40 under 40: Winter/Spring 2019
Daring to invent fresh experiences… doing what no one has done before… braving self-doubt and the risk of failure… once again Drexel graduates astound us with their entrepreneuralism, creativity and boldness. Though just starting out their lives, they are living the self-starter ethos that makes Drexel a university where ambitions don’t wait.
DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF AND LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR TO CONGRESSWOMAN SUSAN WILD (PA-7)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Spearheading the creation of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls — the first-ever congressional caucus dedicated to making health, education, safety and opportunity for black women and girls a priority. I strive to ensure that black women’s voices are centered in policy discussions. Through the caucus, I educate and I construct legislative and programmatic proposals to address systematic obstacles that black women and girls face. Most recently, under the leadership of Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the first African-American Congresswoman from New Jersey, I led two conferences for girls. The “&Girls” conference brought together more than 400 girls between the ages of 10 and 23 to discuss neighborhood safety and leadership qualities. The “In Her Power” conference empowered girls in middle school by fostering healthy relationships and providing self-advocacy tools to help students combat the impact of the school-to-prison pipeline.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: While a student, I interned and completed a co-op with the New Jersey state legislature. These experiences exposed me to the process of crafting a legislative agenda with legislative members and leadership.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I will continue to look for opportunities to reduce disparities. I seek to promote equity and justice through government, corporations and communities.
DEPUTY MANAGING ATTORNEY, AIDS LAW PROJECT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Believing in myself and never seeing obstacles as endpoints, but rather as opportunities with new directions.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: I’m naturally a quiet person. I shy away from the spotlight and attention — a person of few words. Drexel welcomed me and provided me with the resources I needed to come out of my shell, even if ever so slowly. Drexel reminded me that everything starts with an individual. The entrepreneurial spirit of never stopping and always looking for solutions was at the core of what I learned. I was the second class of a brand new law school. My law school classmates were self-starters who created an environment of go-getters, and that atmosphere gave me the confidence to be involved and be a leader.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I see myself continuing to serve the public through the work of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania. My job allows me the satisfaction to help many people: people living with HIV, the LGBT community and poor residents of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey. I take great pride in our work. Advocating and giving our clients a sense of dignity and hope fulfills me. In the distant future, I hope to one day become a judge and continue my journey of promoting justice.
BS PHYSICS ’13
SENIOR ROBOTICS SOFTWARE ENGINEER, BLOOM AUTOMATION INC.
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: My greatest accomplishment as a student was helping the Drexel team in the DARPA Robotics Challenge compete against other world contenders. It was a competition to have team members control a search-and-rescue robot in a mock nuclear power plant disaster scenario modeled after the Fukushima power plant disaster. Currently, I work at an agricultural tech startup called Bloom Automation that is bringing robotics and advanced automation to the medical cannabis industry. Our mission is to trim plantings with the precision of a human, but the efficiency of a machine.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel taught me perseverance, courage and, at the same time, humility by giving me the opportunity to reach higher. I was able to meet great professors and become friends with like-minded individuals who gave me the courage to keep going after my dream.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I imagine myself to be an executive or director of engineering helping to lead a company from idea to product creation.
BS ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING ’11
PATENT ENGINEER, MAGIC LEAP
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Earning the opportunity to be part of a trailblazing tech startup company that is working on a head-mounted virtual retinal display that superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real-world objects. As a patent engineer at Magic Leap, I have the unique privilege of working alongside some of the best and brightest in the industry and studying the technologies and experiences they’re creating. I take great pride in helping to build a patent portfolio that both protects the intellectual property behind these innovations and adds value to the company.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel’s engineering program not only provided me with a wealth of technical knowledge, it also taught me problem- solving skills that I often find myself relying upon in both legal and business settings. My senior design project allowed me to directly participate in the innovative process from ideation to prototype and testing, and ultimately to pursuing patent coverage on our work. Working with Drexel’s patent attorneys was my first real exposure to the field of intellectual property. The experience helped me to see this field as an alternative career path that uniquely catered to my engineering background, passion for innovation, curiosity for new technologies and communication skills.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: The field I work in is both multidimensional and dynamic, which makes it exciting. In the next five years, I plan to be working somewhere at the intersection of engineering, law and business. I hope to continue to work with cutting-edge technologies in a similar capacity as I currently am.
ASSOCIATE AND PRO BONO DIRECTOR, LOWEY DANNENBERG
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Although I spent 15 years as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prior to attending law school, I have found that my law degree has allowed me to serve my community and country in ways I was never able to do before. I can openly advocate for the underserved and seek justice for all without the veil of government bureaucracy. My greatest accomplishment has been using my government and legal experience to campaign in the 2018 Democratic primary for the opportunity to run for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District. Being a candidate gave me a public platform to advocate for change in ways that would better serve those in our community who need it the most.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: What I found most inspiring and helpful about Drexel was the open and inclusive environment that faculty and staff created. Professors always had their doors open, whether for a therapy session or career advice. Staff listened to student concerns and helped them advocate for what mattered to them. The Drexel community, in particular the faculty and staff at the Kline School of Law, instilled in me the confidence I needed to make change happen.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: As a non-traditional student, I came to Drexel with an established career and life experience. I knew where my life was going to take me before I ever walked through those doors. The law degree and connections I received firmly established the path forward for me. In five years, I will still be advocating for my community within the legal and political realm through my continued connections within the Philadelphia legal and political community.
BS ENGINEERING AND BUSINESS ’13
FOUNDER AND CEO, GRAVITY GROUP
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Gravity Group. Gravity Group is the parent company of Dil Mil, the fastest-growing dating app for South Asians across the world, with more than five million matches made and $4 million raised from investors. The company also recently launched Jamifi, a music app and production studio for aspiring artists.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel gave me the flexibility to explore various industries and careers through the co-op program and various campus organizations. Prior to creating Dil Mil, I led growth at Union Metrics, one of the leading social data analytics companies in the world. I was also a partner at Finantric Capital, a successful investment fund. I’ve worked for a number of financial and investment firms and have started several businesses. I became a better entrepreneur thanks to Drexel, and many of the things I learned during my time at Drexel still guide me today (such as fail fast and fail often!).
WHERE I’LL BE IN FIVE YEARS: Pursuing my passion for technology and entrepreneurship both as a founder and investor of innovative companies helping to make an impact on the world.
BS MECHANICAL ENGINEERING ’16
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT ANALYST, ARAMARK; FORMER CO-FOUNDER AND COO, WEGARDN
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Directly out of college I created my second startup, WeGardn, an on-demand farmers’ market in Philadelphia. I was motivated by the concept of making local food accessible to a busy urban population and more affordable by cutting out the middleman. During this process, I identified a problem, developed a solution, built a service and created a business that was subsequently acquired.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: As a mechanical engineering student, I lacked experience on how to start, operate and grow a business. Joining the Baiada Institute startup incubator within the Close School of Entrepreneurship allowed me to become surrounded by small business operators, academics and like-minded individuals who helped to develop me into an entrepreneur. This was the single best resource for building my network, gaining practical skills and overall being part of a community.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Currently I’m transitioning from an entrepreneur into an intrapreneur position with Aramark, where I’m dedicated to proving that innovations have just as much of a place inside an organization as they do externally. As a long-term goal, I hope to create my own innovation studio in Philadelphia where businesses can work together with entrepreneurs and engineers to develop products and solutions, launch business models and overall, create a better future.
