The SPEAK MODalities team has a combined history of more than 16 years working together in corporate, university, and startup settings.
Oliver Wendt, Ph.D.: co-Founder, Chief Scientific Officer
Oliver is an Assistant Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, and Educational Studies at Purdue University. He received his undergraduate degree in Education and Psychology from the University of Cologne in Germany. As a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he completed his M.A. in Special Education. Oliver also obtained an M.S. in Rehabilitation of Physical and Intellectual Disabilities from the University of Cologne, and finished his Ph.D. in the Transdisciplinary Augmentative and Alternative Communication Program at Purdue. He is director of the research lab on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Autism Spectrum Disorders. His current research investigates the efficacy of AAC strategies including graphic symbols, Picture Exchange Communication System, and speech-generating devices for individuals on the autism spectrum that present with little or no functional speech. Oliver specializes in single-subject experimental designs and meta-analyses of these studies. He has published a variety of experimental studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses of AAC research in autism, in addition to a major textbook on assistive technology (“Assistive Technology: Principles and Applications for Communication Disorders and Special Education” by Emerald Publishing). Further publications focus on promoting principles of evidence-based practice in AAC. Oliver serves on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Evidence-based Communication Assessment and Intervention, and Evidence-based Practice Briefs. He is the 2005 recipient of the Editor Award for the Most Significant Research Article in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (together with Schlosser, Angermeier, & Shetty). Dr. Wendt has been a regular presenter at annual conventions of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Applied Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), the Campbell Collaboration (C2), the International Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities, and the International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC). Before starting his scientific career Oliver worked as a clinician and care provider in a pre-school for children with severe and multiple disabilities, a workshop for adults with special needs, and a group home for individuals with severe physical and intellectual impairments. These experiences have shaped his understanding of severe disabilities and resulting communication disorders, and have deeply influenced his approach towards collaboration with families and caretakers to maximize treatment benefits for the patient.
Michael Zentner, Ph.D., MBA: co-Founder, President and CEO
Michael has most recently been an Entrepreneur in Residence with Purdue University’s Foundry where he coaches students and faculty as they bring ideas to market, and also a Senior Research Scientist with Information Technology at Purdue where he is co-Principal Investigator leading the measurement and assessment effort for Purdue’s Network for Computational Nanotechnology, a $15M research project. For 17 years prior to joining Purdue, Michael has been a founder, CEO, CTO, and senior team member of several technology companies in West Lafayette, Indiana and the Denver, Colorado metro areas and has created novel technologies in optimization algorithms, collaboration, and knowledge management. Michael has successfully deployed these technologies and devised business strategies with several major corporations, including 3M, SmithKline Beecham, Imation, Eli Lilly & Co., Air Products and Chemicals, GAP, and Searle. Michael holds a B.S. (with Distinction) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois, an M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University, an MBA from Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, an MBA from the TiasNimbas Business School of Tilburg University, the Netherlands, and is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society and Phi Lambda Upsilon Chemistry Honor Society. Michael has presented his technical work at national and international forums including ESCAPE, AIChE, and NATO Advanced Studies Institute and has authored numerous publications in journals of international repute.
Diana Hancock, MBA: co-Founder, Chief Operations Officer
Diana has over 15 years of experience in operational planning and execution as she spent the first part of her career in sales and marketing management in the automotive seating industry. At Johnson Controls she directed Advanced Marketing, Sales, Design and Business Intelligence activities to develop successful and profitable new product opportunities with Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers. At Purdue, she directed the operational plans for the development of the online course platform, nanoHUB-U while she served as Project Director for the HUBzero web-based platform for research, collaboration and education. Recently she has served as the Director of Commercialization for Information technology where she has nurtured key partnership opportunities, leveraging Purdue’s information technology resources in a commercial environment. Concurrently, she is the business development director of the Innovation and Commercialization Center for Purdue University. Diana’s role is to assist entrepreneurs as they advance their ideas from concept stage towards prototype development, promote a community of entrepreneurship and enable students to actively engage in entrepreneurial activities. She holds a BS in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA (with distinction), from the University of Michigan Ross Business School, and is a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Business honor society. Diana is passionate about service work and has spent years volunteering in schools as a reading advocate and understands how much it means to see children accomplish their goals.