07 Apr 2021

Technology, Engineering, and Business Intersect at 2nd Annual John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences-Harvard Business School Technology Showcase


On Tuesday, March 23rd, the second annual John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)-Harvard Business School (HBS) Technology Showcase brought together two student groups from across the university; the latest cohorts of the MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences Program and the Undergraduate Technology Innovation Fellows Program.

The first showcase was held in the fall of 2019 as in-person event. As has happened with so many other gatherings, this year’s version was pushed back a few months and moved online, utilizing video technology to create interactions for the students and attendees.

Bobby Tuohy (MS/MBA 2021) kicked things off as the event host, live from Spangler.

“Just over a year ago, our school experience was unimaginably changed by the news of a growing pandemic and the changes in daily life it required of us to save lives,” Tuohy said. “Tonight, we’re still enjoying our cramped apartments, quarantines, and COVID protocols, but with the newfound hope of vaccinations on the horizon. It’s with this same sense of hope and optimism, our classes reflect on this second and third cohorts of MS/MBAs, and junior and senior classes of Harvard Technology Fellows.”

This year’s event started with a welcome from HBS Dean Srikant Datar and SEAS Dean Frank Doyle.

“I want to acknowledge our amazing students, specifically the first graduating cohorts of both programs. They finished last spring and have gone on to do amazing things,” said Doyle. “To our current students, if the past year has proven anything, it’s that there’s a greater need than ever for tech savvy entrepreneurs and innovators to tackle big, grand challenge problems in society and these programs are ideally suited to prepare such leaders. To you I say, ‘Go forth and succeed!’”

“While developing the MS/MBA program, we thought about the skills, capabilities, and mindset that students in the program should learn, and the challenges we hope they will tackle as graduates,” Datar added. “Our two school’s faculties partnered to develop a curriculum to enable students to find new ways to address important market needs, areas where a great technology and a great business model might come together to serve society. I have been amazed by the creativity of everyone in carrying these goals forward this past year, in the most unusual of circumstances.”

Next up was an opportunity for fellow students, alumni, MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences program advisors, and guests to hear from the students representing both programs, who had created presentations of their work from the past year. In several breakout rooms students discussed their various initiatives, including startups focusing on everything from new tools for virtual teams to providing technology access for underserved communities, preventing cyber bullying, software platforms to help build affordable housing, and even sustainable pet food.

Virtual attendees then heard from Hanspeter Pfister, SEAS professor and codirector of the Technology Innovation Fellows Program; Tom Eisenmann, HBS professor and faculty cochair of the MS/MBA program; and Robert Howe, SEAS professor and also faculty co-chair of the MS/MBA program.

In thanking the first cohort of MS/MBA students, Eisenmann remarked, “I want to say how proud I am of the work that my colleagues, staff, and especially the students have done. I had the pleasure of teaching Tech Venture Immersion in January, and watched the MS/MBA students figure out how to work together safely, socially distanced, and the tech fellows collaborate with virtual whiteboards to move a start-up concept from a glimmer in the eye into a pitch in front of investors and seasoned entrepreneurs—and learn a lot in the process.”

"We really have a very diverse cohort. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of concentrations,” said Pfister. “They bring together this nice mix of different interests and different pieces of the puzzle with entrepreneurship and business.”

“This program is for very ambitious students because they earn two degrees in two years,” said Howe. “The intellectual structure is around the observation that starting a new tech venture is a set of culled design problems. You have to design a product you’re going to sell but you also have to design a business model and an organization. The curriculum enables these students to become very successful leaders of tech ventures.”

The event concluded with presentations from two MS/MBA students and two Technology Innovation Fellows talking about their recent projects.

Michael Mancinelli's (MS/MBA 2021) presentation was about Human Dynamics, a cross-venture collaboration between MIT and Harvard.

