While completing his PhD in Experimental Medicine, Andrew won UBC's inaugural Three Minute Thesis competition. He went on to complete a JD at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC and is now using his scientific and legal expertise at Gowling WLG, assisting clients in patent drafting and prosecution with a focus in the biotechnology, immunology, molecular biology, and biochemistry fields.
Where and what is your current position?
I primarily assist clients in drafting and prosecuting patents, particularly patents relating to inventions in the life sciences. As a licensed lawyer, I also support clients in various business matters including incorporation and intellectual property transactions.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
My career path is not as I originally intended, only for the reason that I don't think I had a pre-determined career trajectory to begin with. I chose career opportunities based on what interested me, what skills I wanted to develop and what experiences were available to me at the time. However, as I progressed further along my eventual career path, I became more aware of what I wanted my career to look like and increasingly took more measured and deliberate steps to arrive at my current position.
How does this job relate to your graduate degree?
In my current work, I interact regularly with principal investigators, postdocs and graduate students who are in the exciting position of being able to patent the products of their research. My graduate training has been invaluable for my work as an intellectual property lawyer. Obviously, my scientific knowledge and expertise in immunology, biochemistry, and molecular biology continues to be a tremendous asset in understanding a client's invention. However, from a broader perspective, my graduate training uniquely developed my ability to identify problems and, more importantly, potential ways of getting around them. In this respect, writing scientific grants and journal papers shares many similarities with patent drafting and the exchange of arguments/counter-arguments that occurs when submitting a patent to national and international administrative offices.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
Prior to starting my PhD, I had already spent a number of years working in scientific labs, both academic and industrial. I chose to pursue graduate studies because I wanted to further develop my critical thinking skills and was fascinated by the subject area of inflammation and immune regulation. In particular, I chose to complete my PhD at UBC because the experimental medicine program offered access to leading researchers in my fields of interest, world-class facilities, opportunities for funding, and a broader scientific community and network.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
The flexibility is what I enjoyed most, and miss, about my time as a PhD student at UBC. The flexibility as a grad student applies to the research itself; you are uniquely free to follow lines of investigation in any number of directions the science and data lead you. The flexibility also applies to other aspects of a grad student's life, including balancing schedules and commitments outside of academia and taking advantage of the numerous opportunities for professional development.
What are key things you did that contributed to your success?
I have always strived to be open to new ideas and opportunities; you never know when you have an experience or meet a person that will be a valuable resource for a future endeavor. However, when considering these new ideas and opportunities, I have always (in lawyer speak) done my "due diligence" and made every effort to be as well-informed as possible. Take risks, but avoid taking blind risks.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
Especially for graduate students at the bench, my advice would be to get outside of the lab and meet people. Attend lectures, conferences and networking events. Establishing contacts, whether it be for collaborations or future career opportunities, will always serve you well.
Did you have any breaks in your education?
I had several years between my undergraduate and graduate degrees where I worked in the pre-clinical research division of a pharmaceutical company. The break in education was planned. This experience served my career progression in the sense that it provided me with an understanding of how industrial science is conducted.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
Although it is not required to obtain a position at an intellectual property firm, I chose to first complete a law degree. There is a very structured legal recruitment process during law school and it was through this process that I was introduced to my current firm.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
Law firms recruiting for intellectual property positions will normally post on their web sites. However, firms may also use recruiting agencies or rely on the aforementioned law school recruitment process.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I particularly enjoy the diversity of being an intellectual property lawyer. Although my focus is in the life sciences, this is in no way a narrow field of specialization. I am afforded the opportunity to learn about a wide array of cutting-edge technologies ranging from novel biologics and pharmaceuticals to methods of improving agricultural crops to mechanical medical devices.