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, Senior Program Specialist & SEED Internship Program Lead
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 Senior Program Specialist 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. She leads the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as well, providing vision and leadership.
While at the APS, Deena was responsible for maintaining over 1,300 of Argonne’s legal user agreements, having replaced over 500 legacy agreements with updated version in the course of one year. Deena played key roles in multiple special projects including coordinating efforts to create an APS User emergency notification process, analyzing systems and cross-referencing process with various DOE National Laboratories, updating and implementing procedures as needed, and developing an internal audit process to ensure legal agreements were managed correctly. Deena also served as the liaison for the APS User Organization and Partner User Council prior to leaving the APS.
Deena earned her Master of Business Administration from Lewis University.
Janelle Richmond, Communications Lead
Janelle Richmond joined Chain Reaction Innovations in March 2020. She brings a wealth of communications, marketing and PR experience to her role as Communications Lead. 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, crisis communications, media relations, healthcare, and higher education.
A 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.
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.
Peter Slawniak, Senior Counsel-Intellectual Property
Peter Slawniak is an experienced attorney who advises on intellectual property, strategic partnerships, data privacy, corporate governance and regulatory compliance. At Argonne, he is a proponent of entrepreneurship and innovation, and has advised CRI since its creation.
Peter specializes in providing legal advice for advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, high performance computing, internet of things, quantum computing, pharmaceutical development and energy storage.
In addition to supporting CRI, Peter is an adjunct law professor at Northern Illinois University School of Law where he teaches intellectual property. Peter is a frequent guest lecturer at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago, covering issues from intellectual property to entrepreneurship.
Prior to joining Argonne, Peter was an attorney at Winston & Strawn, LLP, where he focused on intellectual property matters.
Peter holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University, where he was an Evans Scholar. Peter earned a J.D. from Washington University’s School of Law.
John Carlisle, Senior Advisor
John Carlisle, Senior Advisor, is a physicist and entrepreneur with a strong passion for translating fundamental discoveries into disruptive products.
John’s career focus is on supporting the next generation of innovators to move hardware-based energy technologies into applications with high societal and economic impact.
John re-joined Argonne in 2016 as Director of CRI after working for more than 15 years as Co-Founder and CTO of Advanced Diamond Technologies, which spun out of Argonne in late 2003. In 2022, he assumed the position of CRI’s Senior Advisor.
John holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has more than 240 publications in peer-reviewed journals and given numerous invited talks at international conferences. He has performed seminal work in several fields in condensed-matter physics and materials science, including surface physics, soft-X-ray synchrotron radiation, and synthetic carbon materials. He is a recognized world leader in the science and technology of synthetic diamond thin films.