Staff Directory

Leadership Team

Photo of Jim O’Connell Jim O’Connell Assistant Vice President

Jim serves as the Assistant Vice President for Commercialization, leading UF Innovate, the umbrella organization over Tech Licensing, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Jim is also the director of Tech Licensing. He works with internal and external constituents to provide strategic leadership and direction in building and capitalizing on facilities, expertise and technology at UF.

Before joining UF Innovate, Jim directed the tech transfer office at the University of Miami and served as the director of the Michigan Venture Center at the University of Michigan. Jim came to tech transfer with 20 years of industry experience. He worked in two startups in the medical device industry. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a helicopter pilot.

Jim earned his M.S. in engineering management from the University of Maryland and his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic.

Photo of John Byatt John Byatt Associate Director, Tech Licensing

In 2005 John joined Tech Licensing as a licensing officer, working predominantly with faculty in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Dentistry to evaluate, patent, license and commercialize new technology. He serves as the Associate Director in OTL.

John worked almost 19 years as a research scientist working with Monsanto’s Animal Agricultural Division working on or leading a variety of projects including: development and launch of the first production animal biotech product – recombinant bovine somatotropin for increasing milk yield of dairy cattle; evaluating the use of growth promoters for aquaculture; and identification, validation and use of DNA markers to increase genetic gain in livestock.

John Byatt received a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of London and a Ph.D. from the University of Reading while working at the National Institute for Research in Dairying. He spent two and a half years as a post-doc in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Photo of Mark S. Long Mark S. Long Director of Incubation Services

Mark is the director of incubation services at UF. This includes UF Innovate | Sid Martin Biotech and UF Innovate | The Hub. He focuses on incubating companies according to industry best practices efforts, utilizing sales and marketing techniques and entrepreneurial mentoring.

Mark was the former President and CEO of the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC), which owned and operated the Indiana University Emerging Technologies Center (IUETC), a life sciences incubator, and Mark served as President and CEO of that facility. Mark was also President and CEO of the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute, a cancer treatment facility located at Indiana University, during his tenure at IURTC. Mark was the former Director of Technical Operations at Washington University in St. Louis.

Mark has a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in Molecular Biology from Florida State University. He attended both Florida Atlantic University and Indiana University for work on his Ed.D. He has been a member of the NBIA for 12 years and authored the books “Put It In Writing 2”, “Wholesale Economic Development”, and writes a blog on incubation titled IncubatorBlogger.

Photo of Merrie Shaw Merrie Shaw Assistant Director of Incubation Services

Merrie focuses on the life science incubator, Sid Martin Biotech, where she manages the day to day operations as well as promotes Incubation Services and recruits companies. Merrie oversees finance, budgets, administration and human resources. Merrie has attended numerous management classes at the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) conferences and training sessions, and she helped the Sid Martin incubation program win global incubator of the year awards twice, in 2013 and again in 2017.

Merrie has been with UF for 13 years. Previously, she was an orthopedic surgical assistant in south Florida for 15 years, and then she assisted various hospital
foundations with fund raising.

Merrie earned an AS degree from Santa Fe College, surgical tech certification from Manatee College and her Incubator Management Certification from INBIA.

Tech Licensing

Photo of Autumn Arranz Autumn Arranz Licensing Associate for Rick Croley

Autumn Arranz joined UF Innovate in March of 2019 as a Licensing Associate working with Richard Croley in the fields of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and software. They review invention disclosures to determine patentability or commercial potential by meeting with innovators to determine if a patent, trademark or copyright should be filed She manages all aspects of the patenting process, including implementation of all federal reporting obligations as required under the Bayh-Dole Act, comply with all federal and state grants and regulations.

Before joining UF Innovate, Autumn worked for the University of Miami in the Office of Technology Transfer as the Patent Coordinator. She primarily focused her efforts on database management and analysis for all submitted Invention Disclosures, Ideas, Patent Prosecution activity and Agreements such as Licenses, MTAs and CDAs. She also provided research data/analysis reporting to University colleagues and Leadership as well as special projects with regard to individuals and companies working with UM based technologies.

