EDITOR’S NOTE: This special edition of Class Notes includes stories of WPI graduates who contributed to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic—locally, regionally, and nationally. We have included links to longer versions of many of these stories.
Donald Rising writes, “Marcia and I went on an antique car tour with four other couples—four days of mostly back roads in New Hampshire and Vermont. The cars were Fords: our 1911 Model T, a 1910 Model T, a 1913 Model T, and 1933 and 1939 V-8 Roadsters. We covered about 400 miles. I didn’t realize my old T could do 45 mph!”
Joe Ribeiro writes, “I’m now “pushin’ 86, having enjoyed CFOing at several public and private organizations, after first practicing engineering in a local company. My memories of working for WPI always remind me that it is a classy institution of serious values, and worthy people. And, its students deserve the very best that can be done for them.”
Edwin Tenney passed away on May 8, 2021. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, son Douglas Tenney (WPI ’86) and daughter-in-law Gail Anderson Tenney (WPI ’85), daughters Laura Tenney and Karin Tenney-Helfrich, and five grandchildren.
A paper by Richard Brewster, “Re-Creating the First Flip-Flop,” was published in the June 2018 edition of IEEE Spectrum. The article recounts his efforts to reproduce a device invented by William Eccles and F.W. Jordan, who applied for a patent for the flip-flop a century earlier, in June 1918. “The flip-flop,” Brewster writes, is a crucial building block of digital circuits: It acts as an electronic toggle switch that can be set to stay on or off even after an initial electrical control signal has ceased. This allows circuits to remember and synchronize their states, and thus allows them to perform sequential logic.
“The flip-flop was created in the predigital age as a trigger relay for radio designs. Its existence was popularized by an article in the December 1919 issue of The Radio Review, and two decades later, the flip-flop would find its way into the Colossus computer, used in England to break German wartime ciphers, and into the ENIAC in the United States.
“Modern flip-flops are built in countless numbers out of transistors in integrated circuits, but, as the centenary of the flip-flop approached, I decided to replicate Eccles and Jordan’s original circuit as closely as possible.”
Brewster says the equipment he built is now in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
Bill Krein writes, “In addition to being an adjunct instructor with The Business School at WPI, I have started to row with the Duxbury Bay Maritime School—began last fall in the tanks and graduated to a quad in June. Since I started sailing in 2019, I’ve now become a ‘water man.’”
A note from the daughter of Walter Gonia (SIM) says her dad passed away on Dec. 24, 2020, at the age of 90. He lived at Friendship Village in Schaumburg, Ill., for the last 11 years. He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mildred, two children and spouses, Joan and David New of New Jersey, and Jim and Kim Gonia of Colorado, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and other extended family.
Ron Gordon writes, “Kate and I have 3 kids and 6 grandkids. We live in Williamsburg, Va., and Bozeman, Mont., depending on the season. Enjoying our new puppy, Daisy, a GoldenDoodle. Kate is still active and I enjoy skiing, golfing, fly fishing, and soccer refereeing (still).”
Steve Rogers has joined Gamma Aerospace as vice president of business development. With more than 35 years of broad jet engine and rotocraft industry experience, he will partner with customers to provide unique, industry-leading solutions that will support mutual long-term growth and profitability. Headquartered in Mansfield, Texas, Gamma Aerospace is a specialized, end-to- end provider of engineered airframe and flight components for leading original equipment manufacturers and Tier I suppliers in the aerospace and defense industries.
Lalit Sudan (MS MG) has been elected president of Vision-Aid, a nonprofit organization based in Lexington, Mass., for a five-year term. He is a managing director of Market Data Group LLC. For the past two decades he has been an advisor to senior management teams at several leading global information technology and networking companies. In these consulting roles, he guided their entry into several new global business initiatives to create profitable growth.
Wes Wheeler (“Sailing Mirrors Life,” WPI Journal, Winter 2020) was named president of UPS Healthcare, a new vertical business unit of UPS, in December 2019. As an experienced pharmaceutical industry leader, he was focused on running a new unit with more than 100 global locations, 6,000 employees, and a continued devotion to improving healthcare on a global scale.
