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SXSW 2022 Speaker Bios

Professor Farshid Alambeigi, Ph.D.

Dr. Farshid Alambeigi is an Assistant Professor and the director of the Advanced Robotic Technologies for Surgery (ARTS) Labat the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering in the University of Texas at Austin since August 2019. He is also a core faculty member in the TexasRobotics institute. His research aims to partner dexterous and flexible robots with clinicians to promote semi-autonomous/autonomous and intuitive minimally-invasive surgical interventions. To this end, his lab works toward developing high dexterity robots and flexible instruments with integrated fiber-optic sensors as well as smart control algorithms.Dr. Alambeigi received his Ph.D. from the Mechanical Engineering Department at Johns Hopkins University in May 2019. He also received his M.S.E. degree in Robotics from Johns Hopkins University in 2017. Before joining the Johns Hopkins University in 2014, he received an MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology (Iran, 2012), where in collaboration with Tehran University of Medical Sciences, he worked on the design, development, and control of the Sina Tele-surgical System. Farshid holds several licensed patents for biomedical devices and his research has been featured in the Wall Street Journal. In summer of 2018, he was honored as one the 2019 Siebel Scholars in the Bioengineering field. This prestigious and competitive scholarship is awarded annually for academic excellence and demonstrated leadership to over 90 top students from the world’s leading graduate schools. In 2020, Dr. Alambeigi received the prestigious NIH R21 Trailblazer award to develop novel flexible implants and robots for minimally invasive spinal fixation surgery.

Joëlle K. Barral, Ph.D.

Joëlle K. Barral, Ph.D., is a software lead at Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet and sister company to Google, and the head of Verily Surgical. She joined Verily in 2014 and was part of the founding team that started Verb Surgical, Verily’s joint venture with Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon, pioneering a vision for the future of robotic surgery that leverages machine learning and digital tools to enhance surgeon judgment, improve decision making, and positively impact clinical outcomes.Prior to Verily,Dr. Barral was with HeartVista, a spin-off from Stanford University, where she developed an Magnetic Resonance Imaging software package for the comprehensive evaluation of ischemic and valvular heart diseases. She has authored numerous patents on topics ranging from maternal health, digital pathology, surgical robotics, and medical imaging.Dr. Barral holds a B.S. degree in Math and Physics from Ecole Polytechnique, France, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering, in the field of high-resolution Magnetic Resonance Imaging, from Stanford University, where she was also a Simon Stertzer Biodesign Innovation Fellow. She is the 2019 recipient of the Pierre Faurre Prize.

Michael Blum, MD

Michael Blum is the AVC for Informatics and the Chief Digital Transformation Officer at UCSF. Dr. Blum leads UCSF’s Center for Digital Health Innovation (CDHI) and is responsible for the strategic design, development, and implementation of leading edge digital health capabilities that transform patient experience, care delivery, and discovery. Dr. Blum is also a Professor of Medicine in Cardiology, specializing in general and preventative cardiology. He is passionate about wellness and prevention of heart disease through a heart-healthy lifestyle, including diet, exercise, stress reduction, and healthy, supportive relationships. Prior to his medical education, Dr. Blum trained as an engineer and brings the two worlds together as he drives the digital transformation of health and healthcare. His CDHI team works with faculty, staff, trainees, and external partners to identify, develop, and implement technologies in support of UCSF’s missions. CDHI’s impactful programs include the Digital Patient Experience program that brings together UCSF’s interdisciplinary stakeholders, design thinkers, and patients in reimagining the care experience, as well as the Smarter Health program that develops novel AI technologies and collaborates with industry to scale and deploy them at the point of care. Launched in 2013 with $1M of seed funds from the Chancellor, CDHI has generated $50M in external partnership revenue, supporting over 80 faculty, staff, and trainees, and a growing IP portfolio that has already generated over $1.6M in licensing and royalty income. Dr. Blum is the CEO and a co-founder of BeeKeeperAI, a privacy preserving computing platform designed to accelerate AI development and deployment in healthcare. The technology has been spun-out from UCSF, has reached first revenue, and is currently pursuing Series A funding. As pressures on healthcare financing continue to build, these pioneering efforts to build alternative revenue support will become critically important.

