The University Network

UConn Student Makes a Splash in the Startup World

There can be no doubt that we have entered the age of startups. Each year sees more and more entrepreneurial-minded millennials striking out on their own in hopes of building their own company. Startups such as Airbnb and Uber have completely redefined their industries, helped create many new jobs, and even led to the creation of other startups in the process. We are all familiar with the stories of college students, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who first began work on their revolutionary companies while still a student. As the startup culture continues to dominate in the U.S., more and more students are trying their hand at starting their own business.

One such student is making waves at his Connecticut campus for doing just that.

The University of Connecticut is home to Spencer Matonis, a sophomore who recently took a dive into the startup world, making quite a splash. His venture, titled Coalesce, is a dot com startup that aims to help scientific minds connect with each other by way of lab and research-related topics. “Join a network of laboratories modernizing research,” the homepage invites visitors. As Matonis puts it, “At the core of the network that we’re building is this research lab database where students can explore the profiles and websites of hundreds of labs.” Social networking sites are by no means unique, but this site is truly the first of its kind, exploring a topic that may sometimes be overlooked in popular culture.

The market was clearly ripe for such a product, though, allowing Matonis to seize the opportunity. “I first came up with Coalesce in October [2016] and have loved working on it ever since,” Matonis tells TUN. Because Coalesce is still so new, it is still being developed. “Currently, what you see is the “vanilla” database — it’s clean, it’s intuitive and it’s basic,” states Matonis. “In about a week we are releasing Coalesce’s next update where we will be doubling the amount of labs online and offering many more features for students to interact with.”

Just about every notable startup was born out of the need to solve a problem that its founder(s) encountered in their everyday lives, and Coalesce is certainly no exception. Matonis can chalk it up to his experience as a student, pursuing a degree with material science and engineering.

“I have a strong science and research background, and I found that young students really had no options for getting involved in research,” he states. He went on to explain that “Lab pages are often very hard to find, dated and don’t give a clear picture to students on what they’re doing or if they’re even accepting new researchers — kids are left to just write an email and hope for the best. We want to change that.”

Given all these factors, it is certainly not hard to see where the need for a site such as Coalesce would arise, particularly with the growing popularity of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors throughout American colleges and universities. Recent statistics indicate that over 40% of bachelor’s degrees earned by men, and 29% of those earned by women, are in the STEM disciplines. This is due, in no small part, to the recent influx of jobs that have been created by our modern technical age.

Matonis didn’t accomplish all the great work he’s done on his own. He’s had help with the coding of the site from a freelance programmer and with its efficiency from his designer sister. He’s also worked with Dr. Pamir Alpay, head of UConn’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. In fact, it was while taking Dr. Alpay’s introductory course that Matonis had the idea for the site. “[It] was a great idea and an excellent example of entrepreneurship,” stated Dr. Alpay, when asked about Matonis’ work with Coalesce. “I am very excited to support Spencer’s initiative.”

Matonis wants to support the initiative of the entire scientific community. As he puts it, “Coalesce wants to help STEM students all the way from freshman year and finding their first lab to receiving their graduate degree and looking for a job in the world of science.”  

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Matonis’ idea, and willingness to support the scientific community, is to be commended. We expect great things from Spencer Matonis and Coalesce Labs going forward.

Samuel O'Brient grew up in western Massachusetts, though most of his days are spent at Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester, New York. His time there is spent studying business communications and serving as editor in chief of the SLC Economic Review. As a writer, journalist, and blogger, he has written for many different online venues on a variety of topics. When he's not working on his blog, Samuel can often be found sailing, on the golf course, or on the tennis court.