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

Pinto da Silva_Ana_2022

Ana Pinto da Silva

Innovator in Residence

Gopi Katragadda's headshot in black and white

Gopichand Katragadda

Innovator in Residence

man with crossed arms standing behind a barrier in a doorway

Hudson Harr

Innovator in Residence

Seema Katragadda

Seema Katragadda

Innovator in Residence

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

Pithan Executive Director of Innovation, 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.

Consulting Faculty Innovators

Program Description

The Faculty and Staff Professional Practices Innovator Program is designed to invest in advancing collaboration and professional development between faculty and staff and the Student Innovation Center.  The goal is to design and deliver opportunities that promote interdisciplinary, university-wide innovation.

Investment in Faculty and Staff Innovators

Investment in our faculty and staff innovators comes in many forms

  • Professional development dollars
  • Forging relationships with industry innovators
  • Advancing existing or future projects


  • Elevate and promote faculty and staff innovators within the university (departments, colleges, leadership) and beyond (through university marketing
  • Opportunity to recruit students for future engagement
  • Connection with industry influencers in ways that could advance existing and future projects (ie. grants and future funding)

SICTR Ideation and Collaboration

  • Assist with ideation and resourcing (people and funding) for future innovation-based projects
  • Support (resources, scheduling, registration, promotion) joint innovation challenge and speaker opportunities
  • Provide matching funds for colleges and departments to sponsor challenges and speakers: Music, AESHM, College of Design, M2I

Program Onboarding

  • Introductory session to SICTR Innovation programs, coaching, opportunities and student outcome data
  • Ideating about potential programs, industry relationships and sponsorships, student engagement, shared speaker support

Where will you innovate next?

For more information about the program, or to seek support for SICTR/faculty collaborations, contact us at

Matt O’Neal

Professor of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Dr. Matt O’Neal oversees research related to the management of insect pests of annual crops, with a focus on soybeans. 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 pests with their host-plant and natural enemies, often within a landscape context. This research has contributed to the management of soybean aphids in Iowa and throughout the Midwest US. More recently, his lab is exploring how conservation methods may improve the abundance and diversity of beneficial insects that contribute to aphid mortality and crop pollination. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. O’Neal curates Student Innovation Fund Challenge teams.

Shahram Pouya

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering

Dr. Shahram Pouya has over 16 years of experience in the development and application of optical diagnostic techniques to study various fluid mechanics problems. His work has led to the birth of single quantum dot velocimetry, a near-surface velocimetry method to infer flow velocity within ~100nm of a surface. The technique was employed to study the dynamics of nanoparticles’ motion near-surface and analyze slip/no-slip boundary condition in microchannels. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. Pouya is the technical consultant for the SkyCurrent wind-fairing solutions student sprint team.

Claudia Lemper-Manahl

Claudia Lemper-Manahl

Associate Teaching Professor of Plant Pathology & Microbiology Department, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Dr. Claudia Lemper-Manahl teaches undergraduate courses in microbiology, molecular techniques, independent discovery and scientific communication. She seeks to provide students with a stronger understanding of microbiological techniques and how to master skills to continue to the workplace, graduate school or professional options. She also serves as the Program Coordinator of the AgDiscovery Program, which helps teenagers in 9-11th grade explore the diverse careers in Agriculture. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. Lemper-Manahl designs and deploys a campus-wide CySI microbiology forensic challenge.

Jeong Eunha

Assistant Professor of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, College of Human Sciences

EunHa (Lena) Jeong is an assistant professor in the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management at Iowa State University. Eunha’s research focuses on consumer behaviors/psychology and services marketing and management in the hospitality industry. Her research is published in journals, such as International Journal of Hospitality Management, and International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management. She has been awarded and has also presented several papers at research conferences. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. Jeong is helping coordinate for the Food Fusion Challenge at IGNITE Innovation Showcase 2022.

Rami Mannan

Assistant Teaching Professor of Architecture, College of Design

Mannan is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Architecture at Iowa State University. He is passionate about people, social impact, and exploring ways to elevate the human experience in the built environment through research, technology, and design. He is interested in how the built environment can build, strengthen, and broaden community relationships to address societal concerns. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. Mannan curates the Make to Innovate “Lab of the Future” Challenge workshops and team advising.

KP Williams

KP Williams

Assistant Teaching Professor of Leadership Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Dr. KP Williams joined the Iowa State University Leadership Studies program faculty in 2018. He teaches an array of Leadership Studies courses, as well as LAS 151, LAS Dean’s Leadership Seminar. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. Williams delivers special topics on interdisciplinary innovation and focuses on the intersections of leadership, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Rodrigo Tarté

Assistant Professor of Meat Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Director of Certificate Studies in Meat Science

Dr. Rodrigo Tarté joined the Iowa State faculty in 2015 after nineteen years in the private sector, during which he held various research & development positions in major meat and food processing companies. His primary areas of expertise and research are meat further processing, meat product formulation, non-meat ingredient technology and food safety. As a Faculty Innovator, Dr. Tarté is the technical consultant for Kent Corporations “Better Fats” student sprint team.

Eric Schares

Engineering & Collections Analysis Librarian, University Libraries

Eric Schares is the Engineering & Collection Analysis Librarian at Iowa State University. He works to analyze Iowa State’s academic publishing trends and move collection money away from subscription paywalls and toward more Open publishing models. He also serves as liaison to two engineering departments on campus, providing research help, instruction, and outreach. A recipient of the 2021 Professional & Scientific Excellence Award, his research interests include bibliometrics, Python, and Open Access agreements. Eric has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and an MLIS from Rutgers University. Prior to his current role at Iowa State, he worked at Intel for 10 years on NAND flash memory. As a Faculty Innovator, Eric helps provide student sprint teams with the tools they need to properly, efficiently, and ethically research using tools provided by University Libraries.

Jiyeon Jeon

Graduate Assistant, Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management

Jiyeon Jeon is a Ph.D. candidate in hospitality management at Iowa State University. She has had multiple work experiences in the  culinary arts, such as hotels (Deputy Section Chief and Baker), restaurants (menu director), and Insittue of Lifelong Education (developing cafeteria menu training manager). Additionally, she has attended multiple international and domestic professional culinary competitions where she received a number of awards. Most recognizably, Jeon won a bronze medal at the 2008 International Culinary Olympics (KFA). She is a member of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) since 2008.