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Spotlights on Alumni

May 07, 2024   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Spotlights on recent achievements of Dartmouth Engineering alumni.

Tref Wolcott Borden '85

The Advocate

Longtime philanthropic power-house Tref Wolcott Borden ’85 has joined the board of Boston-based Doc Wayne, a provider of mental health therapy for youth. “In light of so many children and older youth being impacted by the conflicts and strife worldwide,” she says, “it is imperative that mental health supports are scaled to meet their needs to ensure the trauma they endure does not have lifelong implications.” Doc Wayne’s sports-based approach helps children in the United States and in more than 25 other countries, including those in conflict zones. She previously served as executive director of the Fish Family Foundation, which supports lower-income individuals and families in immigration and naturalization programs, and of the Tiger Foundation, which supports educational, vocational, and social services organizations focusing on low-income, high-risk populations. In those roles, she used the systems approach learned as an engineering sciences major to develop grant program strategies and determine impact. That impact is what has kept her engaged—now as a volunteer—in the nonprofit field. “I saw first hand how these nonprofit partners were changing families’ lives,” says Borden. “I’m drawn to low-income populations because they are underserved, face entrenched structural barriers to advancement, and need support the most.” Her philosophy is embedded in an appreciation of friends and family, including two college-age daughters. “We survived the heart-break of losing my son earlier this year by coming together and leaning on the support of community,” says Borden. “That experience drives my daily appreciation for the life with which I’ve been blessed.”

Jeff Hashimoto '93

The Adventurer

The challenge: Bag Washington’s 100 highest mountains. The twist: Link the peaks by bicycle. High school science teacher Jeff Hashimoto ’93 and neighbor Langton Ernest-Beck dreamed up the ultimate peak-bagging adventure using only human power. “I wanted to see as much beautiful mountain scenery as possible without adding CO2 to the atmosphere,” he says. The numbers were daunting: 1,900 miles of cycling, 835 miles of hiking, and nearly 500,000 total feet of elevation gain. Somedays Hashimoto would stagger out of his tent wondering if could go another day. “I’d think, ‘I’m going to climb a mountain today, or four mountains today?” the engineering sciencesmajor told Outside magazine. “I don’t think I can make it over to this log to go pee. But things would loosen up.” According to mountaineering site SummitPost, only 92 people had ever completed all 100 when the pair biked 66 miles to the Enchantment range. There, they kicked off the challenge by climbing seven peaks and a total of 27,600 vertical feet. Uhuru Hashimoto ’23Th’26 joined the pair in June—and he and his father kept morale high by singing songs from 1980s. The trio finished the challenge in mid-August, climbing 12,281-foot Mount Adams before pedaling back home to Ellensburg. “The thing that has been cool is the effect our story has had on people,” says Hashimoto. “I showed photos to my high school classes, and I had kids who have not spent much time in the outdoors ask about climbing mountains. I hope our trip will inspire others to pursue their dreams while finding ways to pursue these dreams with minimal environmental impact.”

Danielle Castley Th'20

The Entrepreneur

Former PhD Innovation Fellow Danielle Castley Th’20 has spun her entrepreneurial training and research into her own company. She is founder and CEO of Becq, a Camden, N.J.-based designer and manufacturer of radiation shielding for the nuclear and space industries. The materials engineer says her love of the work is an essential ingredient to success: “I love shielding so much that people make fun of me—it’s what I want to talk about all day,” says Castley. “I’m always excited to figure out the next thing when it comes to shielding design and our software and what we can do for our customers.” Clients include U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, microreactor companies, and commercial nuclear power plants. “We’re working on shielding for space reactors as well,” she says. “I hope in five years that companies are using our shielding to go to the moon and do deep space exploration or to protect military bases.” Castley started Becq as a PhD student and landed the first project as she was finishing her thesis. She credits the PhD Innovation Program with incubator support: “You’re surrounded by professors who are renowned engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs and they always make time to provide guidance,” she says. “The lessons I learned in Professor Eric Fossum’s entrepreneurship classes have translated to everything I do. And Professor Laura Ray is balanced, kind, and brilliant. She knows how to break apart a problem and build an efficient solution.”

Samantha Modder '17 Th'18

The Artist

Multimedia artist and University of Tampa graphic design professor Samantha Modder’17 Th’18 enjoys dabbling in a range of mediums. Following an entry in her first faculty art show in 2023—with a piece printed of digitally manipulated ballpoint pen titled Her Hair Like the Sun and Clouds—she is now designing clothes from her own prints, having taken an introduction to fashion design course where she learned to sew. Her fondness for ballpoint pens is an homage to growing up in Sri Lanka, when access to art supplies was severely limited. In high school, she took physics, chemistry, and advanced math courses and watched her brother go off to the United States to study engineering. Dartmouth was at the top of Modder’s list when she applied in 2013, thrilled to find a top school where she could double major in engineering and studio art. “The fact I started off as an engineer and now I’m an artist has made me feel I can do whatever it is I’m interested in,” she says. That philosophy was reinforced during a summer internship with Professor Kofi Odame: “He would come to art exhibitions that I had on campus and tell me he loved my work,” says Modder, who displayed her work at the Top of the Hop and created a mural for the Geisel School of Medicine that drew attention to health disparities in the Black community. “It made me feel I didn’t have to stick to a traditional path.”

Keshav Vasudevan Th'16

The Lifesaver

As product lead at Prepared, Keshav Vasudevan Th’16 is focused on saving lives. And it’s not hyperbole: He’s enhancing a public safety platform that allows 911 callers to share videos, photos, and sounds with dispatchers and emergency responders in real time. “Keshav’s achievements... across multiple industries and developing lifesaving, innovative, and industry-defining solutions are out-standing,” wrote judges when naming him 2023 Product Development/Management Executive of the Year during the International Business Awards. Prepared is a government-technology startup employed by call centers covering more than 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to Forbes magazine. The company initially signed on school systems, but when the hundreds of schools on the platform were no longer in session during Covid, it launched a second iteration focused on 911 centers, sheriff’s offices, and fire and police departments. “I want to build products that can make a real difference in the world,” says Vasudevan, who joined the company at the start of 2022 after bringing technology products from ideas to successful business ventures in three industries. “Prepared provides the dispatchers and responders with increased situational awareness, more accountability, and better information,” he says, “all inservice of saving people’s lives.”

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