Our Team

Challenging conventional thinking & constantly pushing boundaries

1.2.2 WayneWhat a team, as anyone that has been to DSSP knows…..good people and pretty well behaved dogs. DSSP has been able to attract some of the best young minds from the top universities, to challenge the conventional and to change the future of rocket propulsion. We invent every day and our team just loves pushing the boundaries of what our amazing new energetic materials can do. Our Board of Directors combines business background with sound scientific input, and includes some long term collages dating back to my first real job at LLNL and even some old HBS wisdom from my brother. So just watch and see all the amazing things our team at DSSP is making happen now and for years to come.

Wayne Sawka, Ph.D., Founder and CEO

Board of Directors

Julian Mann

Julian Mann is an investor, entrepreneur, and aerospace engineer based in San Francisco, CA. At In-Q-Tel Julian focuses on cybersecurity, IT infrastructure, and geospatial analytics investments. Prior to In-Q-Tel he was the co-founder and VP of Product Management at Skybox Imaging, acquired by Google in 2009. Julian joined Google as a Developer Advocate following the acquisition. At Google he developed and launched the Skybox for Good program, providing newly collected satellite imagery to non-profit organizations for environmental conservation and humanitarian assistance programs. Prior to Skybox, his work in the aerospace industry has spanned a broad spectrum, including NASA’s manned space program, where he worked conducting oversight and risk analysis on the Constellation program. Additionally he has spent the last decade advocating for the advancement of microsatellite technology throughout the industry. Mann got his initial exposure to microsatellite technology through his activities at the Stanford Space Systems Development Lab (SSDL) where he conducted both his undergraduate and graduate research.

Celia Merzbacher, Ph.D.

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

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.

Gary Sawka

Gary Sawka has been a senior executive — CFO, COO, CRO – and Board Member with four NYSE and NASDAQ public (CAI International, Questcor Pharmaceuticals,  Tripath Technology, and the Itel Container Division) and three private companies (PrimeSource, ePlanning Securities, and Tvia) in diverse global industries – transportation, distribution, leasing, technology, specialty pharmaceuticals and financial services.  As CFO he has arranged more than one hundred debt and equity transactions, covering bank facilities, public and private debt, international financing and cross border leases. Gary has extensive M & A experience in acquisition analysis, business and financial due diligence and post-acquisition integration of the acquired companies.

Gary has obtained diverse operating experience in highly cyclical and leveraged firms where he served as Director of Operations, Controller, Treasurer, VP Strategic Planning prior to his seven CFO tenures. He has considerable experience in financing strategy, strategic and business planning, treasury, corporate governance and oversight, and crisis management.

Gary earned a MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Accounting from the University of Southern California.  He is an active participant in alumni and professional groups including the Harvard Business School Association, USC Marshall School Alumni, Financial Executives International, and the Turnaround Management Association, among others.

John Sibert, Ph.D.

Dr. Sibert is a member of the Malibu City Council and former Managing Partner of GFG China Holdings, and Global Financial Group, evaluating opportunities and investing in later-stage US technology companies, primarily focused on energy/environment and biotech/pharma. He is the immediate past Chief Operating Officer of the California State University Institute overseeing commercialization of technology activities from the 23 CSU campuses. He was the founding Executive Director of the Alaska Science & Technology Foundation. Prior to that, he directed exploratory research and managed the Corporate Research Laboratory for Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) developing alternative energy technology. Dr. Sibert has been a chemistry professor and administrator at Yale University, California Institute of Technology and California State Universities. He is the Founding Chairman of the National Association of Seed & Venture Funds and formerly a member of the State of California Capital Formation and Business Investment Committee. He is past chairman of the Best Practices Committee, National Governors Association, and on the advisory and review committees on technology commercialization for NASA. Sibert serves on the boards of directors of private and public companies in the fields of energy and pharmaceuticals. He has been a consultant for a number of government, non-profit, and private sector organizations, including NOAA, California Sea Grant, DOE, Science Foundation of Arizona, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and six State Technology/Economic development agencies. He is a former Trustee of the Claremont Graduate University and on the Board of Visitors of School of Politics and Economics at CGU.

Dr. Sibert received his B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and his Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego.

Peter Gerity, Ph.D.

Dr. Peter F. Gerity is Vice President for Academic Affairs at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM. His degrees include: B.S. in Animal Science, Delaware Valley College, 1965; M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology, Histology and Histochemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1970 and 1971. Dr. Gerity has held faculty appointments in Engineering, Science, Agriculture, Medicine and is currently Full Professor of Engineering at New Mexico Tech. He has held academic and administrative positions at many colleges and universities. For the last fourteen years, Dr. Gerity has served on the Pentagon’s civilian advisory board for technology transfer, and has served as its Biomedical Applications Chair since 1987.

In 1978, Dr. Gerity founded and became President of AMS, Inc., an international marketing, tech-transfer and development company for products and advanced technology whose operations eventually reached 63 countries and all areas of the United States. Dr. Gerity has participated in international licensing of manufacturing processes and technology for the production of chemicals, biologicals, pharmaceuticals; engineered products, and has supervised the construction of turn-key manufacturing facilities in the U.S., India, Mexico and Hungary with P&L responsibility for $154M.

Management

Wayne N. Sawka, Ph.D

Founder and CEO, Digital Solid State Propulsion

DSSP’s Founder, Wayne N. Sawka holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree from UCLA in Geochemistry. He traveled to the Australian National University in Canberra for his Ph.D. where 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. While at Aerojet headquarters Dr. Sawka was instrumental in several Defense Conversion Programs that led to spin offs in aerogel nano-materials, specialty chemical manufacturing, and plasma thermal protection systems. After Aerojet, Dr. Sawka was the Founding Director of the UC Davis CONNECT Entrepreneurship Program. He then went on to found DSSP in October, 2005.  Dr. Sawka has published numerous papers on geophysics, trace element geochemistry, sensors and rocket motors.  Dr Sawka has 9 patents issued or pending on electric solid propellants and control technology.  Recently, the  American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, awarded Dr. Sawka, Best Solid Rocketry Paper of the Year, for 2013, recognizing his years of electric solid propellant development. He enjoys being 20 minutes from Lake Tahoe’s powder skiing and rock climbing.

Trisha Buescher

Director, Energetics, Digital Solid State Propulsion

Trisha Buescher holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nevada Reno with minors in Mathematics and Chemistry.  Trisha is a native Nevadan that started at DSSP in 2007 as one of the first employees working her way up from an intern to currently, the Director of the Energetics department.  Trisha is responsible for managing several of DSSP’s government programs as well as the chemistry lab personnel. In her free time, she is a coach for the Nevada Diving Club, which is a youth springboard diving team.

Jeff Ransdell

Director, Electrical Engineering, Digital Solid State Propulsion

Jeff Ransdell holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Georgia Tech. He has over 14 years of experience in the aerospace industry. Jeff has extensive experience in analog and digital electronic design, testing, and troubleshooting hardware, particularly with power electronics. He lives in Reno, NV with his wife and two kids.

Education

In developing our technologies, these are the universities we bet on:

ucla aus cal nevada-n-rgbcalpoly missourist perdue SacState ucsbGTlogo


 

Dogs

We love our office dogs at DSSP!  Over the years they have become a fixture and can now sleep through even the loudest rocket motor tests…..

1.2.4 Zephyr Rani

zuma1.2.4 Bernie and JouleAvalanche

 

1.2.4 Small Dogs Picture1.2.4 Big Dogs Picture

Featured Products & Projects

We're constantly pushing the limits. Whether it's finding a new way to burn fuels or pushing past the earth's atmosphere.