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Adam Schran

“This shows potential donors that there are opportunities at Drexel to give to areas about which they feel excited.”

The story of how the world’s largest-known dinosaur came to be named after a Philadelphia software entrepreneur testifies to the unexpected yet effective collaborations for which Drexel is becoming known.

Adam Schran, founder and CEO of Ascentive Software, first laid eyes on his future namesake one winter’s night in January 2013 in the Papadakis Integrated Science Building (PISB). A close friend and then-Drexel employee had invited him to a gathering at the lab of Kenneth Lacovara, PhD, associate professor of paleontology and geology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Schran, a tech aficionado and adventure traveler, immediately connected with Dr. Lacovara, whose research methodology combined sophisticated digital modeling with grueling excavations in the wilds of southern Patagonia. In this remote region of Argentina, the paleontologist had led an international team of researchers to discover and describe a new supermassive dinosaur species with the most complete skeleton ever found of its type. When Mr. Schran examined the bones — including a femur more than six feet tall — and experienced what he calls Dr. Lacovara’s “contagious enthusiasm,” he knew he had to become more involved.

“I could tell that Ken and his team were fully committed to answering questions about large dinosaurs and to finding out new things about the largest animals to ever roam the earth,” Mr. Schran says. “I was also impressed by the extent to which students were involved in Ken’s research.”

In September, Dr. Lacovara’s findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports — nine years after his initial discovery of the remains. To commemorate this milestone Mr. Schran returned to PISB to help the paleontologist unveil, to an audience of faculty, students and the press, a four-foot-tall shin bone that gave the public its first peek at Dreadnoughtus schrani. The newly identified dinosaur’s genus name means “fears nothing” and its species name was chosen to honor Mr. Schran’s support for the research. His gift will help fund the application of leading-edge techniques in imaging and molecular paleontology to Dr. Lacovara’s research.

Usually one to avoid the unnecessary limelight, Mr. Schran believes the main value of having a dinosaur named after him is the message it sends to other philanthropists. “This shows potential donors that there are opportunities at Drexel to give to areas about which they feel excited and on which they can make a direct impact,” he says.

The Dreadnoughtus project excited Mr. Schran primarily because it appealed to his commitment to experimentation and discovery, which he believes has been crucial to his own professional accomplishments. He founded Ascentive in 1999 with his younger brother, Andrew, just one year after graduating with his degree in computer science. Since then the company, which provides services and products to enhance PC performance, has grown to include more than 50 employees and serve more than one million paying customers in over 200 countries. Mr. Schran attributes this success to “employing the same practical approach to answering questions that is used in research.”

It’s this approach that immediately resonated with Dr. Lacovara, who says Mr. Schran is “a virtual fount of ideas who always finds novel ways to look at problems.”

“It’s great to work with someone who gets it,” Dr. Lacovara adds. “Adam is excited about the research, but also passionate about the potential of paleontology to inspire young people to pursue pathways leading to the STEM disciplines.”

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July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014
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