An Exemplary Team: Getting to Know the Women of Tech Launch Arizona

March 12, 2019

Throughout the month of March, we recognize Women’s History Month and the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout society. At Tech Launch Arizona, we’re taking this opportunity to celebrate the many women on our team. They hail from myriad academic backgrounds, cultures, countries and continents, and we’re proud to introduce them to you (if you don’t already know them, that is!)


Iona Brinson, Intellectual Property Docket Clerk
Iona ensures that all of IP applications make their way through the process as smoothly as possible. As a paralegal specializing in IP, as well as a newly-minted Master of Legal Studies (Congratulations, Iona!), she is an indispensable member of our licensing team. Iona enjoys calligraphy, karaoke and theatre.

“Working for TLA continually challenges me to expand my knowledge and step out of my comfort zone.”


Aileen Dingus, Coordinator of Venture Development
WHO DAT? That’s Aileen, a Pennsylvania native and proud transplant from New Orleans. Aileen helps our Venture Development team launch successful UA startups. She supports our Mentors-in-Residence, helps coordinate our Commercialization Partners and I-Corps programs, plans events and more. And even though she now calls Tucson home, she proudly continues to wield the title of “member at large” of the NOLA Chorus Girls.

"Take the winding path to your goals if you want. It doesn't matter how long it takes, as long as you're enjoying the journey."


Sabrina Duarte, Administrative Associate
A long-standing Wildcat, Sabrina has been with the UA for almost 10 years. She brings a great knowledge of the UA to bear on her work with TLA, having had jobs at the College of Medicine, the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the UA Institute on Place and Wellbeing.

“Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but how they’re meant to be.”


Dulce Figueroa, AP/AR and Legal Document Coordinator
Dulce started at TLA as a student worker in 2015. An alumna of the UA, she graduated with a BA in Public Management and Policy. Along with supporting our Licensing team, she is currently pursuing her Masters in Educational Leadership.


Rakhi Gibbons, Director of Licensing
As TLA’s Director of Licensing, Rakhi Gibbons leads a team of eight licensing managers who work with researchers, faculty, graduate students and staff throughout the University. With 15 years of experience in the life sciences industry, Rakhi oversees all TLA’s licensing activities and makes sure that the amazing inventions of the UA are getting out into the world to make people’s lives better.


Kathrine Henderson, Business Intelligence Manager
Kathrine (call her “Kat”) is a true “librarian’s librarian.” With a Masters in Library and Information Science, Kat manages a team of interns that researches the patent and commercial opportunities for new UA inventions. Prior to TLA, she was a Research Analyst, providing legal and business research to large and midsized law firms and Fortune 1000 firms.

"I have been lucky to have some terrific mentors throughout my library career. My friend and colleague Joelle was no exception. In me, she saw what she called a nimble researcher, a person who could apply her research skills to all sorts of different questions and in different settings. She encouraged me in every way to be innovative and creative in my library practice. This early coaching helped pave my way to TLA, to help bring UA’s discoveries to the world. It’s a pretty amazing gig, wouldn’t you agree?"


Janet Kisinger, Senior Intellectual Property Manager
When she’s not out exploring the world on her bicycle, Janet leads the TLA team that manages all of TLA’s activities around protecting and commercializing the intellectual property assets of the UA. Her team is also responsible for federal reporting, an essential function in the world of technology commercialization. And she earned her law degree from the UA, so she’s a Wildcat through and through.


Lisa Lin, Licensing Manager for the College of Medicine – Tucson
Since 2015, Lisa has worked closely with faculty and researchers throughout the College of Medicine – Tucson to bring the fruits of UA research to the world through commercial pathways. Her portfolio consists of drug discovery, medical devices, diagnostics and research tools, to which she brings over 10 years of experience in biomedical research and a PhD in immunology from Duke University. Lisa is originally from Taiwan and loves all kinds of Asian food. In her leisure time, she enjoys listening to audiobooks, traveling with family and baking cakes.

“I am very fortunate to work with intelligent and enthusiastic inventors at COM-Tucson and a great team at Tech Launch Arizona. Together we are changing people’s prejudice that there is very little biomedical research activities in Arizona.”


Jianling Liu, Senior Business Analyst
Jianling is TLA’s database genius, responsible for managing all of our databases, and performing statistical analyses for reporting and strategic planning. Her creative perspective on answering questions and solving problems with organized information are a fantastic asset to the UA.


