Dr. Laura Danly is the Curator of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. At Griffith Observatory, her responsibilities include the development and implementation of all educational, planetarium, gallery, telescope, and theatre programs. She supervises a staff of about 150 including all of the interpretive staff, and the art, production, and technical staffs who provide the astronomical, audio-visual, and multi-media programming throughout the Observatory. In particular, Dr. Danly has produced, directed, and co-written four of Griffith Observatory’s most recent programs in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Most recently, Dr. Danly oversaw the renovation of all the technical systems in the planetarium theatre.
Dr. Danly spent the first ten years of her career at NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) where she was a post-doctoral and Hubble Fellow conducting research with the Hubble Telescope (1987-1997). While at NASA she began her dual careers in astronomical research and public astronomy as STScI’s first Project Scientist for Education. After her departure from NASA in 1997, she held academic appointments for eight years as a professor at Pomona College and the University of Denver where she taught physics and astronomy. During that time Dr. Danly also designed and implemented multi-disciplinary, cross-departmental curricula in the then-new field of Astrobiology.
While in Denver, Dr. Danly also held an appointment as the first Curator of Space Science at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the first Chair of their new Space Sciences Department. From Denver, Dr. Danly moved to New York City where she was the Senior Manager of Astrophysics Education at the American Museum of Natural History (2004-2006).
Dr. Danly’s experiences in public education span a wide range of activities and methods, including planetarium show production, astronomical data visualization, exhibit design and construction, and special event and broadcast production. She is an accomplished lecturer and teacher, and has developed curricula for ages from elementary school to graduate school. She led several groups of university students that flew experiments on NASA’s KC-135 “vomit comet” aircraft. At NASA, she founded STScI’s Women’s Science Forum, a program for high school girls interested in science, which is still active today.
Dr. Danly has delivered scores of public lectures, and serves as a frequent resource to television and radio media for describing concepts in astronomy to the public. In recent years she has been a frequent guest on broadcast science programs and a regular host on the History Channel’s program, The Universe.
Dr. Danly holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy (University of Wisconsin – Madison) and a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Yale University. She is a spectroscopist specializing in ultraviolet observations from space satellites. Her research focuses on the large-scale distribution and dynamics of the interstellar medium and its relationship to galaxy evolution. Dr. Danly is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific where she served for six years as a member of its Board of Directors. She has served on advisory boards to the White House and NASA.