UT graduate Spencer Wells shares entrepreneurial expertise with students

Ross Burkhart

Geneticist and entrepreneur Spencer Wells advised students to push themselves beyond their area of expertise and communicate with people outside their peer group at the biannual lecture series, Startup Science Live, on Wednesday.

The speaker series, presented by the College of Natural Sciences, gives students and audience members the opportunity to learn what it means to be an entrepreneurial scientist.

Wells, a UT alumnus and this year’s featured speaker, shared stories of his experiences within the industry and provided tips for entrepreneurial students looking to get involved with science.

“It’s awesome to be back here,” Wells said. “There’s so many opportunities now that didn’t exist when I was an undergraduate here back in the ’80s. There was much more of a divide between academia and industry, and now it’s blurred a lot.”

Wells said he believes connections with students can be especially helpful for companies that are just getting started.

“I think it’s a much easier way to get new companies off the ground,” Wells said. “Companies can also benefit from more interaction with campus. I think it’s really important for the tech community … to engage with main campus.”

Jacob Kang, neuroscience and biochemistry senior, said having Wells on campus had a positive influence on him.

“It inspires me to know that we have a very strong ecosystem,” Kang said. “It is Austin; it’s Silicon Hills; it’s one of the best entrepreneurial cities in the country.”

Marketing graduate student Sarah Tafolla said Wells is a testament to the strong networking resources available to UT students.

“It goes to show that UT really does have the resources and has that network, so moving forward, that’s a really great network to be a part of,” Tafolla said. “No matter the background, the ability to achieve once you do have those connections out there and also the education that’s standing behind you is really comforting.”

Tafolla said Wells’ lecture taught her that being able to communicate effectively is an essential skill that can help her throughout her career.

“The importance of storytelling, I think that’s absolutely the future of all marketing,” Tafolla said. “Being able to have that cohesive message that you’re putting across to someone, that narrative is what engages us as humans, and never losing sight of that humanistic approach. Whether it be business, whether it be science, being able to communicate human-to-human is incredibly important.”