Behind the scenes of WUPopSci Magazine

By Mariel Sokolov

Washington University Popular Science magazine (WUPopSci) recently launched its first-ever print edition. The magazine, founded online last year by students Brett Gao, Jack Lin, and Jeff Bai, aims to connect persons interested in university research and tech with the latest happenings, projects and teams throughout campus. I sat down with Gao to talk about his experience with the magazine.

What is WUPopSci?

WUPopSci is a student-run popular science journal that finds and delivers the latest Wash U scientific and technology innovation to students, entrepreneurs and investors.

Why did you decide to start WUPopSci?

As I first started research as an undergraduate student, I felt like research papers are written in a way that is abstruse and complex to the general public, but they don’t have to be. As I became more involved in the entrepreneurial scene at WashU and in the bigger St. Louis community, I realized that the same problem exists for investors and entrepreneurs. Technology transfer is made possible by collaboration between business and science, but scientific jargons pose a barrier between researchers and investors. When investors try to read an executive summary full of medical or scientific terminologies that they don’t understand, they often immediately lose interest. In the meantime, researchers at WashU produce hundreds of technology patents every year, and a lot of them are still waiting to be commercialized. I had the idea of a journal that translates research and patents into engaging articles, and delivers them to investors and entrepreneurs.

Why did you decide to partner with the Office of Technology Management (OTM)?

Through talking to entrepreneurs, I heard that WashU is a huge research institution near the level of schools such as Harvard or MIT.  There are new discoveries uncovered every day in our labs and centers, but there is always the possibility to commercialize more. The OTM is doing a fantastic job, but we would like to help them reach an even wider audience. Therefore, I walked in OTM one day and proposed a partnership where they provide us a list of “dormant” patents that they want more public exposure on, and WUPopSci translates these patents into engaging articles that will be delivered to entrepreneurs and investors.

How do you choose what to write about?

Each of our writers can choose a professor or researcher at WashU whose research he or she is interested in, and then conduct an interview with them. They can also choose a patent from the patent list from the OTM. Generally we pick research and inventions that have strong potential for application and commercialization.

Who are the writers?

We have 8 writers who are undergraduates from diverse backgrounds. We recruited 6 of our writers this fall, and most of them share a passion for scientific and technology innovation and also an interest in entrepreneurship.

How will the magazine affect the innovation and entrepreneurship community?

The central theme of WUPopSci’s articles is university innovation and technology entrepreneurship. In our latest issue, 5 out of the 7 articles featured research with commercializable results. Our hope is that our articles can reach investors and entrepreneurs in the bigger St. Louis community, so that these inventions can be picked up by new startups or licensed by big corporations. By the help of WashU’s news outlets and especially the Fuse, this will be made possible.

Read the latest issue at http://www.wupopsci.com.