BS CREATIVE STUDIES ’13
Losing everything gave Casey Dworkin the clarity to build something new from scratch.
It’s not easy for her to talk about, but a 2015 apartment fire that destroyed everything she owned helped Casey Dworkin truly zero in on what she wanted from this life.
Not long after, she took her first big risk. She’d been working for two years running sales and operations for a small luxury footwear line called Ivy Kirzhner in New York City, a great first gig after earning her degree in creative studies, which was a marriage between product design and design and merchandising. But the owner of a new contemporary shoe company, Messeca, invited her on board to serve as a brand director, a role she knew would afford her more creative control.
“I wasn’t sure if I could do it,” she says, “but I told myself ‘I’ll be damned if I don’t try.’”
On a personal level, the fire left Dworkin permanently changed. “My relationship to material possessions was flipped totally on its head,” she recalls. “Starting over from scratch not only changed my perspective in terms of being grateful for the things I still did have, but it made me so much more conscious of the items I chose to buy. From that point on, everything I purchased was something I really thought long and hard about, and my relationship to consumer goods became very intentional and much more minimal.”
Professionally, Dworkin absorbed everything she could as brand director at Messeca. But in the background, a vision began to take shape of what it would be like to strike out on her own.
“I started to develop an idea for what an intentional brand of footwear would look like, and from that moment on, starting my own brand became my driving force,” she says.
“Life is short” is a lesson she learned from the fire, Dworkin explains, and so in 2017, she went full steam ahead and launched her own brand of sustainably minded, ethical footwear called Sylven New York.
“The company is rooted in the idea that we should coexist with our environment,” she says.
Many of the footwear styles are designed to be waterproof, and Dworkin uses a lot of recycled and upcycled materials. Comfort and durability are paramount, she says.
“I approach my decision-making process for my company much like I approached rebuilding my life after the fire, making sure that everything serves a purpose as well as serves the good of the world,” Dworkin says.
As often as she can, Dworkin uses deadstock, which is leftover material from larger brands, and she slows down the production process, which means less waste.
Sylven New York is an online business, but Dworkin occasionally has opportunities to get her boots on the ground (she approves this pun) at pop-up shops around the city. The pop-ups make it all feel real for Dworkin.
“Having my own company was part of my 10-year plan,” she jokes, “not my five-year plan. But I think my life circumstances have pointed me in this direction and taught me that there is no time like the present.” — Katie Clark
DIRECTOR OF PHARMACY INITIATIVES, COMMUNITY BEHAVIORAL HEALTH (a division of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Taking the risk to follow my eight-year-long dream of obtaining a master’s in public health. During the two-year MPH program I was raising a toddler, working as a clinical pharmacist and ultimately also pregnant — thankfully with the support of an understanding husband. In the realm of accomplishments, three things are of great value to me — my faith in Jesus, my family and the ability to serve the poor and overlooked in society. As such, any day that I can live out my faith, connect with my family and serve the underprivileged around me is a day rich in accomplishment.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Prior to attending Drexel, I had been practicing pharmacy in a hospital setting for six years while concurrently co-leading a nonprofit in Philadelphia. My desire to pursue training in public health was fueled by the medical missions locally and abroad that LabakCare led, and also by a dream to one day aid in the strengthening of my home country Nigeria’s health care and public health infrastructures. The training I received from the Dornsife School of Public Health provided me with the framework, tools, coaching and confidence to always look beyond health needs and into the social factors that determine health conditions. In addition, hands-on experience in programmatic design and evaluation helped to position me for my current non-traditional-pharmacist role in a quasi-governmental agency. As the first pharmacist in Philadelphia’s behavioral health department, I use my clinical and public health skills to serve Philadelphia’s residents who are underprivileged and on Medicaid. The experiential training embedded in Drexel’s programming also taught me the value of community engagement, inclusion and buy-in, generosity of heart and the often underestimated impact that policy has on the health of the public. These lessons have become a fabric of any work I set my heart to do.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I hope to be still doing fulfilling public health work that impacts the most vulnerable in society — whether right here in Philadelphia or across the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria — ideally, both!
MPH EPIDEMIOLOGY ’15
APPLIED EPIDEMIOLOGIST, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: For my community-based master’s project at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health, I worked with the College of Engineering to conduct research on the incubation period of Ebola virus disease (EVD) during the 2014 West African outbreak. Using data obtained from the Ministries of Health of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, and weekly reports published by the World Health Organization, I created prediction models to examine the role of measurement error and reporting bias on the incubation period of EVD of 2–21 days. The findings of this project suggest that the incubation period of EVD may be up to 31 days. In 2016, I presented my research at the annual Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists in Alaska and had the opportunity to discuss the findings and implications with world-renowned subject matter experts.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: During my career at Drexel, I received training in data sciences, gaining a solid foundation in many computer programs and statistical software that I use in my daily work today. Knowing how to analyze and present data in a way that is scientifically sound and widely understood is crucial when investigating endemic diseases such as foodborne “bugs” as well as when responding to novel infectious disease outbreaks such as Zika virus. My coursework well-equipped me with the skills necessary for the “disease detective” work of applied epidemiology.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I intend to obtain a PhD in Health Informatics, as I think strong data systems and surveillance are our best line of defense against future disease threats. I am also particularly interested in working in the global health field — integrating my interests in international development, data and infectious disease epidemiology — and conducting my PhD research abroad if given the opportunity. Further out, I have my sights set on more permanent international work — running a CDC field office in Northern Africa, perhaps — but I am willing (and excited) to go where the work takes me.
Nathan T. Fried
BS BIOLOGY ’08
PHD NEUROSCIENCE ’15 (THOMAS JEFFERSON UNIVERSITY)
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY–CAMDEN
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Obtaining a faculty position that allows me to explore many of the interests I’ve developed over the course of my scientific training. Not only do I get to continue my research on chronic pain, but I’m also exploring new ways of teaching undergraduates to become scientists with a particular focus on helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is near and dear to my heart because I grew up in a low-income family and recognize that the biggest discoveries are made by teams filled with scientists from diverse backgrounds with diverse experiences.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: When I first arrived at Drexel, I had no idea what being a scientist meant. I immediately found a mentor in Senior Vice Provost for Research Aleister Saunders, who is also interested in the study of Alzheimer’s. He helped me navigate academia to become competitive for a neuroscience doctoral program at Thomas Jefferson University studying migraines. The co-op program was also key to this because while so many students at other universities were only learning course material, I was in a lab, learning pharmaceutical industry techniques, making myself immediately competitive for the job market.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: My research program will hopefully pioneer new ways to ask questions about how sleep affects chronic pain, by studying fruit flies. I hope this will help us find new non-addiction alternatives to opioids for pain relief. Key to this is that I’m developing “bite-sized authentic research experiences” for undergraduates to be the main drivers of this research. In five years, hopefully we’ll be one step closer to understanding pain, one step away from relying so much on opioids, and multiple steps of my students entering graduate programs.
MS SCIENCE OF INSTRUCTION ’12
Poet and writer Denice Frohman crisscrosses the country to send a message: claim the power to be who you are.
Denice Frohman doesn’t fit into a box. In fact, give the box to this New York-born queer mixed-Latina poet, writer, performer and educator, and she’ll flip it over and stand on it, and invite you to stand with her and speak your truth. That’s just her style.
Frohman’s work explores the intersections of race, gender and sexuality, inspired by her experience as a queer woman from a Puerto Rican and Jewish background. It was during her childhood surrounded by music, street performers and the diversity-rich grittiness of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen that the seeds of her creativity were planted.
It took a while for Frohman to find her way to poetry. In high school, she was limited to introductory Shakespearean-esque stuffiness that didn’t interest her. Around that time, she attended a live performance at the Nuyorican (blend New York and Puerto Rican together) Poets Café, and the seed began to sprout.
“That was my first time experiencing poetry in real time on stage and I was in awe,” she says. “But at the time, I was focused on my athletic career.”
Frohman’s basketball skills in high school earned her a full scholarship to Dowling College on New York’s Long Island, where she majored in English.
“I was introduced my freshman year to a plethora of books and writers who spoke my language,” she explains. “Those writers helped me to step into the power of my own voice and showed me I could write about myself, write about my own language — I didn’t have to write about or pretend to be someone else.”
After a year of playing professional hoops in Puerto Rico, the college graduate began leafing through a book on the topic of “What to Do With an English Degree.” Then she got a break. Her mentor Chris Lehmann, founding principal of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy (SLA), connected her to a job in communications at the Franklin Institute. Once in Philadelphia, Frohman was invited to teach a poetry class at SLA.
“I fell in love,” she recalls. “There are moments when your path becomes very clear and your passion fills the room. I knew this wasn’t going to go away. I loved being in the classroom with young people.”
Frohman continued working in communications, eventually landing at Drexel, where she pursued her master’s in education.
Outside of work, Frohman was immersing herself in the Philadelphia poetry scene, showing up on stages across the city and beyond, honing her craft and cultivating a network. She got involved in the Philly Youth Poetry Movement, a volunteer-run nonprofit founded in 2006 that empowers young people through spoken word and literary expression. In 2013, she was crowned Women of the World Poetry Slam champion. In 2015, she won a highly competitive CantoMundo Fellowship, which connected her to a whole new world of inspiring Latinx artists, she says.
After Hurricane Maria, she helped to organize a benefit for #PoetsForPuertoRico, a diasporic movement of Puerto Rican poets that has raised more than $20,000 for those affected by the disaster.
Frohman spends most of her time on the road at speaking engagements. Occasionally, unexpected gigs pop up, like her involvement in the #HereWeAre Twitter campaign that ran during the 2018 Oscars. When she’s not traveling, Frohman makes time for polishing her craft at writing residencies and fellowships.
“I really want to continue to grow as a writer, and really expand what’s possible for me on the stage, and on the page,” she says. “There are a million poems left unwritten at the end of the day, and I hope to chase down as many of them as I can.” — Katie Clark
MA ART THERAPY AND COUNSELING ’14
ART PSYCHOTHERAPIST, BEHMAN HOSPITAL (CAIRO)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Being able to pioneer and establish the field of art therapy in my home country of Egypt based on formal clinical and academic standards, which we have been lacking in the past years. Art therapy is becoming very popular now in Egypt. I continue to raise awareness about the field’s ethical practices through educational workshops I’ve been offering since 2012, which helped create further interest in pursuing formal training in art therapy as a career. For now, prospective students have to pursue their master’s abroad until we see the day when we have the first graduate art therapy program in Cairo. I also feel very proud that Egypt has now been set on the global art therapy map through my TEDx talk in 2014 and through an official visit by Second Lady of the United States Karen Pence in Cairo in 2018 as part of her initiative “Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART,” which aims to raise awareness about art therapy on a global level.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel set me apart from day one; its art therapy program is unique and intense. It gave me the most pristine level of education I could ask for along with strong internship opportunities, which bolstered my training foundation by bridging the gap between theory and practice. I had specifically picked Drexel because it was the first graduate art therapy program in the world and it still continues to train generations of art therapists until today. This was definitely a legacy I wanted to be part of and carry on after I moved back to my country, and I hope to one day initiate the same legacy in Egypt.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Hopefully running Egypt’s first graduate art therapy program to train many future art therapists in Egypt and the surrounding region while continuing my work on a revolutionary digital art therapy project that I’ve created and developed in collaboration with Artocene in the United Kingdom.
BS INFORMATION SYSTEMS ’02
PORTFOLIO ANALYST, INDEPENDENCE BLUE CROSS
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Making lemonade out of the lemons life has given me. I am a first-generation college student. My parents didn’t attend college but made a way for me to attend college. My mother died from stomach cancer when I was 3 years old, and my father died from prostate cancer at the beginning of my senior year at Drexel. Statistics indicate childhood grief increases the likelihood of criminal behavior, school under achievement and substance abuse. I beat the odds and I managed to graduate a term early while managing my father’s affairs and attending classes. I’ve since obtained a master’s degree and started a scholarship for African-American female students studying in the College of Computing and Informatics at Drexel. I want to ensure the next generation of African-American females entering the tech industry have access to a quality education.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: I received a quality education at Drexel and formed lifelong friendships. My degree gave me a solid foundation to start my career and access to a strong alumni network.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Living my best life. I expect to be striving as a leader and philanthropist in the tech industry. I am passionate about supporting and increasing the number of women of color working in the tech industry.
Amanda E. Hastings
BS PSYCHOLOGY ’08
CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND BOARDCERTIFIED BEHAVIOR ANALYST, HSC PEDIATRIC CENTER (WASHINGTON, D.C.)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I took this position in 2015 to improve the services for families raising children with autism in Washington, D.C. I was disheartened seeing access to quality services being determined by a family’s socioeconomic status. So, from the ground up, with the help of many colleagues, we have created a unique place where a family can obtain a diagnosis of autism for their child, begin therapeutic interventions quickly, access parent coaching for behavior challenges, and meet other families experiencing similar stressors — from toddlerhood to young adulthood — all under one roof. It takes a village to raise a child; and it takes an extra special village to raise a child with special needs. I truly believe our hospital has created something special.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: I had the great pleasure of playing varsity softball at Drexel, which supported my interpersonal growth and leadership skills. Prior to entering my junior year of college, I was named a team captain. My coaches, Terry Deturo and Kim Camara-Harvey, saw qualities in me that I didn’t see in myself. As a team captain, I was given the rare opportunity to inspire and lead others prior to entering the workforce. It was a monumental stepping stone for my career.
WHERE I HOPE TO BE IN FIVE YEARS: I will still be leaning in — hopefully raising some of my own children while continuing to advocate for better service delivery for families raising children with special needs.
Nahreen Husna Ahmed
MD ’10, MPH ’14 (UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS)
CLINICAL INSTRUCTOR AND CENTER FOR GLOBAL HEALTH SCHOLAR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: To create and sustain a critical care ultrasound training course in Dhaka, Bangladesh. That launched my global health career, which has led me to Ethiopia with the East African Training Initiative, and soon to Sierra Leone and Nepal.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel supported my initiative to create and partake in a one-month international rotation in my fourth year of medical school, which solidified my career path into global health.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: My passion to create sustainable education in resource-limited settings will no doubt continue to grow and in the next five years I see myself creating a long-term initiative that can be implemented through MedGlobal, the nonprofit organization I am working with.
