Fred Nagle Casabona presentation

Spring 2023 Competition

The Mario M. Casabona Future Scientists Program encourages students to recognize the importance of oral communication skills and the ability to discuss the results of scholarship effectively with various audiences and at all levels. The Program motivates, trains and rewards students for the preparation and delivery of effective communication of scientific research to the general public and non-science professionals. Such presentation and communication skills provide students with the capacity to be distinctly competitive and successful in their subsequent educational and career paths. Students/Mentors will be selected from each department to compete.

On April 12 2023 from 2:00 – 5:30 pm in CELS, and streamed via Zoom, and streamed for online viewing, students will present five minute, five slide presentations judged by our panel of professionals for awards. Students are presenting their research in both a poster session and five-minute oral presentations.


First Place Second Place Third Place Best Mentor Audience Favorite
$2000 $1500 $1000 $1500 $500

Student Participants

  • Biocontrol and the Fungal Biome of Spotted Lantern Flies
  • Glycan Quantitation and Characterization via Novel Fluorescence Free Radical Reagent Towards the Development of Disease Biomarkers
  • Deep Learning Technique for Water Quality Assessment in New Jersey
  • Petrographic Analysis of Pottery from the White Marl Archaeological Site, St. Catherine Parish, Jamaica, West Indies
  • Understanding Matter at Super-Nuclear Density Using Gravitational Waves and X-Ray Astronomy



Mario Casabona

Mr. Mario Casabona

Mario is an entrepreneur and active angel investor. In 2012, he founded TechLaunch, committed to identifying and nurturing early stage tech ventures by mentoring, coaching, and providing access to resources and capital. To date, TechLaunch has supported over 100 tech companies and mentored over 200 aspiring entrepreneurs. In 2006, he founded Casabona Ventures, investing in over 30 seed and early stage companies. In 1982, he founded Electro-Radiation Inc., which was acquired by Honeywell International in 2004.

Mario received the Small Business Administration National Tibbett’s Award for his contributions in technology, and was listed as one of the top five most influential persons in New Jersey technology by The Star-Ledger. He was twice recognized by the New Jersey Technology Council, (now TechUnited:NJ) first as the recipient of their Financier of the Year Award and subsequently their Legend of Technology Award. He is Chairman Emeritus of Jumpstart NJ Angel Network and Chairman Emeritus of the R&D Council of New Jersey. He also enjoys serving on the Boards of various for-profit and non-for-profit organizations. Mario is an electrical engineer and holds twelve national and international patents in the field of satellite-based navigation and communications.

Dr. Susan Cole, University President Emeritus

Dr. Susan Cole

Dr. Susan A. Cole served as the eighth president of Montclair State University, from 1998 through 2021. Under her leadership, the University nearly doubled its enrollment and rose from a well-respected regional master’s institution with an almost entirely commuter student population to become a doctoral research university with a sizable residential student population and a growing national reputation for student success. Previously, Dr. Cole served as President of Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, from 1993 to 1998.

Dr. Cole is an Honorary Trustee of the Liberty Science Center and serves on the boards of the Montclair Art Museum and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Council of Trustees. She is on the Board of Directors of Peapack-Gladstone Bank. She was appointed by Governor Christie as New Jersey’s representative to the Education Commission of the States, and by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Advisory Commission. Dr. Cole earned three degrees in English and American literature: a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University and an MA and PhD from Brandeis University.

Jonathan Kakakian

Mr. Jonathan Hakakian

In 2012 Jonathan co-founded SoundBoard Venture Fund with Richard Magid to build a community of experienced entrepreneurs to formally invest in early-stage companies outside the major city centers. He has raised capital for the fund, directed the diligence process into a growing portfolio of 45 companies, and coached many of the portfolio’s entrepreneurs on their journeys. Jonathan is a fellow with the Kauffman Fellows Program (Class 19) where he focused his studies on being an innovative venture investor.

Locally, Jonathan is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Stevens Institute of Technology Venture Center and an advisory board member of MCW (a non-profit focused on empowering current and future leaders to better their local communities).

Wren Lester

Dr. Wren Lester, PhD

Chief Experience Officer
Downstate Health

Dr. Wren Lester is the Chief Experience Officer at Downstate Health an academic medical center in Brooklyn, New York where she plays a key role on the senior leadership team, customer experience taskforce and COVID19 Vaccine Uptake Task Force. Recently, she was appointed transformation leader for Downstate Health’s High Reliability Organization (HRO) Journey focused on improving the way care is delivered and preventing harm to the workforce, patients and community. In 2020, Dr. Lester was invited to serve on Press Ganey’s National Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Client Advisory Council in support of advancing health equity nationally and within the Brooklyn community.

Dr. Lester was recognized in Becker’s Hospital Review as one of 42 Healthcare Chief Experience Officers to Know | 2022. Dr. Lester has a track record of success in creating a culture of service excellence to motivate diverse, cross-functional teams to achieve business and financial objectives through statistical process control and work flow optimization. She focuses on leadership development, middle manager coaching and staff training to improve patient safety culture, patient experience and workforce engagement. Prior, Dr. Lester was the Corporate Director of Performance Improvement and Strategic Planning at RWJBarnabas Health, Jersey City Medical Center Campus. Dr. Lester partnered with senior executives to design and implement organizational solutions against identified priorities that included process improvement using voice of the customer, Lean Six Sigma and value-based care. Dr. Lester has earned a certification as a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma, Certified Patient Experience Professional (CPXP) and is a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ). Dr. Lester completed her PhD at Seton Hall University in Health Sciences Leadership and Organizational Development. Wren completed her MS in Heath Care Administration, and her BA in Psychology at Rutgers University.

Michael Wiley headshot

Mr. Michael Wiley

Vice President
New Jersey Health Foundation and Foundation Venture Capital Group, LLC

These organizations provide funding and/or pre-seed investments for health-related projects and start-up companies founded by researchers at the following affiliated organizations: Cooper University Healthcare, Hackensack Meridian Health, Kessler Foundation, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Rowan University, Rutgers University and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Mr. Wiley assists the Foundation Venture Capital Group’s health-related portfolio companies by providing funding and assisting with the various strategic, operational and back-office management issues associated with developing and growing early-stage health-related companies.

Prior to joining the New Jersey Health Foundation and the Foundation Venture Capital Group, Mr. Wiley’s experience included: business development, new venture financing, program/product development, commercial contracting, and intellectual property/technology licensing for organizations such as the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (Edison Innovation Fund), Avaya, Rutgers University’s Office of Corporate Liaison and Technology Transfer, and Lucent Technologies. Mr. Wiley has earned B.A., M.B.A. and J.D. degrees from West Virginia University.


Poster Session (CELS Atrium)
Welcome, Opening Remarks, and Introductions
Dean Lora Billings
Student Presentations (CELS 120)
Moderator, Associate Dean Scott Kight
Awards Ceremony & Closing Remarks
Mario M. Casabona and Lora Billings