Then came COVID-19. “I started in January,” he said, “and then the whole world went crazy.”
Wheeler held Zoom calls all day to figure out the logistics of getting supplies around the world. As part a presidential task force called Project Airbridge, UPS Healthcare moved 20,000 tons of PPE from China and Asia on 230 chartered 747 freighter flights with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Later, he focused on the efficient and safe global transport of tests, test kits, vaccines, and treatments. In fact, in December 2020, UPS Healthcare was charged with helping distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the first vaccine approved for use in the United States, a job that put Wheeler in the national media spotlight. In an interview with Michel Martin, host of NPR’s All Things Considered, Wheeler said, “I think we’re so caught up with doing this work right now and so excited about it and so anxious about it, making it work for this country and the world, that we haven’t even thought about the impact yet to ourselves personally. We’re ready. We’re very confident. We’re very, very pleased and proud to be part of this—all the UPSers here working very hard to make this work.”
Steve Rusckowski (“Stephen Rusckowski Leads Quest Diagnosis Through the COVID-19 Pandemic,” WPI Journal, Fall 2020) is chairman, CEO, and president of Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services. Quest began testing for COVID-19 in March 2020, and within three months was conducting 750,000 tests a week. Around that time, Rusckowski was tapped to advise the White House Coronavirus Task Force about how to work together to ramp up testing to help address the emerging global health crisis. “It’s been a wild ride,” he told the WPI Journal at the time, noting that his company’s response to the pandemic is an outgrowth of Quest’s commitment, under his leadership, to providing low-cost, high-accuracy diagnostic tests.
“What we do at Quest Diagnostics represents a very small portion of healthcare costs, but a very large portion of the information that doctors or clinicians need to determine the next steps in people’s care,” Rusckowski said in April 2020, when he participated in a news conference with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at Quest’s Marlboro, Mass., headquarters. At that conference, he announced that Quest would be ramping up to pro- cess 30,000 tests per day at company facilities nationwide. “What we have said at Quest for years is that we’re in the business of empowering better health with diagnostic insights. This is just a glaring example of the importance of what we do.”
Richard Childs says, “The two most important things I learned at WPI were chromatography and how to make beer. Many thanks to Professor Cheetham and especially Professor Crusberg for the impact they made in my life. Also thanks to Morgan Construction for their financial support.”
Paul Mangaudis writes, “I retired in February 2020 as Senior Engineer for Cathedral City, Calif. I took this position after working seven years for Public Storage in its Glendale HQ as Director of Construction, Access Compliance, where I developed its ADA Compliance Plan; trained facility managers in upgrading its hundreds of existing self-storage properties to ADA standards; and worked with hired civil engineers, architects, and construction managers to develop newly constructed buildings and upgrade acquired properties to comply with company, engineering, and ADA standards.
“Prior to these positions, I worked for three local, regional, and national civil engineering firms in Southern California (B & E Engineers, Psomas, and Kimley-Horn & Associates, respectively) for 25 years in project engineering and management positions. A few projects I am very proud of working on as the civil engineer of record were the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a $1B hilltop fine arts museum, offices for the Getty Trust, and the art history library complex designed by Richard Meier & Partners; the Getty Villa Restoration and Expansion Project in Pacific Palisades, a recreation of a 1st century Herculaneum villa that was excavated near Pompeii that houses J. Paul Getty’s Roman and Greek anti- quities collection; the DreamWorks Animation Studios in Glendale, a 7-building HQ campus for the company started by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenburg, and David Geffen; the Sony Studios Expansion Project, which added new offices, movie sound stages, and parking structure buildings in Culver City; and many other land development projects for national retail and residential firms.
“Since retiring, I drove cross-country to move back to my home state of Massachusetts—to Cape Cod with my husband, Tom, and our 2-year-old Labs. I’m enjoying working on projects at home, golfing, taking daily walks on the beach or nature trails, and having four seasons again!”
Marc Trudeau offered “In This Together,” a series of online Open Space gatherings around the question, “How will we, the WPI community, support each other through this difficult time?” Reporting that he experienced a roller coaster ride of emotions, he invited all those with a passion to connect with and learn from each other to participate.