Gianna K. Hylton
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MINORITY BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AGENCY’S BALTIMORE BUSINESS CENTER AND L.S. CALDWELL & ASSOCIATES INC. (WASHINGTON, D.C.)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I work hands-on with minority businesses with annual gross revenues of $1 million and above providing their businesses with access to capital, access to contracts and strategic business consulting. I’ve come to know my clients very well and have been very instrumental in advocating on their behalf to get them the support and exposure they need. I’ve assisted several clients with overcoming challenging situations that had a direct impact on their business, their families and their employees. Assisting these businesses with tools to grow outweighs any single accomplishment.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel has supported me in allowing me to use its Washington, D.C., center for business events such as my Business Center’s Finance Symposiums. I am currently forming a strategic partnership with Drexel University Online, which will allow me to use my platform to make an impact in the lives of minority businesses nationwide in providing discounted online programs to minority business development agencies, business centers and the minority businesses we serve. Lastly, it is because of Drexel that I met a fellow alumna who later asked me to join her engineering advisory board. I’ve found that Drexel supports its graduates and their endeavors and facilitates connections between fellow alumni.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I’ve managed to accomplish a lot in my current role in a short period of time. This role has given me exposure and a platform to meet and work with hundreds of minority businesses, both small and large, across the country. Through these connections and relationships formed I’m constantly approached with new opportunities that expand my reach and broaden my platform. I’m grateful to be in this position and have no doubt my impact will be taken to new heights in the next five years!
Aditya Vikram Kashyap
BS BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION ’13
PROJECT MANAGER, FINANCIAL CRIMES TECHNOLOGY, MORGAN STANLEY
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: As a project manager in Morgan Stanley’s Financial Crimes Technology Division in New York City, my primary role is to create innovative solutions that allow real-time transaction monitoring that screens, identifies, assesses and mitigates undesirable financial behavior on a global scale. These surveillance technologies have a huge global impact and protect the firm against threat agents like money laundering, tax evasion, identity impersonations and frauds. My work brings me great satisfaction in knowing that the technology solutions I create directly contribute to enhancing the security and safety of client assets and helps to protect the firm against global threats.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: I attended Drexel as an international student from 2010–13. Throughout my time in the LeBow College of Business I was encouraged by my professors to leverage my strengths. Drexel’s core values of entrepreneurship through education played a significant role in creating a solid foundation. The faculty provides instruction with a hands-on and practical approach that played a major role in creating a mindset that viewed every challenge as an opportunity to succeed. From the very beginning I realized that the strength and intensity of the business program transcends its academic repertoire. This helped me to learn new skills and develop the competencies required for success in highly competitive business environments — and also enabled me to quickly acclimatize to my new surroundings.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I want to be among the top five global leading subject matter experts creating innovative, state-of-the-art technologies aimed at the prevention and detection of criminal activities. I would like to leverage the power of artificial intelligence to prevent and detect financial crimes and thereby help build a more secure world.
Quin Y. Liu
PHYSICIAN, INTERVENTIONAL GASTROENTEROLOGY; ASSISTANT CLINICAL PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND PEDIATRICS, CEDARS-SINAI MEDICAL CENTER/DAVID GEFFEN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT UCLA (LOS ANGELES); AND ADJUNCT ASSISTANT CLINICAL PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, KECK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE OF USC
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Working collaboratively with physicians and families from across the country and internationally to study and research some of the most challenging medical conditions. These conditions include pancreas diseases and the field of gastrointestinal endoscopy. Having the privilege to work and participate with experts across the country on research and committees has allowed me to contribute to the medical research field and provide patients with the most up-to-date care.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: The College of Medicine provided me with an invaluable foundation for my medical knowledge and training. The teachers, physicians and professors helped to guide me through the process as I prepared for residency. I also formed great friendships from my years at Drexel’s College of Medicine that continue today (it’s where I met my wife, Ann Zera Tan, MD ’04), and I continue to work together with our alumni today.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I hope to continue collaborating with colleagues nationally and internationally in my field and contributing to the evolution of field and patient care.
BS BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION ’11
When she was an international student living far from home, Ama Marfo dreamt up a business plan to get her where she longed to be. Her company, Airfordable, is an online travel platform that offers a payment plan for flights before you fly.
When Thanksgiving and Christmas came around, Ama Marfo ’11 would sit alone in the dorm. Home was in Ghana: 5,000 miles and a $2,000 plane ride away. She didn’t have the upfront cash to buy a plane ticket and as a student, her credit card didn’t stretch far, either.
As she watched her friends post social media pictures of happy family gatherings, Marfo formulated a business plan.
“I thought, there had to be a way for people to travel without either having money saved or having the luxury of a credit card with an extensive line of credit,” says Marfo.
In 2015, Marfo launched Airfordable. The business now counts some 300,000 active users, drawn there by its simple premise: Book your flight today for only a fraction of the cost upfront and pay the rest in installments before you fly.
“I was familiar with the layaway concept in retail stores, and I thought it made sense to apply this concept to flights given the uniqueness of airfare pricing,” she says.
As a business administration major, Marfo had come to Drexel with an eye on a career in accounting. Her four co-op experiences in different industries taught her a lot about the nuts and bolts of how businesses operate, and also taught her something about herself: While she loves numbers, the monthly routine of accounting is a little slow for her taste.
The career services counselors at Drexel helped her put the pieces together, to see how her love of numbers, her general business sense and her growing interest in technology all could come together. They steered her toward work as a financial technology consultant for several Fortune 500 companies, and those experiences in turn helped her to launch her own business.
Marfo tried to go it alone at first, to learn coding and actually program her own software for Airfordable. Eventually she brought in outsourced help to build a prototype of the product, which in turn helped her partner with Airfordable’s co-founder Emmanuel Buah, a seasoned entrepreneur with a background in technology.
“It takes a leadership team with solid technical expertise and business acumen to build, scale and actually get Airfordable out on the market,” she says. “That was my biggest challenge, finding a partner who had that expertise and was ready to take a chance on this business model.”
With Buah on board, the wheels started turning and now the business is in full flight, adding new customers every day and booking flights to over 120 countries.
“I love being able to see the direct impact on people’s lives,” Marfo says. “Every day I get emails from customers saying how Airfordable has changed their lives. One woman had moved from Thailand and hadn’t been back to visit her mom in 20 years, and we were able to make that happen for her. That’s very rewarding.” — Adam Stone
BS MUSIC INDUSTRY ’09
Self-described metalhead Jon-Michael Marino tours with the legendary band Metallica, creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences for die-hard fans.
Before every Metallica concert for the past year and a half, the band spends about 45 minutes in a small backstage room with Jon-Michael Marino. As enhanced experience director for the heavy metal band, he leads a small group of mega fans who shell out big bucks for a backstage pre-show hangout with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo (all of whom he describes as “genuine and caring guys.”)
For a longtime fan who has loved Metallica since his uncle first took him to see them live when he was 13, his job is a true rock-and-roll fantasy.
“I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,” the 31-year-old says.
A music industry major who also got his MBA at Drexel, Marino started working security at concerts around Philadelphia as an undergraduate. His first full-time gig in the business was with Philadelphia-based CID Entertainment, which curates VIP experiences for music fans. One of his many projects over seven years with CID was creating a “MUSEum” for the British band Muse. Metallica later partnered with CID to create their own program. More than a year and two massive tours later, Marino left CID to work for Metallica directly.
Among his duties was creating a Metallica museum that travels with the band on tour. It features memorabilia like the late Cliff Burton’s signature bass and interactive exhibits that include playable guitars through the band members’ own effects boards, and a properly staged full drumkit photo opp.
“After several years of developing programs for a variety of country, EDM, jam bands, rock tours and festivals, [I’ve learned that] the items and experiences that fans always enjoy the most are the ones that are the most intimate,” Marino says. “Unique vantage points such as a front of house platform or inner barricade pit, intimate facetime with artists, or access to personal effects that people don’t even get to see at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…it’s one thing to see wardrobe and set lists of your musical heroes behind glass, but to actually be able to strap a guitar on and let it rip through a pair of headphones and have it sound like it’s supposed to, is a pretty special experience.”
As glamorous as touring with Metallica around the world appears, it can also be a grueling job. Still, when Marino sees the smiles on satisfied fans’ faces, nothing else matters.
“It takes a special breed to go out there and do 18-hour days and switch back and forth between sleeping on a bus and sleeping in a hotel in different time zones,” he says. “On this tour, more than any other I’ve worked on, what we’ve created has surpassed people’s expectations. To have thousands of examples of overwhelmingly positive musical experiences, that’s what keeps me going.” — Mike Unger
George C. McConnell
BS/MS BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING ’03
ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: As a research scientist at Duke University, I serendipitously discovered a promising therapy for Parkinson’s disease using deep brain stimulation, which led to my first federally funded award. This work was instrumental in securing a tenure-track faculty position at Stevens Institute of Technology, which I consider my greatest accomplishment. I have the privilege of leading an interdisciplinary team of graduate, undergraduate and high school students in research studies focused on understanding and advancing novel neural stimulation therapies for neurological and psychiatric diseases.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: My professors in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems taught me the importance of studying physiology from a systems point of view and with an engineering mindset. This is the same perspective that I teach in the classroom today. In addition to a solid engineering foundation, I benefited tremendously from the co-op program with a wide variety of research experiences — from computational neuroscience to collecting and analyzing large functional neuroimaging datasets. Those positive experiences played a pivotal role in my decision to complete a PhD in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: In five years, I hope to collaborate with clinicians, scientists and engineers to design new technologies that enable us to better understand the brain.
BS MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING ’11
GENERAL ENGINEER, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTING
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: My involvement in ensuring that U.S. banknotes are secure and durable led me to recognize that there was a need for the addition of a critical process at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) in the Department of the Treasury. This new process, failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), identifies design and process failures and classifies the severity of their consequences. I carved out a multidisciplinary team comprised of quality lab technicians, press operators, banknote designers, scientists and engineers to conduct risk assessments. Structured across multiple technology platforms in research and development, I also standardized the methodology. I am now applying this process to technology projects at BEP and serve as the liaison between internal offices, the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Secret Service. This procedure is revolutionizing the BEP’s R&D system by supporting elimination or reduction of product defects and spoilage.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel offered in-class education, lab work and extensive on-the-job experience. The co-op program allowed me to pursue different technical experiences and niches within my field, leading to a dynamic résumé and a greater advantage in finding employment. In addition, Drexel’s STAR method had me well prepared for the interview process. Following graduation, Drexel supported my transition into the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals fellowship. As a young ambassador in Germany under the Fulbright-Hays Act, I garnered academic, professional and international experience. The German language is undoubtedly important to be versed in as an engineer. This fellowship offered an exciting way to further develop my German language skills, which were first introduced through elective classes at Drexel. My exposure abroad helped prime me to assume a significant role in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world as an engineer.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I foresee myself in a senior level working on the final stages of development for our new U.S. banknotes.
BS MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING ’11
MS AND PHD APPLIED PHYSICS ’15 (CALTECH)
Prineha Narang’s materials research group aims to deliver big breakthroughs from the smallest things in the universe.
You know the saying, “It’s not quantum physics?”
For Prineha Narang, it is.
She’s a computational materials scientist, which means she studies materials at the quantum level, using mathematics, physics and computing power to create models and experiments that allow scientists to engineer technologies of the future, atom by atom.
Her field has the potential to discover new materials and applications that could change everything, Narang says, from our daily gadgets, to our space and energy technologies, to even what we ingest. “
“Using quantum measurements, we have the chance to isolate one molecule instead of many,” she says. “When it comes to water to drink or swim in, for example, we could maybe figure out with greater accuracy whether it’s safe or not.” Researchers are also studying materials that could vastly speed up smartphone processing or recharging speeds, she says.
In the meantime, Narang is charging ahead in her own life and career. The five-time Ironman triathlete and runner has been a tireless researcher, first while a student at Drexel, and now as an assistant professor and leader of a research lab investigating quantum materials at Harvard University, where she was one of the university’s youngest appointments.
Just 29 years old, she has been named a Forbes “30 under 30” honoree for science, an MIT Rising Star in Physics and a DARPA Rising Star, in addition to academic honors too numerous to detail. “There are times where you ask yourself, ‘Did they really mean me?’” she says. “You consider yourself lucky.”
Back at Drexel, her success has come as no surprise. “Among the thousands of students that I have had the fortune of observing in my 25-year career as a professor and administrator, Pri is unquestionably at the top of our graduates in terms of her accomplishments and the potential for a globally successful career in academia,” wrote A.W. Grosvenor Professor Antonios Zavaliangos, who nominated Narang.
Yury Gogotsi, Distinguished University and Charles T. and Ruth M. Bach Professor and director of the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute, mentored Narang when she worked as a student researcher at the institute and helped her join IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center during her final years as a student. “She just had such a firm grasp of concepts and an absolute need to take things further,” recalls Gogotsi. “There are those who want to take it easy during those years — she wanted to push herself.”
She’s pushing others, too, to open doors to females in STEM fields, and encouraging women to enter science programs. She’s a mentor for the Harvard Graduate Women in Science and Engineering program and has also contributed to the Women in Computer Science and Girls Who Code programs.
“As much as anything, we have to encourage that these areas are fun,” she says. “We can change the world through knowledge.” — Eric Butterman
BS FILM AND VIDEO ’14
PRODUCER/ EDITOR, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Within the past four years since graduation, I’ve contributed as a video freelancer within live sports broadcast production, features, digital media and photography for the four major Philadelphia sports teams: 76ers, Eagles, Phillies and Flyers. During my time at NFL Films, I won a National Sports Emmy as an associate producer for HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” In 2017, I helped Sports Illustrated launch a new streaming media network for documentaries and live shows called SI TV. With the SI team, I traveled to produce live short- and long-form Super Bowl 52 content. I’m very proud to have a Super Bowl ring that I earned while working as a camera operator for the Philadelphia Eagles. In April 2018, I had the tremendous opportunity to join the Philadelphia 76ers where I film, produce and edit features and digital content.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Gaining professional experience through the co-op program while still in college helped me excel my career early. I had a full list of contacts from networking that helped me have a job lined up after graduation.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I hope to be an executive producer in the sports filmmaking and production industry.
