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About Us

A unique forum for representatives from universities and industry to find better ways to partner

UIDP tackles strategic and tactical challenges impacting the environment for research collaboration. We’re not a lobbying organization. We are a solutions-oriented organization where our members identify issues impacting university-industry (U-I) relations and opportunities to develop new approaches to working together.

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Members of the UIDP work together to:

  • Maximize the potential of existing collaborations and partnerships along the entire Partnership Continuum.
  • Build new networks and opportunities for future collaboration.
  • Remove barriers to joint research project success.

Many of the finest innovation companies and best research universities in the world belong to UIDP, representing a broad cross-section of industry sectors, organizations and academic institutions. Working together, we develop and disseminate practical solutions to shared challenges impeding collaboration success, irrespective of who we are or where we work.

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Identifying new partners

While UIDP’s focus is on developing practical solutions to address obstacles to collaboration, we know how challenging it can be to identify new partners with the right combination of shared values and strategic and technical competencies. We offer UIDP members several ways to identify and connect with potential new partners. Our conferences are a primary avenue to share approaches, collaborate while establishing important connections, and solve contemporary partnership challenges. UIDP relies on member organizations to provide host facilities and support in-person conferences. Most conference sites are secured years in advance.

Our Mission

The UIDP supports mutually beneficial university-industry collaborations by developing and disseminating strategies for addressing common issues between the two sectors.

Our Values

  • The development of a deep understanding and respect of the diverse goals, missions, and cultures between our universities and companies, and appreciation of the synergy that they can afford
Open communication
  • An environment where mutual respect fosters candor and communication
Commitment to making a difference
  • Innovation for the public good, maximizing to the greatest extent possible, the information and products that will ultimately be available to the public
  • Mutual commitment to sharing our experiences, diverse perspectives, and expertise, and lead to high impact training and professional development
  • Alignment of the varied goals and cultures of university and industry in pursuit of innovation and research
  • Strategic, result-oriented thinking and the development of practical, active demonstrations or pilots
  • Recognition of the benefits of university-industry collaborations and the opportunity lost when mutually beneficial agreements cannot be reached
  • An appropriate level of trust based upon personal engagement and shared experiences
  • A commitment to principled and transparent negotiations
  • A commitment to rapidly respond to evolving challenges and opportunities to enhance partnerships


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Tony Boccanfuso

President & CEO

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Since 2007, Anthony M. Boccanfuso has led UIDP (, a solutions-oriented membership organization comprised of top-tier innovation companies and world-class research universities. UIDP supports mutually beneficial collaborations by developing and disseminating strategies for addressing common issues between the sectors—academic, corporate and government. Its activities help members achieve meaningful impact on a broad array of collaboration matters, ranging from contracting to commercialization and workforce development.

After completing his doctorate in inorganic chemistry, Boccanfuso embarked on a career spanning more than 30 years with a focus on research and innovation. He managed a variety of administrative, programmatic, and strategy initiatives for academic, government, and private sector organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

More recently, Boccanfuso was part of a team selected to create and manage the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA,, an NSF-funded initiative with a mission to identify and develop new engineering research directions and catalyze high-impact research that benefits society.

Tony’s wife, Dr. Laura Boccanfuso, is a successful roboticist and entrepreneur who founded Van Robotics, an ed tech company.  They have three children and reside in Columbia, SC.

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Bob Starbuck


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Bob is a UIDP Associate, serving as our Treasurer and a co-lead on our Clinical Trials Project. He retired in 2008 after 32 years in the pharmaceutical industry, ending his career as the Assistant Vice President of Clinical Development, Special Projects at Wyeth Research in Collegeville, PA where he headed the biostatistics, clinical programming, clinical data management, and field monitoring functions.

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Josh Aebischer

ERVA Program Specialist

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Josh Aebischer brings experience from eight years in the insurance industry to his role as ERVA program specialist. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and religious studies from Appalachian State University. He enjoys sports and playing chess in his free time.

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Kimberly Brennan

Events Specialist

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Kimberly Brennan brings more than 12 years of event planning experience to UIDP. She served as a training specialist and planner for the U.S. Space Shuttle Program at Kennedy Space Center and has been an event coordinator for a large health care nonprofit organization. She holds an associate degree in business operations from Columbia College. She enjoys sports and outdoor activities with her family and is an active volunteer in local efforts and in the experimental aviation community to foster STEM education for the next generation.

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Michael Brizek

Program Director

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Mike possesses over 23 years’ experience in higher education as an administrator and researcher with several universities, including the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Maryland System, University of South Carolina, Troy University, and South Carolina State University. Mike was previously founding research director of the IIFRE at the University of South Carolina, where he was a principal investigator involved with several USDA and NSF projects as well as several state agency research proposals. Mike has worked with numerous industry organizations as a university administrator, partnering in several outreach initiatives.

Mike earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Carolina and his doctorate from the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.

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Jenna Conant

Program Coordinator

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Jenna brings a versatile professional background of 15 years in customer service as well as extensive records and project management to her role at UIDP. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from California State University, San Bernardino, as well as a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Carolina. She joins UIDP from the South Caroliniana Library at USC, where she worked five years, most recently in archival processing and catalog librarianship. Jenna is passionate about serving in her Columbia young professionals community, books and movies, and Gamecocks sports.

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Melissa Erekson

Project Consultant

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Melissa is the principal of Clio & Associates, a consulting practice that delivers solutions for university-industry collaborations. She has 16 years of experience in university-industry relations, including leadership positions at both Tulane University and the Pennsylvania State University. Melissa has demonstrated experience in using data to make decisions on pursuing “big ideas” with the most strategic industry partners while working across academic and corporate silos to inform and support large-scale initiatives for impact. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and  Spanish studies from Tufts University as well as an MBA with a concentration in international marketing from the FW Olin School of Business at Babson College.

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Natoshia Goines

Events Manager

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Natoshia has 15 years of meeting professional experience planning and managing small- and large-scale meetings and conferences. Prior to joining UIDP, Natoshia worked as a meeting professional for a large corporation, a consulting firm, a university, and a nonprofit. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in executive leadership from Liberty University. In her spare time, Natoshia loves volunteering in the community through various local initiatives.

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Tamara Hayman Henry

UIDP Special Projects Consultant

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As UIDP’s special projects consultant, Tamara Hayman Henry is responsible for managing the initiative to aid members in growing their relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Tamara is a certified project management professional (PMP), Lean and Six Sigma Blackbelt and engineer with more than 16 years’ experience in varying disciplines including software and systems engineering, information technology, project management and process improvement. Tamara has demonstrated experience in designing and executing Lean projects that leverage the intersection of technology, strategy, and business to create high–value and high–performing teams. She earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a master’s degree in technical management from Johns Hopkins University. Tamara is a wife, mother of two, and a classroom speaker for Maryland public schools, and actively participates in several community support activities as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

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Maddy Howard

Media and Communications Specialist

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As media and communications specialist, Maddy Howard supports UIDP’s marketing and communications function and conducts online research on emerging topics in university-industry research collaboration. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in mass communications at the University of South Carolina. In addition to creating social media content, Maddy enjoys creative writing, gardening, and painting.
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Morgan Jones-King

Events Content Manager

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As the UIDP events content manager, Morgan ensures that all UIDP resources are organized, searchable, and readily available to members through the UIDP website. Morgan, a certified archivist, is a proud Tar Heel, as she earned both a master’s degree in library science and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before joining UIDP, Morgan worked for the South Carolina Department of Archives and History as the Electronic Records Archivist. She resides in Columbia, SC with her husband, Benjamin, and their daughter.


Michelle Lubaczewski

Operations Coordinator

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Michelle assists the UIDP team with special projects and member database management. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seton Hall University and a master’s degree in human resource management from the Rutgers University. Her professional background includes 10 years as assistant director at the Rutgers Employment Center, three years as a faculty member at DeVry University and four years as a test administrator for graduate law and medical school entrance examinations.

Sandy Mau

Marketing Communications Director

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As UIDP’s marketing communication director, Sandy is responsible for planning and executing communication strategy across the organization. She brings more than 20 years of experience in persuasive writing, translational journalism and multi-channel communication to the UIDP team. Sandy has bylined hundreds of articles and reports, specializing in making complex topics accessible to a broad audience. She is a proud alumna of the University of California San Diego.

