Faculty Innovation Ambassadors

Faculty Innovation Ambassador orientation day at Tech Launch Arizona.

Launched in 2024, the Faculty Innovation Ambassadors program is designed to improve access to information and assistance related to inventorship, innovation, and entrepreneurship throughout campus. 

Each Faculty Innovation Ambassador (or “FIA”) serves each of their college communities as an in-house, experienced voice and source for information and direction on topics like commercialization, intellectual property, and the translation of research into impactful inventions. They also serve as a direct line of feedback to help TLA improve our services, processes, and programs. 

FIAs are selected based on their leadership, research history, and experience with commercialization, along with other factors. Each FIA must commit to a 2-year term and go through a training workshop where they delve into the details to learn about commercialization in depth. In partnership with TLA, they help organize and participate in events and updates for their colleges around topics like innovation, intellectual property, and entrepreneurship. 

2024-2026 Faculty Innovation Ambassadors

Hong Hua

Hong Hua, Professor of Optical Sciences, James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences

As founder and principal investigator of the 3D Visualization and Imaging Systems Laboratory (3DVIS Lab), Hong Hua's work focuses on gaining a better understanding of human visual perception via 3D displays to design more effective human-computer interfaces and augmented reality systems. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and an inventor on over 40 patents.

Julie Ledford, Associate Professor Cellular & Molecular Medicine, College of Medicine – Tucson 

Julie Ledford is co-director of the Clinical Translational Sciences Graduate Program, Associate Director of Translational Research in the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, and a member of the BIO5 Institute. Her lab investigates obstructive lung diseases with emphasis on mechanisms driving immune dysfunction in asthma, COPD and respiratory infections with the goal of developing new therapies based on the activities of endogenous lung proteins. Ledford is an inventor on an issued patent for compositions and methods for treating and preventing lung disease, as well as 9 other pending applications. 

Julie Ledford

Jeff Pyun

Jeff Pyun, Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, College of Science

Jeff Pyun's research is focused on the new synthetic polymer chemistry and development of advanced polymeric materials and nanocomposites. His research group is known internationally for its innovative work in organic/inorganic hybrid polymers and materials for a wide range of applications in photonics, energy, sustainability, and defense.

He is a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors, and was named Arizona Academic Innovator of the Year Award (from Arizona Governor's Office) in 2017. Tech Launch Arizona honored him in 2016 for his innovation and impact in the field of chemistry. 

"TLA and UArizona have provided tremendous support to our research program and our efforts to commercialize new technologies. It is imperative that more UArizona faculty – particularly, creative junior faculty – capitalize on these resources to develop and commercialize new IP here at UArizona. I look forward to helping my colleagues understand how rewarding and impactful these partnerships can be." 
- Jeff Pyun

Sadhana Ravishankar, Professor, College of Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences

Sadhana Ravishankar focuses on the stress response in foodborne pathogenic bacteria, including methods of pathogen control and natural antimicrobials. In the lab, she attempts to control foodborne pathogenic bacteria including antibiotic-resistant strains using various technologies and multiple hurdle approaches. Her interests include natural antimicrobials and their applications in foods, and antimicrobial and anti-oxidative activities of plant compounds. Bacterial attachment, biofilm formation and their control along with stress tolerance responses of foodborne pathogenic bacteria, and mechanisms of stress response in bacteria are some other subjects of research for Dr. Ravishankar’s lab.

Sadhana Ravishankar

Gregory Thatcher

Gregory Thatcher, Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology, College of Pharmacy

Gregory Thatcher joined the University of Arizona in 2020 coming from the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. At UIC he founded a campus-wide and disease-agnostic drug discovery center focused on small-molecule drugs, and founded and led the university's Translational Oncology Program. Thatcher launched his first startup in 1997, which successfully took an Alzheimer’s drug into human clinical trials. His research has resulted in two small molecules that have recently completed Phase 1 trials in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. His current research is exploring combinations with checkpoint inhibitors.

