March 10, 2016

College of Engineering to Offer Commercialization Fellowship

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Beginning this June, the College of Engineering will offer a fellowship for Ph.D. students studying commercialization to provide them with hands-on experience in business, according to Prof. Emmanuel Giannelis, materials science.

Plans for the fellowship have been in the works since last spring, Giannelis said.

“Lance Collins, Dean of Engineering and I were looking for initiatives to enhance the experiential learning of our graduate students,” Giannelis said. “More specifically, we were looking for ways to encourage entrepreneurship, especially at the Ph.D. level.”

Discussions with Eric Young ’78 — the co-founder of a venture capital investment firm that serves emerging technology companies — also helped faculty plan the fellowship, Giannelis said.

“Young, who as a successful venture capitalist has had tremendous experience in this field, helped us crystallize some ideas,” Giannelis said. “His generous gift made the program a reality.”

The fellowship’s curriculum will be taught in concert with the College of Engineering and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, according to Tom Schryver MBA ’02, the head of the Johnson School’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute.

“In the second half of the program we will connect Commercialization Fellows with MBA students from the Johnson School to assist in the project,” Schryver said. “This will provide very, valuable exposure and experience to these MBA students. It’ll also serve as a ‘force multiplier’ to the Ph.D. fellows and will give them useful experience in working with business people in developing technologies and ideas.”

To qualify for the fellowship, applicants must pass the A exam — a required exam for a Ph.D., obtain permission from an advisor and be able to pitch a product or technology with commercial potential, according to the fellowship’s web page.

Students who qualify will have the opportunity to work with a personal mentor, according to Schryver.

“[The mentorship program will allow] students to gain experience in customer and market analysis, and in understanding the real-world context around developing technologies, be able to translate them into practice,” Giannelis said.

Students will also attend lectures, small Question and Answer sessions, site visits and private meetings. They will also have the opportunity to participate in leadership and entrepreneurship programs at the University, according to the web page.