Physics students consider entrepreneurship

May 21, 2010
By Robin Donovan

 Swati Ramanathan traveled to Trieste, Italy to learn about science-based entrepreneurship in developing countries.  Photo courtesy of Swati Ramanathan.

A physics graduate degree might seem a blazed path to professorships, but adventurous students at Ohio University aren’t ruling out jobs in the business world. Students gathered on Wednesday for a presentation from Swati Ramanathan, a physics graduate student from NQPI who recently traveled to Italy to attend a conference at the intersection of physics, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Scientists with doctoral degrees often aspire to teach, but that path isn’t for everyone. The conference, hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, gathered students from developing nations to discuss intellectual property, licensing, patents and career options outside academia. As part of the event, students created a science-based business plan.

Ramanathan’s group brainstormed a company that would manufacture and sell lights using a quantum dot film to replace typical phosphor coatings, yielding a more pure white light than conventional bulbs. Such a concept would make use of Ramanathan’s physics finesse and be market-worthy. Still, she advised students to stick mainly to science and hire a business-minded chief executive officer for budding enterprises.

The technology needs of developed versus developing nations were also debated. Ramanathan pointed out that in developed countries, technology can be pushed on a market driven by consumerism, while developing areas need to have market pull before a product can be marketed and sold. In other words, a product must fill a specific need in areas where consumers have less disposable income.

The conference, “Workshop on Entrepreneurship for Physicists and Engineers from Developing Countries” was held in Trieste, Italy from May 3rd to May 7th.