Alumni Services

Career Journeys: working as a Trainee Patent Attorney

After studying Genetics, Catriona Edwards now works as a Trainee Patent Attorney. Here she shares how she uses her scientific skills in her work as well as her advice for working in this sector.

Name Catriona Edwards
Degree Course BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (Genetics)
Year of Graduation 2013

What path has your career taken since graduation?

I was a little unsure what to do following my undergraduate degree and took some time out to work out what was the best choice for me. After a few months away from science I realised I missed it and I decided to return to university to study for a PhD.

I did my PhD at the University of Aberdeen, having followed my now husband there after graduation. My PhD was a great opportunity to further develop skills in analytical thinking and scientific writing, and to develop practical laboratory and project management skills.

Picture of Catriona Edwards
Catriona Edwards

Following my PhD I knew a career in research wasn’t for me. During my PhD I had learned a little about intellectual property and thought it sounded interesting. After doing some more research, I decided it was the career for me. I accepted a position as a trainee patent attorney at a firm in London, and have been in the role for a little over six months. I am really enjoying it, although when I have to sit the professional exams this might change slightly!

What is your current role and what does your work involve?

I am currently a trainee patent attorney. I help with prosecuting patents, working on a variety of patent applications for different clients. The daily tasks vary quite a lot, but include researching the field of particular inventions, analysing and comparing data, and writing responses explaining why a given invention should be granted a patent.

I find it really interesting learning about new areas of technology and rewarding using my scientific skills outside of a laboratory. I have always really enjoyed learning and writing about science, and now I get to do that every day.

I get to work on a lot of different applications, which means there is plenty of variety. Having spent four years working on my PhD research project, I really appreciate having shorter discrete tasks to carry out at work, which gives me a more frequent sense of achievement! Learning about the strategy of protecting a patent portfolio has also been really interesting, and I have a new appreciation of the value of scientific ideas and innovation to businesses.

Overall, I love that I am still getting to learn new things, as well as using the scientific knowledge and skills I picked up during my studies.

How have you used the skills and/or knowledge developed during your degree in your career?

I use the skills I learned during my degree every day in my job! The ability to analyse data is important, and the ability to read scientific literature and pull out the important points. I remember being taught these kinds of skills in tutorials as an undergraduate. The knowledge I learned during my degree is also still helpful, and although I might not remember it all, I was also taught where to find it if I need to refresh my memory!

What advice would you give to students who are interested in your area of work?

Firstly, intellectual property is an exciting and interesting area, and it is open to you as a biological sciences graduate (plenty of people I work with only have an undergraduate degree). I think a lot of people are unaware of this as a career option, and I would encourage anyone who enjoys learning and writing about science to consider it, especially if you really love the science but maybe not the laboratory! The ipcareers website has lots of valuable information about the career and useful tips about getting into the field.

To excel in this career, you need a strong background in science, an analytical mind, a good eye for detail and excellent writing (and arguing!) skills.