This is part three of the feature on Mo Jarin. Jarin is a Ph.D. student in environmental engineering who expects to graduate in May 2025. See part one and part two.  

Go out and fail. That was what Mo Jarin set out to do as part of a seven-week boot camp she was awarded through the entrepreneurial-focused U.S. National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program (NSF I-Corps). 

Journey through Entrepreneurial Challenges

The NSF I-Corps program prepares participants to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and translate it to the marketplace. Entrepreneurship is a non-traditional career path for researchers, but Jarin wanted to explore the transformation of invention to impact with her lab’s pioneering water disinfection technology. 

“It was the most challenging thing I have ever done,” said Jarin. “I have worked tremendously hard over the last several years, but that was still the most challenging experience I have had.” 

NSF I-Corps participants are supposed to work in teams of three, but amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic in 2021, Jarin navigated the program largely solo. This included conducting over 100 interviews with industry experts and potential consumers all over the country, with the goal of figuring out where her technology could have the most value and impact. 

Conducting these interviews alone made the program tremendously difficult, but a key aspect of this program is that participants must fail. 

“They want you to fail–they push you until you fail,” said Jarin. “In startups, the more failures you have, the closer you’re getting to success.” 

At one point throughout the process, Jarin realized that the market she was focusing on was not going to work out. 

“I needed to do a full pivot, and that was the real low,” said Jarin. “It was one of the lowest points of my doctoral degree dealing with failure over and over again in this program.”

Embracing Growth in the Face of Failure

Thinking back on that time, Jarin can see how much the program pushed her to grow. 

“The program itself drained me, but the takeaways lasted for years,” said Jarin. “I didn’t know them at the time, but I realized I am more open to failure, more open to pivoting, more open to feedback, criticism, ability to pitch, interview, speak with strangers, present– everything had been opened up so that my growth opportunity was tremendously larger.” 

This experience allowed Jarin to make the most out of her entrepreneurial and doctoral journey. She continues to demonstrate her willingness to take risks and face new challenges during her time at Tech.   

Jarin has gone on to win the CEE Entrepreneurial Impact Prize, CRIDC Innovation Competition, Georgia Research Alliance Phase I Grant, and NSF Partnerships for Innovation Award. She was also part of the inaugural Female Founders cohort at Tech, a CREATE-X initiative to “provide a space for female-led entrepreneurial teams to explore a first business model, engage with an all-female coaching team, interact with successful female entrepreneurs, and receive non-dilutive funding.”

Balancing Act: Jarin’s Struggles to Find Balance

Between the research and competitions and expos and mentorship, Jarin admits that she has not come to find balance in her doctoral program easily. 

“I don’t want to be one of those people that says, ‘I’ve got everything under control,’” said Jarin. “I think it’s best to be honest and say that we’re all struggling. I think as long as you have interest in what you’re doing, I think you can find a sense of well-being.” 

One of Jarin’s rules is that if an experiment fails twice in one day, she likes to leave the scene and come back the next day. 

“I’ve started getting in the habit of going to Buford Highway as my comfort place,” said Jarin. “I’m a big boba fan, so I like to try to go find good boba outside the city.”

The Next Chapter

Now in her fourth year at Tech, Jarin is keeping an open mind for her future. 

“I just got accepted as a Future Faculty Fellow in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, so I’ll get the opportunity to work with different mentors and in coordination with the Tech to Teaching program,” said Jarin. 

Through Jarin’s experience teaching, she has discovered that she likes working with students. She sees herself pursuing an academic role around leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the future. 

“I enjoy breaking all of the constructs that have been built before me,” said Jarin. “I want to break what a traditional Ph.D. looks like.” 

Stay tuned for Jarin’s final feature on boba recommendations around Atlanta.