Two Opus College of Business professors are combining dual interests in business and science to create a unique opportunity for graduate business students.

Dr. Susan Heckler, who holds the Distinguished Endowed Chair in Marketing, and Dr. Dave Brennan, Marketing Department faculty member and co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence, are advising students in the Mayo Scholars Program.

Piloted last year and officially launched in fall 2007, the Mayo Scholars Program offers MBA students and undergraduate science and business students at various private colleges and universities the opportunity to research projects submitted by Mayo Clinic professionals through the Mayo Clinic Office of Intellectual Property. The program connects students from biology, chemistry, math, physics, pre-med and business and helps prepare them for careers in hospitals, medical research institutions and health-care agencies.

Brennan, whose undergraduate minor was biology, worked directly with John Meslow, a former Medtronic executive who is in charge of the program’s development and oversight, to coordinate St. Thomas’ participation in the program’s pilot year. Last year Brennan chose Heckler, who has an undergraduate degree in the sciences and extensive experience teaching in applied business research, to advise graduate student project leaders. The five students, all hand-picked from the UST MBA program, were Jacob Swenson, Julie Kawecki, Brett Furber, Lisa Becchetti and Jenny Merkel. This year, Brennan will serve as the faculty adviser for five project leaders.

Project leaders meet with their advisers monthly and direct undergraduates whose task is to determine the market potential for Mayo inventions and other discoveries. Much of the students’ work is done online or at a library, with team communications and work done via phone or e-mail. MBA students are invited to participate based on their previous science-related education or experience and their demonstrated leadership potential.

Brennan believes the program has “considerable potential” for both the students and Mayo Clinic. “Our students are involved in several leadership labs for credit, which we believe prepares them for assuming leadership responsibilities such as the Mayo Scholars Program requires.” He also notes opportunities for students to build their résumés and to earn a stipend for their work.

The Mayo Scholars Program, now in its second year, is sponsored by the Medtronic Foundation and Mayo Clinic Office of Intellectual Property, with administrative support coming from the Minnesota Private College Council. Last year, the undergraduate participants came from Macalester College, Carleton College, St. Olaf College, the College of St. Benedict, St. John’s University, Concordia College and Gustavus Adolphus College. St. Thomas undergraduates are currently not involved with the program, but this, Brennan hopes, may change in the near future. The program runs from October through March of each academic year.