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UM Students Help Grow University’s Commercialization Efforts

Ashay Shukla (left), Torkel Nord Bjaerneman, Chandler Carpenter and Jacqueline ‘Sophie’ Jernigan Pettey are among the student workers who have assisted the UM Office of Technology Commercialization in its work during the past academic year. Photo by Shea Stewart/University Marketing and Communications

The Office of Technology Commercialization at the University of Mississippi is a small staff covering a lot of ground.

The office, part of the university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, is responsible for stimulating, protecting, managing and transferring intellectual property created by Ole Miss employees from campus to the private sector for commercialization.

The work is multifaceted. Office of Technology Commercialization, or OTC, staff fulfill a number of duties, including helping employees identify commercial opportunities for intellectual property, preparing invention disclosures and other necessary documents, managing the university intellectual property process and supporting business development efforts on campus and elsewhere.

Assisting the small staff with these big tasks is a group of student workers, both undergraduate and graduate, from various backgrounds and majors.

“The growth of the OTC student team is an important part of the university’s commercialization efforts,” said Michael Mosher, associate director for the office. “The students gain valuable work experience, as they are involved with projects that are actually in development, and through this work, we are able to increase our reach and customer service efforts.”

Gregory Sechrist, the office’s licensing associate who manages the student workers, understands the connection between the importance of the student workers to the office and the experience they gain, as he worked in the office as an extern in the spring of 2017.

“My goal, by incorporating intellectual property, research, business development and my own experiences as an extern in the office, is to provide our students with the guidance and opportunities they need to develop a valuable skill set that will assist them throughout their future careers,” he said.

Here is a glimpse at four current or recent graduate student workers in the Office of Technology Commercialization:

Torkel Nord Bjaerneman

Hometown: Gothenburg, Sweden

Year in School: Pursuing a master’s degree in engineering science with an emphasis on structural and materials engineering

Bjaerneman started working with OTC as an undergraduate in spring 2018. He’s a graduate engineering student analyst with a multitude of tasks, including conducting prior art searches – which involves researching publicly available information on products, inventions and concepts similar to an idea being considered for patent or commercialization – and market/industry research on developing university technologies, and engaging in technical writing for business development efforts.

How has your experience in the OTC helped you prepare for the next step in your career?

“Working for the OTC has been a great experience since my goal is to join an organization in the future where I can work cross-functionally, using experience reaching across engineering, research and development, and business. I am really interested in bridging the gap between academia and industry – especially when it comes to graphene; that is the subject of my master’s thesis – so experiencing that directly at the OTC is really exciting.”

What’s next for you?

“I still have another year to finish up school and to work on my master’s thesis. After that, I would like to stay in the U.S. and start my professional career by working in an innovative industry, such as developing advanced materials for industrial/consumer/sporting goods, for example, and/or technical consulting.”


Chandler Carpenter 

Hometown: Chicago

Year in School: May graduate with a Master of Business Administration

Carpenter spent the 2018-19 academic year working in the OTC and finished her duties in May. While working for OTC, Carpenter gained experience creating social media posts and marketing materials, conducting market/industry research and developing company profiles for potential partners.

How has your experience in the OTC helped you prepare for the next step in your career?

“It has helped me see the intersection of business and law because I have always had law school in the back of my head. I’ve started looking more into patents and I’m really interested in the potential there. With my marketing background, it could be a unique career path.”

What’s next for you?

“I’m currently job searching in Dallas and Nashville. I hope to find something where I can work with the business development and research side of marketing.”


Jacqueline “Sophie” Jernigan Pettey

Hometown: Hattiesburg

Major: May Juris Doctor graduate from the UM School of Law

Pettey worked for OTC in the 2019 spring semester on an externship to earn class credit while also juggling her law school duties. She finished law school this spring in two years instead of the usual three. Some of her work included prior art searches, background searches for proposals, budget research and market/industry researching.

How has your experience in the OTC helped you prepare for the next step in your career?

“Having an externship with the OTC has helped me gain much-needed practical experience so that I am better suited to find a job after graduation. During law school, I have taken Intellectual Property Survey, Transformative Works, Internet Law and many more classes that relate to this field.

“However, having this externship has been invaluable to me because the practical side of this field is different than what we learn in the classroom. I now have the advantage of getting a job in this field with the much-needed experience that I gained during my semester here at OTC.”

What’s next for you?

“Since my husband recently got back from deployment, we are trying to find a job in a major city with a good graduate program he would like to pursue so that we can be together. I am very excited to enter the intellectual property field of law.”


Ashay Shukla

Hometown: Indore, India

Year in School: Graduated in May with a master’s degree in pharmaceutics and drug delivery

Shukla finished his term as a student worker in OTC in May. During his time in the office, he gained experience in prior art searching, conducting market/industry research and engaging in technical writing for business development efforts.

How has your experience in the OTC helped you prepare for the next step in your career?

“It has been a great learning experience for me (where I have) learned and read about some great novel research, which will help me in the future.”

What’s next for you?

“I am on the lookout for a full-time role as a formulation scientist with a contract research organization or a pharmaceutical company.”

By Shea Stewart

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