UK Entrepreneur Showcase

2019 Inaugural Event

The Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) in partnership with the UK Alumni Association and UK Philanthropy hosted the first annual UK Entrepreneur Showcase.

The UK Entrepreneur Showcase provided an opportunity for alumni entrepreneurs, student researchers and, UK startups to discuss their experiences and make connections. The program began with a keynote address from former UK President, Dr. Lee Todd Jr, who discussed his work as UK President and an entrepreneur. President Eli Capilouto spoke about the legacy Dr. Todd created and presented him with the first annual Office of Technology Commercialization’s Lee T. Todd Lifetime Achievement Award for Entrepreneurship

Presenters

Dr. Lee T. Todd Jr., receipient of the inaugural Lee T. Todd Lifetime Achievement Award for Entrepreneurship

Lee T. Todd, Jr. became the 11th president of the University of Kentucky on July 1, 2001, and served in that capacity for 10 years. 

Dr. Todd received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from M.I.T. where he received six U.S. Patents in large-screen, projection displays. He returned to U.K. where he served for nine years as an electrical engineering professor. In 1984, he left the University and began two technology companies based on his patented research activities. Projectron, developer of high-resolution, projection CRTs for the flight simulation industry, was purchased by Hughes Aircraft and Todd became vice president of Hughes Display Products. DataBeam, a developer of teleconferencing systems and software, was purchased by I.B.M. in 1998.  Todd became senior vice president of I.B.M.’s Lotus Development Company and served in that capacity until coming back to U.K. as President.  

Dr. Todd co-founded, along with Kris Kimel, the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) in 1987, a not-for-profit organization focused on increasing university research capacity, developing science and technology education (K-12) programs, and encouraging an entrepreneurial economy in Kentucky. He served as chairman of KSTC until 2001. He co-authored the initial proposal that resulted in Kentucky being selected as an EPSCoR state and served as the chair of the state-wide EPSCoR committee for 10 years.

Dr. Todd encouraged UK and the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government to rezone UK's Coldstream Farm to allow it to become the UK Coldstream Research Campus. He served on the zoning committee to develop the restrictions for occupancy. He also attracted Hughes Aircraft Company to become the first tenant on Coldstream Research Campus. Hughes built a 165,000 sq ft facility to house Hughes Display Products Division.

Dr. Todd has been very active in national efforts to improve math and science education in American schools and to enhance America’s economy based on university innovations. He served as chair of the Advisory Board for the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources Committee for 10 years. He is past chair of the Board of Directors for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and served as chair of the APLU Science Math Teacher Imperative (SMTI), an effort by land-grant universities to develop stronger math and science teachers.

Dr. Todd served on a 22-member National Academies’ Committee on Research Universities that was charged by Congress to study the future of America’s research universities and make recommendations for actions to ensure future international competitiveness. The National Academies serve as “Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine”.

In Kentucky, Dr. Todd served on the Council on Postsecondary Education from its inception until he became President of UK.  He chaired CPE’s Virtual University Committee, Virtual Library Committee, and their STEM I and STEM II Committees. 

In the private sector, Todd serves on the Board of Directors of EQT Corporation, a publicly traded energy company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He is also on the Board of Space Tango, a Lexington-based start-up that grew out of UK research.

Dr. Todd is married to Patricia Brantley Todd, also a native of Earlington, Kentucky.  The Todd’s have two children:  Lee Trover Todd, III (“Troy”) and Kathryn Todd Bliss, married to Jake Bliss. They are also proud grandparents of Charlotte River Lee Bliss (“Charlie”), born on November 4, 2018!

Shawn Bay, Alumni Entrepreneur, eScholar

Shawn Bay is the founder and CEO of eScholar and one of the trailblazers in data science. As a result of database research Shawn conducted as a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, he was asked to play a key role at Procter and Gamble to use data as a tool for consumer goods marketing. Later, Shawn created Vision Associates to provide data science services for many Fortune 100 companies around the world including IBM, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Bank of China and many others. 

Shawn founded eScholar to provide data science specifically in education. Since founding eScholar in 1997, Shawn has led the company as it has grown from serving a single school district to a national firm that serves millions of individuals across many state and federal initiatives and employs almost 60 people.

Shawn has developed deep knowledge and experience in education and workforce data and using this data to help millions of individuals achieve their education and career goals. Shawn is a nationally recognized authority and frequent speaker on issues related to educational data, data science, and personalized education. 

Shawn was born and raised in Kentucky and is an alumnus of the University of Kentucky. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics and his Master’s in business administration. In addition to his passion for data science and entrepreneurship, Shawn is also an avid sailor and white-water kayaker. He resides in Connecticut with his wife and is the proud father of two college-age children.

Shelby Browning, Student Researcher

Shelby Browning is a junior in chemical engineering at the University of Kentucky. She is involved in many student organizations, including being the vice president for the American Society of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the president of Engineers of a Sustainable World (ESW). She is also the undergraduate project leader for the University of Kentucky Appropriate Technology and Sustainability, which she has been a member of for over five years.

Shelby has traveled to East Africa three times with her research team for various sustainability-oriented projects, including converting waste plastic to diesel-like fuel oil and making pesticides from waste organic material. Most recently, Shelby had an internship in central Kenya with EcoFuels Kenya conducting experiments on the large-scale production of organic pesticides from waste Croton husks. 

She is the 2017 and the 2018 Bucks for Brains Recipient, the 2018 Summer Sustainability Research Fellowship Recipient, and the 2018 Summer Research and Creativity Fellowship Recipient. Shelby has also received awards for this research including second place in the 2018 ICOSSE Student Poster Award and third place in the 2017 AIChE Undergraduate Student Poster Competition.

Joseph Chappell, UK Startup Enepret

Dr. Chappell has been a faculty member at the University of Kentucky since 1985 and has progressed through all the professorial ranks at this institution with current responsibilities to lead an extramural supported discovery research program as well as provide leadership for the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department in the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Chappell earned his Bachelor’s degree at UCSD and his Ph.D. from UCSC, followed by postdoctoral training at the University of Freiburg, Germany and a Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany.

Dr. Chappell began his career at UK in the College of Agriculture, where he developed an internationally recognized research program on the characterization of natural products produced by plants. In 2013, he was appointed Chair of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at UK. His research program has been supported by the NIH, NSF, DOE, USDA and private industry, published over 90 primary research publications, graduated 16 Ph.D., 4 Master students, and mentored 25 Postdoctoral Scholars and Sabbatical visitors.  Technology from the Chappell laboratory has resulted in significant Intellectual Property, which has been the basis for start-up enterprises GenApps, Allylix and Enepret in the Bluegrass Region. His research accomplishments have included an appointment as a University of Kentucky Research Professor and selection as a Fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Seth DeBolt, UK Startup Redleaf Biologics

Dr. DeBolt is a University alumni professor and resides in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky. In his work on applied biotechnology, he is director of the Distillation, Wine and Brewing Undergraduate Certificate Program/Spirits Institute. As a graduate student specializing in viticulture, he divided his time between the University of Adelaide and the University of California, Davis.

With both institutions based in prominent wine-growing regions, he was able to conduct groundbreaking research, discovering the tartaric acid pathway in wine grapes. He is collaborating on a variety of projects across campus and within the spirits industry focusing on bourbon whiskey production and quality. His research extends to applied plant flavor and color development.  He has founded a startup Ag Tech company in this space called RedLeaf.

Christoph Kositzke, Student Researcher

Christoph Kositzke is a senior at the University of Kentucky and will be graduating with a B.A in biology and a business minor. Originally from Wisconsin, he attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga, TN before coming to UK.

Throughout his time at the University, he has conducted research with numerous labs and groups in the Entomology Department and the College of Public Health, studied abroad for a year in Ireland and assisted with numerous campus service opportunities as a member of Alpha Phi Omega. Although he is still weighing his options, he plans on continuing to graduate school.

