University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

At the U of M we're
building better engineers
and scientists who are not
just technical experts, but true innovation leaders. Why?



Click workshop title for more information.


All 2013-2014 workshops are held from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. in Walter Library, Room 101

Hosted by 3M
TEN TYPES OF INNOVATION: Multiple Ways to Change the Game and Win -
Thursday, September 26, 2013

Missed the event? View the slides!

Is innovation always about developing better products and technologies? Is the R&D lab the only source of innovation within companies? While these are important sources of innovation, they are by no means the only ones. There are ten different types of innovation that should be considered depending on a company’s differentiation strategy and external industry and market trends. This workshop will introduce you to the ten types of innovation and help you understand when and how each form of innovation can help your company win. Join four 3M innovation leaders for a lively discussion and learn from the experience of these accomplished professionals.

No registration required.

Thursday, September 26, 2013 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101

Hosted by Mortenson Construction
SOLVING PROBLEMS THAT MATTER: Understanding & Addressing Customer Pains & Gains - Wednesday, October 23, 2013

If you can build it in the lab, will customers come? Not necessarily. The first step to success as an innovator is to develop solutions to “problems that matter” in the eyes of target customers. In this workshop, you’ll be introduced to the process of customer discovery and validation and practice “painstorming” to identify opportunities for innovation. Experienced innovation leaders will share real life stories and lessons learned. You’ll understand the importance of understanding and addressing customer pains and gains (i.e., “problems that matter”) as the foundation for winning innovation efforts.

No registration required.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101

Hosted by Ecolab
ACT LIKE A LEADER BEFORE YOU ARE ONE: Leadership is Action, Not Position - Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Leaders are people who create a future that wasn’t going to happen anyway—regardless of the title and position they hold. In this highly interactive workshop we’ll explore effective actions you can take to “step up” as an influential innovation leader, even without a title. Several experienced leaders will share their perspectives and coach small teams to identify and share leadership best practices with the large group. You’ll leave with 2-3 practices that will help you become a more effective leader—on campus, at home, and at work as you start your career.

No registration required.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101

Hosted by Boston Scientific
BENCH TO BUSINESS: How Innovation Leaders Cross the Chasm from Technical Idea to Commercial Venture - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Technical expertise is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient to cross the chasm from lab research to commercial success. In this session we will explore several principles, tools and practices to supplement your technical expertise and help you navigate the “three C’s” of innovation: the broader context (the innovation ecosystem), the capability required for a commercially viable solution (the business model), and the collaboration practices necessary to execute the business model successfully. These principles and practices will be illustrated through case studies with experienced innovation leaders.

No registration required.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101

Missed the event? View the slides!

Hosted by Ecolab
BUSINESS PROCESS INNOVATION: Leveraging Lean Six Sigma to Improve Business Results - Thursday, February 27, 2014

While we like to think about innovations as breakthrough new ideas that change the world, the reality is that much of the innovation in established companies involves incrementally and continuously improving current products and processes to better serve customers and stay ahead of the competition. In this workshop, we’ll explore how six sigma methodologies can help you optimize your own performance as an innovation leader while helping your company build and sustain competitive advantage.

No registration required.

Thursday, February 27, 2014 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101

Hosted by the Technological Leadership Institute
Thursday, March 27, 2014

Technical professionals can work in variety of environments from startups to large multinational corporations. Are you more the entrepreneurial type who thrives on the dynamic, high risk/high reward experience of a startup venture where a few people do it all? Or do you find established organizations with more structure, process and specialization more appealing? Neither is better; they are just different. We all need to find our “zone” where we can do our best work and have fun along the way. In this workshop we’ll explore what it takes to be successful and thrive as a new venture entrepreneur versus an intrapreneur who innovates within established companies.

No registration required.

Thursday, March 27, 2014 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101

Hosted by Medtronic
THE INNOVATION EQUATION: Building High Performing Innovation Teams -
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For better or worse, we spend a lot of time working in project teams to translate our technical ideas into customer solutions that create value. To build high performing innovation teams, we need to create an environment that fosters the right balance of creativity and risk taking and creates a 'productive tension zone' that focuses and optimizes the engagement and performance of team members. In this workshop we'll explore five key success factors for high performing teams and discuss tools to help you translate these success factors into practice as a committed team member or team leader.

No registration required.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 4:00 - 5:30 pm in Walter Library, Room 101



LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER: Lessons from Recent CSE Grads - September 27, 2012

Three recent CSE grads who are having fun and realizing success early in their technical careers will tell their stories and share lessons they've learned in the first 3-4 years of their professional experience. This will be a highly interactive forum, so bring your questions and be prepared to learn from their experience and have some fun. You'll be inspired by the possibilities that await you after graduation!

Register here:

THE INNOVATOR'S DNA: What Distinguishes the Best from the Rest? - October 11, 2012

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be GREAT as an innovator? While technical expertise is absolutely necessary, it turns out there is more to the story. In this workshop we will explore what research says are the key differentiators and get a "reality check" from a panel of industry professionals who will share their experience. If you aspire to be a great innovator, this seminar has your name on it.

Register here:

Missed the event? View the slides!

VIEW FROM THE TOP: What the CTO Wants You To Know - October 25, 2012

Dr. Larry Berger is Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer for Ecolab Inc.  In this Gemini Project workshop, Larry will share his experience, expectations and advice for graduating engineers and scientists who want to start their careers off right.

As Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Berger is responsible for leading the global Research, Development & Engineering organization at Ecolab. Combining a deep understanding of customer problems with technology leadership, Ecolab RD&E takes an innovative systems approach to deliver superior solutions.

Prior to joining Ecolab, Dr. Berger had a 22-year career at DuPont. Most recently he was Chief Technology Officer for DuPont Nonwovens. He had also been Managing Director of DuPont Ventures and President of DuPont Photonics, where he had both technical leadership and P&L responsibility. Dr. Berger received a bachelor's degree in Engineering Chemistry from the State University of New York – Stony Brook and both a master's and doctorate degree from Cornell University in Materials Science and Engineering. 

Register here:


Richard Dodson is a vice president and career coach at Lee Hecht Harrison and a thought leader on the topic of tactful self promotion. In this workshop, Richard will help you optimize your success by developing the mindset, tool set and daily practices that will enable you to get the recognition you deserve while maintaining positive, productive working relationships with others. This skill set is an art form that will serve you well throughout your career.

Register here:

Missed the event? View the slides!

SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS: Optimizing Your Performance and Career - November 29, 2012

Success doesn't just happen because you are smart. We have to actively manage our success to both "fit in" as a team member and "stand out" as a star contributor. In this seminar we will explore the patterns of success that industry veterans have found to be key differentiators of short and long-term career success for technical professionals. You'll leave with a new "win-win" mindset and a tool set to help you take charge of success—for yourself and your organization.

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Missed the event? View the slides!

Also check out Find A Wave and Ride It

CUSTOMER CENTERED INNOVATION: If You Build It Will They Come? - January 24, 2013

If you invent and build it in the lab, will customers come? Not necessarily. The first step to success as an innovator is to develop solutions to “problems that matter” in the eyes of target customers. In this workshop, Kimberly Lees, an engineer by training and current Marketing Director for Infection Prevention Solutions in Ecolab’s healthcare business unit, will share real life stories and lessons learned. You’ll leave with a new appreciation for the importance of understanding and addressing customer requirements as the foundation for successful innovation efforts.

Register here:

BIG IDEA OR BOMB?: What Are the Keys to Marketplace Success? - February 7, 2013

Does the best technology always win? Maybe, but all too often this is not the case. There is much more to the story of marketplace success than great technology. In this workshop you will learn about a simple yet powerful framework to help you assess the commercial viability of your technical ideas early and iteratively in the R&D process. Two experienced R&D leaders will share their perspectives on the framework along with lessons they have learned about how to qualify and optimize market success of new products and technologies.

Register here:

Missed the event? View the slides!


Politics exist in every organization – for better or worse. Our experience indicates that creativity and break-through innovation require leaders to recognize organizational politics and exercise positive political savvy. In this workshop, Steve Boehlke, an accomplished author, consultant and President of SFB Associates, will help us “see” and navigate the political dynamics that can have a significant impact on creativity, innovation and overall performance of individuals and organizations.

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How do global companies achieve “glocal” leverage--global synergies AND local customization--to ensure business success? In this workshop, three seasoned R&D leaders with multinational experience in global companies will share their perspective and advice on how we can embrace and leverage cultural diversity throughout the innovation process to deliver solutions that win BOTH globally and locally. This awareness and capability is critical for any innovator who hopes to work for a multinational company.

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What role does intellectual property play in the process of innovation? What is the role of the engineer or scientist in managing intellectual property throughout the innovation process from basic research through development and new product introduction? Dr. Betty Gladfelter, a chemist with 30 years experience in product development and competitive intelligence management, will help prepare you for success by sharing her experience and best practices in managing IP and competitive analysis throughout the R&D process.

