[caption id="attachment_62916" align="alignright" width="329"] (Clockwise from top left) Dan Moshavi, Sibdas Ghosh, Kenneth Frost, John Stayton[/caption]
SAN RAFAEL -- Dominican University of California has launched a new interdisciplinary course linking students in its chemistry and MBA programs, creating an official educational framework for a collaboration that has existed unofficially for several years and helped advance the university's expertise in biofuels and bio-based lubricant research.
Supported by a $30,000 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance, the program involves two new courses that bring together undergraduate students in chemistry and biology and students in the university's groundbreaking MBA in Sustainable Enterprise. With additional advising from consultants with the university's Venture Greenhouse business incubator program, teams focus on development and marketing of a renewable alternative to a traditionally petroleum-based product like fuels, plastics and lubricants.
The program represents a continuing focus on interdisciplinary education at the 2,200-student Dominican University, including collaboration between graduate and undergraduate students, said Dr. Dan Moshavi, dean of Dominican's school of business and leadership.
"If you think about where the best ideas come from, it's at the intersection of different disciplines," Dr. Moshavi said.
The two required courses -- "Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship" and "Marketing Research Strategies" bring together 12 students from both the "Green MBA" and chemistry programs. A consultant is assigned to each of five teams, which collaborate on product and business plan development.
Not all of the work is purely theoretical. While manufacturing materials like advanced polymers is outside the scope of university facilities, teams exploring products like industrial lubricants or oils could potentially manufacture prototypes through Dominican, said Dr. Sibdas Ghosh, professor and chair of the department of natural sciences and mathematics.
"At the end, we have a product. There are very few undergraduate programs like that," he said.
Biofuels and petroleum alternatives have become an increasing focus for chemistry and biology students at Dominican in recent years, with continuing momentum after an ambitious 2005 undergraduate project to develop instructions for low-cost soap manufacturing in a student's native Tanzania, said Dr. Kenneth Frost, professor in the department of Natural Sciences and instructor in the new program.