Course Spotlight: Entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences


Photo Credit: Dr. Robert Karpman

I took Entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences with Professor Robert Karpman during the fall 2017 semester, as I was looking for a one credit course that furthered my interest in entrepreneurship. I was intrigued by the course offering, given Professor Karpman’s practical experience as an entrepreneur in the healthcare industry for over thirty years. In fact, Professor Karpman currently serves as the CEO of Geri-Safe, a startup company that develops technology to assist senior adults with their medications. With Professor Karpman’s background, I initially thought the class would focus on biotech startups and their impact in the healthcare field. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Professor Karpman’s unique perspective on the intersection between the life sciences and entrepreneurship.

Professor Karpman started the semester off discussing how the scientific process is very similar to the entrepreneurial process. Many of my classmates were undergraduate life science majors and other students were enrolled in the SC College of Business. Students were surprised to learn the similarities between what seems to be two distinct fields. Professor Karpman’s introduction enabled students to think strategically about the entrepreneurial process from the start.

The course consisted of a series of lectures from esteemed Cornell faculty, alumni, and local entrepreneurs. All of the lecturers provided the classroom with fresh perspectives and valuable lessons in entrepreneurship. I found the most memorable lecturers to include Professor Bruce Ganem and Dr. Katie Shoenberg. Professor Ganem of the Chemistry Department discussed how dramatically Cornell’s offerings in entrepreneurship have changed since he first arrive on campus in the 1970’s, while Dr. Katie Shoenberg of Elanco shared with the class the exciting research opportunities she pursues in enabling farmers to develop safe and sustainable food as a Senior Product Development Scientist. Overall, the lecturers were engaging and insightful for students interested in learning more about entrepreneurship.

Beyond the guest lecturers, Dr. Karpman supplemented our learning experience with the book How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation by Kevin Ashton. This book provides a historical overview on the origins of discovery and invention. Ashton discusses several influential figures in our society that broke the status quo in pursuit of improving processes. If you do not have the opportunity to take Entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences, I would still highly recommend reading this book.

This class will be offered again in fall 2018 and is a great option for those interested in exploring entrepreneurship and or have a background in the life sciences. Professor Karpman will also be teaching a new course on Foundational Perspectives and Controversies in Entrepreneurship, which will be a requirement for those students who wish to minor in a new University-Wide Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor.