Q&A: Two student ambassadors join the NSF I-Corps Northeast Hub

May 23, 2023

Two students from Lehigh University, Shaun Coulter and Spencer Smith, are joining the NSF I-Corps Northeast Hub as I-Corps Ambassadors.

In this role, Coulter and Smith will work with Hub leaders to encourage participation in both regional and national I-Corps programs, increase awareness of I-Corps on their campus, and encourage other universities in the region to become part of the Northeast I-Corps Hub.

Lehigh University is one of ten institutions that make up the Northeast I-Corps Hub, with new partner institutions added annually.

What is your background and area of study?

Spencer Smith: I'm currently a graduate student in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Lehigh University. I graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and a minor in environmental sustainability. The current focus of my research at Lehigh is in the field of de-carbonization, specifically carbon capture and life cycle analysis.

Shaun Coulter: I am a graduate student at Lehigh University studying mechanical engineering.  I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Lehigh University in 2022 with minors in energy engineering and psychology. My research involves working with a local company on automating aquarium filtration technology.

Why are you interested in being an ambassador?

Spencer Smith: As I have studied domestically and abroad, I’ve found that many wonderful technologies exist today that have the possibility to change lives, but they often struggle to move beyond academia. I see I-Corps as a way to bridge the gap between industry and academia in a way that could be a powerful force for positive change.

Shaun Coulter: I have always been passionate about bringing useful technologies into public spaces so many people can benefit from them. I began my time at Lehigh University participating in a pre-semester program that taught the basics of being an entrepreneur. Additionally, in my sophomore year I was awarded at an event where students presented their ideas to a board of entrepreneurs.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

Spencer Smith: As an engineer, I feel it is paramount to have a strong business and entrepreneurial sense, which is something I hope to hone through the I-Corps program. As a student I worked for a variety of engineering companies, from start-ups to well established ones. I hope to meld this experience with the work I plan to do with I-Corps.

Shaun Coulter: I want to gain an in-depth understanding of how to translate research technologies from an idea into a marketable product. This will help me both in my current research and in future positions, as I will not only understand the engineering aspect of products, but also how to develop and define a market for these items.

What are you most excited about?

Spencer Smith: I am excited to learn more about entrepreneurship and business. Most of the coursework I received as an engineer focused on practical engineering skills. Engineering is a business, and I hope to come out of the I-Corps program a better businessman/entrepreneur and by proxy, a better engineer.

Shaun Coulter: I'm excited to motivate researchers to move their work to becoming a business, and meeting and learning from the many intelligent people who I am sure to meet at I-Corps events.