Kenyatta Mitchell, Student Researcher

Kenyatta Mitchell is a graduating senior at the University of Kentucky. She is from Michigan City, IN and is the daughter of Jenaia Mcknight. Kenyatta chose to attend Kentucky because she simply felt like it would be a good place to call home for the future four years. Kenyatta is a resident advisor to over 500 residents in Woodland Glen 4, is a tutor for athletes, and does research on Civil Rights Coalitions in Mississippi.

Her research has influenced today’s presentation titled, “The Forgotten People.” This title was used to symbolize the forgotten stories of African Americans who contributed to changing democracy and pushing for social change. After graduating with her Bachelor's degree in communications and minor in African American history in May 2019, Kenyatta will start the Sports Leadership Graduate program here at the University of Kentucky.

Asare Nkansah, Student Researcher

Asare Nkansah is a fourth-year student pursuing his Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science. During his time as an undergrad, he has had the opportunity to engage with widely-known institutions such as the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

Over the last two years, he has co-authored in two peer-reviewed publications- one of them accomplished with the University of Kentucky’s Computer Science department. The work being discussed at UK's Entrepreneur Showcase is based on chemistry research he helped conduct at the University of Bordeaux in France last summer. After graduating in May, he will be seeking to obtain his Ph.D. in artificial intelligence.

Joshua Preston, Student Researcher and Alumna

Joshua Preston is originally from Nicholasville, Kentucky and he graduated from the University of Kentucky in December 2018 with a B.S. in biology and a minor in mathematics. Since he began college, he has been a part of Dr. Kevin Pearson’s research team in the UK College of Medicine (Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences), and he began working as a research technician in his laboratory when he graduated.

Their lab's projects examine how the prenatal environment affects offspring metabolic disease risk and aging. He aspires to one day be a physician-scientist and is passionate about bridging the gap between basic science and clinical medicine in his career. He will be attending Emory University School of Medicine for his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in fall 2019.

Kendra Steele, UK Startup Lepidext

Dr. Steele is the chief scientific officer and co-owner at Lepidext, LLC. She is the creator and co-inventor of the patented nudivirus technology. Nudivirus strains are sexually transmitted sterilizing agents specific to the devastating corn earworm insect pest. Dr. Steele received her Ph.D. in microbiology & immunology from East Carolina University and completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Kentucky.

Jonathan Webb, Alumni Entrepreneur, AppHarvest

A KY native and UK graduate, Jonathan Webb is turning his dream of a high-tech farming hub in Appalachia into reality with AppHarvest. The company is building some of the largest indoor farms in the world, combining conventional agricultural techniques with today’s technology to grow non-GMO, chemical-free produce to be sold to the top 25 U.S. grocers. The company’s first greenhouse will span 60 acres and open in 2020 in Morehead. The greenhouse will operate entirely on rainwater using a 10-acre retention pond, reducing water usage by 80% compared to a typical farm.

Why locate in Appalachia? Like every Kentuckian, Jonathan grew up knowing of the devastating job losses in the region. His grandmother grew up in Whitley County, where a coal mining accident killed his great-grandfather. Jonathan strives to work alongside the hard-working men and women of Eastern KY and build an inclusive economy for the future. By locating within Appalachia, the company is also less than a day’s drive to more than two-thirds of the U.S. population. That lowers transportation costs by 75%, allowing AppHarvest's fresher produce to better compete against low-cost foreign imports.

Before founding AppHarvest, Jonathan worked with the U.S. Department of Defense on the largest solar project in the Southeastern U.S. The project aimed to help achieve an Obama-era goal of ensuring the military’s hundreds of installations develop resilient on-site power generation and receive 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. While living in D.C. developing sustainable energy farms, Jonathan researched another type of farming — the Netherlands and its high-tech greenhouses that in a single acre yield as much as 10 outdoor acres and virtually eliminate the use of chemicals.

In February 2017, encouraged by investors, advisors including Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, and politicians of both parties, Jonathan left D.C. and came home to KY, where he now works tirelessly to make the eastern part of the state the AgTech capital of America.