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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering


Cristina DeVito
Cristina DeVito ’01 Th’02. Photograph courtesy of Mudderella.

After studying mechanical engineering at Thayer, attending Harvard Business School, and working in investment banking and private equity for a few years, Cristina DeVito ’01 Th’02 returned to her home state of New Jersey to join Tough Mudder, a series of hardcore obstacle races designed by British Special Forces and scheduled around the world. DeVito first came on as chief strategy officer, but soon had the opportunity to tailor a series to women. Mudderella debuted in Pennsylvania last fall, and this year expects to welcome 60,000 participants to seven U.S. events and one U.K. event. “Mudderella is a brand that encourages women (and men) to define what being strong means to you and to own it—to believe that ‘can’t’ doesn’t exist,” DeVito told The Huffington Post in July. “I myself have run in many obstacle mud runs over the past few years and saw first-hand how motivating and inspirational it can be to set a goal and achieve something that you didn’t think was possible.” A typical event offers a dozen obstacles—everything from Dirty Downward Dog, a challenge that gets participants to assume yoga-friendly positions to move across a muddy trench, to Hat Trick, where contestants jump off a trampoline onto a cargo net and then slide into water—on a 5- to 7-mile course. “Mud is a great equalizer,” DeVito says. “The obstacles are team-based so you do them with your partner, you do them with your team, but they’re also meant to be fun.” DeVito says she was drawn to the math and problem-solving aspects of engineering, but soon realized she also enjoyed working with people and making deals. “I had always enjoyed working with small, growing companies and brands, so making the switch to starting a new brand from scratch was an incredible opportunity for me,” she says.

John Lamppa
John Lamppa Th’11. Photograph courtesy of John Lamppa.

John Lamppa Th’11 is serving up science with a good dose of gastronomy in the Boston area this year. The senior director of research and development at WikiFoods uses biotechnology and food science to pair ice cream, cheese, cocktails, and even soups with nutritional and tasty packaging to form bite-sized portions that can be held without melting. The products, known as WikiPearls, are encapsulated in a membrane similar to the skin of fruit. WikiFoods technology—cited among the 32 innovations that will change tomorrow by The New York Times Magazine—involved engineering a protective, cell-like membrane from a combination of electrostatically charged food, biopolymer, and ion particles. WikiFoods recently partnered with Stonyfield Yogurt to introduce frozen yogurt pearls in four Whole Foods markets in the Boston area during the spring—and plans to expand to 50 stores in Massachusetts by the end of the year. Water is the next frontier: “We’ve had multiple leaders in the beverage industry reach out to discuss options for replacing or reducing plastic packaging,” Lamppa says. “Currently we have multiple biodegradable and edible materials in development that range from flexible fruit-like skins to much more rigid structures like egg shells.” His lab, based in Cambridge, Mass., is associated with the Paris-based Le Laboratoire, a creative extension of the company that explores new ways to consume and experience food. Visitors there can sample, notebooks in hand, everything from cocktails to gazpacho to Black Forest cake. U.S.-based culinary adventurers will have the opportunity to try some of these experiments firsthand when Cafe ArtScience opens at 650 Kendall Square in Cambridge later this year. “Consumer feedback will be a huge benefit for us. The ability to engage customers on a day-to-day basis and learn what people like and dislike and what product attributes they would like to see in future is invaluable,” he says. “It’s really getting back to how WikiFoods was started: the idea of community and a project that everyone contributes to, like a wiki.”

Frozen Yogurt Pearls by WikiFoods
Ice cream pearls by WikiFoods. Photograph courtesy of John Lamppa.

“Doctors today have more and more tools to fight cancer, but fighting cancer is a race,” Sean Hogan ’88, vice president of healthcare at IBM, wrote in a Forbes opinion piece in March. He sees genomic medicine as the lifesaving solution. “One of the greatest advances since scientists first mapped the human genome a decade ago is that cancer treatment can be tailored based on DNA data,” he says. Oncologists can analyze full DNA sequencing and find the mutations in cells that caused the cancer, then prescribe drugs to target that mutation, hoping to halt the molecular action causing cells to replicate uncontrollably. But this highly personalized care is expensive and time-consuming and available to too few patients. Hogan says cognitive computing systems—such as those he works with at IBM—can provide physicians at the point of care with the right information at the right time. “The New York Genome Center recently selected IBM Watson to help make sophisticated genomic analysis a standard part of care, starting with brain cancer,” he says. “Until now, we lacked the powerful analytical tools capable of making sense of vast amounts of genetic information, which is the big-data challenge of human biology.”

Greg Chittim ’01 Th’02 ’03 has earned a 2014–15 Dartmouth Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award for his extensive volunteer involvement at the College. An engineering sciences major modified with computer science, he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, helped reconstitute the Dartmouth Society of Engineers (DSE), was active in the Student Assembly and Habitat for Humanity, and was a teaching assistant in computer engineering classes for Professor Linda Wilson. As a graduate student in the M.E.M. program, he served as president of DSE. He has also served the College on the Alumni Council and the M.E.M. Corporate Collaboration Council. He is currently the senior director for strategic marketing at Arcadia Healthcare Solutions, a healthcare analytics and services firm outside of Boston.

Charles Queenan
Charles Queenan Jr. ’52 Tu’53 Th’53. Photograph courtesy of Charles Queenan Jr.

