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WHAT DO YOU DO? A CONVERSATION WITH DR. ALMESHA CAMPBELL, DIRECTOR FOR TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER & COMMERCIALIZATION

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JXNPRENEUR: We've been friends for a while but I don't think I've fully grasped everything you do and why it's important. Could you provide a brief explanation?

DR. CAMPBELL: I currently serve as the Director for Technology Transfer and Commercialization in the Office of Research and Economic Development at JSU where I direct the technology transfer/intellectual property initiatives, commercialization, and innovation strategies. I also provide strategic vision for defining and designing strategic partnerships involving commercialization and innovation initiatives. (I work with faculty and students who have innovations or inventions and help them protect those ideas, as well as find avenues for getting their ideas to the marketplace). I am also currently managing the newly established Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development, which houses a Virtual Reality Academy, the TigerLab Makerspace, a collaboratory, and a Tech Hub Training Space. Tech Transfer is important because of its primary goal to transfer knowledge – researchers share their research results, which allow others to use it, improve upon it, or come up with more research questions. Additionally, it is important because innovation and inventions are intended to improve human life; thus, my role is to ensure that this occurs. Innovation and entrepreneurship will drive the economy.

JXNPRENEUR: How has your position evolved over time? 

DR. CAMPBELL: Wow! When I tell you that this has been one of the most exciting opportunities that I have been given, I am not exaggerating. In 2011, when I was asked to serve as the Intellectual Property Manager, I had no idea what the job entailed, but I quickly accepted the challenge and began to immerse myself in the field. Back then, my job was to help JSU protect the intellectual property of its faculty – mainly through patenting. As I began to get involved with organizations such as the National Academy of Inventors and the Association of University Technology Managers, as well as connecting more with the other Tech Transfer Directors in the state, I began to understand the importance of my role. The role of Tech Transfer has also evolved over the years. We are now expected to drive innovation and entrepreneurship, and work across multiple landscapes to advance Economic Development. 

JXNPRENEUR: Recently, you've had some major accomplishments. Could you tell us about them?

DR. CAMPBELL: These accomplishments are truly collective efforts. Without support from the JSU administration, faculty and students, we would not be able to pursue these initiatives or achieve some of these accomplishments. Only a handful of HBCUs have Technology Transfer Offices, and thus, JSU is considered a leader in this area. We are able to collaborate with larger institutions and work on some great things, such as the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences funded by the Southeast Accelerator Hub to accelerate biomedical technologies. The University of Kentucky, West Virginia University, and a small business health accelerator in Kentucky lead this effort. There are 24 institutions in this Hub, which includes JSU and Ole Miss. I serve as the Site Lead for JSU. I also serve as the Principal Investigator for the JSU I-Corps Site funded by the National Science Foundation to help faculty and student teams take their ideas from the lab to the market. JSU also recently established the first university Virtual Reality Academy in the State of Mississippi. JSU was also just awarded Mentor-Protégé of the Year by NASA Shared Services.

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JXNPRENEUR: How does your program benefit the Jackson metro area? 

DR. CAMPBELL: We currently accept local entrepreneurs in some of our programs. In fact, we recently collaborated with Georgia Tech to host four Lean Start Up Workshops in May 2019, which were opened to the local entrepreneurs. We also assist with prototyping, and linking entrepreneurs with faculty and student expertise.

JXNPRENEUR: I picked you to co-moderate my Clique Facebook Group. We are fairly informal and provide a little advice, have open dialogue and share inspirational messages. What else could we do to provide more of a benefit to members? 

DR. CAMPBELL: I think this is a great forum for open dialogue. I think we can schedule more sessions, with specific topics, so we can focus the conversation and provide some support for entrepreneurs. We also should target some experienced entrepreneurs to share their experience starting, keeping, and growing their business.

JXNPRENEUR: What's your go to for motivation? Is there a favorite song? Movie? Book or quote?

DR. CAMPBELL: Hmmm… My motivation comes from my late grandmother’s saying, which I’m translating from patois to English, “If you don’t work during the day, you will have to work at night. Either way, the work must get done.” It’s that simple for me. I also like to see the excitement in faculty and students when they tell me about their ideas/innovations. That excitement fuels me to work harder to ensure their ideas come to fruition. I don’t think I have a favorite song – it depends on the occasion and my mood. If I am lacking energy, I tend to go to YouTube and play Rihanna songs. Favorite movie is probably Lion King – I learned so much about complex relationships, respect, finding one’s place in the world, balancing my free spirit with my roles and responsibilities, and how to overcome adversity. Yes; I found all that in a Disney animation.

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JXNPRENEUR: What does your future look like? 

DR. CAMPBELL: My response is the same as the one I gave when I was interviewed for acceptance in my Ph.D. program. I see myself on the beach, sipping a Pina Colada, relaxed, and stress free. Until that time, I have a lot to get done. The possibilities are endless.

For more information, please visit Jackson State University.