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Alumni News: Spotlights

Jul 01, 2022   |   by Theresa D'Orsi   |   Dartmouth Engineer

Spotlight on recent achievements of Dartmouth Engineering alumni.

"Elevate the Experience"

Fran Wang ’12 Th’13
Fran Wang ’12 Th’13

Fran Wang ’12 Th’13 recently described her path to senior mechanical engineer at the renowned design firm frog on The Context Podcast. Joking that she dabbled in nine different majors at Dartmouth, Wang tells of earning her BE and following her interest in unmanned aerial vehicles to a position at SkyCatch in San Francisco. “There, I met ex-frog engineers and hearing them tap into their previous experiences and immense library of knowledge, it was a cool way to learn,” she says. She moved on to New Deal Design as a product development engineer—“my first immersion into a design space”—before joining frog in 2017. “My appreciation for design is still growing,” she says. “The most beautiful work comes out when people appreciate other disciplines and can both empathize with the challenges but also pick up on those moments of, ‘Well, if you can do that, then that enables or unlocks these other things for me.’” Her work at frog includes conception and architecture, design and engineering, and manufacturing and assembly for industries ranging from consumer electronics to healthcare. For the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Magritte show in 2018, she helped frog develop interactive walls with depth-sensing cameras and motion-tracking technology. “We didn’t want to hide the technology,” she says. “We wanted to integrate it in a way that would elevate the experience.” She finds the tech energy around San Francisco exhilarating—and familiar. “The way that they approach engineer thinking [at Thayer] is very much aligned with design thinking in the Bay Area, so it set me up to make it to where I am now,” says Wang. “It feels like an extension of Couch, so there’s this sense of entering a playground.” You can hear her discuss “An Engineer’s Life” at anchor.fm/advanced-design.

Actionable Insights

As the new academic director for doctoral education at NYU Stern School of Business, Associate Professor of Marketing Bryan Bollinger ’03 Th’03 encourages students to ask—and then answer—questions that will have widespread impact. A key challenge, he says, “is making sure that the work we do offers real value so that we can push the boundaries of academic study while offering actionable insights for the real world.” He credits Thayer’s capstone design sequence with his interest in how studies translate into solutions. “I saw that an incredible technology was not in itself a guarantee of consumer adoption,” he says. “When I was making my decision to go back to graduate school—at Stanford for an MA in economics in 2010 and a PhD in marketing in 2011—I decided to focus on this second aspect, the drivers of consumer decisions that might facilitate or impede new product adoption.” His research centers on the causal effects of policymakers’ decisions and interdependent reactions by consumers and firms in such areas as solar adoption and pricing, the role of home-automation and dynamic pricing on demand response, and the effect of nutritional labeling. “Thayer’s focus on systems-thinking has, in particular, been valuable for me as a researcher. I also still leverage relationships founded at Dartmouth. For example, Jonathan Cedar ’03 of BioLite has been a guest speaker multiple times in the Marketing and Sustainability class I developed.”

Design at Play

Chuck Rosenwasser ’06
Chuck Rosenwasser ’06

It’s not all fun and games for Wonder Workshop VP of hardware Chuck Rosenwasser ’06. He is responsible for delivering the next generation of engaging and educational robots for the maker of Dash, Dot, and Cue. Rosenwasser, who studied mechanical engineering and fine arts at Dartmouth and product architecture and engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, points to three phases of any development plan. “In the nascent stages, product definition is the central effort,” he says. At part of an effort to understand potential markets and users, he brings in testers—usually kids ages 6 to 12—to get their hands on initial designs. In the next phase, Rosenwasser’s team zeroes in on prototypes, “that more faithfully represent the eventual product in one or more aspects (‘looks-like’ or ‘works-like’), while keeping a close eye on constraints such as design for manufacturability and cost.” In the last step, production, he draws on his experience designing housewares and tools for OXO and then eight years advancing at Wonder Workshop. “I have been fortunate in my career to work with exceptional contract manufacturers who can move mountains to realize the aspirations set in the earlier phases.” This hands-on approach has defined Rosenwasser’s role at the San Mateo-Calif.-based firm. “When I first joined the company, we were frenetically pursuing the launch of our flagship robot, Dash,” says Rosenwasser. “Those days were consumed with front-end design work, prototyping, and user testing followed by long stints in Asia to put the robots coming off the line through their paces. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of shipping a product in which you were intimately involved.” He continues to advance the company mission to foster STEM education—now in more than 20,000 schools worldwide—and has jumped into new efforts beyond hardware design and manufacture. “The seismic impact to the global supply chain and the emergence of remote learning revealed opportunities in the ed-tech space to which we were previously unattuned,” he says. “I’ve been able to throw myself into projects such as our robot simulator and robotics competition.”

Wide Worldview

Industrial engineer Sreevalli Sreenivasan Th’17 has a talent for moving with ease between countries, disciplines, and humanitarian efforts. Born and raised in Bangalore, India, she earned her undergraduate degree there before coming to Dartmouth for her MEM. Outside the classroom, she served as a UN volunteer with NGO Tanzania Development Trust, which works to prevent female genital mutilation. “I helped them with open street mapping, looking at satellite images to identify roads and buildings to create maps for volunteers on the ground or for women who have to walk long distances to work or for water or anything else.” As part of her Thayer studies, Sreenivasan interned at wind energy firm Vestas, which led to a role at Norwich Solar Technologies after graduation. Her passion for humanitarian work drew her back to India, where she and friend laid the groundwork for an NGO—Nourish—focused on the issue of malnutrition among young children and pregnant women. “India has a large young population and one of the highest malnutrition rates, with an estimated 25 percent of the world’s population of hungry people,” says Sreenivasan, who is taking a systems approach to the problem. “We want to make sure we meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines for nutrition by setting up a network of volunteers and medical teams to assess the need for supplements, medicines, and care in free medical camps.” Not surprisingly, she is also pursuing skills that will enable her to do even more. She recently enrolled in Thayer’s PhD program to study the issue from an operations perspective with Professor Geoff Parker. “He says you can take multiple different tracks and see which one you lean toward,” says Sreenivasan. “That gives me flexibility for what to focus on, which is fantastic because I have so many different interests.”

