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Spotlight on Science, Technology, and Law student Joey Sarver


On the Science, Technology, and Law Program . . .

What are you majoring in?

Currently, I am a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Science, Technology, and Law.

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

Freshmen year I found myself looking for a unique class as an elective – something that broadened by knowledge outside of engineering, but that was also practical in the future. I registered for the introductory intellectual property law course in the spring and it was one of the most informative and absorbing courses of my college career. The Science, Technology, and the Law program is so attractive because intellectual property (IP) is entwined in every career path and unlike most of my coursework the field does not follow any natural theory. IP law is the combination of years of observation and fundamental thinking about creating, protecting, and stimulating invention. There is no right or wrong answer, and I love that because you become engaged in remarkable types of thinking where you question everything.

What connections do you see between Chemical Engineering and Science, Technology, and Law?

Chemical Engineers are concerned with designing and operating new process and products to improve society’s daily lives. Most engineering curriculums never mention intellectual property law or its effects on the daily operation of chemical engineers, but one the most valuable assets global chemical companies have is their respective intellectual property. In building a plant or creating a new product engineers will utilize hundreds of potentially patented technologies that will requiring approval or licensing. Engineers are better equipped to develop new technologies when they understand the system for protecting those technologies and giving them value.

What about theScience, Technology, and Law program exceeded your expectations?

The scope and depth at which topics are discussed far exceeded my expectations for the program. In my STL classes, we have talked about everything from how to protect the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples in a globalized environment to the issues that arise from protecting newly self-replicating technologies. I never really imagined that the IP law would be such a wide-ranging subject.

What surprised you?

Learning about the financial aspects of intellectual property law was the most surprising. Billion dollar companies no longer exist because of the misappropriation of intellectual property which only highlights the necessity of IP education. In addition, the cost of applying for patents for new technologies. Many people do not realize the significant investment that is required to obtain a patent.


Was there a skill (or a prospective/approach to problem solving) you learned in STL that you found particularly useful to the work you did in your internship?

You approached a legal issue similarly to an engineering problem. First you step back and look at everything you know and how it directly affects your question. Then you begin to take the applicable theory, or in Science, Technology, and the Law, the law that relates to your question and apply it. The similarity in problem solving between these two fields helped me in developing critical thinking skills when approaching a question.

You interviewed with U.S. Gypsum Corporation. Can you describe what that experience was like?

I remember sitting down for an interview as a co-op engineer at a paper mill thinking about some of the more technical questions that could be asked. USG is a company that exist today only because of its focus on innovation and constantly improving. They hold hundreds of patents in the buildings and home product industry that allow them to be competitive on a global scale. During my co-op experience, I felt like I had an advantage because I was already aware of the typical trade secrets and intellectual property requirements in industry. We worked on a project to 3-D print a plastic component that was used during our daily operations. I did a patent search, something that I had learned in the STL program, to make sure that the technology was not patented. I ended up finding the expired patent and proceeded to order the 3-D printed component online for testing.

What career path do you hope to follow?

I am currently in the processing of applying to graduate school with the hope of working with polymers and biomaterials.

Barring any and all obstacles, what impact do you ultimately hope to have on the world?

The world needs inventors and new technologies not only from an economic stand point but we need new medicines, materials, and energy sources. I hope to have an impact by helping inventors with the legal and technical accepts of their ideas in a globalized marketplace.

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

The summer of my junior year I attended an international conference, 16 th Annual European Meeting on Supercritical Fluids, where some of my undergraduate research was in a presentation. During the meeting I got to hear about the research in supercritical fluids that is happening all over the world in pharmaceuticals, extractions, and material development. Interestingly, before going to that meeting I had to sign an agreement not to disclose trade secrets or intellectual property information which is a topic that we covered in detail in the Science, Technology, and the Law program.