MIT Alumni Mentors

Alumni Mentors

Terrascope Mentors are MIT Alumni who lend their experience and expertise.

Our MIT Alumni Mentors:

Alfredo Kniazzeh

MIT 1959

After MIT Alfredo joined NASA and the US Army to work on power systems for deep space (at the time when man first walked on the moon). Then he worked thirty-five years at Polaroid Corp, receiving thirteen patents while developing instant photographic and imaging systems, batteries using zinc and lithium, and thin-film photovoltaic sources.


Since retirement in 2005, his interest in singing has expanded to include traveling with “Sharing A New Song” to sing in Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Turkey, Nicaragua, South Africa, New Orleans, Russia, Cuba, and Brazil. To celebrate his fiftieth MIT reunion he danced with the MIT Ballroom Dance Team at the class gala.


Mentoring for 12.000 since 2006 has been a great pleasure. The resulting awareness of environmental issues has helped simplify living.

Allison Patton

MIT 2009 Environmental Engineering

I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Rutgers University Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute. I conduct research on human exposures to air pollutants with cardiovascular and respiratory health effects, especially in urban areas.  I have studied particulate air pollution in Boston-area neighborhoods near highways, inside cars on busy roads, and in urban green buildings. My current research addresses changes in air quality in New Jersey under future climate change. I hold degrees in environmental engineering from MIT (BS, Course 1E) and Tufts University (PhD).

Bashar Zeitoon

MIT 1987 Chemical Engineering

After graduating from MIT, I have worked in technology, R&D, and management consulting, to solve chemicals industry problems. After 10 years, I re-directed my professional focus to environmental sustainability and related public policy. I worked on addressing air pollution problems guided by science, law, and economics, and in partnership with public and corporate sector actors.


In the past 5 years, I have directed policy, research, and advocacy programs at an environmental think tank, with an exclusive focus on the Middle east, focusing on water resources, climate change, ecological footprint, and agriculture.


As a 12.000 mentor, I hope to assist Mission students bring social science insights to bear on the problem at hand.

Bhupendra Khetana

MIT 1960, Chemical Engineering

This is Bhupendra’s sixth year of participation in the Mentor Program. Bhupendra’s educational background is all in chemical Engineering at MIT, where he received S.B (1960), S.M (1962) and Chemical Engineer (1963) degrees. His work experience in actual technical developments was during the early years after MIT in the field of plastic packaging products at the Monsanto Company.


He soon gravitated to manufacturing and finance, which were always his primary work interests. At his next employer, Owens-Illinois, at the time the world’s largest packaging company, he was focused on managing technical developments in plastic packaging products leading to full scale manufacturing operations and green field factory start ups. He has extensive experience in the field of technology licensing and was responsible for development of a vast network of licensees and strategic affiliations at Owens. In the last 15 years or so of his career, he worked nearly exclusively in merger and acquisitions activities for his company, ending as the director of Corporate Planning. He believes that among other possible contributions, he could mentor and work with the student teams in understanding the financial implications and operational trade-offs that are nearly always necessary in successful commercial implementations of technology solutions.

Elise (Hens) Chambers

MIT 2012, Environmental Engineering

As a freshman, I was involved with Mission 2012: Clean Water, had an absolute blast, then proceeded to take both spring classes! I was a UTF the next two years and loved editing the website 🙂 I’m living just outside Boston and working with a company called Ramboll Environ. I’m very passionate about Environmental Policy and love to study the politics surrounding environmental issues. I also am beginning to get involved with “blue infrastructure,” which looks at new ways of dealing with stormwater in cities. Stormwater can collect and discharge large volumes of contamination from impervious surfaces (e.g. streets and parking lots) into receiving rivers and oceans (like the Charles River!).


I really enjoyed my time with my Terrascope family and I encourage anyone to reach out to me with questions about anything!

Emily Moberg

MIT 2011

I was involved in Mission as a freshman in 2007 and then as a UTF the following three years; I have been an alumni mentor the last four years and am excited to join the team again this year! I have a doctorate in Biological Oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I am currently researching the bioeconomic effects of climate change on fisheries at Rutgers and Yale Universities. I am also interested in environmental decision analysis. Feel free to contact me at any time ( OR!

