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Shanil N. Virani
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Shanil Virani is Director of the state-of-the-art, hybrid John C. Wells Planetarium at JMU and a faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at James Madison University. He did his graduate work at Yale University where he studied supermassive black holes lurking at the centers of galaxies in the nearby and distant Universe. Prior to Yale, Shanil spent 5+ years at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics as part of the Science Team of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's flagship space-based X-ray mission. He was awarded the 2009 Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Award medal by the American Astronomical Society for exemplary research as a graduate student. In 2013, he was appointed a Solar System Ambassador by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Solar System Ambassadors communicate the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities. Shanil hosts Our Island Universe, a weekly 90-second segment on WMRA radio (local NPR affiliate), that looks at new discoveries in our understanding of what lies beyond the horizon and what it means to us here on Earth.  You can talk to him on Twitter at @shanilv.