MIT Students Create 360 Video Projects in a New Virtual Reality Class


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Jean-Jacques Degroof’s activities as an investor, mentor, and teacher have included work with various organizations in the United States and Belgium. An MIT alumnus, Jean-Jacques Degroof possesses a master’s and doctorate from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Over the years, he has remained involved with his alma mater, supporting MIT programs in various areas including entrepreneurship, arts, and technology.

At the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, students are exploring the world of virtual reality (VR) through a hands-on class that teaches 360-video camera work and visual storytelling. First taught in 2017, the semester-long class gives students the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art VR technology, including emergent equipment from Samsung Gear 360 and Oculus Rift. The class also introduces students to the art of VR filmmaking with the help of guest speakers from the VR field.

Under the guidance of instructor Sandra Rodriguez, students in the spring 2018 VR class completed various projects including an interactive game and a VR tour of the MIT campus. Students were able to complete the projects thanks to equipment provided by the Oculus NextGen program, which is currently advancing VR studies at 12 US universities.

MIT Scientists Advance Understanding of Alzheimer’s-Linked Gene

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Alongside his work as a successful investor and entrepreneur, Jean-Jacques Degroof takes a very active role in supporting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jean-Jacques Degroof earned a master’s and a doctorate in management from the school and has since helped advance several MIT programs and activities, including the Aging Brain Initiative at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Founded in 1994, MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory seeks to advance the understanding of how certain mechanisms drive learning and memory and contribute to neurodegenerative disease. Recently Li-Huei Tsai, the institute’s director, led a team of researchers in a study examining APOE4, a gene variant that has been associated with a higher risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s.

In the comprehensive study, Tsai and other Picower Institute research scientists found that APOE4 promotes the accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins, which cause the plaque that is found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Their experiments showed that the APOE4 variant promotes amyloid accumulation by stimulating excess amyloid secretion and disrupting the process by which astrocyte and microglia cells remove amyloid proteins and other foreign matter from their surroundings.

In addition to revealing how APOE4 facilitates the development of Alzheimer’s pathology, the scientists highlighted the potential for using gene-editing technology to treat the disease in patients with the APOE4 gene variant. The results of the study were published in the May 31, 2018, online edition of Neuron.

Creative Arts Competition Honors Arts-Focused MIT Entrepreneurs


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For more than three decades, Jean-Jacques Degroof has held leadership roles as a banking executive, corporate board member, and entrepreneur. A former researcher and Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, Jean-Jacques Degroof has since been involved with the university as a mentor and member of entrepreneurial and alumni groups.

Though MIT is most commonly associated with the technology, engineering, and business worlds, the school has also played a prominent role in the arts and culture of both the Boston area and the United States. To further support the intersection of the arts, technology, and entrepreneurship, the school organizes an annual Creative Arts Competition that recognizes MIT students who develop innovative projects in this sphere. All business ideas entered in the competition must either use the arts or creative disciplines in conjunction with technology and entrepreneurship.

Winning teams receive a $15,000 grant, plus additional support and mentorship through the START Studio and the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at the Sloan School of Management. First prize in the 2018 competition went to Hapticomix’s Project Daredevil, which creates virtual reality experiences for visually impaired individuals, while second prize went to a project that develops abandoned sidewalk shops into artists’ studios.

MIT’s IWER PhD Program for Work and Employment Study


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IWER PhD Program

Jean-Jacques Degroof is the holder of a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management. When pursuing his Ph.D., Jean-Jacques Degroof took courses in the school’s Institute of Work and Employment Research (IWER).

IWER was established to address the concerns of the 21st century workforce in light of generational, technological, and economic changes. It is a collaborative hub for the study of work and employment. Here, MIT faculty educate researchers on how to improve the way Americans work. The Institute does this through weekly seminars and a comprehensive PhD program.

IWER’s PhD program combines institutional knowledge with training on social-science practice. It is designed for students seeking advanced training in human resource management, labor-relations management, public policy, conflict management, sociology of work, and best employment practices. Coursework covers such topics as labor economics, collective bargaining, industrial relations, and the political economy. On top of these, students can attend related classes at MIT, including those on economics, anthropology, and political science.

MIT’s Creative Arts Competition Accelerates Art-Focused Ventures


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MIT’s Creative Arts Competition

A venture investor, Jean-Jacques Degroof helps grow startups into successful companies. A former affiliate researcher at the MIT Industrial Performance Center, Jean-Jacques Degroof was in subsequent years involved in supporting MIT’s Creative Arts Competition as a sponsor and a member of its jury.

