2015-16 Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy: Fellows and Project Areas

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy is a resource support program for Purdue faculty who have entrepreneurial interests.

The goals of the program are to: increase technology commercialization on the Purdue campus through education about the resources and support available at Purdue and the Purdue Research Park; enhance the capabilities of faculty who are interested in leading interdisciplinary research programs, centers and partnerships that might lead to translational activities; support faculty who are interested in developing entrepreneurial courses or research projects; create a network of faculty with shared entrepreneurial interests; and introduce faculty to discussions about leadership skills and contribute to the cadre of the next generation of faculty leaders.

Ten faculty members are competitively selected each year to participate in the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy. A faculty member from the previous year is selected to serve as the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy Scholar. Each Fellow receives $5,000 in seed funding for a project; each Scholar receives $15,000 for continued project work.

Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy FAQ

Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy Participants & Interests


Oliver Wendt, wendto@purdue.edu

Assistant Professor, Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences, and Educational Studies

I am co-founder and Chief Science Officer of SPEAK MODalities, LLC (www.speakmod.com), a start-up company to commercialize software applications developed in my research lab on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). SPEAK MODalities offers evidence-based speech and language training apps for individuals with severe communication disorders, for example, children with severe autism or developmental delay. The product suite currently includes AAC tools for communication via graphic symbols on a tablet device (SPEAKall! and SPEAKall premium!), language generalization tools to teach semantic concepts (SPEAKmore!), tools for engaging the support team for each child in a common therapeutic experience (SPEAKtogether!), and a cloud-based community where successful therapeutic lessons can be shared by community members (SPEAKcloud!). As a scholar in the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy (ELA), I plan to submit an SBIR/STTR grant to support further product development and research, engage in fund raising activities for our start-up, and implement go-to-market strategies.

Sean Brophy, sbrophy@purdue.edu

Associate Professor, School of Engineering Education

My interests focus on the research, development, and distribution of effective learning technologies.  A recent project with my students produced an affordable instructional shake table and software that makes difficult concepts of physics more accessible.  I have worked with the students to design the system based on research from the learning sciences.   As a result we believe we have a robust system that provides a strong example of effective learning experiences for engineering and science education.  The table and software have been delivered to a small contingent of early adopters and their use of the table for education and outreach experiences has captured the attention of many educators.  My intentions as a scholar in the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy (ELA) are to develop a business plan to commercialize this instructional shake table system and identify the potential for a company that performs research and development of learning devices.   Also as an engineering educator I’m looking to blend this model with research experiences for undergraduate, and research and development opportunities for graduate and postdoctoral scholars. 



Nick Sambaluk, sambaluk@purdue.edu

Assistant Professor, College of Technology and College of Liberal Arts and College of Engineering

My focus on military history engages with the development (and the employment) of new technologies and methods that make these more impactful in the competitive dynamics that characterize warfare.  In particular, my project deals with the rich innovational environment (born of challenge and necessity) around the Allied Normandy landings in WWII.  Military history draws substantial interest from broad populations, including undergraduate populations and historically inclined hobbyists and established entrepreneurs, in addition to amongst scholars of the military history itself.  The relevance of military history and of innovation, explored through a “staff ride”-style study abroad experience, creates the valuable multidimensional opportunity to network Purdue undergraduates and innovation-minded alumni and entrepreneurs with each other, as well as to expose both populations to the historical record and to ways of combining evidence and critical analysis to derive ideas and conclusions.  My intentions as a scholar in the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy (ELA) are to develop the inaugural iteration of this Normandy Innovation Staff Ride study abroad course. 

Kerry Hoffman, kahoffma@purdue.edu

My interest during this year-long Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy experience is in networking with and learning from the other participants to glean insights about how to re-imagine the possibilities for the Center for Literacy Education and Research (CLEAR). The Center provides professional development related to literacy to K-12 educators across Indiana.  As Director of CLEAR for the past four years, we have shifted to a new business model in which we almost exclusively contract with schools to work with teachers onsite at their schools.  Despite the significant increase in revenue, financial independence from the College of Education remains somewhat out of reach. As well, with our focus solely on revenue generation through contract work, we have neglected the research aspect of our mission.   Over the past four years, staff numbers have also dwindled.  While we’ve seen a definite turn-around in our financial situation, our lack of human and other resources have caused us to reach capacity and we are unable to take on more revenue-generating work.  This has created a “hamster wheel” effect.  We are working as hard as we possibly can without getting any further in our ability to expand our reach and enhance efforts toward independence.  The ELA experience has promise to help me connect with others to find ways to increase our capacity and to expand the possibilities for work across more diverse disciplines in order to move CLEAR to the next level.  My goal is to come away from this experience with a new business plan that helps the Center realize its potential and capitalizes on the new networks created by being part of the Academy. 

