Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Sector: Government and Public Administration, Science
Born: Outside Canada
Type: Career Profile
Biology, Chemistry, Science
What is exciting about my work is that I get to see technology that is at the forefront of research. Each day, I see a new invention or an improvement to an invention. In time, you can see the inventions that you granted a patent for, come to market and help the public.
With scientific research, people often get bogged down with their specific research areas. As a patent examiner, I get to see the broader picture. I also get to see the results of research from all areas of biotechnology.
In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do or what field I wanted to get into. I took courses in all different fields including computer science, biology, chemistry, physics, business, algebra, calculus, etc. to keep my options open. I also enjoyed history and wanted to be an archaeologist. However, I was talked out of this because future career openings were few. So I was advised to choose between science and engineering.
Since I wasn’t a fan of math, I chose to go into sciences. Even then, I wasn’t sure if I wanted biology or chemistry so I enrolled in BSc. in Biochemistry/Biotechnology at Carleton University. In my 2nd year at Carleton University, I realized I was interested in plants. As a result, I started taking all the plant biology courses available. For my 4th year Honors project, I approached Dr. Shelley Hepworth who was doing plant developmental research. She agreed to take me on and I ended up being in her lab for the next 6 years to complete my PhD.
After my PhD, I did a term as a sessional lecturer at Carleton University. Then I got an offer to do a postdoctoral fellowship Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Towards the end of my postdoctoral work, I applied for faculty jobs at various universities. I also applied for jobs in the government related to my field. By chance, I overheard somebody discussing the competition for a patent examiner position that was closing the same day. I applied, and was very excited to find out a few months later that I got it! So now here I am.
If young people are interested in becoming patent examiner, I would advise them to focus on studying science or engineering. With engineering, it’s common to come out of undergrad, get some work experience and get a patent examiner position. For sciences, PhD is generally preferred. If you enjoy reading/researching and working on your own, you will love being a patent examiner.
Outside of work, I like to spend time with my family. I have recently taken up baking. I also paint sometimes to relieve stress. I enjoy playing badminton and basketball.
At work, I examine applications for patents on biotechnology inventions. The ones I review have been submitted at the national and international level and are related to all fields of biotechnology. A patent gives its owner the legal right to keep others from making, using, selling and importing an invention for a limited period of years. In Canada, a patent is good for 20 years. The inventors could range from university professors to multinational companies.
My role is to go through each patent application. I make sure the applicant has followed all the Patent Acts/Rules. I also make a judgement as to whether the invention they have created is something new and should be protected by patent.
When I review a patent application, I use my knowledge of scientific principles and methods especially relating to biology/biochemistry/biotechnology. I follow a set procedure and logical steps to reach a conclusion. This job is kind of similar to when a teacher has to mark or review an assignment.
Although, each examiner is part of a team, this job focuses on independent work. English is essential for this job but knowing French is always beneficial. I work in the biotechnology division. However, the patent office has other divisions including mechanical, electrical and chemical division.
I was born/grew up in: I was born in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada when I was 12. I lived in Ottawa for 15 years but moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada for a few years before moving back to Ottawa.
I now live in: Ottawa, ON
I completed my training/education at: I completed by Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry/Biotechnology from Carleton University. I went on to complete my PhD in Biology specializing in plant developmental biology, also from Carleton University. For my postdoctoral research, I worked at the Cell and Systems Biology Department at University of Toronto in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
When I was
- Business & Economics
- Computer Science
- Enjoyed doing things on my own
- Liked helping people
- Enjoyed working with my hands
- Engaged in volunteer activities
- Liked reading
- Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
- Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
- Liked to design or build things
- Learned best “by doing”