Meet Stacyann Russell: She’s Helping Startups Thrive in the Western United States – USC Viterbi


You have officially been in place as the new director since January. What is your impression of the NSF I-Corps Hub: West Region?

The first thought that comes to mind is that we operate like a start-up. We are responding to an existing market need to help bring technologies from the lab to market, but with a new and broader approach. It’s an exciting time. We use best practices while maintaining a beginner’s mindset to ensure we can maximize the technologies that exist in our region. Plus, the people who work with the Hub across USC and our other institutions are simply best in class. They are committed, open, creative and innovative. In many ways, they model the kinds of teams we want to work with.

I want I-Body Hub: West Region to set the standard for commercializing deep tech in the West and nationwide in the most diverse way possible. And when I say diversity, I mean the diversity of people, geography, technology and industry. If there’s something happening related to deep tech and commercialization, we should have a seat at the table.

Stacyann Russell, NSF I-Corp Hub: West Region Manager

Describe your engineering background and how has it helped you succeed in this role?

I have a BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from The Ohio State University and a Masters in Engineering Management from George Washington University. As an engineer, I worked in product development, continuous improvement and manufacturing of complex systems such as nuclear reactors, 3D immersive environments, radars and satellites both for this atmosphere and for space. I have also worked in manufacturing innovation in several industries such as consumer products and goods and industrial products. I would say these experiences, along with my MBA from USC and time spent as a supply chain consultant, were instrumental in my understanding of the entire process from idea to market launch. complex systems, both academically and commercially. I am able to bring a truly diverse perspective and creativity to the approach and programming we use to achieve our goals as a Hub. These varied experiences came together in a way beyond my wildest imagination.

What challenges and opportunities stand out for you in your new role?

This is the first time the NSF has conducted the I-Body program that way, and the scale is much larger. We partner with eight institutions (including USC) across California, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and that number is expected to grow each year over the life of the grant. In that regard, he’s a heavyweight with a changing and growing team. However, it presents such a great opportunity to have a profound impact. We have the ability to establish a vibrant ecosystem that supports researchers in translating their technologies – an ecosystem that has never been seen before.

Stacyann Russell (front row far right) pictured with I-Corps Hub participants and Gem Fellowship members

Stacyann Russell (front row far right), pictured with I-CorpsHub Participants and National GEM Consortium Members

As the nation’s first African-American National Director/Instructor, what does this moment mean to you?

This means that we still have work to do, which I am proud to say the National Science Foundation, and here at the Hub we have approached with intention. The landscape has changed dramatically since I started a few years ago, and it’s a testament to the excellent leadership we’ve had during this time.

What motivated you to accept this new position within the I-Corps?Hub: West Region?

The people and the mission. There’s no better team I know to serve that’s committed to making sure people have access to the tools they need to bring cutting-edge technologies to market. The role is one of the ways I can marry my love for entrepreneurship and engineering on an ongoing basis.

Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos and Stacyann Russell pictured with a group of I-Corps Hub participants

USC Viterbi School Dean Yannis Yortsos (center left) and Stacyann Russell pictured with a group of I-Corps Hub attendees

What excites you most about taking on the role of Director of I-Corps? Hub: West Region?

There are so many things! I’m excited about the people I’ll be working with and the impact we’ll have. I can’t wait to see what technologies we can interact with and how they will perform in the market. I look forward to the systems we put in place to identify the best teams and technologies to work with. And finally, I’m particularly excited about the partnerships and collaborative opportunities we’ll have along the way. It should be a great trip!


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