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Creating Renewable Energy from Waste


Morris Samelson

CEO 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 system, 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.

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).

Daniel B. Anderson

Project Advisor

During a 35 year career with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Dan managed and led technology development with multi-disciplinary teams addressing national challenges related to energy, environment and national security. Most recently Dan led the development and commercialization efforts at PNNL for hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), a transformational processing technology for the conversion of wet wastes such as sewage sludge, manure and food wastes, into biofuels. As the Principal Project Manager for HTL at PNNL, Dan led the HTL program and the process development team resulting in the development of new enabling process technologies for the conversion of wet waste feedstocks to biocrude, and biocrude upgrading technologies to produce drop-in fuels. The program included multiple projects with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and industrial partners focused on converting wet wastes and algae to biofuels.  As part of the HTL program with DOE, the team designed, built and operated a pilot scale HTL system at PNNL to support scale-up R&D. PNNL is recognized as the established leader in this area.

Dan was a member of the Executive Management Team for the National Alliance of Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB) a $66M, 3-year, DOE competitive funded R&D consortium focused on enabling the production of biofuels and valuable co-products from microalgae. Dan served as PNNL project manager for the Renewable Energy Laboratory (REL) Development Project. He held various senior management positions over a 5 year period for the Radiation Portal Monitor Project (RPMP) a $1.4B project with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  


As the Technical Group Manager of the PNNL Bioprocessing Group, Dan built and led a group of 20 scientists and engineers to develop several new technology platforms including in situ bioremediation of chlorinated hydrocarbons, transgenic plant expression systems, and directed gene discovery. Dan and other key PNNL staff members founded a start-up, Phytagenics, Inc., and commercialized the technology.  


As a Project Manager in PNNL's Environmental Management Operations, Dan managed complex environmental restoration projects for various federal agencies. He managed and led the Innovative Technology Demonstration Program at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB) in Oklahoma City.


During his early career at PNNL, Dan focused on the development of technology to produce bioproducts and fuels from microalgae. The capabilities developed by the PNNL team in microalage cultivation for bioproduct production spurred Dan and several PNNL staff to be part of a spin-off, Cyanotech Corporation, to commercialize the technology.


Dan received his B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of Washington, and M.S. in Biological Sciences from Washington State University. 

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.


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.

Board of Advisors 


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

Vice President, Marketing and Public Affairs - Lehigh Valley Health Network


Rich is the Vice President of Public Affairs for Lehigh Valley Health Network. Rich oversees all Marketing, Public Relations, Public Affairs, and Sales for the Lehigh Valley Health Network, a $4.5B network with 22,000 employees and 11 hospitals. Rich is also a member of the Network's Leadership Council. Prior to Lehigh Valley Health, Rich served as COO of Norris McLaughlin P.A. and led administratively, developing and implementing the firm’s strategic plan, which included 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.

Texas Science Education Foundation

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.

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