Q: What do you bring to Intellectual Ventures Laboratory? What is your background and more specifically, what accomplishments have led you to where you are now?
I have a PhD in chemistry, post-doctoral training in chemical engineering and biotechnology, and 13 years of experience in both the chemistry and biotechnology industries. This year, I came to IV Lab directly from the biotechnology company I co-founded 7 years ago to convert biomass into renewable fuels and chemicals. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about building teams and organizations to develop and commercialize high impact technologies and I am eager to apply those skills to the exciting work going on at IV Lab.
Q: What do you do at the Lab?
Currently, I am building out the Lab’s chemistry facilities and team so that we have the bandwidth to take on more chemistry, biotechnology, and food science projects. For example, we can now do our own analytical chemistry and have chemists on staff to bring new perspectives to the Lab’s projects.
Q: What makes working at the Lab unique?
I really like the multidisciplinary approach to problem solving at the Lab and, as a bona fide foodie, I love working next to the Modernist Cuisine kitchen. My professional career has always been focused on big issues like energy and the environment, so I also really like that a majority of the projects at the Lab are focused on doing good in the world.
Q: What are you reading right now?
Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food by Josh Schonwald.
In my opinion, the biggest technical feat accomplished by mankind is our ability to grow enough food to feed 7 billion people, and counting. I am fascinated by the history of how we managed to pull this off – from the early 20th century Haber-Bosch process which turns nitrogen from the air into fertilizer to modern gene manipulation technologies, and all the brute force plant breeding that went on in between. In this book, the author sets out to find the perfect mix of salad greens, and ends up discovering that innovative technology is necessary to keep the world fed.
Q: Who is your favorite scientist/engineer/inventor?
I have a lot of scientific heroes, but my favorite one by far is Norman Borlaug, the American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate often called “the father of the Green Revolution” (1914-2009). He dedicated his life to eliminating hunger by any means necessary and as a result saved hundreds of millions of lives. I loved his work ethic – he was a doer who spent most of his life in hot dusty fields cross breeding wheat strains – and his single minded focus on solving important problems with whatever technology he could get his hands on.