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Mark McGill

ERVA Program Manager

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Mark McGill brings project management experience from seven years in the legal and insurance fields to his role as ERVA program coordinator. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College of Charleston. In his free time, he enjoys being outdoors and attending sports events.

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Laquita Mitchell

Accounting and Grants Manager

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Laquita brings more than 10 years of financial and accounting experience in various roles, ranging from financial services coordinator, payment operations team lead, and senior grants accountant. She has been responsible for accounts payable and, receivable functions, financial reporting, grants management, and budgeting. In her role, she provides financial oversight to the organization and grant operations, ensuring the appropriate use and accuracy of reporting. Laquita enjoys listening to audio books, fishing, attending travel baseball tournaments with her son, and watching foreign dramas.

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Lily Neal

Membership Data Coordinator

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As the membership data coordinator, Lily works with UIDP members and staff to ensure all member information is both up to date and confidential. This ensures the maximum experience for UIDP membership organizations. Before joining UIDP, Lily served in both the public service and corporate sectors in team development and collaboration. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and sales from Western Carolina University. Lily is a dedicated military spouse and a proud mom of twins.

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Annie Shealy

ERVA Events and Engagement Manager

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Annie brings 10 years of relationship development and management experience to her role as the ERVA events and engagement manager. Prior to joining the team, Annie served in a variety of roles at a large public university, including development, grant management and career services. She holds a bachelor’s degree in finance, marketing and social entrepreneurship from Creighton University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina. In her down time, Annie enjoys spending time with her family, antiquing and a good DIY project.

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Rebecca Silveston

ERVA Executive Director

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Rebecca has more than 30 years’ experience in R&D product development and open innovation. A chemical engineer by training, she has directed scientific teams to bring a range of products from concept to commercialization in companies ranging startups to the Fortune 500. Most recently, she served as senior R&D associate for Sonoco Products Company, scouting technology and evaluating performance for more than 200 new materials and processes. She has worked collaboratively with internal and external resources and teams to organize conferences, webinars, and workshops on open innovation topics and brings skills in technology scouting, academic/industry open innovation, contracting, budget preparation, intellectual property, and government grants. Rebecca holds 18 patents (two pending) and has published 13 conference proceedings and peer-reviewed journal articles. She earned her doctorate in chemical engineering from Uppsala University in Sweden and a bachelor’s degree in applied science from Queens University in Ontario.

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Rebecca Springfield

Operations and HR Director

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Rebecca, our operations and HR director, has more than 20 years’ experience in corporate and non-profit relations.  Her expertise covers a wide range of areas, including public relations, human resources and employee relations, event planning, and business and program management.  She earned a master’s degree in leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University.  Rebecca resides in Irmo, SC with her husband, a retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot, and their two daughters.

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Lisa Frierson Staggers

Events Coordinator

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Lisa comes to UIDP with 10 years of experience in local government, including a background in economic development, higher education, and meeting and event planning. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Winthrop University and a certificate in meeting and event planning from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Lisa is a museum enthusiast, avid vegetable gardener, and enjoys taking road trips along the eastern seaboard. She is a Columbia native and resides in the area with her husband and toddler daughter.

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Madison Stone

Graphic Design Consultant

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Madison is a designer and illustrator from Columbia, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina Honors College and received her BFA in graphic design and illustration. In her free time, Madison enjoys creating art, Braves baseball, and listening to true crime podcasts.

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Angie Florentine Taylor

Membership Services Manager

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As the UIDP membership services manager, Angie ensures that all UIDP members receive the maximum return on their membership investment by leading membership communications including news, benefits and services offered by the UIDP as well as connecting members with other opportunities that arise within the U-I environment. Angie has joined the UIDP team after earning her Bachelors from the University of Pittsburgh specializing in Business administration with a focus in Marketing and Operations Management. Please contact her at if interested in learning more about UIDP.

