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Program directors

  • Henry Ahn

    Henry Ahn Henry Ahn joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2016. Prior to joining NSF, Henry managed seed and early stage investment programs for TEDCO for 12 years including the Technology Commercialization Fund, its flagship seed funding program for technology-based companies in Maryland. During his time at TEDCO, Henry mentored numerous entrepreneurs and was a guest speaker at entrepreneur support groups. He also served as an advisory board member and a judge. Additionally, Henry was part of the licensing/supplier relations team at a biotechnology company called Upstate, where he successfully negotiated, licensed and commercialized approximately 190 biomedical research reagents from around the world. Henry’s background also includes five years of research, primarily in the field of immunology. Henry has an MBA from Rice University, a master's in biotechnology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a bachelor's in biomedical engineering from Boston University.

  • Peter Atherton

    Peter Atherton joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2013 with a broad background in the physical sciences and extensive experience in technology development and commercialization. Before joining NSF, Peter was the original CEO, and most recently chief technology officer, of MIKOH Corporation Ltd., a publicly traded company that he founded in Sydney, Australia. While at MIKOH, he was instrumental in developing and commercializing technologies in a range of fields, including diffractive optics, laser-based marking, radio frequency identification and internet-based personal authentication. Prior to MIKOH, Peter spent approximately seven years at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission in Australia, where he managed optical fiber communications research and development, including approximately 14 months at BT's Martlesham Heath R&D laboratories in the U.K. While at OTC, his research group made world-leading advances in high-speed optical communications technologies, some of which were commercialized via spinoff companies. He also managed the externally contracted development and commercialization of several optical fiber and optoelectronic technologies and was instrumental in establishing a commercialization center for specialized optical fibers at the University of Sydney. He moved to the U.S. in 1998 to further develop the company's technologies and markets. Peter holds a doctorate in physics (quantum optics) and a Bachelor of Engineering (mechanical) from the University of Queensland in Australia.

  • Anna Brady-Estevez

    Anna Brady-Estevez joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as a SBIR/STTR program director in 2016. In this role, she brings a broad background across entrepreneurship and venture capital, innovative research, and direction of corporate strategy and investments. Anna has served as a collaborator with numerous startups, including having worked as an inventor for an early stage venture-backed start-up providing low-cost, low-energy portable water treatment and as a principal investor for an early stage venture firm. Anna's contributions were recognized in 2009 when she was selected as one of about 30 Kauffman Fellows from around the globe for leadership in innovation and venture capital. She served as director of corporate strategy for leading multinational corportations, including The AES Corporation and Cummins Inc., and has advised numerous clients while serving as a management consultant for The Boston Consulting Group. Anna's work in these roles resulted in over $6 billion in infrastructure investments with enhanced returns; identification of billions of dollars of cost reduction opportunities, contributing to a core transformation team of a trillion dollar entity in oil and gas; and the implementation of several new technologies spanning nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, Big Data and the Internet of Things, along with new equipment that enabled transforming energy economics. Earlier in her career, she performed research at the intersection of innovation and international relations with the Office of Naval Research at the U.S. Embassy in Chile. Anna holds a doctorate in chemical and environmental engineering from Yale University, where she received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship; and a bachelor's in chemical engineering and Spanish from Johns Hopkins University.

  • Ed Chinchoy

    Ed Chinchoy joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program 2021. Ed has more than two decades of industry experience in both startups and global medical device manufacturers. He founded and served from concept to Series B funding as CEO and/or executive vice president for two startups. He's also held several management positions responsible for overall product division strategy, product management, pipeline planning and commercialization at Abbott (St. Jude Medical) and Medtronic, where he began his career as a scientist. Ed earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota.

  • Parvathi Chundi

    Parvathi Chundi joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2022. Parvathi is a professor of computer science in the College of Information Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Her research interests span the areas of data management and scalable machine-learning technologies. Recently, she has been studying novel machine-learning systems that learn from sparsely annotated data for semantic segmentation, object detection and text summarization. Parvathi has chaired several department-, college- and university-level committees during her academic career, and has been a University Distinguished Professor since fall 2021. Prior to joining academia, Parvathi gained extensive industrial experience and collaborated on startup ventures and research labs, such as the G.E. Corporate Research and Development Center, HP and Agilent Labs; she holds six patents. Parvathi received her Bachelor of Engineering in computer science from the College of Engineering, Guindy in India, and a master's and doctorate in computer science from the University at Albany in New York.

  • Samir Iqbal

    Samir Iqbal joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2021 and also serves as a program director for NSF's Partnerships for Innovation program. Samir is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, a minority-serving institution. He also had appointments in UTRGV medical school at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Prior to joining UTRGV, Samir spun off two companies from his NSF-funded research at The University of Texas at Arlington. Samir also served as a mentor for several startups, bringing together academics and industrial partners. He was instrumental in developing programs that provided meaningful research and education experiences in STEM areas for women and students from underrepresented backgrounds. His research has focused on cancer nanotechnology, nano-bio interfaces and novel measurement techniques for single molecule and single cell analysis. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and was a Presidential Fellow at UT Arlington in 2017, a Distinguished Lecturer for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and Nanotechnology Council for many years and was chair of the bioengineering subgroup of the Biophysical Society in 2021. Samir earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University.

  • Vincent Lee

    Vincent Lee joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2023. Prior to joining NSF, Vincent co-founded Lumiode and worked to commercialize a semiconductor integration technology combining micro-LEDs with thin-film silicon transistors for display and micro-LED array applications. In his roles as CEO and CTO, he led venture financing rounds, customer and partner development, technology research and development, and hired a world-class team. In the formation of Lumiode, Vincent was the principal investigator for an NSF SBIR Phase I/II/IIB grant and the entrepreneurial lead on a grant form NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™). Vincent has a doctorate and master's in electrical engineering from Columbia University and a bachelor's in electrical and computer engineering from Rutgers University.

  • Rajesh Mehta

    Rajesh Mehta joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2012. Prior to joining NSF, he was a senior research technologist at Kodak, where his 26-year career spanned work at Kodak Research Laboratories, and at the Manufacturing Research and Engineering Organization. His work covered a broad range of materials science-based technologies related to photographic film and paper manufacturing; thermal, inkjet and electro-photographic printing; and OLED device manufacturing. Rajesh has a Bachelor of Technology in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in India; a master's and doctorate in chemical engineering from Penn State; a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College; a master's in new product development from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

  • Elizabeth Mirowski

    Elizabeth (Ela) Mirowski joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2020. Prior to joining NSF, Ela was a founder and CEO of Verellium, a medical device startup. At Verellium, she built strong collaborative partnerships across industry, academia and federal labs to develop novel solutions for clinical imaging that resulted in new products and new market segments. She also worked for High Precision Devices, where she successfully transferred several technologies into prototypes and commercialized them, creating a successful standalone company, QalibreMD, in just three years. As a principal investigator on SBIR grants from several federal agencies, Ela led program direction — including research, engineering, manufacturing and market development. In addition, she engaged in fundraising from venture capital and private equity sources. For more than 17 years, Ela worked and consulted for small businesses, managing the development of technologies involving photonics for displays, semiconductor electronics, renewable energies, nanomaterials and microchip platforms for evaluating neural growth and biological processes at the single-molecule level. Ela holds a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Colorado; a bachelor's in chemistry from Columbia University; and completed a National Research Council postdoctoral program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

  • Alastair Monk

    Alastair Monk joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2019. Prior to joining NSF, Alastair was an active member of the startup ecosystem in Virginia, serving as a mentor, judge and entrepreneur. He has been directly involved in medical startups for the last 10 years. Most recently, Alastair was the vice president of medical products at Cupron Inc., where he led the development, protection and commercialization of a platform copper antimicrobial technology. He also founded and ran Chrysalides Consultants, a consultancy firm mentoring and providing strategic support to medical startups. Prior to Cupron and Chrysalides Consultants, Alastair was head scientist at Biocontrol Ltd. (now Armata Pharmaceuticals), developing and commercializing bacteriophage therapy for clinical applications. Alastair had an active academic life as a microbiology postdoc at Virginia Commonwealth University in Internal Medicine, and has authored a number of published papers, conference abstracts and oral presentations. Alastair has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Bath in the U.K., and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from the University of Birmingham in the U.K.

  • Erik Pierstorff

    Erik Pierstorff joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as a SBIR/STTR program director in 2019. Prior to joining NSF, he was chief of operations and led research and development at O-Ray Pharma, where he focused on integrating biology and biomedical engineering focused on drug development and sustained drug delivery for the treatment of hearing loss and other ear disorders. During his time working at early stage companies, he helped secure both angel investment and non-dilutive funding in the form of licensing and co-development deals. Additionally, Erik served as principal investigator on several Phase I, II and IIB SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health and NSF. His research interests have focused on the intersection of the biotic and abiotic, spanning molecular and cell biology, materials science, gene therapy, nanomaterials and drug delivery. Erik has a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor's in biology from Emory University.

