Student Associates 2014-15

Below are the Lassonde New Venture Development Center student associates for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Christian Amevi Adjei, Nuclear Engineering

ChristianI am Christian Amevi Adjei, Nuclear Engineering PhD Candidate in the Utah Nuclear Engineering Program (UNEP) at the University of Utah. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Ghana. I have great ambition to be a Social Entrepreneur and hope to start a project named “EduTechAfriq,” which basically means educating kids in Africa through technology, and working with the Lassonde Institute will equip me with the skill set to make my ambition a reality.

Stuart Barnes, MBA 2

Stu BarnesStuart Barnes graduated with highest honors from the Rochester Institute of Technology where he received his BFA in illustration. After graduation, he spent 3 years working in design, marketing, and sales. He also owned and operated a freelance illustration business in the entertainment industry. He is currently pursuing an MBA with emphasis on strategy, innovation, and marketing. He is actively involved at the University of Utah and holds leadership positions in many student organizations such as the Graduate Business Student Association and the Net Impact Organization. Stuart is excited to join the Lassonde Entrepreneurship Institute and share his passion for entrepreneurship, creative thinking, and problem solving.

Jed Benson, JD

JedJed Benson graduated with a degree in biochemistry from Utah State University in 2007, where he also worked as a lab technician investigating the mechanism by which asbestos causes cancer. After graduating from Utah State University, Jed worked in the generics pharmaceutical industry for several years evaluating and reverse-engineering patented pharmaceutical products. He also completed a Master of Science & Technology with an emphasis in science instrumentation at the University of Utah in 2013. Currently, Jed is a third-year law student at the S.J. Quinney College of Law and plans to focus in the areas of Intellectual Property and Business Law. Jed has a long-standing love of science and a passion for learning. Due to his broad educational and professional background, he has developed a strong interest in technology-based start-ups and how to protect, manage, and leverage their intellectual property portfolios. Jed is the proud father of four children and spends most of his free time learning, exploring, and playing with them.

Nimit Bhandari, MSIS

nimitMy name is Nimit Bhandari and I am from India. I have an undergraduate degree in Information Technology followed by a work experience of 5 years. I started my career with Hewlett Packard as a Technology Consultant and moved on to roles like Sales Consulting with Oracle and Research engineer with Hitachi R&D. I have always enjoyed working in customer facing roles as it helps to understand how technology can help to overcome business challenges. In future someday, I wish to set up my own consulting organization which could enable very small and medium sized business in developing nations like India to use IT for enhancing their businesses.

Christopher Bond, JD

Christopher BondChristopher Bond is a third year law student at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. Christopher graduated magna cum laude in 2012 from Utah State University with Bachelors degrees in English as well as Law and Constitutional Studies, although he enjoyed taking courses in economics, formal logic, and science. Christopher’s legal interests range from litigation (particularly appeals) to business and corporate law. Christopher’s legal experience includes interning at the Utah Court of Appeals, winning a school wide moot court competition, and working at a local law firm. In business, he fosters an entrepreneurial spirit and is excited to explore the interaction of business and law as an associate in the New Venture Development program.

Ben Carroll, JD

Ben CarrolMy name is Ben Carroll and I am a third year law student at the University of Utah. I received my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and plan using my engineering degree and my law degree to work as a patent attorney when I graduate. A couple of years ago I got involved in a startup with a couple of friends called Arctoro Design. We have built different variations of electrical stimulators to be used with spinal catheters and dental procedures. I am excited to take all of this experience and apply it to the Lassonde program.

Zilu Chen, MSF

ZiluZilu Chen received her bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University with an emphasis in finance. She is currently pursuing her master degree in finance and CFA designation. She passed both CFA Level I & II exams. During her undergraduate study, she formed a team to participate in Private Equity Case competition and won third place. She worked as a finance research assistant for the Marriott School of Management and a math tutor and student tutor supervisor at the Math Learning Center. In addition, she has had experience working with several financial services, business outsourcing, and educational consulting firms in New York City and Utah. From her past experience, she gained great knowledge in both the investment and corporate sides of business. Outside of work, Zilu enjoys traveling, camping, hiking, playing tennis, and having new adventures. She loves gaining new experiences and utilizing technological innovations.

