In 1997, Yoel Fink, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, invented something theorists had insisted was impossible: a “perfect mirror” that reflects many wavelengths of light from any angle with almost no energy loss.
New York Times article declared Fink’s breakthrough “may be the most significant advance in mirror technology since Narcissus became entranced by his image reflected on the surface of a still pool of water.” But the world saw little of what came next: a 10-year struggle to bring the perfect mirror to market as a laser microsurgery device, with Fink navigating a gantlet that included reluctant MIT administrators, starting a company, and finding money and a manufacturer to produce the exotic material.
After his company finally got off the ground — its laser scalpel has now treated over 100,000 patients — Fink returned to MIT to teach materials science and now runs the school’s elite Research Laboratory of Electronics, which explores everything from atomic physics to biomedical engineering. And now he’s used that position to launch a program for postdoctoral researchers that was directly based on his tortured experience of seeing his college research through to commercial development.
Dubbed the “Translational Fellows Program” and currently in its second year, Fink’s initiative essentially pays selected postdocs to spend one day each workweek pursuing the business potential of their research. Read the full article at BetaBoston. Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff