Scientist, volunteer, entrepreneur heads to medical school

May 2, 2014

Armed with undergraduate degrees in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, political science and international studies from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, Nisarg Patel is ready to pursue a doctor of dental medicine degree at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Cambridge, Mass.

Patel, who is also an entrepreneur, scientist, debate coach and an avid community volunteer, is the winner of the 2014 Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from Barrett, the Honors College. ASU students standing on stage at CGI U 2014 Download Full Image

A Chandler High School graduate and a National Merit Finalist, Patel chose ASU over the bioenegineering program at the University of California in Berkeley, impressed by the resources that Barrett had to offer students, as well as the success of its alumni.

“I had also received multiple scholarships from ASU and Barrett that covered nearly the full cost of my college education, which factored into my decision,” he said.

Since then, Patel has taken advantage of any and all opportunities that came his way.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned about life from my undergraduate career, it’s that the best experiences and opportunities are the ones you never see coming,” Patel said. “Oftentimes, they happen in the spur of the moment. I never felt afraid or discouraged about creating something here, whether it was an event, a student organization or even a company.”

The School of Life Sciences student founded the ASU chapters of the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), a premiere synthetic biology competition for undergraduates to develop novel applications for genetic engineering, as well as Operation Smile, an international non-profit that provides reconstructive surgeries to children with cleft lip, palate or other facial deformities.

One of Patel’s most successful creations is HydroGene Biotechnologies, a biotechnology venture that he co-founded with ASU students Kwanho Yun, Maddie Sands, Ryan Muller and K. Hyder Hussain. The startup has developed a portable pathogen biosensor that changes color on exposure to contaminated water or food. It has raised nearly $30,000 in seed funding from several competitions, including ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and innovation Challenge, for product and business development.

“HydroGene’s goal is to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases in developing countries and provide on-site rapid screening of bacteria and viruses in food processing plants,” he said. “The idea of using a portable biosensor is practical, inexpensive and much needed to improve public health conditions around the world.”

The HydroGene team was also selected to showcase their venture at the 2013 and 2014 meetings of the Clinton Global Initiative University held at Washington University in St. Louis and ASU, respectively. At the latter, Patel shared the stage with President Bill Clinton to speak about the venture’s potential contribution in advancing public health.

“Experiences like speaking with President Clinton, or PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel at another conference, and meeting incredible groups of young entrepreneurs and visionaries from all over the world wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities that I took advantage of at ASU,” he said. “I’ve found that what matters most in life are the people you meet and the things you do together, and the university gave me the chance to accomplish incredible things with an incredible group of people.”

Driven by the idea of creating something that will survive him, as well as bringing to life ideas that will improve the life of others every day, the young visionary is looking forward to pursuing a degree in dental medicine at Harvard. According to him, the undervalued field is poised for innovation in the near future.

“Technologies like three dimensional bioprinting, digital health and wearables can take advantage of oral physiology and its impact on holistic health to improve patient care,” he said. “I’d like to work at the intersection of those emerging technologies and biomedical advances.”

Patel said winning the Outstanding Senior Award from Barrett is a wonderful surprise. He is excited to meet new people and explore new places in Boston, but will miss the opportunities, flexibility and diversity experienced throughout his undergraduate education at ASU.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow alongside such an amazing group of people.”

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Class of 2009: School of Letters and Sciences

May 2, 2014

The School of Letters and Sciences has been preparing graduates for the complexities of a changing world with degree options that not only have an applied emphasis, but also can be custom-built by students.

“Our bachelor of interdisciplinary studies degree, whose alumni now number nearly 10,000, gives students the opportunity to leverage all the possibilities ASU has to offer, building a major that reflects their career goals and interests by combining two concentration areas with the study of interdisciplinarity,” says Duane Roen, School of Letters and Sciences acting director. portrait of Brianna Raymond Download Full Image

With an emphasis on integrating theory, creativity, applied learning and an entrepreneurial spirit, the school’s degree programs – and the career paths of some of its newest alumni, as indicated below – reflect the cross-boundary, border-collapsing needs of today’s world.

Brianna Raymond, professional service consultant, Infusionsoft
Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (business and special events management)

For small-business owners who need help with getting organized, marketing tactics and growing sales, Infusionsoft is more than just software – it can be a vital lifeline in living out their dreams. “I joined the Infusionsoft team because we’re championing entrepreneurs and fighting for small business success,” says Brianna Raymond, who joined the company after working with Education Management Corporation. “We understand the joys and pains of entrepreneurship, as more than half of our employees have operated a business venture at one time.”

Between finishing her undergraduate degree and earning an MBA, Raymond lived and worked with a hill community in northern Thailand, which was working with the United Nations to manufacture and sell local coffee beans in order to send tribal members to college. She continues to be active in her Phoenix community, serving in a leadership role with Toastmasters at ASU and as a member of Arizona Philanthropists  

Lindsay Tustison, product analyst, CXT Software
Bachelor of Science, multimedia writing and technical communication

As a technical writer and trainer for five-plus years with Lockheed Martin, and now in her work with the Phoenix startup CXT Software, an innovator in the logistics software space, Tustison finds fulfillment in melding tech and people skills. “I enjoy helping people perform at the highest level. I also enjoy the challenge of picking apart software applications and documenting the functionality in a way that is easy to understand for the reader,” she says.

While at Lockheed Martin, she served as a diversity and inclusion ambassador for the company’s Goodyear campus, and, as a self-professed Microsoft Word guru, produced a blog with tips for Word users: “a true tech writer geek-out!”

Tustisan is completing a master of engineering in engineering management at UC-Boulder “to become a leader in engineering and a mentor for people just beginning their careers.”

Derek Stamnos, operations assistant, Miami Dolphins
Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (mass communications and communication)

“When ASU football coach Dennis Erickson’s staff was hired, I essentially walked into the football offices and volunteered as a sophomore to help the program in any way possible,” says Derek Stamnos. His offer was accepted. Stamnos parlayed that opportunity into three years of part-time service in ASU football operations and recruiting. After graduating, he transitioned to a staff position in Recruiting Quality Control until moving to South Florida in 2011.

“I was able to build a network of unbelievable connections while I was working at ASU. When I learned the Dolphins offered internships and had an open spot, I reached out to them and, after a lengthy interview process, got the position.” As operations assistant, he handles a range of logistics related to the team (including a 2014 game scheduled in London) and the Dolphins’ training facility in Davie, Fla.

His advice to current students? “Tons of people have an outstanding work-ethic but don’t have the network to grow in their profession,” Stamnos says. “Get out and meet people, and don’t be afraid to call or email people in your desired field to pick their brain or get advice.”

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications