Institute for Innovation holds first Annual Student Symposium

Tufts Institute for Innovation (TII) hosted its first Annual Student Symposium, titled “Research, Innovation and Community Engagement,” on Friday, April 10. The event featured welcoming remarks, keynote address speakers, panel discussions and poster sessions.

TII Deputy Director Lauren Linton said that the major speakers — Faith Wallace-Gadsden, founder of the Archimedes Project, and Peter Levine, professor of citizenship and public affairs at Tisch College — both addressed the overarching issue of engagement. She added that the two panels focused on trying to build collaborative teams to advance community-based research and to translate that research into policy and practice through community participation — the major goals of TII.

According to Founding Director of TII and University Professor David Walt, the two sessions each had different focuses: the morning session was dedicated to innovation and the later session was dedicated to community participation. The symposium acted as a way to try and bring people from the outside community to Tufts and to try and engage the student population, he said.

“[On a long-term scale], much of translational research is based upon coming up with some idea and discovery and trying to find a problem that your discovery can be applied to,” Walt explained.

TII is trying to turn that model on its head,” he said. “The idea is to find a societal problem, then to assemble teams that can address the problem in a way that is appropriate for the community in question. The difference in this case is that identifications of these problems [are] not just driven [by] scientists.”

With regards to TII’s long-term goals, Linton paralleled Walts’ insights. “The overarching theme for TII is how to move research results from academic arenas into the communities where they can do the most good,” she said.

According to Linton, the steps to achieving these goals are identifying the important societal problems that need to be solved, building collaborative teams on multiple disciplines and translating, implementing and delivering the solutions.

Ultimately, the event was successful in terms of turnout, content and participation, Linton said.

“It really furthered our goal of creating dialogue about our mission,” she explained. “TII was founded in this last year to facilitate and accelerate innovation and translation in academia by leveraging the collective intellect that is so rich here and employing the best practices of both industry and academia. Discussions like these are very helpful to us as we move forward in embodying this mission.”

Linton explained that the talks were all interconnected, reflecting on the symposium’s central topic.

“There was a terrific level of engagement on the topic; very thoughtful comments and questions,” she said. “The talks really worked together well to embrace the topic area from different angles.”

According to Linton, the success of the event increases the possibility of new collaborations and partnerships with other schools to develop different topics for future symposiums.