Ph.D. Mathematical Biology Student is Named
TTU University Innovation Fellow 2017
By: Amanda Castro-Crist
Saba Nafees, a doctoral student in mathematical biology who hails from Fort Worth, is one of four students selected to represent Texas Tech University as part of the 2017 class of University Innovation Fellows (UIF).
Crystal Blankenship, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Santa Clarita, Calif.; Alvin Kim, a junior computer science major from Los Angeles; and Braxton G. Manley, a junior marketing and management major from Austin, round out the quartet.
The 2017 Texas Tech fellows are among 169 students chosen from 49 higher education institutions in four countries. Since joining the UIF program in 2015, Texas Tech has had 14 fellows, including the four students from this year.
"For the students in the innovation and entrepreneurship network at Texas Tech, it has always been our goal to include as many diverse students as possible," said Nafees, adding she'd eventually like to re-create an entrepreneurial social mixer she helped develop in 2015. "The goal was to get students from all disciplines in one room and get them to discuss their ideas so they could potentially collaborate on projects."
Nafees also is working on implementing a business plan for an idea that won her and her team of fellow Texas Tech students first place at the inaugural Tibetan Innovation Challenge in July. The idea, PATA, is an online point-of-sales system that allows Tibetan handicraft producers to target Western consumers.
"We traveled to Nepal and India, thanks to Texas Tech's generous support, to conduct market research and now are hoping to turn our idea into a startup that will benefit the Tibetan refugees living in India and Nepal," Nafees said.
"The fellows have a great opportunity to use their platform and ideas to draw many more students into various entrepreneur and innovation activities on campus," said Graduate School Associate Dean Tim Dallas. "Learning to be entrepreneurial in any academic pursuit is important for success."
For students who are interested in joining future cohorts, the 2017 fellows suggest getting involved on campus with one of the many entrepreneurial organizations and workshops that exist, like Texas Tech Innovation Mentorship and Entrepreneurship (TTIME), Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group (MEIG), Tech CEO and Red Raider Startup. Interested students should focus on exhibiting a strong work ethic and enthusiasm for innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.
About University Innovation Fellows
University Innovation Fellows is a program of the Stanford University Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, and it empowers student leaders to become agents of change at their schools. Fellows work to increase campus engagement with innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity and design-thinking. The program was created by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation, which was funded from 2011 to 2016 by a five-year National Science Foundation grant.
Students chosen for the program undergo an intensive, six-week online training to help them conduct an in-depth analysis of their campus ecosystem and brainstorm solutions and new ideas. They then travel to the annual University Innovation Fellows Silicon Valley Meetup and take part in events and conferences throughout the year.
Texas Tech fellows also will interact with students from other schools throughout the year to share ideas and plans to prompt change on their campuses. Students are nominated to the program by student leaders, faculty and staff who have knowledge of their commitment to entrepreneurialism and participation in campus courses, organizations and events.