Our faculty members bring together grounded theory and practical experience in entrepreneurship. Advisors in the ecosystem are available to offer support, advice and mentorship.
Head of Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative
Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship
Director, Entrepreneurship Initiative
Research and Undergraduate Education
Executive Director, RCEL
Associate Director, RCEL
Malcolm Gillis University Professor
Associate Professor of Finance and Entrepreneurship
Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship
Head of Entrepreneurship Initiative
Professor Hochberg’s research and teaching interests are focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and the financing of entrepreneurial activity. She is also considered one of the foremost experts on accelerator programs, and serves as Managing Director of the annual Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. In addition to her doctorate in finance from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, she holds an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and a masters degree in Economics from Stanford University. She has previously held faculty positions at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, and was employed in the technology industry in both larger and startup companies.
Director, Entrepreneurship Initiative
Research and Undergraduate Education
Dr. Larson is Director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative with a focus on research and undergraduate education. As a sociologist, Dr. Larson’s research examines how individuals and institutions think and learn. Dr. Larson received her B.A. with honors in International Relations and her M.A. in Sociology from Stanford University, and holds a Ph.D in Sociology from New York University. She has been honored with numerous special grants and fellowships, including post-doctoral appointments at Harvard, Stanford and at the University of California, Berkeley, among others. She has also served as a Visiting Scholar at Oxford University, Goethe University, and the Free University in Germany. In addition to her scholarship, which has been funded by organizations such as the National Science Foundation, Larson’s teaching credentials include university courses both in the United States and abroad. Most recently, she worked to organize and participated in a national faculty experts’ panel on future directions in undergraduate education, facilitated by the Social Science Research Council and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. www.abby-larson.com.
Entrepreneurship Initiative Program Manager
Caitlin Bolanos is the Program Manager for the Entrepreneurship Initiative. Caitlin joined the team from UK Trade & Investment, the economic development arm of the British Foreign Commonwealth Office. In her previous role, she supported US companies launch in European markets and British companies establish a presence in the US. She focused her efforts supporting companies in the hardware, software, and creative media space in both Texas and Northern California, thus working with both large corporations as well as early stage ventures. Caitlin earned a B.A. from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and her Masters of International Affairs from Texas A&M University.
Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship & IT
Al Danto is the managing partner of the Danto Burks Group which advises the owners of privately held companies in developing and completing exit strategies, valuations and due diligence representation. He is also a partner in Danto Langerud investments which makes investments and actively manages businesses in a variety of industries. Al has over 25 years’ experience with startup and entrepreneurial companies as well as expertise in the acquisition and divestiture of business interests. He started Structured Graphics at the age of 24 and grew the company through a series of acquisitions into one of the southwest’s largest printing and document management businesses. The company was acquired in 2000 by a Private Equity Group. After selling the company he went on to fund and launch several enterprises, including Universal Worker, an international health care recruitment firm, Arcemus which was sold to publicly traded Iron Mountain and partnered with Roger Burks to acquire and rebrand a small finance and accounting staffing company which rapidly grew by meeting the needs of the Sarbannes Oxley act. Al has served as lead representative on a wide range of business acquisitions and has proven experience working with lenders, private equity groups and individual purchasers. He has served on a variety of boards, including the alumni board of the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University and the Entrepreneurs Organization. Al received his undergraduate degree in business administration and mathematics from Central Michigan University and an MBA from Rice University.
Part-Time Lecturer in Management
Clinical Assistant Professor at University of Houston
Dr. Hesam Panahi is a clinical assistant professor at the C.T. Bauer College of Business and the founder of RED Labs, the University of Houston’s startup accelerator. He currently teaches courses in management information systems, computer science, entrepreneurship, and industrial design. Dr. Panahi is also the organizing faculty member for 3 Day Startup, a technology entrepreneurship education program where students start building companies over the course of three days.
Danielle earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Economics, and Policy Studies from Rice University in Houston, TX, and her Master of Science in Accountancy from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA.
