​REACH workshops focus on helping female faculty bring research to market

Associate Vice President Mary Juhas is working to level the playing field for women scientists

By: Chris Booker

Published on April 28, 2017

Creating knowledge that improves lives and expanding diversity of thought, ideas and people are two of the core missions for The Ohio State University, and Mary Juhas is working to make sure the university is leading the way in both.

Juhas, an associate vice president in the Office of Research, just finished leading her latest REACH for Commercialization workshop series. The goal of the series: arming nearly two dozen women faculty with new ideas and information to make the most of their research.

“Awareness plus knowledge equals power,” Juhas said to her students.

Juhas oversees Ohio State ADVANCE, which fosters institutional change through support, increased representation and advancement of women faculty in academic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. The program is an extension of the university’s pursuit of gender equity through Project CEOS (Comprehensive Equity at Ohio State), launched in 2008 with National Science Foundation funding. Targeted entrepreneurship training was an early focus of the initiative.

The REACH series is designed to help women faculty find ways to better market and fund their research. Juhas also wants to close a gender gap that exists in scientific research.

“More than 81 percent of patents filed have no women inventors,” she said.

The most recent cohort to graduate from the workshops crosses disciplines and includes faculty in medicine, nursing, engineering, and arts and sciences.

REACH workshop sessions focus on issues such as fundraising, team building and leadership. Guest speakers include venture capital investors and fellow researchers.

Shannon Gillespie, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and a member of the most recent cohort, said the workshops are practical and helpful.

“It’s not something we are trained to think about as a scientist,” she said.

One of the final sessions included advice from the Ohio State Technology Commercialization Office. The office helps university researchers bring their inventions or ideas to market.

“The biggest thing I learned is how many resources are available at OSU and how many people are around to help you in the process,” Gillespie said.

Amanda Quisenberry, postdoctoral researcher in the College of Public Health, said the workshops helped her better understand how to communicate to the public about her research.

“I learned so much because I’ve never been in a business department or taken a business class,” she said.

Quisenberry said the workshops opened her eyes to other avenues of funding.

“You don’t always have to go through National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation, the big funding agencies we learn about,” she said. “There are other avenues for starting a business and there are other avenues for public health research.”

Juhas hopes the knowledge gained in REACH goes beyond the classes, and makes a point of emphasizing the importance of networking. Juhas worries that women do not promote themselves enough and do not seek out peers to help support them. She hopes these classes change that.

“This isn’t just four workshops and done. Now we’re your network,” Juhas said.

Quisenberry said the time spent with her peers in the REACH workshops has accomplished that mission.

“I feel like I’m more comfortable now about reaching out, asking questions and maybe even collaborating with some of the women I’ve met here.”

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