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Rigorous Training

Receive rigorous training in market and competitive landscape research, science communication for a business audience, intellectual property, and patenting.

Expanding Skills

Gain exposure to the business side of science and develop skills beyond the lab that can be applied in alternative scientific careers.

Duke Innovations

Play a pivotal role in the Duke innovation ecosystem by analyzing Duke innovations and helping move big ideas out into the world.

OTC Fellows are integral to the innovation lifecycle at Duke. Help us translate novel discoveries into real products and services.

Meet our current Fellows

The application period for the 2023-2024 OTC Fellows Program opens in the fall and will accept applications from August 21st to September 12th.

The OTC Fellows Program is an exciting opportunity for Duke graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to gain exposure to tech transfer and commercialization – the process of turning academic research into products and services.

The Fellows, on a part-time basis, will assess the commercial viability of innovative Duke University technologies and create marketing materials to move this research from the bench to the outside world. This enables OTC to provide faster and more thorough feedback to innovators while giving the Fellows the opportunity to expand and hone career-ready skills in market research and intellectual property protection.

Program Highlights:

  • Learn about cutting-edge innovation happening across Duke’s campus
  • Learn about the field of technology commercialization and intellectual property management and gain first-hand experience in analyzing market opportunity, competitive landscape, and prior-art
  • Gain valuable, marketable skills that complement your scientific training for alternative scientific careers — from technology commercialization to management consulting, patent law to business development
  • Expand your experience by staying on with OTC as a Senior Fellow after your first year. If invited, you will have more opportunities to engage with OTC and build your professional network
  • Get compensated for your time! $17/hour with about 15­–20 hours of work a month
  • Receive mentorship from a Senior Fellow and the OTC Fellows Program Director

Read this blog post to get a feel for the day-to-day work of an OTC Fellow.

Sign up for the general info session on 8/31/23.


  • Open only to Duke graduate students, postdocs, and medical residents¹
  • All Ph.D. students are welcome to apply, but preference given to those who have completed their qualifying exams (or prelim, as applicable)
  • Ability to commit up to 10 hours per week from October 2023 to October 2024
  • Visa-holders: Some restrictions apply²

Advisor support

¹ Masters students are eligible, but it is recommended they complete their first year and obtain permission of their Advisor or DGS (Director of Graduate Studies). Ph.D. students and post-docs will need their advisor’s permission.

² F1, J1 students and F1 OPT post-docs are eligible. H1B and J1 post-docs- please contact Visa Services to see if you are eligible for a paid internship on campus.

Program Activities

  • Evaluate Duke technologies and innovations based on criteria including existing patent and non-patent literature, market size, academic and competitive landscape, and potential licensing partners. Final submission will be a written report detailing the above
  • Write marketing materials for Duke technologies that communicate technical topics to a business audience that will be used in OTC marketing outreach
  • Attend scheduled training seminars, group workshops, and study halls, preferably at the OTC office in person
  • The application period for the 2023-2024 OTC Fellows cohort is August 21st to September 12th. Applications received outside that period will not be considered.
  • Submit a 1-page resume and a 1-page cover letter describing your interest and potential fit in the program, to Program Director Lou Ward ( PDFs are preferred.
  • Selected candidates will be invited for an interview – in person highly preferred.

**General inquiries can be directed to Program Director Lou Ward (

OTC First-year Fellows are a team of up to 9 graduate students/post-docs from various areas of expertise, who will chiefly work remotely and have the following responsibilities:

  • Research Duke inventions and write tech assessments. These include background information on the technology and research, technical and competitive challenges, market overview, and prior art. This will be delivered as a 5–8-page report with detailed sections on each area. Feedback will be provided by the Program Director, OTC Licensing Managers as well as the Duke inventor to revise the report as necessary. Freedom to operate searches as well as deal comparables may also be requested. Each assignment is triaged by the Program Director and assigned to the Fellow based on their background and area of graduate research
  • Write Marketing Summaries for Duke inventions, which includes a discussion of the unmet need, a description of the technology for a non-academic audience, advantages, and a list of potential industry partners. These marketing summaries are displayed on the OTC website and play an pivotal role in OTC’s marketing activities.

OTC Senior Fellows are those who successfully completed a year in the OTC Fellows program and are invited to stay on for an additional year. This will be determined by their aptitude, growth, and interest during their first year as a Fellow. They will have the following main responsibilities:

  • Continue writing Technology Assessments and Marketing Summaries.
  • Partner with Licensing Managers to sit in on inventor and company meetings, help with subsequent action items, and learn more about contracts and negotiations.
  • Provide mentorship and preliminary edits to first-year OTC Fellows as they are trained to write Tech Assessments and Marketing Summaries.
  • Assess technologies that are too complex for incoming OTC Fellows.
  • Work on unique market research projects to support inventors and licensing managers that are beyond the scope of typical Tech Assessments and Marketing Summaries.

