Princeton START program for inclusive entrepreneurship welcomes its inaugural cohort of researchers

Four academic researchers have launched the new START Entrepreneurs program and are working to translate science into tangible impact for society at Princeton.

Ebony Noelle Golden, Maksim Mezhericher, Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa and Sunxiang

Ebony Noelle Golden, Maksim Mezhericher, Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa and Sunxiang “Sean” Zheng.

This program is part academic scholarship and part startup accelerator. The START Entrepreneurs will conduct academic research with on-campus faculty and receive entrepreneurship training and mentorship while building fundable early stage new businesses such as start-up companies or non-profit organizations based on the research.

The program was conceived by First Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney Priestley in the Office of the Dean of Research to encourage greater diversity and broader participation in research, innovation and entrepreneurship within the university, said Dean of Research Pablo G. Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Professor of Chemical and Bioengineering. “The START program supports and strengthens inclusive entrepreneurship through technology and science spin-offs from all disciplines across campus,” said Debenedetti.

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START is administered by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.

This year’s START entrepreneurs are:

Ebony Noelle Golden, artist, scientist, cultural strategist and entrepreneur. Golden will transform a play called City Council Meeting into a startup called School for Participation, which uses theater skills to empower middle and high school students in cities to be leaders and changemakers in their communities.

Golden holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Poetry from Texas A&M University, an MFA in Poetry from American University and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University. She will be advised by Aaron Landsman, Associate Professor at the Lewis Center for the Arts and co-creator of City Council Meeting.

Maxim Meschericher, mechanical engineer. Mezhericher is building a platform to leverage innovative liquid atomization and drying technology that eliminates the need for refrigeration in the supply chain. His startup aims to enable more equitable distribution of vital vaccines, medicines and more.

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Mezhericher received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in Thermal and Nuclear Engineering from Odessa National Polytechnic University, Ukraine, and his Ph.D. from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He is advised by Howard A. Stone, Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Tanjaradzwa Tawengwa, a composer, singer, scholar and healer. Twengwa is building a scalable platform for digital preservation and sharing of ancestral knowledge in cultures at risk of loss. Her startup will digitize and share indigenous Zimbabwean knowledge systems as a model for preserving other cultures.

A Princeton alumna in 2014, she received her Doctor of Musical Arts in Voice Performance from the University of Kentucky in 2021. She is advised by Gabriel Crouch, Professor of Practice, Music and Director of Choral Activities at Princeton.

Sunxiang “Sean” Zheng, Environmental Engineer and Materials Scientist. Zheng’s startup PureLi wants to make lithium extraction faster and more sustainable.

Zheng received his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, his MS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Maryland, and his BS in Environmental Engineering from Zhejiang University of Technology in China. He will be advised by Zhiyong “Jason” Ren, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate director of research at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

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“The START program reflects the inclusive nature of academic entrepreneurship at Princeton,” said Craig B. Arnold, vice dean for innovation, Susan Dod Brown professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “We have an enormous founding cohort of START grantees with a wide variety of interests and strengths. I am pleased to see them taking advantage of the entrepreneurship education, training, mentoring and funding that Princeton offers them through the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.”

The application process for the next cohort will open later this year at start.princeton.edu. Applications from entrepreneurs without prior affiliation with Princeton are encouraged.

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