Eric Plosky

MIT 1999 Urban Studies and Planning (Course 11)

Eric is the Chief of the Transportation Planning Division at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, right in Kendall Square. As a transportation planner and program manager, he leads a team of 40, working closely with the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and other federal agencies on many different types of transportation-planning efforts, at the project, program, and policy levels. (Recent highlight: “Beyond Traffic” [].) Eric has also been a disaster-recovery coordinator for U.S. DOT; he was stationed in Louisiana for five months following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Hal Gustin

MIT 1973

This will be my eleventh year as an alumni mentor to the 12.000 class. The first ten have been energetic, stimulating, and a lot of fun.


I’ve spent most of my career as an engineer (Course 2) and consultant, primarily in the nuclear power area.  My expertise (if any) is in power plant systems, stress analysis, fatigue and fracture mechanics.  I’m a licensed professional engineer, and am active in several ASME Codes and Standards committees.


I try to help out however I can, not being myself an expert on whatever the topic is. In the process, I’ve learned a lot and made some friends. I’ve also answered a lot of e-mails, texts and calls at 3 am. I look forward to more of the same this year.

Jaclyn Wilson

MIT 2013 Civil and Environmental Engineering, MEng 2014

My first year with Terrascope was with my own freshman year, the topic of which was Carbon Capture and Sequestration. That year clarified that I wanted to be course 1 here at MIT, and I proceeded to study air quality and energy during my undergrad and grad years. While I was an undergrad, I was a UTF for 1.016 every year, and for Mission 2016 my senior year. Terrascope really shaped my experience here at MIT, and I hope that it will do the same for members of this class.


Although my current path is with the libraries, I am always looking for ways to promote environmental sustainability. Food security is one of the most important issues in the world right now, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this class comes up with!

Johnny Yang

MIT 2004 Course 15

Johnny was one of the first guinea pigs to participate in 12.000: Solving Complex Problems. As a student in Mission 2004 (Mars), he was a member of the “Mission Control” team and later took part in writing and editing the mission’s final paper. Because he loved 12.000 so much, he joined the staff for the class, serving as a Undergraduate Teaching Fellow (UTF) for several Missions before becoming an alumni mentor beginning with Mission 2007.


Though he grew up in the South, Johnny has resided in New England for the last 15 years. Still in the process of figuring out what he wants to be when he “grows up,” he has worked in a variety of industries, ranging from aerospace and biomedical to finance and distribution. He currently works for an small software company in the Boston Seaport District.


Though not an engineer by training, Johnny’s a self-proclaimed “engineer at heart,” with research interests in supply chain and finance. He has also been known to be a stickler for correct grammar and to be a crusader against incomprehensible PowerPoint slides.


Johnny’s current interests include short trips to faraway places, penguins, microfinance, and funky breweries. He currently lives in Cambridge, MA and will do his best to make it to campus to meet the class.

Jorge Phillips

MIT 1972 Computer Science

This year Jorge completes a decade mentoring 12.000. A successful entrepreneur, technologist and business executive in Silicon Valley, the East Coast and overseas, he has had a lifelong interest since his MIT years in complex social and physical systems, appropriate technology, politics, policy making, the environment and social development. He holds a B.Sc. degree from MIT in Computer Science and two M.Sc. and a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in electrical engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence and management. Dr. Phillips has been involved with MIT in many ways over the years: he is a member of the MIT Education Council, past member of MITAA’s Advisory Committee on globalizing MIT, and a founder, past President and past Vice-President of International Relations of LAMIT, MIT’s Iberoamerican affinity group. He has also held Cabinet-level government positions in Colombia and diplomatic positions in Europe, as well as academic appointments in universities in the US, South America and Europe. He is a founding member of the International Center of Physics in Colombia, and member of the Eta Kappa Nu and Sigma Xi national honorary societies to which he was inducted as an undergraduate at MIT. Jorge is a patented inventor in the US, Japan and Europe. He lives in the Research Triangle area in North Carolina, where he continues involved in ICT, banking and fintech, technology startups and other entrepreneurial efforts.

