When Thaddaeus Kwan was finishing his undergraduate degree at small Houghton College in New York, he knew he was interested in molecular biology and the study of various diseases, but wasn’t ready to commit to a specific field of study.

That desire for flexibility brought him to UAB, where he was recruited by the Pathobiology and Molecular Medicine division in the Graduate Biomedical Sciences program. Whereas some graduate programs would have required him to quickly settle on a research path, UAB’s program allowed him to explore the diverse avenues available.

While pursuing his doctorate in cell biology, Kwan’s research focused on how inflammation is regulated after spinal cord injury. However, once he received his Ph.D., he was ready for a new start.

“I knew I wanted to transition out of academic bench research, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead,” he said. Thaddaeus Kwan, Ph.D.Thaddaeus Kwan, Ph.D.

That changed during his postdoctoral fellowship when he learned about UAB’s tech transfer office, the Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (HIIE), through the Graduate Careers Awareness and Trends student organization.

“Seeing how people come up with solutions to tackle a problem always grabs my attention,” he said. “I found it very appealing to learn about a wide variety of such ideas and see them translated to real world solutions.”

Soon, Kwan also heard about a new HIIE program opportunity – the Innovate Fellows. He applied, was accepted as one of the first program participants and began writing Fellows reports, which require Fellows to perform market, prior art and patent analyses to assess the commercial merit of new inventions. Fellows’ research also identifies competition and potential industry partners.

“The Fellows program helped to solidify my initial interest in tech transfer and exposed me to other aspects of translating science and innovation from bench to bedside,” he said. 

Kwan’s attention to detail and work ethic stood out, said HIIE Director of Licensing and New Ventures Karthik Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D.

“From the beginning of Thaddaeus’ time as an Innovate Fellow, his work was meticulous, thought-provoking and genuinely helpful as our team made decisions on which inventions we should invest in,” Gopalakrishnan said. “I started to wonder if there might be a place for him on our team.”

When HIIE leadership decided to create a Project Analyst position, it was a perfect fit. Kwan came on board full-time. Among his duties? Overseeing the very program that brought him to tech transfer.

“For me, it was a natural progression from participating in the Innovate Fellows program to overseeing the program and giving feedback on Fellows reports,” he said. “On top of that, it is satisfying to see Fellows who have been able to leverage their experience to help progress in their careers.”

Moving forward, Kwan wants to help Innovate Fellows perform different types of research when creating their reports. While reports typically focus on assessing an invention’s commercial prospects, he’d like to see Fellows also delve into business lead research and development, as well as learn more about negotiation or licensing – all of which are key priorities for HIIE staff.

“Having Thaddaeus as the leader for our Fellows program is incredibly valuable. He understands exactly what we’re asking of our participants, and is a fantastic mentor as they take initial steps into the world of technology commercialization,” Gopalakrishnan said. “Under his guidance, we expect to see our Fellows program continue to grow and flourish.”

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are interested in the Innovate Fellows program should contact Thaddaeus Kwan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..