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Jenna Taylor

Communications Specialist

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As UIDP’s communications specialist, Jenna supports events, projects, and membership functions by creating engaging video, audio, electronic and print media content. She holds a bachelor’s degree in media arts from the University of South Carolina. In her free time, Jenna enjoys exploring nature, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

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Kristina Thorsell

Senior Project Advisor

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As UIDP’s senior project advisor, Kristina manages UIDP’s project portfolio. The portfolio covers a wide array of topics relating to contracting, strategic partnerships, workforce development, and government engagement. For more than seven years, Kristina has worked at the intersection of university, industry, and government. She seeks to identify barriers to cross-sector collaboration and use crowd-sourcing techniques to create solutions and opportunities for lowering barriers and creating a stronger innovation ecosystem. Previously, Kristina held positions with AAAS and the National Academy of Sciences. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Purdue University and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Maryland. She also regularly attends association management, project management, and meeting facilitation training. Kristina resides in Vienna, VA with her husband, Ben, and her dog, Vsepr.

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Kimberly Walker

Program Director

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Kimberly Walker has spent over a decade in higher education at the University of South Carolina, USC Upstate, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and the South Carolina Technical College System. Kimberly’s background includes continuous improvement, institutional effectiveness, institutional research, accreditation, and curriculum design. Kimberly earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina, a master’s degree in education from Columbia College, and a doctorate in leadership studies from North Carolina A&T State University. Kimberly resides in Columbia with her husband and two children. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to NPR, and spending time with her dog, cat, ball python, and axolotl.

UIDP Interns

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Sabrina Beaudry

ERVA Engagement Intern

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Sabrina Beaudry is a senior at the University of South Carolina and will graduate in May 2023.  She is majoring in public relations with a minor in art studio as art has always been a passion.

Sabrina previously worked as a marketing and communications intern for South Carolina’s Sound Science Nutrition. While at the University of South Carolina, Sabrina participates on the women’s club lacrosse team and holds membership in the Chi Omega sorority. She also volunteers at local animal shelters as a member of the Give a Dog a Bone student club.

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Leah Casman

ERVA Business Analytics Intern

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Leah is a junior at the University of South Carolina double majoring in marketing and finance with a concentration in business analytics. She is from Boston, Massachusetts, and enjoys spending her free time with her friends and family.

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Courtnie Coffman

Events Intern

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Courtnie is a current senior studying at the University of South Carolina. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in studio art. She is originally from Fort Mill, SC, and in her free time she enjoys baking, writing, and hanging out with her family.

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Rehanna Menon

HBCU Engagement Intern

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Rehanna is a junior at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. She is majoring in marketing and enjoys sketching and painting, playing piano and guitar, second-hand thrifting, and spending time with her two cats.

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Kate Waddell

Content Management Intern

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Kate is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina. She is majoring in public relations with a concentration in crisis management and minoring in sport and entertainment management. She is from Greenville, South Carolina, and enjoys reading and spending time with friends.

UIDP Senior Fellows

Sandra Ann Brown

Sandra Brown

UIDP Senior Fellow

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Sandra Ann Brown is distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry and previously served as vice chancellor for research at UC San Diego. In that prior role, she oversaw the Office of Research Affairs, which is charged with creating opportunities, enhancing the research experience, developing tools and training to improve research administration, and supporting and promoting university innovations and industry engagements.

Brown is internationally recognized for her developmentally focused alcohol and drug research. Her research yielded pioneering information on adolescent addiction, relapse among youth, and long term outcomes of youth who have experienced alcohol and drug problems. She is the past president of Division 50 (Addictions) of the American Psychological Association, is on the executive board of numerous scientific organizations, and has over 35 grants and 350 publications. She is involved in addiction prevention and intervention at the regional, state, and national levels and helped lead NIAAA’s effort to establish national screening and early intervention guidelines for youth. Currently, she co-directs the administrative units of the National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) and the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study.

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Todd Cleland

UIDP Senior Fellow

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Todd recently retired from his role as senior director for corporate relations at the University of Washington (UW), where he led the central corporate relations team. Todd’s team focused on supporting and growing UW’s top 30 corporate relationships and on leading strategic projects to enhance corporate engagement. His leadership resulted in creation of a fee-based capstone program in the College of Engineering and launch of a pre-paid IP program for corporate sponsored projects.