Tim Cooley, MBA 2

TimTim is an experienced start-up consultant in mobile health with a track record in innovation, business strategy and development. Tim is a current MBA student in the David Eccles School of Business. As part of his MBA program, he is the president of the Entrepreneurship Club and co-president of Games4Heatlth. His current studies are focusing on innovation in mobile health and wearable technologies. Tim has spent the last three years working on multiple start-ups ranging from eCommerce to medical devices. He has consulted over 100 student start-ups in various areas of business development and strategy. He has two years of experience in online marketing focusing on inbound marketing for local and national companies. Tim is an active member of the Utah Entrepreneurial Scene, was a lead assistant at the first Salt Lake TEDx2.0 AfterGlow Event, and has a self-published board game.

Alex Drew, Bioengineering

Alex is currently a 5th year Ph.D. student in bioengineering where he works as a graduate research assistant in the Harold K. Dunn Orthopaedic Research Lab under the guidance of Dr. Kent Bachus. Current research is focused on the development of new implant systems for the direct skeletal attachment of prosthetic limbs. This is Alex’s second tour as a student associate. He remains actively involved in his first Lassonde startup, NeuroVersity, a vocational program for youth with autism. When not engaged in research or pursuing startups, Alex enjoys spending time with his wife Noel and their new daughter Maxine.

Koby Elias, MBA 1

KobyKoby Elias graduated from Union College with a B.S. in Chemistry. Upon graduation Koby was offered a position as the seventh employee at a medical device start-up, Semprus Biosciences in Cambridge, MA. Koby began at Semprus as a Research Associate on the R&D team, and transitioned to a role as an Engineer in Process Development. Through his various roles at Semprus, Koby was exposed to the entire arc of a start-up: proof-of-concept R&D, fundraising milestones totaling $28M in VC funding, manufacturing process development, a regulatory submission and approval, and finally an acquisition of Sempurs by Teleflex Medical for $80M.

Micah Frerck, Bioengineering

MicahMicah received his Bachelors of Biomedical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and following graduation joined Zimmer Spine as a Product Development Engineer where he was responsible for designing custom and specialty instruments and implants for neurosurgeons. Micah is currently a graduate student at the University of Utah and is working towards a PhD in Bioengineering. He has previously collaborated with and co-founded new ventures in orthopedics, auscultation, medical coatings, and scientific diagnostics. Micah is excited to partner with the Lassonde New Venture Development Center and aspires to develop meaningful and beneficial business endeavors. Academics aside, Micah is an avid artist and hobbyist. He enjoys the outdoors, rock climbing, and recently retired from amateur boxing.

Melissa Hackett, MBA/MHA

MelissaMelissa Hackett graduated from Brigham Young University in 2007 with a B.S. in Nursing. She practiced pediatric oncology nursing from 2008 – 2012 in Salt Lake City and Washington D.C. She left Washington D.C. in 2012 to pursue M.B.A and M.H.A. degrees from the David Eccles School of Business. Melissa has interned with LDS Hospital, Saint Alphonsus Health Alliance, and the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics Administration Teams. She enhanced service excellence scores, created a pricing template for healthcare costs, and built data analysis cases to assist hospital leaders. Melissa looks forward to participating with the Lassonde Center.