Joe Valacich, Professor of Management Information Systems, Eller College of Management

Joe Valacich, a renowned scholar and tech entrepreneur, revolutionized human-computer interaction (HCI) with his research into deciphering user intent and emotions through HCI data. In 2014, he co-founded Neuro-ID, a trailblazer in real-time behavioral analytics aimed at combating online fraud and enhancing customer experiences. Garnering over $50 million in investment, Neuro-ID collaborates with top brands like TransUnion, Experian, Intuit, US Bank, and GEICO, among others, showcasing Valacich's impactful blend of academic discovery and entrepreneurial success in improving digital interactions.

“Being chosen as a Faculty Innovation Ambassador is not just an honor; it's a profound responsibility. It signifies a commitment to bridging the gap between academia and industry, turning groundbreaking research into real-world solutions." - Joe Valacich

Joseph Valacich

Hao Xin

Hao Xin, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering

An IEEE Fellow, Hao Xin is a distinguished lecturer of the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society. He was named a College of Engineering Da Vinci Fellow in 2020. His academic interests include high-frequency technologies, passive and active circuits, antennas, properties and applications of new materials such as metamaterials and nanomaterials for wireless communication, sensing, bio-medical, and energy harvesting. He has published over 340 refereed papers and has 20 issued patents. Prior to joining the University of Arizona, he worked as a research scientist at Rockwell Scientific Company and a Sr. Principal Multidisciplinary Engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems. In 2017, he co-founded and served as the CTO of startup Lunewave Inc. to commercialize a 3D-printed Luneburg lens antenna for automotive radar sensors. The company has raised approximately $20M and has won several prestigious awards including the Arizona Governor’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2020. 

Frederic Zenhausern, Professor of Clinical Translational Sciences, Translational Neurosciences, Biomedical Engineering, and Radiation Oncology, College of Medicine-Phoenix/College of Engineering 

In addition to his professorships, Dr. Frederic Zenhausern is the Director of the UA Center for Applied Nanobioscience and Medicine (ANBM). He is a member of the Therapeutic Development Program at the University of Arizona’s Cancer Center, and a member of BIO5. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).  He has co-founded 4 startups , authored more than 90 peer-reviewed publications, and is an inventor on over 30 issued U.S. patents. He spent over a decade in industry at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center and Motorola Labs, where he pioneered ultra-high-resolution imaging spectroscopies and genomic platforms.  

“As a Faculty Innovation Ambassador I would like to share my experience and my also curiosity and interest in intellectual property, and share that (not only) with my colleagues and peers, but especially with the junior faculty because I benefited (from that) when I was a young scientist.” 
-  Frederic Zenhausern

Frederic Zenhausern



The primary responsibility of the FIA is the serve as the initial point of contact for questions from their college colleagues related to intellectual property, commercialization, and entrepreneurship activities. They serve as pro-active connectors, bringing their academic colleagues together with TLA professionals to ultimately translate the products of university innovation out into the marketplace to create social and economic impact.

The FIA experience begins with an in-depth training and orientation session focused on TLA and all the resources and services offered. They must commit to 5 to 10 hours of participation per quarter, as well as make themselves available for meetings with colleagues on an ad-hoc basis.  Each FIA commits to participating at least twice annually in co-speaking opportunities with TLA, such as discussion panels and presentations at community events. 

Tech Launch Arizona FIAs are selected from the pool of inventors who have a demonstrated, successful record of academic research and innovation, as well as experience in the full range of commercialization activities, from invention disclosure through intellectual property development and licensing. Each FIA must have a deep commitment not only to advancing their own research, but to helping their colleagues in each of their respective colleges to achieve similar success. 

If you are interested in connecting with the FIA in your college, reach out to them directly. Alternatively, you can reach out to the Licensing Manager associated with your college and they can help connect you with your FIA, answer questions you might have, and provide additional helpful resources. 

If you don't see an FIA listed for your college, contact TLA and we will help you connect with the best person to assist you and answer your questions. You may also reach out to the Licensing Manager associated with your college or academic field. 

For questions about the Faculty Innovation Ambassadors program, contact:

Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications
tumarkin@arizona.edu, 520-626-8770