The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

Research Penn State 2016 a success

This first-of-its-kind showcase event for the University's five interdisciplinary research institutes, held over two days in October, highlighted the breadth and depth of research in the life sciences, energy and the environment, materials science and engineering, cyber-enabled science, and the social sciences at Penn State.

Through its University-wide institutes, Penn State is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research, which aims to break down the silos that separate traditional fields of research in order to pioneer new knowledge at the intersection of scientific disciplines.

Research Penn State 2016, with the theme “Competing in a Rapidly Changing World,” brought together representatives from more than 40 companies with over 200 graduate students and faculty. Events included tutorials showcasing analytical capabilities and tools, an interactive poster session, presentations by each of the insitute directors, and an evening lecture from William Easterling, dean of Penn State's College of Earth and MIneral Sciences, on the role of research in driving new knowledge and utility, as well as special sessions for industry VIPs to tour facilities and hear research presentations.

In all, the event attracted over 500 visitors to University Park.

Penn State graduate students and faculty presented their research to representatives from more than 40 companies at Research Penn State 2016. Credit: Walt Mills

Penn State graduate students and faculty presented their research to representatives from more than 40 companies at Research Penn State 2016. Credit: Walt Mills


David Fecko, industry relations coordinator with Penn State's Materials Research Institute, discussed reactions to the event and the possibility of doing it again in the future:

Q: Was the event a success and, if so, what were some of the key outcomes?

A: Yes, the event was a success.  The primary objective of the event was to introduce companies that we have a good relationship with in one institute to other institutes.  We welcomed 41 senior level corporate representatives from 25 companies and provided insights and connections to other institute partners.  These kinds of links are difficult to measure, as relationships often take months if not years to form.  But at least we planted a lot of seeds for collaborative programs.  A secondary objective that we’d targeted was to create inter-institute discussions and collaborations here at PSU.  We tried to do this by integrating sessions, for example in the poster sessions, we randomly placed posters such that Huck posters were interdiscpersed among MRI, IEE, ICS and SSRI posters.  It is virtually impossible for the poster session to have occurred without some inter-institute discussions occurring.  Finally, MRI had hoped to generate interest with our peer institutes in making industry collaboration more of a focus.  Industry collaboration is something that we feel we do well, and we wanted to share the experience with the other institutes.  I can tell you that this certainly was a success as we have meetings planned with at least on other institute regarding an institute-specific industry outreach event similar to the MRI Materials Day event.

Q: What kind of feedback have you received from participants in industry and at Penn State?

A: We heard plenty of positive comments from various faculty and staff members immediately following the event.  The most-liked event was the poster session.

Q: Is there a feeling that such a University-wide research exposition provided something novel and important?

A: We do feel that an expo that focused on research at Penn State institutes was novel and important.  In hindsight, we felt that we missed participation by some of the college-specific research groups.  Assuming that there will be future Research Penn State events, we will be correcting that.

Q: So there is a possibliity that this event will happen again in the future?

A: In all likelihood, this will become a regular event.  We are not anticipating an every-year event, but every other year or perhaps every third year seems very appropriate.