Penn student Nora Becker is hardly out of her twenties, but she’s already been cited by the White House for her research into how women save money on birth control as a result of the Affordable Care Act. David Clayton directs a program in University City that gives kids from West Philly the chance to learn about science in a hands-on way. And Sylvester Mobley runs a program so that Philadelphia children across the city, regardless of their parents’ income, can learn to code.
These people and others have shaped the science and technology fields here in Philadelphia, and they will continue to as the next generation of leaders in the city.
Welcome to this month’s edition of Who’s Next, a feature we at Billy Penn use to highlight some of the most dynamic young leaders in Philadelphia. These winners are the city’s newest movers and shakers, and the people who were nominated by their peers as making Philadelphia stronger in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
In the last year, Billy Penn has highlighted more than 160 of the city’s up-and-coming leaders through the Who’s Next feature, from politicians to artists to chefs to lawyers. But for now, meet a dozen young people who are shaping science, technology, engineering and math in Philadelphia and across the state, in alphabetical order:
1. Nora V. Becker
Title: PhD, MD Candidate, Wharton School of Business and Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Who’s Next because: Becker is a student in the combined degree MD/PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania, where she recently completed the PhD portion of her education, obtaining her doctorate in the Department of Health Care Management and Health Economics at the Wharton Business School — and she’s currently finishing her final years of medical school. Her recent paper in the journal Health Affairs about women seeing huge decreases in out-of-pocket spending on contraceptives after the Affordable Care Act received widespread attention from The New York Times to the White House Twitter feed. Becker plans to complete a medical residency program after graduation and pursue a career as a physician-scientist, combining clinical care for patients and doing research in the areas of health insurance, health policy and health economics. Before coming to Penn, Becker worked as a staffer on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and then as an administrative assistant in the White House. Find her on Twitter at @norabecker47.
2. Liz Brown
Title: Founder / Lead UX Designer, Webjunto
Who’s Next because: Last year, Brown cofounded Webjunto, a community and user experience focused web and mobile development company based here in Philadelphia. In addition to their services, the team at Webjunto also hosts a monthly meetup called Philly Junto that has more than 800 members. Prior to that, Brown’s passion for research and user experience design was actually set off by her previous work as an urban planner who assisted communities in making human-centered design decisions and recommendations for neighborhood revitalization projects in Buffalo, NY, and West Philadelphia. Having always had an interest in both technology and design, she then took on a second Master’s degree in Information Design and Technology while working as a Neighborhood Planner for the City of Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter at @lizbrownsays.
3. David Clayton
Title: Director of FirstHand at the University City Science Center
Who’s Next because: Clayton is currently the director of the FirstHand program, which works to provide creative learning opportunities for at-risk youth, primarily middle school students in the neighborhoods surrounding the University City Science Center’s West Philadelphia campus. As director, Clayton leads the development and implementation of community and youth outreach programs. He joined the Science Center in 2008 as the curator for the Esther Klein Gallery and initiated the arts, technology and science community outreach program that has since grown into FirstHand. He’s pulled together more than 20 interactive exhibitions showcasing data visualization, augmented reality, robotics, video-game hacking and 3D printing. Before joining the staff at the Science Center, Clayton earned a Master of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and developed K-12 arts-based learning and digital literacy programs that bring digital arts and literacy programming to schools in Syracuse, NY. He also co-curates the Ignite Philly speaker series.
4. Philip Gonski
Title: Facilities and Infrastructure Project Manager at The Burns Group
Who’s Next because: Gonski is currently a project manager at The Burns Group, an engineering design and construction management firm based in Philly, and his expertise is in electrical engineering and power plant design. Prior to that, he worked at Keystone Engineering Group, where he had a reputation as a young leader in renewable distributed generation power. Major projects he’s worked on in the past include engineering the electrical design of a $1 billion power plant in Saudi Arabia and developing the a commercial combustion turbine power plant powered entirely by biofuel in Hawaii. In 2013, Gonski received the Young Engineer of the Year Award from The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Philadelphia Chapter, and last year he was named the Delaware Valley Young Engineer of the Year.
5. Jon Gosier
Title: Data scientist and investor
Who’s Next because: Gosier’s currently the founder of Cross Valley Capital, a growing venture capital firm based here in Philly. Last year, he also he co-founded Third Cohort Capital and works to use his program “Appfrica” to invest in technology in Africa. In the past, Gosier has spearheaded data projects for multi-national organizations like the Red Cross and FEMA, and he gained widespread recognition forhis 2014 TED talk on “Trickle-Down Techonomics,” which explored the unintended consequences of technical innovation and the responsibility he believes innovators have to design products that yield better social outcomes. Gosier was listed as one of “The New Faces of Black Leadership” by TIME Magazine and he has received nods from the likes of Black Enterprise Magazine, Business Insider, IDEO and The Economist. His technical innovations include MetaLayer, a Comcast-backed big data startup, and Open SIM Kit, a technology for mobile phones that ensured communication channels could be maintained during crisis events.