BS CIVIL AND ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING ’11
MS, CIVIL ENGINEERING ’16
STRUCTURAL BRIDGE ENGINEER, PENNONI ASSOCIATES
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Throughout my seven years working at Pennoni, I have worked on a number of very interesting and complex bridge design projects. One I am most proud of was the I-676 Vine Street Expressway Bridge Rehabilitation Project in Center City Philadelphia. The $65-million project consisted of the replacement of seven two-span non-composite adjacent concrete box beam bridges spanning the freeway with new single-span composite steel plate girder bridges. Pennoni was the lead engineer for the project and responsible for the design of the largest of the spans, the 20th Street/Ben Franklin Parkway/Free Library Bridge. This project was complex and challenging because the bridge, when completed, would be 96 feet long and 643 feet wide, carry four different roadways, accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and create enhanced urban park spaces with planter boxes, plantings, a lawn area and an amphitheater. Many unique design features were implemented to accommodate the bridge’s expansive width, landscaping and park amenities. Construction began early 2015 and was completed at the end of 2018, a year ahead of schedule.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel’s engineering program, in my opinion, is the best in the nation. The program provided me the fundamental knowledge and skills to be successful. It was also very beneficial to have the majority of my professors have backgrounds as practicing engineers. I also cannot say enough about Drexel’s co-op program. My second and third co-ops were with Pennoni, the company I currently work for. For my third co-op I was able to do instrumentation, 3D modeling and analysis of bridges, and this is where I realized I wanted my career to be in structural bridge engineering. Also, thanks to Drexel’s co-op program, I had a job waiting for me with Pennoni’s Bridge Division upon graduation.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Designing bigger, longer, more complex bridges. Bridges are my passion and I can’t see myself doing anything else. I also hope to be a mentor for younger engineers as well as inspire younger generations to pursue careers in engineering.
BS GENERAL STUDIES ’06
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Professionally, starting RideKleen, a mobile car wash company. The idea started with just a passion for cars and the ambition to build a company from the ground up. In five years, this concept went from a small Philadelphia-based operation to a national footprint extending coast to coast, which was recently acquired by Cox Automotive, a multi-billion dollar corporation. The journey brought many sleepless nights but tons of lifelong learning experiences. It has been a humbling experience to have reached the ultimate goal for a startup and continue innovating while revolutionizing an industry.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: The best experience I gained from Drexel was having the opportunity to participate in the co-op program. In my opinion, being able to gain work experience is just as important as hitting the textbooks. That early exposure helped me to realize that my calling was within the world of entrepreneurship and leadership early on.
WHERE I HOPE TO BE IN FIVE YEARS: I always say entrepreneurs are a different breed of individuals and it’s not for everyone. The hunger and excitement to be part of the building process for a company will never go away and is something that will always be of interest for me. I see myself being involved with more startups and early-stage companies. I am also very excited about a long-term opportunity with the Cox Automotive family and helping to make an impact within the space we are aggressively pursuing.
BS DESIGN AND MERCHANDISING ’07
Whatever Lauren Raske does, she does it bold, big and brilliant. What does she do? That’s trickier.
The company that the Lauren Raske founded in 2014, Wilmington-based 7textures, designs “experiences.” Some describe it as a for-hire art department, with the ability to design and style a wedding, gala or other event. Raske and business partner Britt Killeen work with a roster of about 70 contractors to create luminous spaces and fill them with lavish entertainment and decor.
“People come to us because they have an idea of something they would like to see happen,” says Raske, 33. “We do the art direction, we work in their spaces to create the experience they are looking for.”
A native of River Vale, New Jersey, she graduated Drexel in 2007 with a major in design and merchandising, and a minor in fine arts. While at Drexel a friend taught her the unlikely skill of fire-eating and she became a sought-after fire performer — her first step toward a career in event design.
“Fire is a very pure, elemental material that everybody connects with,” she says. “And there’s the danger aspect. People like to be amazed, they enjoy the thrill of it.”
As a performer, she helped to put people in touch with other performers and creative types. The business model grew organically from there, as Raske began to formally assemble teams for performances. Her early gigs included the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and she also helped curate live art experiences at Spruce Street Harbor Park on Philadelphia’s riverfront.
While 7textures undertakes most of its work for private customers at exclusive venues, many in Philadelphia know the company’s site-specific work through its highly acclaimed production, The Ghostly Circus, which this summer celebrated its fifth annual performance in Laurel Hill Cemetery. With patrons seated amongst the tombs, performers put on an otherworldly display of fire dancing, aerial acrobatics and other surprises.
The show is a special favorite for Raske, who embraces the opportunity to make pure theater. “It’s a show that doesn’t have a client, it’s just a showcase event where we get to put together these acts for the sake of art,” she says. “It’s pretty incredible to see what we can do when we all come together as a group.”
Raske’s co-op work as an assistant to a bridal designer had a direct impact on her career trajectory. “I really loved the event production, the fashion shows and the behind-the-scenes work that helped to support the beautiful gowns that we were producing,” she recalls. “That’s a lot of what my career has turned into. Whether it’s a fashion production or a circus production, it’s all about the experience.”
Most recently, 7textures brought The Ghostly Circus indoors as dinner theater for the first time, in a performance at 2300 Arena. “It’s a way of taking the experience to the next level, to make it even more delicious,” she says. — Adam Stone
Alex Roscoe 34, Eric Eisele 32
Alex Roscoe (left) | 34 | BS ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING ’13
Eric Eisele (right) | 32 | BS MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING ’09
Eric Eisele and Alex Roscoe’s startup GrowFlux aims to revolutionize horticulture with an intelligent greenhouse lighting system that can optimize yields, save energy and react to plants’ needs.
Since 2014, GrowFlux has been perfecting a horticulture lighting system that combines connected spectrum tunable LED lights with sensors and cloud-based software. The lights and sensors are engineered to precisely deliver light to plants only when crops are using it most efficiently, saving energy and boosting yields in energy-intensive cultivation operations such as greenhouses and legal cannabis farms.
With an investment round closed and several patents pending, CEO Eric Eisele and Chief Technology Officer Alex Roscoe began marketing their $1,300 LED lights this past summer from their headquarters in ic@3401, a business incubator managed by Drexel and the Science Center.
“I think we are kind of at the cusp of the next frontier of agriculture,” says Roscoe.
GrowFlux’s sensors “have the potential to save tremendous amounts of energy in the greenhouse market as the industry is projected to consume upward of 2 percent of the U.S. grid energy in coming years,” says Eisele.
The technology is a no-brainer, Eisele says, when considering both the growth of greenhouse farming and the way climate change could impair the global food supply.
One of their R&D tactics has been to collaborate closely with universities that are on the leading edge of optical sensing technologies.
