Minnesota Law

Summer 2021
All Rise

M.S. in Patent Law Student Elizabeth Sullivan, an Engineer Making a Pivot to Patent Law

Currently enrolled in Minnesota Law’s Master of Science in Patent Law program, Elizabeth Sullivan is looking to transition from the Research & Development lab to a career in patent law. Trained as an engineer, her interest in patents was piqued when she became involved with a product in the patent application processs. 

Could you briefly describe your academic and professional background as an engineer?

I graduated from the CSE Materials Science and Engineering program at the University of Minnesota in 2017. After graduation, I accepted a product development lab job at Henkel to develop new thermal adhesives. I worked in their R&D lab for four years before deciding to start graduate school.

What was a typical day like at Henkel?

My day-to-day activities included producing and testing new thermal adhesive products for the datacom/telecom market, presenting data to customers, and creating test methods for lab equipment. Most of my time was spent testing products in the R&D lab for both internal and external customer use. 

What is driving your interest to supplement your engineering background with a legal background?

I had always had an interest in law school but didn’t learn about patent law until I started working. One of the products I was developing at Henkel had a patent application in process. Seeing the progress sparked my interest in the field and prompted me to learn more.

How did you connect with/ become aware of the Masters of Science in Patent Law Program ?

I knew that if I went back to school, it would be at Minnesota because of my great undergrad experience. I found the master’s program through the law school website. Then, I connected with Professor Christopher Turoski, who is a great resource and advocate for the program.

"I was looking for a career path in product innovation outside of the lab setting. This combination of goals perfectly describes a career in patent law. "
Elizabeth Sullivan, M.S. in Patent Law student

What motivated you to enroll in the program?

I was looking for a career path in product innovation outside of the lab setting. This combination of goals perfectly describes a career in patent law. I was also interested in going to school full-time. Being able to complete the master’s program in nine months is a big benefit.

What are you hoping to do with what you learn in this program?

I am hoping to work as a patent agent for a law firm after graduation. The master’s program does an excellent job of teaching students through hands-on classes and experiences. I feel well equipped for success due to the program’s curriculum.

What is your favorite thing about the program so far?

I enjoy the variety of classes offered because they show different career paths in patent law. I have been exposed to positions within law firms, the USPTO, and corporations. It helps put the world of patent law in perspective and shows the versatility of the field.

What advice would you offer someone pondering enrolling in the M.S. in Patent Law program? 

Patent applications filed in the United States continues to climb each year while the number of patent agents and lawyers registered at the USPTO stays the same. There is a high demand for more individuals with a STEM degree to understand and write patents.    

How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy reading, playing golf, and spending time with my friends and family. During quarantine, I started cooking more with my fiancé which has been a lot of fun. I am also hoping to spend more time traveling soon. 

Anything else you would like to share?

The master’s program complements my degree from CSE. CSE’s training is vital to success in patent law, and I will be well equipped to understand the invention’s technical details because of it. Choosing to pair CSE and the Minnesota Law School was a logical next step for my career.