Creating Renewable Energy from Waste™



Morris Samelson

President and Founder


Morris co-founded Earth Salts International (ESI) and was involved in all facets of operations from its founding in 1996. Morris was instrumental in establishing relations and executing agreements (technology cooperation, supply, and distribution) with key executives and scientists of entities including the industry leading Estee Lauder Companies (Lauder) and Dead Sea Works (DSW).


Morris invented process/method and composition of matter IP with three patents granted. The technology was commercialized under agreement by Lauder globally, and by ESI in products formerly found on thousands of store shelves across the USA.


Under Morris’ direction ESI became the Exclusive Global Supplier of Dead Sea raw materials to Lauder and the leading distributor of Dead Sea minerals for skin/body care raw material in North America. Morris was the first to successfully negotiate a North American Distribution Agreement with the DSW effectively managing the territory after more than five decades of unrestricted distribution. Acting on behalf of Lauder, he also imported/supplied the first commercially viable Porphyridium polysaccharide raw material ingredient for skin care.  Morris studied at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Hebrew University.

Charles R. Upshaw, Ph.D.

Director of Engineering

Charles received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering all from the University of Texas at Austin. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Webber Energy Group at UT, he has researched energy and sustainability with a multidisciplinary systems-level approach, and focus on the built environment.

Charles's doctoral work focused on the development of integrated energy and water systems for residential homes to reduce consumption and increase reliability, specifically an integrated thermal energy and rainwater storage (ITHERST) system to shift on-peak air conditioning electricity load off-peak using stored rainwater as the thermal storage medium. His Master's thesis focused on modeling and assessing the thermodynamic and economic potential for mid-sized Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) power generation.

During his undergraduate career, Charles was active in the student chapter of ASME, including service as its President, and was honored with the Engineering Outstanding Scholar-leader Award in May 2010 (a recognition awarded to the top undergraduate student out of the Cockrell School of Engineering). During his graduate school tenure, Charles led successful teams in high profile student competitions, including the Power Across Texas Energy Innovation Challenge (2011 and 2013), and the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon (2015).

Kimberly Gilbert, Ph.D.

Director of R&D


Kim received her doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin in Subsurface Geochemistry in 2015.  In her research, Kim created a novel method to predict CO2 solubility in aqueous solutions and provided insight into the molecular interactions between CO2 and dissolved ions.  Kim developed a high pressure lab for the experimental examination of CO2-ion-water interactions at up to 200ºC and 200 bars pressure where she experimentally determined over 300 CO2 solubilities and densities. By collating her data with over 300 data points from literature she developed a predictive CO2 solubility model using moderated multiple regression analysis.


For over five years preceding graduate school, Kim worked at National Instruments, initially as an applications engineer and ultimately as a product strategist contributing to development of the control hardware platform. As a support engineer Kim guided engineers and scientists in the use of instrument control and industrial networks:  RS-232, RS-485, Modbus, Foundation Fieldbus and Profibus. Kim became proficient at using data acquisition hardware for the measurement and control of analog signals.  She then moved into a product strategy position to direct the development of the control hardware platform. 


Kim graduated Summa Cum Laude and at the top of her class with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Arizona State University.  At ASU she studied mass and heat transfer, developed control systems and used pilot plant scale equipment for experimentation.

Benny Freeman, Ph.D. 

Technical Advisor


Benny Freeman is the the Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He is the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation (2016). Benny earned a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. In 1988 and 1989, he served as a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ecole Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI), Laboratoire Physico-Chimie Structurale et Macromoléculaire in Paris, France. Benny’s research is in polymer science and engineering specifically in mass transport of small molecules in solid polymers. His laboratory focuses on gas and liquid separations using polymer and polymer-based membranes, developing and characterizing new materials for hydrogen separation, natural gas purification, carbon capture, water/ion separation, desalination, and fouling resistant membranes. His research is described in 395 publications and 22 patents/patent applications. He has co-edited 5 books on these topics.