Prior to joining the University of Miami, she spent 17 years in the Aviation private sector with a focus on Human Resources and Government Contracting including solicitation and management of two consecutive DoD awarded contracts. Autumn’s training and experience include Grant and Solicitation drafts, Government and ISO Audits and compliance and research/analysis reporting.

Autumn received her B.A in Journalism/Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Photo of Noel Burmeister Noel Burmeister Licensing Associate for Anita Rao

Noel works with Licensing Officer Anita Rao, assisting in portfolio management for the life science area. She and Anita manage invention disclosures, patent prosecution, MTAs, CDAs, research agreements and licensing agreements for UF innovators in the life sciences. Many of her innovators are those in the UF Departments of Medicine and Pharmacy.

Before joining Tech Licensing in 2001, Noel worked at the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami. She worked at UF Innovate | Tech Licensing until 2009, moved to the University of South Florida’s tech transfer office for 2010-June 2014, and then returned to UF in her current role.

Noel graduated from Florida International University with a master’s degree in criminal justice.

Photo of John Byatt John Byatt Associate Director, Tech Licensing

In 2005 John joined Tech Licensing as a licensing officer, working predominantly with faculty in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Dentistry to evaluate, patent, license and commercialize new technology. He serves as the Associate Director in OTL.

John worked almost 19 years as a research scientist working with Monsanto’s Animal Agricultural Division working on or leading a variety of projects including: development and launch of the first production animal biotech product – recombinant bovine somatotropin for increasing milk yield of dairy cattle; evaluating the use of growth promoters for aquaculture; and identification, validation and use of DNA markers to increase genetic gain in livestock.

John Byatt received a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of London and a Ph.D. from the University of Reading while working at the National Institute for Research in Dairying. He spent two and a half years as a post-doc in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Photo of Melanie Campos Melanie Campos Licensing Associate for April Kilburn

Mel assists with new disclosure triage, coordination of patentability review and timeliness of filing, and management of patent applications from filing through expiration. She assists with marketing IP to identify commercial partners, completion of CDAs/NDAs, and throughout the negotiation process to execution of licenses. She liaises with innovators, patent attorneys, and licensees on patent strategy matters. She manages federal compliance and commercially funded reporting obligations for IP.

Mel began her work at UF as an OPS/Clerk in October 2004, became a senior secretary in March 2005, and moved into the Licensing Associate position in July 2007. In addition to her core responsibilities, Mel also served at MTA Coordinator from 2005-2014.

She graduated with a B.A. in pre-law from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Photo of Karen Crespo Karen Crespo Licensing Associate for Hera Lichtenbeld & Rachel Harding

Karen Crespo joined the UF Innovate | Tech Licensing office in August 2017, working as a Licensing Associate handling technologies in the fields of physical sciences, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and software. She manages all aspects of the patenting process, including implementation of all federal reporting obligations as required under the Bayh-Dole Act and ensuring all data is accurate for contracts managed by the licensing team. She facilitates communications with innovators, the marketing team, attorneys and licensees, coordinating and processing correspondence and providing liaison support to adhere to the rules and regulations guarding the tech transfer system.

Karen started her career as a court reporter, working in the field for 10 years, next working as an IP paralegal in the legal field for 13 years.

She earned her B.S. in Office Management with a concentration in Court Reporting from Husson College in Bangor, Maine. She received her paralegal and cancer data management certificates from Northeastern University in Boston.

Photo of Rick Croley Rick Croley Assistant Director, Licensing Officer
Photo of Sara Dagen Sara Dagen Marketing & Communications Manager

Sara handles marketing and communications for all of the entities under UF Innovate. On any given day, she might mine news about our startups or innovators to share on social media, edit website content or find a fix for one more glitch, create flyers or documents for events, plan events, or write articles about the exciting happenings at UF Innovate.

