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Turning Science Innovators into Entrepreneurs

“Start-Ups and the Scientific Method,” a new series of courses funded by a VentureWell grant, will stimulate scientific innovation by encouraging students to utilize entrepreneurial problem-solving skills.

Innovation happens nearly every day in Ursinus College’s classrooms and labs, and at the intersection of academic disciplines. A new partnership will soon create opportunities for even more—specifically, connecting scientific innovation with entrepreneurship.

“Start-Ups and the Scientific Method” is a forthcoming series of courses and programming that aims to stimulate scientific innovation by encouraging students to utilize entrepreneurial problem-solving skills to create and implement novel solutions.

“As scientists, we become passionate about certain topics, often becoming experts in a field where we then push the boundaries of what is known about a topic in that field. Often, this leads to creation of something new,” said Casey Schwarz, associate professor and chair of physics.

Schwarz and Maureen Cumpstone, director of the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, have been awarded a VentureWell Course and Program Grant that will fund this new initiative, which will aim to introduce and engage students interested in emerging scientific commercial pursuits—namely climate change, environmental and social sustainability, and advancing equity.

“The entrepreneurial mindset aligns nicely with the scientific process and can complement it,” Cumpstone said. “In both cases, we are trying to identify problems so that we can come up with innovative solutions to solve them.”

Schwarz added, “I think these two areas form a natural connection and exploring them early on in your studies generates engagement and promotes creativity. This is how X-rays and radiography, and MRI scans and ultrasound technology became commonplace in modern medicine.”

VentureWell grants are awarded to faculty or staff at U.S. higher education institutions to support curriculum that engages students in science and technology innovation and entrepreneurship. The Ursinus grant is for $27,979, which will fund a foundational course, as well as supplemental courses in computer science, environmental studies, biology, and business, and other experiential learning opportunities.

Additionally, Ursinus alumnus Quentin Altemose ’18, a physics and biology double major, will assist Schwarz and Cumpstone in this venture. Altemose is an entrepreneur with two start-ups who holds a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Brown University. He will bring peer-to-peer insight into the development and running of the course series.

By encouraging student interest in STEM and entrepreneurship, Schwarz and Cumpstone hope to further enhance efforts to integrate entrepreneurial thought and action at Ursinus. They will also gain an understanding of applying scientific methods for the development of new products. Students have indicated a strong interest in science-directed entrepreneurial courses and turning their own scientific solutions into marketable products and services, they said.

The “Start-Ups and the Scientific Method” courses will become part of Ursinus’s linked inquiry efforts and will be developed as an interdepartmental STEM course series—but drawing students from all majors—with a focus on recruitment of those who are frequently are underrepresented and underexposed to business concepts and courses during their tenure at the college.

“We hope students can appreciate the value of an entrepreneurial mindset and its connection to the sciences as a way of implementing new ideas, solving problems, meeting needs and creating value, while attending to the ethical dilemmas that arise within entrepreneurial pursuits,” Schwarz said.

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