Meet our Innovators

Innovators in Residence

Dennis Muilenburg

Co-founder of the Innovation Fellows program and Innovator in Residence

David Slump

Co-founder of the Innovation Fellows program, Founder of the Student Innovation Fund, and Innovator in Residence

James Altamirano

Innovator in Residence, Professional Practices Coaching Project

Gary L. Griswold

Innovator in Residence, IP Advocacy and Stewardship Project

Steve Johanns

Innovator in Residence

Anthony Sardella

Innovator in Residence

Jeff Underwood

Innovator in Residence

2021 Student Innovation Fellows Award Recipients

GOLD Fellows Award

The GOLD Fellows Award Recipients were honored for completing more than 540 hours within the Student Innovation Fellows program.

Mani Bhuma

Mani Bhuma

Mani graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. With a focus on space systems and infrastructure, Mani is working on a project to create, manufacture, and test a drone system capable of mining asteroids in Near Earth Orbit (NEO).

Owen Cline

Owen Cline

Owen graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology. Owen owns a business called Cline Design Creations, which makes and sells Computer Numerical Control (CNC) plasma cut metal signs. Owen plans to continue to work on the management and growth of Cline Design Creations.

Priyanka Krishnan

Priyankaa Krishnan

Priyankaa is a current doctoral student in educational technology and a proud Iowa State University College of Design alum. Priyankaa is a human-centered designer, problem solver, and people connector who desires to create designs where people can share their experiences, find new strategies, empower each other, and expand dreamers’ opportunities. 

Abigail Luchsinger

Abigail Luchsinger

Abigail graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in performing arts. Abigail is an MBTI® Certified Practitioner and is pursuing her master’s degree in industrial design. She is a curious collaborator rooted in the performing arts and passionate about igniting creative confidence across disciplines.

Charlie Wickham

Charlie Wickham

Charlie Wickham has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial design. He has an extensive backlog of student projects and is the founder of The Theme Park Engineering Group, the Ride Engineering Competition, and the Themed Entertainment Student Discord with over 500 global members.

Ashwin Yedavalli

Ashwin Yedavalli

Ashwin graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in engineering sales. Ashwin is currently working with Mani Bhuma and Sandeep Stanley, in developing space mining infrastructure solutions, Jaadu. Ashwin is also working on an app to help revolutionize pickup sports.

CARDINAL Fellows Award

The GOLD Fellows Award Recipients were honored for completing more than 344 hours within the Student Innovation Fellows program.

Ruben Arias


Ruben graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in data science and a minor in entrepreneurship. He is currently working on a personal project to combine his academic background with his interest in stocks and languages.

Eric Diaz


Eric graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial design. Eric plans to finish the graduate certificate in innovation and entrepreneurship. Eric is currently working on a project to increase civic engagement in city planning.

Sandeep Stanley


Sandeep graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in music. He is working with Mani Bhuma and Ashwin Yedavalli on their space mining venture, Jaadu, as a legal consultant.

Certificate Fellows Award

The GOLD Fellows Award Recipients were honored for completing more than 120 hours within the Student Innovation Fellows program.

Nathan Lindberg


Nathan graduated in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in German. Nathan’s big challenge project was designing a device charging station for an Ames food pantry.

Abraham Polonia Suarez


Abraham is originally from Carolina, Puerto Rico. Abraham has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is pursuing a master’s in industrial design. He is currently working on his creative component project on the waiting time experience in theme parks.

Leadership Team

Kerns, Karen (PP)

Karen Piconi Kerns

Director of Innovation Programs

Karen Piconi Kerns serves Iowa State University to build and brand Innovate at Iowa State.  Collaborating with faculty, staff, alumni, and industry leaders, she co-creates and delivers programs that differentiate an Iowa State University education and builds unique experiences that accelerate individual capacity to offer meaningful economic and community contributions.  Karen earned a BA from the University of California, Irvine, and an MA from Iowa State University, where she also taught and trained students, faculty, and staff for over two decades.   She holds certificates in Internal Family Systems Therapy and Spiritual Direction in support of her research and works to inspire stakeholder engagement and relationships.   She has more than thirty years of experience creating strategies for business development and collaboration among international and domestic, governmental, educational, and corporate entities.  In her twelve years as Co-Founder, CEO, and Vice President of Kerns and Associates, she built and branded a global risk management business that engaged the industry’s leading swine and poultry producers and allied industries.  Her career includes six years of fund-raising and management of a large non-profit organization and five years as owner and President of Persuade and Publish International.  She has consulted for USDA, USAID, and IFDC to grow entrepreneurial start-ups and create business solutions and strategic infrastructure in developing countries including Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro.  For three years, she was an SBA mentor for the state of Iowa, charged with supporting Iowa business owners in developing early-stage innovation.  She has published several articles on business succession planning and employee engagement and won Rotary’s “Unsung Hero” award for her contributions to Iowa Communities.