Todd has been involved with UIDP for over 10 years. He has served as the UW’s member representative and actively participated in many UIDP conferences and events, including several appearances as a panel speaker. Todd has also worked on several UIDP projects and served on the Project Committee. Todd has also had long involvement with NACRO, where he served on the board of directors, numerous committees and as co-president; in this role, helped lead a major refresh of NACRO’s strategic plan.

Todd joined the UW in 2010 after 20+ years at Hewlett-Packard. During his HP career, he worked in R&D and management roles in its semiconductor and inkjet printing businesses and in the CTO office, where he led new business programs and supported merger and acquisition activities. Todd helped to develop the printheads that enabled HP’s first photo printers. Todd’s technical experience includes digital printing, displays, microfabrication, and microfluidics; he is an inventor on 20 issued patents. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a doctorate from UC Berkeley, both in chemical engineering; he also has an SM/MBA in technology management from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.


Jilda Garton

UIDP Senior Fellow

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Jilda previously served as the vice president for research and general manager of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) and Georgia Tech Applied Research Corporation (GTARC) at Georgia Institute of Technology. In that role she was responsible for the financial and business affairs of GTRC and GTARC, including licensing of intellectual property created at Georgia Tech. She also directed the activities of the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Office of Research Integrity Assurance and the Office of Industry Engagement.

Jilda has long been active nationally in research policy matters. She served on the Board of Directors of the Council on Governmental Relations (1999-2004) including two years as chair of the Contracts and Intellectual Property Committee. She also served on the UIDP Board of Directors, co-chairing the Contracts Accords Working Group. She has also served as a member of the faculty of the National Council of University Research Administrators’ professional education programs.

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Anna-Marie Greenaway

UIDP Senior Fellow

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Anna-Marie Greenaway is completing her doctorate degree at the University of Cambridge following a 30-year career in the energy industry, most recently as global director of international research partnerships at bp. In this role, Anna worked closely with the University of Cambridge and until September 2020 served on the advisory committees of the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, Scott Polar Research Institute and the BP Institute for Multiphase Flow as well as the Clean Energy Centre at Tsinghua University, Beijing and the PROSPER low carbon rural energy project at IIM Ahmadabad, India. In 2017 she was appointed to the Science Advisory Council for the UK government Department of Transport and remains a member of the council while undertaking her part-time Ph.D. research into net zero industry roadmapping at the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge Her academic background is in Earth sciences and she hold a bachelor’s degree from RHBNC University of London and completed a Masters in Sustainability Leadership degree from the University of Cambridge between 2010-2012 with a dissertation on strategic roadmapping for CCUS technologies in China. Her doctorate is supervised by Dr Rob Phaal and aims to explore the development of strategic roadmapping frameworks and toolkits to assure delivery of net zero carbon ambitions.

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Randolph Hall

UIDP Senior Fellow

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Randy is a professor in the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on how universities innovate in their practices for education, research and clinical care, and how they overcome the obstacles to change. As vice president of research for 14½ years, he led research initiatives across the university, overseeing research advancement, administration and ethics activities. Randy has contributed to numerous national organizations, including service as board chair for UIDP and chair of our Joint Employment Project Committee.

Karl Koster

Karl Koster

UIDP Senior Fellow

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At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Karl Koster designed and implemented partnership strategies between MIT, large corporations, startup companies, U.S. and international government organizations, and the surrounding innovation ecosystem. From 1999 to 2022, he led the MIT Industrial Liaison Program (260+ corporate members) and launched the MIT Start Up Exchange (1400+ MIT spin-outs), fostering strong corporate relationships between MIT and the surrounding innovation ecosystem. Throughout his tenure, his office led the field of university/industry relations into the global and regional networked landscape of today. The MIT team catalyzed and supported numerous major international programs  that established programmatic linkages between universities, industry, and governments in support of regional entrepreneurship and research commercialization strategies.

Karl remains an MIT Affiliate. Most recently, his team took the lead at MIT and across universities in developing new approaches to university/corporate interactions, including extensive remote delivery offerings, that addressed recent pandemic related challenges. He previously served as chairman of UIDP and has long been a UIDP leader, dedicated to strengthening university-industry partnerships.

