Senior Tech Manager
Jennifer Finefield is a Senior Tech Manager at Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC), an agency that assists IU’s researchers in determining and then pursuing the commercial prospects of their innovations. Finefield has been with IURTC for four years and works primarily at the IU School of Medicine. She evaluates inventions made within the companies, facilitates the patenting process and license negotiations and builds relationships among the IU research community.
“I love the work I do here,” said Finefield of her time at IURTC. “I really enjoy learning about different types of science and technology and having a greater impact.”
Finefield hasn’t always been in the business of licensing and promoting innovations in the tech and science industries, though. After she received her PhD in organic chemistry at Colorado State, she worked in a lab and conducted research. However, after several years there, she decided it was time to try something new.
“It was a long journey getting out because usually people who work in labs go to academia or industry, so getting out takes a long time and it isn’t easy,” said Finefield. “But it turned out to be a great transition. In the lab, you only see research. But, now I can see both the research and industry sides of things and we are working on all different types of projects.”
IURTC has been in partnership with Rose-Hulman Ventures, a design, prototype and development firm located in Terre Haute, since 2010 to develop prototypes of high-tech innovations that have commercial potential. In 2016, alone, they facilitated a record eight projects. Some of the projects include a device to improve skin grafting, a noninvasive device to monitor nerve-activity in the heart, a cloud-based software to improve peer-feedback amongst educators and a lower-cost alternative to saline bottles used in emergency rooms and surgeries.
“All of the projects are really quite exciting and unique and they are at all different stages,” said Finefield. “In life sciences, you identify the problem and find the solution but the solution is just an idea. But, here we are using the time and expertise to build solutions to problems.”
Finefield believes that, as a woman, she is able to bring something special to the table in the work she does for IURTC and she encourages other women to participate in the field.
She says she has not experienced any issues with misogyny as a tech manager at IURTC. That wasn’t always the case when she was working in the lab though, where, she says, it was much more of a man’s world. Finefield says this was largely due to the fact that here was more competition in the organic chemistry lab, whereas in tech transfer, it is much more of a collaborative effort.
“Women, by nature, are collaborative. When we are made into an island we are not going to succeed as easily so we have to work that much harder to network. There is also that problem of being the ‘token woman.’ I had to sit on various committees because they wanted to show that they had women in the field. That happens so often in the STEM field.”
To solve this underrepresentation of women, Finefield suggests universities and labs not only recruit women in the STEM fields, but then work to retain them. If there are more women in these fields, Finefield says, then the industry will grow even more successful.
“There is data to show that when women are involved in patenting a product, it is more likely that the license will be developed into a product,” said Finefield. “Women bring a different point of view. There is a benefit to having diversity so you get different ideas.”
But, Finefield says, the research industry is growing and developing in a variety of different ways and she is eager to be a part of where it goes.
“Research will always be evolving,” said Finefield. “There will be roadblocks and changes. But research is very strong here at IU and the challenge will always remain the same: how do we get it to the public?”