“For example, we are translating this fascinating technology out of Cornell University into one of our sensor products that accurately detects very minute light signals from plants,” explains Eisele. “We can actually detect plant stress in real time.”
The groundwork for GrowFlux was laid over many years in Drexel’s College of Engineering and at the duo’s early jobs in Philadelphia. Before GrowFlux, there was Summalux, an LED lighting-related startup Eisele began as an undergrad with Drexel engineering Professor Adam Fontecchio. After he exited, Eisele worked in product development at a Philadelphia architecture firm. There he met Roscoe, who was doing his co-op and had wireless sensor experience stemming from an extracurricular project with Kapil Dandekar, an engineering professor and associate dean at Drexel. After Roscoe graduated, he worked at Comcast Corp. as a wireless engineer — until the “stars aligned,” allowing him to join GrowFlux with Eisele in early 2018.
“Is it cheesy to say we are trying to transform agriculture?” Roscoe muses, to which Eisele didn’t hesitate: “Our sweet spot is data plus light and there’s tremendous opportunity there.” — Lauren Hertzler
MS CLINICAL RESEARCH ORGANIZATION MANAGEMENT ’08
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, THE AVOCA GROUP (PRINCETON)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: My greatest accomplishment isn’t characterized by a single defining moment or achievement, but rather finding a continuous and growing strategic fit across all the various opportunities I have had throughout my career. From learning to manage, analyze and interpret data as a scientist at Pfizer and clinical research specialist at Merck & Co. to developing and managing high-performing teams as head of operations at WriteResult and The Avoca Group, each position I have held has built upon the success of the prior one and enabled broader and more impactful achievements. Most recently, as an adjunct faculty member in Drexel’s College of Medicine, I have had the opportunity to communicate complex topics in clinical research in simple, engaging formats. That is an especially important accomplishment for me since I come from a family of educators and recognize teaching young professionals as the most effective vehicle to have a broad impact across the pharmaceutical industry.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: The MS-CROM program helped by giving me a deep foundation of knowledge in all aspects of clinical development. By understanding the “why” and the history behind various aspects of drug development, I have been able to apply systems thinking to develop and implement ideas that will shape the future of the industry. Additionally, pursuing an advanced degree while aggressively pursuing a career helped me further refine very pragmatic time-management skills that become essential with the increasing depth and breadth of responsibilities I now hold as a COO of The Avoca Group, an industry authority on quality and compliance in clinical research and development.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I will be at the beach more — I really want to learn to surf with my wife and kids! Professionally, however, I will be in a role much like I am now —orchestrating an excellent team of people to execute the creative ideas that arise from my unconventional perspective on the uniquely human endeavor of developing and commercializing medicines.
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, GRAB.IN (MUMBAI, INDIA)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I took a significant risk by ending a successful stint at BlackRock to pursue my entrepreneurial dream of building a technology platform with a rider network for enterprise logistics in India. I Kickstart’d the venture during the days when digital commerce was still nascent and mobile phones were a luxury. From starting up in a single city, with five delivery executives, and a total team of seven people, Grab has surpassed obstacles, failed and learned, and rode the Indian digital boom to become India’s largest sector agnostic delivery service for businesses. We now have a presence in 45 cities, more than 5,000 delivery executives and more than 250 employees.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: I was a teaching and research assistant with the Marketing Department while I was pursuing my MBA at Drexel. My instruction from the highly knowledgeable faculty, the opportunities to interact and the overall program were the fuel to kickstart my professional journey.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Grab’s goal is to become an Uber for businesses to deliver their products. We want to empower Indian businesses of all sizes to cater to the delivery demands of 1.5 billion Indians.
MS CORPORATE POLICY AND ENVIRONMENTAL RISK MANAGEMENT ’15 (PENNONI CUSTOM MAJOR)
OPERATIONS ANALYST, THE WORLD BANK (WASHINGTON, D.C.)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: The signing of the Kigali Joint Statement on Farmer-Led Irrigation in 2018, which I worked on for over a year. This lays out ministerial support to drastically scale up inclusive and sustainable irrigation by Africa’s smallholder farmers — led by farmers, driven by the private sector, and supported by governments and partners.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: The co-op program and Pennoni Honor College’s custom-designed majors programs are easily Drexel’s competitive advantage. I sell this to employers every time I do an interview — because I’m always asked how I have the work experience I do for being my age. Drexel accelerated my timeline to be marketable. Universities are places of learning, but they’re also tasked with preparing us for the next 35 years or so of our career. I have had opportunities that would never have materialized were it not for the combination of on-the-job realities I gained through co-op along with the focused guidance, specialized coursework and support that came from the custom-designed major program.
WHERE I’LL BE IN FIVE YEARS: Five years ago, I thought my destiny was going to look very different and not focused on water sustainability and creating a water and food-secure world for all. Five years from now I want to be able to say three things: I see significant increases in farmer-led irrigation in Africa to unlock opportunity for millions of families; I have worked with private companies to expand the breadth of my experience to drive this forward; and my family and friends are still willing to put up with me!
Jessica E. Snyder
PHD MECHANICAL ENGINEERING ’14; MS/BS MECHANICAL ENGINEERING ’09
SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITIES SPACE RESEARCH ASSOCIATION (MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA)
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: As a mechanical engineering student, I worked with Albert Soffa Chair Professor Dr. Wei Sun in his Biofabrication Lab to design and patent a method to 3D print living cells that has since been licensed for commercial development. I translated this method from regenerative medicine to industrial design in support of human space missions in the 2020s. Within NASA’s Space Science and Astrobiology Division, I use biology and 3D printing to manufacture objects for habitats where natural resources are scarce and that are inaccessible to supply chains. Three-dimensionally printed biological systems convert sunlight into products that need replacing during a multi-year mission (e.g. filters, socks), large objects (construction materials for a habitat) and custom designs (ergonomic splints).
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel assumes its students are ambitious and capable — as evidenced by the co-op program. I took advantage of the classes to gain technical competency, research opportunities to face the unknown, and leadership positions to prioritize the actions of a group.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I want to know if life on Earth came from Mars — and if we can return. To detect life and study its origins, we need to explore and to see Earth from another perspective. Someday, Martian colonizers will use 3D print biology to build their world, revolutionizing what both “uninhabitable” and “scarce” mean.
BS BIOLOGY ’01
VICE PRESIDENT, PROMOTER AND MEDIA PARTNER RELATIONS FOR INDYCAR LLC
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: In life, being a husband and father of two children. Professionally, becoming a successful sports, litigation and corporate lawyer and then being able to make the transition to becoming an executive for a major motorsports league, where I arrange agreements with new race venues, promoters and media partners for IndyCar.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: The education I received at Drexel is second to none. As a four-year member of the NCAA Division I basketball team while at Drexel, I had to balance the on-court demands against a very demanding academic curriculum. Accordingly, in addition to leaving Drexel much smarter than when I arrived, I also was more disciplined and better equipped to handle pressure, both characteristics that continue to serve me well in my career today.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Wherever my beautiful wife and two wonderful children take me. They run this show. Wherever that is, perhaps I will be fortunate enough to have been selected to lead a company. Alternatively, maybe I will have decided to start my own business.
