We are enthused to bring you an installment of the "Women in STEM Spotlight Series Sponsored by Leidos." This series highlights women involved in the FIRST community in DC, Maryland and Virginia who are an inspiration for our program's young women and girls.
Name: Jyoti Mehta
Place of Employment: United States Patent
and Trademark Office
Job Title: Patent Examiner
What is your specific job in STEM? How would you describe this job to young women and girls?
Marissa Streng was 9 years old when she invented the Puff-N-Fluff dog dryer. She was issued a patent for this invention in 2013 (https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/journeys-innovation/audio-stories/dogged-determination). A patent is a right given to a patent owner, for a new and useful invention, to exclude others from making, using or selling their invention for a limited period of time. Patents have been issued for inventions around us, for example, an iPhone, self-driving cars, and even for Coronavirus vaccines.
As a patent examiner, my job is to determine whether inventions should be granted patents. An inventor creates a new device or comes up with a new way of solving a problem. The inventor may then file a patent application describing their invention. To examine a patent application, I first understand the invention. Then I search known technical knowledge to ensure that the invention is new and not obvious. If I determine a patent should not be granted, I write up my findings and explain why. If I determine the invention is patentable, the USPTO issues a patent.
What is the coolest thing about your job?
The coolest thing about my job is that I get to see the latest and greatest in technology. I am always learning something new! For example, I worked on a patent application where the inventor devised a new technique to prevent hackers from obtaining information about what was going on inside a computer processor. Another time, I was learning about AI algorithms for self-driving cars. Just recently, I worked on an application about computer architectures for machine learning. Every patent application that I examine has a different invention – a different idea from the one I examined before. It is like reading a new book every time! The inventions I work on keep me informed about the latest ideas in technology, sometimes even before the inventions are introduced to the world. Before I took this job, I had no knowledge of how the patent system impacts society. The inventions that I review from companies big and small may make it into products that change our lives, which I find very exciting!
But my job is not limited just to examining patent applications. I have used my skills at various other opportunities at the office. Since last year, I have been helping train new examiners. I have also collaborated on projects with examiners from the European Patent office and the Korean Patent Office.
Overall, I find the job always has something new to offer, which keeps the job interesting and there is never a dull moment!
What advice (big or little) would you give to a young woman or girl who might be interested in pursuing a career in STEM?
Try different things. You won’t know what you might enjoy doing until you try it.
When I was in school, given a choice, I would choose working on math and science over reading and writing. When I was offered a job at the USPTO, I was not sure if I would like the work as it involves a lot of reading. But I wanted to try something new.
Initially, I had to spend time learning the patent examination process. I had to learn to think more like an attorney. Once I got a good grasp on the job, I really enjoyed it. Searching to figure out whether an invention is new and nonobvious is my favorite part of the job. I would not have realized that had I not tried it. My advice to everyone is - Give it a try. There are so many opportunities in STEM, try what you can when you get the opportunity. Also, not all STEM careers require only STEM skills. My job requires reading, writing, team work, public speaking skills etc.
On a side note, this is one of the reasons I love FIRST. FIRST gives you an opportunity to try different things. You can get hands-on experience while building and programming robots. You get to apply the physics and math principles that you learn in school, all while using other skills such as leadership, team work etc.
Explore, try your hand at different things, have fun!