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Speaker Information

November 5th

9:00am - Kristen Hammer, Business Development Director, Virgin Hyperloop

Kristen HAmmer Photo

Kristen Hammer serves as the Business Development Director at Virgin Hyperloop One, where she has risen through several engineering positions over the last four years. 

Kristin’s career began at Honda’s Advanced Materials Research Department.  She has since worked for SpaceX, GKN Aerospace, and Ace Clearwater enterprises, all in the welding field.

Kristen holds a B.S. in Welding Engineering from Ohio State University. While there, she served as Captain of the OSU Moonbuggy team from 2010-2011


11:00 am - F. Heath Damron, Ph.D., Director, Vaccine Development Center at WVU Health Sciences Center

Heath DAmron Photo

Background. My interest in science began when I was boy out in the woods collecting creatures and studying their properties. Before my first semester at college, I participated in a Health Careers Opportunity Program at West Virginia University (WVU) and this experience fully solidified my life and career goal to be a scientist. I obtained my BS, MS, and PhDs from Marshall University and then performed extensive postdoctoral training at

University of Virginia under multiple mentors. My life’s goals are to: 1) develop vaccines and therapeutics that will improve human health, 2) train the next generations of scientists, 3) bring opportunities to the State of WV.

Pertussis Research. I was fortunate to be recruited back to my home state and to the institution that first nurtured my scientific interests: WVU. My work is focused on vaccine development. Bordetella pertussis is a human-specific respiratory pathogen and the cause of whooping cough (pertussis). A major objective of our lab is to develop a new pertussis vaccine to decrease the overall burden of disease. The lab is currently supported by award NIH 1R01AI137155 which aims to “develop mucosal vaccines to protect against pertussis”.

  COVID-19 Research. In March 2020, WVU Health Sciences Center leadership formed a COVID-19 task force. I volunteered to facilitate serological assay development. In collaboration with departments of Biochemistry and Pathology, we have established ELISA protocols for detection of IgG antibodies that recognize the Receptor Binding Domain of spike and nucleocapsid of SARS-CoV-2. The assay will be submitted to the FDA within the

month and the State of WV is supporting the assay through the purchase of high throughput automation equipment. These activities activated my interest on COVID-19 vaccines and this proposal. I envisioned that we should investigate nasal immunization strategies and development of novel antigens to drive neutralizing antibody responses. As detailed in this proposal, I have formed a COVID-19-specific team of researchers (Co-Investigators, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, project manager, and have purposed one of my BSL2

laboratories entirely to the serology and studies detailed).

Service and Educational Activities. The Vaccine Development Center at WVU-Health Sciences is supported by the state of WV through a Research Challenge Grant. I serve as the Director of the Center and our goals are to fund and enhance vaccine research at WVU, develop interactions with vaccine industry partners, and provide new educational opportunities to STEM undergraduate and graduate students. I direct and instruct a 3-credit hour junior level undergraduate Bacterial Pathogenesis Course and a 4- credit senior undergraduate and PhD level course in Vaccinology. In my department, I serve as the Equipment Committee Chairman. I am the Cofounder of which is the communication hub of the International Society of Bordetella Research. I am also actively involved with the planning of the 13th and 14th International Symposiums on Bordetella to be held in 2022 and 2024. In summer 2019, I was elected to the seven-member Board of Directors of the International Bordetella Society. In August 2021, we will host Bordetella Research Days at WVU.


2:30pm - Jainli "John" Hu, Ph.D., Director, Center for Innovation in Gas and Research Utilization
John Hu Photo

Jianli Hu is chair professor and the director of Shale Gas Center at West Virginia University. He leads an interdisciplinary faculty team carrying out cutting-edge research in natural gas conversion as well as renewable energy utilization. 

Hu has demonstrated strong leadership in partnering with national laboratories in the United States and industrial companies to undertake a number of research projects funded by U.S. federal agencies. These research projects span across the fields of reaction engineering, surface chemistry, heterogeneous catalysis, plasma and microwave-enhanced catalytic reactions. Specifically, his research group at WVU is focused on microwave catalysis approaches to produce ammonia from renewable power under low pressure and temperature, chemicals and carbon nanomaterials from natural gas.