After joining the UF Innovate team in 2014, Sara worked her way up from a technical editor to the communications manager. In these capacities, Sara is forced to use both sides of her brain, interpreting science speak to communicate to a business audience. Previously, she used both sides of her brain teaching Algebra and English to middle and high school students. She also worked at The Gainesville Sun as a writer and editor.

Sara holds a B.S. in journalism and a M.Ed. in educational technology from the University of Florida.

Photo of Carla Dolder Carla Dolder Administrative Support Assistant
Photo of Zettia Fizer Zettia Fizer Licensing Associate for Lenny Terry

Zettia and Licensing Officer Lenny Terry handle IP from the departments of chemistry, mechanical and aerospace engineering, materials science engineering and chemical engineering. They review invention disclosures to determine patentability or commercial potential by meeting with innovators, determine if a patent, trademark or copyright should be filed, comply with all federal and state grants and regulations, and actively market technologies that have commercial potential.

Before joining the office in 2007, Zettia worked in the Office of General Counsel at UF as a legal assistant to the IP attorney and personnel attorney. She also worked at the Kissimmee Utility Authority in Kissimmee as the assistant to the president.

Zettia studied the legal assistant program at both Valencia Community College and Santa Fe College.

Photo of Penelope Gianelli Penelope Gianelli MTA Coordinator

Penny assists in arranging the material transfer agreements (MTAs) for researchers to receive or send research materials. These are predominately (but not all) in the nature of “scientific sharing” for academic research and do not include fee-for-service agreements (DSP), purchase agreements (Procurement), sponsored research or grants (DSP), or clinical trial agreements (OCT).

When materials are requested from a UF researcher, Penny can assist in determining if an MTA is needed to send the material to another academic researcher. If an MTA is needed, she takes over coordinating the request with the requester’s technology office. If a for-profit entity is requesting material, in conjunction with the appropriate licensing officer, Tech Licensing can consider whether a license is more appropriate. In either case, Penny will evaluate the IP terms and their ramifications on the researcher’s work and potential publications. It is important that materials not be transferred without an MTA as the sender may lose valuable rights.

When a UF researcher requests material from another academic institution or for-profit company, Penny assists in reviewing and revising the agreement provided, or suggests an agreement form if the provider does not have one. She reviews the terms and implications with each researcher to be sure the agreements are understood and acceptable. The goal is to free scientists to work on science instead of administrative paperwork.

Prior to coming to UF, Penny was an attorney in private practice, working in real estate development and private corporations. She graduated from Emory University Law School and Stetson University.

Photo of Rachel Harding Rachel Harding Technology Licensing Officer

Rachel serves as a technology licensing officer, working with researchers in the life sciences, usually in the medical or biomedical space. Previously, Rachel worked as the licensing liaison, working in concert with the licensing teams to review and track biological materials and related rights, particularly those related to AAV gene therapy. Now she works to protect intellectual property and license technologies to industry members that can make the most of UF research.

Before joining Tech Licensing as a licensing liaison in 2016, Rachel was a postdoctoral researcher at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center of the Ohio State University.

She graduated with a B.S. from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in the biological sciences from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Photo of Zahara Jaffer Zahara Jaffer Program Director, Business Development

As Program Director for Business Development, Zahara focuses on advancing UF’s translational research by building relationships with industry partners to further aligned interests. She brings the experience from having managed intellectual property protection and licensing for UF technologies from various biomedical and other research disciplines, to bridging UF’s relationships with strategic partners. By collaborating with faculty and colleagues from across UF units — including Tech Licensing, Division of Sponsored Projects, Office of Clinical Research, UF Advancement, Division of Student Affairs — UF Innovate’s Business Development efforts streamline and facilitate industry engagement across these and other functions.

Zahara led the drug discovery programs for a biopharma startup company where she also managed the company’s research collaborations with academia. She has more than 15 years of biomedical research experience from the academic and industry sectors and significant experience in research program management, grant writing, technology development, and business development.

