Dora Cheatham was named Executive Director of DESCA in December 2019, after helping DESCA build its presence and validate its hypotheses through Austen Marketing & Communications, an organization she founded in 2013.
Prior to this, she led International Business Development with Celeste Industries Corp—a subsidiary of ITW, Inc—where she implemented and managed New Product Development & Marketing procedures to create and commercialize new products on the global stage, generating several million dollars in new business and helping to establish Celeste Industries as a world leader in aviation industry specialty chemicals, publishing several articles and editorials in aviation industry publications on innovative cleaning technologies in aviation industry cleaning.
A passionate believer in innovation and economic development, Dora recently led the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Council and Emerging Enterprise Center activities, helping startups and small businesses build a sustainable business model, and supporting county and state initiatives to help drive Economic Development in Delaware, including the support of key innovation and industry hubs and driving discussions that enable the development of programs to build Delaware’s talent and workforce pipeline. Dora is also on the Kent County Workforce Taskforce and works with FAME, Inc., the Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering.
Dora spent her early years studying and/or working in the UK, France, Spain and Cyprus, holds degrees in foreign languages and international business from Thames Valley University and the University of London, and speaks fluent French, Spanish, and Greek.
In 2018 Dora received Delaware Today’s “Women in Business” award and was named one of Delaware’s “People to Watch in 2019” by Delaware Business Times.
Erica Crell is the Marketing & Program Manager for DESCA with experiences spanning across various business types.
Prior to this, she was the Program Manager for the small business incubator, Emerging Enterprise Center, co-located at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce. While there, she conceptualized, developed, and launched programs for the 501(c)3 that generated $68.8 million in revenues for the county. Crell ensured brand messaging was geared towards startups and small businesses while implementing policies and practices with regards to a variety of administrative and program management tasks, like planning and organizing programs and activities.
Prior to the Emerging Enterprise Center, Crell worked as a Project Account Executive at several medical marketing companies, working primarily with Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies. Crell developed, managed, and implemented managed care-focused programs and was responsible for forecasting and managing projects generating over $1.4 million in annual revenues while assisting management with sales and increasing company profit by over 30% annually. Prior to that, Crell worked as a medical editor for Elsevier Health in the journals department working on four major medical publications and was fast-tracked through four positions in two years, including training new employees for journal procedures and styles.
Erica spent her early years studying at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where she majored in English and minored in Biology.
On a personal note, Crell is a two-time published author. She spends her free time coaching field hockey at the high school and college levels, including our local Widener University and University of Delaware. She is the youngest athlete to be inducted into her high school Athletic Hall of Fame for field hockey. She resides in Wilmington with her husband and two children.
Bryan Tracy, PhD, is the CEO and co-founder of White Dog Labs, Inc. (WDL) Previously he was CEO and co-founder of Elcriton, which was acquired in 2014. WDL is inventing and commercializing biochemical technologies that reduce our world’s dependence on oil. Bryan is an expert in bacteria genetic engineering and fermentation process development. He has published numerous scientific articles, invented several patent families, and received numerous SBIR grants and an Israel-U.S. BIRD Foundation grant. He has developed and licensed technologies to the world's largest biobutanol producer, created lines of business with multinational chemical companies, and helped raised capital to build a demonstration plant in Delaware.
Bryan is also a guest lecturer at the University of Delaware, a technology to market consultant for the Department of Energy Advanced Research Program Administration, and board chair of the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance. Bryan is also passionate about public education and youth development. He serves as board chair of FAME (Forum for the Advancement of Minorities in Engineering), hosts numerous high school students for internships, was an inaugural mentor in the Delaware Youth Leadership Network, and served on the industrial advisory board for Conrad Schools of Science. Bryan is also a Leadership Delaware fellow.
Bryan received a BS and PhD in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University and Northwestern University, respectively. He is married to Melissa Tracy, and the proud father of daughter Deirdre and son Gabriel.
Barbara DeHaven is a Business Development Consultant and is currently assisting the Delaware Technology Park as the Incubator Administrator at its STAR campus wet lab space. She was previously involved with the Delaware Economic Development Office where she held positions as a Business Development Manager, Chemical Market Leader and a Workforce Development Representative. In addition, Ms DeHaven has 20 years of industrial experience, beginning her career in the lab, then moving into manufacturing, quality control and quality assurance. Along the way, she also became a certified secondary science teacher and was involved in training. Ms DeHaven has a varied background in project management, research and testing, quality systems, as well as supply chain auditing. She received her BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from James Madison University in Virginia.
Melinda Burn is the VP of Marketing at Solecta Inc., a company focused on the development of critical process membrane separation solutions to advance the production of nutritionally sound food, additives and materials for everyday life. Melinda is a scientist turned businesswoman and for more than 25 years, she has worked in the industrial sector creating innovative ways to bring complex scientific solutions to the marketplace to improve process efficiency and reduce energy and waste. She has worked globally across multiple markets with multi-nationals including DuPont, Invista, Ashland and Solenis across multiple roles from R&D to production to business leadership. She is passionate about making sustainability an integral part of an organization’s philosophy and spearheaded the development of a sustainability strategy in her last organization. She is also a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion and co-founded the Women’s International Leadership and Development Network at Solenis to attract, retain and develop talented women. Having spent most of her career in industry, Melinda has become increasingly focused on ways to leverage her experience and expertise in environmental and social non-profit organizations. Melinda is also a guest lecturer at the University of Delaware, a mentor for the Lerner College of Business, an advisory on the Wilmington University MBA Advisory Committee and former chairwoman of the Boys & Girls Club of Wilmington, STEM Committee. Melinda received her PhD in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and her BSc from the University of Alberta, Canada.
Ellinor Carlson, Ph.D. joined Solenis as a Senior Staff Scientist in 2017 and has since been focused on technology development within the water and paper business of Solenis. Her passion for sustainability and the acknowledged need for innovative solutions drove her to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts- Amherst. After graduation, here roots pulled her back across the pond to Germany in order to obtain a Master of Science focused on Biotechnology from RWTH Aachen University. Later Ellinor moved back to the Delaware Region to obtain her doctorate in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from the University of Delaware. Her research focused on anaerobic fermentation of clostridia, with an emphasis on CO2 fixation through the native Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Her work included a collaboration with White Dog Labs in achieving increased product yields through mixotrophic fermentation. She currently lives in Newark, Delaware with her husband and both enjoy the State Parks and outdoors that Delaware has to offer.
Mark Kuller is an attorney with over 30 years’ experience working for large chemical companies, including E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and Hercules Incorporated. He has extensive domestic and international experience negotiating collaboration, license, joint venture, M&A and other agreements; developing and implementing intellectual property strategies; managing intellectual property litigation; counseling clients on commercial and intellectual property law; drafting and prosecuting patent applications; and supervising attorneys, patent agents, paralegals and support staff. He is currently an Adjunct Professor teaching Intellectual Property and Contract Development and Negotiation at Widener University Delaware Law School and consults on business matters, negotiations, and intellectual property strategy.
Erica Nemser, Ph.D. is the CEO of Compact Membrane Systems (CMS), an advanced materials company providing separations solutions for some of the world's toughest industrial chemistry challenges. CMS technology enables industry to unlock previously inaccessible sources of revenue and growth, while working better, cleaner, and safer.
Prior to leading CMS, Dr. Nemser spent 13 years at McKinsey and Company developing an expertise in product strategy, product launch, portfolio management, new company growth, and risk management strategy for innovative products with long development cycles. Erica led several internal strategic initiatives for McKinsey, including best practice consulting and talent management. She received her BA in Economics from The Johns Hopkins University and her MA and PhD in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.
Since joining the DESCA Board, Jeffrey Politis has been particularly focused on advising start-up companies and connecting University of Delaware graduate students with the broader industry.
Jeffrey’s most recent industrial role was at Ashland Inc. as Director of Incubators, Accelerators, and Ventures. In this role, he created and executed strategies for Ashland to develop new markets into stand-alone business units. Prior to this role, he led the Technology organization for a $600MM business, including more than 10 markets and 7+ technology platforms by building the R&D and Technical Service functions out globally to more than 60 people in labs around the world.
Jeffrey supports his broader community. Along with his board role for DESCA, he also serves as the Town Chair of the Village of Arden and a board director of the Cab Calloway School Fund. He has served on the board of the Arden Club, served on various Arden town committees, and coached children for Odyssey of the Mind and Lego League.
Natalia Quiroz is a Ph.D. candidate in the Dion Vlachos research group at the University of Delaware's Engineering Department.
Natalia's work focuses on converting agricultural food waste into commodity
and added value chemicals that are traditionally derived from petroleum feedstocks.
Natalia is also the Engineering Department representative for UD's Women in Engineering (WiE) graduate student organization, and has also served as the international student rep and vice president of the Colburn Club, UD's Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Graduate Student Organization.
Prior to beginning graduate student studies at UD, Natalia received her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State University after moving from her home country of Colombia.
Nick Strickland is a senior chemical engineer with extensive market and business development experience at DuPont, Dupont's customers, and suppliers. Nick is recognized for collaboratively leading teams to develop proprietary, high-value technologies and products. He is known for creating positive market energy for new products resulting in revenue growth and increased profitability. In 2006, with the full support of DuPont executives, he spun out a product concept from DuPont, maintained his employment, concurrently created a new product & brand, sold the product, and licensed the brand after 11 years. Nick is retired and enjoys guiding pioneers through the business of chemistry and biochemistry. Nick is married with two children and lives in Wilmington, DE.
Yati Waghray is a senior chemical engineer with global market and business development experience spanning across Industrial and specialty chemicals. Yati is currently with Kraton Corporation responsible for growing the companies specialty chemicals businesses in new markets through market analysis and new product development. Prior to joining Kraton he worked at BASF Chemicals as the North America Business Manager for the Commercial Vehicles and Industrial coatings business where he was responsible for leading the build of a market strategy, new product development, and business execution. Prior to joining BASF he worked with DuPont for 20 years with roles spanning across manufacturing, technology and various business and commercial roles. He was responsible for building the Materials division of DuPont Knowledge Center in India to help support and grow business in Asia Pacific through regional collaboration with local customers, research institutions, universities and Government agencies.
Yati holds a BS and MS in Chemical Engineering along with an MBA. He actively mentors non-profits in India for supporting education for low income students and adults.