Chris Flink joined the Exploratorium as Executive Director in 2016. He is responsible for expanding the institution’s impact by deepening our renowned visitor experience, increasing our worldwide influence through Global Studios, broadening the reach of our world-class teacher professional development programs, and leading the Exploratorium to reimagine what it means to be a science center in the twenty-first century. He brings to the institution more than twenty years experience spanning creative leadership, engineering, design of hands-on educational experiences, and business. Chris is a former partner at IDEO and a founding member of Stanford University’s d.school, where he remains a consulting associate professor. He has presented at TEDx and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He and his wife, Lauren, live with their two daughters and bullmastiff on the Stanford campus as Resident Fellows. There they serve as coaches and mentors, orchestrating informal learning and fostering creative collaboration within a vibrant student community. Chris holds a BS in Engineering/Product Design from Stanford University and an MS in Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has served on the boards of Fortune 500 companies and on advisory boards for Target, JetBlue, and several startups. (Photo © Nancy Rothstein Photography.)
Executive Associate Director
Rob Semper coordinates the museum’s overall content-related R&D development and manages the institution’s relations with the external science, education, and funding communities. His areas of responsibility include the museum’s science and art development, public understanding of research activities, and creative application development as well as providing oversight for the Museum Experience. He has also guided the development of the award-winning Exploratorium website. Rob is the author of many journal articles and invited papers, and he has been Principal Investigator on projects that include developing new Internet resources, experiments using technology to enhance the museum visitor experience, and programs for teachers and museum educators. Awards include AAAS Fellow, 2006, and the NSTA 2006 Faraday Science Communicator Award. Before joining the Exploratorium in 1977, Rob taught physics and conducted solid state and nuclear physics research. He received his PhD in solid state physics from the Johns Hopkins University.
Chief Operating Officer
Laura Zander joined the Exploratorium as Chief Operating Officer in 2007. She is responsible for managing the Finance and Accounting, Information Technology, Organizational Development, Facilities and Operations, and Volunteer departments. Laura spent the early part of her career in commercial banking and project finance with a specific focus on Latin America at three large financial institutions in New York. She moved to San Francisco in 1999 to get involved in high technology. Laura worked as a CFO to start-up and midsized Internet and high-technology companies in the Bay Area. In 2003, she moved into the not-for-profit sector as Chief Operating Officer for the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, where she was involved in its large construction and relocation project. Laura holds a BA from Columbia University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Acting Director of Institutional Advancement
Blair joined the Exploratorium staff as the Director of Special Projects for Institutional Advancement in 2015. In his current role, Blair is responsible for all contributed income strategies and their successful execution, which support the museum’s programs and operations. He also oversees the capital campaign and related planning and outreach. Prior to joining the Exploratorium, Blair was the Director of Advancement for Illuminate the Arts where he completed the fundraising necessary to ensure that Leo Villareal’s light sculpture, The Bay Lights, was reinstalled permanently on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. He has more than 20 years of for-profit and not-for-profit arts management and fundraising experience in New York City and the Bay Area. Blair served as the Deputy Director of Development and Director of Development at SFMOMA, and as the Associate Director and Development Director of Headlands Center for the Arts, an international artist residency program in the Marin Headlands. A native of San Francisco, Blair also served as Development Director for the New Museum of Contemporary Art and The Drawing Center, both in New York City. He has a BA in art history from San Francisco State University and an MA in nonprofit administration from New York University.
Director of Business Development
Silva Raker joined the Exploratorium in August 2010. An accomplished business development executive and trained scientist, Silva has successfully grown vibrant, mission-based companies in specialty retail and travel. After graduating with a BA in zoology followed by field studies in California and Cameroon, Silva joined The Nature Company where she spent ten years developing proprietary products, innovative programs, and fruitful partnerships. More recently, as the COO and leading strategist for Backroads, Silva managed a complex global operation while developing both new and existing business segments—including the Family Travel Program with natural history and cultural exploration for kids on five continents. Silva and the business development team are charged with growing earned income while extending the impact of the Exploratorium through our museum consultancy, exhibit services, licensing, retail stores, restaurant concession, event rentals, sponsorships, and more.
