Vanessa Chan | AIChE

Vanessa Chan

Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship
University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Vanessa Chan is an Entrepreneur, Board Member, Angel Investor, Keynote Speaker and Educator who has spent over 20 years innovating. She is a leading thinker in innovation & entrepreneurship where she thrives at the interface of technology and business. She is currently at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is a Professor of Practice in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Undergraduate Chair of Materials Science & Engineering and a member of the Executive Committee for Penn Health Tech. Prior to Penn she was a McKinsey & Company partner, where she co-led their innovation practice and helped corporations with deep R&D portfolios, commercialize their technologies. After McKinsey, she invented consumer products, and competed on the Today Show’s Next Big Thing which led to her as a guest on QVC, selling her invention, Loopit (tangle-free headphones).

Vanessa is a renowned speaker who inspires others to embrace failure as a catalyst for change. She emboldens people to adopt a growth mindset in corporate led innovation projects, their career and their personal life. The latter comes from being half of a dual-income family where she and her husband both have intense, high-profile careers but have integrated their work-life to also be present and engaged parents. Vanessa’s journey has been covered in various news outlets including the WSJ, The Washington Post, a best-selling book (I Know How She Does It), CBS and various podcasts including “Women Killing It!”. You also can find her very well received 2018 Penn Engineering Commencement speech at

Vanessa is passionate about helping the Philadelphia ecosystem and does so as the co-President of the Philadelphia Chapter of Ellevate Network, as a partner in Robin Hood Ventures (an angel investing group), as the chair of the BRIC (Business Resource Innovation Center) for the Free Library of Philadelphia and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Kimmel Center. She also is on the Advisory Boards for three start-ups: Charge-it-Spot, Girls Auto Clinic and Simply Good Jars and a founding member of the Innovation Business Development Advisory Council for United Technology Corporation. Her passion for education extends into K-12 as an active Trustee for Springside Chestnut Hill (SCH) Academy, where they have developed a design-thinking based curriculum including a Venture Incubator for kids.

Vanessa earned a Ph.D. from MIT and a B.S.E from the University of Pennsylvania. She is married to Mark van der Helm, the head of Energy, Waste and Facilities Maintenance at Walmart and they have two school-aged daughters.