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Spotlight on Science, Technology, and Law student Allison White

Allison White

Allison White is a Senior majoring in Biological Sciences with a minor in Science, Technology, and Law. She serves as President of the Student Intellectual Property Society at Virginia Tech.

What are you majoring in?

Biology with a minor in Science, Engineering and Law

When did you add the Science, Technology, and Law minor? What did you find attractive about the program?

I officially added the minor my junior year, but I have been on this track my whole college career. I have always loved biology because it explains the world in a scientific and analytical manner. It gives reasons for why animals do and act certain ways and can explain amazing phenomena. However, I have no interest in teaching or conducting research, so when I heard about the STL minor, I was hooked. Patent law was the best way to combine my passion for the legal system, writing, and science into one career.

How has your experience in the Science, Technology, and Law program shaped the way you view and approach your Biology classes?

I approach research from a more commercial standpoint in a lot of cases. I also question why the research is being done, whether it’s purely educational or whether there is commercial incentive.

What about the Science, Technology, and Law program exceeded your expectations?

The knowledge the STL courses provide is unbelievably vast. Anna-Marion Bieri is the head of the program and teaches a majority of the upper-level courses. She provides guest speakers from a variety of disciplines and experiences. This provides a very well rounded knowledge base.

What surprised you?

I was surprised by the lack of knowledge from the general public. So few people understand the laws and workings of the patent law system.

Describe an experience you had in the program that stands out.

In the Patent Law class, different Intellectual Property (IP) related guest speakers are brought into the class each week to talk about their experiences and give specific examples of the patent system in their field and experience. Several of these speakers have given extraordinary advice and information regarding the patent law career path and have helped me navigate through my decision to attend law school. Additionally, the Student Intellectual Property Society (SIPS), of which I am vice president, hosts a summer tour each year that gives students the opportunity to speak with attorneys in the D.C. area and learn, first-hand what a career in IP looks like. These have both been influential in helping me determine how to reach my goal of becoming a patent attorney.

Describe your involvement in extracurricular organizations. Has Science, Technology and the Law encouraged you to get more involved?

As previously mentioned, I am currently serving as the vice president for SIPS on campus. This club is attached to the minor program and works closely with Anna-Marion Bieri as our faculty advisor. We host guest speakers as well as attend events relating to IP. In the past, we have co-hosted entrepreneur events with Entrepreneur Club (E-Club) on campus. This year we attended an IP symposium at the College of William and Mary in October regarding design patents. As vice president, I have organized the guest speakers and the events so far for our Ssymposium and summer tour. This has given me remarkable communication skills as well as expanded my network in the world of IP.

How has your involvement enhanced your experience at Virginia Tech?

My involvement in SIPS has proven to me just how much Virginia Tech opens the door for connections and relationships with the outside world. Several attorneys who participated in our summer tour and guest lecture series are Virginia Tech graduates or otherwise affiliated with the University. The alumni network has become a great way to make connections and reach out to attorneys for resources, both fiscally and physically.

How has Science, Technology and the Law shaped the way in which you approach problem solving?

Instead of approaching problems from a purely scientific manner, such as identifying the problem and experimenting to solve it, I find myself looking to past experiments and determining what they did wrong or finding ways to do things better. I also look at all possible perceptions and solutions of a problem in order to determine which is the best or most logical solution to the problem. The STL program has given me a less scientific outlet to express my thoughts, without totally deviating from technical thought.

What career path do you hope to follow?

I hope to attend law school in fall 2017 and specialize in Intellectual Property, passing the patent bar exam and working as a patent attorney.

What impact do you ultimately hope to have on the world?

In a perfect world, after gaining some experience in the patent field in the U.S., I hope to take that knowledge on an international level and help developing countries establish a sort of patent system, using the flaws of the U.S. system to strengthen this other country. I have always loved the idea of international law and this is something I hope to pursue.

What has been the highlight of your Hokie career so far?

Aside from football games and team bonding with the Polo Club, the highlight of my Hokie career has been getting to know both past and previous members of SIPS as well as Anna-Marion Bieri. I have enjoyed hearing their stories and absorbing as much as I can from the experiences of others. It has been wonderful to find my niche in the Science, Technology, and the Law program, with a small community of people with a mind similar to mine and interests in both law and science or technology. It is refreshing to know that I chose a growing field and that there are so many in the Hokie community who will support me through my Intellectual Property journey.