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Madiha Khan

Patent Examiner
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Madiha Khan à son bureau
Madiha Khan à son bureau
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Madiha Khan is a Patent Examiner at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

About me

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.

What I do at work

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.

My career path is

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.

I am motivated by

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.

How I affect peoples’ lives

Getting a patent is the first step to inventors developing a product for public use. By granting inventors exclusive right to an invention for a fixed term, government is promoting research and innovation. This provides reason for inventors to invest funds in new lines of production. If for example, pharmaceutical companies could not patent their products, there would be no reason for them to develop new drugs. In this way, I help promote research and innovation in the area of biotechnology. I also make sure that the set rules and regulations, are followed.

Outside of work I

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.

My advice to others

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.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • History
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Business & Economics
  • Computer Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • 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”

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