Dr. Bryan Koivisto: Discovering Success through Failure
For most people, there is usually a moment or a confluence of events occurring early in life that becomes hardwired into their subconscious, which then funnels them toward a particular path in life.
For Dr. Bryan Koivisto, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University, it was one moment, when he was a child walking in a mall with his grandfather, mother and brother. His grandfather whispered in his ear, “Go open that door for your mother,” so he ran ahead and opened the door for her. His mom looked down at him smiling and said, “Such a gentleman.” His brother followed after his mother and little Bryan smirking, released the door he was just so kindly holding open for his mother. His grandpa told him, “Gentleman don’t just open doors for women, they open doors for everyone.” That moment stuck with him forever. Listening to Koivisto tell the story, reminiscing nostalgically about the wise words his beloved grandpa told him that day shows how much of an impact one small moment in time can have on an individual. That was his ‘eureka moment’ when he realized his true calling was to create opportunities for others, opening doors that might otherwise be forever closed. Unearthing all that is noble about wanting always to give rather than receive…
It is no surprise then that Koivisto has become a man whose main focus has been and continues to be creating opportunities for others.
About 5 years ago, when Koivisto and other faculty members discovered that many Ryerson science graduates weren’t staying in the field of science after graduation, they developed the RySciMatch program, a second year non-credit course which aims to provide research experience and soft skill development to undergraduate students to help them excel in their careers.
“To create good research students, we must start developing them from early on.” – Dr. Koivisto
Taking this idea a step further, Koivisto started the Science Discovery Zone (SDZ) last year, which provides “a space on campus for students to be innovative without feeling the need to start a company.” The zone creates a mutually beneficial relationship between innovators, mentors and industry, allowing the innovator to test and validate their ideas while benefiting from the experience and knowledge of faculty and assigned mentors. It also leverages public-private partnerships by bringing industry problems to the students. Vetted students have the opportunity to work on company-specific problems managed by the zone. Running in a similar fashion as a startup, the zone is built on evidence-based innovation. Koivisto explained that the connection between developing a business idea and implementing the basic tenets of the scientific method is inextricably intertwined complementing each other so that the project moves forward always on a testable solid footing.
“We need a safe place for students to fail.” – Dr. Koivisto
Koivisto wants his students to test their hypothesis (or value proposition) through experimentation and validation. They must go through the evidence-based innovation cycle in order to succeed in the zone.
‘Connecting science to value’ is the zone’s mission. Companies are sustainable value propositions. As I sat across the table from Koivisto he said, “I don’t want my students to find jobs, I want them to solve problems.” It’s important to note that this zone is open to more than just Ryerson students, it’s open to everyone. The SDZ understands that the foundational strength of scientific knowledge exists because of a constructive approach to inevitable failure which allows for subsequent success to not only be more rewarding but also more valid. This incredible freedom of this space brings together critical thinking, discovery, innovation and failure all synergized into one unique hub.