The Team

Steve Barnett, Ph.D., MBA

Steve Barnett

Steve Barnett, CEO of Soar Optics, brings a wealth of technical and business expertise to the table, fueling the progress and innovation at Soar Optics. His deep-rooted knowledge and unwavering passion serve as the driving force behind the continuous growth and advancement of the company.

Business Background

Steve’s academic journey culminated in the attainment of his Ph.D. in Chemistry from McGill University. Following this achievement, he continued his training by working as a Research Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Throughout his academic and professional career, and driven by a relentless passion for innovation, Steve has been a trailblazer in collaborating with diverse industries to leverage optical methods for materials characterization. His professional experience have included a wide range of functions including sales, applications development, support, and management, and he has consistently championed the transformative power of optics for materials analysis.

From 1997-2010, he worked at leading companies in this space including large companies and startups. In 2010, Steve formed Barnett Technical Services (BTS), a company that has been providing best-in-class instrumentation and consulting for chemical and materials analysis. BTS currently has 4 employees. Steve maintains his role at BTS to this day.

Steve’s educational background also includes an MBA degree from the Graduate School of Management of the University of California Davis. This degree focused on technology management, organizational behavior, and entrepreneurship, showcasing Dr. Barnett’s passion for and expertise in these areas.

Furthermore, Steve is the Founder of InnoGrove, a vibrant coworking space in Elk Grove, CA. This space serves as a catalyst for the entrepreneurial community in Elk Grove, CA, empowering and supporting local innovators and small businesses.

Technical Background

With 25 years of expertise in the methods being developed by Soar Optics, Steve brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. His dedication and passion for innovation are evident through his authorship of the patent-pending technology that Soar Optics is currently developing.

Steve’s contributions extend beyond his patent work, as he is also a co-author on 22 published papers in refereed journals. Notably, he has made significant contributions to the field with two papers he co-authored specifically focusing on the detection of microplastics.

Steve has been an active member of various scientific societies, showcasing his dedication to the advancement of his field. He has made valuable contributions to the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS), where he has served on the Executive Committee and the Governing Board. He currently Chairs one of their award committees. Furthermore, Steve’s commitment to fostering scientific community is evident through his long-standing presidency of the Northern California local section.

Steve’s passion for his work extends beyond the SAS, as he is also a valued member of the American Society for Trace Evidence Examiners (ASTEE), SPIE, and the Materials Research Society. By actively participating in these organizations, he demonstrates his drive to collaborate with fellow professionals and stay at the forefront of the latest developments in his field.

Peter Hansell, Degrees in Industrial Design and History (COO)

Peter Hansell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University, where he cultivated a deep understanding of design principles and innovation. Additionally, he pursued further academic excellence by earning a Master’s degree in History from California State University East Bay, broadening his intellectual horizons and refining his critical thinking skills through historical analysis and research.

During the inception of the web 1.0 era, Peter embarked on his entrepreneurial journey by founding Aspen Media, a venture that grew to encompass over 20 employees catering to esteemed corporate clientele such as Franklin Templeton, Yahoo, Levi’s as well as Pacific Gas and Electric. Notably, he spearheaded the creation of pioneering websites for major media outlets under the auspices of the Susquehanna Corporation.

Transitioning his expertise, Peter delved into revolutionizing the benefits landscape for thousands of union members by developing customer-facing websites for administrators of union trust funds.

Venturing into the realm of gaming, Peter has left an indelible mark by ushering more than two dozen titles to market, comprising 20 board games and 8 video games. Among his notable achievements is the nomination of the game Wealth of Nations for the esteemed Origins award for Board Game of the Year in 2009. Moreover, his endeavors in the video game sector led to remarkable success, with sales surpassing the million-dollar mark monthly for the online game Dawn of the Dragons.

Since 2018, Peter has been deeply engaged in the scientific instrumentation field, assuming multifaceted roles as a technician, sales engineer, and instrument support specialist. His profound expertise spans across software, hardware, and robotics, enabling him to work with an extensive array of clients, including but not limited to NASA, Intel, Tesla, Princeton University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Throughout his tenure, Peter has demonstrated a keen aptitude for addressing diverse client needs and fostering innovative solutions within the realm of scientific instrumentation.

James Chan, Ph.D., CTO

James Chan received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1997 from the University of California, Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Davis in 2002, where he studied the interaction mechanism of ultrashort laser pulses using a combination of Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy/microscopy.

Dr. Chan held postdoctoral position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the Medical Physics and Biophysics Division, where he developed Raman spectroscopy methods for single cell analysis for a broad range of biomedical applications.  He then became a LLNL staff scientist from 2005-2010 where he continued his biophotonics research jointly with the NSF Center for Biophotonics at UC Davis. At LLNL, he was also involved in research developing optical sensors for chemical sensing applications. 


In 2011, he joined the research faculty in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of California, Davis, where his research focus was on developing optical spectroscopy and microscopy methods (Raman, fluorescence, nonlinear optics) for biological and biomedical imaging.


Dr. Chan has co-authored over 60 publications in refereed science journals and several book chapters.