Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


MBA students asset to TTED

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., July 11, 2003 — Alex DeTrana and Mazi Arzanpouli, two students pursuing their master's degrees in business administration at the University of Tennessee, are adding more than fresh faces to the Technology Transfer and Economic Development organization at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"The MBA students bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, as well as a strong foundation of research and market analysis," said Alex Fischer, director of Tech Transfer. "Each of them also has a technical degree, which provides a unique balance to our program."

DeTrana is a native of Richmond, Va. He graduated from Ferrum College with a bachelor's degree in biology/environmental science. He also has a master's degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in polymer science and engineering to complement the MBA he's working on now at UT.

Arzanpouli is from Vienna, Va., and graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering. At UT he is working on a master's degree in industrial engineering while simultaneously pursing his MBA in operations management.

DeTrana and Arzanpouli use the technical knowledge gained from their degrees to help them understand the technologies that are being considered for patenting and commercial licensing.

"If we brought in people who were pure business students," said Mark Reeves, a commercialization manager in Tech Transfer, "they wouldn't have the ability to get as good a handle on the technologies."

It is imperative that the interns grasp the general principles behind the technologies because they spend most of their time researching and studying the commercial possibilities of the inventions. This is called first-level market analysis, which consists of many steps.

Both interns read the disclosures written by the researchers, Arzanpouli said. They then contact the commercialization manager responsible for individual technology portfolios and talk with the inventor if they need clarification. Finally, DeTrana and Arzanpouli do key word searches on the internet and in selected online databases to find possible commercial matches for the inventions. Once they have possible matches they send the data to the commercialization manager. From there it goes to the Invention Disclosure Review Committee.

The committee meets once a month to decide the licensing and patenting fate of the 20-plus inventions submitted each month.

"We review the submitted technologies to determine whether UT-Battelle wants to retain the rights to that invention, in which case we try to patent and commercialize it," Reeves said. "If we don't choose to do that, the rights go back to DOE."

Beyond these first-level market analyses, the interns will become involved with more in-depth studies. The goal here is to position portfolios of ORNL technologies within the high-tech marketplace.

DeTrana and Arzanpouli will continue gauging the commercial potential of the technologies throughout their lengthy appointments with Tech Transfer. Although DeTrana will leave in December upon graduating and Arzanpouli will leave next May, future interns will stay from January to December each year.

Fischer and others in Technology Transfer and Economic Development look forward to contributions these and current interns will make.

"Long-term, this program will help us become more focused around the best commercialization opportunities," Fischer said. "We also hope to grow new talent in the Oak Ridge/Knoxville technology arena and hope that some of the students may want to find permanent positions."

As for the interns, both are positive about what their jobs are doing and will do for them.

"It will give us good experience," DeTrana said. "A lot of internships end up with job offers. Just having worked in these positions can help you get your foot in the door."

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.