Zahara earned her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of British Columbia and completed her postdoctoral training in molecular oncology and tumor biology at the Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Photo of Pamela Kelly Pamela Kelly Administrative Support Assistant

Pamela works with three licensing teams to help coordinate their conversations with inventors and/or outside parties and to send correspondence on their behalf.

Pamela has worked for the State of Florida since 2013 and joined UF Innovate | Tech Licensing in January 2019. She also worked for Shands from 1984-2003, serving in obstetrics for 15 years and vascular surgery for 4 years.

Photo of April Kilburn April Kilburn Assistant Director, Licensing Officer
Photo of Hera Lichtenbeld Hera Lichtenbeld Assistant Director, Licensing Officer

Hera joined UF Innovate | Tech Licensing in March 2019 as a licensing officer, mostly working in the medical and biomedical disciplines. She works closely with faculty to help protect and license their innovations.

Before joining UF Innovate, Hera worked for almost 20 years in industry, most recently in Program Management at ThermoFisher (former BrammerBio) and Lonza. She also worked at Dyax Corp (now Shire PLC ) and in various roles at start-up companies. She gained her previous experience as a licensing officer in The Netherlands at the University of Maastricht.

Hera received her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from the University of Maastricht (Netherlands) and completed her postdoctoral training at St. Mary’s Hospital/Imperial College, London (UK), and MGH/Harvard Medical School where she also had a faculty instructor position.

Photo of Leah Manning Leah Manning Administrative Support Assistant

Leah is the Invention Disclosure Coordinator for UF Innovate | Tech Licensing. If you have questions, are experiencing technical difficulties, or need a troubleshooter, she is the person to call. Leah receives, assigns, and processes disclosures for the licensing teams. In addition, Leah works with three licensing teams to help coordinate their conversations with inventors and/or outside parties and to send correspondence on their behalf.

Leah has worked for the State of Florida for 8 years and has worked for UF Innovate | Tech Licensing since November 2017.

Photo of Dawn Meyers Dawn Meyers Operations Manager

Dawn supervises three administrative support assistants who, in turn, support 13 Tech Licensing staff members. She assists Jim O’Connell, who directs Tech Licensing and the umbrella organization, UF Innovate. And in those ways (and many more), Dawn assists all members of the organization.

She schedules and prepares agendas and handouts, coordinates internal meetings as well as meetings with high-level visitors. She coordinates travel, arranges for business meals, prepares reports and presentations, handles the office budget, reconciles expenditures, assists in planning and implementing investor and innovator events, maintains the UF Innovate van, keeps office and break room supplies ordered and available, and otherwise keeps the office running like a well-oiled machine.

Before joining UF Innovate | Tech Licensing in 2003, Dawn worked as a legal secretary for a law office and as a bank accounting clerk.

Dawn studied accounting at East Stroudsberg University and Northampton County Community College in Pennsylvania.

Photo of Jim O’Connell Jim O’Connell Assistant Vice President

Jim serves as the Assistant Vice President for Commercialization, leading UF Innovate, the umbrella organization over Tech Licensing, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Jim is also the director of Tech Licensing. He works with internal and external constituents to provide strategic leadership and direction in building and capitalizing on facilities, expertise and technology at UF.

Before joining UF Innovate, Jim directed the tech transfer office at the University of Miami and served as the director of the Michigan Venture Center at the University of Michigan. Jim came to tech transfer with 20 years of industry experience. He worked in two startups in the medical device industry. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a helicopter pilot.

Jim earned his M.S. in engineering management from the University of Maryland and his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic.

