Translating your Research into Intellectual Property

Hello fellow graduate students! I am excited to be a part of the community this year. For my first blog post, I wanted to write about something that is particularly exciting to me – transitioning our research into the field! This is an essential step in the scientific journey we are taking as we go through graduate school. Our research needs to be accessible to the public after it is completed, and can make a huge difference in our society.

If your research could be patented and converted into a good or service, you should benefit as well! There are some ways that you can avoid pitfalls and navigate through the more difficult, unfamiliar work as you try to obtain protection for your Intellectual Property (IP).

The first and most important thing that you can do is to understand your school’s IP policies. Do they have ownership on any idea you develop? Does the school only have a stake in this idea if you used their materials or resources (computer programs, etc.)? Do they let you run completely free and make no claim on your invention? Better understanding the policies in place and knowing if you have already signed IP documents will help you understand your next steps.

Most engineering schools have technology transfer offices that may be able to help you file a patent application – oftentimes they will even pay the filing fees associated with your provisional patent application. This patent is never actually examined by the Patent & Trademark Office, but acts as a placeholder to establish a filing date. You are granted a one-year period in which to upgrade to the more expensive, “full” patent application (a “nonprovisional patent application”) while still retaining the filing date of the provisional patent application. The provisional patent is especially useful for us graduate students. Any information that is publicly disclosed (at a conference, in a journal, at a public presentation, etc.) is no longer able to be patented globally. If you do need to complete one of these activities and discuss your potential IP, you should file your provisional patent application with some write-ups of your idea, as well as notebook pages relevant to the idea. Consulting legal counsel, even for these provisional patent applications, will definitely help your application be more robust. Again, your school may have some sort of office with legal staff that could help in this matter. You should also mention at your conference, talk, etc., that you have already filed a provisional patent application.

Your lab notebook is also very important! It not only provides proof of your idea, but it also provides proof that YOU contributed to the IP. This could be essential in ensuring your name is on the patent submission.

Once you get to the point of actually submitting a nonprovisional patent application, be informed of the market in which your design will flourish – is it worldwide? You may want to file a more wide-reaching application – like the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent application, which is an international application. Some specific countries may still have differences, so if you expect to have large impacts in specific regions, take a look at those too. In addition to knowing what type of patent application you wish to file, be knowledgeable about the patents filed in this field already. You are the best person that can understand the technical similarities of your design to others already patented. By determining that no prior art exists, you can also keep your bill lower and not ask your lawyers to do this search for you. Keep in mind that your patentability is defined as “new, non-obvious, and reducible to practice”.

Once you have filed your patent application, decide how far you are willing to go to bring this to market. Do you want to simply license your patent to a larger company already in the field? Do you want to run a start-up for a little while and then accept the money when someone comes to buy you? Do you want to be the next Google? Understanding what you and your team members are willing to do will be important so you can avoid arguments in the future.

Additionally, as you continue to work on your design prior to obtaining approval, remember to mark anything you contract as “confidential”. You should also look into sending Non-Disclosure Agreements to any contractors who may need access to your design or IP in order to complete their job. These legal documents are older and you can even find samples on the internet for free. This will help to protect you until you get your patent.

Lastly, if you are in the medical device field, try to master two totally different mindsets. When the FDA comes calling, you will benefit most if you can prove similarity in safety and efficacy to other currently approved devices. This will set you up to be able to obtain FDA approval through a 510k submission, which is significantly cheaper and shorter. When working with your lawyers and the PTO, remember to emphasize all of the differences and improvements your new device will offer – it is nothing like those currently on the market!

I hope this information was helpful to many of you – I have learned most of this through my own experiences so I would love to hear any feedback any fellow entrepreneurs in GradSWE have!

Feel free to comment on this post through social media, or e-mail me at

Hope you are all enjoying your summer!


Top Ten Apps Every International Student Should Have

Hi everyone!

I’m so excited for the first official blog post from the GradSWE international team. As the International Graduate Team Lead, a position that was created this year, I strive to improve our international engagement efforts and to help international graduate students with their transition to a new country! As a former international grad student myself, I’ve experienced dealing with the social and cultural changes that are normal when transitioning to a new country.

I’d like each of my blog posts to be as beneficial as possible, targeting one topic each time. If you’re an international student that has either been in the US or is planning on moving here for grad school, feel free to email me at with any topics you’d like to be covered, or any other questions you may have! For today’s post, I want to share the top ten smartphone applications you should download before moving to the US:

  1. Google Translate – if you’re not perfectly fluent in English, Google Translate can save you time when you’re in a tough spot in a foreign country.
  2. Google Maps – this one might be obvious but I wanted to include it because it’s so easy to lose your bearings in a new country!
  3. Google Drive – this post is not sponsored by Google I promise, but a Master’s degree without Google Drive is like going to an 8 AM class without coffee 😐
  4. Transit – I used this app to navigate the bus system, but definitely research for any other public transportation apps that might be more relevant to the city you’re moving to.
  5. Uber / Lyft – it might be tempting to save money and use public transport all the time, but when you’re out late at night, having a ride share app is key.
  6. University Specific App – research your University’s smartphone app as it could have useful information like campus events, campus maps, where to eat, etc.
  7. TasteBud – speaking of food, TasteBud offers great discounts on restaurants near campus.
  8. UberEats / Postmates / Favor – for those days when you have too much work and can’t cook a meal or go out to a restaurant, use these apps to get your food delivered to you. Don’t skip your meal – you need energy to work!
  9. Ibotta – if you’re big on saving money, this app is a good one that helps you with rebates on your grocery bills.
  10. Indeed – this is a great app to get a head start on your job / internship search.

