By Grace Lien, AEL Intern
For Director of the Division of Biomedical Sciences and AEL Miller Faculty Larry Schook, entrepreneurship is a funny word.
“I’m old enough that entrepreneur wasn’t even a word,” Schook jokes about the terminology, which he rarely heard in the early days of his career.
Calling himself a serial entrepreneur, Schook said he has always had the inclination of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“I’ll say entrepreneurship starts with problem-solving,” Schook said.
Schook, whose research looks at pig genome sequencing, said part of the problem-solving process as an entrepreneur is realizing the value of teamwork.
“As the questions I’m trying to answer in my projects get bigger and bigger, there’s no way I can answer them myself,” Schook said. “So that gets to the other part of being an entrepreneur – if you want to go solo, the magnitude of the question you can answer becomes limited.”
A combination of his entrepreneurial experiences in research and being involved biotech start-ups led him to develop the course ANSC 392, Creating Value in Life Sciences.
“The ultimate goal is to expose life science students with the opportunity to develop ideas and concepts they have - whether it was an idea to license it, do a start-up, or partner with somebody, so we’re really looking at all the options,” Schook said.
Through the course, students learn to conceptualize the value of a product.
“The first realization that I had as an entrepreneurial start-up was not the idea of creating value, but almost extracting value – ‘how do I sell stuff?,’” Schook said. “Because the more things become technological, the more innovative they are.”
Creating Value in Life Sciences shies away from traditional classroom settings and instead, emphasis is placed on experiential learning.
One of the major projects students participate in over the course of the semester is a virtual simulation game, where the goal is to create the most profitable start-up for selling computers.
“It’s like building your own company - hiring, advertising, sales, marketing, so it goes through all those phases (of a start-up),” Schook said.
The most important lesson students take away from such business case studies, Schook said, is realizing there is no right answer to starting a business.
“It sounds so simple, but as a scientist you’re trained to think that there is a right answer,” Schook said.
Through recognizing that there are different ways to run a business, Schook said students start to think differently and engage in more discussions.
“They begin anticipating what approaches their competitors are going to be taking,” Schook said.
Aside from developing an entrepreneurial mindset, students also learn the business components behind establishing a venture by writing a one page business plan.
Whether it’s in the science or business fields, Schook said the key to attracting investors is to persuade the potential investor that they can benefit from the research.
“What you really need to do is trap them into being your advocate by saying, ‘this is really important stuff – because I can use this information, this technology’” Schook said.
Furthermore, students gain the business concepts that are crucial when working with venture capitalists when starting a company. Schook said even for students who may not pursue a path in entrepreneurship, the business foundation learned can be applied to any business setting.
With more opportunities in the private sector than in the academics, Schook said their future may just depend on it.
“Entrepreneurship empowers a person to become self-sustainable,” Schook said. “The idea that ‘it’s you,’ there’s a certain empowerment that you know, there are ten others in the company and ‘it’s us,’ - the energy dependency is a really enriching experience.”
Entrepreneurial courses taught by Professor Schook
ANSC 392, Creating Value in Life Sciences Frames the components of a life scientist as an active entrepreneur and to assist students in realizing their dreams. "Experiential earning" will be used to actively involve students in creating, presenting and analyzing the case studies and providing leadership in addressing the course goal. Guest lecturers who have used their own life science training to pursue many career activities will contribute to the discussions. Computer simulations will provide the basic business components for creating a new science-based venture. Organized into sections to provide: (1) a primer on the principles of entrepreneurship in the life sciences; (2) developing a path forward in the life sciences; and (3) developing the personal skills to support the realization of one's person and professional interests in life sciences.
Visit Course Catalog website for course availability
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About Professor Schook
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