When Todd Alexander ’11, ’19 (PhD) recalls his early years on campus, he beams.
“My undergraduate experience was amazing,” he says. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed here for my PhD. I truly enjoyed all of my classes, and the professors were fantastic. It was clear to see the passion the teachers and students had for creating and learning.”
Alexander was part of the first cohort of Integrative Graduate Education & Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellows at WPI. As he explains it, the focus of the IGERT grant was to instill an entrepreneurial mindset into PhD students, centered on projects under the umbrella of biofabrication, including courses in innovation and entrepreneurship. This led him to propose his own PhD major in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Biomedical Engineering. “I wanted this training to reflect in my degree title,” he explains, “as I felt it was just as important as the technical training I received.”
Dean of Graduate Studies Terri Camesano calls him her go-to guy, helping with everything from international visitors to mentoring. “I think I’ve been really lucky,” he says. “I have mentored some amazing groups and individuals, including MQP teams, REUs, and some really ambitious undergrads … though I think this speaks more to the quality of students WPI attracts than to my mentoring abilities.”
Not only has Alexander excelled at WPI, but he says he earned a few extra credits when he met his wife in his senior year. “She—along with my family—has been unbelievably supportive throughout my PhD years. I am very lucky to have met her.”
In addition to studying for a graduate degree, he cofounded a company, which he calls one of the deepest learning experiences of his education. “A start-up is a lot of work,” he recalls, “whether it was working on grants, networking, pitching at competitions, or trying to raise funding.” Unfortunately, the company closed, but he admits that many valuable lessons were learned through the process. “Even though it didn’t end the way I wanted, I would do it again—hopefully better the second time around.”
After graduation this fall, Alexander plans to work in industry or perhaps join—or even found—a start-up.
“With my background in alternative antimicrobials and the growing problem with antimicrobial resistance, I want to help as many people as possible,” he says. “I think a start-up is the best way I can do that.”