Nanotechnology entrepreneur program arrives at S.T.A.R. Park

By: 

News Reporter

The Advanced Polymers and Nanomaterials (APN) Laboratory at Texas State is now operational at the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (S.T.A.R.) Park.

The nanotechnology laboratory is part of the Materials Science, Engineering and Commercialization (MSEC) graduate program. MSEC is an interdisciplinary program combining elements from the science, business and communication departments, said Clois Powell, director of the advanced polymers/nanomaterials lab.

Officials with the laboratory program partnered with S.T.A.R. Park to access its customizable facilities, Powell said.

“The cool thing about the S.T.A.R. building is that we can customize the room out there to fit our needs,” Powell said. “All the utilities and stuff come down from the ceiling, so the floor’s not dug up or anything like that. That’s a pain. And the walls can be changed around.”

The APN lab space was outfitted specifically for the program’s needs, said Stephen Frayser, director of S.T.A.R. Park. Other groups use standardized facility space.

Including housing laboratory space for the graduate program was “integral” to the park’s multi-phase development strategy, Frayser said.

The entrepreneurial nature of the APN program aligned with S.T.A.R. Park’s goals, he said.

“The center is going to provide services to firms who assist them in getting to market faster through the development of new product lines and more efficient development processes,” Frayser said.

Powell said representatives of oil and chemical companies have reached out to members of the APN program because of its research in polymers and nanotechnology.

The laboratory program was designed to help graduate students gain field experience to attract businesses and investors, he said.

“We want to give them tools to help them be successful in their professional endeavors,” Powell said. “We expect them to be successful.”

Ph.D. candidates must learn business skills and develop a product based on their research in order to complete the program, Powell said.

“We’re focused on outcomes,” Powell said. “It’s not just a matter of taking a class and getting a grade, and then you go on and do another class, or whatever you do your research for.”

Tyler Nash, technical operations manager and research associate for S.T.A.R. Park, had to arrange the laboratory space and equipment for his doctoral research as practice for setting up in a corporate environment.

“I had to spec all that stuff out—figure out how much it was all going to cost, lay out a budget and do some projection, (which is) a theoretical operating budget,” Nash said.

Nash had to learn how to use some of the new equipment he added to the lab.

“I had to get up to date on every single piece of equipment in there and learn how to run it all, and there’s quite a few pieces of equipment in there, so it was a pretty big task,” Nash said.

He received training from the companies that made the equipment.

Nash had the opportunity to network at S.T.A.R. Park and speak to others working on nanotechnology projects. He engaged with customers interested in the products he developed.

Nash was able to carry out his projects at S.T.A.R. Park using skills he learned in the MSEC program.

“(We were) required to write a business plan (and) a grant proposal so we can get exposure to a lot of entrepreneurial activities and exposure to a lot of things in the business world that a traditional APN program might not provide opportunities to,” Nash said.