Board of Directors

NVRIC serves as the bridge for movement of research discoveries and intellectual property from the University and industry. The Board of Directors provides guidance and expertise to enable NVRIC to accomplish its mission. Chaired by Sara LaFrance, co-founded and served as president of Century Analysis, Inc., the Board is made up of regional entrepreneurs, University advisors and faculty members.

Sara Lafrance

Sara Lafrance is currently Chair of the Board of Directors for the Nevada Research & Innovation Corporation. Previously, she co-founded and served as president of Century Analysis, Inc., a software manufacturer that provided integration solutions to large enterprises from 1975 until its sale to New Era of Networks, Inc. (NEON) in 1998.

As an alumna, she he has been actively involved with the University of Nevada, Reno, serving on the Foundation Board of Trustees, the College of Engineering Advisory Board and the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board. Lafrance was named Alumna of the Year in 2011 and received the University of Nevada President’s Medal in May 2019.

Lafrance has served on and chaired many local boards including KNPB Public Television, the Reno Philharmonic, Classical Tahoe, and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare. In addition, she is a member of Sierra Angels, a Northern Nevada investment group that focuses on promising early-stage companies and has been involved at an advisory level with several early-stage local businesses.
An avid believer in the transforming power of higher education, Lafrance and her husband Leonard established in 2006 Educational Pathways International, a charitable foundation that provides comprehensive university scholarships for gifted students of need in Ghana. The organization also provides scholarships for select National Merit and Presidential Scholars enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno in engineering and computer science disciplines.

Lafrance holds a B.A. in English/Journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno, and an M.A. in Organizational Change from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY.

David P. AuCoin

David AuCoin is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR MED). His primary research focus is to develop antibody-based diagnostics and therapeutics for neglected tropical diseases and biothreat pathogens. He is also the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of DxDiscovery (2012), a UNR MED “startup” focused on translating diagnostic research into FDA approved products.

AuCoin received a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst followed by a M.S.  and Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. AuCoin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University.

James Behnke

James Behnke served as the worldwide chief technical officer of the Pillsbury Company from 1979 to 2000 with overall responsibility for a technical organization that in 2000 had 582 employees and a $90 million budget. This organization included research and development, process engineering, strategic technology development, food safety and regulatory affairs, scientific services (chemistry and microbiology), environmental affairs and consumer response. In addition, he served on the Pillsbury Board of Directors from 1992-2000.

Behnke received a B.S. in Chemistry, an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Robert Goldberg

Robert Goldberg is a seasoned entrepreneur, technology leader, and investor with more than 30 years of experience building companies from early-stage startups to established publicly traded enterprises.

He is a managing partner at GTG Capital Partners, a multi-stage venture capital firm, as well as an operating advisor to Palladium Equity, a private equity investor. He has advised and been a board member on several early to late-stage companies including: Tapingo, Udacity, Transforce Group, Kars Nuts, Venture Beat, and Sidecar. He has invested in numerous technology companies including Alibaba, Uber, Spotify, Zoom and Duo Security.

Goldberg is a member of the board of EDAWN (The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada), served on Governor Sisolak’s GOED Director Search committee and is an active participant in GOED’s strategy. Goldberg holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Applied Science from Columbia University in New York City.

Mick Hitchcock

Mick Hitchcock is currently Chair of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Foundation and Adjunct Professor of Microbiology at UNR Medical School.

His career in pharmaceutical research & development spanned 40 years, initially with Bristol-Myers Squibb in infectious disease research and project planning roles for 12 years. He then joined Gilead Sciences, Inc. in 1993 and helped it grow from only 100 employees and no products or revenues to more than 11,000 employees and greater than $20B annual revenue. Over 27 years, he held a variety of positions, including Vice President roles with responsibility for project and portfolio management, alliance management, strategic planning, medical affairs and specific areas of research. He was Senior Advisor from 2009-19. During his career, he was involved in the development and commercialization of a number of anti-infective agents, primary antivirals for treatment of HIV, HBV, influenza, CMV and other diseases.

Hitchcock received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Melbourne, Australia and B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in biochemistry from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, England. He did post-doctoral research at Georgetown University and NIH prior to joining industry.

E. “Manos” Maragakis

Manos Maragakis joined the faculty of the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) in 1984, and was promoted to full professor in 1994 and served as chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department from 1994 until 2008. In 2005 he was awarded the title of UNR Foundation Professor. He was appointed as Dean of the College in 2009 following a national search. In 2017 he received the Association of General Contractors (AGC) Skill, Integrity and Responsibility (SIR) award for his contributions towards the advancement and economic development of the region.

Under his leadership, the College of Engineering has grown in all aspects of its operation. The College has currently 2700 undergraduates, 135 MS students and 190 Ph.D. candidates. It has over 110 academic faculty, close to $20M of annual research productivity and extensive engagement with the industry and community.

