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About Design Climate

Design Climate is a climate technology incubator where future leaders create innovative triple bottom line solutions that generate positive financial, environmental and social returns. Over the two-semester Design Climate course sequence, students are immersed in a project-based, design thinking experience to develop new business ideas. The program emphasizes sustainable product development, drawing on Duke’s resources and industry connections to create a valuable learning experience and unique climate focused solutions.


Our vision is to inspire the next generation of leaders to create innovative, sustainable solutions that address the world’s most pressing climate challenges. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and combining student ingenuity with faculty research, Design Climate cultivates new ventures that promote environmental sustainability and help society adapt to climate change.

Meet the Team

Judy Ledlee, Ph.D. - Executive Director

Judy Ledlee, Ph.D. - Executive Director

Judy Ledlee, Ph.D. is the Executive Director Design Climate and is passionate about cleantech innovation and commercialization. Judy developed her passion for cleantech innovation during her doctoral studies at Duke University where she researched emerging water treatment technologies. From her work, she co-founded a startup for hydraulic fracturing wastewater recycling. After graduating, She continued her cleantech career in the water industry working for Evoqua (now Dupont and Xylem), Black & Veatch, and ZwitterCo. Throughout her career, she’s continued working on entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial activities and is excited to return to Duke and pass on the entrepreneurial bug to new generations of students.  


When she’s not working on Design Climate, Judy can be found playing or organizing ultimate frisbee (she’s a co-founder and former player of the Raleigh Radiance, a professional ultimate team for women and gender non-binary players) and working on her pickleball game 


Alexis Carpenter, Ph.D.

Alexis Carpenter, Ph.D. joins the Design Climate program as an Instructor. By day, Alexis is the Chief Innovation Officer at AxNano, a cleantech venture studio that develops and scales innovative solutions to restore clean water. Dr. Carpenter has overseen the transition of AxNano’s first commercial products: RemRx® – specialty chemicals for groundwater remediation. She is leading AxNano’s expansion into PFAS treatment technologies. Since joining AxNano as the first full-time employee in 2015, Alexis has secured >$6M in nondilutive R&D contracts to support technical derisking of the AxNano technology portfolio. She has also led the expansion of the AxNano team, with a particular interest in supporting underrepresented individuals in the technology/environment/entrepreneurship space. Dr. Carpenter has a B.S. in Chemistry from Virginia Tech, Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from UNC-Chapel Hill, and completed a PostDoc in Environmental Engineering at Duke University. AxNano utilizes a design thinking approach for technology commercialization, conducting parallel testing of technical hypotheses and business assumptions that are essential to bring high impact solutions to market.


Dr. Carpenter also co-teaches a New Ventures: Climate course in Duke University’s Fuqua Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

Alexis Carpenter's headshot

Helen Whiteley

Helen Whiteley

Helen Whiteley is an instructor and program manager with Design Climate. With a 20+ year career in technology policy and communications, since 2018 Helen has been scaling marketing for numerous climate tech startups and founders, several of which have achieved successful exits. Along the way she founded Women+ in Climate Tech and Resilience Works, organizations focused on diversity in the energy transition. 

Before coming to Duke University, she led marketing for a material science startup out of Northwestern University, employing nanotechnology to synthesize novel replacements for critical metals and minerals.

Over the years, Helen’s teams have achieved accolades including the Triangle Cleantech Cluster’s Diversity in Cleantech award, the international MarComms Gold, and PR Daily’s Content Team of the Year and PR Woman of the Year Awards. British by birth, Helen is the proud mum of two girls and a pup named Mollie. When she’s not scaling climate tech, Helen loves hiking, reading, and watching science fiction shows.

Mentor in Residence

Matt Eggers

Matt Eggers is a seasoned business leader, investor and advisor with 20 years of experience delivering results. Matt began his career in biotech with the company Genentech, before transitioning to climate tech with companies like Sunrun, Bloom Energy, and Tesla, where he held leadership roles in operations, sales, product, finance, and marketing. At Sunrun, he led operations and product management as Sunrun grew from 30 employees and 2,000 installations to 1,200 employees and 55,000 installations and raised $300M in equity capital. He transitioned to investing at Breakthrough Energy Ventures where he led investments in grid, aerospace, buildings, and SaaS software companies, before joining Prelude Ventures as Managing Director in 2023.


Matt loves working with founders to help them build enduring, iconic, and profitable companies that will drive massive improvement in human civilization and for all life on Earth. Matt has a B.S. in molecular biology from Duke University, and an MBA from Stanford. Besides the EDGE Advisory Board, he serves on the board of The Institute for Market Transformation and Ecology Project International.