Lauren (Stratouly) Baker (’85 MS, ’88 PhD) is the founder of Insight Medical Consulting and previously founded Avania, a contract research organization. Her career for the last 20 years has been focused on helping companies that are developing biotechnology bring a wide variety of products to market—from medical devices to biologics. With the onset of a global pandemic, that work shifted significantly. As enrollment in clinical trials slowed, clinical research in the U.S. was put on hold, and no elective procedures were taking place, Baker and her team began helping companies with products in a variety of areas including virus and antibody test kits, PPE, novel approaches to the shortage of ventilators, blood products, and filters used to remove toxins from the blood of patients with COVID-19.
The projects were being pursued via an FDA-initiated process under a government emergency bill put in place in February 2020 to allow medical devices to be placed into commercial distribution with a shortcut process. Under a provision termed an Emergency Use Authorization, companies can sell products with exceptions highlighted from the standard FDA review process. “If we can do our part to get a test kit out there or a new kind of ventilator,” Baker said at the time, “then good—maybe we can do something to move the needle. We all need to band together during this medical crisis in any way we can.”
John F. Kelly, vice president for quality operations and environment, health, and safety for Pfizer, was the keynote speaker at WPI’s 2021 annual Global Public Safety Industry Forum, which this year focused on pandemic response and readiness and featured experts from academia and industry. Speaking in front of a backdrop that read “Science Will Win,” Kelly stressed the important role that science played in Pfizer’s development of a COVID-19 vaccine. “We literally moved at the speed of science to make this happen,” he said. “Science is relentless. It never gives up. It keeps asking questions until it finds what it’s looking for. Science never rests. It has to reinvent itself every day, prove itself again and again.”
He began his remarks by discussing the vaccine and the steps the company took to make it possible. “By uniting transformational technology, cutting-edge science, and the indomitable human spirit, Pfizer has been able to develop, manufacture, and begin to supply one of the biggest medical advancements in the past 100 years,” he said. Kelly joined Pfizer in 1982 as plant services engineer in Brooklyn, N.Y., and has held a variety of positions in engineering and manufacturing over the years. He assumed his current position, in which he is responsible for leading the overall quality function for Pfizer and for leading global environmental health and safety across the company, in 2017.
The Center for Global Public Safety is an interdisciplinary research and innovation initiative established in 2016 by WPI in collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing to bring together industry leaders and universities from around the world to lead an integrated effort to improve global public safety.
Ingrid Slembek writes, “I’ve been in Switzerland for 15 years after having lived and worked in Germany, Australia, and Belgium since getting my MBA from WPI in 1989. I’d love to connect with fellow graduates in Switzerland—I am contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Jay Cormier has been inducted into Marquis Who’s Who Biographical Registry. Motivated by a desire to use his background in technology to help people with age-related macular degeneration, a desire inspired by his grandmother’s experience with the condition, he founded Eyedaptic in 2016. The company, which he serves as CEO, provides patented augmented reality visual aids for macular degeneration and other retinal diseases. His achievements have earned him the Audience Choice Award for Embedded Vision Technology, the Innovator of the Year Award from the Orange County Business Journal, and the High-Tech Company Award. Cormier, who also holds an MBA in strategy and finance from Northeastern University, is a member of WPI’S Tech Advisors Network.
Jim Pouliopoulos is the 2021 recipient of the Dr. Dave Landers Faculty Mentor of the Year in the Northeast-10 Conference. He is the founding director of the Professional Sales Program at Bentley University and is a Senior Lecturer in Bentley’s Marketing Department. The nomination read, “Simply put, Pouli is the type of professor that goes the extra mile and utilizes the few minutes before and after class to get to know his students personally. This fact makes it so that his support is not only seen in the classroom, but rather outside the class and with our extracurriculars as well.”
Larry LaFreniere has been named a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s New England Advisory Council (NEAC). He is president of Electric Supply Center, which he acquired in 1998. Since then, he has transformed the local business into one of New England’s fastest-growing electrical suppliers, expanding the company from a single office to five locations and generating impressive revenue growth. “The pandemic has brought unique challenges to businesses and the economy in Massachusetts,” he says, “but with challenges comes opportunities for growth and change. I look forward to working with NEAC to help Massachusetts’ businesses identify opportunities going forward.”
