2014 Symposium Reporting

We’re publishing the 26th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium Report today.  We issue the report only after we’ve closed the financials, meaning everyone has turned in their travel reimbursement claims and we’ve settled them.  We carefully audit our participant and author lists and finalize registration numbers, removing duplicates and the inevitable no-shows.  We send the symposium report to the generous speakers, sponsors and supporters of the annual event to make sure they know how impactful their contributions were to the students and faculty who attend the event.

I insist on keeping the report short and colorful.  I’ve reported already on what students learned at the symposium and the research partnerships represented.  I’m going to use today’s blog post to shed light on a few of the things that didn’t make it into the report or previous blog posts!

New-Style Registrations

This year we tried “day-pass” and “full-cost” registrations for the first time.  We only accepted 75% of the poster abstracts submitted for budget and space reasons.  So we had hundreds of disappointed symposium applicants again this year.  Poster acceptance means that student authors pay $50 registration fee for access to all sessions, all meals, lodging and are eligible for travel reimbursements up to $150.  The real cost of all this totals up to $525 per student.  You are starting to get an idea of how tightly our symposium expenses are linked to the number of participants attending!

The CSUPERB FCG strongly believes the symposium should be accessible to all; each summer we debate how to make it so by stretching our dollars further. We know many FCG members line up campus-based, “cost-sharing” solutions to reimburse or avoid out-of-pocket student registration costs. 61% of students responding to the post-symposium survey reported they were reimbursed by their department or their mentor paid the $50 registration fee.

This year we offered three-day passes for $85, covering access to all sessions and breakfasts, but no lunch, dinner, hotel room or travel reimbursement. Full-cost student registration was $375 and allowed access to all meals and included lodging, but no travel reimbursement.

In the end, 19 students and faculty took us up on the day-pass option; 17 students paid for full-cost registrations.  From what we understand, the majority of students who used these registration options were seniors or master’s students nearing the completion of their degrees; they wanted access to the career and graduate student information sessions.  In some cases they were authors on posters being presented; in most cases grant or campus funds covered their costs.   We knew the main session rooms would hold over 650 participants, but we were at fire-marshall capacity at meals and in poster sessions at the Santa Clara Marriott.

We’ll keep working to keep the symposium accessible, but the improving economy is putting increasing price pressure on us.  At the Spring SPC meeting and August FCG meeting, we’ll wrestle with our options for 2015.  We will return to the Santa Clara Marriott next year; we could not find a venue in southern California to accommodate us next January.

Pre- and Post-Surveying: Student Aspirations

This year we surveyed students before and after the symposium on a few questions.  We were curious about their career aspirations and their research experience.

CSUPERB tracks career aspirations and “latest” status of the students we support on grants and scholarships, but we started surveying the symposium participants in 2012 about career aspirations.  Recall – both undergraduates and master’s students attend the symposium; 90% of them present research posters.  This year 70% of them reported working 10-30 hours per week on research projects; 38% said they worked in a research group 2-3 academic terms.

In 2012 34% of students responding (n=243) said they planned to become researchers; 14% said they planned on attending medical/dental/veterinary school.  We’ve tightened up our surveying since then (results in chart below, click on figure to enlarge it), so we have a more precise break-down on students’ aspirations.  The question we asked was, “Immediately after I graduate or complete my CSU degree I think I want to (chose the best answer).” Roughly a third of the students responding still plan to enter doctoral research programs immediately after completion of their degrees.


Roughly 14-30% plan to go to medical/dental/veterinary school.  This is our most “variable” category. We know from previous surveys that pre-med students are wary to let research mentors know they want to become physicians and clinicians, not researchers. (We know many of those physicians and clinicians also become researchers – but that’s a conversation for another day!). The surveys show about 14% plan to work a few years before returning to graduate school (the sequence I took as well!).  Here in the program office and within CSUPERB governance groups, we use this data to plan out the symposium programming. I’m sharing it with mentors system-wide to “lend language” they can use to explore their students’ true aspirations.

Many Thanks

We thank our sponsors many times during the symposium and in our publications.  The sponsorship dollars we raised this year didn’t quite keep us from going over budget (again).  But we were only $9,197 over budget this year.  It could have been worse without the help from sponsors and donors.

The real thanks go to the CSUPERB program office staff and volunteers (James, Pam, Tyson, Thomas, Julie and Dayna) and the FCG volunteers that make this event happen. A worn-out subset of FCG volunteers is pictured below at the end of the symposium and ~10 hours before the all-day FCG meeting that Sunday! Starting in the early fall, FCG members serve as poster abstract reviewers, award selection committee members, session organizers, workshop designers, committee chairs and session moderators to get ready for the January event. Paula Fischhaber (CSU Northridge & SPC member) piloted a new organizational construct for us this year – she oversaw ALL of the symposium award committees.  We estimate she ran the longest distances during the symposium this year keeping committees and student finalists on point! Kathie McReynolds (CSU Sacramento, SPC member & FCG Deputy Chair) organized the Thursday workshop programming this year – she’s getting pretty darn good at it. According to the post-session and symposium surveys, it was a high-quality line-up.  Equally impactful – based on survey responses – was the bioengineering network reception that Daryl Eggers (San Jose State University & SPC member) organized at the symposium for the first time. As a result, bioengineering faculty and students attended the symposium in greater numbers than we’ve ever seen before.  Stanley Maloy (SPC member and Dean of Sciences at San Diego State University) also deserves a shout-out; he stepped in at the last-minute to replace a flu-flattened speaker and did a terrific job. It’s a privilege working with this community – it’s amazing what we make happen for faculty and students each year!


    Kicking Up Some STEM Education Dust

    The press release is out there now – so I’m happy to announce a new $4.64 million dollar grant award from the The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to the CSU. I mariachialways tell PIs to pause and celebrate when they win a grant. Our little proposal writing team celebrated with huge Chuao chocolate bars!

    A W.M. Keck Foundation grant to the AAC&U (Susan Elrod, PI, now Dean, College of Science and Mathematics at CSU Fresno and Adrianna Kezar, USC, co-PI) brought together a “CSU Chancellor’s Office” team to work as part of a “STEM Education Effectiveness Framework Project.” The CO team includes CSU folks with “system-wide” missions with both academic affairs and STEM student success perspectives: Judy Botelho (CO, CCE), Lisa Hammersley & the inspirational Juanita Barrena (CSU-LSAMP), Krista Kamer (COAST), Ken O’Donnell (CO, student success) and Wayne Tikkanen (ITL). That integrated mix of perspectives and programs might be the strategic, secret sauce for engaging and retaining all our STEM-interested students!  It certainly led to a burst of strategic debates (ahem, discussions) and a search for additional resources for campus teams interested in making the introductory STEM curriculum more engaging and high-impact practices more pervasive.  Our discussions drew in Sue DeRosa, Gerry Hanley (MERLOT), Jeff Gold and Jim Till to also carry proposal-writing water last year. These discussions, along with others at last summer’s Strategic Planning Council meeting and at the Vision & Change meeting in D.C., led to this year’s CSUPERB Curriculum Development RFP (proposals now under review). They also led to CCE’s CSU STEM VISTA grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

    We wanted to do more, of course.  Carl Weiman famously said departments need to set aside 5% of their annual budgets for five years to transform the curriculum. We are grateful the Helmsley Trust decided to invest in the CSU so that campuses can do more.

    See how strategic initiatives get funded in these resource-constrained times? No – I can assure you – it’s not chocolate-dependent.  It takes layers upon layers of private-public support and collaborative, coordinated, patient leadership. I thank the entire Collaborative STEM Education team for the work and thought they’ve put into this initiative. Now we need to kick up some dust (making music might be a better metaphor afterall, Ken!) and get going! We’ll issue a Request for Proposals this summer.


      2014 CSUPERB Leadership Award

      Last Thursday CSUPERB presented its inaugural Leadership Award to Rollin Richmond, President of Humboldt State and Chair of the CSUPERB President’s Commission.

