Ph.D. Candidate
McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research
University of South Carolina

My goal is to be at the forefront of innovation within the aerospace industry so Dr. Cardinal’s course on the Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation was great for me.”

Floris-Jan van Zanten, Ph.D. Candidate, McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research, University of South Carolina

It’s not often that PhD candidates in mechanical engineering venture over to the Darla Moore School of Business for an elective course. But that’s exactly what Floris-Jan van Zanten did during the spring 2020 semester, signing up for Dr. Laura B. Cardinal’s Professional MBA (PMBA) course, Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation (SMTI).

van Zanten, a native of the Netherlands, earned his bachelors and masters degrees in aerospace engineering from the Technische Universiteit in Delft. He explains his academic decision. “My ultimate goal is to work in research and development in the aerospace industry. It’s is important that I understand the business aspects of innovation.”

van Zanten was encouraged to take Dr. Cardinal’s course by the former SmartState Endowed Chair for Multifunctional Materials and Structures, Dr. Michel van Tooren. Dr. Cardinal is the SmartState Endowed Chair in Innovation + Commercialization. Her SMTI class is popular with PMBA students as well as students in science and engineering.

van Zanten, who did his master’s thesis on composite fiber steering, said the SMTI class was unlike his doctoral engineering classes – in a good way. “There was a lot of discussion, and it was quite interesting as we had students from the UofSC College of Pharmacy, College of Medicine and from Microsoft. Everyone brought a different perspective.”

He also says the class gave him tools critical for his future career. “I learned how to evaluate the commercial value of new technology. The big question industry R&D must ask is, ‘Is this technology worth developing?’ The answer is not always easy, but thanks to SMTI, I see things more clearly and can make informed decisions.”

The SMTI class is not for everyone, van Zanten cautions. “If you are an engineer or scientist and not looking to go into R&D, this class may not be for you. However, if you want to be at the forefront of knowledge and technology, this class will be very valuable.”