Geek of the Month: Renae Kerrigan

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Geek of the Month
On February 5, 2014, Peoria Riverfront Museum announced the promotion of Renae Kerrigan to Planetarium Curator.  Renae is a central Illinois native and joined Lakeview Museum after completing an internship while a student at Bradley University.  She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in 2011 with an individualized major in Museum Education.
We were overjoyed to name her our March 2014 “Geek of the Month”

Name:            Renae Kerrigan
Age:    24
Marital status:         Married
If partnered, how did you meet?            My husband and I met at Lakeview Museum. I was and Intern and he worked for the Park District doing lawn care. We connected over love of music, comic books, and general geekiness.
Hometown?  Kickapoo/Peoria
What makes you a geek? I love learning. I get very excited about learning new facts and want to share them with everyone around me. Plus, I love comic books, specifically Wonder Woman, and astronomy.
How long have you been geeking out on the Planets?   I have been working at Lakeview Museum/Peoria Riverfront Museum for 5 years.
How did you get started?     I was hired as an Intern for the Education Department at Lakeview Museum in 2009 and fell in love with the museum environment.
Favorite movie(s)?   My favorite movie is “An Affair to Remember” with Debra Kerr and Cary Grant. I love the romance, language, and the clothes.
Favorite book(s)?   My favorite book is Jane Eyre. I also love all Carl Sagan’s books, especially the “Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”.
Favorite type(s) of music?    I love music of almost all varieties. Favorites include Regina Specktor, Johnny Cash, Lady Gaga, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beatles, Elvis, and Led Zeppelin.
What is your favorite way to spend your Sunday Mornings? Several cups of coffee and the Sunday Paper.
Astrological Sign:  Do you believe in horoscopes? People who teach astronomy, like myself, often get frustrated with the confusion between astronomy and astrology. Astronomy is the scientific study of the cosmos. Astrology is based on the idea that the apparent position of the Sun and the planets in the stars at the time of one’s birth somehow affects their personality and what will happen to them on a daily basis. There is absolutely no data to back this up. What is the possible force that could affect us so? Is it the gravity of the sun when you were born? As Carl Sagan said, the gravitational pull of the doctor who delivered you would have a greater force than the gravity of a planet or the Sun at the time of your birth. As to what my sign is, an astrologer would tell me that I am a Pisces. However, the Earth has wobbled on its axis (a continuous phenomenon called precession) since the zodiac was divided up in our sky. Because of this, the Sun was not in the constellation of Pisces when I was born; rather it was in the constellation of Aquarius. Since I don’t pay any attention to horoscopes and think astrology is silly, the fact that I am not technically a Pisces doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
What is your guilty pleasure? Sweets. I have a major sweet tooth.
What is your favorite place in Peoria?  Giant Oak Park, the 500 year old Oak Tree on High Street.
Do you have any pets?  My husband has fish, but they hardly count.
Are there any special hobbies you enjoy?  I love to garden and preserve food by canning. I also enjoy knitting and sewing.
What events does <insert geeky organization that you belong to or want to promote here>? There is always something happening at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. We have two amazing special exhibitions right now, Chihuly and Friends: Highlights from the George R. Stroemple Collection, and Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami. Our planetarium has shows daily (excluding Mondays in the winter) and special events such as our Wine and Cheese Under the Stars. And we have all sorts of events coming up in February. Check out the events page at to learn more!
Questions from previous Peoria Life Geek Fellows:

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Who shot first – Han Solo or Greedo? Han
Who is your favorite bearded person? Charles Darwin
Where do you think technology has the most potential for helping others in the future?  Technology can help us in many ways. For example, I think the research being done on gene therapy could have the potential to cure all sorts of ailments.  However, I also believe that some technology can be a hindrance to humans helping humans. I think that people are not as connected to their local communities any more, because most people are so connected to their global communities through social networking. Eventually, we will work out a balance.
What are you excited about doing with the technology that’s coming?  I am excited for the ever-growing commercial space industry. I think that commercial space flight has a real potential to increase our knowledge of our solar system.
Who would win in a fight? Superman vs. Batman, but Batman is in a Superman costume and Superman is in a Batman costume because it’s a Halloween party?  
 Clearly Superman. He is an alien with super strength and lasers in his eyes. Batman is just a super smart human. Impressive – but no match for super strength.
What are you doing to make Peoria into the cultural and economic hub that it once was? I love Peoria. I grew up here, and I think it is a wonderful city. I am doing my part to promote scientific literacy in area children and adults. If more people are excited about science, they will be able to understand the world better. This can only improve our community.
What public figure do you look up to and why?
My hero is Carl Sagan. He did so much to promote the public understanding of science. His lyrical and romantic way of describing the cosmos is very inspiring. He took very difficult concepts and made them easy to understand. Also, he was an impressive planetary scientist who worked on the Pioneer, Voyager, and Viking missions – all very important in exploring our solar system.

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 photo credit to Jeff McSweeney