      The CSUPERB Faculty Consensus Group (FCG) voted twice on this award.  First – at the January FCG meeting – they voted to establish the award to “honor any individual whose work has contributed in extraordinary ways to the advancement of CSUPERB or the field of biotechnology.”  Second – in February – they voted to honor President Richmond with the inaugural award.

      Mike Goldman (Chair of Biology at San Francisco State University and Chair, CSUPERB FCG) and I travelled up to Arcata to present the award to President Richmond.  We were successful in elbowing our way onto the agenda of a retirement reception the campus and community organized to honor President Richmond.  The citation etched on the glass block we gave him said, “in recognition of his leadership and advocacy for stem cell research training grants and undergraduate research opportunities.”


      Knowing we were followed on the agenda by the mayor of Arcata and other more familiar campus dignitaries (including the impressive Marching Lumberjacks), we kept our remarks very short: “President Richmond’s advocacy led to over $42 million in stem cell research training grants to the CSU from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) – funding over 600 student researchers from 14 different CSU universities since 2009.  Since 2012 the CSUPERB Presidents’ Commission Scholars program has supported 40 undergraduate biotechnology researchers. These programs are the direct legacy of President Richmond’s leadership and advocacy.”

      Of course I have more to say about President Richmond.  Rollin is a card-carrying geneticist.  I think he likes working with CSUPERB (and why I like working with him) because the next best thing to doing science is investing in and supporting up-and-coming scientists and ventures.

      He was the chair of the search committee that hired me into this job; so I’ve known him ever since my return to academia as part of the CSU.  I remember President Steve Weber (San Diego State University, now retired) and President Richmond “tag teamed” the recruitment phone calls after they offered me the job.  I took some convincing because I also had an offer on the table from a biotech company.  Both gentlemen were eloquent on the impact I could have on science and engineering students across California and honest about the time it would take to have that impact (a decade).

      As soon as I arrived March 2007, my very first meeting was with President Richmond and the CSUPERB stem cell taskforce.  They were intent on making sure CSU students would be eligible for CIRM support.  After – well – let’s say many months (not a decade) – of advocacy, the CIRM board approved the Bridges to Stem Cell Research (“Bridges”) training program.  President Richmond took the handful of us CSU folks who were at the meeting out to lunch in Sacramento to celebrate.  I’ll never forget the feelings of relief and accomplishment we had (I’m not sure we ate!) – but also our great admiration for Rollin’s stubborn, never-say-die persistence on behalf of future student researchers. By the time we left the restaurant, we planned two Bridges proposal writing workshops (one hosted at Humboldt State, of course) for CSU faculty and administrators.

      Today I searched how many entry-level job openings there are in California for stem cell scientists (~40, depending on how you count; the search link is maintained on our Biocompass website).  Thanks to President Richmond’s advocacy and support, I know hundreds of CSU graduates are eligible for those jobs after working as stem cell research interns and we’re not even a decade into the Bridges training program.

      Based on data we collected earlier this year, we know 44% of the Bridges graduates find jobs at universities and companies. The remainder enroll in doctoral research programs and other professional degree programs. The majority of CSU San Marcos (80%) and San Jose State University (60%) Bridges graduates are employed at companies, including Pfizer, Genentech, Millipore Corporation, Stemgent and Escape Therapeutics. These two particular CSU programs offer regulatory affairs, project management and clinical trials management as part of their curriculum. Their graduates often find jobs before completion of their degree programs – reflecting the market demand for stem cell researchers with biomedical product development knowledge and interest. We also have longitudinal data showing that the first class of Bridges graduates are moving on from their post-graduation jobs – often academic laboratory technician positions – to graduate school or more lucrative research and product development positions in company settings. This is the flow we hoped to develop. The ideas, skills and lessons learned by these graduates help build individual careers, but also provide a key element in the development of regenerative medicine science and industry here in California.

      For these reasons, I think President Richmond is deserving of an award that recognizes “extraordinary contributions to the…field of biotechnology.”  His impact has certainly been extraordinary – in less than a decade! – if using CSUPERB and the Bridges program as a lens.  CSUPERB and I thank him from the bottom of our hearts.  I’m also hoping his example can inspire strategic leaders and advocates going forward!