Lauren Howells, MBA 2

LaurenLauren Howells is a JD/MBA candidate at the University of Utah. She received a degree in Political Science with an emphasis in International Affairs from the University of Utah in 2010. Before returning to the University for her graduate studies, Lauren was a teacher herself in 2010-11 at the Academy for English Learning in South Korea where she was appointed to Foreign Instructor Liaison. After completing her first year at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, Lauren interned with Utah Legal Services, providing legal advice and guidance to victims of domestic violence. She also interned on the Third Judicial District of Salt Lake County, Utah with Judge Randall N. Skanchy. Currently, she is working as Pro Bono Research Assistant to Law Professor Michael Teter in drafting a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to her academic endeavors, Lauren maintains strong ties with the community. She does regular work with the International Rescue Committee, which provides resettlement services to newly arrived refugees as they adjust to life in the United States. She also serves as Treasurer of the Women’s Law Caucus, an organization fostering women’s professional development, success, and representation in an industry that traditionally skews male. Lauren serves on the S.J. Quinney College of Law Student Bar Association and is a staff member on the Utah Law Review. She is interested in Business Litigation, Public Interest, and Social Entrepreneurship. Lauren is a outdoor enthusiast and loves all things “bike.”

Pace Johnson, JD

PacePace is a law student. He founded the Law & Entrepreneurship Society at the law school to meet other law students interested in non-traditional legal career paths. Naturally, this led Pace to the Lassonde Center, where he was selected to participate in the Lassonde New Venture Development Program. Prior to law school, Pace co-founded of a startup called Sparrow Metrics that provided patient recruitment services for the psychiatric research industry. Pace received his BA in Economics from the University of Utah in 2010. As a Utah native, he loves spending time outdoors with his Wife and daughter.

Megan Kennelly, MBA 1

MeganMegan Kennelly is originally from Mendon, Vermont. She graduated from Westminster College in 2010 with a BA in political science, economics and pre-law. During her undergraduate, Megan worked part time for a small complex business litigation firm in downtown Salt Lake City. Post-graduation, she was offered the position of office manager, which provided her with invaluable firsthand experience running a small business and insight into the various legal problems businesses of all sizes face. Megan is currently in her first year of the in the David Eccles School of Business Full Time MBA program. She is excited to participate in the New Venture Development Center as a student associate, and apply her professional and academic experience to assist in the commercialization of new innovations.

Jacob Mendenhall, MBA 1

Jake M
I am currently an MBA student at the University of Utah and a member of the 2014/2015 Lassonde New Venture Development Program. I received my undergraduate degree in Finance from Westminster College. After receiving my bachelor’s degree I spent 4 years working for Goldman Sachs as a settlements analyst in their Securities Operations department. During that time I became a subject matter expert in domestic settlements as well as Canadian and Mexican settlements.

Mark Mugleston, MBA 2

Mark MuglestonAs CEO and co-founder, Mark Mugleston built Snow Web Solutions and MashWorx to $100,000s in sales, earning placement in BoomStartup, the Wayne Brown Institute, and finishing as a finalist in the Utah Start-up of the Year Award in 2010. Over the past year as a MBA student at the University of Utah, Mark won 1st place in a national MBA ethics competition and 2nd place in the Utah Mergers and Acquisition ACG Cup. He’s passionate about Big Data. This summer, he excelled as a Business Intelligence Project Manager (Intern) for General Motors. Connect with Mark at

Elyssa Pickle, MBA 2

ElyssaElyssa Pickle graduated from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in Biochemistry. Upon graduation, Elyssa worked in the scientific field both in academic and industry capacities. Working in academic labs, Elyssa was awarded competitive funding to conduct research in biochemistry and molecular biology. In the biotechnology industry, she worked as an operations scientist managing client services and over $2M of client data related to drug discovery. Elyssa is currently a second year M.B.A student at the University of Utah focusing on strategy and innovation. Outside of coursework, Elyssa is involved in the Women in Business, Out for Business, and Diversity in Business programs. She also participated in Bench-to-Bedside, a novel medical device competition, where her team was awarded “Best in Business”. During the past summer, Elyssa worked as a summer associate at Kalypso, an innovation consulting firm. She is excited to leverage her experience in biotechnology, business, and consulting in the Lassonde New Venture Development Center.

Mark Pittman, JD/MBA

Mark PittmanMark Pittman graduated with bachelor’s degrees, from the University of Utah in 2011, in Political Science, Economics and International Studies. He also holds a Master’s of Science in International Affairs and Global Enterprise from the University of Utah, 2012. Mark has worked extensively in the technology start-up community in Salt Lake City. His work includes the founding and growth of three new technology ventures as well as his engagement as a consulting for Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification, Inc. In 2012, Mark began the pursuit of his JD/MBA at the University of Utah. After the completion of his first year at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, he was hired by a prestigious law firm in Salt Lake City, working primarily with tech and bio-tech startups which provided him the opportunity to put his legal education to work while also pursuing his real passion, business. He plans to graduate in May of 2015 and continue working in the technology start-up arena or as part of an innovation team for a mature business in the United States. Mark also has a variety of international experience having spent the majority of his life in countries other than the United States. He leads this year’s Student Directors and Associates, having worked on commercializing a University of Utah last year, as an Associate.

Vishnu Ravikumar, MBA 2

Vishnu RavikumarVishnu Ravikumar is currently a second year MBA student at the University of Utah. Prior to business school, he was an early employee at a successful Internet start-up in India. Following this, he had a brief stint as an analyst in the Corporate Strategy team of a $4 billion conglomerate and completed a pre-MBA internship with a boutique investment bank. Presently, he is also a Senior Associate at the Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center, the first student-managed social venture capital fund. His experience covers a variety of due diligence efforts including solid waste management, energy retrofits, volunteer matching services, education and social impact bonds.

AJ Reall, MBA 2

AJA. J. Reall is a native of Columbia, MO and received a B.S. degree in business strategy from the Marriott School of Management. While an undergraduate student, he worked as a consultant for several new ventures developing business plans and improving operations. Following his undergraduate degree, he worked for Lockheed Martin in their Operations Leadership Development Program. He led teams executing operation system development, facility management, sourcing management, and supply chain management. Currently, A. J. is a second year MBA/MHA student looking to innovate in volatile and exciting healthcare industry.

Greg Remigio, Neuroscience

Greg Greg Remigio is a fourth-year PhD student in the Neuroscience Program at the University of Utah. His thesis is focused on testing memory enhancing drugs for their potential to correct memory deficits in disease, and determining how these drugs affect synaptic communication between brain cells. Before coming to Utah, Greg received a Bachelor’s in business administration from Marist College, and a Master’s in psychology from Hunter College. In addition to his thesis work, Greg is interested in learning about medical devices, particularly their development from laboratory to market. Besides research, he also enjoys playing music, watching movies, hiking, and snowboarding.

Nick Roberts, MSIS

Nick Roberts I am an entrepreneur with a deep interest in “Big Data” (I subscribe to the three “Vs” definition found here:, the internet, and web/mobile applications development. Currently teaching myself Java programming (I really enjoy making and designing apps), database theory, and network administration on Linux (Ubuntu and Cloudera flavors) and Windows. I am also working to innovate in the field of e-commerce. I am currently pursuing the Master of Science in Information Systems degree at the David Eccles School of Business (University of Utah) and emphasizing in software/systems architecture.

Brandon Skenandore, MBA 2

BrandonBrandon Skenandore was born and raised in the Seattle area. He attended Boise State University for his undergraduate degree. During this time he joined the Honors College and started a private tutoring business. Brandon graduated with a Bachelor’s in Health Science Studies and a Minor in Biology. In 2013, he started the full-time MBA program at the University of Utah. During his first year, he was a Student Associate at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, and was involved in several graduate business clubs. Over the summer he worked as a business development consultant for a medical device startup. This year Brandon is excited to return for his final year in the MBA program. On his spare time he enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, reading, and playing piano and guitar.

Marisa Smith, MBA 1

MarissaMarisa Smith is from the Washington, D.C. area and graduated from Brigham Young University in 2008 with a degree in Sound Recording Technology. Upon graduation, she spent several years traveling around the country working on several television and film productions, including the Academy Award nominated film 127 Hours. Marisa is currently a 1st Development and is thrilled to be a part of the Lassonde Center. She is passionate about learning and looks forward to gaining a deeper understanding about business strategy and product development. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, playing the piano, camping, and spending time with her husband.