Photo of Adrienne Padgett Adrienne Padgett Licensing Associate for John Byatt
Photo of Anita Rao Anita Rao Assistant Director, Licensing Officer
Photo of Patricia Reineke Patricia Reineke Financial Analyst/Contracts Administrator

As Financial Analyst/Contracts Administrator Patti provides pertinent metrics for the Tech Licensing office to the UF Board of Trustees, the State University System Board of Governors, to departments and colleges across campus, as well as to AUTM, the professional organization that completes an annual licensing survey of universities before issuing a fiscal year ranking. Patti also monitors the financial progress of the office budget throughout the fiscal year. She works with the UFRF business office on a daily basis to ensure that all financial terms of Agreements remain in compliance.

Patti joined Tech Licensing as a licensing associate in 2003, transitioning to Contracts Administrator in 2009. In that role, she began to manage all license agreements, options and interinstitutional agreements that came through Tech Licensing, which she continues to do as well as her duties as Financial Analyst.

Before joining Tech Licensing in 2003, Patti served several years as a paralegal in a full-service law firm in Jacksonville.

Photo of Veronica Talavera Veronica Talavera Marketing & Communications Specialist

Veronica is the marketing and communications specialist for UF Innovate. In that role, she handles a number of projects from Tech Licensing, The Hub, and Sid Martin Biotech, which includes working with student interns, editing and marketing non-confidential summaries of innovations from UF researchers, creating flyers, updating the UF Innovate website, promoting UF and incubator startups on the website and on social media, and so much more.

She has gained extensive experience in the production of various marketing and public relations materials, large-scale event planning, marketing campaigns, and research. As program manager for the Collaboratory for Women Innovators, Veronica gained experience working with entrepreneurs and innovators as well as a passion for the entire innovation ecosystem that exists under the UF Innovate umbrella. She is a former Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for a supermarket chain and a Public Relations Executive for a full-service, global creative boutique that specializes in marketing and communications strategies, among other roles in her field of expertise, in Honduras.

Veronica obtained her bachelor’s degree in Communication and Advertising from the Central American Technological University (UNITEC) in Honduras, a specialization in Public Relations and Organizational Communication at the Journalism and Advertising University (CUPP) in Mexico and her master’s degree in Marketing Management in UNITEC.

Photo of Lenny Terry Lenny Terry Assistant Director, Licensing Officer

Lenny works with innovators and technologies from chemistry, materials science, and chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering. He has successfully negotiated over 290 licenses and has helped to start more than 40 companies.

When Lenny joined Tech Licensing in 2007, he had more than 20 years of industrial chemical experience. He has held multiple research positions with Milliken Specialty Chemical and Ciba Vision Corporation. He worked as a Business Development Manager for Clariant Specialty Chemicals for ten years. He is an inventor on 24 U.S. patents related to the contact lens and personal care markets.

Lenny earned his BS in Chemistry from the University of Richmond in 1981 and his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Emory University in 1986.

Sid Martin Biotech

Photo of Lynda Graves Lynda Graves Senior Fiscal Assistant

Lynda joined the staff at Sid Martin Biotech in 2006 and handles all of the program’s accounting issues.

Before joining the team at Sid Martin, she worked 30 years for UF as a senior accountant and supervisor at the UF Brain Institute.

Photo of Sarah Jackson Sarah Jackson Administrative Assistant

Sarah provides administrative support for the staff and provides customer assistance for clients in the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator.

Sarah has worked for UF Innovate since October 2017.

She graduated with a B.S. from the University of South Florida in 2017.

Photo of Greg Marshall Greg Marshall Lab Manager

Greg oversees the more than $2 million of common equipment at Sid Martin Biotech. As a scientist himself, he is responsible for providing training on and supervising the proper use of each piece of equipment, planning for new equipment purchases, and assisting in coordinating repairs. He also coordinates with UF EH&S on laboratory safety.

Greg has been an active member of the scientific community for over 20 years, both in academic and semi-industrial settings. He began his professional career as a laboratory technician investigating glucose transporter function. As a graduate student, he generated novel transgenic mouse models and contributed to the understanding of the adult neural and hematopoietic stem cell compartments. His post-doctoral research focused on the role of microglia in the brain as they pertain to neurogenesis, and he investigated therapies for acute myeloid leukemia as a research assistant scientist. He left academia in 2013 to join the biotechnology start-up community, working to develop novel and efficacious therapies for type 1 diabetes.