She is a Certified Public Account (CPA) in the State of Texas, a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiner, a Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) from the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts, and has a Certificate in International Financial Reporting (CertIFR) from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in the United Kingdom.
Danielle is a member of the PCPS Technical Issues Committee with the American Institute for CPAs, a National Vice President for the American Woman’s Society of CPAs, a Past President of the Houston Affiliate of the American Woman’s Society of CPAs, was a recipient of the Woman of Excellence Award by the Federation of Houston Professional Women, and is a 2014 Texas Society of CPA’s Rising Star, and was named a 40 under 40 by the CPA Practice Advisor. Danielle also sits on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants GenNext Task Force and formerly sat on the Woman’s Initiative Executive Committee Champions Task Force.
Danielle is a member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA), and is a member of the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). She is a frequent lecturer on the accounting needs of private companies. Danielle is also passionate about teaching financial literacy and is a regular teacher and is the incoming VP of Finance for the Woman’s Resource Center of Greater Houston.
Associate Professor of Business and Public Policy
Douglas Schuler is Associate Professor of Business and Public Policy. Dr. Schuler’s principal research interests are corporate political activity, public policy, and corporate social responsibility. His research articles have been published in many top academic outlets, including the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Business and Politics, Business Ethics Quarterly, Business & Society, California Management Review, Journal of Management, and Strategic Management Journal. A member of the Jones School faculty since 1992, Dr. Schuler has taught many courses, most recently Business-Government Relations, International Trade, Globalization of Business, and Social Enterprise. He has received several teaching and service awards at Rice, including the 1997 JGS Award for Teaching Excellence, 1997 Rice Graduate Students Association Teaching Award, and the 2006 Rice Graduate Students Association Faculty/Staff Service Award.
Dr. Schuler studied at the University of California, Berkeley (B.S., Business Administration) and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D., Strategic Management, School of Management).
At Rice, Dr. Schuler serves on the Executive Committee for Rice 360 Institute for Global Health Technologies.
Assistant Professor of Accounting
Eric Floyd is an Assistant Professor in the Jones School of Business at Rice University. His research focuses on financial modeling, financial reporting, and disclosure, and has been published in leading journals. Eric holds a PhD and MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BA in Economics from the University of Chicago.
Lecturer in Management
Aziz Gilani has spent the past 15 years focused on software and the internet. Prior to joining Mercury Fund, Aziz was a Senior Engagement Leader with Infosys Consulting, an early executive at ABB Performance Services, a Senior Consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and an Analyst at Lotus Development Corp. Aziz received his BBA from the University of Texas where he was a TILF Scholar, and his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where he was an FC Austin Scholar, Kellogg Board Fellow, and Chairman of the Kellogg Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference. In addition, Aziz is a graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program through the Center for Venture Education, where he completed industry-defining field work in Seed Accelerators. Aziz is a recognized expert in Seed Accelerators, and has been quoted in several national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, ReadWriteWeb, TechCocktail, and The Business Journals.
Outside of Mercury, Aziz serves in advisory roles for TechStars, the Knight Foundation, and TIE Houston. He is also an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business where he teaches a course on venture capital.
Professor of Management
Dr. Haiyang Li is Professor of Strategic Management and Innovation at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, Rice University. He earned a Bachelor and a Master in economics from Renmin University of China and received a Ph.D. from City University of Hong Kong. Before joining Rice University, he was on the faculty of Department of Management at Texas A&M University.
Dr. Li’s research interests focus on technology entrepreneurship and innovation (particularly in China’s transition economy), strategic alliances and multinational firms’ innovation in emerging markets, as well as the growth of China’s technology clusters. His articles on the above issues have appeared in Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Marketing, Organization Science, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Management and Organization Review, Journal of High Technology Management Research, Journal of International Marketing, and others.
Brad Burke is the Managing Director of the Rice Alliance. Most recently, he founded and managed the local office of Viant Corporation, a premier internet consulting firm, delivering internet strategy, creative design, and web technology implementation. Viant went public through an IPO in 1999. Prior to Viant, Brad was a Principal with CSC Index, the management consulting division of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Before consulting, Brad held management positions with Exxon Corporation. He received his M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and his B.S. from Vanderbilt University.