Register here:

Missed the event? View the slides!

LEADERSHIP FOR ENGINEERS: The Opportunity (and Obligation) to Make a Difference - April 25, 2013

At the Gemini Project we’re all about building better engineers. In this session, Dr. Ron Bennett, former Dean of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas, will explore the role of engineering leadership as a key factor in preparing scientists and engineers to make a difference in the world by solving problems that matter. We’ll discuss why it’s important, how to do it, and what advantages it will give you personally. Come prepared to see things differently, to engage in some stimulating and thought-provoking examples and discussion, and to network with other like-minded engineers.

Register here:



DEFINING LEADERSHIP – September 21, 2011

Most organizations claim to be looking for "leaders", but how do they define leadership and what specific traits do they seek?

Mike Begich - Optimized Operations (O2) Manager at 3M

Mike Siegler - Technology Leader at UTC Fire & Security (Formerly GE Security)

NETWORKING - October 5, 2011

You know you need a professional network, but how do you start? Master the basics of networking… and have fun in the process!


If you don't promote yourself, why should anyone else? Whether you're chasing an internship or your dream job, these are tips you need.

Patrick Brady - Senior Technical Consultant at Risk Management Solutions

Megan Gustafson - Campus Recruiting Coordinator at Deloitte

Don Hewitt - President at Katek Corporation, Management Consultants

Darren Kaltved - Associate Career Counselor at U of MN School of Public Health


Do you dream of being a tech innovator or entrepreneur? Find out how these leaders earned their reputation, and how you can too.

John Erck - Co-Founder at

Adam Link - CEO at BookBottles, LLC

Parag Shah - President at Prodality LLC

Sam Smith - Managing Director at Interactive Meeting Technology, LLC


Baby Boomers, Gen-X'ers, Millennials. How well do you understand the person who will be your boss… or your employee?

As today's graduates enter the workplace, they will be interacting with four distinct generational groups. We are pleased to welcome Kim Lear, expert on generational differences from BridgeWorks, to lead a fascinating and dynamic discussion on how to make the most of your cross-generational interactions.

Kim Lear - Consultant at BridgeWorks: The Generations People

Kim Lear is a speaker, writer, strategist and researcher on the topic of generations. As part of the multigenerational speaker team at BridgeWorks, LLC, she serves as the resident voice for her generation, the Millennials. Kim speaks to businesses and organizations on the topic of how to understand, attract and manage the wave of Millennials now entering the workforce. She also delivers workshops to Millennial new hires to help them navigate more effectively in a multigenerational workplace, thus benefiting both their careers, and their bosses!

Kim oversees the social media strategy for BridgeWorks and is a regular contributor to a variety of business publications. As a researcher, Kim identifies and documents the latest generational trends shaping how all of us live, work, and play. She recently helped launch BridgeWorks' global research initiative to identify ways in which the generations of workers are evolving in key markets overseas.

Kim lives and works in Minneapolis where she is fighting the uphill battle to convince everyone she knows of the business value of social networking.

SPEED NETWORKING - January 25, 2012

Build networking skills and meet interesting professionals, because the contact you make today could change all your tomorrows.

You've probably heard of speed dating... we've put a twist on the idea to create a fun, casual environment where you can meet professionals from the community, practice your networking skills, and expand your own personal network of professional contacts.

In a "Speed Networking" environment, we've taken all the stressful parts of networking out - no trying to figure out how to break into conversations, no awkwardness... just interesting conversations with professionals who are interested in talking with you.

Karen Althen - Owner and Principal at Station K & Associates (Marketing & Advertising)

Ian Barker - Director of Coach Education at National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)

Andrew Morrow - Technology Marketing Manager, Software and Digital Assets at the U of MN Office of Technology Commercialization

Matt Parrington - Head Coach, Men's Baseball at Macalester College

Steve Simmons - Head Coach, Men's Soccer at Oregon State University

Margaret Surprenant - VP of Electronic Banking at TCF Bank

Bret Weiss - President at WSB & Associates (Civil Engineering)


From class projects to future missions, you'll be on a team. Upgrade your operating system with these teamwork tips. Katy Smith, the 2011 Minnesota Teacher of the Year, will introduce us to Real Colors®.

Katy Smith - Teacher for Certified Real Colors™ workshop trainer

For nearly thirty years, my vocation has been working side by side with families, educators, and business professionals helping to connect people and build stronger, more vital communities. People inspire me and help drive my educational and career choices. I have a BSW and teaching license in Parent Education from Winona State University in Winona, MN. My Masters of Education is from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse.

My diverse work takes me to schools, churches, community centers, businesses, conventions and conferences. A great day at work includes speaking to small or large groups of people who like to learn and love a good laugh. I believe that people learn best when they are engaged in a powerful story that challenges their thinking and touches their emotions.

The Real Colors® Personality Instrument is a simple, easy to administer system for identifying the four temperaments (Blue, Gold, Green or Orange ). It provides users with an effective tool for understanding human behavior, for uncovering motivators specific to each temperament and for improving communication skills. Most importantly, Real Colors® is easy to incorporate into all areas of daily life. It is the key to achieving higher levels of success, personally and professionally.


Entrepreneurship and engineering go hand in hand. Our panel developed their ideas into commercial enterprises. Can you?

Hear A.J. Schwidder, CEO and Director of Upstream Technologies, Inc. and Luca Zullo,Co-founder and VP of Business Development of BioCee, Inc. speak about their experience creating a business.

A. J. Schwidder - CEO and Director at Upstream Technologies, Inc.

A.J. is an entrepreneur who has started and successfully operated a mini-storage company, and a consulting civil engineer who has a history of successfully procuring contracts with local, state and federal government agencies. He completed an MBA from the University of Minnesota in May, 2011.

A.J.'s accomplishments and work history include:

  • Founder and President, Additional Storage, Inc. (2001-present)
  • Project Manager, Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. (1999-2009)
  • Municipal/Civil Engineer, Howard R. Green Company (1997-1999)
  • Staff Engineer, Allender Butzke Engineers (1994-1997)

As the founder of Additional Storage, Mr. Schwidder developed and implemented the overall business and marketing strategy, which led to profitability in 26 months and 20 percent annual revenue growth over the following 5 years. He also wrote the business plan for the new company and raised $425,000 to finance the start-up.

In his role as a civil engineer, he successfully won contracts for engineering services from cities, counties, and state government agencies. In the course of managing these contracts through completion, he built strong relationships with many of the engineers, scientists, and administrators who will purchase the SAFL Baffle.

He is currently on the board of directors of Fareway Stores, Inc., an Iowa based retail grocery company that owns and operates 100 stores in four states. In addition, he is on the board of directors of Samaritan Way, a non-profit that operates a thrift store and food shelf in Elk River, Minnesota. From 2009 through 2010, he served as president of the Minnesota Federation of Engineering, Science, and Technology Societies.

Luca Zullo - Co-Founder of BioCee, Inc.

Luca Zullo holds a Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Padua, Italy and a Ph.D. also in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, United Kingdom. He started his career at Shell Research in The Netherlands where he was involved with design and automation of novel petrochemical and oil processes. He joined Cray Research to lead the effort to apply high performance computing applications to the petrochemical and oil refining industry. During that time he led a project aiming to integrate large scale process simulation with 3D visualization to provide a fully dynamic and immersive simulation environment for training, design and process improvement. This project, "The Virtual Plant" was a finalist for the Smithsonian-Computerworld award for innovation in Computing. After joining Cargill, he focused on biofuels and bio-energy in plant operations with an emphasis on "waste" to energy and second generation biofuels. At Cargill he was the technical lead of a group that developed domestically and internationally methane capture projects in agricultural operations to harvest renewable energy and carbon credits. He is the founder of VerdeNero LLC, a technical service and consulting firm for the biomass and biofuels industry, a member of the advisory board of CoordinateCapital LLC and an appointed member to Minnesota Governor Pawlenty's Clean Technogy Energy Collaborative.


The professional friendships you build can help your career… or hurt it. Learn to build and maintain strong workplace relationships.

Meet Bret Weiss, President of WSB & Associates, Inc. and get all of your questions about developing workplace relationships answered.

Bret Weiss - President at WSB & Associates (Civil Engineering)

Bret became WSB's President in 2001. He continues to be attentive to his clients, concentrating on keeping open, honest relationships. Bret remains focused on the success of WSB. Once a person becomes a part of the staff, Bret takes on the significant responsibility of making sure that person has work to do, great benefits, and is happy with what they are doing. They become a member of, what he affectionately calls, his WSB family. "We joined together over a decade ago and could never have imagined creating such a successful firm comprised of so many talented individuals."


How do you turn an internship into a full time offer? How do you choose a summer job that fits your long-term goals?