In August of 2019, the SciTech team was joined by DEED Commissioner Steve Grove and Employment and Training Coordinator Larry Eisenstadt at a site visit with one of SciTech’s employer companies, Innovative Surface Technologies (ISurTec). ISurTec was just wrapping up its summer internships with students found and hired through the SciTech Internship Program, and they welcomed Commissioner Grove and Mr. Eisenstadt to attend their end-of-internship presentation.

When it comes to workforce development, few understand the challenges therein like startups and small companies. ISurTec was in the same boat when it started, however, in a true show of entrepreneurial gusto, this small multilabs enterprise has proven its ingenuity by utilizing state and national programs to excel in the work and service it provides.  

With the initial support of SBIR NIH grants, ISurTec has developed several coating solutions for its clients while offering contract R&D services. One of these applications include products that are currently in use on FDA approved medical devices.  In addition, ISurTec has developed coating with various properties, ranging from very absorbent to highly water repellent. Several coatings have been used to aid in the production of unique cell structures and nanofibers.

In order to stay on top of their client’s needs and investigate the uses of their current products for additional applications and next-gen ideas, ISurTec hires college STEM interns to help them develop individual research projects. In 2019, ISurTec used the SciTech Internship Program to add five talented young workers to their team. With the 50% wage reimbursement that this state funded program provides, they could afford to bring in the extra summer help they needed. ISurTec has since gone on to hire two of these five summer interns as full time employees.

“We’re extremely proud of all our interns,” said ISurTec’s CFO Wayne Vander Vort. Working with SciTech to find talent, he said, “has been extremely successful.”

The interns’ projects were varied, ranging from analyzing the total dissolved solids (TDS) of raw materials to developing an artificial brain scaffold –which, for the record, is a dissolvable scaffold on which brain cells can grow and regenerate. In short, these internships are the real deal.

In addition, the interns’ time and progress frees ISurTec’s full time staff to get more done elsewhere, while the students receive unparalleled real-world experience they otherwise couldn’t find in class.

“It’s been a pretty fun summer for me,” said Thomas Beall, a biotechnology intern. Over the span of his internship, he helped developed a coating for ureteral stents to help reduce the risk of mineral encrustation. “It’s been pretty exciting to see the results and how the coating works so well. Working on this gave me a new perspective.”

The progress and success found here at ISurTec did not go unnoticed by their guests.  

“You’re ahead of the curve,” Commissioner Grove said to the interns. “I think it’s very impressive that you’ve all chosen to pursue careers in this field and to get internships at companies like this. You really are going to be the future of our state’s economy and our country’s economy.”

Internships are opportunities that help students get involved in their industry and uncover new avenues for where their careers might take them. For Analytical Chemistry Intern Katherine Robinson, this internship helped confirm her interest in working in a lab and inspired her to pursue it further.  

“This is my first internship experience so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I only had my expectations going in and my internship here far exceeded my expectations,” Robinson said.

At the end of the presentation, the interns led Commissioner Grove and Coordinator Eisenstadt on a tour of the labs. They answered questions and took some photos.

“You are exceptional young people who make Minnesota proud,” Eisenstadt said.


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