Dick Co, Director
Dick Co is a scientist, educator, and startup founder who believes in the power of entrepreneurship to improve lives and unlock the human and technological potential needed for a more resilient and equitable planet.
As Director of Chain Reaction Innovations, Dick works with the CRI team and stakeholders to create and implement programming and vision that continually deepen and grow CRI’s impact. With a track record of forming successful strategic alliances across diverse ideas and partners, Dick is passionate about applying his analogical thinking to help others thrive in the complex worlds of hard tech and climate tech.
Immediately prior to his role at CRI, Dick advised tech startups in carbon utilization, the built environment, and synthetic biology, and he co-founded the Evanston Development Cooperative in 2019 to address housing affordability, inclusive workforce development, and sustainable construction in his local community. His interest in the built environment stemmed from his stint as the founding faculty director of Northwestern University’s award-winning U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Decathlon 2017 team.
In 2016, Dick was invited by the U.S. Department of State to keynote the inaugural U.N. Science, Technology, and Innovation Forum. Dick has been quoted in various media outlets, including the New York Times, MIT Technology Review, The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, and Congressional Quarterly.”
Dick is a seasoned R&D leader who served as the Director of Operations and Outreach for the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center (a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center) from 2012-2018. While a faculty member at Northwestern University, he published regularly in peer-reviewed journals covering topics from early-stage commercialization strategies to ultrafast photochemistry of solar materials.
Dick is an Executive Scholar at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and he holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics and A.M. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Harvard University, and a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
Deena Wright, Fellowship & Program Manager
Deena joined the Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) team as the Strategic Operations Lead in October 2018 after eight years at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) as the Argonne User Agreement Specialist. In 2021, she was promoted to Fellowship & Program Manager for CRI. Deena draws on her knowledge of Argonne to assure the startups in the program are engaged and supported both within Argonne and in the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Deena is passionate about the research that Argonne conducts and supports. She sincerely believes in the CRI mission to enable innovators to launch new technologies into the market by accessing the unique and powerful resources of a national laboratory.
Deena leads CRI’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as well, providing vision and leadership – and is also a member of the Science & Technology Partnerships and Outreach DEIA Council. She proposed the successful addition of MLK Day as a paid holiday at the lab, is a member of Argonne’s Benefits Advisory Committee, and led a cross-lab strategy team to focus on diverse and inclusive outreach and recruiting for CRI. The efforts were effective and CRI cohorts have collectively been 30 percent female and 50 percent from underrepresented groups. Deena is also the Students for Energy & Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) internship program lead. The internship was created for undergraduate students of Chicago-area Minority Serving Institutions to introduce them to entrepreneurship in science.
In 2021, alongside the CRI team, Deena received an Argonne Board of Governor’s Award for Distinguished Performance, and in 2022 she received an Impact Argonne award for her efforts in creating and launching the SEED program. Deena holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and an MBA from Lewis University. She is also a 2021 Chicago Clean Energy Leadership Institute Fellow.
Rachel Harris, Technical Project Manager
Rachel joined CRI in 2023 as Technical Project Manager (TPM), bringing with her six years of invaluable experience leading global projects in industry. Prior to joining Argonne, Rachel held various R&D roles in formulation and materials science capability development. Her research expertise spans a uniquely wide variety of projects and business sectors – from improving fuel economy in the transportation industry through corrosion protection to enabling a suite of digital products for color styling. An effective collaborator, many of her projects involved coordination between colleagues in research, production, marketing, accounting, legal, and strategic roles.
As TPM, Rachel focuses on providing the technical, business, and project management mentorship to climate tech startups to help these innovators scale their businesses and accelerate commercialization of new technologies. Rachel partners closely with CRI innovators and Argonne PIs to advance the development process and ensure projects adhere to Argonne’s organizational objectives and core values.
In addition to her certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP), Rachel holds a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, and she earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. In 2021, Rachel was named a STEP Ahead Emerging Leader by the Manufacturing Institute.
Janelle Richmond, Integrated Communications Manager
Janelle Richmond joined Chain Reaction Innovations in March 2020. She brings a wealth of communications, marketing and PR experience to her role as Integrated Communications Manager. Janelle is a dynamic professional with demonstrated achievements in the public relations and communications industries. A gifted storyteller and content strategist, she has experience in nonprofit organizations, STEM innovation, digital media, healthcare, and higher education.
As part of the CRI team, Janelle provides communications and marketing support for the department’s broad-based internal and external initiatives. That includes conveying the value of science and technology entrepreneurship to a variety of key audiences. Her other responsibilities include communication support for departmental and Argonne initiatives to showcase the impact of energy and science-based tech. She also manages the department’s website and social media platforms to increase awareness and engagement and plans departmental special events.
Before joining CRI, Janelle worked as a consultant, advising clients how to position themselves within competitive industries. She developed and executed communication, marketing, and fundraising plans.
Janelle holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dira Melissa Delpech, Operations & SEED Program Coordinator
Dira Melissa “Mel” Delpech is a driven, energetic, adaptable, organized, team and goal-oriented leader in the fields of Engineering and STEM education looking to make impact. As a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice advocate, she values thoughtfulness, creativity, and humanism to empower those who need help and support. Her cultural competencies allow her to offer unique perspectives and solutions to emerging problems.
Mel first joined Chain Reaction Innovations as a GEM Fellow in June 2021 and then was hired as the Operations and Students for Energy and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Program Coordinator in February 2023. In this position, Mel is responsible for standard procedures that will ensure smooth operations of CRI on a day-to-day basis including the innovator applications system, managing work projects, compiling info for export control reviews, and acting as liaison with other divisions.
Mel also coordinates the multiple program implementation aspects of the SEED Internship Program including intern recruiting and onboarding, networking events, general support of interns and startups and creating intern programming, all in close collaboration with the University Student Programs group within Institutional Partnerships.
Mel earned her bachelor’s degrees in Civil Engineering and French from the University of Rhode Island and her master’s degree in Engineering Management from the Ohio State University.
Wenora Johnson, Administrative Support
Wenora Johnson joined the Chain Reaction Innovations Team as Administrative Support in 2018. In this position, she provides administrative support for the CRI Director and Leadership Team.
Wenora has a diverse back ground with over 20 plus years of administrative experience that includes working for the federal and local municipal government. Her diligence and professionalism has earned her recognition by Joliet Job Corps for establishing a Mentoring curriculum for youths enrolled in their student program. In her spare time, she also serves as a Healthcare Advocate and Peer Reviewer for DOD Healthcare Projects.
Wenora earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix, while serving in the United States Navy as a Reservist for 8 years.