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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.

  • Kaitlin “Katie” Bratlie

    Kaitlin “Katie” Bratlie joined NSF in 2020 and serves as a Program Director for the SBIR/STTR and the Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) programs. Since 2011, Katie has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering at Iowa State University. Her current research thrusts include the development of biomaterials for medical applications and evaluation of these materials in in-vitro and in vivo contexts for drug delivery and regenerative medicine. She received the NSF BRIGE Award in 2012, the ISU Honors Mentor Award in 2014, was nominated “Outstanding Faculty Member” by the Interfraternity Council in 2015, and won both the Akinc Excellence in Research and Teaching Awards in 2015. Katie earned her B.S. from the University of Minnesota and her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley under the supervision of Prof. Gabor Somorjai. She was a post-doctoral research fellow at MIT as an NIH fellow in Professor Bob Langer’s lab.

  • 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.

  • Diane Hickey

    Diane Hickey joined NSF as an SBIR/STTR program director in August 2020. She has extensive experience in multiple technical fields and early-stage deep technology ventures. Diane founded the Diamond Chameleon Group and grew a broad team providing commercialization services to more than 40 SBIR awardees and deep technology startups with funding across government agencies. Diane began her career at Accenture, implementing enterprise-wide systems in utility and chemical corporations. She then joined C-Bridge Internet Solutions, an MIT-based startup that provided technologies to connect corporate back-end systems to users; the company went public in 1999, and merged with Excelon in 2000 and Progress Software Corp (PRGS) in 2004. After completing her Ph.D., Diane joined Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT), a startup spun out of Argonne National Laboratory, she helped the company transition from grant support to commercial sustainability. Diane has held life-long roles in STEM education, including the NSF Young Scholars program, participation in the NSF Nanotechnology Informal Science Education network, and as a Sisters4Science mentor. She has also supported science education startups, served as the school and homeschool liaison for the Tampa’s Children’s Museum and has taught for Kaplan, Inc. Diane consulted on science education and pursued graduate coursework at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. Diane holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Florida.

  • 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.

  • Murali S. Nair

    Murali S. Nair has been a SBIR/STTR Program Director since January 2003 . Prior to joining NSF, he was the Founder CEO of a Bluetooth wireless product company. In this capacity, he raised equity capital for worldwide operations in the U.S., China and India. Murali designed, planned and implemented the product development cycle, and managed the marketing strategy, strategic alliances and business development processes. Before that, he was a Senior Systems Engineer at L-3 Communications where he provided strategic advice to the Executive VP for a complete re-plan of the Hughes contract for real-time, embedded ground control software for the $350M PANAMSAT communications satellite. Prior to joining L-3 Communications, Murali was a Mission Planner at Motorola Iridium where he was involved in all aspects of satellite operations including orbit determination, generating guidance targets and orbital slot placement. Before joining Iridium, Murali was a faculty member at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he developed an entire Space Systems Design Lab from concept inception to fully operational mode and national prominence, and supervised five space system designs, three of which were winners in the National AIAA/Loral Design Competition. Murali is a recipient of a number of awards including NSF’s second highest award for meritorious service and the President’s Innovation Award for Space Systems Design courses while at Embry-Riddle. Murali is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology and the University of Texas. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Florida.

  • 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.

  • Ben Schrag

    Ben Schrag is an SBIR/STTR Program Director and Policy Liaison. He joined NSF as a Program Director in 2009, leading the Advanced Materials and Instrumentation. Prior to NSF, he was the Director of Research and Development at Micro Magnetics, where he led a development effort to commercialize a new family of high-performance magnetic microsensor products for demanding consumer and military applications. During this time, he also served as a visiting scientist at Brown University and as the Principal Investigator on a number of federal grants and contracts, including NSF Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovation Research projects and an Advanced Technology Program award from NIST. 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

  • Andrea Belz

    Andrea Belz joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) in May 2019 as the Division Director of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP), which manages America's Seed Fund powered by the NSF, the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™), Partnerships for Innovation and Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRC). Previously, Andrea served as Vice Dean for Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, as well as Entrepreneur-in-Residence (Technology) of Industrial and Systems Engineering. She was previously a Visiting Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. From 2014 to 2019, Andrea was the Founding Director of Innovation Node-Los Angeles, a regional hub for the NSF I-Corps program. She has worked with many university startups and investors, most recently representing a major angel investing group on the board of a Caltech spinoff laser manufacturer until its acquisition in 2018. For nearly 20 years, Andrea has advised universities, corporations and other organizations on commercialization opportunities as managing member of the Belz Consulting Group. Her recent research has focused on technology ventures, from startups through publicly funded launch programs to private funding. Andrea has authored or co-authored dozens of refereed articles, peer-reviewed conference presentations and proceedings on technical topics and innovation, and she authored a book on product development. Belz earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Maryland at College Park and doctoral degree at the California Institute of Technology, both in physics; she earned her master's degree in finance at Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business.

  • Carol Bessel

    Carol Bessel joined the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) in May 2020. 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.