Lisa (Anderson) Barton was named Chief Operating Officer of American Electric Power, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. In this role she oversees operations in the company’s 11-state service territory. “I’ve had the pleasure of serving this industry for 33 years,” she says, “and I’m extremely proud of the progressive steps we are taking to advance a clean energy economy.”
Jeffrey Goldmeer (MS ’91) writes, “I was promoted to the position of Emergent Technology Director at GE Gas Power. In this new role, I am responsible for developing and executing strategies to transition gas turbine–based power plants into low-or zero-carbon-emissions systems. I’m also proud to announce the launch of my new podcast, Cutting Carbon, which focuses on decarbonization through a series of conversations with industry experts. My work on hydrogen-fueled gas turbines was published in a new reference text, Thermal, Mechanical, and Hybrid Chemical Energy Storage Systems. In December 2020, in recognition of my work on decarbonizing gas power systems, I received a GE Gas Power CEO Excellence Award.”
Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster, Mass., founded in 1994 by classmates Kevin Buckler, Ned LaFortune, and Peter Quinn, together with Atlas Distributing, released a new beer in April 2020 to raise funds to support three COVID-19 response funds in the communities where they operate: the United Way of North Central Massachusetts Stand United Fund, the United Way of Tri-County Community Response Fund, and Worcester Together, a joint effort between the United Way of Central Massachusetts and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. The beer, Glory American IPA, is an approachable and modern expression of the IPA style that is double dry-hopped with Galaxy, Citra, and Azacca hops.
Wachusett Brewing, which has grown to become one of the largest breweries in Massachusetts, has used 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of special six packs to support the community in meaningful ways. For example, in January 2020 it partnered with other local breweries to develop Worcester’s Bravest, which supported relief funds for the families of fallen Worcester firefighters. Glory American IPA was initially slated for release in summer 2020, but as the pandemic surged in the spring, LaFortune, Wachusett’s CEO, moved up the distribution date to keep his team employed, serve his customers, and once again generate charitable financial support for his community. “Wachusett exists today because of volunteer efforts of family and friends of the brewery in the ’90s,” LaFortune said. “We could not afford to pay for bottling or special event labor in the early days. This goodwill impressed upon us the impact of giving back. Wachusett has supported virtually every North Central Massachusetts charity possible over the past 26 years and COVID-19 has simply expanded our mindset on giving back.”
Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass elected to not take a salary as thousands of the retailer’s employees were put on furlough. “It is an incredibly difficult decision to extend our store closures and temporarily furlough some of our associates,” she said in an announcement. “We look forward to the day that we can reopen our stores to welcome our associates back and serve the millions of families across the country that shop Kohl’s.”
Biochemistry major Matthew Barrows joined Massachusetts- based Moderna in 2017. As director of personalized cancer vaccine manufacturing, Barrows was building a high-quality manufacturing operation when Moderna shifted its focus to begin a search for a vaccine; the company developed one of the first two COVID-19 vaccines to be approved for use in the United States. In collaboration with the U.S. government and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, that small-scale operation began manufacturing the new vaccine in record time while the company worked to scale up production. “Seeing the daily mortality rates, the impact on our health care system, the dramatic impact to the world’s economy and our way of life,” Barrows said, “it’s not hard to get motivated to work on a potential solution for the current public health crisis. Knowing that Moderna and its hardworking employees could be part of that solution is what drives me to keep pushing.”
Michael Buckholt (PhD BBT) has been promoted to teaching professor in the Department of Biology and Bio- technology at WPI. He teaches courses in environmental biology, anatomy and physiology, and ecology and animal behavior. His research focuses on the best application of technology to laboratory teaching, methods of teaching students how best to communicate, and the development of research-based courses. He has served on the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and he is an Insight Advisor to students who are transitioning to college.
Andy Meschisen has joined the executive management team of Asahi/America as vice president of operations and materials. With a broad range of skills and experience ranging from operations and manufacturing to quality and inventory management, he oversees the company’s operations and manufacturing, materials and supply chain, quality assurance, warehousing, and facility maintenance.
