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Students earn entrepreneurial grant, featured in online article

A team of NDSU student entrepreneurs received a $5,000 VentureWell grant and the group is featured in an online article by the funding organization. The article, titled “The Five Biggest Challenges Faced By Student Entrepreneurs, and a Few Tips on Overcoming Them,” discusses Spinthesis, the students’ start-up company.

Team members include Bradley Hoffmann, mechanical engineering graduate student from Bismarck, North Dakota; Catherine Gruat-Henry, electrical engineering graduate student from Albstadt-Ebingen, Germany; and Pranothi Mulinti, pharmaceutical sciences doctoral student from Hyderabad, India.

The three students met during a Discovery Based Learning course at NDSU. They then started working in the laboratory of Amanda Brooks, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, looking to develop a natural process to create synthetic spider silk.

The students’ company wants to develop a light-weight material that imitates the strength, antimicrobial and waterproof qualities of spider silk. The team envisions a variety of uses in industry.

"The resources in the department has helped us a lot in moving forward in the research, and our multidisciplinary team is the major plus point,” Mulinti said.

“By being an interdisciplinary team, each one of us brings a different outlook to the table to help build our technology further,” added Hoffmann, who earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at NDSU. “We all want to improve health and environmental sustainability by developing a natural organic process in the advancement of man-made materials. We began Spinthesis to bring our vision of a man-made organic spider silk fiber to life.”

The NDSU team was one of 13 student groups across the country to receive VentureWell funding this year. In addition, members of the team recently traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts for venture development training to assist in the entrepreneurial effort.

VentureWell is a higher education network that aims to cultivate innovative ideas and inventions. In its nearly 20 years of existence, the organization has invested more than $7.5 million in grants to more than 500 student teams of young investors developing emerging technology.

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