Mary Lynn Fernau
Director of Marketing
Mary Lynn Fernau is the Director of Marketing for the Rice Alliance. Mary Lynn shares the entrepreneurial spirit fostered by the Rice Alliance, having launched a successful child safety product and serving as a child safety advisor to cities of New York and Houston. Previously, Mary Lynn led her own independent marketing and strategic planning consultancy with clients including Korn Ferry International, AIG, UT-Health Science Center at Houston and Texas Children’s Hospital. She received her B.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and will earn her MLS degree from Rice University June 2015.
Lea Aden Lueck
Director of the Rice Business Plan Competition
Lea Aden is the Director of the Rice Business Plan Competition. Prior to joining the Rice Alliance, Lea Aden served as Associate Director, Kids and Family Ministry, First Presbyterian Church. While there, she led all aspects of the children’s ministry department serving the 4000 member church including program development, budget administration, recruitment, training, management and evaluation of more than 300 volunteers and paid staff. Her corporate roles included recruiting positions for Andersen Consulting, The Boston Consulting Group, Comerica Bank, KPMG and Aquent. Lea Aden is a graduate of Texas A & M University.
Director of Operations and Event Planning
Quynhmai Nguyen is the Director of Operations and Event Planning for the Rice Alliance. Prior to joining the Rice Alliance, she worked in public affairs at Baylor College of Medicine. Quynhmai graduated with a B.A. in Sociology (cum laude) from Rice University in 2000 and earned her J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Texas.
Noy Shemer is the Program Specialist for the Rice Alliance. Prior to joining the Rice Alliance, Noy worked for Digital Impact Agency as the Inbound Marketing Coordinator, and served as the Property Manager and Web & Graphic Designer for The Shemer Group. Noy graduated with a B.B.A. in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the nationally recognized Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston. During her undergraduate studies, she was the recipient of the Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship and the Tier One Scholarship, and was recognized for her entrepreneurial success in leading a U of H business plan team to first and third place victories at two national business plan competitions.
Associate Managing Director
Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship
Kerri J. Smith is the Associate Managing Director for the Rice Alliance. Kerri has broad experience in developing programs and strategies that help maximize the success of technology-based startups. Her experience includes entrepreneurship, startup acceleration, educational programming, technology licensing, and commercialization. During her 14 years at the Houston Advanced Research Center, Kerri provided leadership, oversight, and strategic direction for commercialization and technology transfer initiatives. In 2004, Kerri joined Rice University where she currently serves as the Associate Managing Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Rice’s flagship initiative for entrepreneurship education and startup formation. Additionally, Kerri manages the Rice University startup accelerator (OwlSpark) and the NSF sponsored I-Corps Grant program. In all positions, she plays a lead role in encouraging and accelerating the formation of technology-based startups in the areas of energy, clean technology, life science and information technology.
Kaz Karwowski joined RCEL as Executive Director in July 2013 after four years with the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program as a Leadership Specialist. He previously served for 20 years as a leader in the U.S. Army Infantry Branch and brings extensive experience developing leaders. Among his relevant positions in the Army were as a Platoon Sergeant of a 55-soldier infantry platoon in Iraq and as a leader with the 10th Mountain Division in Mogadishu, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He spent five years of his military career on college campuses or instructing leadership for the Army and was directly involved in the instruction, advising, mentoring and coaching of emerging leaders and students. During his time with MIT’s Army ROTC program, he was responsible for the leadership development of students from MIT, Harvard, Tufts, Salem State, Gordon and Wellesley College.
Dr. Michael Evans is an independent consultant specializing in technology and financial management in high technology companies. He has over 20 years of experience in the energy and environmental area, including air pollution control technology analysis, combustion systems R&D, and electric utility end-use R&D. He has additional experience in aerospace reentry R&D and electronic radio frequency identification product development. His background includes founder and executive positions (COO, CFO, and VP) in three start-ups in both product and engineering services companies. For 15 years prior to relocating to Houston in 2005, Mike was at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, CA. He served as Director of Subsidiary Operations, including Chairman of the Board of two subsidiaries, and as an executive (COO, CFO, and VP) in several other subsidiaries.