Dan Beauregard has been named vice president of strategic alliances at ZeroNorth. His role is to build out the company’s ecosystem of go-to-market partners across AppSec and DevOps, leading efforts around the organization’s technology alliance and channel partner programs. He has over 15 years of DevOps and security experience.
John Crowley has been named a director in Prescient’s Intelligence & Insight business. Previously, Crowley, who earned a PhD in neuroscience from UMass Medical School, led analyst teams at Decision Resources Group covering rare diseases in the neurology, immunology and hematology spaces, as well as infectious diseases.
Joseph Maraia, co-chair of the Intellectual Property group at Burns & Levinson, has been named an “IP Star” by Managing Intellectual Property. He has practiced law for over 20 years, handling U.S. and foreign patent prosecution and litigation matters in state and federal courts and before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
Jeff Stearns has been named Director of Technical Practices for Water Infrastructure at Woodard & Curran. He says, “I will be working to improve the connections across practices and between the different functions within the SBU. It’s a challenge I’m very much looking forward to!”
Marni Hall (“Science, Data, and the Pandemic,” WPI Journal, Fall 2020) is vice president of clinical evidence and head of U.S. regulatory science and strategy at IQVIA, which uses data, technology, and advanced analytics to help its clients advance medical research and healthcare. An advocate for employing a wider range of data in research and regulation (real-world data that can help predict and track the performance of medications and other products in the real world, and even augment and accelerate traditional clinical trials), she found in the COVID-19 pandemic a clear demonstration of the value of this new way of looking at medical research and regulation. Hall, who joined a national task force charged with developing infrastructures and methods for managing the pandemic and preparing for future disasters, said the global health emergency has shown that real-world data and evidence can help us understand a rapidly changing public health crisis and speed decisions about testing and treatments in ways that conventional research alone cannot.
The acceleration of learning made possible by the sharing of new approaches to using real-world data is one outcome of the COVID-19 emergency that Hall said she hopes to see continue beyond the crisis. Another is the collaboration of multiple stakeholders and multiple interests toward reaching a common public health goal. “There is so much that is tragic about COVID-19,” she said, “and this crisis has taken people away from other important activities, but it is also hopeful, in a way. It may prove to be a force function or an accelerant to advancing precision medicine and the use of real-world evidence, and it may teach us how to collaborate in new and different ways that will ultimately improve public health. To me, that is encouraging.”
Brendan Smith has been appointed Chief Financial Officer & Corporate Strategy at Translate Bio, a clinical-stage messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics company in Lexington, Mass., which is developing a new class of potentially transformative medicines to treat or prevent debilitating or life-threatening diseases. An accomplished executive with more than two decades of experience within high-growth biopharma environments, Smith, who also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, will be responsible for Translate Bio’s finance and accounting, information tech- nology, investor relations, and corporate strategy functions.
Gregg Burnett has been named vice president of DiPrete Engineering’s Dedham, Mass., office. With over 20 years of experience in the civil engineering industry integrating infrastructure needs and strategic permitting requirements on a broad range and scale of projects, he previously worked as civil department manager for GreenbergFarrow and a project engineer for Brassard Design and Samiotes Consultants.
Narayanan Gangadhar (MS CS) has been named Chief Executive Officer and Key Managerial Personnel of Angel Broking. He brings over two decades of global experience in leading technology businesses at top tier Silicon Valley companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber. As head of technology at Uber, he led the firm’s core infrastructure, data platform, machine learning, and data science teams. At Google, he led the launch of the first set of Google’s cloud infrastructure services and led large teams responsible for developing the overall application infrastructure that powers apps like Google Drive and Google Docs. As general manager and director at Amazon Web Services, he developed Amazon’s cloud database business. He has served on the boards of such technology companies as Madison Logic and Digital Asset and advises many early-stage start-ups looking to advance their teams and platforms.
John LeBlanc (MS FPE), staff vice president and senior engineering technical specialist at FM Global, received the 2020 Special Achievement Award from the National Fire Protection Association, acknowledging his many years of service to the organization in contributing to the development of national fire codes and standards designed to protect commercial and industrial properties. A world-recognized fire protection expert, he serves on 10 NFPA technical committees related to explosion protection systems, aerosol products, and flammable liquids. He has worked for FM Global for 35 years in a wide variety of loss-prevention engineering and consulting roles.