        Biotechnology Business Jargon

        Baxter's Cartoon of the Feb. 2014 Life Science Company Lifecycle for SDSU BTSA

        Baxter’s Cartoon of the Feb. 2014 Life Science Company Lifecycle for SDSU BTSA

        A group of highly-motivated San Diego State University students organized the Biomedical Technology Students Association (BTSA) a couple of years ago. Last month Jennifer Fouquier and Lauren Keeler – this year’s leadership team – invited me to give a talk to the BTSA.  Jennifer wrote, “…perhaps you have a presentation about some of the current trends or hot areas of biotech…”

        In my usual distracted way, I said sure…and about a week before the talk I started fretting because I really didn’t have a talk “in the can.”  The last time I gave a talk like that was probably five years ago.  I think we can all agree things in biotechnology have changed a lot since 2009.

        I did my best to array some 30 minutes of thoughts – expecting about 10 students to show up (I neglected to check out their webpage beforehand – a fatal speaker mistake for certain).  The BTSA turned out in force (about 75?) and was a wonderfully discipline-diverse crowd….but light on business students.  After a spirited exchange on what the group thought “hot areas in biotech” might be, I began talking about current biotech business trends. As I looked around the audience, I realized every third word out of my mouth was greek to them. (Second fatal speaker mistake: using jargon).  Jennifer and Lauren encouraged me to dive in because most people in the room were getting ready to look for jobs in biotech and they figured they needed to start learning the jargon.

        I wish it weren’t so – but biotech on the business side has just as much jargon as an immunology talk (this is a typical article I read on a daily basis).  It’s no secret that I used to work in biotech companies, my partner at home is a founder of a biotech NewCo, and I serve on biotechnology industry boards – so I tend to fall into biotech business patois pretty easily.

        In apology to the BTSA I spent some time cartooning the life science company lifecycle (figure above, click to make larger – or download pdf here) and emailed it to them last week. I thought I’d share it here as well. The multiple disclaimers include: 1) the cartoon is best representative of biopharmaceutical product development and 2) this is a snapshot in time; wait 3 months and the cycle will be different.

        One of my charges at CSUPERB has always been to “reduce the gap” between the university and the life science industry.  Each year the CSUPERB-I2P Early-stage Biotechnology Commercialization Challenge reminds me how great that gap is. As I wrote in a grant proposal last summer, “…many academic researchers remain ‘blind’ to the intricacies of and behaviors needed for biological sciences technology commercialization.”  I’ve said it many times before: not all academic researchers need to reach across that gap.  But those who want to partner or work with companies do need to open their eyes and mind the gap. It’s readily apparent to industry experts when academic researchers don’t know what they don’t know about technology commercialization.*

        It is important for job applicants and potential faculty collaborators to understand the stage at which a potential employer or partner is in the company “lifecycle.”  Incentives, job descriptions and salaries vary along the lifecycle – applicants need to not only understand, but “buy-in” to where the company is. You won’t interview well if you want to carry out independent research projects at a start-up company (some big companies might let you do so).  You might want to save 9 months of cash if you’re working for a start-up company; very few make it to the BigCo stage without facing mergers, acquisitions, or setbacks (= downsizing or lay-offs) along the way.  That’s a fact of life in this industry.  That’s also why many of us have chosen to work for start-up companies in San Diego or San Francisco; if our little ship goes down – we trust we can find another job at another company without a major relocation (= move).  Some people like working at the start-up stage but lose interest as the organization enters the NewCo or Privately-held EmergingCo stage. Others think all this is a crazy way to navigate a career.  Many of us think the travails of moving a scientific discovery toward a therapeutic product is the most exciting and important teamwork we’ve ever done.


        *Steve Blank and his colleagues have done a great job this fall developing a common language around biotech commercialization – check out his new biotech investment readiness scales.

          Student Researchers & Entrepreneurs Here, There and Everywhere!

