Bio Innovation Conference | Postdoctoral Researcher Session – Mid-Atlantic STEM, Innovation & Entrepreneurship 
Maryland Life Sciences Bio Innovation Conference Postdoctoral Researcher Session – Mid-Atlantic STEM, Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Missed the live conference? Watch and read more about the panel.
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Mid-Atlantic STEM, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Mid-Atlantic STEM, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Postdoctoral Researcher Session – Mid-Atlantic STEM, Innovation & Entrepreneurship 



  • Jack Pevenstein, Ph.D., P.E., NIST Tech Transfer Advisor, Senior General Engineer, Federal Laboratory Consortium, Mid-Atlantic [FLC-MA] Regional Coordinator


  • John P. Holden, Director of Economic Development and Tourism, Stafford County Va.
  • Rebecca A. Styn, PhD, Erie Management Group, Director of Community Investment, Erie, Pa.
  • Robel Worku, Economic Development Specialist, Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation


The Mid-Atlantic region is loaded with opportunities for scientists, engineers researchers, and bench researchers who have an interest in careers beyond the bench. And it is an interesting mix that the Mid-Atlantic region is the most densely populated in terms of federal laboratories and technical facilities, and it’s also loaded with state and local governments that are deeply concerned about promoting economic and professional opportunities for scientists and engineers and related fields.

Once you get finished with your fellowships, with your postdoc, opportunities with your short-term research activities, you’re going to be looking for more permanent career situations. Some of you will stay with the bench. Some of you may want to stay with the federal government. Others of you may want to explore opportunities in innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship. An important point is, learn to network. Networking isn’t done by sending out CVs and resumes, networking is done person-to-person. 

The second major point we want to stress is that the Mid Atlantic states, and their various municipalities, are actively encouraging economic and career opportunities that are driven by technological innovation, and the opportunities are growing rapidly in this area. The Mid-Atlantic region desperately wants to attract a highly skilled workforce, a young dynamic workforce, a workforce that’s plugged into 21st century technology of all kinds. And finally, this area has world class academic institutions that you can rely on for further training, where you can rely on for collaboration.  

Opportunities in Pennsylvania

I thought I’d give like a highbrow overview of Pennsylvania overall and talk a little bit about Erie as we move forward in this session. Today, there are over 250 institutions of higher education throughout the state of Pennsylvania that are currently working on research talent development. And we have a network of incubators and accelerators within this area that also provide support. We have a strong incubator program through both Gannon University and what’s known as Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which is a statewide initiative supporting and collaborating with many entities. It has four chapters across the state.

Though this year, we have gone virtual given obviously the pandemic situation so statewide, our Department of Community and Economic Development also launched a KIZ program (Keystone Innovation Zone), and as a means to drive innovation and support and entrepreneurship in and around Pennsylvania, through their colleges and universities. Qualified companies are eligible to receive up to $100,000 per year in tax credits, which can be used to support growth and expansion in our Commonwealth. So there’s currently 29 zones throughout the state of Pennsylvania, And Pennsylvania is in the top 10 states for technology growth potential. We are home to two of the top six NIH funded research institutions, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania. And last year, we received the fourth largest amount of NIH funding in the United States. Obviously we have other great institutions like Carnegie Mellon, and they also boast a nascent company called Carnegie Foundry which supports innovation and robotics. We have major healthcare systems including UPMC and Allegheny and there’s just a wealth of opportunity here. 

NIST Opportunities

At NIST, we have a program that we call the Entrepreneurs in Residence Program. We have three people there who have had extensive experience in all manner of technology transfer activities, entrepreneurship activities related to the legal aspects of developing a startup company. It’s for people who want to explore the entrepreneurial space, the startup space, talk to people about what it’s like to start their own company, on a one-on-one basis. We’re very big on the idea of paying it forward, giving of our knowledge and giving up our resources in terms of networking to help you.


QUESTION: What talent or skill sets are most needed?

Data analytics is huge, and that spans multiple industries and fields. A lot of the new software or hardware they create has a lot to do with analyzing a massive quantity of data using artificial intelligence or machine learning technology. So they’re always looking for folks who can process a large amount of data and make sense of it. I think one of the most interesting titles I’ve seen out there is with product managers. And a lot of what the product managers have been doing is trying to figure out how to use a lot of the data that they’re synthesizing and trying to operationalize and make the product better so I’ve seen a lot of that happening here

There’s a lot of opportunity in research and development in PA and also in data analytics. PA is home to cyber especially up in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. Gannon just launched what’s called the AI Hack, which is part of their university so I know that’s growing. And then manufacturing is key here. There’s a ton of opportunities that they’re looking to expand and grow.

I’m going to give you my take on technology transfer, and why I think it’s important, and how it moves into other fields related to technology entrepreneurship. People with technical backgrounds, no matter what level they are generally, have the knowledge and the ability to undertake technology transfer. And when we talk about technology transfer, we’re not only talking about simply the transfer of knowledge from one party to another. We’re talking about the marketing of the knowledge, we’re talking about the ability to take technical knowledge and make people aware of how that can solve problems to better their lives. Every federal laboratory, and there are some 330 of them throughout the country, is required to have a technology transfer office, and the federal technology transfer mission is mandated by a number of federal laws.

The Foundation for Advanced Education and Sciences at NIH offers graduate level tech transfer classes.