BME alum’s app speeds up prescription refills

Jonathan Baran, who graduated from UW-Madison with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering, did not always know he wanted to start his own company. However, as he began to work on a project involving medical devices in developing countries, his entrepreneurship mindset developed.

“I got intrigued with the concept of starting a business to bring new technology out there and get it to market,” Baran says.

During his master’s education, he worked on starting a business for medical devices in developing countries. While this endeavor did not pan out, it left Baran, as he says: “dead set on starting something.”

Baran, who always had an interest in the overlap between medicine and engineering, considered using the electronic medical record as a platform for applications.

“I was intrigued by what the next generation of healthcare information was going to look like,” Baran says.

In August of 2009, Baran teamed up with fellow UW-Madison alumnus Ash Gupta. The two knew they wanted to make applications for healthcare but did not know where to start.

“We honestly had no idea what we were doing,” Baran says.

Baran remembers that healthfinch, the company he and Gupta ultimately founded, had its original office in the Engineering Centers Building. He laughs as he says that their first legal bill was sent to the ECB.

“They said you can’t do that,” Baran says, still laughing.

Baran and Gupta realized what they needed was a physician to help them determine what kind of application would be beneficial to doctors and to the healthcare system. In 2011 they met physician Lyle Berkowitz and he joined their team.

“It turned out be a perfect fit,” Baran says about Berkowitz. “That’s when healthfinch became what it is today.”

Healthfinch revolves around making primary care physicians more efficient. Baran says physicians become burnt out from all the work they have to do outside of patient care. Healthfinch’s application RefillWizard lightens doctors’ loads by making sure they waste no time on prescription refills.

Before physicians can refill a prescription, they have to review a lot of information. To save doctors time, RefillWizard accesses a patient’s electronic medical record, pulls out his or her data and runs it through rules and protocols. If certain boxes are checked, it then delegates the work to a nurse.

At the end of 2011 healthfinch received its first client and by 2012, says Baran: “We had a product out there in the wild.”

Currently, healthfinch is working with clients in Los Angeles, San Diego and Minneapolis. However, healthfinch is still based in Madison.

Last year healthfinch won $250,000 at the 2013 Allscripts Open App Challenge.

The competition judged applications created by innovators, using the Allscripts Open Electronic Health Records software, with the goal of improving their own application through outside help. RefillWizard took the top prize.

“When you are looking to break into a market, you have to pick a small area that people care about and do it really really well,” Baran advises beginning entrepreneurs. “I can definitely say we are the world leaders in prescription refill technology.”

Baran credits his success in part to the flexibility and expertise he found in the UW-Madison College of Engineering.

“I couldn’t have been where I am today without my advisors in biomedical engineering,” Baran says.

According to Baran, healthfinch is just getting started. The company plans to build more applications to improve care and increase efficiency in the healthcare system.

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Ayse Gurses (PhD ISyE ’05) among Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40

The Wisconsin Alumni Association has honored Aysa Gurses, who earned her PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from UW-Madison in 2005, among its 40 Under 40. The annual honors recognize UW grads under the age of 40 who are making an impact on the world by living the Wisconsin Idea. Gurses currently works as an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she applies systems engineering to safety problems in health care. Read more.

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Michael Splinter wins Distinguished Alumni Award

Michael Splinter (BSECE ’72, MSECE ’74) has been named among this year’s winners of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Currently in its 77th year, the award is the most prestigious the WAA presents. This year, Splinter joins three other UW-Madison alumni in receiving the honor.

Splinter, chair of the board of Silicon Valley company Applied Materials, has spent 40 years working in the semiconductor industry, spearheading major advances in microchip manufacturing both at Applied and in his previous work at Intel. Read more.

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Makerspace is part clubhouse, part business incubator and all workshop

Mechanical engineering graduate Chris Meyer founded Sector67 three years ago on Madison’s east side. Today, the “makerspace” offers its members an unpredictable atmosphere and crucial support for their startup ideas. Read more.

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Mentors help inventors make the leap to entrepreneur

Patrick Heaney, founder of NCD Technologies, uses a pyrometer to check temperatures inside of the vacuum chamber in the company’s lab at UW’s Research Park on Madison’s west side. The company is part of the UW MERLIN Mentors program. Photo by Bryce Richter.

It’s a story that could become a company’s founding narrative. The two Steves built their first Apple computer in the garage. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start a software company. And 4-year-old Patrick Heaney broke a plastic sword while play-fighting — and recognized that materials can always stand improvement.

Eventually, that could become the founding narrative of NCD Technologies LLC, a Madison startup that is developing a super-hard diamond coating for industrial cutting tools.