Prior to joining WVU, Hu worked as a research leader at Koch Industries, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and BP Oil. While working in industry, he led efforts in developing technologies for petroleum refineries and future biorefineries using biomass as a feedstock. The efforts had led to a number of acquisitions that facilitated technology commercialization. He has been granted 31 U.S. patents and published more than 150 journal articles, conference proceedings, technical reports and book chapters. 

Dr. Hu has been serving as an editor and a guest-editor for a number of peer-reviewed technical journals and one book. He has served in a number of industrial advisory boards including AIChE RAPID focus area lead. He has been chairing the "Advanced Fossil Energy Utilization” in AIChE national meetings.

At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Hu was among the key contributors in developing microchannel catalytic reactor technology which led to NASA Technology Brief Awards. Hu received his B.S. in chemistry and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Tsinghua University in China and completed his postdoctoral training at University of Pittsburgh.

  November 6th


1:00 pm - Craig Cochenour, R.Ph., Esq.

  Craig Cochenour photo          

Prior to joining Buchanan, Craig acted as in-house chief patent counsel of a publicly traded, industrial-based corporation. He also was a patent attorney with a major pharmaceutical and chemical company, where he was responsible for obtaining and enforcing the company's patents and trademark rights, and license management. He was associated with a large national law firm prior to his corporate patent law experience.

Craig is a registered pharmacist and is the recipient of Duquesne University's McPartland-Beck Pharmacy Award for clinical excellence, the American Jurisprudence Award for Law and Medicine, and the Order of Barristers Award for excellence through the art of courtroom advocacy. He has been inducted into the Century Club of Distinguished Duquesne University Alumni.

Craig has lectured and authored publications on intellectual property matters both domestically and in Europe. He has been a frequent invited guest lecturer on patent, trademark, and FDA topics at both the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Duquesne University School of Law. Craig is the current Chair of the Dean's Advisory Council, Mylan School of Pharmacy, Duquesne University.


1:00 pm - Duane Stewart, II. Esq.

  Duane Stewart III photo

Duane integrates complex science and legal matters at a high level. He specializes in explaining complex intellectual property law concepts in a way that is accessible. Duane is the co-chair of the firm’s Chemical Practice Group.

Duane focuses on patent prosecution, portfolio management and litigation; trademark procurement and portfolio management; and analysis and due diligence for transactions including intellectual property (IP). He also has experience with copyright and trade secret law.

His patent practice includes preparation and prosecution of domestic and foreign utility and design patents in the pharmaceuticals, fragrance, home products and biotechnology fields. Duane has obtained multiple foreign and domestic patents in industrial water purification. He has significant experience managing international patent portfolios, having made and managed filings in more than 30 jurisdictions. He has taken an active role in priority determinations in patent interferences and has participated in litigations involving allegations of patent infringement and copyright infringement. Duane’s particular patent focus is on use of PCT filings to obtain wide territorial coverage while satisfying the applicant’s business goals.

Duane’s trademark practice includes all phases of procurement and enforcement, including knockout searches, clearance opinions, watches, filings and oppositions. He has supervised foreign trademark filing both directly and through the Madrid Protocol, and he has filed foreign-origin applications in the United States.

Duane is a shareholder in the firm’s Intellectual Property Section and co-chair of its Chemical Practice Group. Before joining Buchanan, served for two years as a judicial law clerk with the Honorable David A. Katz of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo, Ohio.


2:30pm - Patrick Browning, Ph.D

Patrick Browning photo

Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, West Virginia University, 2009  

B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, West Virginia University, 2005 
A.A. in Mechanical Engineering, Potomac State College of WVU, 2003

After earning his bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from WVU's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department in 2005, Dr. Patrick Browning entered the department's fast track program and successfully defended his dissertation to earn his doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2009. His time as a student at WVU gave him a broad range of research and engineering consulting experience in such areas as fixed-wing and coaxial rotorcraft UAV design and performance analysis, low speed wind tunnel testing, NG pipeline acoustics, gas ejector systems, wing circulation and boundary layer control, transient flow characterization of high speed valves, controlled autoignition combustion, small scale heavy fuel engine development, and hot-dip steel galvanizing airknife design.

Before accepting his current position in 2014, Dr. Browning held the position of Research Assistant Professor at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. His most recent work has been focused primarily on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), experimental aerodynamics and aero structural design, with particular emphasis in Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) and related low Reynolds number applications. Browning has instructed several undergraduate courses at WVU including Introduction to Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Design, Introduction to Aerospace Engineering, Flight Vehicle Propulsion, and Guided Missile Systems.


