Mark D Owen
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1981
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Puralytics Beaverton, Oregon

Mark Owen was an honor student and a hall of fame athlete in gymnastics as a high schooler in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from Oregon State, he joined Tektronix as a design engineer. The Portland-based company pioneered engineering tools like computer-aided design and finite element analysis, and Owen was one of the first engineers to apply these powerful tools.

In 1985, he and his wife Anne moved to Ireland, where he taught mechanical and production engineering at the University of Limerick while completing a master’s degree in advanced manufacturing technology.

Owen is an inventor at heart, and after a few years teaching he was “itching to get back to product development and solving industrial problems,” he said. For the next five years, he led a team at the Irish Department of Science and Technology, developing new programs that would allow industry to quickly adopt new manufacturing technologies.

Returning to the states, he joined Electro Scientific Industries, a world leader in laser production tools. “I was fortunate to arrive just as they were pioneering new ultraviolet lasers,” he said. He developed and patented several laser applications that led to the development of entirely new industry segments.

While at Tektronics and Electro Scientific Industries, Owen saw many intrapreneurial businesses succeed and fail. “I realized that what I really wanted was to be an entrepreneur starting new businesses based on my own inventions,” he said. “You know, your inventions don’t have a chance at life unless you take the next step.”

Over the next four years, he and a small group of engineers he had met in Ireland took a series of inline circuit and circuit assembly automated inspection systems to a $100 million acquisition by Agilent Technologies. At the time, it was the biggest technology deal in Ireland’s history.

Next, he formed Phoseon Technology, which pioneered the use of ultraviolet light-emitting diodes (LED) to dry or cure industrial adhesives, coatings, and inks. Phoseon continues to grow rapidly in Hillsboro, Oregon. Owen, however, still wasn’t content, so he founded another new company, Puralytics.

“With Puralytics, I wanted to solve one of the world’s great problems — the world water crisis — using advanced technology, and that led to the pioneering of UV LED activated nanotechnology for purifying water,” he said.

Either directly or through organizations like Engineers Without Borders, the Roddenberry Foundation, and faith-based groups, the company works with local communities in Africa and other regions to provide solutions for sustainable water purification. “We provide them with the tools they need to check their water, set up training for treating it, and provide water treatment devices,” said Owen.

Puralytics’ sunlight-activated personal water purifier, SolarBag, has shipped to 60 countries. The product received the Oregon Entrepreneur’s Network 2014 Game Changer award, having been voted as the product most likely to change the world. Puralytics products have won 17 industry awards and are deployed in disasters by organizations like the Red Cross and the Roddenberry Foundation.

Puralytics is also developing sunlight activated water treatment for ponds and stormwater. OregonBEST is funding a current research project to test new technologies in a rain garden facility at Oregon State.

Owen’s inventions and entrepreneurial efforts have yielded more than 50 patents on technologies that have been incorporated into products generating more than $1 billion in revenue, mostly for companies located in Oregon.

For Owen, the entrepreneurial itch may still be there — he keeps thinking of new ideas and new businesses. “My wife keeps saying, ‘This is the last one, right?’ There might be a point where I am a mentor to young entrepreneurs; I’m meeting with a few now. Maybe that and investing and coaching will become more of my hobby.”

With Puralytics, I wanted to solve one of the world’s great problems…

Paul E McKenney
B.S. Computer Science, 1981
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1981
Distinguished Engineer IBM Linux Technology Center Hillsboro, Oregon

Even after Paul McKenney’s long and illustrious career as a software engineer, he continues to benefit from the emphasis during his graduate and undergraduate coursework on solving real-world problems. “The thing about Oregon State University then and now is a strong focus on practice and practical matters,” he said. After graduating, McKenney worked as a contract developer before signing on at SRI International as a systems programmer. In the very early days of the Internet, his job included researching ways of improving it. Later, he worked at Sequent, eventually purchased by IBM, on their parallel UNIX kernel. McKenney holds more than 100 patents. His contributions include the invention of high-speed fair-queueing mechanisms used in Internet congestion control, parallel memory-allocation algorithms, and, perhaps most notably, the Linux kernel’s read-copy update (RCU). RCU is a highly scalable method of coordinating work in a multicore system. As one of the Linux community’s experts on parallel computing, McKenney’s responsibilities at IBM include maintaining the RCU component of the Linux kernel. McKenney earned a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering in 2004 from the OGI School of Science and Engineering at Oregon Health & Science University while continuing to work full time. He has published one book and more than 200 other publications. He serves as chair of the program committee for the Linux Plumbers Conference and sits on the program committee for the Linux Kernel Summit. He is also a member of Oregon State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Industrial Advisory Board.

The thing about Oregon State University then and now is a strong focus on practice and practical matters.

Wesley D Snyder
B.S. Industrial and Mechanical Engineering, 1994
Vice President, Engineering A-dec Newberg, Oregon

Hearing his story, Wes Snyder might just be the envy of any engineering student anywhere. It may seem as if he has lived a charmed life. But in his mind, it has been perseverance that has served him most. As a student participant in MECOP (Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program), Snyder completed a six-month internship at A-dec, one of the largest dental equipment manufacturers in the world. A-dec was obviously impressed with his work, because promptly after he graduated the company hired him as a manufacturing engineer. The perseverance, skills, knowledge, and ability to problem solve he developed as a student provided the foundation for his steady climb to a vice presidency within 18 years. Although Snyder sometimes misses the hands on work of an engineer, he is happy in his chosen path. “I wouldn’t have anticipated as a graduate that I would be interested in a leadership role,” said Snyder. “I’ve been blessed with great opportunities at a great company. I’ve found that whatever job I held in engineering, I was always able to recognize that I could be a positive influence on others, and that’s been really rewarding.” He said he is glad to be able to support the engineering team at A-dec. “I’m honored to be in a position that can help preserve our culture and continue our legacy of great product introductions,” he said. After establishing himself in his career, Snyder began giving back to MECOP as a mentor and board representative, helping engineering students gain real-world experience so they, too, can realize their dreams.

I wouldn’t have anticipated as a graduate that I would be interested in a leadership role.

Amber Nyssen
B.S. Industrial Engineering, 2004
Director of Operations Curtiss-Wright Portland, Oregon

Amber Nyssen’s biggest takeaway from her time at Oregon State was the ability to solve problems. “It sounds like a really simple thing, but being able to assess a situation, ask questions, and develop a logical path forward has served me very well in all of the roles I’ve held professionally,” she said.

Through her own efforts, Nyssen landed an internship with Williams Controls while at Oregon State, and that internship led to a job offer as a manufacturing engineer with the company. As an undergraduate, she had taken an option in business engineering and a minor in business administration, and while at Williams Controls she supplemented her education with an MBA from Portland State University.

As part of her concentration in international business, Nyssen had spent some time in India. When the company made a decision to open their first manufacturing facility there, she was invited to go back to get it started. “We built the facility, all of the production lines, hired the staff, got our quality certification, and by the time I left about a year later, we were ready to start mass production,” she said. “I was able to use all of those business skills, and it really comes back to the issue of how to solve problems — being in a foreign country and faced with all sorts of things that no education could prepare you for.”

Curtiss-Wright later bought Williams Controls. Nyssen was recognized by Oregon’s business community as one of 40 Under 40 high achievers in 2011.


It really comes back to the issue of how to solve problems.