Rockville Science Center Board of Trustees
Robert “Bob” Ekman
President, Board of Trustees
Bob Ekman is a software engineer and project developer. He recently retired from a forty-four year career in software development and teaching for IBM and Lockheed Martin. He worked on government contracts from space projects (Apollo) in the 60’s to defense research projects (DARPA) in the 90’s. He developed commercial software for IBM and human resources software for Lockheed Martin, as well as taught internal classes in software engineering, programming, and web development for over 30 years.
Mr. Ekman is deeply committed to developing the next generation of engineers. He has led the Lockheed Martin Exploring Engineering Program in Rockville Maryland for over sixteen years. This program uses hands-on learning activities in robotics and rocketry to give high school students experience in engineering and inspire them into engineering careers. He has mentored over 400 teenagers through this program.
Soo Lee-Cho, Esq.
Vice President, Board of Trustees
Soo Lee-Cho is currently a member of the Land Development & Real Estate Group at Miller, Miller & Canby, having joined the law firm when she first relocated to Maryland from Southern California in 2002. Ms. Lee-Cho’s practice includes land use, zoning, real estate, and administrative and municipal law. She focuses on representing clients in zoning and land use matters before various administrative boards and commissions, and also elected and appointed bodies. These include the Montgomery County Council, the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission Planning Board, the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission, the Montgomery County Board of Appeals and Sign Review Board, the City of Rockville Mayor and Council, Planning Commission and Historic District Commission, and the City of Gaithersburg Mayor and Council and Planning. Her efforts on behalf of clients have also included work on land use-related legislative matters before the State General Assembly.
Ms. Lee-Cho brings to the RSC over 18 years of professional work experience covering land use, real estate development and legislative matters that she hopes will assist the RSC in achieving a brick-and-mortar science center in the very near future.
Judy E. Ackerman, Ph.D.
Secretary, Board of Trustees
Dr. Judy E. Ackerman has served as Vice President and Provost of the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College since January 2003. She is the chief academic officer for a campus of approximately 16,000 students. At the Rockville campus she provides vision and leadership to promote student success. During her career at Montgomery College, Dr. Ackerman has served as a Professor of Mathematics, Collegewide Honors Coordinator, Math Center Coordinator, Chair of Mathematics, and Instructional Dean of Science, Engineering and Mathematics.
She is nationally known for her work in community college mathematics education. She serves on committees of the Mathematics Association of America (MAA) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Dr. Ackerman has published numerous articles and presents nationally on mathematics related topics, including math anxiety, public school partnerships with community colleges, and gender equity in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. As Project Director for a MAA Tensor Foundation Women and Mathematics Project Grant, Dr. Ackerman established the College’s Sonya Kovalevksky Day program for middle school girls and their teachers.
In addition to serving on the Board of the RSC, Dr. Ackerman is a board member of Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.
Philip S. Justus, Ph.D., L.G.
Member, Board of Trustees
Dr. Philip S. Justus is a retired geologist and rejuvenated educator who works tirelessly through the RSC to raise the community’s awareness of how science and technology impact our environment and daily lives. He helps arrange guided field trips (e.g., to labs, LEED buildings, drug manufacturers, environmental engineering and geological sites, Chesapeake Bay) for residents to gain insight directly from experts into the latest knowledge and techniques that affect our well-being. He serves as the director of the RSC’s highly popular Explorations! Program – providing guided geology walks from Great Falls to Mather Gorge and through the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
As a regulatory geologist with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC) for 30 years, Dr. Justus applied geology to evaluate geological hazards at nuclear facilities in various states throughout the U.S. Among other things, he confirmed discoveries of active faults at a reactor site in California and Washington and gained extensive knowledge of Washington tectonics useful in the evaluation of Hanford’s radioactive waste disposal program in later years. Dr. Justus held positions as Section Leader, Acting Branch Chief, On-Site Licensing Representative & Co-Director of the Yucca Mtn. project office, Las Vegas office as well as represented U.S. NRC at meetings with U.S.DOE on High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (HLW) and abroad with HLW agencies in China and Japan. He retired as Senior Geologist in 2010.
Prior to joining the U.S. NRC, Dr. Justus helped develop the Department of Earth Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Associate Professor), and was Assistant Director of its West Indies Laboratory.
Member, Board of Trustees
Ruth Hanessian joined the board of the Rockville Science Center after retiring from 37 years as president of Animal Exchange, her pet store in Rockville. With a B S degree from Cornell University with a major in ornithology, Ruth provided a competent resource for both animals as pets and animal husbandry information to insure a successful human companion animal bond. Her introductory videos on YouTube have been viewed by over a million pet lovers and still provide advice around the world. She has hand fed thousands of locally bred baby birds, a very demanding and time consuming process and was active in the Rockville Chamber of Commerce serving as VP of Legislation. A founding member of Women Business Owners and Lunch Bunch (breast cancer survivors meeting weekly since 1994), Ruth is currently engaged in her communities efforts to become a village.
Ruth has been active in the world of animal welfare, serving as president of the Maryland Association of Pet Industries, state representative for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, member of the Maryland Invasive Species Council and speaker at Pace University and pet industry conventions on the physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership. She currently is the outside member on the NIH Eye Institute Animal Care and Use Committee.
In the past 9 years, Ruth initiated and coordinated the very successful Rockville Science Cafes and more recently, Science Tuesday at the Rockville Senior Center. Having followed the origin of the Senior Center since her mother was involved with it, she is certain that there will be an actual Science Center in Rockville soon to showcase the exciting high-tech and bio-tech companies in the 270 corridor and provide the extra advantage of STEM exposure to our citizens and the next generations.
Member, Board of Trustees
Melissa Scales is an attorney who has been engaged in issues at the intersection of law and science throughout her career. She is currently Assistant Director for Educational Programs at the Food and Drug Law Institute, where she creates educational conferences, courses, and webinars for the food and drug law community. She has worked on science regulatory and policy issues at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Melissa initially became interested in legal issues with a scientific component when drafting her published law review article, Who Should Hold Property Rights to the Human Genome? An Application of the Common Heritage of Humankind. She is especially interested in creating a passion for science among younger generations that continues throughout their lives. Melissa has been a proud Rockville resident since 2000.
Michelle Schwalbe, Ph.D
Member, Board of Trustees
Dr. Michelle Schwalbe is a mathematician and community organizer who has worked extensively to enhance the understanding of the mathematical sciences in various scientific and policy areas. She currently serves as Director of the Board on Mathematical Sciences and Analytics at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, where she oversees a portfolio of activities relating the future of mathematics research, effective use of big data, mathematics and data science education, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and improved use of analytics. Prior to joining the National Academies, she held positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Dr. Schwalbe is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of scientific leaders. As an active member of the Rockville community, she leads a Girl Scout troop, participates in various activities to engage the public in scientific topics, and works with teens to help them pursue mathematics and other STEM fields.
She has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. in Engineering Science and Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University, and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics specializing in Computing from the University of California, Los Angeles.