Mike Titus is associate director of manufacturing sciences and technology at Moderna Therapeutics, which developed the mRNA-1273 vaccine for COVID-19. The company received an award from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a part of the U.S. Health and Human Services department, for up to $483 million to accelerate development and FDA licensure and scale up manufacturing processes to enable large-scale production.
Cassandra Andersen is chief of community health in Worcester’s Public Health Division, a position that has put her on the front lines of the battle with COVID-19. In partnership with a broad range of organizations, including clinics, hospitals, schools, universities, police coalitions, and neighborhood and community-based groups, she works to enhance the city’s health policy, program, and infrastructure. When the pandemic hit, her role quickly shifted as she and her team sought to protect the lives of those who live and work in Worcester. For example, she coordinated the clinical outreach of staff and volunteers to individuals who tested positive for the coronavirus and to those they may have exposed, ensuring that all parties understood isolation and quarantine measures and received the care and support they needed.
“As the pandemic spread across the city,” she said, “the situation evolved rapidly and created a need to change protocols and workflows at a moment’s notice. The ability to look at the big picture, apply analytical skills, and shift gears quickly between projects became invaluable. I needed to effectively communicate and translate messages across inter- disciplinary teams of policy makers, managers, epidemiologists, doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff. These and so many other skills I developed at WPI helped me find ways to support public health staff and interdepartmental partners in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. I owe WPI a debt of gratitude for preparing me to help my home city fight this global health crisis.”
Tim Baird recently completed his first illustrated children’s book, titled Good Night Phobos, Good Night Deimos. It is set on a slightly futuristic Mars and follows the nightly routine of a young man stationed at a scientific habitat cluster. He reports that “the book has delighted advanced readers and is sure to help your children dream of exploring the world around them (and beyond). It is currently available for pre-order through all major channels, as well as the indie bookstore of choice.”
When Erin (Bliven) Sizemore, an informatics health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), partnered with a team at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory as part of the CDC emergency response to COVID-19, she was glad to learn the partnering team included a fellow grad, Adam Norige ’03, ’04 MS, an associate group leader at Lincoln Lab. Sizemore, who had served as lead epidemiologist and data manager for the Tuberculosis Trials Consor- tium within the CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, volunteered to support the COVID-19 emergency response. “During public health emergencies, the CDC provides emergency response efforts largely through volunteer deployments of CDC employees and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps,” she said. “Taking time away from our ‘day jobs,’ CDC staff travel the globe in support of emergency health crisis situations. Since 2015, I have had multiple deployments, including to Sierra Leone and Rwanda. Most recently, however, I have deployed twice to the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center for COVID-19.”
Initially involved in building sensors and analytics to help strengthen the country’s ability to fight biological threats, Norige found that broader disaster relief technologies were needed. He cofounded a group to develop novel technologies to assist with some of the nation’s most complex disaster relief and humanitarian assistance challenges. “When it became clear that COVID-19 was going to become a pandemic,” he said, “we brought these two research fields together and focused much of our research activities on identifying and creating near-term technologies that could assist with the response.”
Sizemore, Norige, and their respective teams worked together to understand how COVID-19 exposure notification technologies can help limit viral transmission. Their shared goal is to rapidly develop and evaluate a range of new technologies that will help control the spread of pandemics, including COVID-19. “The capabilities that we
build now,” said Norige, “will help strengthen our ability to respond to future epidemics and similar events with less disruption to our daily lives.”
Paul Lieberman is co-founder and president, global technology, of DraftKings Inc., which early in the pandemic announced a charity initiative to mobilize sports fans to band together “in the spirit of triumphing over adversity.” The fantasy sports company committed $500,000 to the United Way and challenged fans to double it by posting pictures and videos of themselves “rockin’ your favorite rally cap” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Chris Baker (BS FPE/MS ME) currently serves as the program executive for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP), which seeks to expand the ability to execute unique missions through the rapid development and demonstration of capabilities for small spacecraft applicable to exploration, science, and the commercial space sector. He also serves as the program executive for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program that facilitates rapid demonstration of promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce through suborbital testing with industry flight providers.
