Cross-College Entrepreneur Team Making Its Mark

by Marty Cook  on Monday, May. 5, 2014 12:00 am  

Carol Reeves of the UA’s Walton College has helped guide a number of teams to business-plan success. | (Photo by Beth Hall)

The harder you work the luckier you get.

Recent events have demonstrated the truth of the saying to Carol Reeves, the University of Arkansas professor renowned for the success of her student-entrepreneur teams.

In early August, Reeves held the Arkansas Commercialization Retreat atop Petit Jean Mountain at the UA’s Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. She invited researchers from the state’s four research-producing universities to brainstorm how they could collaborate to commercialize their research. Reeves didn’t expect that a project would so quickly emerge from the gathering, a project now attracting investors.

BioBotic Solutions began when kismet brought together a researcher for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Reeves’ daughter and three UA students.

The researcher, renal pathologist Shree Sharma, hadn’t even been expected to attend. Also present was Rachel Zweig, Reeves’ daughter, who was preparing to start her sophomore year at Hendrix College by helping her mother at the three-day retreat.

Sharma had devised a system to use existing robotic technology to handle tissue samples in a pathology lab through the use of specially designed containers with the biopsy bag pre-inserted. The system could drastically cut down on lab errors and free up lab technicians to do other work.

Sharma had already met with Jeff Wolchok, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Arkansas, to have his design class make a prototype of his design. Then Sharma met Zweig at the commercialization retreat.

“The [Wolchok] class project was where it was going to stop,” Reeves said. “Then we started talking and we were like, ‘This is really interesting. Maybe we could have a joint UA-Hendrix team.’”

The team to which Reeves referred is a part of her student-run competitive business-plan program. Graduate teams advised (or co-advised) by Reeves have won the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup College Business competition in Little Rock for 11 consecutive years, and Reeves was the 2014 recipient of the SEC Faculty Achievement Award.

“We go to these competitions and we don’t want to lose the Arkansas swagger,” Reeves said.

Sharma pitched the idea to nearly 30 undergraduate students in Arkansas’ entrepreneur program by way of a video message. Those students who liked his proposal best — out of the numerous proposals submitted to the class — were placed on a team, along with Zweig.

The three who were picked included two biomedical engineering students, Aundria Eoff and Kelley Coakley, and finance major Michael Iseman. Zweig, a dual chemistry-math major, rounded out the four-person team.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.