Liza Wells

MIT 1996 Environmental Engineering

Liza has 19 years experience as a hydraulic engineer and project manager. Prior to joining the Portland District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in September 2009, Liza worked as a hydraulic engineer in the consulting engineering industry for 13 years. Her project experience includes hydraulic design, physical and numerical modeling, facility startup and testing of fish passage and water quality improvements for hydropower facilities in the Pacific Northwest. Liza has served as the project technical lead for several juvenile downstream passage and adult fish passage facility projects in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, she has performed three-dimensional computational fluid dynamics modeling to provide hydraulic information to support many of her projects.


Liza has spent her career working with multidisciplinary teams on complex water resources and fisheries engineering projects, balancing the needs of flood risk management, hydropower production, water supply, water quality, recreation, and ESA listed and native species. She recently finished a year-long Leadership Development Program with USACE through the Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government. The class focused on “wicked problems” and leadership of teams from “strategic thinking to extraordinary action”. Her cohort spent the final semester on their own wicked problem and she is excited for the opportunity to work with students on problems too big to solve!

Lowell Anderson

MIT 1959, Electrical Engineering

I have a life long interest in urban infrastructure and planning.  I served as Assistant City Engineer in Riverton, Wyoming.  Still get Riverton’s newspaper and follow what is happening in city planning and zoning there.


Even when a student at MIT I read Boston papers to see what was going on in such areas.  My wife is from Weston, Massachusetts and in their local newspaper I follow closely what is happening in their zoning and town planning.


Here in Cody, Wyoming I served twenty some years on the Planning Zoning and Adjustment Board.  Still follow their activities.


Also follow Park County, Wyoming zoning activities.


I retired after twenty years as manager of Shoshone Municipal Pipeline which operates a water treatment plant and seventy some miles of transmission pipeline, supplying potable water to six municipalities and eight rural distribution systems.


Am a member of the Boston Street Railway Association.

Paul Jacobson

MIT 1960, Metallurgy (Course 3)

This is Paul’s eighth year as a Mentor for the 12.000 program.


After two years at the Martin Company (now Lockheed Martin) working on materials for heat shield components critical to re-entry of spacecraft, Paul joined the General Electric Company. At GE, he worked on development of both hard and soft magnetic materials for use in electrical metering devices. Dating back to the 1970’s he worked on materials for use in time-of-day metering – now referred to as Smart Grid technology. During his last decade at GE he developed and managed programs on Quality Assurance with emphasis on statistical methods.


Following his retirement from GE, Paul engaged on a “second career” teaching at community colleges in New Hampshire and Maine, and currently at Cape Cod Community College. He teaches micro- and macroeconomics, and statistics. In addition, he helps students in mathematics and science at the college tutoring center.


Paul is looking forward to working as a mentor in this challenging and critical program, and in returning to Tech to join in on stimulating analyses and discussions.

Robert Gurnitz

Chemical Engineering

This will be Bob’s fifteenth years as a Mission Mentor. He also works with and provides support for the other mentors. Bob is President of the MIT Club of Southwest Florida. Additionally he is on the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of Collier County (Florida) and is Treasurer of the Everglades Astronomical Society.


He is a Chemical Engineer by education (S.B., S.M., Ph.D., MIT). Bob briefly taught at MIT prior to going into the Aerospace Industry. He then spent a year in the President’s Executive Interchange Program in Washington working at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Upon returning to Rockwell International, he subsequently held various positions leading to becoming President of their Passenger Car Components Business. Upon leaving Rockwell, he became President of Bethlehem Steel’s Structural Components Business. His subsequent positions included President of Webcraft Technologies, Chairman and CEO of Northwestern Steel and Wire, and Chairman of Envirosource.


Bob has spent most of his career in solving complex  problems and looks forward to working with the Mission 2020 team. He also looks forward to sharing some urban insights / challenges having lived in / near New York City, Boston, L.A., Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Detroit, and London ( and survived).

Sabina Maddila

MIT 2015 Electrical Engineering

As a recent graduate of MIT and of Terrascope, I am extremely excited to get involved with a new Terrascope class. I participated in Mission 2015: Whole Earth Triage – Securing the World for Biodiversity and caught the Terrascope bug: having participated in both Terrascope Radio and 1.016 the following semester. I later continued as an undergraduate teaching fellow (UTF) for Terrascope Radio (Spring 2012) and Mission 2017: Water Security. I now live in sunny Los Angeles and work as a digital electronics engineer on satellites. I also have a strong interest in engineering and product design for development. On the less technical side, I love talking to people about sound-editing and design, community radio, and music.


