Students present experiential research project findings at Mayo Clinic

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April 4, 2016

By Michael Hemmesch '97

Left to right: Sam Harper, Daley Rupar, Lauren Wise, Niesha Ford, and Nicholas Fahey.

Student reflections

Left to right: Rima D'Costa, Kaci McCoy, Vincent Lai, Hannah Nelson, and Will Canfield.

Student reflections

Eight students at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University recently concluded their participation in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program (MISP)

The interdisciplinary program provides research opportunities to teams of undergraduates from Minnesota private colleges, under the guidance of select master's-level business students. Students in this collaborative program work at the interface of science, medicine and business. Through teamwork, they learn the practical aspects involved in bringing an idea to the marketplace. 

The CSB and SJU students in teams of four worked on two projects on campus throughout the 2015-16 academic year, and presented their findings in March at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and in a written report. On average, each student put in roughly 150 hours of work during the program.

CSB junior biochemistry major Niesha Ford (Menlo Park, California), SJU senior global business leadership major Sam Harper (Hudson, Wisconsin), CSB senior global business leadership major Daley Rupar (Merrill, Wisconsin) and CSB senior nutrition major Lauren Wise (Prior Lake, Minnesota) presented project research on "Market Analysis: Engineering Product Development Inside an Academic Research Hospital."

SJU senior global business leadership major Will Canfield (Pinehurst, North Carolina), SJU senior biochemistry major Vincent Lai (Hong Kong), CSB senior biology major Kaci McCoy (Alexandria, Minnesota) and CSB senior communication major Hannah Nelson (Rochester, Minnesota) presented project research on "Therapeutic Modulation of the MoCo Biosynthesis Pathway to Protect Neurons and Axons from Inflammation-Induced Injury."

Support and praise from advisers

They were supported by Nicholas Fahey and Rima D'Costa, current MBA students at the University of St. Thomas. CSB and SJU faculty members Lisa Lindgren, associate professor of global business leadership; Jennifer Schaefer, assistant professor of biology; and Greg Taft, visiting associate professor of physics, served as project advisers. Laura Hammond, assistant director of experiential learning and community engagement at CSB and SJU, provided administrative support.

"It is so gratifying to see the interdisciplinary team wrestle with the uncertainties and ambiguities of these real-world projects," Lindgren said. "Each team eventually mastered the material and made their recommendations to a large audience at Mayo Clinic. Our teams did very well, and were able to answer some tough questions from the audience."

"This year's teams put together thorough analyses of sometimes complex and difficult projects," Schaefer said. "The students were especially effective at working together across disciplinary lines to construct an integrated understanding of the scientific and business sides of the project so that they could analyze patent claims and market potential."

Now in its 10th year, MISP aims to assist Mayo Clinic in the assessment of new product submissions by Mayo researchers, provide research opportunities for undergraduate science and business students and provide leadership development and research opportunities for MBA students. 

"Our students made real contributions to current programs at Mayo Clinic," Taft said. "The program managers at Mayo were happy to get outside perspectives on their programs. I am proud of our students' hard work and articulate presentations. It was great to see the progress made by the students over the past four months. The specific project for which I was an adviser was more focused on business, so it required our science students to step outside of their comfort zone and learn new terminology and principles. Several people involved with the program said they were happy to say that they couldn't distinguish between the students majoring in business from those majoring in the sciences."

The program was designed in 2006 by John Meslow, a retired Medtronic executive. Together with Mayo Clinic Ventures and the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC), Meslow created an innovative model for student experiential learning.

Staff members from Mayo Clinic and program administrators were impressed by the quality of the students' work, saying they honed their research skills, completed an intellectual deep dive and are experts in teamwork.

In total, there were 12 presentations over three days by MPCC member institutions.