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Q&A with Entrepreneurship Ambassador Ming Gao

Ming Gao sky diving

Below is a Q&A article with our Entrepreneurship Ambassador, Ming Gao. Ming is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering. Her Ph.D. focuses on nanoelectronics and bionanotechnology. Prior to joining NC State in 2017, Ming completed her Bachelor of Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Minnesota.

 Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Ming Gao. I am a Ph.D. student in Materials Science and Engineering and an alumna of the Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (TEC) program. I am also a Licensing Intern at the Office of Research Commercialization (ORC). I am honored to serve as an Entrepreneurship Ambassador this year to promote entrepreneurship programs across campus and to grow the entrepreneurship community at NC State.

What makes you choose the Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (TEC) program and an internship with the Office of Research Commercialization (ORC)?

The TEC program offered by Jenkins MBA is a unique and valuable opportunity for graduate students that have a passion for innovation, business development, and new business venture. I have been working as a research assistant for over six years. While conducting research in the laboratory, I often wonder what else we can do beyond the lab space. I was eager to think about opportunities to develop certain products or services with our research findings that can benefit the public. Then, I discovered TEC, a graduate certificate program that equips graduate students with practical skills to bring new technologies to the marketplace. The TEC program offers training and practice for its students to evaluate emerging technologies, create and analyze product ideas, and develop business proposals.

My TEC team worked beyond the program to continue developing our start-up project. The TEC program is so much more than a series of academic courses. It is an incubator for student entrepreneurs and an accelerator for their business ideas. I especially appreciate the times that I was connected to the right people and resources. I’m also very thankful for our executives-in-residence who kindly shared their experience and expertise, who are not only start-up advisors but also mentors and role models.

After completing the TEC program, I had a great opportunity to work as a Licensing Intern at ORC. NC State is listed by the George W. Bush Institute study on The Innovation Impact of U.S. Universities as one of the top 20 universities for innovation impact. NC State is also ranked #3 nationwide for startups launched among universities without a medical school. It is impressive to see the startups and spinoffs based on NC State research and the values they have created. The internship with ORC shows me the impact of innovation and motivates me to create possibilities for NC State innovations.

How has NC State Entrepreneurship influenced your career decisions?

NC State Entrepreneurship has definitely shaped my career interests and decisions. It broadened my horizon as a STEM researcher and gave me the opportunity to combine my technical background with business development experiences. Because of NC State Entrepreneurship, I found my passion for innovation development and management and was able to see beyond my bench in the laboratory. I also met one of the most important mentors in my life from the Mentor Meetup events that are hosted regularly by NC State Entrepreneurship. Their insights on personal and professional development have become valuable assets to help me make career decisions. NC State Entrepreneurship has also shaped my mindset in many ways. I learned to make decisions quickly when we need to move fast, even when I don’t have all the data available to me. I also learned to standby for risk management and to work with limited information and time. Plus, NC State Entrepreneurship has many programs that gave me an opportunity to pitch business ideas. These programs provided a platform for me to communicate my ideas to the public and to practice my entrepreneurial skills.

Do you have any advice for students interested in entrepreneurship?

I suggest students interested in entrepreneurship be proactive and invest time in networking. There is so much we can learn from talking to people, and we never know what opportunities would be present to us from networking. Therefore, I suggest my fellow students be a good listener and seize opportunities. For anyone who may not be sure where to start, feel free to reach out to any of us at the Entrepreneurship Student Ambassador Program. We are excited to hear your ideas and point you to the right resources. Feel free to check out our events at and stop by the Entrepreneurship Garage on Centennial Campus.

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