Given the handy three hour difference, I can be an additional resource to David and your UTFs– reading over materials/presentations or provide another perspective on Mission, Terrascope, and/or MIT as a whole (especially during those late evenings). I’m only an email/call away, so feel free to reach out!

Sheldon Buck

MIT 1959, Aeronautical Engineering

Worked at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory 1957 to 1973, followed by The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory 1973 to 2000 when I retired.  I was assigned to the Earth and Planetary Science Department, now called EAPS, for 5 years (1968 to 1973) working with Prof. Frank Press and Prof. Nafi Toksoz.  I was Technical Director for the Lunar Traverse Gravimeter Experiment, which flew on Apollo 17 and was a member of the lunar surface EVA team at  Mission Control during the flight.


Designed stable platforms for inertial guidance systems.

Designed seismic monitoring systems for earthquakes and underground explosions.

Designed gravimeters for lunar exploration.

Designed special purpose instrumentation for submarines and oceanography.


Recent retirement activities besides being an alumni mentor for this course for 15 years include attendance at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture  held in Oskosh, WI for the last 10 years.


Of possible interest to this years subject, I have spent considerable time in the following major cities: New York, London, Bay Area-San Francisco, Houston and visited the following: , Tokyo, Kyoto, Honolulu, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Prague, Amman, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Athens, Naples, Rome, Florence, Milan, Cairo, Cape Town.

Ted Schwartzberg

MIT Master of City Planning & MS in Real Estate Development, 2008

Can an infrastructure investment be a catalyst for positive social change?  If a city becomes a more desirable place to live or work as a result of such an investment, can the benefits be distributed in an equitable manner?  Conversely: can a city’s economic, social, and physical resiliency mitigate risk for its most vulnerable populations?


As a student at MIT, I addressed many of these questions through coursework and internships in New Orleans in the years following Hurricane Katrina.  After my graduation in 2008, I became a city planner for Boston, where I currently work as a Senior Planner at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.  Drawing on expertise in city planning and real estate development, my work guides both public and private investments in Boston’s built environment.


I look forward to working with the upcoming class of Terrascope students.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of assistance.

Yangbo Du


Yangbo Du is a social entrepreneur and social business architect, connecting people across communities to enable and impel positive social impact. A StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow and former academic turned startup founder, he is a de facto curator of content on social innovation, global development, sustainability. Having conducted research in energy and environment over six years at University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Chicago, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yangbo co-founded MediaWire, currently his fourth venture, in June 2012 and mashes together social business strategy and lean venture development in the technology, startup, and social good communities in New York and beyond.

Yolanda Lau

MIT 2002 Chemical Engineering and Biology

Yolanda is an entrepreneurship and small business consultant. She started her career at MIT’s Technology Licensing Office, where her work with startups piqued her interest in entrepreneurship. She then co-founded a real estate investment company, acted as its COO, and has also started several other ventures over the years. She is a co-founder of a consulting firm, Lau Labs, which provides services to startups and small businesses, specializing in growth. She’s also part of 79 Studios, a Los Angeles based startup studio rethinking venture capital with a women-first, product, and community point-of-view.


Her most recent project is FlexTeam, an on-demand, executive-level “right hand women” team for CEOs, founders, small business owners, and other decision makers. On the consultant side, FlexTeam matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities.


Yolanda’s experiences working with businesses in a wide range of industries combined with her operational expertise allows her to provide insights on many different kinds of problems. She enjoys creative problem solving and has served as a 12.000 mentor since 2006 (Mission 2010), as she has long been interested in helping to solve the world’s environmental and sustainability problems. Some of her other MIT alumni activities include leadership in her class and fund raising for the Institute.


She is deeply interested in the specific mission of Mission 2020, as her hometown of Honolulu is confronting environmental and economic sustainability issues due to its island location.


As she lives in Honolulu, communication will have to be via email, phone, Skype, or Google+ Hangouts.