Name: Emily Brunton University: Lancaster University Subject Studied: Physics Current Job Title: Trainee Patent Attorney Company: Forresters
Studying physics, how did it feel being a woman in a STEM subject typically dominated by men?
Being a woman in science certainly has its positives and negatives. I found that peers would often underestimate my ability (although this could arguably be due to my lack of common sense rather than my gender). On the other hand, there is a huge amount of support and encouragement available for women in science at the moment, which can provide extra opportunities for female students. For example, while studying I was able to work as a paid intern organising an event for women in science, through which I met a number of inspirational women in both the industry and academia.
Have you found your current workplace is still mostly occupied by men?
Not at all! Coming straight from university, where I was always in the minority, I've found the dynamics of my current work place to be refreshingly balanced.
Do you think it was beneficial your course being an integrated master's?
Although it's not compulsory, a lot of people who enter my profession do have PhDs or master's degrees in either a science or intellectual property. Doing an integrated master's degree was perfect for me because it meant the jump between my final year at university and my job wasn't as extreme as it would have been had I gone straight from being an undergraduate. In my fourth year, half of my grade was made up of lecture and exam based modules while the other half comprised an independent research project, which I felt was a good balance. I’ve found the research and writing skills I gained from doing a master's to be more beneficial and relevant to my current job than actually having a further education qualification. Also, staying on at university was beneficial for me on a personal level, as the extra year allowed me to spend more time thinking about my career prospects.
How did you go about applying for jobs?
I had known that I wanted to be a patent attorney for a couple of years before I graduated after I spent one summer doing work experience at an intellectual property attorneys office. I then downloaded The Inside Careers Guide to Patent Attorneys, a book that fully explains the industry and which was very useful in understanding the career fully. Because intellectual property is such a niche industry, I researched every company that was hiring trainee patent attorneys and applied for those I thought I would be well suited for.
Can you briefly explain what your job entails on a day-to-day basis?
The aim of my job is to ensure our clients get the maximum protection for their intellectual property - basically to stop people from stealing their ideas! I work with a range of inventions, and have to understand how each of them works and research what makes them different from existing products. Alongside this, I also do a lot of training on the job, as I have a number of patent law exams ahead of me before I qualify. Patent attorneys use a combination of science, law and business in their day-to-day work, so I still have a lot to learn!
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is working with such a huge variety of inventions. I always wanted a career where I would continue to learn, but the idea of specialising in a narrow field didn't appeal to me. In my job, I can be working with a sun bed one minute and a rollercoaster the next, so it never gets boring!
What’s the strangest invention you’ve come across so far?
Unfortunately, I am sworn to secrecy! All I can tell you is that it involved pigeons...
If you could give one piece of advice to a budding female scientist, what would it be?
Don't let discrimination get you down, use it to your advantage and incite further change. It is getting better, I promise.
What do you like to do outside of your job? Do you have any hobbies?
Outside of work, I love to dance. Throughout my school and university years, dance filled every second of my free time, although now it has sadly been reduced to one dance class a week!