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The Axia Institute® is a premier research and education center dedicated to developing effective and sustainable solutions to improve public and private value chains. Established by Michigan State University in 2013, the Axia Institute partners with industry to solve grand challenges and conduct cross-disciplinary research in areas of value chain optimization, data analytics, engineering, smart packaging, anti-counterfeiting, and water and food safety. The Institute was founded by leaders in value chain creation and development at MSU, including the Eli Broad College of Business, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Engineering, College of Social Science, and School of Packaging. Founding donors include The Dow Chemical Company, Dow Corning Corporation, Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, and the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation.

In addition to our staff, we are supported by our Executive and Technical Advisory boards, which advise and help guide the activities of the Institute.

Axia Institute Staff

Dr. Bahar Aliakbarian

Research Associate Professor, Adjunct Associate Professor – School of Packaging


Dr. Aliakbarian received her Ph.D. degree in Chemical, Material and Process Engineering from University of Genoa (Italy) in 2009. She earned a bachelor of science in Public Management, a bachelor of science in Chemical Engineering – Food Sciences and a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Genoa (Italy). From 2009 – 2017 she held positions at the University of Genoa (Italian Scientific Qualification Award and Postdoctoral Research Award; DGR 1283/2011), Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology, and the University of Sydney (Endeavour Research Award; ERF PDR 2318).


Bahar’s multidisciplinary research experiences focus on the integration of innovative engineering technologies which has led to the formulation of new products with food and biomedical applications. Her work has broadened to the development of active and smart packaging for food and pharmaceutical applications.


She is particularly interested in the use of smart technologies to track and monitor food and pharmaceuticals along the supply chain. Dr. Aliakbarian has over 75 Peer Reviewed Articles, 4 book chapters, 1 provisional patent, and over 45 International Conference Presentations.


Ms. Katherine A. Franz

Executive Director


Katherine A. Franz is the executive director of the Axia Institute. She is a proven industry executive with extensive global experience in operations, engineering, quality, and multi-operational assignments. She has, in her prior work at various Fortune 10 companies, including GM, Ford, and GE, led billion dollar global operations through start-up, turnaround and growth modes to achieve world-class levels of performance.


She has lived in many locations and traveled extensively throughout Asia Pacific, Europe, and North and South America. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University and an MSA in business administration from Central Michigan University.


Mr. John D. Hatfield

Director of Marketing and Communications


John D. Hatfield is the director of marketing and communications at the Axia Institute, where he is responsible for developing marketing and communications strategies for the Axia Institute, a premier research and education facility dedicated to developing effective and sustainable solutions to improve public and private value chains.


Mr. Hatfield has extensive marketing and branding experience in the financial and professional services industries, and joined Axia from Chemical Bank, where he was senior vice president and director of Marketing. In addition to his brand building experience, he has extensive web and direct marketing expertise.


Hatfield earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and a master of business administration degree from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Ms. Karol E. Miller

Administrative Assistant


Karol E. Miller is the administrative assistant at the Axia Institute, where she is responsible for managing the day to day activities for the Axia Institute, a premier research and education facility dedicated to developing effective and sustainable solutions to improve public and private value chains.


Ms. Miller brings 20+ years of administrative experience in financial and higher-education professional industries. She joined Axia from Chemical Bank.


Miller earned a bachelor of business degree from Northwood University in Midland, Michigan.

Dr. Swaminathan Subramanian

Business Development Director


Swaminathan Subramanian, Ph.D., is the director of business development at the Axia Institute, where he is responsible for cultivating corporate partnerships and supporting research efforts, innovation and growth of the institute’s research portfolio.


Dr. Swami Subramanian joins the Axia Institute from Eaton, where he served most recently as a senior innovation specialist, having been with the company since 2011. Swami has over 16 years of experience in both research and industry roles. He is experienced in securing research funding, having been awarded over $15 million by the U.S. government for white space explorations. Prior to Eaton, Swami worked for Argonne National Laboratory and supported Department of Energy (DOE) funded programs.


Swami earned a Master of Science by Research in Internal Combustion Engines from Anna University, as well as a Ph.D. in Advanced Combustion Engines (Emissions and Fuel Economy) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.



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Additional Researchers


Dr. Premjeet “Prem” Chahal

Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Premjeet “Prem” Chahal is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan State University. He received the Ph.D. degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Iowa State University both in Electrical and Computer Engineering. From 2006 – 2009 he held senior research position at Abbott Laboratories leading research in the area of BioMEMS.


From 1999 – 2006 he was a principal engineer at Raytheon, Dallas leading research in the areas of THz technologies, MMIC design, RF-MEMS and -Sensors, and nanoelectronics. Chahal is a recipient of the 2012 DARPA Young Faculty Award and 2016 Withrow Teaching Excellence Award.


His research interests are in wireless sensors, THz technology, millimeter-wave electronics, and additive manufacturing.


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Dr. William A. Donohue

Distinguished Professor – Communication Arts and Sciences


Dr. William A. Donohue is a Distinguished Professor of Communication at Michigan State University.  He came to Michigan State from The Ohio State University where he received his Ph.D. in 1976 in the field of Communication.  Dr. Donohue’s teaching and research focuses primarily on sales communication, conflict resolution, leadership and project evaluation.


He is the author of the book: Card Talk: Winning Communication Games.  Dr. Donohue has consulted extensively with many public and private sector organizations in the areas of sales, communication skills, and leadership development. Dr. Donohue has created two Internet-based assessment and educational development businesses, the most recent one of which is Medical Professional Performance Systems.


He has over 80 articles and 12 books dealing with various communication and conflict issues and has won several awards for his scholarship from national and international professional associations.


Executive Advisory Board


  • Katherine Franz, Executive Director, The Axia Institute
  • Dan Futter, Commercial Vice President, Dow Consumer Solutions
  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dean, The Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University
  • Dr. Ron Hendrick, Dean, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Michigan State University
  • Greg Jozwiak, Corporate Vice President, Integrated Supply Chain, The Dow Chemical Company
  • Dr. Leo Kempel, Dean, College of Engineering, Michigan State University
  • J. Donald Sheets, Retired Vice Chairman, Dow Corning Corporation, and Executive-In-Residence, The Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University

Technical Advisory Board


  • Clark Cummings, R&D Director, Intellectual Capital and Strategic Accounts, The Dow Chemical Company
  • Katherine Franz, Executive Director, The Axia Institute
  • Brad Gray, Vice President, Global Purchasing, The Dow Chemical Company
  • Daniel Reaume, Vice President of Operations Research, Revenue Analytics, Inc.
  • Dr. Joan Rose, Professor, Co-Director of the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment, Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair of Water Research, Michigan State University
  • Dr. Susan Selke, Director, School of Packaging, Michigan State University
  • Jeffrey Tazelaar, Digital Fulfillment Center Director, The Dow Chemical Company
  • Dr. John P. Verboncoeur, Associate Dean for Research, College of Engineering, Michigan State University
  • John Wassick, Fellow, Supply Chain Expertise Center, The Dow Chemical Company