DAVIS, Calif.; August 18, 2016—Liz Tang says she’s found her dream job as the new director of the UC Davis Engineering Student Startup Center (ESSC). Tang started the position in July after overseeing operations of a technology consulting firm in Washington D.C. for the last two years.
After receiving a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Washington University, Tang worked for an environmental engineering firm in the Bay Area. She then went on to the University of Virginia Darden School of Business to complete an MBA. Once she finished her business degree, Tang was the co-owner of a granite countertop company.
Now at UC Davis, she’s looking forward to using her varied work experience and education to help engineering students implement their ideas to make the world a better place.
“It’s the marriage of two things that I’m really passionate about: technology and business,” she says.
The Engineering Student Startup Center, located in 2060 Academic Surge, opened in 2013 and has been a startup incubator for more than 850 students across campus. The Center gives all UC Davis students the resources to help develop ideas into technology startups.
The student-run Center is stocked with tools like 3D printers and a ShopBot CNC device for the milling and machining of plastics, wood and aluminum. The Center also offers students regular training and certification workshops for 3D printing and prototyping.
Tang says the idea is to give students in a variety of disciplines the time and equipment to conceptualize, produce and test products. Examples of those creations include using a smartphone as an all-in-one laboratory that incorporates modular attachments for educational purposes and a 3D printer that uses sugar rather than plastic to create edible objects.
Team work, she says, is a key component of taking an innovative idea and turning it into a successful business. And, she says, that’s where the Center can make a difference.
“The vision is that there is a collaborative feel,” she says. “It’s not like an individual sport. You need several diverse players on the team because it’s not a one-person process.”
When Tang was an engineering student there was nothing available like the Engineering Student Startup Center on her campus.
“I wanted to get some business background but that is really hard to get in undergrad,” she says. “There is so much coursework that you have to take and if you want to graduate in four years there really isn’t time to take electives that you are passionate about and will help you in your career.”
Building relationships with UC Davis graduates and venture capitalists is another goal for Tang.
“We have so many great alumni who are business leaders between the state Capitol and San Francisco,” she says. “One of my responsibilities will be getting students in touch with the right alumni.”
Tang will work closely with Dr. Bruce White, the Center’s former director. White is Executive Associate Dean in the College of Engineering and director of the Engineering Translational Technology Center. Tang plans to form an advisory board consisting of faculty, staff, community members, alumni and students to help guide the Center.