Olympic Glory

A.J. Hurt ’23
A.J. Hurt ’23
Tricia Mangan ’19
Tricia Mangan ’19

Two engineering majors—A.J. Hurt ’23 and Tricia Mangan ’19—were among only 11 women who competed for the United States in alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics in February. Mangan, who graduated with a degree in biomedical engineering in 2021, was a two-time first-team All-American for the Big Green in the giant slalom. In Beijing, China, she was the top U.S. finisher in the women’s alpine combined downhill, moving to 11th overall after finishing eighth in the slalom and 20th in the downhill run. First-time Olympian Hurt came into the Games as Ski Racing Media’s 2019 and 2021 Female Junior of the Year. She placed 34th in a field that saw 38 of the 88 skiers fail to finish both runs for women’s slalom, and says she likes to push herself to the edge: “If you’re in control, you’re not going fast enough.”

Saved by Synthetic Biology

Stanford bioengineering professor Drew Endy Th’98 believes organisms can be redesigned for useful purposes. A star in the emerging field of synthetic biology, Endy is focused on using the transformational technology to feed the planet, combat pollution, and conquer disease. Case in point: Synthetic biology was used to accelerate the production of Covid-19 vaccines. Endy’s optimism stems from the advances in the underlying technologies for synthetic biology—gene sequencing and DNA synthesis. As in computing, biological information is coded in DNA, so it can be programmed. By taking an engineering approach—with reusable parts and automation—Endy aims to make such programming and production faster, cheaper, and more reliable. “Biology and engineering are coming together in profound ways,” he tells The New York Times. “The potential is for civilization-scale flourishing, a world of abundance not scarcity, supporting a growing global population without destroying the planet.” And he points to the money flowing into the field. “For the first time ever, synthetic biology companies are on the verge of making money instead of consuming money,” says Endy. The Times reports synthetic biology companies raised $9 billion from venture capitalists and initial public offerings worldwide in the first half of 2021, more than the amount raised in 2020. Rather than a new industry, synthetic biology may be a sweeping force that can reshape the sciences, society, and culture. “It’s an expression of human intention in partnership with nature,” he says. “We’re speaking with life.”

"Biology and engineering are coming together in profound ways."

—Drew Endy Th’98

Coding Crusader

George Boateng ’16 Th’17
George Boateng ’16 Th’17

Named one of MIT Technology Review’s “35 Innovators Under 35” for 2021, George Boateng ’16 Th’17 is on a mission to democratize science and technology education across Africa using smartphones and artificial intelligence. His latest venture, SuaCode.ai, emerged largely by accident. In 2013, as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, Boateng teamed up with friends to launch an ENGS 21-like innovation boot camp for high school students in their native Ghana. When the donated laptops they’d gotten for the course broke down, they were in a fix: Only a quarter of the students had laptops of their own. All the students, however, had smartphones—so Boateng and his colleagues redesigned the coding module to fit a 5-inch screen. The experience went so well that it hatched a spinoff. In 2018, Boateng and cofounder Victor Kumbol ran the first pilot of SuaCode, an eight-week smartphone-based course that teaches Processing, a Java-based language. The course now has more than 1,000 graduates from two dozen countries. Boateng, a PhD candidate at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, continues to advocate for early exposure to STEM fields and recently released the smartphone-based coding app on Google Play Store. This spring, he is a visiting researcher at the University of Cambridge working on issues around health and remote education. “I’m leveraging computer science and engineering to solve real-world problems,” he says. “It’s not just about publishing papers—it’s about impacting people.”

Pushing Beauty Boundaries

Esi Eggleston Bracey ’91
Esi Eggleston Bracey ’91

Esi Eggleston Bracey ’91 created Febreze, provided new direction to CoverGirl, and now oversees iconic brands such as Dove, TRESemmé, and Suave in North America for Unilever. But the engineering sciences major was more into math than makeup while growing up. She undertook engineering internships with Motorola Solutions Inc. and Argonne National Laboratory before a recruiter from Procter & Gamble (P&G) introduced her to a consumer products career requiring problem solving, leading teams, and understanding what makes people tick. “It was like a lightbulb went off,” Bracey tells The Wall Street Journal. “I thought: ‘Wow I am quite interested in this.’” During the course of 25 years, Bracey advanced to senior VP and general manager of global cosmetics for such brands as CoverGirl and Max Factor. When Coty bought P&G’s beauty division in 2016, Bracey served two years as president of consumer beauty at the $3.5-billion global cosmetics firm, then became the first Black female head of beauty and personal care for Unilever North America. She also embraced the opportunity for activism, helping advance the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, which has passed in several states and has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. “There has also been a significant expansion in the brands and entrepreneurs that are participating and succeeding in the beauty—in particular from Black, brown, and female founders,” she tells The Suite Sheet. “It’s good to see the progress, but there still is a long way to go for beauty industry to reflect the full spectrum of beauty and diversity that we see in America.”

This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of the Dartmouth Engineer magazine.

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