Faculty

Tom Cassel

Tom Cassel is the director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program in the School of Engineering and Tom CasselApplied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Tom joined Penn’s faculty in 1999 following a 20-year career of entrepreneurial business leadership. He received a full professorship appointment in 2002.

Early in his career, Tom spent 3 years with the U.S. Peace Corps Agency building UNICEF-sponsored water supply systems in remote mountain villages of Lesotho, southern Africa. He then relocated to California in the early ‘70s and was employed at Bechtel Corporation, a worldwide leader in the engineering and construction industry. At Bechtel, Tom specialized in research and development of advanced electric power technologies. This led to the launching of his first entrepreneurial venture in 1978, providing advisory services to U.S. governmental agencies and to companies seeking to invest in energy technology ventures.

Over the next 7 years this startup grew to a team of a dozen highly regarded energy specialists. The firm was acquired in 1985 by the publicly held, Philadelphia-based Reading Company (one-time owners of the Reading Railroad). As a division president within the Reading organization, Tom then launched Reading Energy Group, which evolved to become a pioneer in the independent electric power industry. The Group developed large-scale, waste-fueled power plants using cutting-edge combustion and environmental technologies.

Three years later in 1988, with funds from a major European bank, Tom and his management team purchased the Energy Group and its power plant assets from Reading Company in a leveraged buyout. Renamed Reading Energy Holdings, Inc., with Tom as CEO and majority shareholder, the privately held company grew to 65 highly motivated employees in 3 locations. As the company grew they acquired 2 companies, started 6 more, and formed strategic alliances with a number of major technology corporations. By 1998, the company had developed, owned and operated advanced power facilities having capital costs exceeding $600 million.

Tom and his fellow management shareholders “harvested” in the mid-1990s and sold their power plant assets to multinational corporations. Tom earned BSc, MSc (mechanical engineering) and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and has completed studies in Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management Program. He has published more than fifty papers, articles and a book, has addressed numerous conferences and hearings, and has appeared in both radio and television media. He has served as an advisor to a number of high-tech startup ventures, and is active with several non-profit organizations. In 2003 Tom received the School’s S. Reid Warren Award for Teaching. In 2005 he received the School's D. Robert Tarnall Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2007 he received the University's Provost's Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising.

Tom and his wife, Chris, reside in Moorestown NJ. They have three sons: Joe, Brad and Tommy.

Jeffrey Babin

Jeffrey BabinJeffrey Babin is Associate Practice Professor and Associate Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. Jeffrey has been a lecturer in Entrepreneurship for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania since 1993. He is the Senior Project Advisor and Regional Manager for Australia, India and Israel for the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum; he is the advisor for the Wharton Venture Initiation Program; and Jeffrey is an entrepreneurial fellow for the Weiss Tech House. Jeffrey also has served as a judge for the Wharton Business Plan Competition.

Jeffrey is Managing Director and founder of Antiphony Partners, LLC, a strategic consulting firm that specializes in helping companies create sustainable value through innovation. Jeffrey led the development of the company’s proprietary Relaunch® methodology, through which Antiphony works with senior executives to successfully: develop innovative business models, bring new products and services to market, and build profitable operational infrastructures.

Prior to co-founding Antiphony, Jeffrey was Founder, President and CEO of Corporate Technology Ventures (CTV), a privately held enterprise software and consulting practice. From 1993-2001, CTV delivered solutions for content and knowledge management to blue chip clients in several industries, including Agilent (formerly Hewlett Packard), American College of Physicians, Élan Pharmaceutical Technologies, Harcourt Health Sciences, Intel, Pep Boys, Risk Management Association, Simon & Schuster, University of Pennsylvania Health Systems, and The Wharton School. In addition, CTV provided the foundation technology for MedCases, Inc., a provider of innovative web-based medical education. Jeffrey led product development and professional services for CTV, which maintained average client relationships spanning more than 3 years and 6 projects. Jeffrey built CTV’s profitable business and strong intellectual property portfolio from cash flow. CTV was a natural evolution of Jeffrey’s successful consulting practice from 1991-1993, during which time, he dedicated his skills to the adoption of emerging technologies by corporations to capitalize on market opportunities. Jeffrey believes that solutions must be market-driven and therefore has always combined market research and professional services with any technology development process. Working with both growth companies and Fortune 100 corporations, Jeffrey developed business plans and financing strategies to create new wealth.

Jeffrey served as President of the Board of Directors of Trinity Cooperative Day Nursery and as a member of the Greater Philadelphia Venture Group’s Academic Outreach Committee. He is a Faculty Initiate for Delta Sigma Pi, the national collegiate business fraternity, and was a founding board member of the Pennsylvania Composers Forum. In 2002, Jeffrey was a winner of the Philadelphia Business Journals 40 Under 40 list of the region’s up-and-comers.

Jeffrey earned an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA in Physical Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Jeffrey and his wife, Kathy, live in Wallingford, PA with their two children, Drew and Liza, and Grace and Piper, their Labrador retrievers.

Vanessa Chan

Vanessa Chan is an Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Speaker and Educator.  She is a leading thinker in innovation and entrepreneurship where she thrives at the interface of technology and business. Her specialty is translating technology/product assets to meet unmet needs for B2B, B2C and DTC companies.  

She was a partner at McKinsey & Company for 13 years where she co-led their innovation practice. There she helped Fortune 100 companies with deep R&D portfolios commercialize their technologies.  After McKinsey, she founded re.design, a company that redesigns consumer products to solve consumer gripes starting with her first product, Loopit, tangle-free stylish headphones. Loopit’s launch was phenomenal where they doubled the goal of their Kickstarter campaign, reached the finals on the Today Show’s Next Big Thing and received a nomination for Rad Girls Product of the Year Award.  Loopit is sold on QVC (where Vanessa has appeared), Touch of Modern, and her on-line store, www.redesign.studio.  

Vanessa is now on her third career, at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a Professor in their Engineering School, the Undergraduate Chair of the Materials Science Department and a member of the Executive Committee of Penn Health Tech – a new center between the School of Medicine and the Engineering school, where their mission is to develop new transformative medical devices.  Her focus at Penn is to educate and train engineering students in technological innovation and entrepreneurship and to help support the commercialization of Penn technologies.

Vanessa writes and speaks on 1) going from corporate executive to entrepreneur, as an inspiration to others to take a more entrepreneurial approach to life and 2) work-life integration from the perspective of a dual-income family where both partners have intense careers but are still hands-on parents. Vanessa’s journey has been covered in various news outlets including the WSJ, The Washington Post, a best-selling book (I Know How She Does It), CBS and various podcasts including “Women Killing It!”.

When she’s not inventing new things, you can find Vanessa helping others succeed as the co-­President of the Philadelphia Chapter of Ellevate Network and supporting new start­ups both as a partner Robin Hood Ventures (an angel investing group) and as the chair of the BRIC (Business Resource Innovation Center) Advisory Council for the Free Library of Philadelphia. She also is on the Innovation Business Development Advisory Council for United Technology Corporation (a $55B industrial conglomerate) and the Advisory Board for Charge-it-Spot.  Vanessa is passionate about K-12 education and is a Trustee for Springside Chestnut Hill (SCH) Academy and a founding member of SCH’s Venture Incubator Advisory Board, where she has helped students bring their ideas to life, including her daughter’s own invention.

Vanessa earned a Ph.D. from MIT. a B.S.E from the University of Pennsylvania, both in Materials Science and Engineering and holds three patents. Vanessa is married to Mark van der Helm, the VP of Energy and Waste at Walmart, and they have two children Karina and Ariana.  She is an avid mountain biker, skier and world traveler.