Tech Assessments and Marketing Summaries take about 5–7 hours each to complete and are paid at $17/hr. Fellows usually complete around 25 total assessments and reports during their year; Senior Fellows will complete around 15.

Read this blog post to get a feel for the day-to-day work of an OTC Fellow.

In the first month, Fellows will be required to attend four in-person sessions:

  • 1-hour meet-and-greet, with introductions between the cohort and OTC
  • 5-hour training on how to read invention disclosure forms, use relevant databases, and conduct market research in order to complete Tech Assessments
  • 5-hour training on how to perform patent searches to examine prior art for Tech Assessments
  • 1-hour training on how to provide constructive feedback

Early in 2024, Fellows will be required to attend one additional in-person session:

  • 5-hour training on market analysis and science writing for a business audience to complete Marketing Summaries

Bi-weekly, in-person study halls will be available throughout the year. One-on-one feedback and training sessions will be provided as needed, as determined by the Program Director. First-year fellows are highly encouraged to meet with Senior Fellow mentors.

Ideally, each new technology submitted to our office by a Duke inventor will have a Licensing Manager, an OTC Fellow, and a representative from the Duke Inventor’s lab all working to move the invention from the lab, into industry, and out into the world.

Licensing Managers:

Guide commercialization strategy, manage the patenting process, and handle marketing and license negotiation at the appropriate time.

OTC Fellows:

Provide a written Tech Assessment on the prior art and competitive landscape as well as market opportunity. Create Marketing Summaries for inventions to support outreach efforts to industry.

OTC Senior Fellows:

Support the new cohort of OTC Fellows with feedback on reports, assessing difficult technologies, and providing general mentorship as needed. Interface more directly with Licensing Managers and other OTC staff.


Director of the OTC Fellows Program:

Leads training seminars, supervises, reviews, and edits the written deliverables, provides support, feedback, and mentorship as needed, coordinates with internal OTC ecosystem and triages technologies according to Fellow’s background, and directs overall administration and running of the program.

The current Program Director is Lou Ward.


Innovation pipeline and where OTC Fellows slot in

“When I was interviewing for an industrial internship earlier this year, I found myself very confident in applying to non-technical positions demanding analytical skills and a technological background, because I had this on my resume. Every interviewer delved into my experience here at length.” — Aditya Kedia, M.S.

“It’s been so wonderful working with the Duke OTC and learning what translational science entails in terms of scientific requirements, intellectual property, funding, regulatory processes, and business ventures. Going from bench to bedside truly takes a whole scientific- and business-minded village!” — Senior Fellow Risa Gearhart, Ph.D.

“This program has been an excellent experience for me. In several regards, research is still a business, and success oftentimes requires a good ‘sales pitch.’  This program has taught me to view research from a perspective beyond just the science and to consider the commercial/business aspects.  I feel that this slight adjustment to my thinking will serve me well in whatever I decide to pursue.

[Moreover], research requires a constant focus on your own work that it becomes easy to ignore all of the other great advances happening around us.  The assignments of this program were intriguing, educational, and a great distraction from the daily grind of research.” — Adam Swartz, Ph.D.

“The [OTC Fellows] Program has provided me with hands-on experience in assessing early-stage technologies. During the Fellows program, I acquired knowledge in areas such as business development, regulatory affairs, and intellectual property. I also developed skills in assessing the commercial viability of known technologies, analyzing patent literature, and preparing marketing materials, all of which will be beneficial for my career path.” — Jingjing Wang, Ph.D.

“The [OTC Fellows] Program has offered me the unique opportunity to participate in the extensive commercialization process for academic research findings. As a fellow, I have analyzed a wide range of idea proposals ranging from novel therapeutics to software; this breadth has allowed me to gain hands-on experience with emerging technologies both in and well outside my comfort zone. Influencing the transition of an interesting research finding into a potentially marketable product has been very exciting – my work challenges me to take a limited amount of information on a new technology and use both my science background and information-gathering skills, as well as my imagination, to consider that technology’s future potential as a product. I am proud to say that my analyses have had a direct influence on the choice of licensing versus new venture creation for several distinct technologies.” — Joshua Wheaton, Ph.D.

“The program exposes you to how you can apply your scientific skill set away from the bench. It allows you to make a tangible contribution to the operations performed at Duke’s OTC, which will make you more marketable over graduate students with no experience away from the bench.

[In addition], the program also makes you self-aware of skills you may have never realized you had. Aside from working in technology transfer, I found that my skill set as a scientist is valuable in consulting, venture capital, and early-stage biotechnology companies. In addition, you acquire skills in patent search, market research, and commercialization.” — Glenn Watson, post-doctoral fellow

“The [OTC Fellows] Program has been one of the most unique training opportunities I have experienced in graduate school. This fellowship has provided invaluable professional development opportunities as well as the ability to make a difference in advancing real-world technologies to the patenting and licensing stages. For those who are interested in this career area, it is the perfect introduction into the complex intersection of science and business at Duke.” — Michael Hoy, Ph.D.