Wayne N. Sawka, Ph.D
Founder and President
DSSP’s Founder, Wayne N. Sawka holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree from UCLA. He traveled to the Australian National University in Canberra for his Ph.D. His area of concentration was on heat flow geophysics, geothermal energy and Sn-W mineralization. Returning from Australia, he was a research physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory supporting nuclear waste and weapons programs there. Dr. Sawka was instrumental in several successful Defense Conversion Programs, which led to spin offs in aerogel nano-materials for super-capacitors and lightweight mirrors, specialty chemical manufacturing, and plasma thermal protection at Aerojet headquarters. Leaving Aerojet, Dr. Sawka was the founding Director of the UC Davis CONNECT entrepreneurship program. He conducted private client consulting in Reno until founding DSSP in 2005. He still enjoys being 20 minutes from Lake Tahoe’s powder skiing.
Dr. Sawka has published numerous papers on geophysics, trace element geochemistry, sensors and rocket motors.
Vice President of Research and Development
Mr. McPherson has 35+ years of experience in developing and characterizing energetic formulations and ingredients. Current responsibilities include deployment transition of controllable propulsion including ionic liquids and plastisol propellants at DSSP to defense, space and commercial use. Prior work includes responsibilities as Technical Principal/Scientist to the Executive Director, Aerojet Technology; Mr. McPherson has enjoyed technical oversight responsibilities for energetic formulations including solid, liquid, and gel propellants, castable PBX explosive work, new ingredients qualification, and advanced process technologies. He continues with ongoing program efforts in high energy-density materials, liquid propellant fuels and oxidizers, gel propellants, alternative “green” propellants, and advanced-performance storable bipropellant fuels with novel oxidizers in both DoD-specific mission areas and in commercial applications.
Vice President of Engineering
Mr. Burow joins Digital Solid State Propulsion to head up engineering efforts bringing smart, green energetic materials to field applications in Space, Oil, Mining, and Entertainment. His strategic view derives from his experience: in military service, start up companies, and in government service. His leadership and knowledge will create and prove the viability of DSSP’s game changing energetics.
Mr. Burow served for eleven years on board U.S. Navy Fast Attack Submarines and as a NROTC Instructor at Vanderbilt University. Upon completion of his Naval Service, he worked in the Data Storage industry, primarily in start-up companies focused on new product development. In 2003, he returned to government service as a Department of the Army civilian acquisition professional. He worked as the lead engineer in systems requirements for the Test, Training, Exercise, and Test Program Office, Ground Based Midcourse Defense, Missile Defense Agency until selection for advanced training. Subsequently, he worked in technical program management positions at the Apache Helicopter Program Office and the Redstone Technical Test Center. In 2007, Mr. Burow completed the U.S. Army War College Senior Service College Fellowship Program at the Institute for Advanced Technology at the University of Texas, Austin. He returned to the Missile Defense Agency in 2008 serving in Program Management in the Global Deployment Program Office, Chief Systems Engineer for Command Control Battle Management and Computers, and the Advanced Research Chief Engineer for the Advanced Technology Directorate. In the Advanced Research position, he focused on the transfer of technology from Small Business Innovative Research and University research programs to reality both within MDA and in the commercial sector.
Mr. Burow is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering and a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.
Director of Electrical Engineering
Jeff Ransdell holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech. He has 12 years experience in the aerospace industry. Jeff has extensive experience in analog and digital electronic design, testing, and troubleshooting hardware, particularly with power electronics.
Advisory Board Member
Celia Merzbacher is Vice-President, Innovative Partnerships at the Semiconductor Research Corporation. Celia is primarily responsible for developing novel partnerships with stakeholders in government and the private sector in support of SRC’s research and education goals. Prior to joining SRC, Dr. Merzbacher was Assistant Director for Technology R&D in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), where she coordinated and advised on a range of issues, including nanotechnology, technology transfer, technical standards, and intellectual property. At OSTP she oversaw the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the multiagency Federal program for nanotechnology research and development. She also served as Executive Director of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which is comprised of leaders from academia, industry and other research organizations, and advises the President on technology, scientific research priorities, and math and science education.
Previously, Dr. Merzbacher was on the staff of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington D.C. As a research scientist at NRL, she developed advanced optical materials, for which she received a number of patents. She also worked in the NRL Technology Transfer Office where she was responsible for managing NRL intellectual property. Dr. Merzbacher served on the Board of Directors of the American National Standards Institute and led the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Working Party on Nanotechnology. Dr. Merzbacher received her BS in geology from Brown University and MS and PhD in geochemistry and mineralogy from Pennsylvania State University.
John G. Voeller
Advisory Board Member
John Voeller is a member of the corporate management team at Black & Veatch and is responsible for visioning strategic technology directions. In 2003, he accepted an ASME Fellowship in the Office of Science and Technology Policy for the executive office of the President and has been continuing his work there. Voeller also serves as CEO and president of Data Discovery, Inc.; CEO and president of General Integration Corp.; and CEO and president of Nuhands Corp. He has received many awards, including the CIO Enterprise Value Award for 1997 from CIO magazine; the Ed Forrest Award For Highest Achievement in Engineering Automation for 2000; and the CIO Premier 100 Award as one of the top 100 CIOs in the US for 2000.
Robert J. Twiggs
Advisory Board Member
Professor Twiggs serves as DSSP’s Engineering Directors and is a retired/active Professor in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department at Stanford University. He established the Space Systems Development Laboratory (SSDL) in January 1994 at Stanford University with both formal classes and laboratory classes for the development of microsatellites. The SSDL at Stanford University is a world leader in student satellite programs. These space projects have demonstrated using a microsatellite to launch picosatellites.