More to science: working as a Technical Specialist

There’s more to science than being a scientist! Next in our ‘Science > Careers’ series Henry Shikani tells us about his role as a Technical Specialist in patent law.

What is your scientific background?

henry shikaniI started on the medicine path as an undergraduate at Georgetown University. During my senior year, I wasn’t completely convinced I wanted to pursue medicine and was also interested in gaining more experience in the basic sciences. I therefore enrolled in a Master of Science program in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

I loved my time at Hopkins and wanted to further my research skills, so I pursued a doctorate in Biomedical Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Einstein’s PhD program appealed to me as an umbrella program which allowed students to become exposed to multiple scientific disciplines.

How did you transition from the lab to your current job?

During the final year of my PhD, I started considering future career options. I loved academic research; however my concerns about the tight funding environment drove me to explore alternative paths.

I met a colleague at a scientific conference who introduced me to the world of patent law and connected me with one of her patent attorney colleagues.

I met a colleague at a scientific conference who introduced me to the world of patent law and connected me with one of her patent attorney colleagues. Patent law is a client-based career.

I was drawn to the possibility of merging science with other career paths, specifically law and business. I also loved the social and collegial nature of the job. Everything blossomed from my meeting with the attorney. I was offered an interview, and eventually a position, at the firm where he worked.

How do you spend your day in your job?

Days are typically long in the patent law world. I spend most of my time in the office working on various assignments for different cases, which primarily entails assisting with the preparation of legal documents. I also constantly consult with co-workers about various cases. We do have the occasional in-person meeting with clients. My workload varies depending on client demands.

There are two technical industries in patent law: ‘biology/chemistry’ and ‘mechanical/electrical engineering’, so a number of my colleagues also come with scientific backgrounds.

There are two technical industries in patent law: ‘biology/chemistry’ and ‘mechanical/electrical engineering’, so a number of my colleagues also come with scientific backgrounds.

There are two paths in patent law: prosecution and litigation.

Prosecution is the process of trying to secure a patent for a unique invention. One applies for a patent and typically goes back and forth with the patent office to try to obtain it.

Litigation mostly deals with infringements of already instituted patents. It also entails attacking an instituted patent for validity or patentability or defending a patent from such attacks.

Essentially, prosecution is at the pre-patent stage, and litigation consists of various proceedings after the patent has been granted. The bulk of my work is litigation-based, however I also have a few prosecution cases.

What makes this a science job?

My role requires a scientific background as I’m asked to work on patents for pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or other biological-related products. Understanding the field is important.

It was a challenge to transition into patent law because there is a lot to learn. It’s a steep curve, but combining several career paths into one is exciting and enlightening.

What do you like most about your job?

There are many aspects of patent law that I love. Firstly, the skills you gain while working in this environment. You need to be detail-oriented and have strong organization skills.

You also should have good time management and multi-tasking skills, as you’re typically asked to work on multiple assignments at one time.

You also should have good time management and multi-tasking skills, as you’re typically asked to work on multiple assignments at one time. Lastly, and probably the skill which I feel is most key, is being a good team player. Most of your cases will involve large groups. You need to be able to work well with others.

Another aspect of patent law I enjoy is its social nature. Law firms strongly encourage a social environment. I enjoy the occasional outing with colleagues, as it allows me to take a break from the office.

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs looking to move out of the lab?

These days, breaking into any career path requires networking and some luck. Try socializing with people in the field you’re interested in. With persistence and by conveying your enthusiasm, you will eventually break through.

If you’re interested in patent law specifically, again, you should network with attorneys at various firms. Another piece of advice would be to gain some form of legal experience. The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers an externship which exposes you to the patent world. You can also gain experience at your specific institution by working in tech transfer, for instance.

Lastly, taking such tests as the patent bar and/or the LSAT will demonstrate your interest and commitment to the career path.

Where can you be reached if readers want to ask you more about your job?

The best way to reach me is by email: hshikani@gmail.com.


 

Do you have a job in science that you love? Know someone who can’t stop talking about their science career? Comment below or email me at dana.berry@biomedcentral.com if you’re interested in participating in our series. And join the conversation by using the #moretoscience hashtag on twitter.

View the latest posts on the BioMed Central blog homepage

Comments

By commenting, you’re agreeing to follow our community guidelines.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *