Dr. Herek Clack is an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan, and co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Taza Aya. Herek holds an S.B. degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from MIT, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and has 25+ years of research experience in air quality engineering, with about 10 years spent focusing on biological air contaminants such as airborne viruses and bacteria.
“I often promote engineering to students by playing up the rivalry between scientists and engineers. Theodore von Karman, a noted scientist, said ‘Scientists study the world as it is, engineers create the world that never has been.’ “
Michael Drake is Executive Director of Research Relations for the University of Michigan College of Engineering, and Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Taza Aya. Michael is a board member at Applied Dynamics International and served in the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan for two years. He holds a B.S. degree in Business Management and Marketing from Cornell University.
“From serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyztan to building partnerships at the University of Michigan for the past two decades, solving problems and creating impact are central themes for me. My time growing up in upstate New York and attending Cornell University established a great foundation for serving as a change agent.”
Alberto Elli is Chief Executive Officer of Taza Aya. Alberto offers a unique set of leadership skills necessary to guide Taza Aya through early-stage development and fundraising. This assignment permits Alberto to continue his career coaching engagements, as well as advising other startups and VC funds in idea generation, validation, and commercial traction..
“When in 2020 I met Taza Aya co-founders, Herek and Mike, I was intrigued by their unique technology and the significant potential to develop commercial applications. When Taza Aya won a sizable grant from JLabs, we were excited about developing a wearable visor to protect wearers from airborne pathogens. Now with technology transfer from the University of Michigan executed, a strong suite of patents, and a $1 million grant from the USDA, it was time to join the team as CEO. We have a clear path in terms of product development, product fit to several markets, and early adopters. The opportunity to build a fast-growing business that solves life-changing problems and creates a strong, diverse, and motivated Team is incredibly motivating.”
an Occupational Therapist with 25+ years of experience in leading a team of therapists in various rehabilitation settings. She currently works as the Director of Rehabilitation at Glacier Hills, a senior community with Trinity Health. Shruti leads a team of 25+ physical, occupational, and speech therapists and oversees the inpatient subacute as well as the outpatient rehabilitation clinic at Glacier Hills.
Shruti completed her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Nagpur University in India. In her free time, she enjoys participating in amateur theater productions.
Ava Dupre - Staff Engineer
Ava Dupre is an accomplished engineer with a wealth of experience in product development, systems engineering, and space technology. She holds a Master’s degree in Space Engineering and a Bachelor’s degree in Earth and Space Science and engineering from the University of Michigan.
Ava’s career began at UofM Space Physics Research Lab and the Climate and Space Department. In these roles, she designed and tested instrumentation for NASA science missions, mentored students, and managed laboratory operations.
Her passion for space technology led her to Made in Space (now Redwire Space), where she contributed to a mission focused on 3D printing structures in space as a Systems Engineer. Ava also played a crucial role at Jacobs Technology, where she supported
NASA’s Artemis mission by conducting critical analyses for the Human Landing System spacecraft.
With twenty years of experience in sales, business development, and marketing, Brian brings a wealth of customer development and new business expertise to Taza Aya.
Brian’s experience working with executive team leaders to define strategies, establish important relationships with key customers, identify potential business opportunities, and manage customer discovery make him an asset for our growing organization.
Brian’s career highlights include contributions at Steelcase Health, Herman Miller, and leading new business initiatives in sustainable products at Forbo. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Taylor University.
Emma Pfeiffer - Engineering Intern
Emma Pfeiffer is currently a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Michigan with a major in chemical engineering. A specific interest in biochemistry began during her 2022 winter semester at U of M when she took her first college biology course. After discovering a passion for both biology and chemistry, Emma declared a biochemistry minor.
Emma aspires to pursue a career in biotechnology or drug design with an aim to make a difference in the health field. When she is not busy tutoring other students and peers in biology and biochemistry, Emma loves to watch the TV show “Survivor” and explores different coffee shops in Ann Arbor.
A M.S. at the University of Michigan studying Aerospace Engineering. His educational focus, aerodynamics and propulsion, lends itself well to pushing Taza Aya’s mission forward. He already holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Michigan. His educational and work experience is evident in problem solving skills and the scientific intuition to tackle unique problems.
Is currently an independent contractor working as an electrical and mechanical designer. Gary has experience in several startup companies in the Ann Arbor area and held management positions in operations and supply chain as well as Engineering roles in both electrical and mechanical. He has several years’ experience using Altium software for schematic capture and printed circuit board layout and SolidWorks for mechanical design. Gary holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.