          Last week I had the opportunity to speak at this year’s first informational hearing convened by the Assembly’s Select Committee on Biotechnology.  They wanted to hear about how California can “improve STEM education in K-12 and the universities to ensure a sufficient pipeline of individuals qualified to work in research areas.”  As you might guess I had a hard time keeping my testimony to 7 minutes! I did manage to recommend increased investment in “high-impact” practices (HIPs), including undergraduate research.  I really do need a T-shirt or a flag that says, “Hands-on, project-based, research team experience is the number one life science industry workforce need!”

          Interestingly I attended meetings discussing HIPs yesterday and today.  I wish some of the Assembly members could have participated and learned from them – there are so many evidence-based and intentional efforts to continually improve undergraduate STEM education going on across the CSU and the nation.

          Ken O’Donnell hosted the first one; Ken works in the CSU Office of the Chancellor, thinks a lot about student engagement and success, and is one of my favorite grant proposal writing partners.  The group Ken hosted is working to figure out how to track how often CSU students encounter HIPs as they progress toward a degree.  Looking only from a research, project-based perspective (there are six or so other HIPs in addition), we’re really good at tracking classes that students take – but do those classes incorporate open-ended research projects, like the Cal Poly bacterial fingerprinting project? These courses don’t send students online to watch videos or to a “cook-book” lab. Instead they embrace the campus as a “living lab” and use technology to collect and analyze real-world data (now that’s my idea of technology-enabled science education and you don’t need lab space for 1000 students!).  Do our students participate in experiential learning experiences like service-learning, community-partnered projects, or the CSUPERB-I2P Biotech Commercialization Challenge? Do students find internships at biotechnology companies off-campus? These experiences allow students to practice their technical knowledge even though they may not be categorized by some as “gold-standard” independent research (sigh). The CSU – along with groups like the Business Higher Education Forum - would like to know more about how HIPs strand through a student’s experience, how they impact progress toward a degree, and their influence on a student’s post-graduate trajectory.

          The second meeting was a webinar given by Ellen Goldey (Wofford College) as part of our work on the W.M. Keck Foundation-funded STEM Education Effectiveness Framework Project.  Working on the PULSE project, Dr. Goldey and others have thought very carefully about what effective undergraduate STEM education might look like. Needless to say, it intentionally encompasses active learning and HIPs – embedded and extra-curricular; it doesn’t involve a seamless gauntlet of lectures or powerpoint slide-decks online.

          FlippedClassroom2According to Goldey and her colleagues (and a deep stack of educational research), effective STEM education looks instead a lot like the Flipped Classroom 101 workshop we hosted at the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium.  The folks in this photo? They are CSU faculty – not students. They loved that workshop – many of them said it was the one thing they’d remember about the symposium. Why? Well – they are scientists and engineers and they really like DOING open-ended, hands-on science and solving problems. Just as we’d expect the students who would like to become scientists and engineers might feel. We all recognize that these HIPs are the way students learn how to become scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and – yes – the future workforce.

          I still worry that testimonies, T-shirts and databases don’t have the impact on policy makers that meeting student researchers and entrepreneurs might. Student voices and stories provide compelling evidence that the “kids will be alright,” given access to high-quality college learning opportunities.  Maybe pictures are the next best thing. We’ve posted photos from the 2014 CSU Biotechnology symposium here, here and here. I don’t think you’ll see a disengaged or under-achieving student in any of them.


            Student Learning at the 26th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium

            Wolkowicz lab members from San Diego State University at the 26th annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. The group produced two research award finalist; Zachary Stolp (second from left, back row) was an Eden Award Finalist; Alexander Angel (far left, back row) was a Nagel Award Finalist.

            Wolkowicz lab group members from San Diego State University at the 26th annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium. The group produced two research award finalists: Zachary Stolp (second from left, back row) was an Eden Graduate Student Research Award Finalist; Alexander Angel (far right, back row) was a Nagel Undergraduate Research Award Finalist.

            Last year I posted students’ responses to the question, “what will you remember about this year’s symposium?”  I wanted to share students’ insights and reflections on the experience; the majority are attending their first professional meeting when they attend the symposium.  It was one of the most popular blog posts last year, racking up hundreds of unique hits throughout the year.  So here is this year’s version!

