Pharmacy students gain unique insights, conduct innovative research through TIP summer fellowship program

Jennifer Eburg

3 min read

This summer, UConn students gained real-world experience and engaged in cutting-edge research through UConn’s Technology Innovation Program (TIP) Innovation Fellowship Program. The TIP program pairs students with TIP startup companies for summer research fellowships in business or STEM areas, exposing them to new science as well as the business side of a startup.

School of Pharmacy students Aarush Kolli and Chloe Hurme were among this year’s fellows.

Kolli completed his fellowship with Stamford, Connecticut-based FootTraffic Stats, which helps small businesses and communities—including police, fire, and EMS services—monitor people and foot traffic to help inform business decisions. He also worked with FootTraffic’s sister company, Ongo Health.

“Ongo Health is focused on creating solutions to make patient engagement and monitoring fun for people with respiratory challenges, like asthma and long COVID-19,” Kolli explains. “The hope is to get viable data to show to physicians, which will allow them to better manage their patients’ symptoms, have better engagement, and help lower costs and hospitalizations.”

Kolli’s fellowship introduced him to FootTraffic and Ongo Health’s marketing and business side, where he focused on product distribution.

“At Ongo, we developed a model that involves the use of health clinics and other local areas, like libraries, to have a digital space where patients can test their breathing capabilities and be engaged and learn more about their illness or disease,” he explains. “We hope to replicate this across Connecticut and the world.”

Chloe Hurme’s fellowship was with DeBogy Molecular, a biotech firm located in Farmington, Connecticut.

“DeBogy has developed proprietary technology that permanently modifies a surface and is able to kill bacteria, fungus, and viruses on contact,” Hurme says. “I worked on the biology side, doing the microbiological testing.”

Like Kolli, Hurme also gained exposure to the business side of the company.

“I got a lot of hands-on experience working in the lab and also got to see the business side of what goes into building a company,” she says. “I realized that the business side is just as important as the scientific innovation.”

This exposure to business concepts is one of the ways in which working with startup companies differs from working at a more established company—and is part of what sets the TIP program apart from other fellowships, according to Caroline Dealy, Ph.D., founder and director of the TIP Innovation Fellowship Program.

“A startup company brings some unique attributes that can’t be found in a corporate environment because startup companies are very small,” Dealy explains. “Often the students are working with the CEO or founder themselves. Students see not just the technology they’re involved with, but they can also see all aspects of the business.”

“The School of Pharmacy has been working with Dr. Dealy’s TIP program for a few summers now and it has proven to provide invaluable experience to our students and talent to the startup companies themselves,” says Philip Hritcko, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Companies have often found that our students have helped them to grow in significant ways. It is a win-win for everyone involved. The school’s annual fund is ultimately what empowers our involvement. Unrestricted funds allow us to provide unique and new opportunities to our student pharmacists.”

Hurme says that the fellowship experience is something that will stick with her.

“The program had a big impact on me,” she says. “I can definitely take all the lab skills and apply them in my academic career, and the business side is always good life advice.”

Kolli agrees, adding that the experience gave him new insight into what is possible with a pharmacy degree.

“My fellowship showed me new career opportunities and gave me a new purpose to learn more about entrepreneurship,” he says. “It’s definitely motivated me to hopefully start my own business in the future.”

Donate to the Pharmacy Annual Fund to support opportunities like this and other areas of need at the School of Pharmacy.

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