MIT’s Creative Arts Competition is an year-long program put together to accelerate startups focused on the intersection of the arts and technology. The competition is open to founders who have one or more MIT students on their teams and have ventures that have arts at their core – those that address the needs of artists, producers, and other arts stakeholders.

Participating teams enjoy benefits such as access to MIT’s START studio specialized programming and MIT’s arts entrepreneurship incubator. The teams also participate in workshops at the Sloan School in which students receive mentorship from past winners of the competition and from distinguished MIT alumni. The mentors cover topics such as pitch preparation, customer development, and business plan creation.

Participating teams are expected to develop viable business plans to be judged based on their focus on the arts, potential for impact, and sustainability. The winning team receives a cash prize of $15,000 presented as a grant.

Creative Arts Competition Spurs Innovation at MIT

As a respected entrepreneur and alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Jean-Jacques Degroof sponsors the annual Creative Arts Competition and is a member of the jury.

This years event is set for April 30 and is designed for young entrepreneurs in an effort to generate startup businesses focused on the arts. Teams comprised of graduate and undergraduate students from MIT pitch a panel of judges with a bevy of ideas that represent how art and business can join forces in a collaborative effort. The 2017 winner, Roots Studio, is a perfect example of the competition’s mission. They digitally transform art from rural villages into high-end products, thus taking away the burden of a costly supply chain through licensing.

Co-founded by CEO Rebecca Hui in 2011, they are able to connect rural artists around the world with design hubs who use the authentic designs to reach out to a multi-billion dollar market.

The first place prize for the 2018 competition will receive $15,000. For more information, go to



The 2017 Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference


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Babson College

An expert in entrepreneurship and innovation management, Jean-Jacques Degroof has taught at multiple European business schools. In addition, Jean-Jacques Degroof has contributed to a number of academic gatherings, including the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC), where he presented a paper in 2003.

Established by Babson College in 1981, BCERC has evolved into the world’s premier conference for papers on entrepreneurship research, attracting more than 350 scholars who hear more than 220 papers. Held each year in conjunction with an entrepreneurial studies doctoral consortium, this event unites entrepreneurial scholars with successful business leaders.

The 2017 BCERC took place from June 7-10 at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Michael F. Price College of Business and OU Innovation Hub. Sessions covered subjects ranging from the effect of corruption on international entrepreneurs to strategies for managing work-life balance for entrepreneurs. OU business professors Lowell Busenitz, Will Drover, and Jeremy Short delivered the conference’s final remarks.

The MIT Sloan Mentoring Program


EWB-USA Receives IKEA Foundation Grant




An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management, Jean-Jacques Degroof has devoted more than 17 years to venture investment. In addition, Jean-Jacques Degroof served as a sponsor to the (MIT) chapter of Engineers Without Borders in 2010.

In 2017, Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) was able to secure a grant from the IKEA Foundation to support efforts to fight climate change in parts of Africa and Asia. The grant covers a three-year period and will see EWB-USA give technical advice to partners in the relevant regions regarding energy efficiency, renewable energy, the risk of flooding, and water supply.

In her comments regarding the award, the EWB-USA executive director, Cathy Leslie, referred to the organization’s role in the creation of sustainable solutions that took climate change into consideration and to its partnership with the IKEA Foundation. She stated that her organization was eager to help marginalized communities push back against climate change.

MIT Sloan Dean’s Circle Benefits


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Dean’s Circle

A self-employed investor and mentor in the field of entrepreneurship, Jean-Jacques Degroof studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management in the 1990s. Jean-Jacques Degroof continues to proudly support the culture of research and innovation at MIT through his membership in the Dean’s Circle, which honors those who have given generous financial support to the school.

Membership in the MIT Sloan Dean’s Circle provides many benefits, encouraging alumni and other friends, who are interested in fueling greater innovation and in supporting opportunities for students and faculty, to give to the school. Regardless of the amount Dean’s Circle donors provide, they gain access to many special events at a reduced fee, and are invited to the Dean’s Circle reception and other events not open to members of the general MIT community. They also receive regular updates on the state of the school and are permitted to attend a special speaker series.

Larger donors receive several additional benefits, most of which involve greater access to Sloan faculty. They receive regular case reports on research done at Sloan, as well as a suggested reading list and at least one book recently published by a faculty member. They can also attend special events featuring senior faculty and receive complimentary admission to conferences.