Doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering takes third place, wins $2,500 at SEC Student Pitch Competition

Published: Oct 27, 2023 8:25 AM

By Joe McAdory

Parvin Fathi-Hafshejani’s entrepreneurial success story added another chapter at the ninth annual SEC Student Pitch Competition on Monday, Oct. 23, in Athens, Georgia.

The doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering won third place and $2,500 – impressing industry professional judges with her business idea, Dropllel, a rapid diagnostic tool that uses an electronic biosensor to detect pathogens such as viruses, and can diagnose pregnancy, COVID, influenza and more.

“Winning third place in the SEC Student Pitch Competition was an incredible and exciting achievement,” said Fathi-Hafshejani, who also won Auburn University’s Tiger Cage Student Business Idea Competition last spring. “It was a high-level event with strong competition, so securing a top spot was a great honor. Representing Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering on this stage was a privilege and a testament to the quality of education and support I received at the university. It showcased the potential of engineering students to make a significant impact not only in the technical sphere but also in entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Auburn Engineering is no stranger to success at the SEC Student Pitch Competition. Zac Young — who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2021 — won the 2020 event with his startup, Vulcan Line Tools.

University of Georgia management information systems student Matt Tesvich won first place and $10,000 in the SEC Student Pitch Competition for OxSox, and odorless sock brand. Second place and $5,000 went to University of Florida mechanical engineering students Nickolas Saavedra and Jeremy Rutenberg for RaveBio, an updated design for a laboratory shaker table.

“Through the SEC Student Pitch competition, I learned several valuable lessons that can help me in future competitions and pitches,” Fathi-Hafshejani said. “The experience reinforced the importance of a strong and comprehensive business plan. It also highlighted the significance of a clear and compelling pitch that effectively communicates the value proposition of the business to judges and investors. Additionally, I gained insights into the power of networking and mentorship, which are crucial for an entrepreneur's growth and success.”

Fathi-Hafshejani is an active participant in associate professor Masoud Mahjouri-Samani’s Laser-Assisted Science and Engineering – Emerging Materials and Devices (LASE-END) laboratory.

“My goal as an advisor has always been to create a lab of opportunities in the land of opportunities,” said Mahjouri-Samani, also an entrepreneur, whose startup, Nanoprintek, competed in August’s Alabama Launchpad Cycle 2 Final Round. “At LASE lab, our activities span from fundamental research to commercialization, unleashing our students' talents in all areas. Parvin is a great example who, with her hard work and dedication, excelled both in her academic and entrepreneurial dreams.”

A product of Auburn University’s New Venture Accelerator, Fathi-Hafshejani has continued to develop her business plan and competition strategies.

“I have conducted tests with different pathogens to demonstrate the effectiveness of Dropllel's technology in different pathogen detection,” said Fathi-Hafshejani, who has applied for two federal grants and is eagerly awaiting results.

“In terms of presenting, I've continued to refine and improve my pitch style and presentation techniques. I've learned to distill complex information into a concise and compelling story that effectively engages the audience. This skill development is an ongoing process, and I'm fully committed to enhancing my ability to convey the vision and potential of my business.”

What’s next for Dropllel? Searching for funding opportunities to advance the development of the biosensor.

“Once funding is secured, the focus will be on prototyping the device and preparing for clinical trials,” Fathi-Hafshejani said. “The long-term goal is to bring the biosensor to market, where it has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by providing rapid and non-invasive diagnostic solutions for a range of medical conditions. The vision is to improve patient outcomes and save lives by enabling early and accurate detection, making healthcare more accessible and cost-effective.”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Parvin Fathi-Hafshejani won $2,500 at the SEC Student Business Pitch Competition and another $29,000 at last spring's Tiger Cage.

Parvin Fathi-Hafshejani won $2,500 at the SEC Student Business Pitch Competition and another $29,000 at last spring's Tiger Cage.

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