2012-2013 Student Ambassadors

Meet the 2012-2013 Student Ambassadors

Ala'a Siam

Ala’a Siam is a rising sophomore originating from Jerusalem and studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Ala’a has a broad range of academic interests: he is double majoring in electrical-computer engineering and chemical-biological engineering, while minoring in urban planning and chemistry. Ala’a is enthusiastic about synthetic biology, and tries to bring his multiple interests together around this theme. He aims to connect bioelectronics, applied physics, chemical biology, bioreactor engineering, and biosafety planning to empower synthetic biology. Eventually, he aims to earn an MD-PHD, which he believes will enable him to contribute to synthetic biology research, clinical trials, and entrepreneurship.


Ala’a has spent most of his summer working in the Weiss Lab at MIT on iGEM (international Genetically Engineering Machines), the world’s premier, collegiate synthetic biology contest. In addition, Ala’a conducts research in protein engineering at the Langer Lab and in political regulations of synthetic biology with professor Kenneth Oye. His work was presented this summer in Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC. Ala’a is also working on launching a program that will introduce synthetic biology to the Middle East as a common research and entrepreneurship practice among gifted Palestinian and Israeli students.


Ala’a has many interests outside the lab and classroom. He is a member of MIT’s varsity sailing team, bio-manufacturing consortium, telemedicine initiative SANA, and low-tech initiative Takachar. He has also acquired many leadership positions in MIT’s student organizations: he is the distinguished lecture series chair of MIT’s biomedical engineering society, co-founder of MIT’s chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicine, and treasurer of Middle East Education though Technology (a peace-building project between Palestinians and Israelis).


In his free time, Ala’a enjoys working out and playing pool and table tennis. He is beginning to grow interest in motor boat racing.


Amanda Ruppert

Amanda Ruppert is from Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. She is currently a junior at Bucknell University majoring in Chemical Engineering. On campus Amanda is a Presidential Fellow and research assistant investigating the formation of polymer nanoparticles. She is also very involved in her student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Amanda has attended a regional and national AIChE conference to compete in the ChemE Car competition and is currently serving as the chapter’s External Vice President for the second year of a two-year term. As External Vice President she attends and participates in the Bucknell Engineering Alumni Association (BEAA) Board of Directors meetings as student representative. 


Before attending Bucknell University Amanda earned her Girl Scout Gold Award by planning a local health fair. She continued her philanthropic interests by joining Chi Omega Fraternity. She is also involved in the arts on campus and enjoys dancing, acting and playing various musical instruments. As a freshman Amanda participated in the Arts Residential College and became involved in planning events for the Residential Colleges as a Resident Fellow her sophomore year. Building on her experience as a Resident Fellow, she will be a Residential Assistant for a Harry Potter themed house in the Affinity Housing program.


Amanda’s interest in entrepreneurship began when she participated in a program made possible by a Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) Grant. The KEEN Winter Interdisciplinary Design Experience (K-WIDE) is a new program at Bucknell that allows students to come back early from winter break and work with a team of interdisciplinary engineering students to solve an open-ended problem. Amanda further developed her skills as a leader and future entrepreneur through the Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management (ILTM) at Bucknell this past summer.


Andrew Pennington

Andrew Pennington is a junior public relations major at Eastern Kentucky University. In 2011 he won the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Collegiate Business Concept Challenge for his innovative business idea and newly launched company, “Contractor Yard Sale,” an online classified database for construction contractors and suppliers to buy and sell surplus and salvage building materials.


Lucas Arzola

Lucas Arzola is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering with a designated emphasis in Biotechnology at University of California-Davis, where he seeks to develop the use of tobacco plants as a quick and inexpensive manufacturing platform for the transient production of vaccines and therapeutic proteins. Prior to attending UC Davis, he graduated in 2007 from University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez with a B.S in Industrial Biotechnology. 


Arzola was the team leader of Inserogen, the first prize winner of the 2010 Big Bang! Business Plan Competition at UC Davis, which developed a concept for a venture based on his research. Grants from NCIIA and the NSF Innovation Corps program have allowed him to explore the commercialization potential of his research. Upon his Ph.D. graduation, Arzola plans to launch Inserogen as a biotechnology startup company. 


Arzola’s interests include biotechnology, biochemical engineering, and entrepreneurship. In his free time, he enjoys reading and playing sports, especially basketball. As a student ambassador, his goal is to connect student and faculty entrepreneurs with NCIIA’s initiatives and university resources to help UC Davis become a more entrepreneurial campus.


Christina Oelsner

Christina Oelsner, a sophomore at Wake Forest University, hopes to major in Business Enterprise Management and minor in Entrepreneurship and Psychology. Her research interests include the study of virtual companies and networking to better understand the importance of marketing and consumer behavioral patterns. 


