Thesis Spotlight: Jonathan Schommer

Photo of student Jonathan Schommer

Last May Mr. Schommer graduated from Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a bachelor's degree in the Program of Liberal Studies. While doing his undergrad, he was heavily involved with Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns through service-learning programs and service on their student advisory board. Because of this involvement and a senior thesis project working with the group Engineering2Empower, Mr. Schommer is working to improve storm drainage systems for the city of South Bend and beyond.

ESTEEM Faculty Sunny Shah Featured on NSF Website

ESTEEM Assistant Director and Faculty, Sunny Shah, was recently featured in a Discoveries post on the National Science Foundation’s website.  As a past participant, and current advocate, for the NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps), Sunny was a natural spokesperson.

Professor Sunny Shah demonstrates the Business Model Canvas

I-Corps is a program funded by NSF with the focus of helping scientists and engineers translate their research and technology to the market.  In Sunny’s case, that meant finding out that the market he thought would benefit from his product may not be the right initial market.…

Guest Lecturer Mark Hubbard Brings Experience and Wisdom to the Program

As an independent consultant with over 25 years in the broadcasting industry, Mark Hubbard brings a wealth of wisdom and experience to his role as a guest lecturer in the ESTEEM Program.  With areas of expertise ranging from business valuation, negotiating transactions, financing and restructuring, enterprise financial modeling, sales development, organizational strategy and executive on-boarding/coaching, Mark now serves as an independent consultant providing services exclusively to senior management at established companies and to entrepreneurs at start-up ventures.  He works with public and private companies, both in the U.S. and internationally. …

Faculty Mentor: Christian Poellabauer, PhD

Last year, Christian Poellabauer, an associate professor of computer science and engineering, was working with ESTEEM student Shane McQuillan on speech-analysis software that can detect a concussion with a smartphone. The project led to a startup company. Notre Dame senior John Vernon attended the research meetings and participated in the discussions, then decided to pursue another use for the technology when he was accepted into this year’s ESTEEM class.…

Prototyping: Learning a New Language

Dustin Mix is a 2013 ESTEEM Graduate and a "Double Domer."  He has taken his Capstone Thesis Project and has - along with two Notre Dame faculty members - created a startup in Haiti.  You can read a little bit about Dustin here.

I’ve tried to learn two foreign languages in my life, the first of which was Spanish. I took three semesters of it in high school, then took a four year hiatus before I took another semester of it in graduate school. I wasn’t particularly bad at it, if getting good grades is any kind of measure. But when it came to communicating to people outside of the classroom that spoke the language fluently, it was a bit of a different story. I could order at the local Mexican taquerìa, but that was about it.

ESTEEM Outings: Better World Books


Last Friday the ESTEEM class visited the "Online Bookstore with a Soul," Better World Books, at its offices and warehouse in Mishawaka, IN. The company, founded in 2002 by three Notre Dame grads, has grown to be one of the top online retailers of used books, competing with the likes of Amazon and However, what makes Better World Books (BWB) different, what gives it its "soul," is the store's commitment to using business to promote positive change in the world, an idea they call the "Triple Bottom Line." While it is a for-profit company (actually the last line of the Triple Bottom Line), the company stresses the importance of upholding strong social and environmental stewardship. As a social company, BWB strives to promote literacy throughout the community: in addition to partnering with literacy advocacy groups like  Room to Read

Getting Out of The Classroom: Alison's visit to SAP in Chicago

Alison O'Shea is a current entrepreneurship master's student.

On Wednesday October 8th I had the opportunity to attend the SAP Illinois Innovation Day, thanks to Don Ginocchio. Don is SAP’s University Alliance Director here at Notre Dame.  He thought the trip would be a good way for me to continue my capstone thesis research, which is focused on big data processing, and it would help me understand more about SAP’s products and customers.  My thesis advisor, Sunny Shah, accompanied me on my trip to Chicago and we were in for a treat as the conference was being held in Soldier Field, the home of NFL Team, the Chicago Bears.…

Expose Yourself

James Sallee graduated from Purdue University and worked for the Department of Justice for 6 years prior to joining ESTEM.  Below he shares some of his thoughts related to how we can all become more innovative.

Photo of a light bulb made from crumpled paper

In modern, developed economies a key to success in virtually every industry involves relentless innovation. Several companies try to redesign themselves to …

ESTEEM Outings: Indiana Whiskey Co.


Recently students from the ESTEEM Program had the opportunity to tour a local startup whiskey distillery, Indiana Whiskey Company. The visit included a tour of the facility, the whiskey distilling process, and a few samples. The company prides itself on being an Indiana institution, and is one of the up and coming distilleries in the area; their Silver Sweet Corn Whiskey won second place at the 2014 World Spirits competition. As it says on their website

Faculty Spotlight: Prof. Kerry Wilson

Kerry Wilson brought his decades of experience in industry to the College of Engineering in 2011, when he assessed the college’s machine shops and started helping professors understand commercialization and how to make prototypes of their potential products using Notre Dame’s Proof of Technology Demonstration Center. His Springboard Engineering Solutions is based in Innovation Park.…

Faculty Spotlight: Prof. Dave Hutchison, Ph.D.


Dave Hutchison, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois and teaches finance in the Mendoza College of Business, knows the value of staying in touch with real-world practices. In addition to teaching at universities in Washington, Michigan, and Illinois before he came to Notre Dame six years ago, he worked as a mortgage banker, senior bank treasury manager, and CFO of a small real estate development company.…

Alumni Spotlight: Nate Higgins

A little over a year ago, Pennsylvania native Nate Higgins chose the ESTEEM program as the perfect intersection of his engineering physics degree from Juniata College and his business interest from internships that involved product launches. Today, he works as an intrapreneur and Process Engineer, growing the business of  Alpha Sintered Metals, LLC. Learn how ESTEEM helped make this happen.


Event Recap: Jim Hunt Early-Stage Investing Workshop

This last week ESTEEM students had the opportunity to meet and work with ND alum Jim Hunt, an active angel investor, board member of the Advisory Council for the ND College of Engineering, and adjunct professor of the MacDonough School at Georgetown. Mr. Hunt's career began in the 1970's as a government scientist, after which he founded his own company, BDS, Inc., in 1981. Following the merger of BDS in 1991-1992, Mr. Hunt spent time working with Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young. Mr. Hunt's angel investing practice began in the 1990's and has since resulted in twenty one exits. His investments focus primarily on technology, social media, analytics, and data management.…

Current ESTEEM class already Making an Impact

Students in Design Thinking/Business Model Canvas learn how to design a better wallet in a class exercise

Members of the 2015 entrepreneurship master's program, ESTEEM, launched their summer with service to South Bend as part of a Business Model Canvas course taught by Assistant Director Sunny Shah. Teams of students learned to gather and assess potential customers’ needs so that startup enterprises can address them effectively.…

Why Women Need to Be Leaders in Innovation

Rachael Marshall is a current student in our entrepreneurship master's program.  She graduated from the University of Arizona with her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering.
In one of our first ESTEEM classes, on customer validation, we heard Henry Ford’s observation: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” I think this captures our technology-driven world’s need for challenging the norm and defying limitations. New gadgets and devices are being invented before we even know we need them – the status quo is constantly changing. For me as a woman engineer, this raises a question: How can we be so obsessed with new ideas and technologies but not look for new ways and new people to discover them? …

He Left a Full-Time Job to Pursue his Dream

Derek Athy is a current ESTEEM student and a gradute of the University of Illinois.

A little under a year ago, I was spending my time working as a clinical research coordinator at the University of Chicago Medical Center, while also working in an evolutionary/developmental biology lab at the University. I enjoyed the exploratory nature and the science involved with these positions, however I began to realize that this work was ultimately not fulfilling the goals I had set for my career. I began to consider applying to medical school, for an MBA program, or for a job in healthcare/pharmaceutical consulting.  Yet, ultimately I was unsure of what would be best for my future aspirations.…

Faculty Spotlight: Prof. Michael Elwell

When he was a junior in Notre Dame’s industrial design program a decade ago, Mike Elwell created a pill bottle opener with a magnifying glass for people with arthritis. He’s still collecting royalties from the Magnifying Medi-Grip licensed and manufactured by Jokari Inc.

“That’s when I started learning how to harness the potential of my intellectual property,” says Elwell, who earned an M.F.A. in Industrial Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, while working on a crib with a safer mattress to prevent SIDS. “While designing, I’m always thinking about how to commercialize the concepts to improve quality of life. If you never take it to market, it’s just a concept.”

ESTEEM's Commercial Partners: The Cleveland Clinic

Gaylene Anderson is a full-time Cleveland Clinic employee embedded in the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Technology Transfer – a unique academic-medical collaboration that includes five other health systems around the country to help move research discovery to commercial application.

Commercial Adviser Gaylene Anderson

Faculty Spotlight: Prof. Jeff Kantor

Professor Jeff Kantor

An ESTEEM student in Jeff Kantor’s class couldn’t wait to take what she learned about job shop scheduling back to her family’s small business in Michigan. When the license for the sophisticated software in the class turned out to be too costly for the company, Kantor developed a web application with open source tools for the task. Since it launched in early 2013, more than 3,700 people in 92 countries have visited the page – and Kantor has adjusted his teaching perspective.…

Faculty Spotlight: Prof. Sam Miller

Photo of Professor Sam Miller

Sam Miller, director of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College of Business, has seen ESTEEM students place high and succeed in winning prize money in the prestigious McCloskey Business Plan Competition.  He was a judge for several ESTEEM students’ thesis projects last spring. Next spring, he’ll start teaching in the program, bringing his broad background that includes a Fortune 100 company, a family startup, and an innovative sustainability consulting firm.…