Devin Waller is the air and space exhibit project manager at the California Science Center. For the last eight years, she’s worked with a talented team to develop fun, interactive science exhibits. Devin’s interest in science started at a young age. She was always naturally curious about the world around her. Her interests in learning about the stars and planets developed in elementary school when she first learned of the amazing wonders found throughout the solar system. She was in awe over facts such as, “If you could take Saturn out of the sky and place it in an enormous body of water, it would float because the entire planet including its rings is less dense than water!” Watching space documentaries and seeing women actors play roles as scientists and explorers in movies like Contact gave Devin the confidence to pursue higher education in planetary science.
With degrees in astrophysics and geology, Devin feels that her greatest academic achievements are the core skills she developed that helped her get through school. These skills include the ability to focus when faced with numerous challenging tasks, to keep the big picture in mind, and to be self-motivated. While in graduate school, Devin had the unique opportunity to work as a geology research analyst for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission. She spent four years analyzing dust storm activity on Mars and tracking dust devils during the warmer seasons. It was during this time that Devin developed a passion for science communication. As she dove deeper into her research, she realized that it was equally important to be able to break complex science concepts down into bite-sized, more easily accessible chunks for others to understand. She loved finding creative ways to explain her Mars research to her friends and family, and after grad school, she decided to pursue a career that combined science research with education and communication. It makes sense that Devin was drawn to working at the Science Center.
Devin applied to the Science Center shortly after space shuttle Endeavour was awarded to the organization. Her favorite project that she has worked on is the planning and development of the future Samuel Oschin Air & Space Center, a 200,000-sq-ft expansion that will feature the space shuttle Endeavour in launch configuration. As the exhibit project manager, Devin manages exhibit fabrication, installation and prototype development for the exhibits. She also assists the aerospace curators in all areas of artifact acquisition and refurbishment. Devin feels fortunate to be able to work closely with so many of her Science Center teammates across many departments including exhibit development, advancement, education, marketing and communications. Her job has also given her the opportunity to work closely with outside contractors from design firms, fabrication houses, and aerospace industry professionals.
“The most important part of developing engaging interactive exhibits is keeping the guest experience in mind throughout the entire process. Sharing science and sparking curiosity in our guests is the reason why we do what we do.” -Devin Waller
The most exciting project Devin has managed while at the Science Center was the fabrication and installation of a set of large glass and metal display cases to protect flown spacecraft artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian Institution. The project spanned a total of three years and included the development of a 14-ft tall display case for the Apollo-Soyuz Command Module, and 11-ft-tall and 9-ft-tall display cases for the Gemini 11 and Mercury MR-2 space capsules. What made the project both challenging and exciting was the experience of working with multiple talented teams from New York; Frankfurt, Germany; and right here in Los Angeles.
As she moves forward in her career, Devin keeps in mind the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson with a quote she wrote in her high school yearbook many years ago. “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”