Intersections in science, technology and entrepreneurship

Bioengineering and computer science in the Cleveland area

Kevin Pataroque, Staff Reporter

When internships and other summer engagements were cancelled due to COVID-19, small businesses throughout the Cleveland area partnered with the Veale Institute for Entrepreneurship to help expose STEM students to the business side of engineering. In late June to early July, the Veale Institute created the Remote Entrepreneurship Program (REP) that allowed students to work with local businesses virtually. 

Sunayana Jampanaboyana, a fourth-year student majoring in biomedical engineering, had prior entrepreneurship experience and chose to participate in the REP program to deepen her understanding of small businesses.

“I initially got connected to LaunchNet through a program called PRISE (Program Rewarding Innovation in STEM Entrepreneurship), which was a collaborative effort between the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, CWRU LaunchNET and Sears think[box],” Jampanaboyana said.

In her prior work, she pitched and developed her own entrepreneurial idea through LaunchNet, a program made to encourage entrepreneurship on campus. Students utilized their technical skills from their engineering education and learned soft skills within the business realm. Jampanaboyana worked at Biohm, a startup company that manufactures probiotics. While the nature of the business is biologically-focused, Jampanaboyana’s work was largely unrelated to STEM and instead focused on business analysis and data. Jampanaboyana argues that her previous experience in both STEM and business helped her understand the principles behind Biohm’s business, and being an engineer has helped her to value critical thinking. 

As Jampanaboyana stated, “While I wasn’t working in a STEM-based role, I was able to use the skills that I have developed concerning the organization and synthesis of data from various sources and bring it together”

When addressing any difficulties she faced working completely virtually, Jampanaboyana said, “I think the biggest challenge was navigating the completely remote environment with an organization that I was not already connected with.” She commented that, “It is difficult to get to know an organization and the culture of the individuals who make up that organization in a remote manner, especially when your role is limited in the individuals that you interact with.” However, she was able to overcome this obstacle through “asking more questions in the process.”

Another student, Jared Entwistle, a fourth-year student who is majoring in computer science, also took part in the REP program, using his expertise in computer science to help a small startup.

“Pandata is a data science and AI tech startup located in the Cleveland area,” Entwistle said. “Their project for me was to create a web app that scraped millions of tweets and applied Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to determine the magnitude and sentiment of public discussion surrounding topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

While Jampanaboyana’s experience was more focused on the business side with Biohm, Entwistle was able to use his coding abilities for Pandata. He previously took courses at the Weatherhead School of Management, but the REP program allowed him to apply the lessons he’d learned there.

“My software engineering knowledge and skills were crucial to this project as my role revolved around coding and implementing new software technologies,” Entwistle reported, later saying, “I feel that I have come out of the REP program with a more well-rounded understanding of the tech industry and the expectations I should have for life as an entrepreneur, if I choose that path.”