Downtime with Robert "Skip" Rung

Skip Rung, president and executive director of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, discusses work, life and play


What I’m reading

I recently finished The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis. I’m in progress with Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier and The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth by David Bentley Hart.

Latest download

Molecules for iPad by Theodore Gray — an insightful and lavishly illustrated chemistry book with countless video clips and molecular dynamics simulations of hundreds of interesting and important substances. This is surely part of the future of teaching science to people of all ages.

What I’m watching

I’m not much of a TV watcher or moviegoer, but I did see — and like — Wild last year, not least because of the Oregon scenery.

Family time

The men — great grandfathers through sons-in-law — make outstanding mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not hard — hint: milk, butter, salt, pepper, elbow grease — but only recently have restaurants seemed to figure it out.

Most memorable holiday

From my HP days: a partner management team meeting in Chamonix, France, that included a guided glacier ski trip for three on Mount Blanc/La Mer de Glace. The rental shop suggested insurance, which I didn’t think I needed. They clarified: “Not you, stupid, the skis.”

ONAMI: The latest

In the last year, we’ve seen three professional venture capital rounds into ONAMI gap fund portfolio companies — Energy Storage Systems, Inpria, AbSci. Perhaps Inpria is most gratifying because it is a spinout of the OSU-UO Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, and we were there at the beginning. Its impact could be very important for the entire semiconductor industry, some of whose most important assets are in Portland.

Advice for young people going into science

Supplement your formal education with informal/free choice education (OMSI, Saturday Academy), research experiences and company internships. Read broadly, and learn to be an effective communicator: fi rst listening and understanding, then speaking and writing.

Biggest challenge facing scientists interested in commercialization

Market identification/validation, and for a startup, building a management team. Finding the right CEO, or at least a startup-experienced cofounder, early on is critical.

No place like …

Riga, Latvia. A very old and beautiful city with enough tragic history for 10. Riga was named a European Capital of Culture in 2014 and home to the World Choir Games the same year. For outdoor cafes and musical entertainment, Riga’s Old City is incomparable. And still very affordable.

What motivates you to come to work every day?

The 1-year-old birthday invitation for my grandson sitting on my desk. After that, it’s the chance to improve upon what I’ve learned in the last 12 years about advancing science-based companies and commercializing research that will create opportunities for Oregonians and solve important problems.

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