Marais ImageNic Marais graduated with a master’s in bioengineering in August 2015. He joined The DEN in 2014 with the goal of taking his undergraduate design project to the next level. What he got was much, much more.

Question: What does innovation mean to you?

Nic: Innovation is an idea that most STEM students are believed to have grasped upon graduation. However, the term is used so broadly and frequently that I fear a disconnect exists between the idea and the application. As an incoming graduate student of bioengineering I felt confident in my ability to innovate after a fairly successful senior design project. However, as I look back I understand that while our attempt to solve a problem led to an innovative solution, I was not yet innovative.

Question: How did The DEN help you develop your innovation and entrepreneurial skills?

Nic: It was in The DEN that I truly learned to look at the world differently. We were taught to open our minds to new and abstract ideas, to always recognize problems that previously would not have fazed us, and then, using our knowledge base, develop unique solutions to these problems. With a newly enhanced vision for ideas, we were taught the process of developing an idea into a potential business. After one year in The DEN with countless hours spent cycling through multiple business ideas, my entire approach to research and academics changed from searching for the correct answer to finding a way to enhance the world.

Question: How has The DEN influenced your education and future professional goals?

Nic: The DEN brought meaning to my education, giving me a thirst and excitement for learning that is so easily lost amidst a barrage of assignments and tests. It was with this idea in mind that I made the decision to pursue law school for a career in patent law. I found that an intimidating leap exists between developing a technology and actually getting it patented. I hope to use the skills developed in The DEN to build a career in patent law, where I can continue to be an advocate for the development for innovative technologies and the people who dream them up.

Marais will be attending law school at Emory University this fall.