            We’ve been collecting post-symposium surveys for six years’ now.   At this point we have six years of data to compare (here is the high level overview).  Bottom line, over 95% of the students in attendance were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the 26th annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium.  96% of the students responding this year would recommend the symposium to other students in the future. The downward trend (from a high of 99.4% in 2011) in this number mirrors the acceptance rate of poster abstracts.  We don’t know whether this association is causal or even correlated, of course.

            Specifically, ten students had negative things to say in the open text responses (of the 175 responding) to the question, “What will you remember?” Four thought the food* was terrible, two didn’t attend the sessions (because they were doing something else more important), two thought there was too little student-presented science, and one didn’t agree with an award selection.  We’re watching out to make sure the symposium doesn’t become too competition-centric; we think – above all – it should be a learning experience for everyone who attends the event.

            Who are the 392 students that attended the 26th symposium?  Over 95% of them presented biotechnology-related research posters; 247 were undergraduates. Research experiences are “high-impact practices,” meaning they correlate with higher levels of degree completion, engage all kinds of students, and lead to deeper learning. Biotechnology employers and graduate school admissions committees greatly value graduates like the students attending the symposium because they have open-ended, problem-based teamwork experience on top of technical knowledge.  Employers tell us they look for graduates who can see the bigger picture and can be creative at the interdisciplinary edges. Scientific conferences offer students not only the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned, but also a rich environment for even more learning about the bigger picture and those interdisciplinary edges.  I advertise the symposium as an opportunity to “get out of the lab.” Why?  I hope students gain perspective, learn from a diverse set of peers, and explore new avenues – whether they learn something to take back to lab or as part of their own career planning.

            So – what did students learn about for the first time at this year’s symposium? This year we asked them directly** as part of the post-symposium survey.  I classified their 175 answers into bins (click on the figure below to make it larger).


            Find below representative, anonymous student responses sorted into those same bins. Students’ voices are so rarely or effectively represented in symposium reports.*** I’m glad to share them here on the blog.

            Learned A Lot In General

            • As expected, very informative meeting and a play ground for all researchers.
            • Everything was new.
            • I learned many different research projects that went on and many different techniques that were used in their research.

            Nothing / Can’t Think of Anything

            • Nothing new.
            • I learned very little because I didn’t attend many of the seminars.
            • I can’t think of anything at the moment sorry.

            Graduate School Information

            • I learned about the financial differences between a Master’s program and a Ph.D. program. it was extremely informative and the people providing the information gave me knowledge that I otherwise would not have known.
            • In order to apply for PhD programs and write personal statements I have to know about the different labs I am interested in and the program I am applying for.

            Career Information

            • Some career opportunities, that I haven’t thought of or thought they are not related to my major.
            • The networking tables taught me that the volatility of the biotech world means that if I stick with this field I’ll constantly be scavenging for a job.
            • I learned of the requirements necessary…For example, medicinal chemistry requires a strong foundation in organic chemistry, and life science project managers need lab experience and strong backgrounds in biology. Moreover, these two fields demonstrated the applications of Ph.Ds outside academia. I didn’t really think that an advanced science degree was sought after in the industry because of the high price tag associated with an individual with that background.
            • I was surprised to learn about all of the possibilities and career opportunities that are available in the field of biotechnology.
            • I learned that sales/marketing were perfectly acceptable positions and applicable to my field.
            • I have heard of LinkedIn, however, I never knew how popular and beneficial it would be to have [an account].
            • That you can have several different positions in a biotech field throughout a career, its doesn’t always have to be bench work!

