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FAMU Students were Leaders in National Technology Transfer Competition
From left to right: Byron Aguilar, Jennifer Green and Randolph Duverna

August 11, 2011

– Three graduate students in the Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (COPPS) participated in the Emerging Minority Business Leaders (EMBL) Summer Institute at West Liberty University in Wheeling, W.Va.  

The program, now in its 15th year, seeks to develop and empower students from a wide variety of backgrounds to become the next generation of entrepreneurs and technology leaders for the advancement of American society.  

The students were as follows:
  • Byron Aguilar, a fourth-year doctoral student in the medicinal chemistry program;
  • Jennifer Green, a fifth-year doctoral student in the pharmacology program; and
  • Randolph Duverna, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Medicinal Chemistry program
The students first learned about the program when Tyrone Taylor, an administrator for the initiative and ex-NASA employee, came to FAMU in the spring of this year and made a presentation. Aguilar, Green and Duverna were three of only 20 students to attend the lecture.  

“The EMBL competition strengthened what we were learning in the Intellectual Property class,” said Duverna.   “It gave me an opportunity to learn more about business and helped me to be more marketable.”

The test of endurance, focus and stamina began almost immediately for the three students upon their arrival at West Liberty University.  

“We were assigned to a tiny dorm room space that we shared with a roommate and no air conditioning!” says Aguilar, who maintains a 3.6 grade point average.  “But it really didn’t matter because we were only in our rooms long enough to get a few hours of sleep.”  

Aguilar said their days began with classes at 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and evenings were spent doing homework, working on the business plan and preparing their presentations.

Students from historically black colleges and universities and minority institutions around the country, from all academic backgrounds, and across a wide age range (19 years old to 50 years old) participated in the EMBL program.  Students were placed on teams of six (none of the FAMU students were on the same team) and expected to work together to meet the demands of the program.  

The two-week curriculum included lectures, quizzes, a midterm, and construction of a business plan as the final exam.  Business plans were scored on a scale from 1-5 with each team earning a final grade on their plan.  Aguilar and Duverna’s teams each earned a ‘B’ on the business plan, but Jennifer Green’s team earned an ‘A’.
“When you’re given something to do and you have to do it from the ground up,” Green said, “it requires discipline to get the work done.”  

She added that FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences trains students to think critically and requires them to maintain discipline.

Duverna’s team ultimately won the $5,000 prize for making the best pitch presentation for technology commercialization of their company.  Each team was given a patent and a task to either develop an alternative use for the patent or market the patent as is and transfer the technology so as to make a profit.  The teams had to take the technology from the patent and develop a business around it.  

“My team was assigned a good technology,” says Duverna.  “We developed a business plan and profitable technology transfer around a device that protects your hands when handling needles in the medical industry.

Duverna further explained that they saw the experience as being useful to their academic pursuits and definitely helpful to their future professional endeavors.

“This program helped me think outside the box and consider what my next venture will be and how I will execute it.”  Duverna said. “If they didn’t know about FAMU when we got there, they knew who we were by the time we left the competition.”

About the Emerging Minority Business Leaders (EMBL) Summer Institute
The EMBL was created in 1995 as a way to cultivate young entrepreneurial talent and generate a pool of diverse and innovative thinkers capable of commercializing technologies to create value for the American marketplace.  As part of its mission, EMBL is designed to develop and empower minority students for the arena of future minority entrepreneurs.  The EMBL Summer Institute admits minority students and students attending historically black colleges and universities or minority institutions ranging from rising college juniors to post-graduate students.  Preferred applicants generally have at least a 3.25 cumulative grade point average, and students from all academic disciplines can apply.  During the two-week institute, students complete a comprehensive curriculum for which they receive three undergraduate or MBA-level academic credit hours in addition to a $1,500 scholarship.

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