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Program Mentors

Angelique Adams
Business Solutions Consultant

Angelique Adams is an author, speaker, and executive coach focusing on leadership development for diverse STEM professionals. An engineer with 25 years of experience in operations, strategy, and innovation, Adams was director of R&D at aluminum giant, Alcoa, and chief innovation officer at multibillion dollar steelmaker, Aperam. After leading hundreds of scientists and engineers around the world, she discovered her true passion is developing people, not products. Following the successful 2021 publication of her first book for women in STEM, she launched Angelique Adams Media Solutions, a distribution platform for her books, online courses, and coaching programs. She provides one on one consulting to fellows, including in-person and virtual offices hours to provide guidance on business operations (i.e., hiring, performance reviews, effective leadership, personal productivity, organizational skills, presenting to executives, sales model, etc.). Adams lives in Knoxville with her husband and two children. She serves on the board of several local nonprofits and volunteers her time to mentor entrepreneurs. She holds a doctorate from Penn State and an MBA from MIT.

John Derrick
Strategic Consultant

John Derrick, Strategic Consultant, works with fellows one-on-one to a perform market fit evaluation, identify technical gaps that need to be addressed to advance the technology to market, develop a strategic commercialization plan, and more. He brings great experience from two of the nation’s best known entrepreneurial ecosystems – Austin, TX and the Bay Area of California. He’s led three company exits as the Chief Executive Officer in addition to multiple additional exits as an advisor or interim CEO. Those exits where he was CEO include Chicory Systems Inc. that was acquired by Parthus Technologies PLC, Conformative Systems Inc. that was acquired by Intel Corporation, and Qubell that was acquired by Grid Dynamics. John holds a BS is Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University.

Michael Paley
Government Funding Consultant

Michael Paley, Government Funding Consultant, aids fellows in understanding and navigating government funding opportunities and government customers, including connecting with DOD, grant writing assistance, assistance obtaining support letters, managing relationships with program managers, and more. He is an experienced business executive and research scientist, with 20 years of experience as an R&D Defense Contractor focused on developing technology and building organizations bootstrapped by government funding. Michael previously served as the President of IST Research a DARPA data collection and analytics company and was the Chief Executive Officer of Aptima, Inc, a $25M+ research and development company. Earlier, he was a Staff Member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory supporting the USAF AWACS Program Office. He holds a doctorate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Connecticut.

Gary Rawlings
Senior Commercialization Consultant

Gary Rawlings, Senior Commercialization Consultant, is primarily responsible for helping each innovator create a new successful advanced technology-based company founded on their proprietary technologies. In this role he will provide guidance and coaching on all aspects of company evolution from technology validation and scale up to raising capital. Dr. Rawlings has spent most of his career creating and commercializing advanced technology based new products for large global corporations. In recent years he has been a coach and mentor for hundreds of advanced technology-based startups, helping them raise >$20 million in early stage capital. Since moving to Tennessee, he has helped mentor early stage companies for Launch Tennessee, Life Science Tennessee, Advanced Energy Business Council, and Innovation Crossroads. He has a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering and a Master or Science Degree and Bachelor of Science Degree in Nuclear Physics.