Troy, N.Y. — Master’s degree students studying business at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are taking their academic knowledge to the next level by learning to identify commercialization pathways for lab research discoveries and inventions through the Masters’ Scholars Research Program (MSRP). More than 50 Lally master’s students of the Fall 2014 class have signed up to be considered for the highly selective program, which is being offered for its second year by the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer. Lally M.S. and MBA students are paired, individually or on teams, with researchers on campus to help them convert their findings to benefit society.
Students partner with Lally faculty as well as faculty in the schools of Engineering or Science, including the biomedical engineering department and the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS). The MSRP program exemplifies the transformative pedagogical innovations which Rensselaer, as The New Polytechnic, is leading, as well as strong collaborative efforts among faculty and students.
“There is a growing demand among companies for people to build businesses around emerging innovations or leverage technological innovation for competitive advantage,” explained Gina O’Connor, associate dean for academic affairs at Lally. “This program reflects the unique interdisciplinary environment and world-class technological research at Rensselaer that provides students the needed skills and experience to commercialize emerging technologies.”
The program is facilitated by regular progress meetings between students and faculty at Rensselaer. This allows for students to learn about one another’s progress and for students and faculty to provide feedback to each team. The outcomes of these projects foster better management practices, commercialization of technology, and/or new approaches to global challenges.
“This multi- and inter- disciplinary educational initiative is opening new doors for students at Rensselaer and allowing them to be transformative,” said Deepak Vashishth, director of CBIS. “These students work in teams that seamlessly think and collaborate on translating strong fundamental biotechnology research into new technologies.”
The MSRP projects are completed while the business graduate students are enrolled at Lally. Past participants in this program have received research fellowships as a result of their work, and others have helped faculty license technology or have participated in the establishment of a high-tech venture.
Examples of MSRP projects include:
Non-Medical Applications of Sensing Technologies
Ashwin Gapchup ’14 and Nathaniel Mason ’14, M.S. in technology commercialization and entrepreneurship, assisted Eric Ledet, associate professor of biomedical engineering in CBIS. The team worked extensively to identify viable applications for the technology in question in spaces as diverse as construction, automotive, industrial sensing, and wine making.
The team intends to continue pursuing possible applications for Professor Ledet’s technology, winning a summer grant to participate in the RPI-Foundry program, a weekly entrepreneurial work group hosted by the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship. Following the momentum of the MSRP, the team has formed Natwin Consulting, a venture that focuses on providing business support and technology commercialization services to startups.
“The tools Ashwin and I fine-tuned during the MSRP program have led to a fulfilling career in startup services,” said Mason. “I can speak for both of us in saying that we are grateful for the opportunity and excited to expand upon the project in the future.”
Low-Cost CT Scanning Device
Kartik Surisetty ’14 and Bo Li ’14, MBA program, worked with Ge Wang, professor of biomedical engineering, on a low-cost CT scanning device. They pursued applications in their home countries of India and China, and continue to work on finding first customer partners.
“I like the Rensselaer Lally School MSRP program, and had a great experience interacting with Lally faculty and students,” said Wang. “As imaging engineers, what we do should eventually reach the marketplace domestically and internationally. In collaboration with Lally friends, technical and commercial perspectives are aligned, giving stronger motivation and clearer destination.”
“This program provided us a great opportunity to communicate and work with scientists before graduation,” said Li. “Scientists always have brilliant ideas based on the technology, so you need to look at the market to check which one has the most potential, then provide feedback based on that assessment.”
Some MSRP students also worked with Lally faculty to further their scholarly work:
Abena Owusu ’14, M.S. in quantitative finance and risk analytics (QFRA), worked with Professor Aparna Gupta on solar-based derivatives as risk management hedges in the alternative energy industry. Owusu won a Global Association of Risk Professionals fellowship award to help her continue her research with Professor Gupta beyond her graduation.
Billy Obenauer ’14, MBA program, worked with Professors Lois Peters and Gina O’Connor to develop a database of corporate personnel involved in breakthrough innovation projects and a methodology for tracking their career paths over time. This work was part of a larger research program on how large established industrial firms manage breakthrough innovation. Obenauer has since been accepted into the Lally Ph.D. program and will continue his studies.
For more information about the Lally School of Management, visit http://lallyschool.rpi.edu/.
Julie K. Tracy
Lally School of Management
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Office: (518) 276-3053
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