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10 February 2023

International Day Of Women And Girls In Science

11 February 2023 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day aims to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. This year’s theme is Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. I.D.E.A.: Bringing communities Forward for sustainable and equitable development.

Three of our trainee patent attorneys share what it is they enjoy about working in the fields of science and technology:

Olivia Dunne

One of the most enjoyable aspects of studying physics at university for me came in the later years, when I was able to study a wide range of phenomena by applying my skills and knowledge from the earlier years in different ways. This made me realise that a career in academia, which would involve narrowing my field of study and specialising in a particular topic, wasn’t right for me. It was the breadth of subject matter I was able to engage with whilst studying which really excited me. However, I also really enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of studying physics, and so I still wanted to pursue a career in which this was a key component.

It turned out that those aspects of my degree which I enjoyed the most play a central role in a career in intellectual property and that my studies prepared me well to embark upon this. As a trainee patent attorney, I apply the technical tools and techniques from my degree to understand new inventions. Once I understand a new invention, I use my problem-solving skills to devise the best way to protect it. I also still get to engage with a broad range of fields by working on a variety of inventions, which the diversity of a physics degree equipped me with the ability to do.

This is why, for me, a career in intellectual property is the perfect fit for my STEM background. It offers me the unique opportunity to apply my degree on a daily basis in new and interesting ways and to continue engaging with the forefront of a wide variety of exciting scientific fields.

Emily Hofmann

My STEM background gets used in my work as a Trainee Patent Attorney every day. I have a master’s degree in physics and a PhD in electronic and electrical engineering. My research focused on experimental development and characterization of new materials for optoelectronic and quantum computing devices. Now in my position as a Trainee Patent Attorney I mostly work with inventions in the fields of computing methods, machine learning and quantum computing.

The knowledge I obtained during my degrees and research applies at varying levels of granularity. Very rarely do I need specific detail knowledge such as why people are trying to make lasers or qubits out of germanium-based materials. However, knowing the answer to that question means that I have a thorough understanding of the fields of optoelectronics and quantum computing and have personally experienced some of the challenges inventors face in those fields. Every time I work with an invention in a field of my research such as quantum computing this knowledge enables me to better understand the invention and how it fits into the broader context of the relevant field.

At a broader level of granularity, I draw on my knowledge of physics and adjacent fields for every invention I work with. When I work with an invention that includes software, I draw my basic knowledge of computer science. When I am faced with an electric circuit my physics knowledge and experimental experience enables me to understand what the circuit does. When I look at a machine learning invention my very solid mathematics skills allow me to understand how the learning works.

Working as a Trainee Patent Attorney allows me to use the full breadth of my scientific background. Understanding the inventions I work with is an important component to doing my job well.

Jessica Wilkinson

I chose to study physics at university because I was always fascinated by the world around me and wanted to understand more about how different processes and technology worked. This was the defining theme throughout my degree as I continually chose modules and projects that allowed me to see how the theoretical concepts I had learned about were used in real life applications.  One of the projects I enjoyed the most was my third-year dissertation, which focused on understanding some of the technologies used at the Large Hadron Collider.

During my fourth and final year, I began to think about what I would do when I finished my degree.  I knew I wanted to continue learning about new technologies and how they worked, and I did not want to focus on one specific area.  I knew that continuing in academia was not the right path for me, but I wanted to look for a career that was still intellectually stimulating and allowed me to use the knowledge and skills I had gained during my degree. This is what led me to a career in intellectual property. As a trainee patent attorney, I am constantly exposed to cutting edge technology in a wide range of fields.  From day one I was given live cases to work on, allowing me to not only use the knowledge gained during my degree but also using many of the skills I had gained, such as critical thinking, analytical skills, and an ability to explain complex concepts and ideas clearly.

My background in STEM fits in perfectly with a career in Intellectual Property.  I am able to continue learning about new technologies, whilst making use of the skills I gained during my degree and learning many more.