The technique was invented in the UW-Madison lab of mechanical engineering Associate Professor Frank Pfefferkorn, where Heaney received his Ph.D. in 2009. But when NCD finally makes a profit, some of the credit will be due to a high-tech, high-touch UW mentoring program called MERLIN Mentors.

Despite the name, MERLIN (Madison Entrepreneur Resource, Learning and Innovation Network) specializes in advice rather than magic. “We want to get skills in entrepreneurship to people interested in creating companies,” says Terry Sivesind, MERLIN’s director.

Read the full story here.

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Engineers’ Day 2013: Roy Thiele-Sardiña (BSECE ’82)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor the achievements of eight distinguished alumni during the 66th annual Engineers’ Day celebration on Friday, October 11, 2013. These honorees demonstrate the diverse and profound impact UW-Madison engineers have on industry and academia. In the lead-up to the event, Badger Engineers will be sharing bios of all the award recipients.

Engineers’ Day festivities will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive. Seminars will begin at 8:30 in Room 1610 of Engineering Hall. The evening banquet and awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive.

Known for his infectious enthusiasm and passion for technology entrepreneurship, Roy Thiele-Sardiña has parlayed more than three decades of industry experience into helping young technology startup companies grow and thrive.

Thiele-Sardiña, a 1982 UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering graduate, launched the Palo Alto, California-based HighBAR Partners in 1995 with Sun Microsystems co-founders Bill Joy and Andreas Bechtolsheim (the name BAR is an acronym for Bill, Andy and Roy). HighBAR prides itself on hands-on management approach that recognizes companies require customized solutions on their path to growth. Tapping Thiele-Sardiña’s professional experience, HighBAR specializes in infrastructure investments in the computer storage and security industries.

From 2003 to 2007, Thiele-Sardiña was managing partner at Steelpoint Capital, an investment firm with assets exceeding $500 million that focused on investments in storage and data security.

Thiele-Sardiña’s leadership in the venture investment world draws from his success as an operating executive for a number of information technology companies. He co-founded Ingrian Networks, a major provider of network data privacy solutions. Its eventual acquisition by SafeNet helped propel that parent company to global leadership in data protection and software rights solutions.

Thiele-Sardiña was CEO and co-founder of Tasmania Networks, a successful network caching software company ultimately acquired by Cisco Systems. At that time, Tasmania Networks had 10 UW-Madison graduates among its 20 employees. Thiele-Sardiña also served on the founding management team for Brocade Communications, which is the leading supplier of backbone infrastructure for data center storage.

From 1985 to 1995, Thiele-Sardiña held a number of positions at Sun Microsystems, starting as an account executive and eventually rising to become director of international sales and later director of corporate development in the Office of the Chairman. Early in his Sun career he helped launch Sun’s telecommunications business and grew it to 10 percent of Sun’s global revenue.

Thiele-Sardiña is an enthusiastic supporter of his alma mater, especially around technology entrepreneurship. He has served as a judge for the annual NEST student software competition, and has provided valuable advice to students seeking to commercialize their ideas. He also led a panel of Silicon Valley UW-Madison alumni during the 2013 Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. In 2013, he joined the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering advisory board.

Thiele-Sardiña has worked with entrepreneurs around the world, but remains very impressed by Wisconsin professionals. “I think in Wisconsin, the ethics of the people set them apart,” he says. “There’s a lot to be said for investing in the Midwest, in the sense that they have a work ethic that even by Silicon Valley standards is hard to replicate. The technical background and the hands-on engineering focus at UW-Madison is a real plus.”

ECE Professor and Chair John Booske says Thiele-Sardiña built on the core technical expertise gleaned from his ECE education to eventually become a national leader in technology entrepreneurship and venture investment. “Roy is a very positive and forward-thinking person and we value the insights he brings back to the university,” Booske says.

In addition to his 1982 bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UW-Madison, Thiele-Sardiña earned his MBA from New York University in 1989.

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Engineers’ Day 2013: Kristine Ann Theiler (BS ISyE ’88)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor the achievements of eight distinguished alumni during the 66th annual Engineers’ Day celebration on Friday, October 11, 2013. These honorees demonstrate the diverse and profound impact UW-Madison engineers have on industry and academia. In the lead-up to the event, Badger Engineers will be sharing bios of all the award recipients.

Engineers’ Day festivities will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive. Seminars will begin at 8:30 in Room 1610 of Engineering Hall. The evening banquet and awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive.

As a vice president of planning and operations support for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Kris Theiler works to give industrial engineers a strong voice in the amusement park business.

