Burton Masem '14

Macalester’s proximity to the Mayo Clinic and top biomedical companies provides some great opportunities, including the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program.

The Mayo Innovation Scholars Program (MISP) is a collaborative program that brings teams of outstanding science and economics students together with a graduate student in business and a project manager from Mayo Clinic Ventures to evaluate discoveries arising from the work of Mayo physicians and scientists, and to make recommendations about taking those ideas to the marketplace.

It’s not a course, but an exceptional experience in biomedical technology. Students are given a description of a new invention being developed at Mayo Clinic and they then have six months to research it. At the end of the program, they give a 45-minute presentation of their team’s work to an audience of peers, faculty members from other colleges, intellectual property experts, and physicians and scientists from Mayo Clinic.

Students analyze the science behind the inventor’s idea, present the potential medical and scientific applications of the technology, and make recommendations to Mayo Clinic as to whether and how to proceed with their idea, including identifying potential licensing partners.

Lorela Paco ’15 (Vlora, Albania) is a chemistry major who came to Macalester intending to go on to medical school. Now she’s considering a wider range of career possibilities. “This has been one of the most intense learning experiences I’ve ever had,” she says. “I’ve actually surprised myself with how much I’ve learned, especially in the field, as we’ve been doing our research.”


Rounding out the team are Cody Dail ’15 (Charlotte Court House, Va.), economics; Burton Masem ’14 (Winters, Calif.), biology; and Kaspar Mueller ’15 (Iowa City, Iowa), economics and applied mathematics and statistics. Paco, Dail, and Masem are also pre-med. Together they have used their complementary skills to evaluate a new diagnostic tool for chemotherapy. Faculty mentors from biology, chemistry and economics also worked with the group. Macalester biology professor Liz Jansen serves as overall academic program director for MISP.

“Basically, what we’re doing is helping Mayo Clinic Ventures by taking this particular invention, evaluating its pros and cons, and making a recommendation about whether or not to go forward,” says Paco. In addition to the presentation, the team presents Mayo Clinic Ventures with a written report covering background, applications, marketplace opportunities and a financial analysis.

This real-world, team approach to learning “definitely shifted my perspective,” she says. “I’m now considering going to biomedical grad school because of this program. I’ve just found myself loving the things we’ve been learning. It’s been very rewarding.”

The program was initiated in 2006 by retired Medtronic executive John Meslow and is funded by the Medtronic Foundation, the Mayo Clinic, and the Minnesota Private College Council.

 Paco is among Macalester’s Davis United World College Scholars

February 26 2014

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