He has won numerous awards, including the PMSE Distinguished Service Award (2016), Fellow of the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Division of ACS (2014), AIChE Clarence (Larry) G. Gerhold Award (2013), Joe J. King Professional Engineering Achievement Award from The University of Texas (2013), Society of Plastics Engineers International Award (2013), Roy W. Tess Award in Coatings from the PMSE Division of ACS (2012), the ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science (2009), AIChE Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology (2008), and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Project of the Year (2001). He is a Fellow of the AAAS, AIChE, ACS, and the PMSE and IECR Divisions of ACS. He has served as chair of the PMSE Division of the ACS, chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Membranes: Materials and Processes, President of the North American Membrane Society, chair of the Membranes Area of the Separations Division of the AIChE, and chair of the Separations Division of AIChE.


Benny’s interests are in new materials design for separations important for clean water, clean energy, and manufacturing process intensification. Benny has a strong interest in seeing results from fundamental research reduced to practice. His work will lay the groundwork to develop, characterize and understand, at a fundamental level, disruptive, over the horizon, separations membranes for applications such as air separations, desalination, high value materials recovery from waste (e.g., waste to energy), toxic materials separation from waste and recycle/recovery of critical and strategic materials and metals.

Tongwei Zhang, Ph.D.

Technical Advisor


Tongwei received a Ph.D. in isotope geochemistry from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2000. He was a postdoctoral scholar in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) from 2001 - 2007. His research focuses on gas and organic geochemistry, isotope geochemistry, gas generation kinetics and basin modeling, fluid transport processes in basins and reservoirs, gas adsorption/desorption in shale, organic-inorganic interactions, and CO2, and H2S risk prediction.

Tongwei has worked at the Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin since 2008. He is currently researching controls on shale oil quantity and quality, oil saturation in unconventional systems, pore characterization and fluid storage and distribution in organic-rich shales. He has extensive professional research experience (25 years) in geochemical interpretation of petroleum and natural gas accumulation in sedimentary basins by integrating petroleum and natural gas geochemistry and geology.

He has developed several novel experimental systems: a high-pressure, high-temperature CH4 adsorption system at the BEG, a high-pressure, high-temperature gold-tube pyrolysis system at CalTech, and a high-pressure, high-temperature gas solubility measurement system at the BEG.  He also developed a kinetic model for sour gas (CO2 H2S) risk prediction for drilling operations and thermodynamic models for adsorbed gas prediction at reservoir T/P conditions.  He is proficient in GC, GC-MS, and N2 pore analyzer equipment operation.

Toti E. Larson, Ph.D.

Director of Analytical Chemistry

Toti received a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in 2003. There he studied oxygen isotope chemistry of aluminum silicate 'triple point' rocks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico and Mt. Moosilauke, NH. He then completed a post doctoral fellowship at The University of Western Ontario where he developed an in situ laser system to measure oxygen and carbon isotopes. Toti then worked for 7 years as a Technical Staff Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory where he studied nuclear and chemical forensics, environmental monitoring, CO2 sequestration and enhanced oil recovery.

Toti has worked in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin since 2012, where he focuses on understanding the transport of dissolved gases and free gas in the Earth. He is a stable isotope geochemist specializing in novel methods of light isotope measurement that include silicate laser fluorination, compound-specific carbon isotope measurement, and gas chromatography.

Toti designs and implements experimental and analytical methods for gas and aqueous systems at the benchtop and pilot field scale, and couples experimental results to analytical and numerical models. He has applied these skills on a wide range of geological projects including CO2 sequestration, oil shale kerogen cracking, natural gas transport and material science gas capture designs.

Joshua D. Rhodes, Ph.D.

Director of Analytics

Joshua is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Webber Energy Group and the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. His current research is in the area of smart grid and the bulk electricity system, including spatial system-level applications and impacts of energy efficiency, resource planning, distributed generation, and storage. He is also interested in policy and the impacts that good policy can have on the efficiency of the micro and macro economy, especially policy that utilizes market forces to increase efficiencies.


Joshua has consulted on a broad range of energy topics for companies. He has reviewed numerous novel technologies, often sitting on vetting committees for companies looking to enter Austin's technology incubators.


He holds a double Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Economics from Stephen F. Austin State University, a Master's degree in Computational Mathematics from Texas A&M University,  and both a Master's degree in Architectural Engineering and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jith Liyanage

Petroleum Chemist


Jith received his B.S. in Chemistry from Wichita State University in December 2008. He then joined the Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (CPGE) at the University of Texas at Austin as a research associate. For the past eight years, his research field of focus has been chemical enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and he has developed many novel oilfield chemistries and surfactant structures for EOR. Jith has been granted two US patents for inventing flowable surfactant blends for EOR and  detergent industry. Jith was involved in several successful EOR pilots in the US and abroad where these novel surfactant structures and technologies were used.


