A Wall of Pride
February 27, 2012
The words, "Thayer School of Engineering Inventions," stretch down Cummings Hall over a timeline of innovation erected over the summer to inspire students like Alison Stace-Naughton '13. She knows it as the patent wall.
"The patent wall is an important reminder, through all the hard work and long nights studying, to keep innovation in mind as we see where the field can take us," says Stace-Naughton, who has a provisional patent for a suction device that stabilizes tissue during endoscopic surgery. She hopes the instrument—an advanced version of a device she and fellow students invented in ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering—will eventually join the 134 patents on the wall, 70 percent of which are held by Thayer School faculty, 15 percent by faculty-student teams, and 15 percent by students.
"It all starts with ENGS 21, where students work in teams to solve a problem in a technically feasible way," says Marcia Craig Jacobs, Assistant Dean. "They must consider both marketplace and intellectual property issues, thus intellectual property and patent protection is addressed right from the start."
Few understand the significance of this introductory class better than Adjunct Professor Robert Dean Jr.
"I started Engines 21 in 1961 with (then Dean) Myron Tribus after he noticed Thayer students were going on to do medicine and law but not engineering," says Dean Jr., also president of Synergy Innovations Inc. and Ultra Fluid Dynamics Inc. in Lebanon. "He was bold enough to say sophomores can do engineering, which is really about good judgment and creativity; not just things that depend on theory.
"Today, companies are spitting out of Thayer all the time," he says. Dean Jr. has 27 patents himself—two for a water injection technique that revolutionized plasma cutting worldwide, and two for an in-bed exercise machine obtained with Assistant Professor Solomon Diamond when Diamond was a Dartmouth engineering major.
While the number of inventions on the wall continues to grow each year—more and more centered around biomedical and nanoscience discoveries—students have always been given support and encouragement from faculty as they take their ideas to market.
"It has been a challenge learning about intellectual property, trying to schedule lab time, and setting up an in vivo study, all while continuing momentum toward finishing my honors thesis," says Stace-Naughton, "Tuck, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and Thayer have been my three pillars of support."