Spartans at Work: At Ventana Medical Systems, “We Attack an Important Problem in the World”

Student standing in front of his company sign

Alex Kalogrides, '11 MBA, is an online community manager in in the Digital Pathology and Workflow Unit at Ventana Medical Systems (Christina Olivas photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with the Class of 2011′s Alex Kalogrides.)

It’s only been eight months on the job for Alex Kalogrides, ’11 MBA, but he feels his work adds to the impact his company makes on Silicon Valley and beyond.

“We are a very innovative company; in the business unit where I work in, we develop new imaging and software solutions that are improving cancer diagnostics around the world,” Kalogrides said.

Kalogrides works at Ventana Medical Systems in the Digital Pathology and Workflow Unit, which develops instruments to turn glass pathology slides into digital images, software to manage these images, and algorithms to help analyze the images.

Ventana, a member of the Roche Group, focuses on accelerating the discovery and development of new cancer tests that allow pathologists to analyze patient biopsies at the molecular level to help determine the best course of therapy for each individual patient.

As an online community manager, Kalogrides works on web and mobile development and manages a forum-platform website. Kalogrides says his strategic thinking skills, class diversity and project management training from SJSU’s MBA One Program has prepared him for his job today.

“Being in a culturally diverse class setting was an important experience for me as I regularly collaborate with colleagues around the world in my job,” Kalorides said.

What does Kalogrides love the most about his job?

“The fact that everything is so new and talking to customers about new products,” he said.

He also loves that what he does attacks a real problem in the world.

“We are working toward making more accurate, more rapid diagnoses for cancer patients,” he explained. “That’s something you feel good about each day.”

Spartans@Work: At GM, “I Get to Work with New Tech No One Has Ever Seen”

Randy Floresca, Mechanical Engineering '10, sets up a battery cell in a thermal chamber (Chris Clor photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our series begins with the Class of 2010’s Randy Floresca.)

Ever want to grow up and play with cars for a living? One Mechanical Engineering grad has turned a childhood interest into a reality.

For the last two years, Randy Floresca, Mechanical Engineering ’10, has worked as a technical engineer for GM’s Global Battery Systems Laboratory, in Detroit. The decision to leave California was an easy one.

“I was ready to try something new,” Floresca recalled. “I think it was a great career move, especially since I was graduating.”

Floresca tests and validates the performance of new battery technology for hybrid, plug-in, and electric vehicles.

“In my job I learn about the different battery chemistries and their capabilities,” he said.

Getting the job

For Floresca, participation in Spartan Racing, the SJSU student chapter of SAE International, played a huge role in landing the job at General Motors’ headquarters.

“The year I graduated, our SAE student chapter started formula hybrid car,” Floresca said. “We went to compete in New Hampshire and I gave my resume to GM recruiters at their booth. GM is one of the biggest sponsors for the event.”

What’s Floresca’s favorite part about his job?

“I get to work with new technology that no one knows about or has ever seen.”

GM benefits, too. Floresca says the performance testing he does for General Motors helps the company plan for the future.

“Hemp Plastic Water Bottles” Steals the Show at Innovation Challenge

Junior JD Leadam stands to the left of his project poster board for Hemp Plastic Water Bottles presented his idea to a passerby. Poster board includes a picture of the design and an explanation of his project

Junior business major J.D. Leadam won first place in several categories at the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge for his entry, Hemp Plastic Water Bottles (Dillon Adams photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Nearly 200 Spartans competed Dec. 1 in the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge, including junior business major J.D. Leadam, who took first place in several categories, winning $2,000.

“I learned that if I truly believe in an idea, then I can sell anyone on it,” Leadam said.

Leadam won Most Innovative Idea, Best Elevator Pitch, and People’s Choice awards for his entry, “Hemp Plastic Water Bottles,” an idea that replaces single-use water bottles with biodegradable plastic water bottles made from industrial hemp.

“Regular water bottles will release toxins over time and when they are buried in our landfills, they last for all eternity,” Leadam said. “We want to replace them with bottles made out of hemp, which are 100 percent safe and biodegradable.”

Leadam plans on entering the Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition this spring, using the money that he won from the challenge to make a prototype and contact manufacturers in China.

“I am really looking to make this happen,” he said.

Teaching Innovation

Other projects included ePrepared, an online community providing counseling sources for high school and college students; Applications Complete, an innovative way to track everyday receipts; and Spherical Drive System, a new concept for a motorcycle designed to balance like a Segway.

This was the first time The Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship, within the College of Business, extended its signature fall event to all majors.

Undergraduate and graduate students, as well as  alumni from all seven colleges participated. President Mohammad Qayoumi and College of Business Dean David Steele presented the winning awards.

“I think that we were successful in creating a cross-disciplinary collaboration for our first year,” SVCE Director Anuradha Basu said.

Industry Professionals

Over 25 community members helped with judging the exhibits and the elevator pitch contest. They included 11 CEOs/founders, two attorneys, two angel investors, two venture capitalists, a banker, and four managers from Cisco and Intel. Around 10 judges were SJSU alumni.

Included on the panel of judges were Arlo Inc. Co-founder Dave Hadden and Tower Foundation of SJSU Board Member Wanda Ginner, who headed her own independent CPA firm for several decades.

“I noticed that the personal appearance and presentations of the students were better than last year, and the elevator pitches were significantly better,” Ginner said. “I just had the feeling that the students were really invested.”

Hadden felt his experience was his biggest contribution.

“Without being critical, we can point out things to help students,” he said. “You could tell having a real world experience was meaningful to them.”

Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge Opens to All Majors

Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge Expands Outreach Campuswide

Park It, a mobile parking application for the smartphone, won first place last year in the People's Choice category.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

The Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship, which has developed a strong reputation within the College of Business for nurturing innovation, is seeking to expand its signature fall event with a new name and campuswide organizing committee.

“I’ve always been passionate about cross-community collaboration, and I believe that for truly successive innovation, you need collaboration across all disciplines,” SVCE Director Anuradha Basu said. “I am hoping we will achieve this with input from all the colleges.”

The Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge was founded in 2004 as the Neat Ideas Fair. Jan English-Lueck, College of Social Sciences associate dean, is a new member of the event’s organizing committee. She expects the challenge to encourage students in her college to think creatively about solving community problems.

“The product that we make as a social scientist may not be a thing, it may be a service,” English-Lueck said. “Any neat ideas we have about how to help people help themselves — this is an opportunity to make those ideas real.”

With this in mind, the organizing committee has set a goal of doubling the number of participants from last year’s 90 teams.

“In the longer term, we would like hundreds of teams to participate,” Basu said. “The more submissions we have, the greater the chance that some of the ideas will be promising enough to be turned into business plans, and eventually, into viable businesses.”

Experience and Neworking

Feedback from the judges was the most valuable aspect of the competition, said senior management information systems major Brian Orlando, a member of the team that won last year’s People Choice award for Park It, a mobile parking application.

“Experience and networking are why I encourage people to do it, “ Orlando said. “It is so hard to get a job in today’s world, but if you know someone, they can find you a job.”

The Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge will be held Dec. 1 in the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom. Registration is open to all students and alumni. The deadline for entries is Nov. 16.

Bike Share Program on the Horizon for SJSU

A picture of a red bike share bicycle taken in China during a Global Technology Initiative trip. Bikes include a modular shape and contains a basket for carrying items.

Hangzhou, China, is often credited with hosting one of the world's largest bike share fleets. Soon, SJSU will join a similar effort funded by a Bay Area regional grant. The Bay Area program is expected to be in operation by the end of next summer (photo by Karin McKie).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Bike sharing, a popular trend in Europe, will soon be making a paceline to SJSU. Associated Students’ President Tomasz Kolodziejak said the program, expected to be completed in September 2012, will add a sense of community to the city and campus.

“It will give students the freedom to explore the city if they don’t own a bicycle, if they don’t have enough room to store one, or don’t want to go through the trouble of maintaining one,” Kolodzejak said.

Eyedin Zonobi, manager of the A.S. Transportation Solutions office, said a bike share program would play well with the estimated 1,000 bicycles on campus per day each semester.

“Although we have six cages to accommodate parking for bikes, plus open racks in front of every building, parking for bikes is reaching its limits,” Zonobi said. “This program would alleviate some of the impact.”

Bike Share Grant

The project is being funded by a $4.29 million Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant to provide bicycles and kiosk stations to the cities of San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose. In addition, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties will contribute matching funds, making this a $7 million project.

San Jose is expected to receive 150 bikes, placed in up to a dozen automated pods around the downtown area, linking the San Jose Diridon Transit Center to other high-activity locations, according to Bike and Pedestrian Program Director John Brazil.

Transportation Solutions is joining efforts with Parking Services and Facilities Development and Operations on campus to work with the City of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. An SJSU planning committee will find three or four locations on the campus perimeter for bike share hubs. VTA is in the process of issuing a request for proposals for vendors.

Features, depending on the vendor, may include modular bike stands, metal baskets, solar or electric locking and tracking technology, and GPS capabilities. Bikes will be inexpensive to rent and there will be different payment and membership options to chose from.