Austin Cole, Ph.D.

Austin built a profitable computational protein design company around technology he co-developed in his PhD at UT Austin.  Now he uses those algorithms supercharged with $4m investor support to build proprietary cosmetic ingredients and their enabled dermatological products. Before protein design, Austin assembled viruses to protect agricultural crops from disease and also evolved laboratory populations of microbes or viruses that infect microbes to directly observe how evolution unfolds in response to known selective pressures and genetic constraints. 

France Anne Cordova, Ph.D.

France Anne Córdova is a leader in science, engineering and education with more than three decades experience at universities and national labs.She is currently president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance. She has served in five presidential administrations, both Democratic and Republican. She is an internationally recognized astrophysicist for her contributions in space research and instrumentation. She has served on both corporate and nonprofit boards. Córdova was the 14th Director of the National Science Foundation(NSF), an $8.5 billion independent federal agency. It is the only government agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation, and STEM education and workforce development.She is the only woman to have served as president of Purdue University, where she led the university to record levels of research funding, reputational rankings, and student retention and graduation rates. Córdova is also chancellor emerita of the University of California, Riverside, where she was a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy. She laid the foundation for a medical school, California’s first public medical school in over 40 years. Previously, Córdova served as NASA’s chief scientist, representing NASA to the larger scientific community. She was the youngest person and first woman to serve as NASA’s chief scientist and was awarded the agency’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal. Córdova has published more than 150 scientific papers. She has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates, including ones from Purdue, Duke, Dartmouth and Carnegie Mellon Universities. She was awarded the Kennedy-Lemass Medal from Ireland, and the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins from Chile, its highest civilian award. She is a Kilby Laureate for “significant contributions to society through science, technology, innovation, invention and education.” She was inducted into the California Hall of Fame and the Stanford University Multicultural Hall of Fame. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy. Córdova received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Stanford University and her PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology.

Charlie Dean

Charlie Dean(he/him) is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Endoluminal business unit at Intuitive, which includes its Ion system for robotic access to the lung. He is passionate about making a difference in the diagnosis and treatment of life limiting lung conditions.Charlie brings 20 years of Operational and R&D leadership across a broad range of minimally invasive medical device technologies.Charlie holds a Masters in Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering from The University of Birmingham. He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) & Certified Project Manager (PMP).

Eric Epstein

Eric Epstein nurtures the Santé portfolio of early-stage companies, with a focus on healthcare services, AI/ML and digital health technologies.Prior to joining Santé, Eric was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, where he focused on Health Systems and Services strategy and operations and assumed roles with several early-stage startups, navigating the complexities of company formation, fundraising, product-market fit, and sustainable growth.Eric earned his MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a BA in economics and psychology from Georgetown University.

Dr. Tanya Hutter, Ph.D.

Dr. Tanya Hutter is an Assistant Professor at the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests lie in the fields of emerging molecular sensing technologies, nanomaterials, microfabrication and nanophotonics with applications in environmental and industrial sensing, homeland security and medical diagnostics. Dr. Hutter has a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering (Ben-Gurion University), M.Sc. in Materials Science and Engineering (Tel-Aviv University) and Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry (University of Cambridge). After completing her Ph.D., she worked at the University of Cambridge and received several prestigious awards to develop her independent research. She moved to Austin in 2019. Dr. Hutter also has a strong interest in technology transfer and entrepreneurship – she co-founded two start-ups in the field of chemical sensing. In 2016, Dr. Hutter was awarded L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship UK & Ireland for her scientific achievements, and in 2021 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. She is also a Charis or Sensors Research Interest group at UT Austin.

