SJU Students Participate in Mayo Innovation Scholars Program 2011

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April 4, 2011

By Michael Hemmesch

Four seniors at Saint John's University recently concluded their participation in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program (MISP), an experiential learning program offered through Mayo Clinic's Office of Intellectual Property. 

The interdisciplinary program provides research opportunities to teams of undergraduates from Minnesota private colleges, under the guidance of select graduate students. 

The SJU students worked on their assigned project on campus throughout the 2010-11 academic year, and presented their findings in March at Mayo Clinic and in a written report. 

Management majors Ben Bitterman (Hamel, Minn.) and Sam Steffl (New London, Minn.), and biology majors Dawid Chabowski (Warsaw, Poland) and Jacob Moore (Eden Prairie, Minn.) presented research on cardiovascular wellness devices and programs. 

They were supported by Jeff Snegosky, SJU class of 2006 and a current MBA student at the University of St. Thomas. Barb May, assistant professor of biology at CSB and SJU, and Lisa Lindgren, associate professor of management at CSB and SJU, served as project advisers. Julie Christle, internship program coordinator at CSB and SJU, served as campus liaison. 

In their research, the students worked to identify the ideal components for a cardiovascular disease prevention toolkit. They did this by evaluating prevention strategies practiced by major organizations involved in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. They determined the best strategies and then provided recommendations on how to successfully implement a prevention product. 

MISP aims to assist Mayo's Office of Intellectual Property 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 and MAOL students. 

The program was designed in 2006 by retired Medtronic executive, John Meslow. Together with Mayo's Office of Intellectual Property and the Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC), Meslow created a unique program to place students from a variety of disciplines at the interface of innovations in science and medicine and the fields of intellectual property, marketing and business development. Research projects are submitted by Mayo Clinic professionals through the Office of Intellectual Property and Mayo's Center for Innovation.  

After the presentation, the students described their experience and its benefits. 

"Cooperating with brilliant biology students, faculty, doctors and a graduate student and utilizing everyone's talents and expertise was exciting," Bitterman said. "Our project was like a blank slate. We started from scratch brainstorming with M.D.'s, then spent four months reworking, polishing and altering our vision, and finished with an outstanding product that was something to be proud of."     

Moore said the program underscored the connection between hard work and meeting one's goals. "It has shown me that I should always set my goals high and believe in the power that determination and hard work plays in achieving your goals. I advanced my knowledge in the areas of research and science and learned so much about management, marketing and working as a group on projects in more of a business climate." 

Steffl especially valued the program's experiential aspect. "This program has really laid the framework for how to conduct an extensive research project with a group of talented and strong-minded individuals," he said. "The real-world experiences in this program have provided me with exceptional business proficiencies that I may have never gained through a textbook or a course lecture."  

Chabowski was impressed by the program's overall scope, and its collegial and collaborative format.  He said he had positive experiences at each level - with his teammates, team leader, faculty mentor and project manager. "As a science major whose desire is to work in the health field and more precisely in the medical field, this experience carries a tremendous value," he said. 

At a luncheon after the morning presentations, Paul Cerkvenik, president of MPCC and a 1981 SJU graduate, highlighted three key values of MISP - the value of the liberal arts, experiential learning and faculty-student relationships. 

In total, there were 12 presentations over three days by 10 MPCC member institutions. 

Now in its fifth year, MISP continues to be an innovative model for student experiential learning. Funding for MISP is provided by the Medtronic Foundation. Additional funding and support comes from the Office of Intellectual Property and MPCC.