Forging industry partnerships, supervising business incubators, creating jobs and helping small businesses are all priorities for Yacov Shamash, 64, vice president for economic development and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University. Industry involvement is key to educating engineers, he says.
This year, Shamash's development team won $60 million through the state's START-UP NY initiative to build an Innovation and Discovery Center -- 200,000 square feet of lab and office space aimed at retaining tech startups that graduate from the university's incubators. In the past two years, engineering enrollment has increased by 50 percent.
Born in Iraq to Jewish parents, Shamash left for England at 13 and earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Imperial College of Science and Technology in London.
What does Stony Brook offer for small businesses?
We have a small business development center, and we work with companies to help them get financing, develop business plans and so on. We have a tech transfer office that can help some of the companies with their IT issues. We also have two New York State Centers of Advanced Technology, for medical biotechnology, and sensor systems. Their mission in life is again doing R&D and to try and help create jobs, and so they tend to work with a lot of small companies also.
How do you help to grow businesses in your incubator?
At any one time we have about 40 to 50 companies in our incubators. It's not just a matter of renting space. We make sure the company will have many possible activities with the university, whether it's utilizing our facilities, utilizing our faculty and students, opportunities for us to work with them. Those kinds of things are really important. [We ask] 'Can we really be helpful to the company?' And that's why, I think, you find our success rate is higher than the national average.
Advice for future engineers?
Make sure you get a traditional engineering degree. I don't believe in offering very specialized undergraduate degrees, [because] specialization may be here today, gone 10 years from now. It makes it harder for the student, but a degree in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical . . . It is a solid foundation for you. [But] keep in mind you're going to have to stay abreast of the technologies, so you're going to have to upgrade continuously.
You're on some corporate boards, including LI-based Applied DNA Sciences. What needs are you seeing?
We have a major problem in terms of the number of students we graduate in the engineering and technical fields. Mexico has more engineering students than the United States, which is scary.
What developments do you see on Long Island in 10 or 20 years?
We have some good work going on in the renewable area: wind, solar and so on . . . and we just received an award from the Department of Energy to establish a new center, an energy frontier center, in battery storage. So I see battery storage being a major initiative on Long Island jointly between Brookhaven and Stony Brook. I think you're also going to see a lot of technology that's developed here to enable the grid to be smart, whether it's software, hardware or smart metering.
Name: Yacov Shamash, vice president for economic development and dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook
What it does: Provides engineering education, research and development, works with industry to develop software and new products
Employees: 281 full time, 475 part time
College of Engineering budget: $65 million