            New Science, Engineering or Technology

            • I found the presentation on lipid-based delivery of the fungicide the best new thing that I learned while at the symposium.
            • I think the event I learned the most about was in the bioengineering networking session. There was a lot of information presented in the posters that I had not previously encountered.
            • I read a poster that talked about C. elegans having a sleep cycle with various stresses, and that the pathway is highly conserved (humans have this pathway, for one).  Interesting!
            • I heard about the attempt to make synthetic heparin and that was fantastic.
            • The most amazing thing I learned about is a the new technology being developed in CSUF. It is a less invasive tool that will be used to heal surgery sites…The tool will have wifi to guide it to the region where it needs to close a surgery site.
            • Psychological research, which is something that I’m not exposed to in the biomedical field.
            • The many uses of liposomes, heparin, the manipulation and tools to manipulate viruses to perform certain assays! I loved the atmosphere, the students and professors that encouraged questions at poster sessions, presentations, and at lunch! I really enjoyed having lunch with [a] professor…he was very very enthusiastic about his work with viruses (made me seriously want to pursue a PhD in virology)!
            • I learned that viruses are making the bacteria more resistant and that some of these viruses are found in the middle of the ocean where few humans live, but they still have the genes to make bacteria more resistant.
            • I learned about different techniques used to measure neurotransmitter levels.  I also learned about the use of cockroaches in split brain spatial learning experiments.


            • I had not attended a Thesis writing workshop before so I got to learn a bunch of new information pertaining to thesis writing, which I found very helpful.
            • New way of writing and the first thing in any plan is to break it down in the smaller pieces.

            Giving Presentations

            • It was my first time representing my research in a poster. It helped me believe in myself.
            • How to present better.

            The I2P Challenge

            • I learned about the I2P projects and how you can be innovative and market your own ideas.
            • The I2P presentations really showed the work that must be tackled after the science is done.  I would love to participate in such a competition in the future.
            • I learned a lot more about entrepreneurship and loved it!  I2P session was VERY interesting.  I liked it a lot.
            • I learned that San Diego State did not have an I2P team and that needs to be fixed.
            • I2P really exposed me to the business side of biology.
            • It was interesting to see the inventions the students came up with during the I2P biotechnology competition on Saturday.

            The Bigger Picture & New Perspective

            • i never really imagined us all as one big working together family.  using people in different fields of study for one common goal can be magical.
            • I learned about just how interdisciplinary biotechnology projects can be, spanning from physical theory to mechanical engineering all the way to marketing and finance.
            • I learned about the importance of maintaining a supply chain during a crisis or no crisis.
            • The connection between sciences is stronger than I thought.
            • I learned how to think outside of engineering and the importance of considering other disciplines as well.
            • Going to the public health talk and the biotechnology commercialization presentations made consider the business side of biotechnology; something I hadn’t considered before

            About CSU, Other Campuses and Programs

            • I was left with the appreciation of what the CSU system does for their students
            • There are a lot of CSU campuses
            • I learned that there are many dedicated students and faculty members at state campus that are highly passionate about research and encourage students to explore this field as a possible career.

            How Meetings Work

            • This is my first time to attend symposium. I learned the procedure of the symposium and had the opportunity to communicate with other students and know their research and their achievement so far.
            • That you can apply for certain awards and hopefully become a finalist and present in front of everybody


            *Yes, we know symposium breakfasts leave a lot to be desired – but we still haven’t found a sponsor interested in subsidizing the cost of yogurt!

            **The exact survey question was: “We design the symposium program with the idea it should ‘…expose the attendees to ways of thinking and techniques that are different from the ones they already know.’ (- Bruce Alberts) What did you learn about or hear about for the first time at the symposium in Santa Clara?”

            ***We issue the annual symposium report in late March after we close the financial books.

            (blog entry written by Susan Baxter, accidentally editing as admin!)

              “I do have an industry partner!”

              Last week I gave a 15-minute talk on university-industry partnering.

              Just stop and think about that assignment!  Way back in October when I said “yes” to Jay Turkkan, SFSU’s Associate VP of Research, she was offering me 30 minutes.  Even that was a tall order for such a vast topic!

              While I’ve thought a lot over my career about what makes a partnership work, I’ve not done scholarly research on the topic like some of my fellow panelists.  But many of us recognize some basic truths, whether we’ve worked on small teams or large, complex partnered research projects.  Interestingly all four panelists talked about “shared goals,” “shared vision,” and/or “shared values” in the context of collaborations. Here at CSUPERB we use the “shared goals” terminology in our Entrepreneurial Joint Venture program RFP.*

              Oftentimes press releases touting university-industry partnerships fail to articulate shared goals and you can read misalignment from the announcement alone.  Strategic industry partnerships are much more than a collection of logos to feature on a website or members on a 40-person advisory board.  Over time partnerships will do work together, they will advance ideas together, they will build infrastructure together. Together they might make things better and more efficient or they might discover technical potholes or flaws in their approaches.  If it’s not about work, it’s all public relations (PR) in my opinion.

              The UIDP has a much more politic and informed way of describing university-industry partnerships. They describe a continuum. “Phase One” partnering work might be cheap or free to do or it might be focused merely on connecting two people on the phone.  As relationships develop, the work can become more complex and strategic.  If you think about it, this continuum idea really does reflect how collaborations and friendships develop – you meet at a conference networking reception and you find yourself writing grant proposals six months later!

              My main point to the SFSU audience was that partnered work needs to meaningfully address shared goals. This (Baxter) rule applies to both PI-to-PI and organization-to-organization partnerships. These are not fee-for-service agreements, they are not a loan of instrument time, they are not a short-term lease on some bench-space, they are not an annual meeting.  Further – they can’t be forced.  No matter how much money is on the table or alumni excitement is behind a proposal, if there isn’t an equally eager, engaged partner on the other side of the table no meaningful work will result.**

              I have some nifty partnership continuum “data” from the 26th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium.  Because of a particularly pernicious software bug, we had to “hand-crank” poster author lists that included external partners.  So here in the program office we knew very well that 20% of the research posters presented at the symposium involved external partners from 57 different organizations.

              We – and others – have noted that fewer than 5-10% of life sciences faculty get involved in commercialization activities.  It turns out about 5% of the posters presented at the symposium in January listed company-based poster authors.  I do not think all faculty and students have to “buy in” to life science commercialization partnerships and competitions, like the I2P Challenge. But there is a self-selected minority who have personal interests, goals and aspirations that lead them to develop commercial research and development partnerships. Should that percentage be higher?  I’ll leave that to the economists – but I do have an anecdote to share on that point.

              After I gave my presentation,*** a faculty member approached me and said she didn’t think a talk on university-industry partnerships pertained to her world.  But after listening to the discussion, she exclaimed “I do have an industry partner!”  From what I gleaned (I may not have all the details exactly right), she has a long-term research collaboration supported by an uninterrupted string of federal grants. At the start of the collaboration, her co-PI was working at another university.  But as the work progressed, that collaborator left academia to start a medical device company. The pair continues to consult with each other and write joint grant proposals and manuscripts. The SFSU professor viewed this relationship as a personal collaboration – not a corporate one  - and would not have described it as an industrial or commercialization partnership. I think this one-on-one, collegial, “organic” knowledge transfer is at the root of all successful partnerships. Whether there should be a CRADA**** in place is a blog post for another day.

              Many of us in public higher education might argue the “porousness” of ideas is a public good we offer our students, our communities and our nation.  Given the long years it takes to develop a biotechnology idea into a product, collegial relationships are surely at the root of new life science technology development, start-up companies and regional economic development. How we forge those partnerships – via personal networks grown over years or via a formal contract between organizations – probably doesn’t matter all that much as long as we articulate shared goals up front.



              *2014 Entrepreneurial Joint Venture Grant proposals are due Monday, Feb. 3rd, at 5pm pacific time!

              ** Not even a grant proposal (I’ve blogged before about Dr. Chin’s memorable comments about the difficulty in forming multi-disciplinary grant-writing teams at Harvard).  Dr. Turkkan and I both have stories of wonderful friendships resulting from failed partnerships, however.

              ***An expanded version of my SFSU presentation is here.  I’ve gussied it up a little to stand on its own without my stories and corny “thumbs-up” hand gestures.  You’ll find a series of citations and resources from which to learn about university-industry partnerships and open innovation. If you dig you may even learn something about crowdsourcing.

              ****CRADA is an acronym for Cooperative Research And Development Agreement.