The Team

John Schneiter, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, CEO, Board Member

John Schneiter is an experienced high technology entrepreneur. He co-founded GlobalSpec, a “vertical search engine” for engineers, in 1996 and served as President for ten years, helping to grow the company from a four person startup to a 225 person leader in the engineering information market. Under his leadership GlobalSpec was twice granted the “Model of Excellence Award” by InfoCommerce and was named in the “25 Companies to Watch” list by Cahners. Prior to GlobalSpec he spent a dozen years at the GE Corporate Research and Development Center where he was acting manager of the Control Systems Program.

Dr. Schneiter is a director of Free Form Fibers, and miSci, the Museum of Innovation and Science. In 2008 he received the Tech Valley Entrepreneur of the Year award for his work in GlobalSpec, Veratag, and the many early stage technology companies he has helped with guidance and advice. In 2016 he was inducted into the University of Connecticut Academy of Distinguished Engineers. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a minor in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds eighteen patents.

Joseph 'Joe' Pegna, Ph.D.
Lead Co-Founder, Chief Scientist, Board Member

Joe Pegna, the lead cofounder of Free Form Fibers, has 20 years of research experience pursuing advanced computer-driven manufacturing processes known as free form fabrication. In the early 1990’s he settled on laser-induced chemical vapor deposition (LCVD) as the most promising means to achieve his goal. Out of the subsequent research came the patents, know-how, and trade secrets that are the foundation for Free Form Fibers’ unique expertise.

Joe’s undergraduate training in mathematics and physics led to various graduate degrees in mechanical design, automated manufacturing, and computer automation, capped with a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 1988.

His research has been recognized by professional societies (Society of Manufacturing Engineers Foundation Award), non-profit organizations (ATT foundation award), federal agencies (National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award) and the National Academy of Engineers (NAE Frontier Fellow). In 2001, he was awarded the Canada Research Chair professorship in Free Form Fabrication at the University of Montreal where he perfected LCVD fiber growth processes. His work has been featured in many trade publications, the WALL STREET JOURNAL, various area newspapers, and by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

During his academic tenure, he has held professorships, administrative, advisory, and fund raising positions, and has acted as industry consultant and expert witness. He was a founding board member of Francogenie, a non-profit organization that successfully lobbied the Quebec provincial government for the promotion of the engineering profession.

Erik Vaaler, Sc.D.
Chief Engineer

Erik Vaaler is an experienced engineer and entrepreneur. He has over thirty years experience designing computer controlled manufacturing process and test equipment. Past employers/clients include Google, Apple, Intel, Applied Materials, Jabil Circuits, and Hewlett Packard. He was a co-founder and an Engineering VP at OptiSolar, a solar cell manufacturing company that was sold to First Solar for $400M in 2009. His engineering group was responsible for designing all of OptiSolar’s custom solar cell manufacturing equipment. He worked in business development at NovaSolar, where he was involved in negotiations on over $4B of solar farm contracts in the US, SE Asia, and North Africa. He also has experience in the design and financial modeling of high volume factories – $100M – $1B annual production – for the manufacture of solar cells, energy storage flywheels, and automated assembly robots. He has been at Free Form Fibers since September 2015, developing fiber manufacturing equipment and working on their high volume factory design.

Dr. Vaaler received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of California Berkeley, and an M.S. and Sc.D. in mechanical engineering with a minor in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a faculty member for two years teaching graduate and undergraduate machine design. He holds 21 patents and has 4 pending.

Shay Harrison, Ph.D.
Senior Materials Scientist

Shay joined Free Form Fibers in June, 2012 as the senior materials scientist, focusing on fiber morphology, crystallography, and chemistry, as well as assessment of thermal and mechanical properties of the fiber products. The technical focus of Free Form Fibers on laser-driven chemical vapor deposition processing had significant relevance as his doctoral dissertation centered on the utilization of LCVD to deposit silicon carbide as a ceramic weld ‘filler’ material to join SiC tube structures. Dr. Harrison earned his Ph.D. in materials science in 1999 at the University of Connecticut, and previously was granted a B.S. in materials science and engineering from Rice University in 1994. He has 15 years of industrial and government experience in research & development and manufacturing of materials, focused mainly on refractory and engineered ceramic compositions. Shay is a member of the American Ceramic Society and the American Society for Testing and Materials

Kirk L. Williams, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Sr Engineer, Board Member

Kirk has 12 years experience in the field of laser-induced chemical vapor deposition. In 2006 he was the first to commercialize three-dimensional structures made by this process for Nanospace AB (a Swedish company backed by the European and Swedish space agencies). In 2000 he worked at the Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie under the supervision of one of the top two leaders in the field. In March 2006 he earned his doctorate in Microsystems Technology with a specialty in laser-CVD from the Ångström Labortoriet, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden.

Ramkiran 'Ram' Goduguchinta, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, Sr Engineer, Board Member

Ram has 10 years experience in the field of laser-induced chemical vapor deposition. In 2006 he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Montreal with a specialty in the subject. He has been instrumental in Free Form Fibers’ recent advances which make possible continuous filament growth. He is currently in charge of process development and refinement.

F. Michael Zovistoski
Board Member

Partner, UHY LLP. Managing Director, UHY Advisors NY, Inc.

Mike has nearly 30 years of comprehensive auditing experience in a variety of industries and over 20 years as a financial services professional. Mike is an active member of the firm’s National Manufacturing / Distribution Group and Marketing Group. In addition to being a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner, Mike’s licenses include: FINRA Series 7, 24, 26, 66 and NYS insurance licenses for Life, Accident & Health, Variable Annuities (NY, FL, CA, CT & NJ).

Mike’s experience, insight, and commitment allow him to focus on the unique needs of early state and middle market businesses, as well as tax exempt/not-for-profit organizations. The cost efficient delivery of accurate and timely accounting and consulting services and innovative tax, business and wealth advisory strategies are his principal focus. He is responsible for the delivery of accounting and consulting services which optimize growth, profitability and wealth management for entrepreneurs, owner managed businesses and tax exempt/not-for-profit organizations.