Since moving to Houston, Mike has spent the majority of his time coaching and mentoring technology start-ups. He is a volunteer mentor at the Houston Technology Center and is on the advisory boards of Rice Alliance’s Energy and IT Venture Forums. His particular interest is in clarifying presentations and business plans, especially business value propositions. He also provides financial planning assistance and analysis.
He has undergraduate degrees from Rice University and MS and PhD degrees from Stanford University.
Professor in the Practice of Engineering Education
Director, Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Maria Oden has more than 15 years of combined academic, research, clinical experience in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in orthopaedic bioemechanics and computational modeling. This work is also supported by three years of experience in computational modeling working with engineering consultants at Sage-Crisp Engineering in Houston, TX.
Since joining the Department of Bioengineering as a lecturer and laboratory coordinator in 2004, Oden has collaborated with Rice faculty members to develop capstone engineering design programs for undergraduate students in both the bioengineering and Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) programs. In 2012, the BTB program was chosen as a model program by Science magazine and awarded the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction; and in 2013, the hands-on engineering education program was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation for bringing life-saving health solutions to the developing world.
As director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, an appointment received in 2008, Oden orchestrates engineering education initiatives in the school of engineering that provide students from multiple departments in the George R. Brown School of Engineering, Wiess School of Natural Sciences, and the School of Humanities with unique hands-on design experience and opportunities to test and carry ideas to their intended point of application. She has also developed several core undergraduate laboratory courses where she emphasizes open-ended problem solving as part of the laboratory exercises.
Malcolm Gillis University Professor
Director, Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies
Director, Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering
Founder, Beyond Traditional Borders
For two decades, Rebecca Richards-Kortum has focused on translating research that integrates advances in nanotechnology and molecular imaging with microfabrication technologies to develop optical imaging systems that are inexpensive, portable, and provide point-of-care diagnosis. This basic and translational research is highly collaborative and has led to new technologies to improve the early detection of cancers and other diseases, especially in impoverished settings.
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) use micro-scale technology to design low-cost, reusable platforms for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics. When used with contrast agents, these rugged and portable optical imaging systems detect molecular signatures of pre-cancer, assess tumor margins, and monitor a patient’s response to therapy. Current systems are being tested and applied through multidisciplinary collaborations with clinicians and researchers at Rice, the UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, UT Health Science Center-Houston, UT at Austin, the University of Arizona, and the British Columbia Cancer Agency. Over the past few years, Richards-Kortum and collaborators have translated these technologies from North America to both low- and medium-resource developing countries (Botswana, India, Taiwan, Mexico, and Brazil).
Richards-Kortum’s research has led to the development of 29 patents. She is author of the textbook Biomedical Engineering for Global Health published by Cambridge University Press (2010), more than 230 refereed research papers and 11 book chapters. Her teaching programs, research and collaborations have been supported by generous grants from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Whitaker Foundation, and the Virginia and L.E. Simmons Family Foundation.
Amy Kavalewitz stewards the support for student design projects, in building relationships with industrial partners and managing the OEDK facility and staff. Amy has a deep competence for website development, social media and the identification of new tools to expedite our organizational operations. Amy has helps in crafting OEDK access policies, encouraged safety with signs and video and contributed substantially to “the creative buzz that characterizes the OEDK.”
Amy was hired at Rice in 2006 as coordinator of the Computer Information Technology Institute, which is now the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. In 2009, she became administrator of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK); when the RCEL launched in 2010, she became administrator of that program as well. In 2012, Amy became the Associate Director of the OEDK.
Amy has been honored for excellence before. In 2008 she received the Rice Distinguished Employee Award, and she was the winner of the 2010 George R. Brown School of Engineering Hardy Bourland Award, which honors the school’s most outstanding staffers. In 2012, she was honored with a Centennial Star Award, which was given to 100 employees during the centennial year who represent the culture at Rice.