Ashley Jennings

Ashley Jennings is an award-winning entrepreneur and skilled operator with 10+ years of experience in early-stage venture development, project management, investor relations, portfolio operations, media, fundraising, sales, event management, and startup due diligence.She currently sits on the new venture and technology commercialization team at The University of Texas at Austin, where she manages day-to-day operations and supports strategic goals of the Texas Innovation Center, helping researchers navigate their commercialization journey. TxIC currently serves a portfolio of 40+ startup companies, spanning across 10 industries.Prior to this role, Ashley was part of the McCombs School of Business team, driving innovative programming for students across the Forty Acres, and cultivating a network of college stakeholders in the startup and VC space. A diversity in tech thought leader, Ashley helped co-found and served as Chief Marketing Officer for Texas’ first tech accelerator for women and ethnically diverse tech founders. To date, 63 companies and 85 founders have gone through the program, raising a combined $14M. Over 225 jobs have been created, generating more than $3.2M in revenue. She started her career in New York, where she helped launch Al Jazeera Media Network’s American channel, and was part of the ABC News field team who traveled the country covering breaking news, weather, and politics.Her time with ABC News earned her five Emmy nominations along with a Peabody Award and two Edward R. Murrow Awards.

Ben Johnson

Ben currently leads Silicon Valley Bank’s seed stage life science and healthcare effort in the United States, which includes both spending time with early stage companies, as well as building relationships with key forces in the early stage healthcare ecosystem. Ben also frequently speaks on issues relevant to the early stage life science/healthcare innovation ecosystem. After a decade of experience in commercial and private banking, Ben joined SVB in 2007 to lead the technology and life science effort in the State of Minnesota, and in 2010 began focusing exclusively upon life science companies across the Central United States, and led SVB’s effort in this region through 2017. During this time, Ben reviewed thousands of business plans and deployed over $1 billion of venture debt to hundreds of companies. Ben received his undergraduate degree from the University of Saint Thomas, and earned an MBA from the University of Minnesota.

Professor Mia Markey, Ph.D.

Prof. Markey is a core member of the Multidisciplinary Breast Reconstruction Research Program. She has additional affiliations with numerous other labs, centers, and educational programs including Center for Identity, Center for Perceptual Systems, Department of Statistics and Data Sciences, graduate program in Cell and Molecular Biology, graduate program in Electrical and Computer Engineering, graduate program in STEM Education, Livestrong Cancer Institutes, and Machine Learning Laboratory. Prof. Markey co-directs the pre-doctoral training program in Imaging Science and Informatics.

Miles Massida

Miles Massidda is a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at UT Austin with a focus on tissue engineering and the development of cardiovascular therapies. He received his M.S. from UT Austin in 2020, and his B.S. from Boston University in 2018, both degrees also in biomedical engineering. Miles also recently co-founded Longhorn Life Sciences, Inc., in collaboration with UT Austin graduate students and faculty, and MD Anderson clinicians. Longhorn Life Sciences is a MedTech company developing needs-driven solutions to improve patient experiences at outcomes. Miles is the CEO of Longhorn Life Sciences and is involved in all aspects of the venture, including product prototyping, fundraising, and development of the business model. Miles also has experience consulting for three biotechnology startups, has co-authored five peer-reviewed scientific publications, and has received several prestigious graduate fellowships, including the Malcolm Milburn Endowed Scholarship in Entrepreneurial Studies in 2021.

Dennis McWilliams 

Dennis McWilliams is a serial life science entrepreneur and innovator dedicated to globally commercializing medical technologies. Prior to joining Santé, Dennis founded SparkMed Advisors, a boutique advisory to the medical device space, Apollo Endosurgery, a medical device company developing novel flexible surgical devices for less invasive surgery, and co-founded Chrysalis BioTechnology‚ a development-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on novel drug therapies for tissue regeneration. He started his career as an analyst for the IC2 Institute, a global think tank focused on applied entrepreneurship and commercialization research. Dennis also serves as Co-Course Director for the B.E.S.T. Innovation Course, taught at the IHU Institute in Strasbourg France, is a member of the Center for BioDesign’s Advisory Counsel at Johns Hopkins University and is a frequent lecturer in the Stanford BioDesign Fellowship program. Dennis earned his MS in engineering management from Stanford University and his BS in aerospace engineering, with honors, from the University of Texas.  He has served on the Board of Directors for the Texas Exes and University of Texas Men’s Athletic Counsel, been named a Distinguished Engineering Graduate and an Outstanding Young Texas Ex and is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Alumni for the Department of Aerospace. 

