Emre Toker said he has always been thankful to the University of Arizona for enabling him to transfer his master’s thesis in electrical engineering into a real-world product and start his first life sciences company in Tucson more than 20 years ago. As an entrepreneur, he founded three successful biomedical start-up companies between 1994-2000, and in the past five years, he co-founded a software-as-service startup and one medical imaging startup.
“As the UA Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, and Cooperative Extension’s (ALVSCE) first ever Mentor-in-Residence he will enhance innovative cultures and entrepreneurial capabilities throughout the division and so widen our impact on Arizona’s communities and economy,” said Shane Burgess, ALVSCE vice president.
“I am delighted to return to the University of Arizona,” Toker said. “I came to Tucson in 1984 to attend the UA, and the greatest gift the UA gave to me was that I was able to take my thesis and its product and start a company in Tucson, then another, so I have a great affection and loyalty for the UA. I look forward to sharing my experiences as an entrepreneur, angel investor and educator.”
In addition to serving as an entrepreneurial resource to ALVSCE personnel, Toker will partner with the CALS Department of Agricultural Education to develop programs that target rural development, work with CALS Career Services to expand internship and mentoring opportunities, and partner with the department’s Innovation Collaboratory to assist entrepreneurial development for all CALS undergraduate and graduate students.
Toker will guide practical workshops in both classroom and online settings, connect faculty and students with other mentors and experts, provide opportunities for one-on-one discussions, and facilitate connections between the UA and local and national innovation and entrepreneurship “ecosystems”—including angel investor groups, industry, start-ups, Tech Launch Arizona, StartUp Tucson and venture capital firms.
“We’ve been looking at the notion of innovation and entrepreneurship in the context of careers for our students and ramping up innovation and entrepreneurship for faculty,” said Parker Antin, ALVSCE associate vice president. “He is going to help us to the next level.”
Toker held a similar position at the UA’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship from 2010-14 and previously worked at Washington University (Missouri) and Arizona State University. Toker founded three successful biomedical start-up companies during 1994-2000, including one that was based on his UA master’s thesis.
Toker earned his B.A. degree in physics from Reed College (Oregon) and B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, and finished his master’s in electrical engineering at UA in 1990.
"Emre joining us is remarkably forward thinking and a clear representation of the innovative direction the Department of Agricultural Education, CALS, and the division as a whole, is taking," said Matthew Mars, assistant professor in the department, and director of the Innovation Collaboratory.