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Program directors

  • Henry Ahn

    Henry Ahn joined the National Science Foundation in July 2016 as an SBIR/STTR Program Director. Prior to joining NSF, Henry managed seed/early stage investment programs for TEDCO for 12 years including Technology Commercialization Fund, TEDCO’s flagship seed funding program for technology-based companies in Maryland. During his time at TEDCO, Henry was actively involved with various entrepreneurs and entrepreneur support groups as a guest speaker, an advisory board member, a judge, a mentor, among others. 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 has also done approximately five years of research, mostly in the field of immunology (including graduate work). Henry has an MBA from Rice University, an M.S. in biotechnology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a B.S. in biomedical engineering from Boston University.

  • Peter Atherton

    Peter Atherton joined NSF in 2013 with a broad background in the physical sciences, and extensive experience in technology development and commercialization. Before joining NSF, Peter was originally CEO, and most recently CTO, at MIKOH Corporation Ltd, a publicly-traded company that he founded in Sydney, Australia. While at MIKOH Corporation 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, he spent approximately seven years at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC Australia) where he managed optical fiber communications R&D, including approximately 14 months in the UK at British Telecom’s Martlesham Heath R&D laboratories. While at OTC his research group made world-leading advances in high-speed optical communications technologies, some of which were commercialized via spin-off 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 United States in 1998 to further develop the company’s technologies and markets. Peter holds a Ph.D. in physics (Quantum Optics), and a BEng (Mech) – both from the University of Queensland (Australia).

  • Anna Brady-Estevez

    Anna Brady-Estevez joined the National Science Foundation as a SBIR/STTR Program Director in 2016. In this role she brings breadth of background across entrepreneurship and venture capital, innovative research, and direction of corporate strategy and investments. Anna has served as a collaborator with numerous startups having worked as an inventor for an early stage venture-backed start-up providing low-cost, low-energy portable water treatment, and 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 multinationals including The AES Corporation and Cummins Inc., and advised numerous clients while serving as a management consultant for The Boston Consulting Group. Anna’s work in these roles resulted in over $6B of infrastructure investments with enhanced returns, identification of $B+ cost reduction opportunities, contributing to a core transformation team of a $T+ entity in oil & gas, and the implementation of several new technologies spanning nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, Big Data and 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 PhD from Yale University in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, where she held a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and B.A. in Spanish from The Johns Hopkins University.

  • Ed Chinchoy

    Ed Chinchoy joined the NSF in 2021 as an SBIR/STTR Program Director. Ed has more than two decades of experience in medical device research and development, and commercialization in startups and large global medical device manufacturers. Most recently, Ed founded and served as the CEO of 3VO Medical, and as Executive Vice President of VisCardia. Prior to those roles, Ed held various management positions with overall product division responsibilities for strategy, technology and product planning, and global commercialization at Abbott (St. Jude Medical) and Medtronic in cardiac rhythm management. He began his career as a scientist at Medtronic, and earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, all from the University of Minnesota.

  • Parvathi Chundi

    Parvathi Chundi joined the National Science Foundation as a Program Director for the SBIR/STTR program in 2022. Parvathi is also a professor in the computer science department 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 also has extensive industrial experience including startup ventures and research labs such as the G.E. Corporate Research and Development Center, and HP and Agilent Labs. She holds six patents. Parvathi received her B.E in computer science from the College of Engineering, Guindy in India, and M.S and PhD in computer science from University at Albany - State University of New York.

  • Samir Iqbal

    Samir Iqbal joined the U.S. National Science Foundation in 2021. He serves as a program director for the SBIR/STTR program and the Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) program. Samir is also currently a professor of electrical engineering and department chair at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), a Minority-Serving Institution. Prior to UTRGV, Samir was an associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington (UT-Arlington) where he spun off two companies from his NSF-funded research. Samir has 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 to women and students from underrepresented backgrounds. His research has focused on cancer nanotechnology, nano-bio interfaces, machine learning and developing measurement techniques for single molecule and single cell analysis. He was a Presidential Fellow at UT-Arlington in 2017, a Distinguished Lecturer for IEEE-EMBS and Nanotechnology Council for many years and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Samir earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2007.

  • Rajesh Mehta

    Rajesh Mehta has been a SBIR/STTR Program Director since 2012. Prior to joining NSF in 2012, he was a senior research technologist at Kodak where his 26-year career spanned work at Kodak Research Laboratories, and 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. He has a B. Tech. degree in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering from Penn State, a post-doctoral fellowship at Imperial College, and a M.S. degree in New Product Development from Rochester Institute of Technology.

  • Elizabeth Mirowski

    Elizabeth (Ela) Mirowski started as an SBIR/STTR program director in May 2020. Before 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 (HPD) where she successfully transferred several technologies into prototypes and commercialized them, creating a standalone, revenue-generating company, QalibreMD, in just three years. As a principal investigator on SBIR grants from various federal agencies, Ela led the program direction including research, engineering, manufacturing, and market development. In addition to these activities, she engaged in fundraising from venture capital and private equity sources. For more than 17 years, Ela worked for and consulted to small businesses managing the development of technologies involving photonics for displays, semiconductor electronics, renewable energies, nanomaterials, and lab-on-chip platforms for evaluating neural growth and biological processes at the single-molecule level. Ela holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Colorado, a B.A. in Chemistry from Columbia University, and completed a National Research Council post-doctorate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

  • Alastair Monk

    Alastair Monk joined the National Science Foundation as an SBIR/STTR program director in November 2019. Prior to NSF, Alastair was an active member of the startup ecosystem in Virginia 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 Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Bath UK, and a BSc in microbiology from the University of Birmingham, UK.

  • Erik Pierstorff

    Erik Pierstorff joined the NSF as Program Director in November 2019. Prior to NSF, he was Chief of Operations and led Research and Development at O-Ray Pharma, where he focused on integrating biology and biomedical engineering for the goal of 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, he 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 Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S. in Biology from Emory University.

  • Mara Schindelholz

    Mara Schindelholz joined the National Science Foundation as a SBIR/STTR Program Director in 2023. Mara is also a principal R&D staff member at Sandia National Laboratories, where she has developed sensor diagnostics and advanced digital technologies for the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DoD). 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 before that, 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 M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering and B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia.

  • Ben Schrag

    Ben Schrag is an SBIR/STTR Program Director and Policy Liaison. He joined NSF as a Program Director in the small business programs in 2009 and has worked across several portfolio areas including Advanced Materials, Instrumentation and Hardware, Nanotechnology, and Advanced Manufacturing. He became the Policy Liaison for the SBIR and STTR programs in 2016. Ben won the NSF’s 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 Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University.

  • Ruth Shuman

    Ruth Shuman joined the National Science Foundation in August 2009 as a SBIR/STTR Program Director. Before coming to NSF, she was the founder, 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, she held various consulting/advisory positions with startup companies, and was CEO-In-Residence for Life Science with the University of Minnesota’s Venture Center evaluating the business potential of University-developed technology. She began her career as a faculty member at North Carolina State University and was a pioneer in the development of gene transfer and genetic engineering technology. Ruth holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in the area of Genetics and Cell Biology.

Executive staff

  • Barry Johnson

    Barry Johnson joined the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships in June 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’s patent portfolio was acquired by Apple, Inc. Johnson 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 the NSF’s Directorate for Engineering. During that time, he spent nearly a year as acting assistant director for Engineering, receiving the 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 UVA’s Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Computer Engineering Program. He served as an inaugural co-PI for the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, or ERVA, a partnership that convenes, catalyzes, and empowers the engineering community to identify future engineering research directions. Barry earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. He has published more than 150 technical articles, 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 the Section Head for the Startups and Small Businesses Section within Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) directorate. She most recently served as the Acting Division Director for Chemistry at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has held many roles at NSF since 2005. Carol earned her Bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from the State University of New York 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 studying dissolution of copper interconnects for microchip manufacturing. She is committed to promoting discovery in the chemical sciences, enhancing undergraduate and graduate education and broadening participation, and improving society through science and engineering.