Blog » Archives » 2014

Faculty Mentor: Matt Leevy, Ph.D.

Matthew Leevy, Director of Biological Imaging at the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility, is working with three ESTEEM students this year – Nick Machesney, Charles Berno, and Daniel Ward.  The laboratory is home of two startup companies – In Vivo Concepts, a platform for translating pre-clinical discoveries and devices to commercial markets, and Medical Data Printers, for producing 3D plastic models of patients’ heads that Ear/Nose/Throat doctors can study before performing surgery. Leevy has worked with two other ESTEEM students in the past whose contributions are part of patent applications.

Faculty Mentor: Greg Crawford, Ph.D.


Gregory Crawford, a Physics professor and Dean of the College of Science, is working with ESTEEM student Sean McGee on a noninvasive device to determine the ages of bruises on the skin. The technology aims to provide objective data for physicians, social workers, and law enforcement who are dealing with potential child abuse cases. No such tool now exists, and responsible professionals must make highly subjective judgments that sometimes contradict parents’ explanations for the wounds on the child.

Thesis Spotlight: Matt Hansen

Photo of student Matt Hansen

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Matt Hansen, a 2014 chemical engineering graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and ESTEEM student. He is currently taking a break from his study of polymers to grow his own thesis idea, a software and hardware platform to help improve the wellness of people everywhere by improving upon current "workout apps."

Industry Collaboration Highlights Unique Opportunity

Students in Notre Dame’s Entrepreneurship Master’s Program have benefitted greatly this year through an emphasis on industry partnerships.  20% of current ESTEEM students work with companies for their capstone thesis projects exploring commercialization opportunities for new or emerging technologies that those companies are developing.…

Listening for your “Why?” - A lesson from Social Entrepreneurship

One of the most impactful things the director of the ESTEEM Program, David Murphy, stresses to us students is to find a compelling “why?” as we discern what sorts of entrepreneurs we will be. The truly notable “whys” seem to stem from big problems and deep seeded passions to address them. But how does one find that big problem needs to be solved? From what I’ve seen, the best entrepreneurs are those that can listen well. They find their “why?”

Thesis Spotlight: Ben Hoggan

Photo of student Ben Hoggan

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with ESTEEM student Ben Hoggan, a 2013 physics graduate of Utah Valley University. A Silicon Valley native, he moved to Utah in 2007 and traded in his water polo cap for hockey skates, growing a deep love for the rink. He comes to ESTEEM following an internship studying high energy physics at CERN to take his longtime passion for sports to design safer equipment for those who play them.

ESTEEM Broomball - a Lesson in Humility

Nick Machesney is a current ESTEEM student - and one of the captains of ESTEEMs first-ever Broomball team.  Below he reflects upon their experience.

After missing the opportunity to show off their athletic prowess in the indoor soccer league, over half of this year’s ESTEEM class joined forces to take on Notre Dame’s intramural, co-ed broomball league.  Relegated to the ll pm time slot on Tuesdays, we knew some of us would be up past our bed times but we entered the season determined that we could bring home some championship hardware for the program.…

ESTEEM Swims with the Sharks


This story comes to us from ESTEEM student Nick Kyratzis, who recently had the opportunity to pitch his own business idea to the Shark Tank's own "Mr. Wonderful," Kevin O'Leary. Nick, along with teammates Derek Athy and Nick Machesney, is currently competing in the second round of the McCloskey Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Gigot Center here at ND. 

Thesis Spotlight: Christopher Cali

Photo of student Christopher Cali

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Christopher Cali from the ESTEEM program to learn more about his work on developing new diagnostic tools for breast cancer. Mr. Cali graduated from Notre Dame in May of 2014 from the Science Business program. A former captain of the Irish Guard, the ceremonial marching unit which leads the Notre Dame Band, and a current tour guide coordinator for the Eck Visitors Center, he plans to take his leadership skills to utilize "business and entrepreneurship to make a positive impact in the world." 

Faculty Mentor: Shaun Lee, PhD

ESTEEM student James Hodgens spends his time in the laboratory of Shaun Lee, an assistant professor in Biological Sciences, looking for beneficial bacteria in mung bean sprouts. Outside the laboratory, he conducts interviews and contacts pharmaceutical companies to gauge the market for using such kinds of bacteria for food supply protection and antibiotics.…

ESTEEM Students Assist in Moving New Drug to Clinical Trials

Two ESTEEM students contributed to a large project that moved a Notre Dame research discovery into an FDA-approved clinical trial this year. A potential treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C disease, identified by longtime rare disease researchers Paul Helquist and Olaf Wiest of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry with collaborators at other universities, began a trial with three patients in September and is expected to expand. Capstone thesis projects by ESTEEM students Matthew Berg and Sean Liebscher under Helquist’s direction advanced the effort.…

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.…

Thesis Spotlight: Derek Athy

Photo of student Derek Athy

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Derek Athy from the ESTEEM program to learn more about his work on improving the treatment quality for breast cancer and colon cancer patients. Mr. Athy joined ESTEEM this last June, coming from a research coordinator position at the University of Chicago. Working with the research group of Steven Buechler, Ph.D., Sunil Badve, M.D., and Yesim Gökmen-Polar, Ph.D., Mr. Athy hopes to develop a strong foundation for this powerful technology to penetrate the market and bring better treatment to cancer patients nationwide.



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