2:30pm - Joseph Dygert, Ph.D. Candidate

Joseph Dygert photo

I am a current Ph.D student studying Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University (WVU). I received my BSAE and BSME(with minor in Physics) in 2012 from WVU and my MSAE  in 2015 also from WVU. My Masters research was on the efficacy of a dielectric barrier discharge device's ability to alter flow separation over a wing.  Since 2014 I have worked as a Federal Technical Project Officer, managing federal research grants, and Emergency Response Coordinator for the United States Department Of Energy.   I've managed an assortment of research projects with an area of research emphasis in electric grid modeling and event/disturbance detection. Since 2016 I have been a Graduate Assistant for the Academy of Engineering Success (AcES) in the Fundamentals of Engineering Program At WVU. The AcES program aims at increasing the diversity of the engineering field through assistance to underrepresented groups in engineering. 


3:00pm - Deborah Magyar, In-Tech Program Director, WV SBDC

Deborah Magyar photo  

D eborah Magyar is the Innovation & Technology Program Manager at the WV Small Business Development Center.  In that role, she acts as a strategic business advisor and financial analyst for small to mid-sized organizations. She has experience launching new enterprises through the development of strategic business plans and optimizing capital resources, throughout the business lifecycle to launch, run, and grow a business.

Deborah also advises entrepreneurs and researchers to learn more about identifying SBIR/STTR opportunities and best practices for submitting successful applications for business expansion and commercialization opportunities.

Ms. Magyar also emphasizes, “My high level goal is to serve as a business resource to fill the gaps of what I searched for my entire career; practical, comprehensive, reliable, and affordable strategies that can be easily implemented and produce results based upon the past experiences I have navigated.”


3:00pm - Richard Giersch, Founder & CEO, Valtari Bio

  Richard Giersch Photo

Rich Giersch is the Strategic Advisor for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to Life Science Washington Institute and in that role Rich works on connecting entrepreneurial support resources across the state and leads the development and delivery of new Institute programs and services. In West Virginia he works with TechConnect WV to deliver SBIR/STTR workshops and mentor start-up companies, serves as Chairman of the Board for the Bioscience Association of West Virginia, and was the founding CEO of Valtari Bio.

  Prior to joining LSWI Rich held Director level positions at two venture capital firms, was the chief operating officer of a biotech company in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and the Chief Science Officer for the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials at Rutgers University.  He has helped companies secure over $100 million in federal funding, tax, and relocation incentives and written over $15M in successful SBIR/STTR applications.


3:00pm - Erienne Olesh, Ph.D., Director, Vantage Ventures

Erienne Olesh photo  

Erienne Olesh holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at West Virginia University and a B.S. in exercise physiology for the University of Puget Sound.  Erienne serves as the Director of West Virginia University Vantage Ventures and is focused on building strategic partnerships with industry leaders and commercializing university intellectual property. Erienne previously held the position of Associate Director for the Health Sciences Innovation Center at West Virginia University where she worked directly with researchers to solicit, protect and commercialize novel biomedical technology, advise small business and startup companies, and educate the West Virginia University community on entrepreneurship and commercialization.  Before moving to WVU Erienne worked as a biomechanical consultant with Crocs shoe company to develop and prototype new shoes.


Ph.D., Neuroscience, West Virginia University. (2011-March, 2017)
B.S., Exercise Science, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington


  3:00pm - Carrie White, Ed.D., Executive Director, LaunchLab Network

  Carrie White photo

Dr. Carrie White is the Executive Director of the WVU Launchlab Network. She is also a Teaching Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Chambers College of Business and Economics. Carrie is responsible for the WVU IDEA Hub which consists of multidisciplinary collaboration in Innovation across the campus.  This includes coordination of the IDEA Faculty Fellows, under the office of Academic Affairs. 

Carrie helps provide resources and networking support for students engaged in idea generation and development through the commercialization process.  She also develops and coordinates the programming and events hosted by the Launchlab.

Dr. White received her BS and MBA degrees in business administration from Franciscan University, J.D from Duquesne University Law School, and Ed.D. from West Virginia University.  She has worked in entrepreneurship education since 2004 as a professor of business law and entrepreneurship. She has developed and taught entrepreneurship curriculum both for the classroom and online. Prior to working in higher education, she started, owned and operated businesses specialization in sport and fitness in the Pittsburgh, PA region.