One minute with Aaron Sauers, patent and licensing executive

Aaron Sauers is the newest member of the Fermilab Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer. Photo: Reidar Hahn

What’s your role at the lab?
I work in the Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer, which is specifically charged with deploying technologies that are developed at Fermilab.

How did you end up here?
I’ve worked at several national laboratories: Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Idaho and Argonne right before coming here. When I was getting my M.B.A. at the University of Tennessee, I looked for a graduate assistantship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. There was one in the Office of Technology Transfer. I found the work really suited me, and I decided to make it my profession.

What is a favorite project you’ve helped license?
While at Los Alamos I worked with national defense software for analysis of satellite imagery. If you had thousands of square miles in an image — let’s say you wanted to find all the tanks in that image — you would zoom in and find a tank. You would paint over it to provide that piece of software with a little bit of training. You paint a few tanks, and it tries to find more tanks. We licensed that technology to a digital pathology company, and now the software is used to find cancer cells in tissue samples. That to me is technology transfer at its height. That’s why we’re here.

What do you love about your job?
I’m a believer in the societal benefits of doing technology transfer. It’s not just a job that I feel I’m good at, it’s something that’s worth doing.

What’s one challenging aspect of your job?
I must distill complex subjects into topics that can be understood by various kinds of people. I have technical audiences, I have business development audiences and I have lay audiences as well.

Do you understand all the technology that you license?
At a certain level, yes, but my goal is to be technology-agnostic. I have to be able to rapidly bring myself up to a layman’s understanding of a technology so I can bring my own expertise to the table, which is intellectual property protection, licensing, business development, negotiation and strategy.

What do you like about working at Fermilab?
I like that Fermilab is a very cohesive group. Our celebration of the NOvA experiment really impressed me. There’s a unity of purpose at Fermilab that’s unique among the laboratories, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Troy Rummler