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Current Members
Dianne Blanco, '79 MBA (2016 - current)
Dianne is a medical device executive with 24 years of experience ranging from board director to founder and CEO of a European medical device company to president of three successive Baxter International divisions. She holds an MBA from the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Dianne's brother is a plasma physicist who spent his postdoctoral career at NASA.
Judith Pierpont, (2016 - current)
Judith is the founder/principal of the Edinburgh Junior Executive Program and a member of the board of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Kathleen Cronin, ’89 JD (2017 – current)
Kathleen is the Senior Managing Director, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at CME Group, Inc., the world’s most diverse derivatives marketplace, located in Chicago. She is a member of The Chicago Network (TCN), an organization of Chicago’s leading professional women. It was at a TCN panel event on space science where she first became aware of CIERA’s leadership in astronomy, women in science, and science education. Her interest in astronomy and space was cultivated by her teenage daughter’s fascination with the topic and her plan to pursue a career in astrophysics.
Erin Sidwell, (2016 - current)
As a child, Erin attended Space Camp at the Kennedy Space Center and dreamed of becoming a shuttle pilot. Living in Tampa, Florida at the time, she watched shuttle launches and re-entries just by stepping outside. Erin attended the University of Florida (BSPR, 2001 and MS in Management, 2002) and then entered the world of marketing and sales, first with Gartner, a company offering research and advisory services in technology, and then with Tom Lange Company International, Inc. Currently Erin is a school enrollment administrator in Public Relations at Bonita Springs Charter School.
Burt Fujishima, ’76 BS (2018 – current)
Burt is a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker, specializing in residential and investment real estate sales. He owns and operates investment rental properties as BurtCo Properties Corp. He is also an active volunteer with local food pantries and organizations that support those with special needs.
Zachary Sidwell, '99 (2016 - current)
Zachary has been a leader in the Northwestern Alumni Association since graduating in 1999. His football career while at NU took him to two Big Ten Championships and two Bowl Games. Currently, he is a Global Strategic Account Manager at Infor, an information technology and services company. In this role, he connects to big data, data analytics, and STEM. Zachary's fascination with space and astronomy was enhanced by sightings of both Halley's and Hale-Bopp Comets while growing up.
Tom Imperato, Board Chair (2016 - current)
Tom is serving his second three year term on the Pelham, NY Board of Education, where he has been a staunch advocate of increased STEM / STEAM curricula. He is an active member of the Pelham Civic Association, and devotes time to Parents and Community Together (PACT) whose goal is to help youth make wise decisions and avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Prior to retirement Tom had a 40 year career in real estate development and investment. Tom’s son Sam is working with CIERA as an intern through Pelham’s Science Research program.
Payson Wild, '71 MS (2018 – current)
After beginning his development career at Northwestern in Alumni Relations, Payson went on to lead giving efforts at Rush University Medical Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Payson then served for over a decade as Senior Vice President for The Alford Group, a consulting firm that partners with non-profits, before founding his own company that assists non-profits primarily in the area of planned giving and major gifts. He has served on many boards over the years and is active in the Evanston Sail & Paddle Association.
Don MacMillen, (2018 – current)
Don's career as a technologist and senior executive spans the semiconductor, EDA (electronic design automation), and self-driving car industries. He has served as the VP of Engineering for several startups in these areas, as well as VP of Engineering for Synopsys, a large EDA-focused corporation. Don holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Rochester.

Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

New members are actively being recruited.

Who are the CIERA Board of Visitors?
A diverse, external group of advisors who love science broadly, astronomy in particular, and are eager to see Northwestern’s Astronomy continue to thrive and expand.

What does the Board do?
Offer an outside perspective. Strategize, advise, and assist with CIERA’s mission and future growth. Serve as a bridge between astronomy enthusiasts and professionals; the Northwestern University administration, students and alumni; the State of Illinois; and wider communities.

What are the expectations when one joins the Board?
Make gifts to CIERA Circle at the Universe participation level of $5,000 (minimum) annually.
Meet two times each year in person or by teleconference.
Serve on the Board for a minimum of two years.

When was the Board established?
Winter, 2016


Understand Goals Get to know our center and strategize for an ambitious future at Northwestern.
Network Connect CIERA researchers with contacts from your industry or social circle.
Give Donate personally and generate matching gifts.
Promote Shine a light on CIERA's cutting-edge research and education.
Guide Give expert advice and ideas on a range of activities.

CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera

Dr. Kalogera with Northwestern Vice President for Research, Jay Walsh

Dr. Kalogera with Board member Judith Pierpont at the LSST Mirror

Board of Visitors Winter 2018 meeting with CIERA faculty, postdocs, grad students, and staff.

Building on our recent breakthrough in the nascent field of Einstein's gravitational-wave astronomy, as well as our innovations in telescope instrumentation, high-performance computing, and data science, Northwestern's astronomy center pursues new research directions.

  • We recruit top postdoctoral researchers through nationally competitive Prize Fellowships
  • We innovate in graduate and undergraduate research and education
  • We enrich intellectual discussions with seminar series and a vigorous visitors program
  • We strengthen the STEM pipeline with K-12 advances and public outreach

Special emphasis is given to interdisciplinary connections with applied math, biology, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, materials science, mechanical engineering, planetary science, and statistics.

Join us!
Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA)

Northwestern High Performance Computing Cluster - Quest

Board members at the CIERA offices, celebrating the first detection of gravitational waves by LIGO (February, 2016)

Subaru Telescope, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

"The history of astronomy is the history of receding horizons."

~ Edwin Powell Hubble

"It has been an honor to contribute to the expansion of our horizons towards the brand new field of gravitational-wave astronomy, confirming Einstein’s predictions and advancing our understanding of black holes.

I am looking forward to more breakthroughs with my colleagues at Northwestern’s CIERA."

~ CIERA Director Vicky Kalogera