  • Michael Mancinelli’s (MS/MBA 2021) venture, Human Dynamics, leverages robotics to create a future where infrastructure can be built and maintained without risk to personal health and safety. “Drobot, our innovative drone and robotics solution, is a safer, cheaper, and cleaner way to conduct work at heights,” he explained. “Building a business while being in the MS/MBA program has been a great experience, as we’ve been able to leverage resources across the Harvard ecosystem.”
  • Lizzie Matusov (MS/MBA 2022) highlighted Pathlight, a site that matches jobseekers with their most fulfilling tech career path, connecting them with a community of peers and industry mentors to help them land their dream job. “Those with no tech background or network are overwhelmed with what’s online, and are at a disadvantage,” Matusov said. “We believe that breaking these barriers of entry is going to have a drastic impact on the diversity of the tech industry.”
  • In response to the pandemic, Katherine Lou (AB 2021) created Dear Harvard, a website that enables members of the Harvard community to create and share virtual postcards. Lou, originally from Vancouver, grew the platform to include Dear/Cher Canada. “We wanted to create a space for the Harvard community to gather (virtually) and share reflections and messages,” Lou noted. “At the same time, we want this project to be forward looking, to the end of the pandemic, and be a bridge between digital and physical spaces.”
  • Trisha Prabhu (AB 2022) created Re-Think, an award-winning, innovative, patented technology that proactively stops online hate before the damage is done by detecting offensive content and giving young people a chance to "rethink" before they post. “Our broader vision is to make our core value of intentional, thoughtful digital citizenship the future of the internet,” Prabhu commented. “Today’s internet is far from perfect, but one message at a time, Re-Think is building the internet we all deserve.”

Trisha Prabhu (AB 2022) discusses her Re-Think project during the showcase.

The MS/MBA program is a joint degree with HBS and SEAS, which confers an MBA from HBS and a Master of Science (MS) in Engineering Sciences from SEAS. The program is completed in four semesters over two years, augmented by summer and January term coursework amounting to three-quarters of a fifth semester. Designed to train future leaders of technology ventures, the MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences Program provides a strong foundation in general management, builds design skills, and extends students’ understanding of engineering.

Students enrolled in this program benefit from the philanthropic support of alumni that includes a generous gift from Mark Nunnelly (MBA 1984) and Denise Dupre that was critical in the launching of the program. The gift, which provides fellowship support to all enrolled MS/MBA students, reflects the Boston-based donors’ desire to bridge the worlds of business and engineering and to help catalyze collaboration between HBS and SEAS as Harvard’s Allston campus evolves into an epicenter of research and innovation.

The Fellows program is a partnership between the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Harvard Business School (HBS). The program is supported by a gift from the Roberts Family Foundation and enables a group of 10-15 outstanding Harvard College sophomores (from any College concentration) to build knowledge, skills, and a community, putting them on a path to launch and lead innovative endeavors—whether it be creating technology startups or leading innovation teams in governmental or non-profit/social organizations.

Other projects presented during the breakout portion of the program included:

  • The Baker's Club (Yarden Halperin, MS/MBA 2022 and April Weathers, MBA 2022), a social platform for online baking community
  • CassVita, Inc. (Ajanoh Pelkins MS/MBA 2022), which supports tech-enabled agribusiness
  • Cell Ag Pet Food (Sophie Levin MS/MBA 2022), which produces sustainable pet food made from cultured meat
  • Hubs (Tomer Avni, MS/MBA 2022 and Shachar Hirshberg, MBA 2022), an enterprise social network for companies working remotely
  • Macro (John Keck and Ankith Harathi, both MS/MBA 2020), a new virtual teaming platform
  • AllSpice (Valentina Toll Villagra and Kyle Dumont, both MS/MBA 2020) a digital collaboration platform for hardware engineering teams
  • SafeBase (Stan Chang and Adar Anon, both MS/MBA 2020), which allows companies to share details of their security program early in the sales process
  • GirlsComputingLeague (Kavya Kopparapu AB 2022), which provides accessible emerging technology education to low-income students and young women
  • A software platform that optimizes the process for building affordable housing (Juliet Nwagwu Ume-Ezeoke SB 2021)

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