New Tufts Tech Transfer Internship Program

In 2013 the Office for Technology Licensing & Industry Collaboration (OTL&IC, or simply Tufts Tech Transfer) began offering an internship program for Tufts graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Technology transfer, the practice of transferring discoveries from research labs to the marketplace, lies at the intersection of science, business, and law. The program is designed to provide interns with an introduction to basic tech transfer skills and allow them to explore this career path. Licensing Associate Erika Bechtold, who manages the program, knows firsthand how helpful such internships can be. A tech transfer internship while she was a grad student at Wake Forest University was a major reason Erika chose tech transfer as a career. “I found it infinitely helpful,” she said. “When you’re in a PhD program, you can be very one tracked, so for me it opened this whole other world of career options.”

The internship is structured to fit into a student’s busy schedule, requiring only 4 to 6 hours per week during the academic year, and it is limited to one year. Each intern is paired one-to-one with a licensing professional in the tech transfer office, thus limiting the number of interns to four or fewer at a time. During the fall semester, interns are required to attend a one-hour class each week on the basics of technology transfer. This seminar series is team-taught by members of the tech transfer office and the broader startup community and covers the invention disclosure process, patents, negotiation techniques, and licensing agreements. There is also a strong emphasis on career development, with a class focused entirely on networking and resume development. The spring semester is dedicated solely to working on individual projects that reinforce tech transfer skills. “We start interns in a topic that is somewhat aligned with their scientific skill sets, and we slowly have them branch out,” says Bechtold. “Our goal is that by the time they leave at the end of the program, which is June 1, they are able to take an invention that was done at Tufts, evaluate it critically, and give us feedback for a go/no-go decision on business plan, patentability, market strategy, and market analysis.”

The program appears to be a win-win situation. The interns learn new skills and are introduced to an array of possible careers, not only in tech transfer but also in marketing, venture capital, patent law, and scientific policy. The Tufts Tech Transfer office benefits from the insights and productive work of the interns. A further benefit is that the interns can share their knowledge with students and faculty, not only about what tech transfer is but also about the potential for discovering and marketing a new technology. “We hope that after completing the program, tech transfer interns become our liaisons back in their departments,” says Bechtold.

Requirements for the internship program:

  • Full-time graduate student or postdoc in any scientific discipline at Tufts University.
  • Must have completed all exams, rotations, and formal course requirements for the degree program and must be considered a PhD candidate at the time of the application.
  • Ability to commit 4 to 6 hours per week at the Tufts Office for Technology Licensing and Industry Collaboration, 75 Kneeland Street, Boston, MA, 02111.
  • Must have a letter of endorsement from the program director and research supervisor/PI (graduate students) or the departmental chair and research supervisor/PI (postdocs).

For more information and required application materials, please see the Tufts Tech Transfer Internship Program. The application deadline for the 2014–2015 academic year was June 1, 2014. Interviews began shortly thereafter and final candidates will be selected by August 15, 2014.