Ready, Set, Intern! One Tech Transfer Office’s Experience

SpringForwardClock_iStock_000026185332_Small-croppedNow that we’ve sprung forward into Daylight Savings Time, it is also time for university technology transfer offices (TTOs) to spring ahead with their summer internship programs. March is usually the month when TTOs issue their “Apply Now” announcements for summer interns.

But all is not lost for TTOs who are just getting started.

Although there are significant advantages when you begin planning a new summer internship program the previous fall, March is not too late to start.

For example, it was last spring when a university TTO asked Fuentek for help with establishing their internship program. They wanted to start that coming summer, so we jumped in to help them, using the tricks that we have learned over our long history of establishing effective internship programs.

With Fuentek’s help, the TTO was able to get the key components in place quickly:

Job Descriptions: Clear summaries of what interns would be doing helped students know what a summer with the TTO would be like, that there was real substance to the internship, and that it would be an excellent opportunity for growth and experience.

Selection Criteria: Having a what-to-look-for list helped the TTO have productive interviews and select excellent candidates… for the most part. (More on that in a moment.)

Initial Training: Although webinar-based training was an option, the TTO had us do an in-person 2-day course on how to perform preliminary screenings of a technology’s commercialization potential. These sessions included lots of exercises and examples of real-world screening reports to give interns the fundamentals they needed.

The Tale of the Distracted Intern: Although most of the interns were very hardworking, our trainers noticed that one of the interns was less so. After the first day’s training session, he didn’t do the homework and instead tried to do it on the fly during Day 2. Quite frankly, this set off warning bells for us, and we alerted the TTO that the intern didn’t seem to be taking the job seriously. Sure enough, it turned out that this intern was a Ph.D. candidate who was in the midst of finishing up his dissertation and he abandoned the position just a few weeks after being hired. Lesson Learned: It’s best to deal with these situations early, before you invest too much time in training an intern whose mind is clearly (albeit understandably) focused elsewhere.

Ongoing Mentoring: Giving the interns ongoing support during their first few screenings provided the additional guidance that the students needed as they executed on the principles and process they learned in the training. Because the TTO staff were too busy with their day-to-day work to provide this support, we handled the one-on-one mentoring for the TTO via phone conferences.

Sure enough, these key components allowed the TTO to have a successful summer with the interns. The interns were able to be productive within a couple of weeks, providing the TTO staff with actionable results rather than issues and requests for guidance.

We were pleased to support the TTO every step of the way as they started down the internship path. And because we work collaboratively with our clients, the TTO was empowered to leverage last year’s support as they head into the program’s second year.

We have lots more insights about tech transfer internship programs. But if you’re needing to move quickly and would like our help, feel free to contact me.

It’s not too late!

Posted by Danielle McCulloch

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