John Clifford was a junior biology major at Notre Dame when he first heard about Prof. John Duman’s research to make plants frost-resistant with antifreeze proteins from winter-hardy beetles. As a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2014, he has written a business plan to help move the idea into commercial application.
“When we start the ESEEM program we can network with professors, find out what they’re working on, see what’s going on, how we can fit in, join their team, help bring their ideas to production,” Clifford says. “They give us the raw technology, how it works, and where they think it applies. We take it from there. It’s a cool experience, bringing something to life, and they get to do what they love. He’s had the patents on it for quite a while now. This has been something in the back of his mind.”
Clifford, who grew up on a small farm near Stillwater, Minn., was naturally interested in Duman’s research. “I think that was the best way to use my biology background to apply with my new business background,” he says. “It’s a cool idea that could save a lot of money. It’s got a great potential to change agriculture.”
ESTEEM classes and the capstone project provided an opportunity to add significant business knowledge to his biology expertise, says Clifford, who plans to attend dental school at the University of Minnesota in the fall.
“With the biology background, most people go to dental school or medical school,” he says. “I wanted to go to dental school but I also wanted to see what was available. Part of being a dentist is running a small business, essentially. I was hoping to get some business classes under my belt. ESTEEM seemed to be a perfect fit. It’s been great. It’s opened my horizons a little bit more beyond dental school,” including the experience of visiting Silicon Valley during spring break.
Clifford also helped organize the recent Startup Weekend at Innovation Park and joined at team that is still working on the idea, a market research tool, that evolved – part of a wide range of experiences in 11 months as an ESTEEM student. “It’s a combination of great opportunities,” he says, “and we’ve got a really good group of classmates – very motivated and very smart.”