Fraser Larock, Commercialization Analyst Intern


Fraser Larock

As a student in the UBC Faculty of Forestry with a minor in Commerce, Fraser was perfect for the Commercialization Analyst intern position. Since May 2013, Fraser has been working closely with Dr. Vernon Bachor on Drs. Lindsay Eltis and William Mohn’s Harnessing microbial diversity for sustainable use of forest biomass resources (Lignin) project.

With an interest in matching science-based education with business and commerce, Fraser feels that this balance brings him closer to his interest in natural-resource policy and business-related opportunities within the private and public sector.

Over the previous two summers, Fraser has worked for both the provincial government on an Initial Attack crew fighting wildfires and for a small forest company on Vancouver Island. Initial attack is a first response fire team working with a helicopter to access remote forest areas threatened by fire, while his role within the forest company was to establish harvest areas, record the selection of commercial thinning and track the marketing of volume and value of various log products.

Before attending UBC, Fraser participated in an education of a different kind and travelled throughout New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. While travelling in Tanzania Fraser had the opportunity to contribute to the Ulanga Tree Nursery and the volunteer tree-planting program.

We asked Fraser how his internship was going for him so far and what he thought of his Lean Launch Pad experience, and this is what he said:

What is your academic background?

Formally, my education has been focused in Forestry Operations at UBC along with a minor in Commerce. Informally, my education is life! The lessons I learned backpacking around the world after high school continue to influence my university education today, focusing my interests in our society’s relationship with natural resources and their uses.

How did you come across the Commercialization Analyst position with Lignin?

I found the internship through the entrepreneurship@UBC website. I was on the site searching for new and exciting entrepreneurial programs, as well as any marketing summer positions that may have been available. Luckily, I came across genomics.entrepreneurship@UBC and the Lignin Project and I applied right away. I’ve always had a passion for Forestry and more recently discovered my interest in marketing and business development so this internship seemed like a perfect fit. Although my traditional forestry education is more involved with resource management, I have definitely put it to good use.

What have you learned from the Lean Launch Pad program? How has the program contributed to your research for Lignin?

The Lean Launch Pad Program opened my eyes to the importance of customer development and how communicating your product should be the first step next to initial research. I learned about how to look at a problem from different angles to come up with the best solution for a marketable product. The program gave me countless tools that I have applied to my research with Lignin and will continue to apply throughout the rest of my education. Most importantly, the presentations required by the program really helped me understand what information is important for different parts of my research and how I can communicate complex information to different audiences.

What have you learned so far during your internship?

First and foremost, I have read a tonne about lignin and phenolic formaldehyde resins and understood most of the science! Although I have taken classes in Forest Genomics, the enormous research and knowledge about lignin is overwhelming. Luckily, I was directed to some specific scientific papers where I could wrap my mind around this complex and highly technical topic.

Eventually I learned enough about the science to organize my research into coherent sections and prioritize my information. Learning about Stakeholder Management and understanding TCOS (technical, commercial, organizational and social) uncertainties gave me many opportunities to combine the Lean Launch Pad tools and current innovation/entrepreneurial research used in the Lignin Project.

I can’t wait to continue with this project and move on to other possible products that utilize the lignin molecule. This internship has given me many opportunities to excel and be a part of a great team of experts within a field related to forestry.

Do you feel your experience and knowledge in forestry is helping you with your work in the Lignin project?

My forestry education taught me how to prioritize objectives and deal with scientific or economic uncertainties that are bound to be present in this field of research. Forestry has helped me understand the intricacies of working with the lignin molecule and the uphill battle of making it a marketable product by connecting all the important stakeholders needed for market adoption.

Any highlights from your internship program?

The Lean Launch Pad program is definitely a highlight for me. The program taught me how much I love learning about entrepreneurship and starting a business and made me realize how important communication is in any situation. I think I will continue to use the skills learned in the LLP and apply it to any business situation in the future, hopefully starting up my own one day!

What other interests do you have aside from forestry and commerce/business?

Other than forestry/business and the hiking/camping that comes with a job in forestry, I’ve always loved acting and participating in theatre and film production. I also thoroughly enjoy home brewing my own beer, especially on a student budget. My favourite pastime, however, is with the Southsiders watching Whitecaps FC!

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