Dr. Ozanan Meireles 

Dr. Ozanan Meireles is a Bariatric, Foregut, and advanced endoluminal Surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is the co-founder and the director of the Surgical Artificial Intelligence and Innovation Laboratory (SAIIL) at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Meireles has been in practice for more than 10 years at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and he is specialized in the treatment of disorders of the Upper Gastrointestinal tract such as Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Stomach Cancer, Achalasia, Esophageal Swallowing Disorders and Weight Loss Surgery. Dr. Meireles graduated from the Sao Paulo State University School of Medicine, in Brazil. He completed his surgical training at Michigan State University and his clinical fellowship in Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery at the University of California San Diego. He spent his research fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital investigating augmented reality in surgery and robotic telemanipulation. Furthermore, he was deeply involved in studying and developing Natural Orifices Trans Endoluminal Surgery (NOTES) techniques, and he was among the first to pioneer their clinical applications. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). He serves as the Chairman of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) Artificial Intelligence Task Force. He also holds key leadership positions and committee memberships in several other national societies in the United States, including the ACS, NOSCAR, ASMBS, and SSAT. At SAIIL, his research focus is on utilizing computer vision to investigate the intraoperative phase of care through real-time, automated surgical analysis, and provide surgeons with additional data, with the goals of democratization of surgical knowledge, lowering costs, improve patient outcomes, and reduction of morbidity and mortality.

Jonathan Norris

Jonathan Norris is a managing director for business development in SVB’s Healthcare practice. Norris oversees business development efforts for banking and lending opportunities as well as spearheading strategic relationships with many healthcare venture capital firms. He also helps SVB Capital through sourcing and advising on limited partnership allocations.In addition, he speaks at major investor and industry conferences and authors widely cited analyses of healthcare venture capital trends. Norris has more than nineteen years of banking experience working with healthcare companies and venture capital firms.Norris earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Riverside and a juris doctorate from Santa Clara University.

Van Truskett, Ph.D.

Dr. Van N. Truskett has a track record of innovation, leadership and attainment of business results in nanoimprint lithography addressing its introduction to semiconductor and hard disk drive applications. She played a critical role in a team, developing a startup, Molecular Imprints, into an enterprise that Canon acquired in 2014 to form Canon Nanotechnologies, serving as Director of Jetting Technology. She was instrumental in releasing over ten nanoimprint lithography products and over six cutting-edge inkjet-printing products. She has over 50 patents (U.S. and international) constituting the core technology. She currently is the Executive Director of the Texas Innovation Center at The University of Texas at Austin. The Center is the hub for bringing engineering and science discoveries and technologies to the market. Its mission is to create and foster a community and culture for collaborative research and entrepreneurship supporting university technology commercialization. In 2016, she was awarded the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Technology Innovation from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas. The O’Donnell Award is the most prestigious state award recognizing Texas-based researchers for their pioneering work. As of 2020, she became a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Dr. Truskett received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and her B.S. from The University of Texas at Austin, both degrees in chemical engineering.

Sharon Wood, Ph.D.

Sharon L. Wood began serving as executive vice president and provost on July 19, 2021. As the university’s chief academic officer, she leads strategic planning for the university’s academic mission, and ensures academic programs are world-class and aligned with the university’s commitment to diversity and equity. These responsibilities include leading academic programs and initiatives across the university’s 18 colleges and schools, which serve more than 51,000 students and support more than 3,000 teaching and research faculty.In addition, Wood oversees UT Austin’s libraries and museums, archival collections, research centers, and academic support units. Working closely with the deans and other academic leaders, Wood’s responsibilities also include Research and scholarship activities, Faculty recruitment, retention, and advancement, Enrollment and student success, Curriculum, Resource management and academic space utilization, Global engagement, Accreditation and assessment, Institutional reporting, Non-residential, continuing education, and online offerings.Previously, Wood served as the dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering UT Austin since September 2014. Prior to her appointment as dean, Wood served as the chair of the school’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering for five years, and for one year, she was director of the Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory, one of the nation’s leading research centers in the large-scale study of the behavior of bridges, buildings and structural components. She joined the Cockrell School faculty in 1996 and holds the Cockrell Family Chair in Engineering #14. As a researcher, Wood has been internationally recognized for her work on the earthquake response of reinforced concrete structures.Her research focuses on improving the structural response of reinforced concrete buildings, design and evaluation of bridges, and development of passive sensors for infrastructure systems.Wood is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a past president of the American Concrete Institute. She is the recipient of the 2020 Alumni Award for Distinguished Service from the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the 2018 Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Virginia and the 2018 Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Award in Education from the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has served on federal advisory committees for the Department of Veteran Affairs, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the U.S. Geological Survey.Wood began her academic career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she served on the faculty for 10 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and her master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Phoebe Yang