Greg is the Manager and Senior Scientist at OneVax, with a concurrent role on the Sid Martin Biotech staff. He holds a B.S. in Biology from Saint Andrews University in North Carolina, and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Photo of Elliott Welker Elliott Welker Client Services Manager

Elliott works on programs and progress for startup companies and recently launched the Innovate NaviGator pilot program, which includes gathering and posting information for communitywide events for entrepreneurs.

Before joining UF Innovate, Elliott was a business development intern for ReliOx Corporation, a resident startup at Sid Martin Biotech; a legal assistant for Robert S. Griscti, Esq., assisting him in his practice of white-collar criminal law, criminal defense, federal and state litigation, professional licensing and appeals; and volunteered with the North Central Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

He earned his BA in history with a minor in teaching English as a second language (2013) and MBA focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing (2017) from UF. He was a Bob Graham Center for Public Service Student Fellow and Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and Research MBA Fellow.

The Hub

Photo of Sara Dagen Sara Dagen Marketing & Communications Manager

Sara handles marketing and communications for all of the entities under UF Innovate. On any given day, she might mine news about our startups or innovators to share on social media, edit website content or find a fix for one more glitch, create flyers or documents for events, plan events, or write articles about the exciting happenings at UF Innovate.

After joining the UF Innovate team in 2014, Sara worked her way up from a technical editor to the communications manager. In these capacities, Sara is forced to use both sides of her brain, interpreting science speak to communicate to a business audience. Previously, she used both sides of her brain teaching Algebra and English to middle and high school students. She also worked at The Gainesville Sun as a writer and editor.

Sara holds a B.S. in journalism and a M.Ed. in educational technology from the University of Florida.

Photo of Lissette Garces Lissette Garces Fiscal Specialist 2

Lissette processes accounts receivable, disbursements, credit card reconciliation, journal entries, and travel expenses for The Hub. She prepares monthly invoices for Hub clients and maintains the sub-ledger accounting system including posting monthly transactions to the general ledger. Lissette also assists the Operations & Accounting manager with monthly reconciliations and financial reports and provides support for all internal and external Hub events.

Before joining The Hub in 2017 as a front desk receptionist, Lissette worked with a law firm and the hospitality industry. She has many years of experience in customer service, billing, and administration.

Lissette has an AA in Business from Miami Dade College and is completing her bachelor’s in psychology from the Florida International University. She is completing her Fiscal Management Certificate at UF. She speaks English and Spanish.

Photo of Jennifer Harrell Jennifer Harrell Finance & Administration Manager

Jennifer joined UF Innovate | The Hub in 2016 and oversees finance, administration, and operations. She serves as a link between leadership, fellow team members, and clients by handling questions, interpreting and administering policies/procedures, and solving problems. Jennifer manages the daily financial and contractual functions for The Hub, including financial statements and projections for operations, sponsorships, and grants. She is responsible for onboarding new client companies, ensuring satisfaction/retention, negotiating client space, setting pricing structures, and managing legal documentation and insurance. She also manages social media content and event logistics for The Hub.

Jennifer has over a decade of experience in both the public and private sectors of real estate law, finance, and accounting. Before moving into the business arena, she worked in some of Atlanta’s best restaurants serving, bartending, and managing as the ultimate “multitasker.”

She obtained her AA degree in Business Administration from Santa Fe College and a BS in Accounting from UF. She has UF supervisory, Human Resources, and fiscal management certificates; is a Florida Notary; and is a participant in the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Leadership development program.

Photo of Justin Herres Justin Herres Administrative Support

Justin greets all guests who enter The Hub, answers the main phone line, handles company inquiries, and manages incoming and outgoing packages for clients in the building. He connects clients and guests with the appropriate staff person or service for their need.