Alison Mairena, Technology Marketing Associate
Alison just joined the TLA team in September 2018. Her responsibilities center on creating impact by finding licensees for University of Arizona inventions – companies that will take on the project of developing the inventions and taking them out into the world as products to benefit the public. A recent graduate of Virginia Tech, Alison moved to Tucson this past fall specifically for the opportunity of joining TLA. She loves to work out and live a healthy lifestyle.

“I definitely lucked out with this being my first ‘official’ job after graduating college. I’ve learned so much in the six months I’ve been here, and being able to get our story out there as well as tell the stories of others has been an invaluable, rewarding experience.”


Joann MacMaster, Senior Director of Venture Development
When it comes to startups, Joann MacMaster is truly the master. Prior to TLA, she served as the Director of the Arizona Center for Innovation, as well as the Program Director of the UA McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur in her own right, she has had three successful exits and one IPO. We could go on and on, but suffice it to say, we’re more than fortunate to have her leadership on our team.


Kaitlyn Norman-Powers, PhD, Licensing Manager, University of Arizona Health Sciences
With experience in tech transfer, venture capital and science consulting, Kaitlyn is passionate about supporting university commercialization and helping science move from the laboratory to the consumer. She earned her doctorate at the University of Michigan, where she studied molecular, cellular and developmental biology.


Ellen Ogley, Administrative Associate
Ellen joined TLA in 2018. A UA alum with a BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology, she came to TLA after working in customer service and administration in veterinary hospitals. Ellen has been an amazing addition to the team, helping organize and manage events, and making sure everything around the office runs smoothly. In her spare time, you can find Ellen doing yoga, spending time with friends, or exploring Tucson!

“The most rewarding thing about working at TLA is that I get to work with a group of very smart, hard-working individuals who come together as a team to help guide others towards success.”


Amy Phillips, Senior Licensing Manager, College of Optical Sciences
Amy is all about the tech. She is a UA alum, holding both a BS in physics and an MS in optical sciences. Amy is “a nerd’s nerd,” and proud to be such, with a shining passion for everything from lasers to lenses. She served as the Contamination Control Specialist for the TEGA instrument on the UA-led Phoenix Mission to Mars, which makes her pretty much a superstar. We’re sad to report, Amy will be retiring this summer, but she’s headed off to do amazing things.

“I am truly grateful for all the amazing women who came before me to pave the way for women to have equality and become a regular part of the science scene. We'd still love to see even more women in science, so young ladies, sharpen your pencils and study your mathematics! Live long and prosper.”


Linda Portillo, Executive Assistant
A true daughter of Tucson with deep roots in the Old Pueblo, Linda’s role is nothing less than ensuring that everything and everyone in the TLA organization stays on track. She started with us in the summer of 2013 in the early days of TLA, prior to which she worked in a local law office; she also spent 20 years at the Arizona Daily Star.


Grace Ratje, Manager of Finance & Administration
Grace is at a node point within TLA and is our go-to person for all things business. With more than 20 years of service and tech transfer experience she somehow knows everything and is always ready to offer help for the good of the team and the University of Arizona.

"Live in the present and always stay positive no matter what challenges you face! There’s always a solution."


Rosa Saucedo, Associate Accountant
Rosa makes sure that the financial side of our house stays in order. She is in constant contact with our team members and our licensees, making sure that everyone is fulfilling their obligations to ensure that the inventions of the UA are having their maximum impact beyond the University.


Laura Silva, Senior Licensing Manager, College of Science
In short, Laura is a powerhouse. She joined TLA after co-founding and growing a company to commercialize chemical process technology from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. At TLA she works width inventors in all fields throughout the College, from physical and biological sciences to software and more. She seems to come to every team meeting with a story about a great outcome from inventions in the College, which makes her an inspiring leader, as well. She also spends energy on endurance sports.

“Ideas can and do change the world, and intellectual property protection gives power to innovators to change the status quo. Aim high!”


Marie Wesselhoft, Mentor-in-Residence
As an MIR, Marie is part of TLA's Venture Development team, working with life sciences teams to develop and position UA startups for success. She is also president and co-founder of MSDx, Inc. an early-stage company focused on commercializing blood tests for brain diseases. She has upwards of 35 years of healthcare business experience in the diagnostic, device, and provider industry. Before MSDx, she served as the director for the Arizona Center for Innovation at the UA Tech Park at Rita Road.

Get to know all of these amazing women and the rest of the TLA team at