University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, we call these new experts Knowledge Entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of UVA Engineering

Working in the Link Lab for cyber-physical systems, engineering students at the University of Virginia are designing the next generation of intelligent devices for smart buildings and homes.

By Knowledge Entrepreneur, we don’t mean all our STEM students will launch a new startup business [though we hope that some do] but rather that they possess the habits which will allow them to be agents of change, to intentionally shape their research programs and careers in ways that address major challenges.  We share with KEEN [the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network] the vision that engineering students can transform the world by developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is particularly important for students pursuing advanced masters and doctoral degrees.  Generally speaking, undergraduate students in engineering and science are passive consumers who master the material in textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises.  However, when they move up to graduate studies, we need to teach students how to be active producers of knowledge, to have the skills to not only generate new ideas and designs but also to be able to implement these solutions in society.

To become active producers of knowledge, graduate students should acquire five habits of effective entrepreneurs:

First, as Knowledge Entrepreneurs, students must identify a problem out there in the world and frame it as a question that can be investigated using available scientific techniques.  While Thomas Edison is often criticized for tinkering and trying random solutions, he always began work on an invention by defining a specific problem that he could solve. With his electric lighting system in the late 1870s, for instance, Edison decided early on that he wanted an electric lamp which could be substituted for the gas lamps people were already using.  This electric-to-gas analogy led him to experimenting with incandescent lamps and to concentrating on finding the right material for a high-resistance filament.

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It is tempting to apply the old saying, “East is East, West is West, but the twain shall never meet,” to science and entrepreneurship.  In the popular imagination, scientists discover new knowledge while entrepreneurs build companies to launch new products.  Most people assume that scientists are motivated by the high ideal of advancing human progress while entrepreneurs are driven by the base motives of ego and greed.  Like oil and water, science and entrepreneurship, it would seem, don’t mix.

Yet to solve the major problems confronting humanity—disease, hunger, global warming and terrorism—science and entrepreneurship need to mix. The world needs STEM specialists who possess not only a deep understanding of scientific theory and laboratory practice but also the skills needed to move ideas from the laboratory to the wider world.  At the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, we call these new experts Knowledge Entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of UVA Engineering

Working in the Link Lab for cyber-physical systems, engineering students at the University of Virginia are designing the next generation of intelligent devices for smart buildings and homes.

By Knowledge Entrepreneur, we don’t mean all our STEM students will launch a new startup business [though we hope that some do] but rather that they possess the habits which will allow them to be agents of change, to intentionally shape their research programs and careers in ways that address major challenges.  We share with KEEN [the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network] the vision that engineering students can transform the world by developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

An entrepreneurial mindset is particularly important for students pursuing advanced masters and doctoral degrees.  Generally speaking, undergraduate students in engineering and science are passive consumers who master the material in textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises.  However, when they move up to graduate studies, we need to teach students how to be active producers of knowledge, to have the skills to not only generate new ideas and designs but also to be able to implement these solutions in society.

To become active producers of knowledge, graduate students should acquire five habits of effective entrepreneurs:

First, as Knowledge Entrepreneurs, students must identify a problem out there in the world and frame it as a question that can be investigated using available scientific techniques.  While Thomas Edison is often criticized for tinkering and trying random solutions, he always began work on an invention by defining a specific problem that he could solve. With his electric lighting system in the late 1870s, for instance, Edison decided early on that he wanted an electric lamp which could be substituted for the gas lamps people were already using.  This electric-to-gas analogy led him to experimenting with incandescent lamps and to concentrating on finding the right material for a high-resistance filament.

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