A year ago, Pennsylvania native Nate Higgins chose the ESTEEM program as the perfect intersection of his engineering physics degree from Juniata College and his business interest from internships that involved product launches. Today, Higgins is involved in two promising startup companies – one from his ESTEEM capstone project and one from a classroom assignment that grew into an online service for graduate student housing at Notre Dame.
The capstone project, with Matthew Leevy, a research assistant professor and director of biological imaging at the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility, involves a more effective way to anesthetize small animals using 3D printing.
The project led to the formation of InVivo Concepts, in collaboration with Springboard Engineering Solutions LLC at Innovation Park and Patterson Scientific, a long-established anesthesia equipment company. InVivo won the 1st Source Bank Commercialization Award in April.
The company’s EquaFlow anesthesia manifolds deliver the anesthesia equally to the nosecones of mice, prevent the gas from escaping into the atmosphere, and, because they are made from black nylon, eliminate unwanted fluorescent or luminescent signals.
Higgins says the six-member company has built products for mice and rats and is working on devices for small rodents such as rabbits and ferrets. “We have a couple of different sizes,” he says. “We’re kind of slowly scaling up. We basically have the research market for mice and rats. We’re selling those products now. Veterinarians are interested in the product because it could replace expensive anesthesia process that involve injections and a longer recovery time for the animals, he says.
Higgins was also one of six ESTEEM students who formed South Bend Student Housing, LLC, an online tool for graduate students to find local off-campus housing, after conducting interviews with students, landlords, and University officials as part of a class assignment.
“That was something I had no intention of being part of, but it happened and it’s been great,” he says, adding that the ESTEEM ecosystem fosters the kind of innovative thinking and action that launched both projects. “I think the environment at Notre Dame and the ESTEEM program helped that move quickly. It’s been a high-paced couple of months. That’s what I was looking for coming here.”
Folowing ESTEEM, Nate has a bright future ahead of him. He is currently weighing 3 job offers and an opportunity to be an enFocus Fellow. He is looking forward to bring the skills he learned in ESTEEM where ever the future takes him.