DU Alumni Profiles
As we welcome our Pios back for Homecoming and Family Weekend, we celebrate the University of Denver alumni who are making incredible impact on the world around us. Here are some of their stories.
For Azure Avery (PhD ’13), the world of physics is Disneyland, and carbon nanotubes are her favorite ride. Since earning her PhD in physics from DU, Avery has spent her time exploring the potential of the tiny tubes through a collaboration involving DU, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
But although she had always loved physics, it wasn’t until the age of 30 that she decided to pursue it as a career, earning a second bachelor and a master’s. And when it came time to pursue doctoral studies, she found her home in Barry Zink’s lab at DU.
As a project manager at Denver-based United Launch Alliance (ULA), Trevor Kilpatrick (MBA ’10) shoots for the stars every day. ULA helps launch rockets for NASA and other government organizations. “We launched Atlas V, Delta IV, Delta II… and we’re working on the future of launch, as well, with our new Vulcan launch vehicle,” says Kilpatrick.
But one of the most fun parts of the job, he says, is his chance to interact with future aerospace engineers. As one of ULA’s STEM outreach speakers, Kilpatrick visits area schools and leads sessions at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, inspiring the next generation’s interest in space.
Few works are as energetic and interactive as #BESTYOU, the premiere composition from Pipedream Productions, a troupe created by and composed of DU Theatre alums Tony Ryan (BA ’15), Lexie Robbins (BA ’15), Trevor Fulton (BA ’17), Ashley Campbell (BA ’17) and Sara Sachs (BA ’16). Over the course of 75 colorful, dark minutes, three fictional YouTube personalities outlandishly battle one another — and themselves — to win a game show that asks: “How far would you go to be the best?”
Not listed in the program, however, are the most critical cast members: individuals from the audience that #BESTYOU relies on for its boundary-pushing brand of theatre.
As the founder of Followbright Web Agency, Erin Pheil (MA ’02) is no stranger to working through complex challenges with creative problem-solving. But while leading teams through expansive projects such as the acclaimed companion site for DU History professor Susan Schulten’s book “Mapping the Nation,” Pheil found herself unexpectedly drawn toward another aspect of her work: helping team members and colleagues tackle personal challenges and take on their biggest fears.
“I started to realize, holy cow, I can actually make a massive difference in both people’s lives as well as their companies and revenue, and people are insanely grateful and their lives are changed.”
It was raining. It had taken until October, but finally the sky had opened. Chris Klein (MBA ’08) was walking his dog in Denver’s first wet morning of 2012 when he noticed something. In the midst of the drizzle, lawn sprinklers were spouting left and right.
The parching winter and spring of 2012 had led to a summer of lost crops and wildfire. As the water wasted around him that morning, Klein realized the devastating ramifications of its scarcity. He knew something had to change.
That very same day, Klein brought an idea to Denver Startup Weekend. His winning proposal was a smart home sprinkler controller designed to save water while saving its users money. From that rain sprouted Rachio.
Nathan Cornelius, Nebula Ensemble
A low note oozes from the cello onstage, punctuated by off-key interjections from the horns and woodwinds. Then, silence — until sounds of the outdoors seep through speakers overhead.
A Bach cantata this is not. But it’s exactly what Nathan Cornelius (MM ‘15) means when he proudly says the Nebula Ensemble’s music is “out there.”
“We want to provide an experience for our audience that’s different,” says Cornelius, who co-founded the rotating 10-15 member group — virtually all Lamont School of Music alumni — a few years ago. “It’s not just listening. It’s also looking and feeling and experiencing what’s around you.”