  • Lindsay Portnoy

    Lindsay Portnoy joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2023. Lindsay is a cognitive scientist and professor at Northeastern University. She has authored dozens of articles, chapters and two books, "Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom" and "Game On? Brain On! The Surprising Relationship Between Play and Gray (Matter)." She is a co-founder of Killer Snails, an immersive science learning company supported by NSF. Lindsay has over two decades of experience in the study and instruction of cognition, human development and assessment of teaching and learning from birth through adolescence. In 2018, Lindsay received the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer of the Year Award from the New York District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration. She has served as Board of Education president and elected trustee, member of the World Economic Forum's Expert Network, is a former Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Emerging Leader, and an Assessment Fellow at Hunter College in New York. Lindsay has a doctorate in educational psychology from Fordham University.

  • Mara Schindelholz

    Mara Schindelholz joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as a SBIR/STTR program director in 2023. Mara is also a principal research and development staff member at Sandia National Laboratories, where she has developed sensor diagnostics and advanced digital technologies for the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. Her recent recognitions for her leadership in this area include the 2022 Sandia Mission Innovator Award and DOE's Energy I-Corps Commercialization Award. Prior to joining Sandia, Mara was a senior materials research engineer at Luna Innovations (now Luna Labs) and a consultant for ElectraWatch (since acquired by Austal USA). In both positions, she worked on and led DoD SBIR programs to develop and commercialize diagnostic sensing and predictive materials models. Mara received her master's in materials science and engineering and a bacherlor's in chemistry from the University of Virginia.

  • Ben Schrag

    Ben Schrag joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2009. Ben has worked across several portfolio areas including advanced materials, instrumentation and hardware, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing. He became the policy liaison for the SBIR/STTR programs in 2016. Ben won the NSF Director's Award in 2014 and 2016. Prior to NSF, he was the director of research and development at Micro Magnetics, where he led a development effort to commercialize a new magnetic imaging tool for semiconductor metrology. During this time, he also served as a visiting scientist at Brown University. Ben received his doctorate in physics from Brown University.

  • Ruth Shuman

    Ruth Shuman joined the U.S. National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in 2009. Prior to joining NSF, she founded and was president and CEO of a successful venture-backed life science company, Gentra Systems Inc., that developed, manufactured and sold products for genetic testing and research to clinical and research laboratories worldwide. Following Gentra's acquisition, Ruth held consulting and advisory positions with multiple startup companies and was a CEO-in-Residence for Life Sciences with the University of Minnesota's Venture Center, where she evaluated the business potential of university-developed technology. Ruth began her career as a faculty member at North Carolina State University and is a pioneer in the development of gene transfer and genetic engineering technology. She holds a doctorate in genetics and cell biology from the University of Minnesota.

Executive staff

  • Barry Johnson

    Barry Johnson joined the U.S. National Science Foundation's Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships in 2022. Barry brings a wealth of experience in industry and startups and has a long history of building public and private partnerships. For example, in 2001, he co-founded the biometric security company Privaris Inc., where he served as chairman of the board of directors and, for nearly four years, president and chief executive officer. In 2014, Privaris' patent portfolio was acquired by Apple Inc. Barry was also the founding president and executive director of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, an applied research center and not-for-profit public-private partnership comprising industry, academia and government. He has been a consultant to more than a dozen companies and federal agencies. Barry also has significant government and academic experience. From March 2015 to January 2019, he served as the division director for the then-Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships within NSF's Directorate for Engineering. During that time, he spent nearly a year as acting assistant director for Engineering and received an NSF Distinguished Service Award. He was instrumental in the creation of the NSF INTERN program, among other accomplishments. Barry is the L.A. Lacy Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Virginia's Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the computer engineering program. He served as an inaugural co-principal investigator for the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, a partnership that convenes, catalyzes and empowers the engineering community to identify future engineering research directions. Barry earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. He has published more than 150 technical articles, has written several books and is an inventor on more than 40 issued patents. Barry is a Class of 2016 National Academy of Inventors Fellow and is also a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

  • Carol Bessel

    Carol Bessel is head of the Startups and Small Businesses Section within the U.S. National Science Foundation's Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. She most recently served as NSF's acting division director for Chemistry and has held many roles since 2005. Carol earned her bachelor's and doctorate in chemistry from the University at Buffalo. She was awarded a National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., before becoming a faculty member in the department of chemistry at Villanova University. While a professor, she received a Bunting Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies at Harvard University to study the use of carbon nanofibers in fuel cell applications. She also took sabbatical leave at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study dissolution of copper interconnects for microchip manufacturing. Carol is committed to promoting discovery in the chemical sciences, enhancing undergraduate and graduate education and broadening participation, and improving society through science and engineering.