After being awarded a grant from the Chamber of Commerce, Christina participated in an entrepreneurship independent study last spring collaborating with three seniors, a sophomore, and Professor Elizabeth Baker, to run a start-up, virtual company selling a patented martial arts product known as MATTS (Martial Arts Total Training System). Next year, she will solely run the sales and marketing side of the company with the help of Dr. Baker. This experience won her the entrepreneurship accolade, “Freshman Award for Future Impact.”


Deniz Pamucku
Deniz is currently completing an M.S. in Technical Entrepreneurship at Lehigh University. Deniz works as a consultant with PuriTek, a local startup technology company, investigating new biocidal materials for possible use in the commercial market. In his spare time, an avid mechanic and auto enthusiast, Deniz competes in various auto sports events.


Fletcher Richman

Fletcher Richman is a rising Junior in Electrical Engineering at CU Boulder. He is the CEO and founder of the College Life Guide, www.clguide.com, a socially driven site for discovering university amenities. He is also the president of the Active Entrepreneurs at CU Boulder, a student club dedicated to building a community of student-founded companies, and helping them get more investors, customers, and knowledge. This summer he has been working for IBM helping maintain and analyze data center electrical and mechanical infrastructure.


Isaac Sanchez

Isaac Sanchez is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying Mechanical Engineering. In the past three years, he has honed his technical and managerial skills in order to excel academically and socially at the UT Austin. On top of his academic work, he has been heavily involved with Pi Sigma Pi: Minority Academic Society (Pi). He was elected to be Academic Coordinator at Pi for the academic year 2011-2012, and has collaborated with fellow officers to increase Pi membership from 140 to 170 paid members. He will continue to serve the Pi community as the Vice President of External Affairs for the 2012-2013 academic year. Additionally, he has worked as an Equal Opportunity tutor to help colleagues with challenging engineering courses. He has worked to improve his leadership and communication skills as a participant of the respectable LeaderShape program held by the Cockrell School of Engineering. Recently, as recognition of his leadership, involvement and academic success, he has received the Unrestricted Endowed Presidential (UEP) Scholarship, one of the most prestigious awards available at UT Austin. In addition, he is  working with Professor Michael Webber and Research Analyst Roger Duncan, on a white paper about voltage optimization as part of an educational packet for utilities and the Environmental Defense Fund.


Jeremy Klaben

Jeremy Klaben will be a senior at the University of Michigan studying business. He is currently a Peer Advisor at the Center for Entrepreneurship through U of M's College of Engineering and has also been an active leader orchestrating TEDxUofM 2011 and 2012. He plans to start his own healthy fast casual restaurant when he graduates from college. Although he failed at his first start up in 2011 after a full year of hard work he learned many valuable lessons from the entire experience, and can  say that he is so much smarter because of it. He plans to start his own healthy fast casual restaurant when he graduates from college.


John Oliver

John Oliver is currently a senior at Penn State University, studying in Energy, Business and Finance with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. He is involved in various student Entrepreneurial activities at Penn State University.  In 2011, he founded a technology startup company named Sehox Technologies LLC. The company has 3 employees and a summer intern. Sehox Technologies is gearing for DEMO 2012, which is a DEMO conference held throughout the world which focuses on emerging technologies and new product innovation. Here Sehox Technologies aims to showcase our latest products. As part of co-op education John has worked at Robert Bosch as an Industrial Engineer in early 2010. In 2011, he then interned for The Boeing Company as a Procurement Financial Analyst doing supplier management for Boeing 737, 747, 777. Currently he is interning at Boeing Defense and Space system as an Engineering Estimator for the Chinook helicopter.


John has a strong interest in Entrepreneurship right from his young days. He wanted to make an impact around him, one step at a time. He is part of the Pittsburg Technology Council, Innoblue and other Penn State Entrepreneurship clubs. He enjoys working on projects and conducting case studies related to sustainability, using technology to build a better society and finding ways to improve our daily lives. During his free time, he enjoys playing soccer, tennis, hiking and other outdoor adventure sports.


Kinshuk Mitra

Kinshuk Mitra is a junior studying Biomedical Engineering at the Ohio State University. He is a patent holding inventor, researcher and a 2012 fellow of the Pelotonia Cancer Research program. He plans to graduate in 2014 with a strong understanding of devices that mediate between human skin biology/sensory systems and the digital world. 


Kinshuk is the current founder of the Student Innovation Initiative at the Ohio State University. The organization brings experiential learning simulations to students and increases the awareness level to promote opportunity identification and proclivity towards innovation. He also led the creation of a class on Innovation and Entrepreneurship for cross-disciplinary learning.


