Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Great Inventions That Matter


This introductory seminar starts by illuminating on the general aspects of creativity, invention, and patenting in engineering and medicine, and how Stanford University is one of the world's foremost engines of innovation. We then take a deep dive into some great technological inventions that are still playing an essential role in our everyday lives, such as fiber amplifier, digital compass, computer memory, HIV detector, Covid-19 testing, personal genome machine, cancer cell sorting, brain imaging, and mind reading. The stories and underlying materials and technologies behind each invention, including a few examples by Stanford faculty and student inventors, are highlighted and discussed. A special lecture focuses on the public policy on intellectual properties (IP) and the resources at Stanford Office of Technology Licensing (OTL). Each student will have an opportunity to present on a great invention from Stanford (or elsewhere), or to write a patent disclosure of his/her own ideas.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Shan X. Wang

"I have been on the Stanford faculty since 1993, with academic appointments in Materials Science & Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Radiology (Stanford School of Medicine). I became the fifth holder of the Leland T. Edwards Professorship in Engineering in 2018. As a researcher, inventor, entrepreneur, and consulting expert, I have learned that great inventions and patents are often the starting point of a thriving enterprise, but they are not taught systematically in regular curricula. There is a school of thought that these are not necessarily teachable. On the contrary, I want to share teachable experiences and schemes with you about inventive processes and related intellectual property policies in the real world, including the story behind winning a Bold Epic Innovation award with my students in the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize competition in 2017. Through this IntroSem, you will learn why some inventions matter so much to us, and why so many intellectual properties do not get licensed or create value. I hold 65 issued or pending patents, and have over 300 publications in nanotechnology, biosensors, spintronics, power management, and information storage. In addition to my work at Stanford, I have cofounded MagArray Inc. in Milpitas and Flux Bioscience Inc. in San Francisco, and was an expert in several landmark patent litigation cases. I enjoy skiing, swimming, hiking, and travel, and I am married with two children who have recently graduated from college."