Maragakis’ research emphasis is on earthquake engineering. He has received several sizeable competitive grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other funding from federal, state and private organizations. Among them is a $3.6M NSF Grand Challenge project on the study of the seismic response of nonstructural systems. As the leader of this project, he is coordinating the efforts of researchers and practitioners from 23 institutions around the country and the world. In addition, he was the founding chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) National Committee on the Seismic Design of Bridges.

He received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering (CE) from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece and his MS and PhD degrees in CE from California Institute of Technology (Caltech.

Jacqueline Snow

Jacqueline Snow joined the cognitive and brain sciences group in the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno in fall 2013. Snow specializes in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, with a focus on neuropsychology and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Snow’s research examines how humans perceive and behave towards objects in naturalistic real-world environments. Ultimately, we aim to generalize and translate scientific knowledge to the real world, yet our understanding of the human brain is based almost exclusively on studies of impoverished stimuli in the form of pictures or computerized images. The overarching assumption has been that pictures are an appropriate proxy for real objects to characterize brain function. The research in Snow’s laboratory tests this assumption by examining whether real-world objects are processed and represented in the brain differently to 2-D images, 3-D stereoscopic images, and ‘graspable’ 3-D objects presented using augmented reality displays. Snow and her students produce innovative new paradigms, techniques and apparatus to allow a ‘real world’ approach to cognitive neuroscience. Snow’s research uses multipronged methods, including behavioral psychophysics, neuropsychology, fMRI, EEG, eye-tracking and motion kinematics.

The research sheds new and fundamental insights into the underlying processes and mechanisms of real-world vision, thus revealing the integrated workings of the perceptuo-motor system. Snow’s research has wide-ranging translational applications, which include identifying effective target sites for the placement of brain-computer interfaces, improving our understanding of visual perceptual disorders, bolstering learning and memory, and understanding the causes of obesity.

Snow completed her graduate training in clinical neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience at the University of Melbourne, Australia, followed by postdoctoral fellowships in the United Kingdom (two years) and Canada (five years). Snow’s laboratory at the University is comprised of five Ph.D. students, two postdoctoral scholars, as well as honors and undergraduate trainees.

Stephen Williams

Stephen Williams is the Managing Director of Hillcrest Management Company, a privately held company that invests in, develops and manages commercial real estate in Nevada and Hawaii. His most recent projects include the acquisition and management of several key properties in the Tahoe/Reno Industrial Center, Downtown Reno, and Midtown Reno. Another marquee project involved the acquisition, financing and renovation of the Siena Hotel and its conversion to a Marriott Renaissance.

Williams has about 40 years of real estate financing, investing and management experience, including serving as COO and CFO for Cumulus9 Technology, COO for Integrity Partners, director and deputy CFO of The Capital Company of America, president of Milestone Asset Management, co-founder of Magellan Financial Services and as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley & Co.

Williams is very active in the non-profit community in Northern Nevada. He currently serves on the finance committee of the SPCA of Northern Nevada and has served as treasurer for the Reno Philharmonic Association, treasurer for the Salvation Army of Northern Nevada’s advisory board and as chairman for Mountain View Montessori School’s board of trustees.

The Williams Foundation, which Williams created and funded, supports several local area non-profits, including the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission, the Salvation Army of Northern Nevada, Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity, and Pathfinders.

Williams obtained a B.S. with distinction from Cornell University in 1981.

Bob Wolf

Bob Wolf started his marketing career at Lever Bros. Intrigued by the creative process and the ability to work more closely with creative people, Bob then joined Wells, Rich, Greene, a New York-based advertising agency. During his ten years at Wells, Rich, Greene, Wolf served as President of the Los Angeles office, and under his leadership, WRG/LA doubled in size and became the fastest-growing agency on the west coast.

As Chairman and CEO of Chiat/Day, North America, Wolf was the driving force behind its evolution from a highly creative regional boutique to a major international powerhouse, realizing billings of over $1.5 billion dollars. Under his leadership, The New York Times, Ad Age and Adweek recognized Chiat/Day as Agency of the Decade. Wolf is the only person ever selected by Adweek as an “Executive All-Star” on both the east coast (as President of Chiat/Day, New York) and west coast (as President of Chiat/Day, Los Angeles).
In 1998, Bob started Robert H. Wolf Consulting. The Reno and Los Angeles based firm provides high-level strategic counsel to Fortune 500 advertisers and their agencies regarding branding, advertising effectiveness and the selection and compensation of communication resources.

Bob has served on the boards of public companies and non-profit organizations including the Los Angeles Zoo, Reno Philharmonic, Animal Ark, and Jenny Craig. He has also advised the President of the University of Nevada, Reno on branding issues and has been a guest lecturer at the University’s Reynolds School of Journalism. Bob also served as an advisor to the Bi-State Transportation Consultation Team.