Theiler’s time at Disney has challenged her to think about problems that might seem unusual for someone with an engineering background. For instance, she helped drastically change the way park visitors experience lines for rides. Theiler was part of the team that developed Disney parks’ FastPass system, which lets visitors return for a ride during a specific time slot instead of waiting in a long line.

To address such problems, Disney has to analyze reams of customer behavior and survey data and develop ideas and opportunities to improve the experience. But that’s no more outlandish than the problems Theiler remembers tackling as an undergraduate student in industrial and systems engineering.

“I did time studies on a bartender pouring tap beer; an experimental engineering project with Professor George Box in which my friend Lita Noreen and I managed to build a study around suntanning; and learned to spin my pen in Linear Programming—a skill that many have asked about,” Theiler says.

She also fondly recalls the friendship and camaraderie that develop when going through engineering school.

After graduating from UW-Madison, Theiler earned an MBA from the University of California-Los Angeles Anderson School of Management. Before joining Disneyland as a business planner, she held industrial engineering positions at ABB Electric, Synergic Resources Corporation, and Magnetek Electric.

In moving up through positions of increasing responsibility at Disney, Theiler has helped to highlight how much engineers have to contribute to the company.

“The industrial engineering team at Disney Parks is extremely integrated into the business, well-respected, and called on to provide insight and understanding into issues and problems facing the organization,” she says.

Theiler has been involved in many key projects, including the opening of Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland and the development of Shanghai Disneyland. Still, she is most proud of having advanced the careers of the engineers she has worked with, and having made those engineers an important part of the company’s decision-making. She is a recipient of the Golden Spirit of Disneyland award.

Currently a resident of Long Beach, California, Theiler enjoys running, biking, travel, jewelry making, and spending time with friends. She is a proud aunt of 13 nieces and nephews. Her family also includes parents Carl and Barbara Theiler, and siblings Julie, Connie, Sara, Stacy and Andy.

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Engineers’ Day 2013: Jeffrey Sprecher (BSCBE ’78)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor the achievements of eight distinguished alumni during the 66th annual Engineers’ Day celebration on Friday, October 11, 2013. These honorees demonstrate the diverse and profound impact UW-Madison engineers have on industry and academia. In the lead-up to the event, Badger Engineers will be sharing bios of all the award recipients.

Engineers’ Day festivities will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive. Seminars will begin at 8:30 in Room 1610 of Engineering Hall. The evening banquet and awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive.

NOTE: Jeffrey Sprecher will also give a free talk on Friday, October 11 at 2 p.m. at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Full details here.

In December of 2012, Atlanta-based CEO Jeff Sprecher embarked on a corporate adventure that would capture the attention—not to mention amazement—of the international financial world: The purchase of the iconic New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Before the big NYSE news, Sprecher, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical and biological engineering in 1978, had been steadily cultivating more than a decade of success as founder, chairman and CEO of IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) of Atlanta, a global operator of derivatives exchanges and clearing houses. Beginning in 2000, Sprecher transformed ICE from a focus on energy markets, into a broad range of traded asset classes including agriculture, credit derivatives, emissions, equity indexes and foreign exchange.

ICE went public in 2005, listing its stock on the NYSE. By 2010, Forbes magazine had named ICE the nation’s fastest-growing financial services company.

But Sprecher’s latest acquisition will merge the Internet-based cutting edge of ICE with the time-honored, people-driven clamor of the NYSE trading floor. In an era of “flash crashes” and other challenges related to unfettered computer-generated trading, Sprecher hopes to provide a fresh perspective on market structure challenges and is leveraging the acquisition to promote the dialogue on these issues.

A Madison native, Sprecher graduated from UW-Madison in 1978 and began his engineering career with industrial company Trane in La Crosse and in southern California, while also working nights and weekends to earn his MBA from Pepperdine University. In 1984, Sprecher began his entrepreneurial quest as a partner in Western Power Group in Newport Beach, a developer, owner and operator of large power plants in California. Sprecher purchased the Atlanta-based Continental Power Exchange in 1997, which he would ultimately transform into ICE in 2000.

His leadership of ICE has earned him many accolades, including finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program (2002) and finalist in the “MarketWatch CEO of the Year” award (2006). That same year, The Wall Street Journal recognized ICE’s stock as the top one-year performer.

Sprecher serves on the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Global Market Advisory Committee, the Energy Security Leadership Council, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Buckhead Coalition, and Atlanta Committee for Progress.

Sprecher and his wife, Kelly Loeffler, are highly active in the Atlanta community in fundraising and philanthropy. Loeffler is an accomplished executive as vice president of corporate affairs at ICE, and as co-owner and co-chairman of the WNBA Atlanta Dream, the first women-owned professional sports team in Atlanta.

