Quantifiably Better In Situ TEM.

We empower scientists, engineers, and researchers to discover and analyze new phenomenon by visualizing biological, chemical and physical processes in completely new ways. Our field-proven products offer an unparalleled view into sample behavior by combining in situ experiment control with the analysis and resolution capabilities of the modern electron microscope. Through continual innovation, we create solutions that improve productivity and generate actionable data to accelerate discovery.

Why Protochips

To generate game-changing innovations and successful new applications, researchers must continually push beyond existing boundaries. At Protochips, we are fueled by that kind of exploration. We are driven to help you see the unseen, make new connections and pursue innovations that deliver practical benefits.

Even better, we speak your language. We know the science and in situ TEM technology that powers dynamic studies of materials at the nanoscale. We also understand the practical need for efficient, simple, reliable tools that add value to your materials or life science lab.

About Protochips

Protochips is an established growth-stage company based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. We are focused on developing analytical tools for understanding and developing nanoscale materials. Founded in 2002, we have delivered more than 250 in situ TEM systems across the world and produced more than 1,000,000 consumables.

Our Leadership Team


David Nackashi, Ph.D

CEO & Co-Founder

David brings more than 10 years of leadership and research experience in semiconductor materials and processing, focusing on MEMS test structures for nanomaterials characterization. Prior to cofounding Protochips, he worked at Alcatel Telecom, leading the system verification and test team for releases of several OC3/12/48 SONET Multiplexer products. David received a Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the North Carolina State University, and the B.S.E.E. from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has more than 50 technical publications and more than 50 patents granted and pending in areas including molecular electronics and in situ microscopy. David is active in the entrepreneurial community in the Research Triangle Park, participating in programs including the HiTEC program at North Carolina State University and the Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s FastTrac Tech.

John Damiano, Ph.D

CTO & Co-Founder

John received his B.S. from Pennsylvania State University, his M.S. from The University of Texas at Austin, and his Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, all in Electrical Engineering. Prior to co-founding Protochips, he worked as a device engineer at Micron Semiconductor and at Motorola APRDL. In these positions, he was responsible for process integration of isolation, gate oxide, and local interconnect modules for SRAM and logic products at the 0.35 µm through 0.15 µm technology nodes. He also led efforts to design and characterize novel test structures to support advanced process technology, debug new chip designs, and accelerate the transfer of device and process technology to the receiving fab. In his role as CTO at Protochips, John leads the company’s technology development effort, with a focus on designing innovative semiconductor devices and processes. He also oversees technical collaborations and manages the Protochips’ intellectual property portfolio. John has authored or co-authored numerous technical publications and has fourteen U.S. patents granted or pending.

Board of Directors

Steve Capps

Board Member

Steve became involved with the company through an investment with the Piedmont Angel Network.  Steve retired from IDEXX Laboratories in 2008 as General Manager of the Pharmaceutical Business.  Steve’s affiliation with IDEXX began in 1998 when IDEXX purchased Blue Ridge Pharmaceuticals where he was Vice President of Business Operations. Steve played a key role in the negotiations for the sale of the business to IDEXX and prior to becoming General Manager of the Pharmaceutical business he was Vice President of Finance and Business Development. His early career included financial planning, marketing and analysis roles in diverse businesses including Ciba-Geigy and RJR Nabisco.  Steve has served on the Board of Communities in Schools of Greater Greensboro and chaired the fund raising committee. He is also on the Board of Visitors for the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University, Steve currently resides at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Rajeev Kulkarni

Board Member

As an experienced entrepreneur and executive, Rajeev provides leadership in the areas of entrepreneurship, strategic marketing and high-tech engineering. As VP of Global Engineering, Rajeev currently leads the global R&D team at 3D Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: TDSC), a high-tech company that designs, develops, and markets three-dimensional (3D) printing products that enable complex 3D physical objects to be printed directly without the need of manufacturing. He oversees seven divisions including Electronics, Software, Material Science, Mechanical, Physics and Optics. Rajeev holds multiple US and international patents that helped grow the 3D printing technology. He has also received five consecutive “Outstanding Innovation of the Year” awards at 3D Systems.  Prior to this role, as the Director of Market Intelligence and as a Product Manager at 3D Systems, Rajeev led teams to develop structured systems to garner and analyze competitive, customer, product intelligence; formulate product, pricing, customer and new business strategies.

Rajeev earned an engineering bachelor degree from University of Pune, India, along with an honors diploma in Computer Science Management from National Institute of Information Technology, India. He also has a Master of Science degree in Engineering from University of Florida, Gainesville and an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, Los Angeles.

Michael Zapata III

Executive Chairman of the Board

Michael is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Entrepreneurial Initiative at NC State University, Chairman of ArrayXpress, a genomics sciences company, and a Board Member of HueMetrix, an instrumentation company. Michael has served in roles as CMO, President, and CEO of multiple companies. He is a retired LTC and combat aviation officer, having served in the NC Army National Guard.

Jay Brennan

Board Observer

Jay brings a wealth of diverse management experiences to the Protochips board. Over the past 20 years he has owned or operated a variety of distribution (upholstery leather), manufacturing (liquid packaging) and service (online education) businesses. In those businesses he has been involved in plant start-ups, new product development, high performance team development and geographical sales expansion in addition to standard finance, sales, marketing and operations functions. For the past two years, Jay has been actively involved in the Piedmont Angel Network, serving on the Screening Committee and numerous due diligence teams. Jay is a Director/Board Monitor for two other PAN investment companies, Pique Therapeutics and Extend Energy.

Jay received a BA, summa cum laude, from Colgate University and a joint JD/MBA from the University of Virginia.  He currently resides in Greensboro, NC with his wife and two daughters and is an active volunteer at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Greensboro Day School, Colgate University and the Summit Rotary Club.

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