Jim Oliver

Director, Student Innovation Center

James Oliver is the inaugural director of Iowa State University’s Student Innovation Center (SICTR). He was awarded the title of University Professor in 2012 and was recently appointed as the Pithan Director of Innovation. He is a Professor of Mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in several other departments.   As the Director of SICTR, Oliver provides overall leadership of the center, including facility operations, development of innovation-based academic programming, strategic planning and engagement with external stakeholders.   Previously Oliver directed Iowa State’s Virtual Reality Applications Center, an interdisciplinary research center focused on emerging interface technologies. Oliver developed and directed the university’s Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) which complements the VRAC’s research mission by conferring Ph.D. and MS graduate degrees as well as Professional Certificates.   Oliver’s research career spans a wide array of emerging interface technologies, encompassing computer graphics, geometric modeling, virtual and augmented reality, and collaborative networks for applications in product development, complex system operation and training. His research has been funded by several federal agencies including the NSF, NASA, ONR, AFRL, US Army, as well as numerous industry partners. A fellow of the ASME, Oliver holds three U.S. patents, and is the recipient of numerous professional honors and awards. In addition to his Iowa State responsibilities, Oliver co-founded BodyViz, a technology startup focused on low-cost, easy-to-use medical visualization for the medical, education, veterinary and legal markets. He also formerly headed software product development for Engineering Animation Inc., (NASDAQ: EAII), and served as Vice President of Product Development for Cognicty, a Minneapolis-based startup in the internet marketing business.

Abram Anders

Associate Professor of English and Director of ISUComm Foundation Courses, LAS

Abram Anders is a researcher of communication and learning design to promote creative collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship, and leadership communication. His work has appeared in journals such as Computers & Education, International Journal of Business Communication, Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, and International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.

Jorge Calderon

Assistant Director of International Student Enrollment, Office of Admissions

Jorge Calderon leads international undergraduate recruitment efforts at Iowa State University. His responsibilities include strategy development and tactical plan implementation, managing partnerships, and pursuing traditional and innovative recruitment activities. Jorge has over 10 years of experience managing international student and exchange visitor programs. Jorge also serves as President of the Board for StudyIowa, a non-profit consortium organized to promote educational institutions in the state of Iowa; and on the USA Client Advisory Board for IDP Connect, an International Education Leader with 127 offices in 33 countries.

Ana Luz

Associate Teaching Professor in Industrial Design, College of Design

Since July 2018, Ana Luz moved from the other side of the pond (Portugal, UK and the Netherlands) to the USA, working now as an educator, trainer/coach and researcher in Design, in particular within the team of the Industrial Design Department at the College of Design. She also has a parallel career track in Educational sciences, Skills Training Programs and Learning curriculum development. Her continuous work in and outside academia, with creative industries and change management teams, is always based in creative facilitation and experiential active learning, by tapping into design thinking concepts and tools for collaboration, and aiming to spark creative confidence and intrapreneurship adventures around her.

Matt O’Neal

Professor of Entomology, College of Agriculture

Dr. Matt O’Neal is a professor in the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University. His overall goal is the development of pest management programs that are economically and environmentally sustainable. To achieve this goal, he explores the ecology of beneficial and pest insects, often within a landscape context.

Nacuya Rucker

Director of External Relations, University Library

Nacuya Rucker serves Iowa State University as the external relations director of the University Library. Externally, she leads strategic communications, branding, and public relations efforts that elevate the innovative work happening within the library. Internally, she collaborates with members of the Iowa State community to help them reimagine and redefine their library experience. In addition to her efforts at the library, Nacuya works alongside the Innovate at Iowa State team to design, test, and execute innovation programs that help accelerate and sharpen members of the Iowa State community.

David Spalding

Raisbeck Endowed Dean and Professor of Finance, Ivy College of Business

David P. Spalding is the fifth dean of the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University.  He is also serving as the interim vice president for Economic Development and Industry Relations. Before arriving in Ames in August 2013, he served for eight years at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Before Dartmouth, he had a 29-year career in finance in New York City. He was most recently vice chairman of The Cypress Group LLC, a private equity firm that he co-founded and co-managed.

Have questions about the Innovation Fellows?

Contact Karen Kerns

Entrepreneur in Residence President’s Initiative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation