Institute for Science Entrepreneurship Speaker Series Grows

Emily Chudzik

The Millikin University Institute for Science Entrepreneurship has been providing students with a hands-on networking opportunity since its creation by Dr. David Horn, Dr. George Bennett, and Dr. Casey Watson in Dec. 2012. The mission of ISE is to connect Millikin University, its students, and the greater community to opportunities for personal, professional, and organizational advancement through science entrepreneurship.

Perhaps the best example of this mission is the speaker series, this year sponsored by Busey. Science entrepreneurship students are invited to a dinner before the presentation to talk with people from local businesses and members of the community. ISE has eight speakers this academic year, which provides students with great opportunities.

“Decatur is home to many companies that have a national or international reach,” Dr. David Horn, Professor of Biology and one of ISE’s founding members, said. “The Science Entrepreneurship Speaker Series provides Millikin students with the opportunity to meet with representatives of these companies, and in some cases, has led to internships and other opportunities for the students.”

However, these events are not just for students interested in science entrepreneurship. Currently, ISE is working on reaching out to business students, as the speaker series can be quite beneficial to them, as well.

Mikayla Shaw, a senior communication major with an emphasis in public relations, has been working as an undergraduate fellow for ISE as part of her JMS project. She is in charge of event planning for each dinner and is creating a business plan to expand the series. Her biggest task right now is to generate more publicity for the events.

The speaker series provides an opportunity to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the sciences through networking and learning more about the speaker’s entrepreneurial endeavors. “The speaker series is, at its core, for networking purposes. I assist in identifying and bringing in representatives from local companies and organizations. [The dinners and presentations are] planned about a year in advance, and we have two more this year,” Shaw said.

While the dinner is invite only, the presentation portion is open to all students. Shaw said, “There is some free time in between dinner and the speaker, so students still have the opportunity to network if they weren’t invited to the dinner. The presentations also give students the opportunity to learn more about science and business by hearing about the speaker’s organization and its initiatives.”

Shaw hopes to generate enough interest that eventually students from other universities will want to attend the events. Her ultimate goal is to pull students and professors from the University of Illinois and Illinois State University.

The most recent speakers were Pete and Prescott Paulin of 300 Below Inc., a founder of the commercial cryogenic processing industry. The company has been featured in Popular Science Magazine, and Discovery Channel ran a segment about them. The segment received their all-time highest interest, and they asked to run the segment seven more times after it originally aired.

It was the company’s 25th anniversary this year on Feb. 26. Since their creation, they have: worked with clients in Russia, China, India, the Czech Republic, and Thailand; processed over 730,000 knives, 2,300,000 hair clippers, and 250,000 softball bats; and even expanded into outer space.

For his advice to students interested in entrepreneurship, Pete said, “Take risks and be innovative, and try and experiment with things that have never been done before.”

Austin Evans, Kyle Leadlove, and James Seyfert, senior physics majors, all currently have an ISE fellowship and conduct research for 300 Below. Right now, they are expanding on previous research they have done with the company. All three plan to go to graduate school for engineering.

There are two more speakers left in the Spring 2016 Science Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. On Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. in LRTUC, Dan Hoodin, the VP of Managed Care, Hospital Sisters Health System, will be giving a presentation about the Affordable Care Act in Illinois. Then, on Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. in LRTUC, Tim Stone, President and CEO of Decatur Memorial Hospital, will close out the year.

All students are encouraged to come to the speaker series, especially students with interests in the health and natural sciences, business, and entrepreneurship. If you have any further questions about ISE or the speaker series, contact Dr. David Horn at [email protected] or Mikayla Shaw at [email protected].