Charles Queenan Jr. ’52 Tu’53 Th’53 recently received two awards. Citing his long and distinguished legal career and dedication to public service, The American Lawyer magazine presented him with its 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. Saint Vincent College honored him with an honorary doctor of laws degree at its May commencement in recognition of his lifetime of contributions to the legal profession, his community, and the firm he headed from 1976 to 1990. Queenan served as chair and senior counsel at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, now K&L Gates, a global law firm with more than 2,000 attorneys across the world representing leading global corporations as well as public sector entities, educational institutions, and philanthropic organizations. “For more than five decades, yours has been the voice of leadership in a multitude of venues in the public and private sectors of western Pennsylvania,” the degree citation states. Queenan has spearheaded many corporate, charitable, and civic endeavors, serving as director of Allegheny Ludlum Corp., Allegheny Teledyne Corp., Teledyne Technologies Inc., and Allegheny Technologies Inc. He has also served as chair of the board of directors of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, co-chair of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, chair of the audit committee for the board of Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, and chair of the board of trustees of Carnegie Mellon University, where he endowed a chair of psychology.

Counterfeit medicine frequently kills by robbing patients of the real drugs they need. And some counterfeits contain a small amount of active ingredient—not enough to cure an illness, but enough to promote resistance that renders even the real medicine powerless. “That might be the most deadly effect of all,” Tina Rosenberg reported in a June opinion piece in The New York Times, “The Fight Against Fake Drugs.” She pointed to an authentication solution developed by Ashifi Gogo Th’09. Sproxil, the company he founded, makes labels with unique scratch-off ID numbers that its clients affix to blister packs inside each box of medicine. Purchasers text the ID to a number on the box, and instantly get a text back saying whether the medicine is real. Today Sproxil works in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and India and is expanding into Latin America and farther into Asia. It is the biggest company in the mobile verification business, with more than 9 million verifications so far. But progress comes slowly. “The phone companies advertise very fast network speeds on their TV spots but they have molasses-grade administration,” Gogo says. “It can take a year for them to provide lifesaving service to their own customers.”

As Bloomberg Businessweek reported in June, Dax Kepshire Th’06 may have accidentally stumbled upon a solution to the biggest challenge for renewable energy: how to store it. Kepshire and Ben Bollinger ’04 Th’04 formed SustainX in 2007 (with former Thayer Dean Charles Hutchinson) after sketching out plans for a water-cooled air-compression system for renewable energy while pursuing their Ph.D.s at Thayer. As they tweaked the design—adding anticorrosive and disinfectant chemicals to the water to reduce wear on machinery and kill bacteria—the mixture foamed. That foam, Kepshire discovered, helped prevent the wide temperature swings that waste a lot of energy in traditional compressed-air facilities. Injecting it into the air being compressed helps keep the temperature almost stable (at about 122°F) as the foam absorbs excess heat. The big test is on the horizon, as SustainX is finalizing partnerships in the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea to build its first commercial installations, which Kepshire says can produce about 1.5 megawatts of electricity. And he’ll keep tweaking the foam formula. “We’re reengineering and fine-tuning it,” says Kepshire, a vice president and general manager at the Seabrook, N.H.-based firm. “It’s our secret sauce.”

Three Dartmouth engineers—Scott Sandell ’86, Hurst Lin Th’88, and Terry McGuire Th’82—made the 2014 “Midas List” of people Forbes considers the best venture capitalists in the world. Sandell, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates and former Microsoft product manager, comes in at No. 10. He posted big wins with enterprise software firm Workday and Nicira (sold in 2012 for $1.26 billion) and was a lead investor in Playdom, which sold to Disney in 2010 for $563 million. The Portola Valley, Calif., resident told Forbes you never can tell when you’re going to meet a great entrepreneur: “I met Daphne Koller when our families got together for lunch at my house. She told me what she was doing in her lab at Stanford, and we funded Coursera less than a month later.”

Lin, No. 54, cofounded DCM China in 2006 after cofounding and serving as chief operating officer at SINA Corp., a leading Chinese Internet company. Lin invests primarily in consumer Internet for DCM, including Vipshop, Tuniu, Linkinrich and the recently public, which now has a market cap of $4 billion. A Brooklyn native, Lin lives in Beijing, where he is active in the country’s alumni communities for his alma maters, Dartmouth and Stanford.

McGuire, No. 91, has been an early-stage investor for more than a quarter century, 18 years of that career at Polaris, the firm he cofounded. A life sciences expert, McGuire led Polaris’ investment in Acceleron Pharma, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, and Adimab; McGuire is on the board of all three, as well as at least 10 other private companies in his portfolio. Career highs include Akamai and Cubist Pharmaceuticals. McGuire started three companies in his career: Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Advanced Inhalation Research (acquired by Alkermis), and MicroCHIPs, a company working on programmable drugs delivered via microchip implanted under the skin. The Weston, Mass., resident is chairman of the Board of Overseers at Thayer School and is the chairman emeritus of the National Venture Capital Association. McGuire says his biggest accomplishment, however, will be in mentoring the firm’s junior partners to eventually eclipse his own success.

Max Fagin Th’11 is one step closer to claiming a one-way ticket to Mars. “What I want to do is spend as much of my life as possible on Mars, opening it to humanity, making use of the resources and opportunities that are present on a planet that has never been touched by humanity,” he told Fox Business’ Money in June. Fagin is one of 700 candidates—culled from 200,000 applicants—competing to join the permanent settlement that the nonprofit Mars One hopes to establish on the red planet by 2024. Fagin worked this past summer for Made in Space, helping to identify items that could be built by the 3D printer the company sent to the International Space Station this fall. Fagin is midway through a two-year master’s program in aerospace engineering at Purdue, researching entry, descent, and landing systems for Martian spacecraft. If he can’t catch a ride with Mars One, Fagin will seek other options. “There are always other ways to get to Mars,” he says, citing spacecraft designer SpaceX, where he’s working this fall during a break from school.

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Categories: Alumni News, Spotlights

Tags: alumni, award, career, entrepreneurship, innovation, innovation program

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