Applied Sciences and Industry

So you plan to study math or science, but may wish to use your scientific background to make an impact in the next big invention, discovery, or new business venture? This panel features experts who have been in your shoes. They have backgrounds in biology, chemistry, math, physics, and computer science, and they are all taking their expertise and applying it to modern innovative ventures. Alumni in applied sciences and industry are currently working in biotechnology, information technology, engineering, consulting, at startups, and more. You will learn how to navigate through various career choices and hear about what it takes to land your desired position. You will also find alumni from this panel in the STEM roundtables at lunch.

Panel Participants

Eric Althoff, SB'99, Ph.D.'04 (Columbia)

CBO, Co-founder, Arzeda

Mr. Althoff graduated with an S.M. and S.B. in Chemistry ('99) and Columbia Ph.D. He co-founded Arzeda and serves as its Chief Business Officer. After an extensive chemistry background, he subsequently discovered the utility of enzyme catalysis and the power of biological solutions and has been hooked on the pursuit of engineering of biological systems. Eric leads Arzeda's business development and technology outreach to identify partners and opportunities to which to apply Arzeda's technology. His experience with applying computational design to design beyond the solutions available in Nature have helped to build a world leading technology platform at Arzeda. With Arzeda's technology, materials with improved properties can be enabled to improve upon existing petrochemical processes. He met Elizabeth on move-in day outside Hitchcock but didn't have the nerve to ask her out for two more years. They married and are now raising two Seattle-based Maroons of the Future!

David Lawlor, SB'05, AB'05, Ph.D. 2012 (Michigan State, Applied Math)

Senior Research Engineer, HERE

Mr. Lawlor graduated from the College in 2005 with degrees in mathematics and physics. While in the College, he worked with the Neighborhood Schools Program and the Lab School and volunteered with the Major Activities Board and the Maroon. After graduation he worked for the University at CERN on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. After obtaining his Ph.D. in applied mathematics at Michigan State University, he held postdoctoral positions at Duke University and SAMSI, an NSF-funded research institute. Mr. Lawlor joined HERE in 2015 as a Senior Research Engineer. His work focuses on developing real-time algorithms to localize autonomous vehicles. He is married and lives in Chicago and continues to be an active member of the University community by volunteering with the Alumni Schools Committee.

Ruth Martin, AB'85, BS' 87 (UofI); PhD'93 (Northwestern)

Senior Scientist III, AbbVie

Ms. Martin graduated from the College with a degree in chemistry and then continued her education with a BS in biology from UIC and a PhD in pharmacology from Northwestern University with research focused on the electrical activity of the heart. While doing post-doctoral work at the University, she taught at the graduate level at Northwestern and at the medical school at the University of Illinois in Rockford. In 2000, she joined Abbott Laboratories. There, she is responsible for determining cardiovascular risk of potential drug candidates by conducting and interpreting pre-clinical safety assays. In 2000, Abbott split into two companies and she now works for AbbVie, the proprietary biopharmaceutical company. She lives in Lake Forest with her husband, Ron (a University of Chicago alumnus and AbbVie employee) and their two sons.

Robert "Matt" Pipke, AB'90, JD'95 (Loyola)

Chief Technology Officer and Founder, PhysIQ Inc.

Mr. Pipke earned a degree in physics from the College in 1990, and spent a year in China. He earned a JD from Loyola Law School in Chicago and went on to work in private practice in Chicago as a patent lawyer in the electrical and software arts. Endeavoring to join the innovative activity on the other side of the patent transactions he was tasked with reducing to dry legalese, he left the golden handcuffs of law behind in 1997 to join the armies of IT consultants then traveling the land as part of the IT boom of the 90s, and completed his odyssey by joining a tech start-up in 1999 which was sold to GE. He is currently on his second tech start-up, in next-generation mobile medical devices, as Chief Technology Officer and founder at

Michael Spertus, AB'84, SM'84

Fellow at Symantec, Adjunct Professor (UChicago), Symantec, University of Chicago

Mr. Spertus graduated from the College in 1984 with both a bachelor's and master's degree in Mathematics. He is a Fellow with Symantec and an Adjunct Professor at UChicago.