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Students present experiential research project findings at Mayo Clinic

Interdisciplinary program provides research opportunities to undergraduates

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March 23, 2015

Three seniors and one junior 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 worked on a project on campus throughout the 2014-15 academic year, and presented their findings in March at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and in a written report. On average, each student put in roughly 150 hours of work during the program.

CSB senior communication major Laura Backus (North Branch, Minn.), CSB senior global business leadership major Andrea Betts (Fairmont, Minn.), SJU senior biology major Eric Boysen (St. Joseph, Minn.) and SJU junior integrative health science major James Pathoulas (Mantorville, Minn.) presented research on a project titled "Treatment of Esophageal Varices."

The students worked on the project with Mayo Clinic Ventures, a mission-driven, global leader in research and technology commercialization, known for its rigorous approach to bringing inventions to the market.

Support and praise from advisers

They were supported by Tim Koerner, current MBA student at Augsburg College. Lisa Lindgren, associate professor of global business leadership; and Jennifer Schaefer, assistant professor of biology, served as project advisers. Laura Hammond, assistant director of experiential learning and community engagement, provided administrative support.

"The MISP program is very rewarding for me, as an adviser, because I get to watch as our student team develops skills that allows them to produce an outstanding product," Schaefer said. "This year, I particularly enjoyed observing the students interactions across disciplinary boundaries. The students clearly enjoyed working with each other and learning about other fields of expertise. This year's team really played to each other's strengths and were exceptionally supportive of each other."

"The selected team from CSB/SJU brought tremendous focus, energy, resilience and curiosity to an open-ended, daunting project, and their efforts speak incredibly well of them as individuals, and of the university, for the kinds of students and people it produces," Koerner said. "Each of these students will go on to great things, that much is clear, and it was an honor to work with them on behalf of the prestigious Mayo Clinic."

Now in its ninth 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. 

"This program is a door-opener for applications to graduate school or employment — just about every Mayo Scholars past participant has indicated that they are asked about their participation in the program, and they have been able to really impress their interviewers with the experience," Lindgren said.

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.

In total, there were 11 presentations over two days by MPCC member institutions.

Team members from left: James Pathoulas, Andrea Betts, Eric Boysen and Laura Backus.

Student reflections

Eric Boysen: "The MISP project has strengthened my passion for medicine, but has also shed new light onto the how the business world and the world of medicine meet, and what better place to see this at than the Mayo Clinic. By working on this project I have learned to go forward even when there are still variables that are unknown. I also learned firsthand how to learn from others and how to teach others that have specialties that differ from mine." 

Andrea Betts: "MISP has been a catalyst to my interest in health care; this experience was not a simulation or a case study, but rather the opportunity to take part in a real product's journey through commercialization. I enjoyed working on an integrated team; this was a great opportunity to meet students from other disciplines and learn from each other throughout the entire process. Communication, in addition to research, problem solving and creative thinking skills have been the forefront of those needed to express our recommendation to Mayo Ventures. Above all, welcoming the ambiguity that comes with a cutting-edge innovation was among the most important realization of all." 

James Pathoulas: "I was unaware of both the extensive medical technology industry in Minnesota and the process a product must undergo before clinical integration. Working collaboratively with a diverse team on a complex long-term project was challenging and rewarding. I learned, mostly through trial and error, how to effectively communicate across disciplines — an important skill needed to excel in a workforce that encourages integration and team-oriented problem solving."

Laura Backus: "This project taught me how to tackle a project that at first had more unknowns than knowns. Because of the innovative nature of our product, we had to use our research and analytical skills to make sound arguments and recommendations for Mayo. We had to decide as a group what was important to focus on because there were so many directions we could have taken with this type of project. MISP is unique in that it gives you the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team. We all brought our own strengths to the project, and we supported and learned from each other. Best of all, we became more than a team — we became friends."