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Academics Student Features

Students present Innovation Scholars experiential research project findings

Four students representing the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University recently concluded their work in the Innovation Scholars Program. The team presented their project recommendations to Epiblock, an early-stage medical company affiliated with Medical Alley. Epiblock makes the first orally-inserted medical device to help stop nosebleeds.

CSB senior global business leadership major and global health minor Isabelle Mrozek (Rice, Minnesota), SJU senior global business leadership major and communication/marketing minor Joshua Oathoudt (Faribault, Minnesota), SJU senior biochemistry/pre-med major Jacob Palmer (St. Anthony, Minnesota) and SJU senior biochemistry major Dylan Paulson (Baxter, Minnesota) represented the team on Feb. 27 in Minneapolis.

Working at the intersection of science, healthcare and entrepreneurship, the multidisciplinary team of four CSB and SJU students spent four months tackling a challenging tech transfer project focused on a novel medical device that restricts blood flow to the nasal cavity and surrounding area, thereby offering a new approach to stopping nosebleeds.

The team was led by Augsburg University MBA student Megan Fine. They completed extensive research, developed recommendations, prepared their final report and polished their final presentation for Epiblock company leaders.  

Innovation Scholars is a nationally recognized experiential learning program that engages teams of liberal arts students in the complex processes of translational medicine, taking an idea “from the bench to the bedside.” Project partners include Mayo Clinic and early-stage Medical Alley companies. 

Support and praise from advisors

CSB and SJU faculty members Clark Cotton, associate professor of biology; Lauri Miller, visiting assistant professor of accounting and finance; and Jennifer Schaefer, professor of biology and department chair, served as project mentors. Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, director of undergraduate research and scholars at CSB and SJU, provided administrative support.

“I think it’s a fantastic experience for our students that really showcases the utility of a liberal arts education,” Cotton said. “The program brings together students from diverse academic backgrounds (biochemistry and global business) to tackle a problem, like how to bring a new medical device to market. This entails true collaboration on the part of students to develop a successful plan that draws on multiple ways of thinking, including not only scientific and business aspects, but also ethical and societal considerations. The final presentation not only hones students’ communication skills, both writing and speaking, but also really opens students’ eyes to myriad career options in biotechnology and health care.”

“Each year, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholars is thrilled to be able to support an Innovation Scholars team because this experience matches our mission of providing a high-impact research experience that not only helps them expand their knowledge and skillset, but also allows them to see how their research connects to other experiences in their lives and the lives of others,” Gunnerson Gutsch said. “This research process captures the essence of liberal arts and sciences institutions like CSB and SJU, it demonstrates the power of interdisciplinary thinking and application that sets our students up for future career success.”

Four students representing the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University recently concluded their work in the Innovation Scholars Program. The team was led by Augsburg University MBA student Megan Fine. 

Student reflections on Innovation Scholars Program

Isabelle Mrozek: “This has given me the confidence to pursue my goal of working in healthcare. I have learned about all the different moving parts that go into a startup company as well as just more of how to go about medical technology and the steps it takes to implement it into a system. I feel also as a business student expanding on my current education and applying what I learned in class but more interestingly learning about biology and how that plays a role by getting the perspectives of others that have studied something completely different than me.”

Joshua Oathoudt: “Working on this project has been a valuable learning experience. It has taught me to embrace the perspective of a business owner, emphasizing the importance of thorough research and competitive analysis to achieve the strongest outcomes for both me and our team. Understanding the goals of decision-making from a leader’s standpoint has strengthened my approach to problem-solving and strategy development. To continue, collaborating with a diverse team with different educational backgrounds has influenced a new approach to driving success.”

Jacob Palmer: “This program made me consider a career in a medical device company. I plan on applying to medical school this spring, but it made me consider how I could possibly utilize my medical knowledge to aid in the creation of new medical devices. I learned an incredible amount of information from my time working on this project. Specifically, I learned about patent laws, medical device classifications, how to create a clinical trial, how to construct marketing strategies and finally I learned how to work collaboratively within a cross disciplinary team.”

Dylan Paulson: “I am interested in medical device sales and to have the opportunity to help bring one to the market has given me the experience to excel in my intended career. Working in a team is the key to success. I couldn’t have done it without them.”