Jeremiah Crocker (’08 MS FPE) has been named vice president of business development at Telgian Engineering & Consulting, with a focus on fire, life safety and security technologies, requirements, and trends. With 13 years of industry experience, he is a member of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, as well as the National Fire Protection Association.
Tom Lashmit in early 2016 found himself in the middle of a chain of goodwill that will make life a little easier for peoplewith Parkinson’s disease. According to the Marlboro, Mass., Community Advocate, the chain began when Jimmy Choi, best known for his appearance on American Ninja Warrior, complained in a social media post about the difficulty he had getting the tiny pills he takes for his Parkinson’s out of the pill bottle. After seeing the post, Brian Aldridge, a country music video director, taught himself to use design software and developed a pill bottle that can dispense one tiny pill at a time. Aldridge contacted Lashmit, a high school friend, who used his new 3D printer to make a prototype, fine-tuning the design along the way. “The reports are that these work well for super tiny pills,” Lashmit says, “and that the lids are particularly easy to open, which is another issue for Parkinson’s patients.” Aldridge donated the patent for his design to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and makes the schematics available free online.
Sam Feller writes, “My last day at Amazon was March 19, 2021. I’ve left to start a new venture. After spending close to two and a half years at Amazon, two as a technical program manager, I can confidently say that most project management tools are terrible and I want to fix that.
“Deep down, I don’t think of myself as a program manager. When you peel back the layers, I still think of myself as an engineer, maker, product developer, entrepreneur, and problem solver. Technical program management just happened to be the thing that was necessary at the time to help my teams make stuff. At the core, I think most project management tools fail because they get caught up in documenting a plan—i.e., who’s doing what and when. In fast paced, ambiguous environments, most plans are out of date the day they’re printed. It’s everything else outside those plan documentation tools, though, that a project manager does to keep a team humming, and that’s where I want to focus.”
Rudra Kafle (MS PH, ’12 PhD PH) has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Physics at WPI. Kafle has developed studio physics courses for WPI and helped develop the astrophysics minor. His research interests focus on theoretical studies of atom interferometers and gyroscopes with Bose-Einstein condensates, DNA biophysics, and physics education research. Kafle has served as co-principal investigator on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to increase the number of physics teachers in U.S. high schools, and he has been involved in WPI summer programs and the Goddard Cup Water Rocket Competition for regional high schools.
Alejandro Solà (MS SD) writes, “My daughter, Emilia Solà, will join WPI as an Aerospace Engineering undergraduate this fall.”
Stephen Cialdea (’14 MS ECE) has been appointed director of engineering at Boston Solar’s Woburn, Mass., headquarters, where he oversees the company’s engineering team. A Massachusetts licensed Professional Engineer and a NETA Level 4 Certified Senior Technician, he was previously senior engineer and subject matter expert in the Westborough, Mass., office of CE Power of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Lizzy De Zulueta, CEO of Zulubots Inc., joined The Ventilator Project, “a rapid and scalable solution to solve the global ventilator shortage.” The effort built an army of engineers recruited to prototype a low-cost ventilator for global distribution, using alternative materials to circumvent the medical supply chain and rapidly mass-produce the ventilators.
Michal (Talmor) Tilley, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, passed away suddenly on March 29, 2021. She graduated with a dual major in aerospace engineering and robotics engineering with a minor in astrophysics, before enrolling as a graduate student at WPI and working on research in electrohydrodynamics in the laboratory of Professor Jamal Yagoobi. Her work earned her a NASA fellowship and inclusion in Aviation Week’s 20 Twenties program. She spent a summer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and time at the NASA Glenn Research Center, and also traveled to France, Spain, and Japan, and spoke at numerous conferences in the United Sates. “Her PhD work dealt with pumping of dielectric fluids in micro- and macroscale in the presence and absence of phase change,” Yagoobi said. “One of her major contributions to the field was to describe the impact of temperature on the performance of EHD conduction pumping, critical for the design of EHD pumps operating in the outer space environment.” She had just joined Aurora Flight Sciences (a division of Boeing) at the time of her death. She leaves her husband, Joseph Tilley ’12, her parents Ron and Shoshana (Rosie) Talmor, a sister, and a nephew.
Jesus Chung is a senior embedded software engineer at Rockwell Automation.
Zoe Reidinger (PhD BE) has been promoted to associate teaching professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at WPI. She teaches a range of introductory and high-level courses and is an associate director of the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center. She has served as co-principal investigator on grants funded by
the National Science Foundation to improve engineering education and research opportunities for WPI students, as well as students from around the country, from under- represented groups. In addition to improving engineering education, Reidinger’s interests include engineering design for marginal-ized populations, biomaterials, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ students.
Reidinger was also recently recognized as a Champion of Diversity by the American Society for Engineering Education Committee on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
Matt Dunster is vice president at Special Technical Services in Hackettstown, N.J. The family- owned business makes static ground monitoring systems that stop static discharge around volatile materials, protecting individuals and communities from catastrophic events such as explosions. When the pandemic hit, he shifted the company’s focus to help address a critical need for personal protective equipment in health care. Working with his Mount Olive High School engineering and industrial design teacher David Bodmer, volunteers from robotics teams, and others, he was able to produce 20,000 face shields in a week, which were donated to hospitals and first responders throughout New Jersey and around the country. “We’re trying to meet the immediate demand,” he said at the time. “There’s such an immediate demand right now.”
Zachary Caplin developed the patent-pending CAPSCANN Temperature Screening Kiosk, which can screen people before they are allowed to enter a building. Users answer questions on a phone app, which generates a QR code that is read by the kiosk. The kiosk then takes the user’s temperature in less than a second. Using facial recognition, the kiosk can monitor people as they move through the building. It can also be tied to pre-existing security features like two-way communication systems and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) door locks. It can also share data with health service operations, triggering alerts for individuals to see a physician, for example. Caplin designed the kiosk with his brother, an electrical engineering student at RIT. “Like many others, my family experienced personal loss related to COVID-19,” Caplin said. “This drove me to try to design something that would make a positive impact on the pandemic.”
Marc Printz, community manager of the WorcLab incubator, tapped the entrepreneur group’s lab capabilities (along with volunteer help from member companies and partners), to 3D print face shield and N95 masks for local hospitals. The effort included Nathan Rosenberg ’19 and Ethan Merrill ’20, a lab assistant in WPI’s Rapid Prototyping Lab.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for musicians and music students to gather and perform, which gave impetus to the creation of virtual music productions, including virtual choruses. For Alumni Weekend in April 2020, Anthony Topper used Zoom to produce a choral work, To My Old Brown Earth, that was performed by WPI’s choral groups—students and alumni—under the direction of Professor Joshua Rohde. Realizing the potential of virtual choirs, Mike LaFleur ’82 suggested to Topper that they collaborate on a way of automating the creation process. The result was Songalong, a platform that allows creators to direct an ensemble by recording themselves, and optionally section leaders, and inviting performers to record themselves. The software then automatically synchronizes all of the content. Songalong is designed for use by conductors, schools and colleges, churches, and independent artists. “The program was created by two WPI alumni who recognized the immense challenges needed to put together such collaborative projects during the pandemic,” Rohde said, “and, combining their artistic and programming expertise, designed a way to streamline the process, making it more accessible for performers and producers.” In April 2021, Rohde used Songalong to direct WPI’s virtual spring concert. The result, five musical selections, was the culmination of over 300 videos recorded by students and alumni over a few months.
LaFleur has assisted leading organizations, including Emerson, Roper, AT&T, and BellSouth, with product development, market expansion, and strategic acquisitions. Drawn to the growth phase in the product lifecycle, he designed the coverage plan for the original BlackBerry and launched Internet services for AT&T. Topper, a full-stack software engineer, has won or placed in more than half a dozen software competitions and hackathons run by the likes of Comcast and MIT. LaFleur and Topper both sang in the WPI Men’s Glee Club (Topper was president his senior year) and both received the Stephen J. Kahn Award for service to the organization.