Shirl Donaldson, edonalds@purdue.edu

E. Shirl Donaldson, Ph.D. PMP

School of Engineering Technology

I teach mechanical engineering technology courses and electrical engineering technology courses along with providing faculty mentorship on senior capstone projects.  In this role, I help students problem solve and many times new products are created as part of the solution. One of the courses I teach is ECET 380 Global Ethics and Professionalism for Electrical Engineering Technologist. This course has a heavy project management component as the specified prerequisite for the two-semester industry sponsored capstone projects. Programmatically, this course is required for ECET majors but an elective MET, IT/ID majors hence the population of the class becomes multidisciplinary. Interdisciplinary teams are formed to replicate real world experience and encourage creativity. Problem solving in this setting gives students an opportunity to create new products and services. Unfortunately after students create new products, they are not given a methodology or means to develop a start up. Consequently, the designs and products are never commercialized. The initial investment of time and resources are not leveraged and the potential benefit is never monetized. I am proposing the development of a new course to capitalize on students’ problem solving results and creativity.

 “Design Thinking and Business Modeling for New Products”

The course to be created will support the potentially marketable outputs from problem solving and project based learning.  Entrepreneurial activities will introduced in a format to help transform raw ideas and product concepts to early stage prototypes or market ready products. Engineering technologist and designers will learn how to work with marketing and financial experts to create a startup. This new course and its learning objectives will be in complete alignment with the applied learning initiatives in the Purdue Polytechnic. The outputs and potential impact of this course may create game changing merchandise and jobs.

A similar phenomenon occurs in supply chain management. The exploration of supply chain management as a means to identify “start-up” opportunities should be considered as a method to increase student entrepreneurial awareness and activities. Typical supply chain management courses focus on implementation, optimization and improvement of performance or trading partners. The creation of a new product or service may be a better solution. Close examination of an industry’s or company’s supply chain often unveils viable opportunities for entrepreneurial entities (Giunipero, Denslow & Eltantawy, 2005). For maximum benefit, this course will be available to all students in the college.

Not every innovative student will plan to take an entrepreneurship course. However, an introduction to entrepreneurship pedagogy via a technology course may prompt a creative or inquisitive student to pursue more instruction in entrepreneurship. Eventually, they may consider entrepreneurship as a career option.

Kari Clase, klclase@purdue.edu

I am the Director of the Center for Biotechnology Innovation and Regulatory Science (BIRS) and Director of the companion master’s degree in Biotechnology Innovation and Regulatory Science.  I would like to develop a strategic plan to expand the BIRS center into a sustainable entity by leveraging BIRS applied research projects and growing collaborations with external stakeholders. Current BIRS research initiatives that may result in new technologies and patentable intellectual property include: biomarkers for tuberculosis in Africa, viral protein identification and analysis, and large molecule profiling of rare diseases such as glioblastoma.

Daniel Dumbacher, dan-dumbacher@purdue.edu

After 33 years at NASA and leading major programs in the United States space exploration effort, I wanted to use this opportunity to develop and refine a process by which the investments taxpayers make in science and technology could be assessed for economic benefit.  In today’s fast paced, data rich, quickly changing, complex environment, key product, manufacturing, and even governmental policy decisions are made with incomplete or minimal analysis of the intended value proposition. In other words, it is hard to clearly and thoroughly understand “why” products are valuable or manufacturing facilities are built, or the value of key policy decisions and investments.  My proposed effort is to develop a multi-disciplinary skills and assessment approach / course that will collect, analyze and use qualitative and quantitative data from stakeholders and the “value chain” in a new way to address this problem.  

For example, NASA has had trouble in the past of delineating the “value” that has come from the technical investment in friction stir welding. This proposal is to research the methodology that NASA or other technical organizations (government, non-profit, academia, industry) could use to better understand and communicate the “value” of the respective investments.

Through the learning and networking opportunities provided by the Entrepreneur Leadership Academy, I hope to obtain the skills needed to lead students through the multi-disciplinary value chain approach, and develop groundbreaking coursework for students and eventual commercial application. 

