Elise Strobach’s passion for the environment and sustainable solutions fueled her journey to becoming the co-founder and CEO of her own company and being named a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. The Osceola, Wisconsin native’s sustainability mission started at MSOE.

“MSOE helped me to learn the foundations for my career, but it also taught me how to learn more effectively and persevere through obstacles,” said Strobach.

MSOE’s excellent reputation with industry was one of Strobach’s favorite aspects of her undergraduate career. “Classes were an opportunity to interact with and learn from subject-matter experts, and it gave me the chance to also explore new ways to think and perceive the world.”

Strobach expanded her new ways of thinking in the Honors Program and in MSOE’s chapters of the Wisconsin Association of Energy Engineers and American Society of Mechanical Engineers, both of which she held offices in.

After graduating from MSOE with her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2014, Strobach continued her education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to fulfill her dream of making a positive impact on the world by getting involved in aerogel research.

“Renewable energy has always been a passion of mine, but when it came time to pick a research group, I initially had a hard time narrowing down the search,” said Strobach. “But during my first visit to MIT, I heard Professor Evelyn Wang introduce a new project using aerogels for solar energy harvesting. I knew after my first conversation with Evelyn that I wanted to join her group and help to study and optimize the aerogel.”

Aerogel is a highly porous solid material of extremely low density that is formed by removing the liquid component of a conventional gel. The unique nanostructure of aerogel makes it one of the most thermally insulating materials in the world, so Strobach and her fellow researchers set out to make a silica aerogel that was truly transparent to enable windows to be more insulating than walls.

Strobach explained research on materials for application can be challenging because of the time to achieve good results. “Material science sometimes requires a patient researcher!”

As Strobach finished her master’s degree and started to focus on defining her Ph.D. topic, she received a grant from the MIT Deshpande Center to focus on the commercialization of the aerogel material they were developing.

“As I began to talk with industry to learn more about the application and barriers to better technology, the information I gained was incredibly valuable and led to a major pivot in the research work. From that point on, I was excited by value that commercialization could bring to the fundamental work and I began to seek experience in entrepreneurship to help me achieve my goals for positive environmental impact.”

Strobach took her knowledge and expertise and co-founded AeroShield, a company dedicated to developing super-insulating, transparent inserts for windows, bringing state-of-the-art thermal comfort and energy savings into buildings at an affordable price. AeroShield works with industry partners and insulated glass manufacturers to integrate their material inside of new windows, making homes more sustainable and comfortable.

“I look forward to the opportunity to grow AeroShield into a successful business that can serve the window industry and many others with a strong mission of sustainability,” said Strobach.

Her impactful mission of sustainability did not go unnoticed. Strobach was recognized by Forbes as a 2020 30 Under 30: Energy award recipient along with Kyle Wilke, AeroShield co-founder and CTO.

“Engineering at MSOE is a rigorous curriculum, but the challenges and obstacles I faced taught me how to assess risks, learn from failures, and ask for help. These same skills are what helped me achieve my goals throughout grad school and now as CEO of AeroShield.”

Strobach continues to look forward to the opportunities ahead as she works to grow AeroShield. Outside of work, she enjoys working on small wire-working or resin projects and baking. She also played in a band prior to the pandemic. She has a simple and important word of advice for current students as they navigate their academic careers:

“Ask for help! Don’t waste your time and resources working to solve problems for which others have a solution already—your attention and time deserve new problems. Be thoughtful about your goals and then ask for as much help as possible.”

Learn more about Strobach’s aerogel research at MIT.