Miami psychology alum talks about his path to becoming an entrepreneur

Written by Dania Puente, CAS communications

photo of Eric NofzingerOn Friday, November 9, alumnus Dr. Eric Nofzinger (1981) visited Miami to talk with psychology majors about his career path after graduating with a double major in psychology and chemistry.

As a renowned expert in the science of sleep and sleep disorders, he has spent more than 35 years practicing sleep medicine and studying insomnia. Currently, Nofzinger is the founder and Chief Medical Officer of Ebb Therapeutics.

During his visit, Nofzinger had lunch with psychology students, where he shared his career path experiences.

"I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but I then worked in a psychiatric hospital to help me understand what I really wanted to do," said Nofzinger. This experience helped him decide to be a psychiatrist.

"There's no limit to where your career trajectory can go," Nofzinger said. "Going to medical school opens a pathway to so many options."

After graduating from Miami and working at a psychiatric hospital, Nofzinger went to medical school at Ohio State University.

"For me those years were critical," said Nofzinger. He advised students to get exposure and "put yourself in the situations that you see yourself in."

Nofzinger's Path to Research and Discovery

Nofzinger said that his first exposure to psychiatric disorders was during his undergraduate years at Miami through a volunteer opportunity in Indiana.

"The courses that I took shaped the rest of my life," he said. "Several courses helped me understand the importance of human behavior."

"I did sleep research for the vast majority of my career, and the inspiration started here at Miami," Nofzinger added. "I took a course in dream psychology and human behavior."

Nofzinger worked in academic medicine for 26 years, which he described as a great career of discovery, and he has worked in the business world for the past decade. In 2008 he started his own company, Ebb Therapeutics, which markets a medical device he developed that treats insomnia.

He said that he became interested in sleep and related problems at Miami, and much later in his career he found a way to solve insomnia by inventing and bringing to market a device that could potentially help millions suffering from insomnia.

During his talk, Nofzinger shared some facts about insomnia, which is caused by a massive increase of brain activity in prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that should be shutting down when going to sleep. Nofzinger described the sleep disorder as a $35 billion market opportunity.

"23% of adults in the United States have insomnia associated with daytime distress or dysfunction," he said.

Through brain imaging and more than 20 years of research, Nofziger realized that therapeutic cooling slows frontal cortex activity, thus allowing a person with insomnia to fall asleep faster and enter deeper sleep more quickly.  Today, he describes Ebb Insomnia Therapy as the "first drug-free FDA-cleared prescription device that reduces the time it takes to both fall asleep and enter deeper, restorative sleep." To close his lecture, Nofzinger gave students several pieces of advice.

"Having a dream is good, but it is not enough," he said. "You're not going to be successful if you only have a dream."

He also emphasized that no one can be successful on their own.

"Learn how to play with others," said Nofzinger. "I am more effective based on my ability to work with others."

"Position yourself to make an impact and understand rejection," he added. "You can make decisions in your mind that will make you have an impact on people…[but] everybody at some point will face rejection, so it's important to understand it and work from it."

Lastly, he advised the audience to "enjoy your path, enjoy your career, and enjoy the people you work with."

Learn more about Dr. Nofzinger's company and device: