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Drexel Libraries Looks to Zoom to Continue Its Tradition of 'Toasting the End of the Academic Term' During COVID-19

June 10, 2020

On Monday, June 8, the Drexel Libraries wrapped up its 2019/2020 ScholarSip event with a “food for thought” session with Professor Banu Onaral, H. H. Sun Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering.

ScholarSip, launched in 2011, is part of the Libraries’ strategic objective to help build a cross-campus community through informal, in-person gatherings where faculty and professional staff exchange ideas (and refreshments!) with a toast to the end of the academic term.

However, the spring 2020 event was anything but normal. For the first time in its history, ScholarSip was held remotely via Zoom, with 61 participants, some from across the country, coming together online to recreate the stimulating break from the academic grind—and all the unprecedented disruptions of the last few months—for which ScholarSip is known.

“Unfortunately, as is the case with so many events and activities, we have not been able to gather together in person for the past two quarters due to COVID-19. But I am pleased we have the option to utilize technology like Zoom to gather together online for this term’s ScholarSip event,” Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries, said during her opening remarks. “I still have not figured out how to send refreshments remotely through Zoom, but nonetheless I can promise an engaging conversation online this afternoon, with a BYO etiquette!”

The theme of this year’s ScholarSip series focused on the benefits and challenges of conducting and disseminating research when academics collaborate with industry.

During her session, which was rescheduled from March 16 due to the pandemic, Professor Onaral shared case studies and insights gained from years of personal experience in building research and innovation bridges between academia and industry.  

Professor Onaral began by discussing the history of academic and industrial collaborations in Philadelphia, noting that the City of Brotherly Love is also a “City of Firsts” that is ripe for university/industry collaborations.

“[Philadelphia] is America’s first major industrial city—we became the innovation, industry and entrepreneurship center of the country in the late 1700s,” she explained.We lost that edge for a time, but we never gave up on what we cared about—universities, medicine and now the pharmaceutical industries, biopharma, biotech and biomedical technologies. We have this cluster of amazing academic institutions in this city, plus all this industry that puts us in a … setup where together we can innovate and contribute to science and technology.”

She also spoke about the benefits of enriching the student experience and contributing to society through such partnerships.

“[I look at collaborations between academic and industry as] innovation partnerships, because, after all, innovation is what comes out of it,” said Professor Onaral. “[Universities] are in the business of talent development, and we partner with other stakeholders because it will be good for our students... But we also enrich the knowledge base—industry—through scientific research that leads to technology development. Truly, university/industry collaborations allow us to serve society, advance our professions and add value to the economy.”

Following her presentation, Professor Onaral engaged in a lively questions and answer session with attendees—the hallmark of the ScholarSip events.

Finally, in an effort to replicate the serendipitous conversations that ScholarSip is so well-known for, the Libraries ended the event by randomly moving attendees into Zoom breakout rooms, giving them an opportunity to engage in small group conversations with familiar colleagues and ones met for the first time. Although these breakout groups cannot replace in-person meetings, it was exciting to utilize the technology at hand in new and different ways.

Stay tuned for details regarding the 2020/2021 ScholarSip event series!

Missed the event? Watch the complete recording of the session on the Drexel YouTube page.