Ms. Yang is General Manager of Amazon Web Services, Healthcare, where she leads the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform in the high growth business focused on healthcare companies, including health systems, payers, research organizations, and related technology companies. As C-suite or executive leader in four publicly traded companies and appointee in two Presidential Administrations, Ms.Yang has extensive experience in digital transformation, global expansion, technology, consumer media, and M&A at some of the world’s most valued and admired companies, including Ascension, The Advisory Board Company, Discovery Inc., and AOL Time Warner. She was Senior Advisor to the FCC Chairman on Broadband and served on the White House Task Force for Health IT and the White House Task Force on Broadband. Ms. Yang is an experienced board member for companies ranging from $5B to $33B revenue, including CommonSpirit Health, the largest U.S. tax-exempt health system ($33+ billion) with 150,000+ employees,25,000 physicians and clinicians, 140 hospitals and 1,500care sites across 21 states. She previously served on the board of Providence-St.Joseph Health, a $25 billion integrated delivery system with 120,000+ employees, 52 hospitals, 1,085 clinics, a health plan, and a university. Along-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations, her recent awards include Modern HealthcareTop 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare for 2021 and Fierce HealthcareTop 10 Women of Influence for 2021. ARotary Scholar, she earned Phi Beta Kappa from University of Virginia (B.A.) and Stanford Law School (J.D.), where she was President and Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Law Review.

Dr. Youngmok Yun, Ph.D.

Dr. Yun received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017. Over the past 12 years, he has led and participated in the development of multiple upper body and lower body exoskeletons. A thorough technocrat at heart, Dr. Yun is a strong driving force behind the company’s R&D efforts.

Isaac Zaworski

Isaac Zaworski was named President of Sectra, Inc. in 2021. In his role at Sectra, he is responsible for leading a rapidly growing team devoted to development and implementation of the only fully integrated PACS system that can support all medical imaging disciplines while driving a transformation for major health systems into the future of Enterprise Imaging deployed as a true managed service and delivered through modern cloud infrastructure. Additionally, Mr. Zaworski brings extensive experience in enterprise scale artificial intelligence to help realize the potential of truly integrated diagnostic imaging in the medical community.Prior to joining Sectra, Mr. Zaworski was the CEO of Vricon Systems, LLC, a joint venture between Saab AB and Maxar Technologies, where he led the organization from foundation through its successful acquisition by Maxar. As the first U.S. employee when the JV was formed, he was responsible for shaping technology and business strategy for Vricon in the U.S. government space and working directly with customers to help them implement Vricon’s unique 3D geospatial data and 3D-derived solutions across the requirements spectrum, from full-enterprise deployments to specific tactical missions. Prior to his time with Vricon, Mr. Zaworski served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Urban Robotics, LLC.Mr. Zaworski is an engineer by trade, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. His extensive background ranges from automotive design and engineering to complex computational modeling and high-performance computing. Before his role as CTO at Urban Robotics, Mr. Zaworski spent significant time overseas in tactical environments, developing new tools and methodologies to overcome challenges related to processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) of massive 2D and 3D imagery datasets, particularly in bandwidth-constrained environments. His work contributed to significant operational advances in data management and PED for key DOD ISR programs in theaters around the world. Mr. Zaworski serves on the Board of Directors for the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation as well as on Advisory Boards for Applied Ocean Sciences and Edgybees.