UC Santa Cruz trailblazers featured in Santa Cruz Works 2022 Titans of Tech

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Santa Cruz Works 2022 Titans of Tech banner
By: Melissa Weckerle

Two members from the UC Santa Cruz Baskin School of Engineering have been selected to be a part of the 2022 Santa Cruz Works Titans of Tech. Every year, Santa Cruz Works, a non-profit organization that aims to connect industry professionals and grow the number of locally founded startups, honors members who have contributed to the growth of the local tech and entrepreneurial community. This year, 11 titans will be recognized at the 2022 award ceremony, including Baskin Engineering Dean Alexander Wolf and CITRIS Initiative on Drone Education and Research Director Becca Fenwick.

Alexander Wolf joined the Baskin School of Engineering in 2016 as dean and distinguished professor of computer science and engineering. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, he was a chaired professor in the Department of Computing at Imperial College London. Wolf’s research areas span the fields of distributed systems, networking, and software engineering. He is a fellow and former president of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Throughout Wolf’s six years at Baskin Engineering, he has led multiple new initiatives and programs that support Baskin Engineering’s mission of improving the world and our place in it through bold and socially responsible innovation. He transformed the academic structure of the school of engineering into six departments to streamline research partnerships and enhance world-class engineering education and research opportunities. He established the Inclusive Excellence Hub—led by Director of Student Excellence, Engagement, and Inclusion Carmen Robinson—to expand diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs that promote academic excellence to historically underrepresented students. He built a research advancement team in collaboration with Holger Schmidt, former associate dean for research and professor of electrical and computer engineering, that has helped drive an increase in extramural research funding from $33.4M in 2016 to $60.2M in 2021. He also spearheaded new hiring initiatives, which supported a 37.6% increase in the number of Baskin Engineering faculty from 2016 to 2021. Representation of women faculty has also substantially increased, with 7 of this year’s 13 new faculty hires being women. 

Becca Fenwick is the co-founder and director of the Center of Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) Initiative on Drone Education and Research, a program that brings together students, researchers, and industry partners to fuel research and innovation in drone technology. This UCSC program, also known as CIDER, is the first-ever UC undergraduate drone academic training program. Before Fenwick joined the Baskin School of Engineering, she spent six years as the first director of environmental information and technology for the UC Natural Reserve System, which included more than four years as the lead drone pilot with the California Heartbeat Initiative, where she used enterprise-level drones to survey and monitor the health and post-fire recovery of reserves. 

Fenwick also spent almost a decade managing reserves for the UC Natural Reserve System in the San Jacinto Mountains in southern California, Yosemite, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon. Her graduate work in marine geology and geophysics from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, combined with her natural resource management background, gives her a unique perspective on the values of integrating advanced technology into large-scale environmental and climate change research. Fenwick is a strong advocate for building up a diverse drone workforce and is invested in creating a future where we employ drone technology for environmental research in an effort to protect and conserve our natural resources. 

The other 2022 Titans of Tech include: Alex Gershenson, CEO of Supply Shift and UCSC environmental studies Ph.D. alumnus; Chris Miller, entrepreneur and CEO of Launch Brigade and Cloud Brigade; Hilary Bryant, co-founder of Buoy Labs and UCSC biology undergraduate alumna; James Hackett, director of business operations and development at Cruzio Internet; Chris Frost, director of technology and infrastructure at Cruzio Internet; Michael Sikand, founder and CEO of Our Future; Nicole Beck, CEO of 2ndNATURE and UCSC geological and Earth sciences Ph.D. alumna; Philippe Kahn, co-founder of Borland and LightSurf and founder and CEO of FullPower Technologies; and Roya Pakzad, founder and director of Taraaz and affiliated scholar at UC Berkeley’s CITRIS Policy Lab.

The 2022 Titans of Tech Award Ceremony will be held at Casablanca Inn on March 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. Wolf will be introduced by Ahmed Hamdy, who is a local business owner and founder and CEO of Vincerx Pharma, and serves as a member of the Baskin Engineering Dean’s Council. Fenwick will be introduced by Michael Matkin, executive director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute at UCSC and the co-director of the Santa Cruz Surf Film Festival. After individual introductions, each of the 11 titans will give a short presentation, touching on their personal journeys to tech success and providing advice on how we can continue growing our local tech and business community. If you’d like to attend the event in person, you can purchase tickets at eventbrite.com. There’s also an option to attend the event virtually, free of charge.