Asee peer logo

Doctoral Student Co Founders: A Case Study Of Advanced Laser Materials, L.L.C.

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Successful Outcomes of Student Entrepreneurship

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.495.1 - 11.495.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Robert Evans University of Texas-Austin

visit author page

R. S. Evans, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. His current research focus is on technology commercialization and engineering education. Dr. Evans completed his doctorate in mechanical engineering at UT Austin in 2005. His dissertation covered materials and product development for rapid manufacturing. He also co-founded a company based on his doctoral research concurrently with his doctoral studies. Prior to enrolling at UT he worked as a manufacturing engineer and completed a Master’s degree in MEMS at Georgia Tech.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Doctoral Student Co-founders: A Case Study of Advanced Laser Materials, LLC Abstract In January of 2003, two University of Texas at Austin doctoral engineering students, R. S. Evans and D. L. Vanelli enrolled in a business plan course cross listed in the college of engineering. They chose a University of Texas patent-pending technology to form the basis of their business plan. A State of Texas Technology Development and Transfer grant had been awarded for further development of the technology, but required matching corporate sponsorship. During their coursework the students created a new application for the technology. They then competed in the Idea to Product® competition. During the competition, an angel investor and Entrepreneur in Residence expressed interest in the opportunity identified by the students. That summer the students and a team of angel investors further examined the opportunity, created a new company and began license negotiations with the University of Texas. The new company provided matching funds and Mr. Evans became the lead researcher on the project. From their common interest in entrepreneurship these students were able to leverage many university assets to create a company and become entrepreneurs. Their experiences during the process illustrate both the opportunities and significant challenges associated with integrating commercialization activity into doctoral education. The following year, Mr Vanelli put his doctoral work on hold to focus on his role as president, Mr. Evans, now Dr. Evans, chose to resign and complete his degree, maintaining an advisory role.

From a certain perspective, doctoral students are always entrepreneurial as they lead their own research contributions, sell their vision to their faculty committees and create new knowledge. In their careers, whether they are successful faculty members, involved in business development, work with large companies, perform research or engage in management, there will be elements of entrepreneurship. Related education and a culture of entrepreneurship within engineering education and university involvement in technology commercialization both lead to more opportunities for doctoral students in engineering to be entrepreneurial during their studies. This paper explores the experience of two doctoral engineering students who co-founded a company based, in part, on their research. The case for entrepreneurship within engineering education and the trends in university technology commercialization have been developed in the literature and provide the perspective for examining the experiences of these two students. University assets, community connections, an NCIIA E-team grant, courses and competitions were all connected in support of entrepreneurship education and startup formation. The ultimate goal with regard to entrepreneurship is to create an appropriate culture at the university level, in engineering education and in engineering practice more generally. The story of these students and their company sheds light on the current culture and provides guidance for future development of engineering education.

Entrepreneurship Assets and University Technology Commercialization For the majority of doctoral students whose careers will be in industry, “even those who work on the bench need to understand what motivates market-driven (as opposed to curiosity-driven) research.”1 The trends within research funding organizations are also moving toward a greater

Evans, R. (2006, June), Doctoral Student Co Founders: A Case Study Of Advanced Laser Materials, L.L.C. Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1254

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015