Director of Exhibits and Media Studio
Tom Rockwell leads the group that is responsible for exhibit development at the museum and globally, as well as the Web, Editorial, and Design departments. He was responsible for overseeing the planning and design of the exhibit galleries for the Exploratorium's 2013 move to Pier 15/17 on San Francisco's Embarcadero. Also at the Exploratorium, Tom was Principal Investigator for the Geometry Playground exhibition, and Co-Principal Investigator for the Science in the Stacks collaboration with the Queens Borough Public Library. Training in the visual arts at Brown University and a lifelong interest in combining art and science led Tom to work first as an educator in science museums (Franklin Institute and Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia), and then as a designer and construction coordinator of community-built science parks and playgrounds (Leathers and Associates, based in Ithaca, New York). In 1995, Tom founded Painted Universe, Inc., where projects included traveling exhibitions such as It’s a Nano World (with the Ithaca Science Center and Cornell University), The Enchanted Museum: Exploring the Science of Art (with the Berkshire Museum), and illustrations for The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. Tom has been at the Exploratorium since 2005.
Director of Organizational Development
Anne Jennings began her Exploratorium adventures as an administrative assistant for the first summer-long Teacher Institute and nascent School in the Exploratorium program (now the Institute for Inquiry). Following an eight-year stint as coordinator of the museum’s budding Volunteer Program, she became one of the Exploratorium’s first project managers, working on temporary and traveling exhibitions including Diving into the Gene Pool, What About AIDS?, and Memory. After an eleven-year hiatus, during which time she founded and directed the East Bay nonprofit Community Resources for Science, Anne returned to the Exploratorium in 2009 as Program Relocation Manager, preparing galleries and exhibits for the move to the piers. Since the museum opened in its new location, she has been the Special Assistant to the Director, led the Extended Learning programs, launched the Learning Exchange, and is now Acting Director of Organizational Development.
Director of Information Technology
Chris Axley came to the Bay Area in 1995, and his first job on arriving was a fixed-term position at the Exploratorium for the Multimedia Playground ’95 exhibition. This initial stint at the museum turned into a career in information technology, including positions such as Digital Media Developer, Educator, and IT Manager for various companies. He returned to the Exploratorium's IT department early in the new century and worked in multiple positions before becoming Director of Information Technology. Along the way, he built an adaptable, service-minded department that utilizes good planning and efficient use of technology to increase the effectiveness of the Exploratorium community. He also led the effort to design, build, and move the Exploratorium’s IT infrastructure to Piers 15 and 17. Chris holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.
Director of Museum Experience
Robyn Higdon has worked at the Exploratorium for over 20 years. She’s currently the Director of Museum Experiences, which includes the Public Space, Tactile Dome, Biology Lab, Field Trip Program, High School Explainer Program, Public Programs, Cinema Arts, and Moving Images. Robyn has been a Co-Principal Investigator on NSF, NOAA, and NASA projects, including the Total Solar Eclipse: Stories from the Path of Totality, and NOAA’s Scientific Residency program. She has received several Webby and MUSE awards for her work. On the weekends, she is working on an off-the-grid cabin in the Gold Country.
Director of Special Projects
Phoebe White has been an Exploratorium volunteer since 2011. Since the museum’s move to Piers 15/17, her focus has been on the strategic plan and budget and, most recently, the planning, implementation, and development of processes that support organizational growth. Prior to her nonprofit work, Phoebe spent six years in various leadership positions in the biotech industry, including Chief of Staff at Applied Biosystems and Life Technologies and managing a genetic testing tools unit of the company, and eight years as a management consultant working for technology, healthcare, and biotech clients. Phoebe is President of the Board of Directors of Community Resources for Science, a Bay Area nonprofit supporting science education in public K–8 schools. Phoebe holds an MA in physics and philosophy from Oxford University, and a PhD in developmental genetics from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge University.
Director of Marketing, Retail, and Product Development
As Director of Marketing, Retail, and Product Development, Julie Nunn manages the Exploratorium’s retail stores, marketing programs, and the Online Social Engagement, Frontline, and Membership departments. Since joining the museum in 2010, Julie has reinvigorated the museum’s retail operations, directed a comprehensive integration of all frontline staff, developed numerous marketing campaigns, and established multiple publishing platforms for the Piers 15/17 location. Julie has a BA in philosophy from Sarah Lawrence College and an MBA in sustainable enterprise from Dominican University. Her professional experience includes The Gap, Hasbro Toys, DaMert Company, and The Nature Company, where her work focused on marketing, brand management, product development, and design.