By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
TULSA — Take 45 bioscience research scientists, put them in a room together with no real agenda and you get what exactly?
The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) did exactly that this week with its first Bioscience Networking Luncheon at the Tulsa Tech Health Sciences Center.
Organized by Cornell Cross, OCAST’s associate director of Program and Tulsa/Northeast Oklahoma Regional representative, the event featured 90 minutes of networking without speaker or agenda followed by a series of short presentations.
“The whole point of the event is to put people in the room who have similar interests, with the hope of collaborating with one another,” Cross said, as conversations swirled around him. “A lot of people don’t even know there is someone in another institution not even 10 miles away that does some kind of research that can assist them in what they are doing. So this is a way to jump-start that conversation.”
Stuck in a ‘silo’
For William Paiva, Ph.D., executive director of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Systems Innovation, the event encouraged scientists to climb out of their “silos” to interact with local counterparts.
“It’s so easy to get into an organization and just stay focused on what you are doing,” said Paiva. “It’s so easy to get stuck in those silos. But the real exciting things start to happen when you bring together the health care practitioners with the engineers with the computer scientists with the health care administrators. That’s where the real magic happens.”
So, what did the event yield for the group of researchers meeting one another out of a lab setting? Scientists arrived armed only with a program that identified their colleagues.
“I think that it has done exactly what it was intended to do, which was facilitate these types of conversations,” said Kath Curtis, Ph.D., associate professor at the OSU Center for Health Sciences and chair of the Tulsa Area Bioscience Education and Research Consortium. “I’ve got ideas about people I can talk to about my own research, about people I can talk to help with professional development for graduate students, for the undergrads and for potential intern opportunities. All these things we should have known, but having it here in one place has been great.”
For OCAST, which works to build a more diverse Oklahoma economy through initiatives like its Health Research funding program, the sights and sounds of the vibrant networking event revealed key information about Tulsa area bioscience.
“What we didn’t know at OCAST is just how deep is bioscience in Tulsa on the research side,” Cornell said. “What we really didn’t know is who are the researchers and what are they doing? Now what we have is much more detailed information on the kinds of research that is going on in the Tulsa area.”
Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).