Scott Thatcher, Undergraduate

ScottScott Thatcher is an undergraduate Senior at the University of Utah studying International Studies with an emphasis in Trade and Commerce. Scott has been heavily involved on campus at the University of Utah serving as the Chief of Staff for the student government, he’s also been a research assistant for Dean Randall of the Business School, along with participating in numerous other campus entities. Scott spent this past summer in Finland working for a local biotech company performing market research and developing strategy for the company to gain more of a market share in flow cytometry related products. Outside of the Lassonde Institute Scott is a student ambassador in the Hinckley Institute of Politics and is working with fellow students and administrators to develop a new first year seminar course for all incoming Freshman to the U. When not working or at school Scott can be found enjoying the outdoors, reading, or watching SportsCenter.

Samuel Thomas, MD

sam-thomas_webSam Thomas graduated from the University of Utah with bachelor’s degrees in Russian and International Studies, and a minor Chemistry. In his academic pursuits, Sam has research experience from the University of Utah and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana in the fields of Ophthalmology, Human Genetic, Orthopedic, Public Health, and Global Health. In 2011, Sam started medical school at the University of Utah and has since been involved in organizations such as the American Medical Association and the Utah Medical Association. After completing his 3rd year of medical school, he had the great opportunity of supplementing his medical education with a masters in bioengineering through the BioInnovate program, a graduate bioengineering tract at the University of Utah that aims to provide comprehensive training in biomedical device design. As a Student Associate within the Lassonde Center, he is excited to learn more about life science innovation and commercial translation with hands on projects involving emerging technologies from the University of Utah. Aside from school and research, Sam always tries to find time to play on the University of Utah water polo club team, ski and get outdoors when he can.

JD Thornock, MBA 1

JDAfter serving six years in the United States Marine Corps, JD decided to finish his bachelor’s degree in Business Management with an emphasis in Finance from Brigham Young University – Idaho. As an undergrad, JD helped start Integrated Business Research Company, a company that provided market research to businesses in the southeast Idaho region. Also while in Idaho, JD served as a junior analyst for RenewableTech Ventures where he consulted two companies, one on methods of expansion and the other on entrance into its respective market. JD was recruited out of college by Avery Dennison to work as a finance associate within Avery Dennison’s prestigious Financial Leadership Development Program. JD spent two years with Avery and is now pursuing an MBA with an emphasis in marketing at the University of Utah. JD is passionate about understanding what motivates people; his ultimate desire is to creatively inspire the world to make the world more fun. When he’s not working or studying, JD can be found playing with his wife and three children, enjoying college football, or fishing.

Bharath Velagapudi, Bioengineering

BharathBharath Velagapudi graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering in May 2012. Currently, he is a third year PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering under the mentorship of Dr. Patrick Tresco. Bharath’s research is focused on elucidating details about the foreign body response surrounding central nervous system implants and improving their integration. In his spare time, Bharath enjoys hiking, biking, ultimate frisbee and anything outdoors.

John Waltman, MBA 1

John WJohn Waltman received a BA in Chinese with a Business minor from BYU in 2011. He spent two years working for Global Sources in Hong Kong where he lead the company’s international sales offices in India, Korea, Philippines and Vietnam. John’s true passion lies within entrepreneurship, and he has partnered with his sister to turn her small jewelry operation into a successful “clicks and mortar” jewelry brand. His resourcefulness and determination helped the company to “boot-strap” its way into two retail outlets and over 70 boutiques throughout the country.

Thomas Woodland, JD

ThomasThomas Woodland is a second-year law student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law with a focus in Intellectual Property. Prior to entering law school, he received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Utah where, as a lab instructor, he taught electronics, optics, and waves. In the summer of 2013, Thomas interned with the Technology Commercialization Office where he gained exposure to several startup technologies. Thomas’ interest in intellectual property and business arises out of his passion for science and technology. He enjoys playing the piano, racquetball, motorcycle riding, and spending time with his wife and daughter.