W.E. Cornell Welcomes Fifth Cohort

W.E. Cornell Welcomes Fifth Cohort

W.E. Cornell is pleased to welcome 13 new STEM innovators to its Spring 2023 cohort. 

Now training its fifth cohort, the W.E. Cornell program offers a proven entrepreneurship and leadership-focused curriculum to help PhDs and postdocs bring their technology innovations to market. Participants receive opportunities to meet experienced mentors, build their professional networks, and hone their market fit and customer base before launching their businesses and pitching to investors and community members. 

“This group is joining a strong network of mentors and founders who share a passion for supporting women in entrepreneurship,” said program director Andrea Ippolito, B.S. ‘06, M.Eng ’07, who also serves as a lecturer in the College of Engineering. “The connections they make will help them throughout their careers, long after they complete the W.E. Cornell program.”  

The program operates annually in two semester-long phases, with Phase 1 taking place in the Fall and Phase 2 in the Spring. Phase 1 is open to all students at Cornell doing research at the graduate level and higher, including women, female-identified, and non-binary people. Participants attend workshops to learn more about entrepreneurship, leadership, and commercialization and network with potential mentors.

A smaller group of participants is selected for Phase 2. They spend the winter and spring conducting customer discovery interviews and assessing their market fit and customer base as they work with mentors, learn through workshops, and practice business pitches. At the end of the program, participants present their work to the W.E. Cornell Advisory Board and celebrate the progress they’ve made on their entrepreneurial journeys.

“As scientists, oftentimes entrepreneurship isn’t showcased as a career option, so I really appreciated having the workshops tailored to a complete beginner audience,” said Eleanor Best, Ph.D. ’27. “I have learned about how to fund my startup, start customer discovery, and adjust my product accordingly.” 

Now in its third year, the ClimateTech Track of the program empowers female entrepreneurs addressing climate challenges with additional mentorship, coaching, and resources in the climate technology space. This year’s climate tech participants are Firehiwot Gurara, Ph.D. ’24, Christa Nunez, Ph.D ’27, and Diana Ulloa, a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow

“W.E. Cornell gives me the opportunity to explore my ideas for adaptation to climate change in Latin America with a holistic approach,” Ulloa said. She added that commercializing climate tech innovations in developing countries can create job opportunities for engineers in addition to research and conservation initiatives. 

Get to know all 13 entrepreneurs participating in the Spring 2023 cohort and find out what they’re working on: 

  • Samiha Azgar, Ph.D. ’26 is making nutritionally bio-enhanced food products that promote women’s reproductive health. 
  • Eleanor Best, Ph.D. ’27 is working on non-invasive blood testing for veterinary patients to minimize animals’ stress levels at the veterinarian. 
  • Beatriz Carmona, Ph.D. ’26 is interested in developing a plain language nutrition fact-checker tool that incorporates peer-reviewed research findings for the public to quickly vet the validity of nutrition claims they find on the internet.
  • Catia Dombaxe, Ph.D. ’26 is developing a technology to improve the extraction process of natural materials and fabricate an oil to aid in the treatment of hair loss and skin hyperpigmentation. 
  • Firehiwot Gurara, Ph.D. ’24 is creating an induction stove, compatible with ferrous and non-ferrous cookware, designed using high-frequency power conversion technology. 
  • Yuexing Hao, Ph.D. ’26 is devising an intelligent dietary supplement management system called HUG to address health problems that are caused by misusing or abusing dietary supplements. 
  • Rui Huang, Ph.D. ’24 is making a genetic home testing kit for women’s reproductive health. 
  • Oluwatomi Jacobs, M.S. ’23 is working to increase the availability of improved seeds to small-scale African women farmers. 
  • Huong Nguyen, postdoc, is producing healthy food dispensers to be placed in densely populated areas. 
  • Christa Nunez, Ph.D ’27 is developing Everyday Kinetics, which harnesses the power generated by exercise to fuel green energy technologies to save the planet. 
  • Joice Pranata, Ph.D ’24 is creating a mindful snacking solution. 
  • Diana Ulloa, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow ’23 is using water nature-based solutions to combine green and gray infrastructure. 
  • Nan Wang, Ph.D ’25 is making an affordable, rapid, and on-site tool for citizen science-based harmful algal blooms (HABs) monitoring and screening called HABScreenScope. 

“Being able to talk business with other inspirational female entrepreneurs has become one of my favorite parts of the week and helped me not feel so alone in my journey,” Best said. 

Applications for the next W.E. Cornell cohort will open this summer. You can support STEM entrepreneurs by donating to W.E. Cornell’s fund on Giving Day on March 16!