Spotlight on Science, Technology, and Law Student Christian Capobianco

Christian Capobianco, a senior majoring in Nanoscience with a minor in Science, Technology, & Law, talks about his experiences in the Science, Technology, & Law program. Christian's first degree was a bachelor of science in psychology from Virginia Tech. 


On the Science, Technology, & Law program . . .

What are you majoring in?

I am currently majoring in Nanoscience with a concentration in Nanomedicine, with Science, Technology, & Law as my minor. Prior to returning for a second degree, I majored in Psychology.

When did you add your Science, Technology, and Law (STL) minor? What, specifically, did you find attractive about the STL program?

I added STL as my minor as soon as chose to return for the Nanoscience program. The STL minor is attractive because it offers students a unique set of tools that make them valuable as they move forward through their lives and careers. Not only does it allow students differentiate themselves to potential employers, but the program also points to career paths that students of science often would not have otherwise been recognized.

What connections do you see between Nanoscience and STL? Has your experience in the STL program shaped the way you view and approach your Nanoscience classes?

Nanoscience is inextricably tied to patent law; it is still a relatively young field and its commercial and social impacts remain prospective in nature. Additionally, there are several issues in patent law that concern the patentability of nanotechnology products. In order for the commercial potential for nanotechnology to be realized, issues emerging at the intersection of nanoscience and patent law must be resolved, so that industry is able to form appropriate strategies to commercialize their products.

What about the STL program exceeded your expectations?

Honestly, the faculty is the facet of the STL program that has exceeded any of my expectations. In the academic world, lecturers are often strictly focused on teaching specific materials, and they often neglect to inspire students to pursue the subject that is being taught. I have found that the instructors for the STL program genuinely want to inspire students to consider alternate careers paths because they understand the value of introducing students to intellectual property law. The instructors work very hard to ensure they provide opportunities to current students that they wish they had had when they were students, and I believe there is something honorable in that notion.

What surprised you?

The depth of the program. As a student outside the program, I would not have expected the minor to encompass training that is generally only offered at law schools.

Speaking to the impact of Science, Technology, & Law on work and life . . . 

Have you interned anywhere? If so, where did you work? Can you describe your experience?

I did have the opportunity (and am continuing) to help Dr. Jonathan Watkinson of the Department of Biological Sciences in reshaping the course, Cell and Molecular Biology for Engineers. It is really interesting to look deeply into cutting-edge biotechnology and nanotechnology research, and I find it amazing that we now have the resources to tailor classes to introduce students to this research. However, the closer you look the more prevalent it becomes that students who are trained to become scientists or engineers will also need training in regards to the legal aspects of research.

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?

The STL coursework has completely altered my outlook on science. Being able to relate nanoscience and bioscience research to concepts such as patentability has allowed me to analyze the potential for certain technologies. In some instances, it becomes apparent how the patent landscapes for biotechnology and nanotechnology have influenced researchers. I have been doing my best to implement aspects of patent frameworks into the course material because the ability to analyze research from a patent perspective will give students a distinct advantage when conducting their own research.

Can you speak to your experience in STL as it has shaped the way in which you approach problem solving?

A lot of issues in intellectual property law can be subjective. One of the great things about the STL program is being able to hear from students from a plethora of majors and to better comprehend different perspectives on intellectual property. It has really reinforced something that I have learned from blue-collar work: the need to approach problems as a team. It may not seem like it, but the ability to actively listen and effectively blend different perspectives into unique solutions is something that takes practice, and the STL program has provided a great environment to practice this skill.

What career path do you hope to follow?

Right now, I am looking at several options. My current priority is to apply to graduate school, pursue a profession in science policy, and then attend law school in the evenings. It sounds super-convenient, but I am keeping an open mind because things hardly happen the way they are expected to occur.

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

While I would love to have an impact on a worldly scale, I think it is important to initially focus on positively impacting those around you, especially regarding younger students. One of my goals has been to help students who might be struggling in school or have a hard time seeing the applicability of what they learn by showing them alternative career paths. I guess the overall goal would be to provide opportunities to those who are less fortunate, so that they could have the opportunities that I have been given.