Translational Engineering Skills Program (TESP) Introduced

Achievement date: 

A Translational Engineering Skills Program (TESP) has been developed by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) NanoSystems Engineering Research Center (NERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), based at North Carolina State University (NC State). Unique activities to support skill development in translational research were designed through the combined expertise of the Center’s education team, faculty, industry liaison officer (ILO), medical director, and assessment coordinator. TESP activities are available at all nine of ASSIST’s partnering universities, while the program’s activities have enrolled 135 participants to date – a number that continues to increase.


ASSIST’s educational mission is to train creative, adaptive graduates who are competitive in the global economy and equipped to lead technological advancement in either industry or academia. The newly developed TESP program supplements traditional curricular and research experience with hands-on activities that target a specific set of seven translational research skills that cannot be taught in a classroom. Mastery of these competencies will promote the translation of fundamental research into complete engineering products and systems that are more likely to become commercially viable.


The core of the TESP Program features Translational Skills, a set of seven competencies that combine common essential “soft” and “global” skills – such as communication, mentoring and leadership, engineering ethics, and diversity awareness – with an extra set of skills uniquely useful to commercial translation. These translational skills include: (i) systems thinking – the ability to view and solve problems from a holistic systems perspective; (ii) entrepreneurship and innovation – the ability to translate research outside the laboratory; and, (iii) production insight – an understanding of current and emerging industry and manufacturing processes.

TESP also includes half-day, experiential learning sessions offered monthly.  One example of a core activity in the Entrepreneurship and Innovation skill block is a “patent mining” session that emulates the dedicated patent mining activities conducted by many companies in order to build their patent portfolios. Led by the Center’s ILO, students brainstorm, develop possible invention ideas, and go through the process of writing and grading an invention disclosure. This activity encourages students to look at their own research through an entrepreneurship lens; promotes a culture of collaboration and innovation within the Center; and provides hands-on experience in brainstorming, patent development, and technical writing. Other experiential learning activities available through the TESP program include: medical observerships; journal manuscript editing and review; systems mind mapping; diversity workshops; and creative innovation workshops.