He loves debating, documentaries and food. Cultural immersion is one of his favorite and most expensive pastimes.


Nishant Ganesh Kumar

Nishant Ganesh Kumar, who is currently a rising senior in Biomedical Engineering at John Hopkins University, came to study in the United States in the fall of 2009 with the dream of graduating from one of the leading biomedical institutions in the United States. He grew up in the Middle Eastern city of Dubai, which he considers a melting pot of creeds and nationalities, where Middle Eastern values mix with those of the rest of the world.


In his junior year at Johns Hopkins University, Nishant was selected to be a Design Team Leader. The Design Team course comprises numerous biomedical projects where student teams work together towards proposing solutions to existing clinical or global health problems. Nishant lead a team of undergraduates working to redevelop the punch biopsy procedure. The team had identified many clinical and procedural problems with the current punch biopsy process. After 8 laborious months, the team arrived at a possible solution in addressing the various limitations of the current standard of care. The aim of the project is to make it faster and easier compared to the current standard, and more importantly, the new method is estimated to be about 80% cheaper than the current procedure. He has worked to ensure that all team members are happy with the work they do, and he’s worked hard to ensure a constant flow of communication amongst all parties working on the project.


Nishant is also involved actively in research in a collaborative setting between Neurology and Biomedical Engineering. His research looks into the properties of axonal regeneration in the context of axonal injury. 


Apart from his endeavors in the Biomedical Engineering department, Nishant has been an active member in the Johns Hopkins Jail Tutorial program since his freshman year. As a part of the program, he tutors inmates at the Baltimore City Detention Center. He took the tutoring experience a step further by pioneering a program that incorporates the use of computers to teach the inmates, to ensure they received the most of their tutoring experience.  He plans to continue his work on the punch biopsy project and his other pursuits at Johns Hopkins.  His current plans are to apply to medical school to become a physician. He hopes to integrate his engineering knowledge with an education at medical school. Apart from his clinical endeavors, he hopes to continue his work in device development.


Sean Maroni

Sean Maroni is a junior in Mechanical Engineering at North Carolina State University.He also serves as the President of the Entrepreneurship Initiative Ambassadors on campus. As the student branch of the NC State EI, the ambassadors exist to build a rich campus-wide entrepreneurial community. What he loves most about his role is providing fellow students with the resources, support, and freedom to pursue their passions. He is all about helping motivated students learn to use entrepreneurship as a source of financial support and personal fulfillment. He thinks this important mission pairs nicely with his own long term goal of helping build a 100% sustainable future. He believes this is the biggest issue of our time, and an army of inspired young innovators is just what the earth needs. He is looking forward to working with other NCIIA ambassadors, and using what he learns to bring more value to his organization and peers.


Sharang  Phadke

Sharang Phadke is  an electrical engineering student at The Cooper Union, and an IBM Thomas Watson Scholar. He serves as the Assistant Administrative Chair on the Engineering Student Council, and was a representative to the Revenue Task Force, a committee elected to develop new revenue solutions for Cooper Union. He has completed a technical internship at FX Alliance, where he developed a network analysis program. He enjoys various outdoor activities including backpacking and rock climbing, and is an Eagle Scout. He also runs Cross Country at Cooper Union, and is captain of the men's team.


Tayler Swanson

Tayler Swanson is a RIT student studying Electrical/Mechanical Engineering Technology. He enjoys engineering innovative solutions to all aspects of life--food, sustainability, electronics and everything in between. He works well with others and loves to  get involved in many diverse projects. He plays a variety of sports from lacrosse to basketball and belongs to many clubs, including the RIT Center for Student Innovation Fellows, RIT Student Music Association, Habitat for Humanity, and Energy Innovation Club.  HIs motto is, like many influential people before him, is Carpe Diem.

Zineb Laraki

Zineb Laraki graduated from Stanford University in 2012 with a Bachelors of Science in Symbolic Systems with a individually designed concentration in Product Development and Design Thinking. She is currently working on a Masters in Earth Systems at Stanford University. During here time at Stanford, Zineb has been involved with the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES) serving such roles as VP of the Social Entrepreneurship Challenge and VP of External Relations next year. Zineb is passionate about emerging technology, alternative energy, and developing economies. She hopes to pursue her passion by helping promote entrepreneurship and innovation in Morocco.


Jack Goodwin

Jack Goodwin is an Aerospace Engineering major at UC San Diego. Jack has studied abroad at the University of Cambridge in England and has interned for Boeing where he worked on unmanned aerial vehicles. In his free time, Jack enjoys entrepreneurial activities and building multiple kinds of aerospace vehicles with fellow students, some of which include rockets and quad-copters. He is also an avid soccer player and surfer.