John Carlisle, Director Chain Reaction Innovations
John is a physicist and entrepreneur with a strong passion for translating fundamental discoveries into disruptive products.
As director of Chain Reaction Innovations, John’s focus is on supporting the next generation of innovators to move hardware-based energy technologies into applications with high societal and economic impact. CRI enables the innovator and their innovation to leverage the extensive resources within Argonne National Laboratory for two years. The long term vision is to more effectively translate high-risk technologies into the market while also enabling a new generation of entrepreneurs to create new businesses that will keep the US at the forefront of energy innovation.
Adria Wilson, Entrepreneurial Program Lead
Adria is a chemist with a passion for enabling energy innovation and accelerating its development into accessible, transformative technology.
Adria has a diverse set of experiences in the clean energy field, from policy development to technical research and management. As a legislative fellow in the Washington, D.C. office of Senator Bernie Sanders, Adria developed legislation as part of the Senator’s energy and environment portfolio, including a bill to provide solar power to low income families. She joins Argonne after a role as a program manager with the Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. There she managed applied research and development projects aimed at advancing the widespread adoption of fuel cells, and was actively engaged in several EERE technology-to-market efforts, including the Energy I-Corps and SBIR programs. While at the agency Adria also developed several programs to increase the development of promising R&D into high impact commercial products, including one program to teach early-career researchers lean startup principles in a low-risk environment.
Adria’s passion for energy innovation has also led her to engage with the DC innovation ecosystem as an entrepreneur. She participated in a Department of Defense I-Corps program, going through the customer discovery process for a NASA-developed sensor technology, and has experience developing her own energy harvesting technology.
Adria earned her PhD in chemistry from Duke University.
John Aikens, Collaborations Lead
John is responsible for developing external business partnerships and collaborations on behalf of Chain Reaction Innovations.
He has over 25 years of experience in small business and has worked at all organizational levels including leading research and operational teams as well as holding founder, CEO and CTO positions. As a serial entrepreneur, John has been involved with creating four new ventures and counting including Lybradyn, Proterro, Mesodynamics, and JL Biosciences and has raised over $15 million dollars in angel and seed capital. He is an experienced executive working in the biotechnology, fine chemicals, materials science and sustainable energy industries. John has lead teams that have successfully secured non-dilutive funding including SBIR and STTR grants which lead to the commercialization of products serving the biotechnology research, fine chemical production and chemical defense markets.
For the last decade, John has provided consulting and advisory services to the venture capital community focused on technology and business diligence. In addition he has worked with startup businesses related to technology development and commercialization of technologies. John is an active inventor and has been responsible for discoveries leading to over 20 patents. He is also serves as an advisor and mentor having worked with entrepreneurs from Universities including Princeton, Northwestern, the University of California, Davis and the University of Illinois as well as Department of Energy programs including Argonne’s Chain Reaction Innovations, Lawrence Berkeley’s Cyclotron Road, and NREL’s Energy I-Corps and R2M Accelerator Programs. John is an advocate for sustainability and alternative energy having served on the La Grange Park Sustainability Commission.
John holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Irvine with postdoctoral studies in Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.
Deena Wright, Strategic Operations Lead
Deena joined the Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) team in October 2018 after eight years at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) as the Argonne User Agreement Specialist. As Strategic Operations Lead for CRI, Deena draws on her knowledge of Argonne processes and procedures, and provides guidance in all operational aspects for CRI; including CRI policies and procedures, event coordination, CRI Innovators’ point-of-contact for Argonne related issues, and processing requests through Argonne.
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.
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 mulitple 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. She’s excited to use her strong administrative and project management skills on behalf of CRI!
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 like Demo Day each year. One of the best parts of her job is offering communications and marketing support to innovators and watching their start-ups take off.
Before joining CRI, Janelle worked as a consultant, advising clients how to position themselves within competitive industries. She’s developed and executed communication, marketing, and fundraising plans. One of her great joys is effectively managing relationships.
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.