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Engineers’ Day 2013: Michael G. Pecht (BS, Acoustics, ’76, MS ECE ’78, MS Engineering Mechanics ’79, PhD Engineering Mechanics ’82)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor the achievements of eight distinguished alumni during the 66th annual Engineers’ Day celebration on Friday, October 11, 2013. These honorees demonstrate the diverse and profound impact UW-Madison engineers have on industry and academia. In the lead-up to the event, Badger Engineers will be sharing bios of all the award recipients.

Engineers’ Day festivities will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive. Seminars will begin at 8:30 in Room 1610 of Engineering Hall. The evening banquet and awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive.

A highlight of Michael Pecht’s undergraduate studies in acoustics at UW-Madison, he says, was working with physicist William F. “Jack” Fry to better understand violins and why the great violins were great. In the decades since, Pecht has helped dozens of organizations understand the reliability of far more advanced and esoteric technologies as founder and director of the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE) at the University of Maryland.

Pecht, who is a professor of mechanical engineering and applied mathematics and consults for 22 companies, is a world-renowned expert in strategic planning, design, test, IP and risk assessment of electronic products and systems. Institutions ranging from 3M to the National Defense Industrial Association have recognized Pecht for his contributions to such fields as electronics reliability. In particular, Pecht is credited with pioneering work on the physics-of-failure concept of reliability.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in acoustics in 1976, the Milwaukee native went on to earn master’s degrees from UW-Madison in electrical engineering and engineering mechanics. He earned his PhD in engineering mechanics from the college in 1982, and shortly after that began work as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland. He founded CALCE in 1987, and grew it into the largest electronic products and systems research center focused on electronics reliability. Today it receives funding from more than 150 of the world’s leading electronics companies, and more than 50 PhD and 100 MS students have earned their degrees under Pecht.

His writings—including more than 20 books—have been cited almost 1,900 times. His list of professional honors includes the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Reliability Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor in the reliability field. Under his leadership, CALCE’s global impact has been recognized with such honors as the Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technological Innovation. In addition to memberships and fellowships with several technical and honorary societies, he serves as chief editor of Microelectronics Reliability International and associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology.

As a UW-Madison student, Pecht was an avid squash player and won many university and state tournaments.

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Engineers’ Day 2013: Susan B. Ortenstone (BSCEE ’79)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor the achievements of eight distinguished alumni during the 66th annual Engineers’ Day celebration on Friday, October 11, 2013. These honorees demonstrate the diverse and profound impact UW-Madison engineers have on industry and academia. In the lead-up to the event, Badger Engineers will be sharing bios of all the award recipients.

Engineers’ Day festivities will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. in the lobby of Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive. Seminars will begin at 8:30 in Room 1610 of Engineering Hall. The evening banquet and awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive.

Ask Susan Ortenstone how her time as a UW-Madison civil and environmental engineering student helped her thrive as an energy executive, and the answer won’t necessarily involve a technical issue or even academics.

“I believe people issues are usually associated with the biggest workplace challenges and opportunities,” says Ortenstone, a native of Racine who now lives in Spring, Texas. “My education helped me develop problem-solving and project management skills and capabilities that have served me well throughout my career.”

Ortenstone embarked on a long-term test of those skills in 2003, when she became a senior vice president of energy-focused El Paso Corporation. Low morale, numerous legal and financial challenges had many believing El Paso would not survive. As part of a new executive team, she spent eight years turning El Paso around.

By the time the company was acquired in 2012, she says, not only did it boast the highest total shareholder return in its peer group, but more than 90 percent of employees indicated that they were proud to work for El Paso Corporation. In addition to striving to transform the culture within the company, Ortenstone also oversaw a massive renovation of its skyscraper in downtown Houston.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1979, Ortenstone became an engineer for Tennessee Gas Pipeline, and then went on to managerial roles in gas supply, business development and strategy for Tenngasco Corporation and Tenneco Gas. In 2001 she became CEO of Epic Energy, a joint venture among El Paso and several other companies. In 2012 she began working as chief administrative officer of Copano Energy LLC, and helped manage a successful transition when the company was acquired by Kinder Morgan in spring 2013. Currently a retired Texas registered professional engineer, she is still deciding what will come next.

“I have had a fantastic career in the energy industry and may do something totally different moving forward,” she says.

Ortenstone has stayed connected with the college as a member of the civil and environmental engineering advisory committee. She also serves on the advisory boards of Women in Energy and the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering.

A sports fan and runner, Ortenstone has raised two sons. Andrew is a sophomore at Arizona State University, majoring in film, and Alexander is a freshman at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, majoring in economics and business.

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