BS PSYCHOLOGY ’16
Kate Steinberg has seen firsthand how therapeutic treatment with medical marijuana transforms lives young and old, and she now spends her days spreading the word about its benefits.
In some circles, the industry to which Kate Steinberg has so thoroughly committed herself remains stigmatized. But when she encounters a person who rolls their eyes when she mentions that she works in the medical marijuana field, she doesn’t get angry.
She gets energized.
“At the end of the day my goal is education,” says Steinberg, 25, who is manager of outreach for Curaleaf, a nationwide dispensary with several locations in Massachusetts. “I love helping people understand that cannabis really is a therapeutic alternative treatment option.”
Steinberg started working at Curaleaf’s New Jersey dispensary before she graduated from Drexel, where she majored in psychology and minored in culinary arts. She was immediately struck by how effective cannabis was for patients who had tried conventional drugs — with mixed results — to manage their pain. One such person was her sister, who contracted Lyme disease.
“To see how much relief she got from the program was such an inspiration,” Steinberg says. “Once I started working at the dispensary I had one adolescent patient… They had severe autism; they were nonverbal and would get very violent. We sent the parents home with cannabis oil and they called me back crying because they were now looking at Disney World vacations. Everything changed so rapidly in just a few days. It was life changing for me to see firsthand how it’s helping.”
Advocates like Steinberg say cannabis can act as a sedative, calming people with anxiety. It can induce appetite and reduce nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and it can help those suffering from mental health issues like depression.
Not everyone who uses medical marijuana becomes glassy-eyed and giggly. It’s the THC in marijuana that makes users “high,” but CBD oil can be extracted from the plants and used to treat patients who want to avoid the euphoria commonly associated with THC.
Steinberg sees the benefit in both.
“We have some patients who have been in the program for three years and have only used CBD products, so they have never felt high,” she says. “We have patients who prefer to use THC, so they do encounter that euphoria. If you have terminal cancer, if you have severe PTSD, sometimes that euphoria is what you need to bring yourself to a better place.”
In her outreach role, Steinberg speaks to patient support groups, physicians interested in the program, and recently organized the first community blood drive at a dispensary in Massachusetts.
“I am so passionate about this,” she says. “We had a patient I spoke with at an ALS symposium. He was initially very wary about using cannabis, but he decided to give it a try. His wife told me that before he was diagnosed he would whistle all the time, but after his diagnosis he had stopped. Just the other week his wife walked downstairs and heard him whistling again. There is something so beautiful about that to me.” — Mike Unger
Anjni Raol Singh
BS DESIGN AND MERCHANDISING ’03
CEO/FOUNDER, KALI ACTIVE INC.
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Starting this company, because taking the first initial step [toward a goal] can be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Coming from an upbringing that puts a lot of importance on getting a “good job” with a “good company,” starting your own brand is not something that gets fully supported right away.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel most definitely helped in establishing a solid foundation for my professional career. I am always grateful for the post-college prep Drexel instilled in us. Learning interviewing skills and how to be professional in a work environment is something that has helped me throughout my career in the creative industry.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I am hoping to grow my company into a global multi-product brand and use it as a vehicle to get more involved in charity work and community building. It always feels good to directly impact your surroundings in a positive way. My goal for this company has always been to give back and I hope to get to that stage.
BS CULINARY SCIENCE ’13
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, F&S PRODUCE CO.
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Upon graduation, I entered an industry that was intriguing, challenging and extremely motivating. Within a few years I had made a name for myself at Chelten House Products and successfully led the product development team through the largest and most influential project in the company’s history. I also played a significant role in multiple award-winning product ideas rising above powerhouse companies such as Litehouse, Marzetti and The Clorox Co., to name a few. Being a part of that amazing team and helping the company grow by about 140 percent in six years led me to my current position at F&S Produce Co. I’m sharing my knowledge and helping to build their newly formed product development department from the ground up. I take pride in being part of a family-owned company’s growth and success while developing products that are clean label, on trend, innovative and sustainable.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: During my sophomore year at Drexel I switched to a new major that had been added to the curriculum — culinary science. It opened many doors for me and made it possible to find a place in a field that has become my passion. It combined the inventive, fast-paced and delicious atmosphere of culinary arts with the realistic and research-based world of food science where I learned to think outside the box. Drexel helped provide me with a career that I love and it also gave me the opportunity to meet my fiancée Rachel. I feel fortunate that Drexel was able to pave the way for so many positive lifelong results, both personally and professionally.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: My plan is to seek a job as a director of food product development in my field. I fully expect to be in the kitchen getting my hands dirty and loving every minute of it while helping the company to grow and providing the type of invaluable mentoring I received throughout my early years.
Alicia Roberts Zumpino
MS PUBLIC COMMUNICATION ’05
ANCHOR AND REPORTER, CBS 46 ATLANTA
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Becoming the first in my family to graduate from college while self-financing my education was a huge accomplishment. In addition, I was the first in my family to earn a postgraduate degree, graduating debt free from Drexel thanks in part to scholarships I earned as Miss Philadelphia 2003 and first runner up at Miss Pennsylvania, a local Miss America affiliate. As an on-air TV broadcast journalist, I have had an incredible career as an anchor and sports reporter working for affiliates with NBC (Tampa), ABC (Cleveland) and CBS (Atlanta) as well as the Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves and Falcons. Highlights in my career include covering the 2008 World Series when the Phillies beat the Rays to win the championship, as well as the 2008 and 2016 elections, 2009 Super Bowl and 2017 Rose Bowl. My favorite part of the job is connecting with the people in the communities I work. I volunteer with many organizations and try to use the platform I have for positive change. For example, I am active in my community serving as an ambassador for the American Heart Association. Three months before I graduated from Drexel, my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack at age 54. Heart health is a message I champion for him and so many who are at risk. Finally, I am a proud “rescue mom” and volunteer my time with local animal shelters including PAWS (Chicago) and Best Friends (Atlanta). I also serve on the board of directors for the Miss Philadelphia Scholarship Organization.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel allowed me to study my field in a way that deepened and broadened my knowledge base. My job forces me to think critically about a variety of topics every day from politics, business, religion, and culture and repurpose information quickly and accurately. Drexel’s curriculum gave me the chance to do that with professors who brought “real-world” experiences into the classroom. One of my favorite classes featured the then–Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia who challenged us to break down policy headlines from the perspective of civil, moral, financial and resource considerations.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: Anchoring full-time at a network affiliate.
BS ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING ’13
DIGITAL MANAGER, PHILADELPHIA UNION
MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Finally finding an industry and a profession that keeps me engaged and tests my various skillsets on a daily basis. I am able to challenge myself in many different areas of my field. With an ever-changing digital landscape, being passionate about what I am doing is the ultimate accomplishment.
HOW DREXEL HELPED: Drexel has helped me in many ways, particularly the co-op program. My experience with the Philadelphia Union introduced me to the sports industry and the importance of marketing. Because of this experience and the connections I made, I currently am going into my second season as the MLS team’s digital manager, overseeing the digital strategy of the organization.
WHERE I’ll BE IN FIVE YEARS: I plan to still be doing digital strategy within professional soccer, whether it’s with the Union, MLS or some league overseas. With the 2026 World Cup on the horizon, being part of its organizing committee would be a dream come true.