Carolyn Sumners, Ed.D.
Director of Astronomy / Physical Sciences and Youth Programs, Houston Museum of Natural Science
Dr. Carolyn Sumners is director of Astronomy and the Physical Sciences for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and is also responsible for all of the Museum's youth education programs including camps, classes, excursions, overnight adventures, and neighborhood camps.

She oversees the Museum’s Burke Baker Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center, a problem-solving simulator that she created in 1988 and has been replicated in over 50 museums and science centers. She curates three permanent exhibit halls: the Welch Chemistry Hall, Fondren Discovery Place, and the Isaac Arnold Hall of Space Science. Last year, the Museum opened the Earth Forum, an interactive exhibit designed in collaboration with Rice University.

Dr. Sumners is co-principal investigator on four NASA grants: Museums Teaching Planet Earth and The Public Connection, both NASA-funded public outreach programs through Rice University, the Urban Minority Outreach in Space Science at the University of Houston Downtown and the newly awarded REASoN project called "Immersive Earth". She also instructs all Shuttle astronauts in navigational star identification and is project director for the Toys in Space Program at the Johnson Space Center.

Dr. Sumners has written one book of adult nonfiction, Cosmic Pinball (McGraw-Hill, 2000) and two books of juvenile nonfiction, An Earthling's Guide to Deep Space (McGraw-Hill, 1998) and An Earthling's Guide to Mars (McGraw-Hill, 1999). She is a principal author in a leading elementary science textbook series, Science DiscoveryWorks (Houghton-Mifflin, 2002), and has written two Delta Education Science Modules, Astronomy and Newton's Toy Box. She has also written Toys in Space II, Doing Science with the Astronauts (McGraw-Hill, 1997).

In the last three years, Dr. Sumners has directed the production of eight full-dome large-format digital theater programs for the Burke Baker Planetarium and national distribution: Cosmic Mysteries, Alien Oceans, Sailing by the Stars, Force 5, Night of the Titanic, Future Moon, Galileo's Legacy and Earth's Wild Ride.

Dr. Sumners has just completed a research program on the effectiveness of informal science experiences on the science knowledge and attitudes of inner-city students in collaboration with the college of education at the University of Houston. She is now completing a post hoc analysis of the effectiveness of immersive experiences on concept acquisition. She has also measured and evaluated the effectiveness of the Challenger Learning Center and other museum experiences in changing student attitudes toward careers in science - focusing on the sixth grade of the North Forest Independent School District. She has also produced several archaeoastronomy alignment studies for pre-Columbian ruins utilizing the digital starfield projection system in the Burke Baker Planetarium.

Dr. Sumners graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in physics-astronomy. From 1976 - 1979, she was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the University of Houston where she completed her doctor’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in science education.

She is an adjunct professor in Rice University's physics and astronomy department and an associate member of the Center for Computational Sciences and Advanced Distributed Simulations for the University of Houston Downtown. She also serves on the six-person advisory board of HU-LINC, the Houston Independent School District’s Urban Systemic Initiative.

In 2001, Dr. Sumners was named a Woman on the Move by the Texas Executive Women and was listed in Lexington's Who's Who. In 2000, she was recognized as one of the Top 100 Irish Americans. She has also received the Outstanding Professional Service Award from the Metropolitan Association for Teachers of Science and a Long & Dedicated Service Award to the Profession by the Clear Lake Council of Technical Societies. She has also been named the Outstanding Houston Volunteer and Outstanding Houston Woman in Science.