Most important, Justin keeps The Hub safe by ensuring that all those who visit follow proper procedures: signing in and waiting for their respective host to come down and meet them.

Before joining The Hub staff, Justin worked for over 10 years in retail management and served as general manager of a small business. He also acted as an Accounts Receivable/ Payable employee of a local company

Justin attends the University of Central Florida online, working toward his bachelor’s degree in international and global studies, with a minor in legal studies. He is teaching himself 7 different languages: Spanish, German, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Norwegian.

Photo of Courtney Janka Courtney Janka Facilities Operations Specialist

Courtney oversees the maintenance, housekeeping and general upkeep of the 100,000 square foot technology incubator. She manages the inventory of building assets, space allocation, as well as the accounts payable approver. She also serves as the liaison between the resident clients at The Hub and UF departments such as Information Technology, Facilities Services and Environmental Health and Safety. Courtney interfaces with clients on a daily basis to solve problems, manage space and create growth opportunities. She also handles event management, including room layouts, catering management and scheduling. She manages data input and data management for IncutrackTM, the contact management system for The Hub.

Before joining UF Innovate in 2017, Courtney was the Facilities and Administration Manager at Naylor Association Solutions located in Gainesville. She was responsible for a 60,000 square foot commercial building, served as executive assistant to the CEO, as well as coordinated events. Prior to relocating to Gainesville, Courtney worked for 13 years in the print media industry in a variety of roles including media buying, sales, and production.

Courtney earned her B.S in advertising from the University of Florida.

Photo of Veronica Talavera Veronica Talavera Marketing & Communications Specialist

Veronica is the marketing and communications specialist for UF Innovate. In that role, she handles a number of projects from Tech Licensing, The Hub, and Sid Martin Biotech, which includes working with student interns, editing and marketing non-confidential summaries of innovations from UF researchers, creating flyers, updating the UF Innovate website, promoting UF and incubator startups on the website and on social media, and so much more.

She has gained extensive experience in the production of various marketing and public relations materials, large-scale event planning, marketing campaigns, and research. As program manager for the Collaboratory for Women Innovators, Veronica gained experience working with entrepreneurs and innovators as well as a passion for the entire innovation ecosystem that exists under the UF Innovate umbrella. She is a former Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for a supermarket chain and a Public Relations Executive for a full-service, global creative boutique that specializes in marketing and communications strategies, among other roles in her field of expertise, in Honduras.

Veronica obtained her bachelor’s degree in Communication and Advertising from the Central American Technological University (UNITEC) in Honduras, a specialization in Public Relations and Organizational Communication at the Journalism and Advertising University (CUPP) in Mexico and her master’s degree in Marketing Management in UNITEC.

Photo of Elliott Welker Elliott Welker Client Services Manager

Elliott works on programs and progress for startup companies and recently launched the Innovate NaviGator pilot program, which includes gathering and posting information for communitywide events for entrepreneurs.

Before joining UF Innovate, Elliott was a business development intern for ReliOx Corporation, a resident startup at Sid Martin Biotech; a legal assistant for Robert S. Griscti, Esq., assisting him in his practice of white-collar criminal law, criminal defense, federal and state litigation, professional licensing and appeals; and volunteered with the North Central Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

He earned his BA in history with a minor in teaching English as a second language (2013) and MBA focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing (2017) from UF. He was a Bob Graham Center for Public Service Student Fellow and Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and Research MBA Fellow.

Collaboratory for Women Innovators

Photo of Kathy Sohar Kathy Sohar Collaboratory Director

Kathy is the director of the Collaboratory for Women Innovators.

She formerly served as assistant director for UF Innovate | The Hub. Her experience spans both the public and private sectors, including a strong technology focus, economic development, technology commercialization, grant administration, and educational outreach.

Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Mass Communications at the University of Florida. She has won several awards for her work on innovation projects and is a frequent guest speaker on innovation, entrepreneurship, and gender/diversity.

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