Brad Duerstock, bsd@purdue.edu

Associate Professor of Engineering Practice, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and School of Industrial Engineering

My goal during the ELA fellowship is to build upon initiatives that provide learning outreach and commercialization activities based on my research interests in rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology. I co-founded the Institute for Accessible Science (IAS) to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in STEM careers. As director, the IAS has spearheaded several different research, design, student training, and knowledge base activities. This has resulted in the development of assistive technologies, user-centered approaches, targeted information, and a summer undergraduate research internship program to assist students with physical disabilities to actively engage in practice-based STEM education. Due to the commercial potential of some of the AT that we have developed, I co-founded Prehensile Technologies, LLC in 2014. This business model involves AT product R&D and providing specialized engineering services to the AT industry.

Jeong-Nam Kim, layinformatics@gmail.com

Associate Professor Redding Faculty Fellow &

Discovery Park Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy Fellow

Brian Lamb School of Communication & Department of Political Science (Courtesy)

Purdue University

Director, Debiasing & Lay Informatics (DaLI) Lab

A Tool for Quantifying and Tracking the Rise and Fall of Hot-Issue Publics in Sociopolitical Controversies for Conflict Management: A Social Entrepreneurship Project

Social distancing and balkanization in its extreme form evolves into civil war, destroying society physically and psychologically. In digitalized network society, we are fragmented now more than ever before, willingly self-locked in our way of perceiving the world with our own versions of belief systems about many social problems. We are dogmatic and close-minded and our own worst enemies to an open society. In this vein, I develop a measurement system and a procedure of quantifying and tracking the dynamics of public opinions and their close-mindedness over time: i.e., the coefficients of issue volatility and issue stability. The measurement system and quantification methods for evaluating public opinions changing in controversial issues provide an effective diagnostic tool for governmental officials and nonprofit civic leaders and further corporate managers. Specifically, the methods help organizations monitor and track the rise and fall of active, hot-issue publics in controversial issues (e.g., vaccination controversy, stem cell research, police violence) and guide public policy makers and organizational managers to develop strategies for effective problem solving and conflict resolution.

Timothee Pourpoint, timothee@purdue.edu

Associate Professor, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics

I have always seen the SBIR/STTR programs as perfect vehicles for me to get ideas for fundamental research needs as well as ideas for applied systems requiring new and significantly improved capabilities. The commercialization strategy emphasized in those programs is an aspect I want to learn more about so that my ideas and my research lead to systems that “fly”, in all senses of the word. Whether for precise needs related to aerospace applications or for energy management within most aspects of our society’s power hungry infrastructure, I look forward to bringing some of the ideas I have developed over the last few years to marketable products using the concepts covered by the Entrepreneur Leadership Academy.


Senay Purzer, spurzer@purdue.edu

College of Engineering, Associate Professor of School of Engineering Education

One of the barriers to teaching design creativity and innovation is our ability to assess the diverse aspects of innovation. Through my participation in the Entrepreneurship Leadership Academy, I will incorporate entrepreneurial concepts into my research programs as I develop a package composed of preeminent consulting, training, and web-presence. To date, I have had opportunities to deliver assessment workshops to hundreds of professionals. Three of my current NSF-funded grants involve assessment. I have also developed a prototype resource book titled, “The Busy Teacher’s Guide: Assessing Engineering Design projects.” I am developing larger and more intensive research collaborations and my plan is to develop leading-edge assessment services that might be commercialized and/or widely disseminated.

Bob Kenley, kenley@purdue.edu

Industrial Engineering, Associate Professor of Engineering Practice

I come to the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy seeking to define, validate, and deploy processes and methods for commercializing technologies where the key to success involves more than merely expending funds and working hard. Increasing product complexity motivates better systems engineering when commercializing technology in light of the ever-increasing software-driven processing and control embedded in products, the ability of products communicate with other devices and data sources, and the expectations of the public for safe and environmentally friendly products.

I see two potential projects that could spring from my participation in the academy:

  1. I have been working with a colleague in Biomedical Engineering here at Purdue to develop a module for an existing course, a new short course, or new semester-length course to combine training in regulatory compliance and systems engineering for medical device developers. The academy can provide me with the expertise to develop innovative approaches to deploying the course, and in addition, the academy cohort might provide a pool of participants for beta testing our course concept.
  2. The university has established a collaboration with the Crane Naval Service Warfare Center in southern Indiana to expedite and support the move of Crane’s intellectual property to the public. The leadership appointed by Crane for this effort would like to establish a well-defined process that have some degree of repeatability, that includes adequate systems engineering and prototyping to mitigate technology development risks, and that takes advantage of technology commercialization practices and processes that have been successful at Purdue.

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