and environmental inequity, paleoclimatology, urban microclimatology, resilience and phenology. His speaking invitations have included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Democratic House Caucus, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Federal Reserve Bank and the Medical Consortium for Climate and Health. Jeremy has served as a member of the Environment Committee for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, a Science Communication Fellow for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and was named one of Style Weekly's Top 40 Under 40 and a Grist 50 Fixer for 2020. In addition to inspiring the next generation of critical thinkers at the Museum, Jeremy utilizes his informative humor as an affiliate faculty member in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and the Center for Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Devin Jefferson

Devin has spent his career in program management centered around youth development in both formal and informal settings. With an educational background in biology, Devin has developed and executed high-quality STEM programming with various community partners. His experience includes management and leadership roles with multiple Boys & Girls Clubs and science centers, as well as time as the community relations manager for a charter school in New York. Devin leads the Museum’s RVAir program, a community science initiative to study air quality, and is an authority on the process and importance of embedded citizen science efforts.

Laura Kramer

After earning her biology degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, Laura joined the Museum’s education team in 2005. She has enjoyed training rats to play basketball, cooking in the "Boost!" kitchen, feeding snakes in the Animal Lab and freezing racquetballs in liquid nitrogen so much that she’s never left! Laura is now manager of gallery programming, overseeing the Museum’s talented team of educators who conduct demos and lead activities. Whether it’s biology, chemistry or general science topics, Laura is passionate about sharing her knowledge to help connect people to STEM in the world around them.

Timshel Purdum

Timshel joined the Science Museum of Virginia as education director in September 2018, and became Virginia C. Ellett Director of Education in 2021. She leads a dedicated team of staff and volunteers who help audiences of all ages discover and nurture their inner scientist. Timshel has been active in the museum community for more than 20 years, serving as Assistant Vice President of Public Experience at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Vice President of the Museum Council of Philadelphia. She is a peer reviewer for the Institute of Museum and Library Services and is a Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute board member. Timshel has a B.S. in biology from the College of William & Mary and a M.A. in Environmental Education from the New Jersey School of Conservation, Montclair State University. A subject matter expert on a number of life and biological sciences topics, such as animals, plants, fungus and arthropods, Timshel’s passion lies in all things related to paleontology and cephalopods.