6. Georgia Guthrie
Title: Executive Director of The Hacktory and Apprentice User Experience Designer, P’unk Ave
Who’s Next because: Guthrie serves as the head of The Hacktory, a nonprofit that provides formal instruction in technical topics for children and adults and works to provide creative learning opportunities in the STEM fields. Workshops and classes might include programming, textiles, metalwork, design, electronics, fine art, engineering, sciences and other disciplines. While at the Hacktory, Guthrie has created an artist residency, a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn in, and a new workshop set to open in February 2016. She’s also a designer at P’unk Ave where she works with user needs and then translates them into clear objectives for the rest of the team to build functional websites. The person who nominated Guthrie had this to say about her: “I met Georgia when the Hacktory was first getting off the ground about 8 years ago, and it’s been amazing to watch her progress and see the Hacktory grow.”
7. Nicodemus Madehdou
Title: CEO of Jumpbutton Studio
Who’s Next because: Madehdou is the CEO and a founder of Jumpbutton Studio, an entertainment media company that focuses on the development of games, mobile applications and animations. From humble beginnings developing small games, the group of young developers is now working on games for platforms like PS Vita, Mobile Droid, Sony phone and desktop downloadable games. In addition to developing video games, they have launched “Curiosity 180,” which creates educational videos that are 180 seconds or less. As CEO, Madehdou manages and oversees projects and works as an organizer and liaison between departments. At just 19 years old, Madehdou is currently in his senior year at New Foundations Charter High School in Northeast Philadelphia. He’s a participant at Temple University’s Urban Apps and Maps program and was recently invited to the White House to accept a 2015 ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellow award.
8. Ryan Conrad Martin
Title: EHR Implementation Analyst, Healthcare Blogger
Who’s Next because: Martin is an electronic health record (EHR) implementation analyst at Thomas Jefferson University Health System, but he’s gained recognition for blogging and curation at his healthcare blog, Diligent Fruit, which focuses on healthcare, health informatics and holistic health/ horticulture. Martin is a tenured healthcare outpatient analyst working as a consultant for several academic medical centers around the country, and he says his goal is to help drive change and innovation in how healthcare is delivered, specifically in Philadelphia. He’s also the founder of The BartervilleUSA Foundation, a social experiment in online, collaborative bartering communities that he sees one day being used to foster strengthening neighborhoods and produce a healthier population. Find him on Twitter at @TheHealthSavant.
9. Sylvester Mobley
Title: Executive Director Coded by Kids
Who’s Next because: Mobley heads up Philadelphia’s Coded By Kids, an organization that provides free weekly coding education programs to children so they can have access to learning opportunities in STEM-related fields. The organization has received attention especially for its work with inner city kids, including its partnership with Martin Luther King High School in Germantown. This year, Coded By Kids Tech Summer Camps will debut and the program has recently expanded to “Coded By U,” which offers courses to adults who lack access to web development education programs. This year under Mobley’s leadership, Coded By Kids was selected to receive a nearly $20,000 grantfrom the city’s Startup PHL so that it can train new instructors. Find him on Twitter at @sylvestermobley.
10. Yasmine Mustafa
Title: CEO and Co-founder of ROAR for Good
Who’s Next because: Mustafa is the CEO ofROAR for Good, a B-corp aimed at helping protect women using smart jewelry and education. The partially crowd-funded company’s first product is called Athena, and it operates as a fashionable wearable for women that’s aimed at reducing assaults by sending messages and GPS information to friends and family at the touch of a button. In 2011, Mustafa founded the Philadelphia chapter of Girl Develop It, a non-profit aimed at lessening the gender gap in technology, and she remains a co-leader of the local chapter. She also sits on the board of Coded by Kids, a non-profit that helps inner city youth learn how to code. Said the person who nominated her: “She is a force to be reckoned with in the Philly STEM scene.” Find her on Twitter at @myasmine.
11. Kara Spiller
Title: Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University
Who’s Next because: In Spiller’s lab at Drexel, she is designing unique drug delivery strategies that harness the body’s immune system to naturally promote tissue repair and regeneration — and her research could have serious implications in the future for patients being treated for non-healing injuries. She earned a BS/MS degree and a PhD at Drexel, where she was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, which recognizes graduate students in STEM fields from across the country. Spiller serves as a mentor for female athletes and engineers, and she puts a particular focus on international collaborations. Her graduate students have gone on to work in Australia, China, Israel, Portugal and the United Kingdom. She also coaches the Drexel Women’s Club Volleyball Team, which she started as an undergrad.
12. Jennifer Totora
Title: Manager of STEM Education and On-Water Programs, Independence Seaport Museum
Who’s Next because: For the last fifteen years, Totora has been working in informal education and she currently manages STEM education and on-water programming at Independence Seaport Museum, the museum that holds and documents the maritime history of the Greater Delaware Valley. She spends most of her time helping students learn through traditional wooden boatbuilding in the SAILOR STEM Boatbuilding Program, the Underwater Robotics Club, Delaware River Stewards Apprentices and Expedition environmental programs and by rowing on the Delaware River. Her varied background stretches from banding juvenile Osprey to performing surgical procedures on Sand Tiger Sharks to researching the effects of climate change on Harmful Algal Blooms. Said the person who nominated her: “With the help of Jennifer Totora, the Museum has shifted its focus to an institution that successfully uses STEM to teach history.”