Students immerse in a case study on sustainable energy

Industry Immersions Spark New Ideas
Business and science intersect

Hands dart up across the classroom with questions as Assistant Professor Edward Spang begins his talk about his food waste research and the Food Waste Initiative he leads at UC Davis.

One MBA student asks if farmers are doing cost-benefit analyses on the problem. A graduate student in agriculture explains the complexity of repurposing food waste as fertilizer. Others question legal pressure points and if behavioral research could provide answers. This session in Friday’s Food and Ag Industry Immersion examines an area with big opportunities: how to improve the efficiency of interlinked food, water and energy systems.   

Industry Immersions Spark New Ideas

In the same class, speaker Mallya Perdur, an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, begins to share his presentation on trends in ag venture capital investments when students quickly chime in, starting a dynamic new conversation.

Students work on improving the efficiency of linked food, water, and energy systems.

Across the four Industry Immersion courses, graduate students in science, engineering, MBA programs and other fields, are actively sharing their ideas, perspectives and experiences, prompted by the live case studies presented by top executives.

In the Biotechnology Industry Immersion, Genentech’s speakers, Anne Madej, associate program director of U.S. regulatory intelligence, and Roberto Barrozo of regulatory affairs, have paired up to drill through the company’s strategy for getting medicines to patients faster. In the afternoon session, Moleculera Labs CEO Craig Shimasaki, with his seven tips for biotech entrepreneurs, prompts a stream of questions and curiosities.

“Our minds work very differently and it’s really cool to come together and work on the same issue and have that different input.” 

Meanwhile, in the Sustainable Energy Immersion, students are breaking down both the science and the business case for building an idea from a Google X project into an ambitious geothermal energy startup, Dandelion Energy.  

Kathy Hannun, Co‐founder and CEO of Dandelion

“It’s very engaging, very interactive” says Mekdem Wright MBA 19, a student in the Sustainable Energy Immersion. “The executives who come here tend to have a dialogue with the class, as opposed to a standard lecture, which I appreciate.”

Wright teams up on a live case study presented by Kathy Hannun, the CEO of Dandelion Energy, which is disrupting the home heating and cooling industry. Wright collaborates with graduate students who have direct research and work experience with these technical systems. He says he’s expanding his conventional understanding of this industry so much that he’s already applied some lessons to a consulting project for an energy services company.

Craig Shimasaki, President & CEO of Moleculera Labs

“The non-MBA students in the class are really incredible to work with,” he says. “They are very smart and have a lot of technical understanding that brings a lot of value to the business perspective that we’re considering.”

Laudan Yavari MBA 19 shares the same enthusiasm about working side-by-side with UC Davis graduate students from other fields in the Food and Ag Industry Immersion.

“Our minds work very differently and it’s really cool to come together and work on the same issue and have that different input,” she says. “When you learn from people in this setting, it’s amazing because you not only hear the crop issues, but about the community and the people who are involved in all of it.”