Employers from science and technology-based firms in the Detroit area mingled with students and faculty at Lawrence Technological University Wednesday in the university’s second annual Science and Technology Showcase.
The event, designed to give LTU science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students a chance to interact with industry, is a joint project of LTU’s Marburger STEM Center and its Office of Career Services, along with Oakland County’s Medical Main Street and Tech248 economic development agencies.
Undergraduate and graduate students showed off their capstone projects and other research prowess, and three veteran STEM professionals also presented in a panel discussion designed to let the students know just how far they could go with a STEM degree.
Employers were impressed.
“I love it,” said Angela Bogan, a recruiter for Hegira Programs Inc., a Livonia-based operator of 17 behavioral health centers, who visited the showcase to search for IT talent. “You guys are very hands-on. The students are grounded and very intelligent. It’s like they’re wise beyond their years. And talking to the staff, you can tell they develop one-on-one relationships with students. It’s a family atmosphere.”
Not all professionals were there to recruit. Pam Lippitt, a business specialist in academic and entrepreneurial sales for Pontiac-based DASI Solutions, said she was there to offer a free trial of Solidworks design and manufacturing software, which DASI sells and services.
“We can give entrepreneurs and academic researchers a free full year of software that’s worth up to $300,000,” she said. “That way they can play with it and figure out which parts of it they really need, without laying out all that cash.”
The panelists shared the stories of their career paths, which were anything but straight lines.
James Wilson, assistant regional director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, said he started with a bachelor’s degree in zoology, then added a master’s degree in molecular and cell biology. He researched AIDS drugs before joining the USPTO as a chemist, thanks to a minor in chemistry as an undergraduate. He’s now a veteran patent agent qualified to practice before the patent bar.
“If you have a minor or other training, you never know what will save you,” he told the LTU students. “Universities don’t teach you, they show you how to acquire knowledge. Right now you may be in classes thinking, ‘I’m not going to use any of this. This will never be relevant.’ But it’s all relevant.”
Charles Hatt, a CT development scientist at Minneapolis-based Imbio LLC., said he started out working on satellite image processing algorithms at the Michigan Tech Research Institute, the Ann Arbor-based research office of Michigan Technological University, before getting into image processing software for advanced medical procedures as a graduate student.
And Joe Tunac, CEO and research director of the Ferndale drug development firm Fermical Inc., talked about his career as a serial entrepreneur and pharmaceutical developer, both for Parke-Davis and his own companies.