The mixture of sweat and ideas can create good chemistry.
Just ask Professor Mike Russo of the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business. Russo got to know UO Professor of Chemistry James E. Hutchison while working out in the gym and found the two shared an interest in the environment, albeit from different perspectives. Whereas Russo is an expert on sustainable business, Hutchison is an authority on green chemistry, the science of making products and processes safer for the environment.
Hutchison worked with the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute, which won a $33,298 grant from the Dreyfus Foundation for the work. With funding in place, Hutchison and Russo then began to develop the framework for a pair of unprecedented case studies that would analyze the business and scientific challenges of integrating green chemistry into organizations. Case studies are teaching tools that enable students to apply theory to real-world problems.
The groundbreaking case studies, due for completion in spring 2006, will target Coastwide Laboratories of Wilsonville, Oregon, and Seventh Generation of Burlington, Vermont, both considered leaders in creating and selling environmentally responsible products.
Both professors are grateful for the companies' participation and excited about how their collaboration will benefit students.
"To integrate environmental issues into business strategies, managers must push cross-functional learning," Russo said. "In order to do that, you have to have business students broadly knowledgeable about science issues. It's also important that scientists develop some savvy about business models, how strategy unfolds, and how decisions made for scientific reasons impact business outcomes."
This synthesis of science and business could be a catalyst for future collaborations, according to Hutchison. "It's very significant, and I hope it's just the beginning for us," he said. "It gives business students an opportunity to talk with the technical content experts and learn more about how to think about the details of the technology as they develop their ideas and skills. For the chemistry side, students gain an incredible amount from interfacing with business students because they learn about the broader implications of their work."
As for the possibility of more such collaborations in the future, Hutchison said the gym is a great laboratory for mixing unlikely ingredients.
"Across this campus there are lots of opportunities to interface," Hutchison said. "That's the great thing about Oregon."