Jith has extensive background in designing laboratory setups for high pressure/temperature corefloods and PVT experiments. He was instrumental in developing high pressure sapphire viewing cells that withstand up to 10,000 psi pressure at 275 degrees enabling measurement of phase behavior of “live” crude oils under actual petroleum reservoir conditions. He also designed several high pressure coreflood and foam-flooding setups used to study live oils and other enhanced oil recovery methods.


Jith is currently the laboratory manager overseeing multiple EOR projects and a large group of researchers and students at the CPGE. Keeping to his chemistry roots, he is highly interested in water chemistries and fascinated by modern analytical methods.




Paul Mignon

President and Global Head Selling Solutions - ‎Syneos Health Commercial Solutions (Previously inVentiv Health Commercial Solutions)


Paul successfully leads Syneos Selling Solutions, the largest division of Syneos encompassing all of the companies that relate to sales teams and sales support services.


In his current role, Paul is responsible for the development and execution of comprehensive, customized selling solutions that support many of the major pharmaceutical firms, as well as effectively delivering cross-selling and integrated solutions to clients that include services across the broader Syneos organization.


Paul is a graduate of Lafayette College where he received his B.A. in History. He is a member of the editorial board for Product Management Today and serves on the Board of Directors for the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

Richard Levy

COO Norris McLaughlin P.A., Former Private Equity Executive, Baird Capital Partners; CEO Myelin Health, President Partners+simons


Rich oversees all Norris McLaughlin's administrative functions and is helping develop and implement the firm’s strategic plan, which includes growth and succession planning. Rich is an advertising and marketing services industry veteran with 25+ years in running and growing high performing communications companies. Rich was most recently at Baird Capital Partners where he lead both Myelin Health and Partners+simons. Prior to that, Rich held positions at inVentiv Health including President of inVentiv’s fastest growing agency and leading Business Development and Strategic Global Accounts across the entire organization.


Prior to joining inVentiv Health, Rich was the President at Ferguson/CommonHealth, HealthStar Advertising and President/CEO of Adair Greene Inc. where he oversaw agency growth from $9.0mm to over $150mm and where he lead the sale of the agency to IPG/ McCann Erickson in 2000. Rich has worked with a large variety of clients in many different sectors. Several of these include Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, Endo, Coca Cola, BellSouth, Pennington Seed, Remy Amerique, Emory Health Systems, GSK and Pfizer.


Rich holds a degree in Marketing and Finance from Syracuse University.


Michael G. Douglas, Ph.D.

Interim Executive Director of the Healthcare Velocity Center

Mike received his B.S. degree in chemistry and biology from Southwestern University and a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University. After earning his Ph.D., he held faculty positions at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He also served as Professor and Chairman of Biochemistry and Biophysics and in the Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of North Carolina Medical School.


Mike was the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Sigma Diagnostics, a multinational clinical diagnostics company based in St. Louis, and Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer of Novactyl, Inc., a clinical stage pharmaceutical development company.   


Mike served as Director of the Office of Technology Management at Washington University in St. Louis for six years and as Director of UAMS BioVentures at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for seven years. Mike maintains his research interests, has authored numerous peer-reviewed scientific articles, and is an elected member of different scientific and professional societies. He also maintains active positions on various civic, corporate and scientific advisory boards in Texas and the Midwest.  Mike is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam conflict.


George Dettloff

Former President and CEO, SKF USA

George was President and CEO of SKF USA. While at SKF, George was also President of SKF's Automotive Division, North America. At SKF, he coordinated a variety of activities for the SKF Group's US operations, including its Automotive, Aerospace, Industrial and Service businesses.  SKF is the leading supplier of anti-friction technology to the automotive industry.

George served senior management positions at General Motors and has held operational positions with Eaton Corporation as General Manager of its Transmissions and Engine Components business, and with Textron Corporation as President of its Industrial Fasteners business. George has participated in a number of business, non-profit and industry specific boards including as a Director of a JV with GE, and as a Trustee of Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI).  He is a Member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and a registered Professional Engineer in Michigan.

George earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering at General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) and an M.B.A. in Finance and Trade from University of Detroit.