This ‘science nerd’ turned astronomer named CEO of Frost Museum of Science

By Amanda Rosa for the MIAMI HERALD

Dr. Douglas A. Roberts

Before he was studying black holes and spearheading research, Douglas A. Roberts was a young, self-proclaimed “science nerd” visiting science museums. Now, he plans to help Miamians discover science while having fun.

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science Board of Trustees selected Roberts, an astronomer and astrophysicist with two decades of science education and academic research under his belt, as the museum’s new CEO and president, the museum announced last week. Roberts assumes the role on Tuesday, Aug. 1. He succeeds Frank Steslow, the previous CEO who stepped down in December.

Roberts’ appointment as CEO and president comes a year after he began working as the museum’s Vice President of Science Education and Director of the Frost Planetarium, the museum said in a statement. He has been serving as Interim co-CEO along with Trevor Powers, Frost Science’s Chief Operating Officer, since April 2023. Located downtown right next to the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Frost Science is Miami-Dade’s flagship science museum, featuring an aquarium and planetarium.

“Dr. Roberts’ great knowledge and proven commitment to scientific exploration make him an outstanding choice for leading Frost Science,” said Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost, philanthropists and namesake of the museum, in a statement. “His passion will strengthen our mission of inspiring and empowering individuals to discover the wonders of science. As we look ahead, we are confident that Dr. Roberts will guide the Museum towards even greater heights.”

Cesar L. Alvarez, Chairman of the Frost Science Board of Trustees and Senior Chairman of Greenberg Traurig LLP, said the board is “thrilled to welcome Dr. Roberts.”

“His extensive experience in science education and research, combined with his passion for community engagement, make him an ideal fit for leading the Museum into an exciting future,” Alvarez said in a statement.

Roberts received his Ph.D in physics from the University of Oklahoma. He most recently worked at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and he has lead research, technology and public engagement initiatives at several institutions, including the University of Illinois, Northwestern University and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. Roberts also led the WorldWide Telescope project for Microsoft Research to provide a free platform for people to explore its massive database of astronomical images from the world’s most powerful telescopes. Besides his work in education, Roberts is an active astronomer who has researched radio observations of black holes.

“It’s been a real pleasure to get to know more of the staff and really set myself up to hit the ground running when everything becomes official next week,” Roberts told the Herald.

Museums like Frost Science played a major role in Roberts’ life, he said. Originally from Kansas, Roberts would spend childhood summers visiting family in Chicago and visiting the city’s major science museums. Those experiences inspired him to become an astronomer.

“I’m really drawn to places that have the capacity and potential to make huge impacts with the community and Frost Science is just so well positioned because of its amazing new building, its location, its history, to be a real positive agent of change,” he said. “I saw the energy of folks in Miami that Frost was funneling and amplifying, and I just wanted to be a part of that change.”

Frost Science is a place for people to learn about science at all ages and skill levels, from family-friendly exhibits to high-level, free lectures, Roberts said. The museum is especially critical in engaging young people in a fun way, he said. In a school setting, science is typically taught with memorization and testing. Though school-age children may think science is too hard to be fun, museums like Frost Science fill that gap, he said.

“The most critical part is making sure that the museum is a place where science equals fun, learning equals fun,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he aims to connect with local leaders, institutions and community members to gauge what the county needs, especially in terms of education, to develop a long-term plan for the museum.

“We’re not doing that in a vacuum,” he said. “We’re doing that really on behalf of the citizens of Miami-Dade County.”

This story was produced for the Miami Herald with financial support from the Pérez Family Foundation in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.

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