Christopher Lambert, PhD
The Coleman Foundation Faculty Entrepreneurship Fellows Program was developed by the private, independent Coleman Foundation to promote entrepreneurship and self-employment education. Every year, grants are awarded to college and university faculty members across the country who are actively incorporating entrepreneurial concepts and activities into their teaching.
WPI is proud to have a number of our faculty members recognized as Coleman Fellows for encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship in our students.
2011 Coleman Fellow
Chris Lambert is a busy man. As a research associate professor at WPI’s Bioengineering Institute (BEI), he’s working on projects ranging from developing a device to detect ammonium and potassium ions to help monitor kidney and cardiac functions, to researching neuron growth and repair that will help couple the human nervous system to artificial limbs in the growing field of neuroprosthetics.
Lambert is also living the life of an entrepreneur, as co-founder of Active Surface Technologies with former BEI director Grant McGimpsey, a five-year-old company developing hand-held diagnostic devices; as well as founder of the recently-launched AT Biosciences, a start-up focusing on surface technology for growing cells.
Although he is not actively teaching at this time, Lambert is mentoring WPI seniors for their Major Qualifying Projects (MQP), helping them work through some very hands-on challenges to develop sensing technologies.
“Everything these guys are doing is commercializable,” says Lambert. “Traditionally, an MQP project in chemistry or bioengineering might not have this commercial aspect to it, but to me, it’s very important to talk about commercialization early on. For several years, I worked for a non-invasive glucose monitor company, eventually becoming scientific director there. I always heard ‘we’re very different from academia’, and when I left and went into teaching, I would hear ‘oh, no, we’re very different from industry’. But I realized, at the end of the day, a successful company and a successful academic research lab have to produce something within a certain amount time.”
Lambert believes it’s important to keep talking with students about where their technology might be applicable and what industries might be interested in what they’re doing. “I think it helps the students focus and deliver a product at the end of their projects,” observes Lambert, who insists that his students include a section about commercialization possibilities when they write their MQPs.
According to Lambert, the definition of entrepreneur has changed over the past twenty years or so. “It’s become this incredibly positive thing,” he chuckles. “Today, people look at one guy and say ‘he’s a businessman’, and look at another and say ‘oh, but HE’S an entrepreneur!’ In reality, it’s not that hard. As a graduate, you’ve got no money anyway, right? You might as well start a business because you’ve got nothing to lose.”
Amused by entrepreneurs he’s heard at a number of conferences and forums who seem to have an iron-clad set of tips for entrepreneurial success, Lambert says it all boils down to simply giving it a try. “People worry about venture capitalists and angel investors,” he comments, “but there are lots of ways to get money. It’s more important to try something and not give up. It can be an awful lot of fun.”