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

Four academic researchers have begun the new START Entrepreneurs program, working to translate scholarship at Princeton into tangible impacts for society.

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

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

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

The program was conceived by inaugural Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney Priestley within the Office of the Dean for Research to help foster greater diversity and broader participation in research, innovation and entrepreneurship within the University, said Dean for Research Pablo G. Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering. “The START program supports and empowers inclusive entrepreneurship through spinouts from technologies and scholarship from all disciplines, across campus,” Debenedetti said.

START is managed by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.

This year’s START Entrepreneurs are:

Ebony Noelle Golden, an artist, scholar, culture strategist and entrepreneur. Golden will be adapting a theater piece called “City Council Meeting” into a startup called School for Participation that uses theater skills to empower middle and high school students in cities as leaders and change-agents in their communities.

Golden holds bachelor degrees in English language and poetry from Texas A&M University, an M.F.A. in poetry from American University and an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University. She is advised by Aaron Landsman, lecturer at the Lewis Center for the Arts and “City Council Meeting” co-creator.

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

Mezhericher received his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in thermal and nuclear energy 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.

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

A 2014 alumna of Princeton, 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 the Practice, Music and Director of Choral Activities at Princeton.

Sunxiang “Sean” Zheng, an environmental engineer and materials scientist. Zheng’s startup PureLi aims to make lithium extraction faster and more sustainable.

Zheng received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, his M.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Maryland and his B.S. in environmental engineering from Zhejiang University of Technology in China. He is advised by Zhiyong “Jason” Ren, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Associate Director for Research at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

“The START program reflects the inclusive nature of academic entrepreneurship at Princeton,” said Vice Dean for Innovation Craig B. Arnold, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “We have a tremendous inaugural cohort of START fellows with a great diversity of interests and strengths. I am excited to see them leverage the entrepreneurial education, training, mentorship and funding that Princeton is providing them through the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council.”

The application process for the next cohort will open later this year at Applications from entrepreneurs with no prior connection to Princeton are encouraged.