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Jim Spohrer

UIDP Senior Fellow

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Jim Spohrer serves on the International Society of Service Innovation Professionals (ISSIP) Board of Directors. At IBM, he led Open Source AI/Data, Global University Programs, IBM Almaden Service Research, and CTO IBM Venture Capital Relations Group. At Apple, he achieved Distinguished Engineer Scientist Technologist (DEST) for authoring and learning platforms. After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT, he developed speech recognition systems at Verbex (Exxon) and at Yale, where he earned a doctorate in computer science and artificial intelligence. With over 90 publications and nine patents, Jim’s awards include AMA ServSIG Christopher Lovelock Career Contributions to the Service Discipline, Evert Gummesson Service Research, Vargo-Lusch Service-Dominant Logic, Daniel Berg Service Systems, and PICMET Fellow for advancing service science.

UIDP Board (Voting Members)

Wendi Yajnik
Incoming Chair (Industry)

Wendi Yajnik, Chair


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Wendi Yajnik is the global head of academic partnerships and external innovation at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), the innovation and research engine of Novartis. At NIBR, she leads a team focused on accessing innovative, breakthrough therapies through scientific partnerships and collaborations with global academic partners as well as leading educational training programs, including the NIBR summer internship, post-doctoral and post-baccalaureate programs. She also oversees all NIBR donations, grants and sponsorships.

Wendi joined NIBR from Sanofi, where she was the head of R&D transactions in the Global Business Development and Licensing Group. In that role, she led a team responsible for negotiating early discovery research and licensing agreements with academic institutions and biotechnology partners. Prior to Sanofi, she was the executive director of innovation for Partners Healthcare, directing a team responsible for negotiating research collaborations, out-licensing intellectual property to pharma and biotechnology companies as well as start-up formation working in collaboration with the Partners Innovation Fund and venture capitalists. Before transitioning to the business sector, Wendi was an assistant professor of medicine and pathology at New York University School of Medicine focusing on HIV-1 research.

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Susan Martinis, Incoming Chair

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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Susan Martinis is vice chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she provides leadership for the campus-wide interdisciplinary research institutes, promotes new research initiatives, and oversees the administrative and business processes that ensure the safe, ethical, and productive conduct of research at Illinois.Martinis, the Stephen G. Sligar Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, studies the mechanisms, evolution, and biomedical applications of protein synthesis and RNA-protein interactions. She is a successful researcher, engaged in entrepreneurial and corporate partnerships, a committed educator, and an experienced administrator.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and doctorate at the University of Illinois. She trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow. She worked at a start-up biotechnology company, Cubist Pharmaceuticals (later acquired by Merck), and was awarded the company’s first U.S. patent and National Institutes of Health SBIR grant, before moving to the University of Houston. There, she  received the University of Houston’s highest teaching honor, the Enron Teaching Excellence Award, as well as the Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She was also recognized by the Houston Alumni Organization with the Outstanding Faculty Award.

Martinis has been at the University of Illinois since 2005. She was named a University Scholar, and was appointed the inaugural Stephen G. Sligar Endowed Professor in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. She is a member of the Center for Biophysics and Quantitative Biology and an Affiliate in the Department of Chemistry. In addition, she received a prestigious Fellowship from the University of Illinois to participate in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation’s (Big 10 Academic Alliance) Academic Leadership Program.

Martinis contributed significantly to the founding of the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine, which offers a paradigm-shifting approach to teaching medicine that is engineering-based. Her research centers on the family of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases, in particular leucyl-tRNA synthetase, where she has made significant contributions over 25 years to understand quality control mechanisms, tRNA recognition, and a non-canonical role in mitochondrial group I intron splicing.  She founded and currently leads a W.M. Keck Foundation-supported team of six research laboratories at the University of Illinois that spans cell, structural, and computational biology, as well as biochemistry.

She serves as president of the Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry (AMGDB) across North and Central America. She has served as an inaugural member of the National Institutes of Health Molecular Genetics A study section and participated in review panels for the National Science Foundation.

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Theresa Mayer, Immediate Past Chair

Carnegie Mellon University

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Theresa S. Mayer is the vice president for research at Carnegie Mellon University, supporting the research, creativity and entrepreneurship that drives its mission and working with partners across the public and private sectors to bring the benefits of this work to all of society.

She previously served as executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue University, where she oversaw the $670 million research enterprise of the university and supported holistic engagements with federal, industry, and global strategic partners.  Prior to this role, she was the vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech. During her 23-years at Penn State University, she served as the associate dean for research and innovation in engineering, the site director of the NSF National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, and a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and materials science.  She is widely recognized for her work in advanced manufacturing of nanoscale electronic, optical, and biomedical devices, which has been supported by the DoD, NSF, DOE, NIH, and industry. Theresa has over 200 technical publications, invited presentations and tutorials, and holds ten patents in these areas. Several of her inventions have been transitioned into commercial and military systems.  She is actively engaged in service to her profession and the nation, including past service on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, PCAST.  Theresa earned a bachelor’s degree. in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech, and master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue University.

Nerissa Draeger,  Industry Director

Lam Research

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Nerissa Draeger is director of global  university engagements at Lam Research, a position she has held since 2017. She oversees Lam’s academic partnerships and strategic research collaborations in pursuit of disruptive and enabling technologies to advance the semiconductor industry. Her leadership is focused on creating diversity in both our technology and talent pipelines to drive innovative solutions for our customers. Nerissa has led various programs since joining the company in 2000; including feasibility of emerging materials and processes, new product development, and strategic business and intellectual property development.

Nerissa’s background is in thin film deposition and she earned her doctorate in materials science and engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her bachelor of science in engineering degree from the University of Michigan. She has authored over 30 patents and numerous technical publications.

Sophia Herbert-Peterson

Sophia Herbert-Peterson, University Director

Georgia Institute of Technology

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Sophia Herbert-Peterson is director of industry contracting for Georgia Tech Research Corporation, the contracting entity for sponsored research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is responsible for managing all contracting activities, developing and implementing policies and procedures that support the research collaboration process, and developing and deploying strategic initiatives for industry engagement. She is also an active supporter of diversity leadership initiatives on campus, such as Georgia Tech’s Inclusive Leaders Academy and the Leading Women@Tech Program. Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Sophia served as a law clerk for the Honorable Earl B. Gilliam in the Southern District of California, as in-house counsel for two Fortune 500 companies, and practiced  at an Atlanta law firm. Sophia earned her bachelor’s degree in international studies and Spanish literature from Manhattan College and her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

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Carla Leigh, Industry Director


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Carla Leigh is the Cisco research chief of staff and program manager in the Emerging Technology and Incubation group at Cisco. In this role, she focuses on fostering a strong relationship between Cisco’s global research investments and its technology strategy. Her previous roles include leading Cisco’s global intern program, working on Cisco’s global university recruiting strategy and being a systems engineer across data center enterprise sales. Carla received her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with a minor in engineering leadership from Penn State University.

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Kathy Lynch, University Director

Yale University

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Kathy serves as university director, strategy & engagement, at Yale University. She brings more than 20 years of experience in industry partnerships, university-based research, cross-cultural project management, training and development, and fundraising. Her professional experience has been largely spent in academia building and sustaining effective multi-sector partnerships with lasting impact on the development of corporate policy, curriculum, research, and public policy.

Kathy collaborates with faculty and other campus stakeholders to grow and sustain substantial mutually beneficial corporate partnerships that support Yale’s mission to improve the world through exceptional research and scholarship. Her team’s activities center around three strategies: business development, strategy and policy alignment, and communication and collaboration.

Previously as director, global partnerships for the Shared Value Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort that aims to drive adoption and improve implementation of shared value strategies among leading companies, civil society, and government organizations, Kathy launched the Shared Value in Perspective Series to explore the ‘living adaption’ of the shared value strategy around the world. Lead partners included Nestle, Novartis, Enel, and G.E.

Kathy is married with three adult children. She and her husband enjoy traveling, spending time cooking with family, and Bikram Yoga. Kathy earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Massachusetts and her master’s degree in business administration from Bentley University.