A lot of these apps offer great discounts when you’re a first time user or you refer your friends, so keep that in mind and save those dollars! Good luck if you’re moving to a new country this Fall! You’ve got this girl 🙂


Grad Member Spotlight: Genevieve Kane

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to our new Graduate Leadership Team.  We’ll start with our new GMC, Genevieve!
Kane_GenevieveGenevieve Kane
Graduate Student in Materials Science and Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Genevieve Kane has been a member of SWE since 2007. She is very happy to serve as Graduate Member Coordinator of the society in her 10th year of SWE membership.  Genevieve became a member while an undergraduate at SUNY New Paltz,  and brought SWE programming to her undergraduate campus.  Upon entering graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Genevieve became the Region Graduate Representative, aiding in GradSWE group start-up and in Region Conference Planning for graduate sessions.  She continues to be involved in her region and locally, acting as the Region Collegiate Senator for FY18, as well as continuing her outreach efforts and being part of the Local Host Committee for WELocal Providence.  Genevieve is also a member of the Women in Academia committee, and the Bylaws committee.


What degrees do you hold, and what are you currently studying?

I took a very unique path through school – I completed three bachelor’s degrees in five years, where I studied Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Music (Performance, Violin) at two separate institutions that were 2 hours away from each other (SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Albany)!  After that, I received a Master’s degree from the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Albany (SUNY Polytechnic) in Nanoscale Engineering.  I’m now a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and am studying Materials Science and Engineering.  It seems like I’ve been studying a lot of different things, but one thing that I have always believed is that many aspects of science and technology are related.  I try to remind students of that whenever I do outreach!

Give a brief explanation of your research experience

Previously, my research focused on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (for my MS) and solving problems that photoresist manufacturers face with out-of-band wavelength lights.  Now, my research focuses on creating novel microscopy techniques to help understand, predict, and actively control grain growth in metals.  

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?

That’s a great question and one that I think many people struggle with.  I spend some time teaching at a community college prior to starting my studies at RPI and I loved it, so I would definitely be interested in a professorship.  At the same time, I am also really enthusiastic and love my research, so I would love to explore the options that government labs and industry have available to me as well, because I think that my research experience could really be beneficial in that setting.  As my time in grad school closes, I think that I’m narrowing my options down, and looking for something that offers me the freedom of controlling my research interests, while still allowing me to be an educator!  We shall see.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

When I’m not in lab, you can usually find me at the gym for Zumba, or hiking and wandering the wilderness!  These are things that I really love and I hadn’t been prioritizing much in the beginning of grad school – so I’m happy to have more time to do them now.   I also love to sing and play music and do so through concerts, musical theater, etc. I am also a language enthusiast, and love to travel.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I received a black belt in karate when I was 10 years old!  On occasion, I teach self defense classes to women, because I believe that it is important to be able to defend yourself if the need arises.

Do you have any advice for our GradSWE members?

If there are three things I can share with  you in my experiences from grad school, they would be:

  1. Do something that you are passionate about, and surround yourself with the right people to help you achieve what you hope to.
    I personally had a lot of trouble in the beginning of grad school because of my choices in research and advisor.   I am now a very fortunate graduate student with an advisor that I work well with, and research that I am passionate about.
  2. Take time to enjoy grad school, and have a healthy work/life balance!
    This is something I will undoubtedly emphasize over the course of the year in blog posts – taking a break and going home for the day to sleep, do the things you enjoy, etc, is as important as your research.  Grad school has a physical, and emotional impact on all – it is a stressful time in your life and many students need that rest and relaxation to avoid burnout.  I didn’t realize this for a long time – but I find I am much more productive now because I do take breaks.
  3. Utilizes all of the resources you are given in grad school and that you have available through SWE.
    A lot of students come out of school and say things like “I wish I had gone to more professional development seminars.”   I can’t personally say that – because I take the time to go to as many seminars about research and professional development that I can!  I also utilize my career center if I have questions about my resume, and my SWE contacts as well.  Your school, company, and professional organizations have a ton of resources available to you to help you grow as a professional, and to obtain jobs.   Use them!

State of Mentoring Program

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship between two individuals (mentor and protege) based on a mutual desire for development towards career goals and objectives.

Why is mentoring important?

When a professional issue arises, having a mentor allows you a safe place to discuss the issue. Mentors can serve as a resource for proteges. Mentoring is proven to keep women in engineering. As women, we are often the minority in a male dominated field.

GradSWE Mentoring Program – What is it?

The GradSWE mentoring program matches proteges and mentors. We are currently revamping the program to include an online community and weekly emails about mentoring and other career topics. We’d like this program to set women in engineering up for success, and allow others to give back to the engineering community.

What do we do?

Our goal is to grow the support system for GradSWE participants. We will match proteges and mentors on a rolling basis.  We will send out content to participants regularly on helpful topics, such as the value of mentoring and how to mentor or use a mentor. We will track our progress with participants, participant experience, and participant retention in an engineering field.

What do you do?

If you are already enrolled in the program, sit back and get ready for the revamped program. To join as a protege or mentor, contact us as shown below! We’re also always looking for ways to improve the program. Send us your thoughts!

Mentoring program email –

Joining mentoring program – You must fill out the form by August 4th 2017 to be matched in this round.

Mentor form –

Protege form –

GradSWE – Welcome to FY18!

Genevieve First Blog

Welcome to FY18 my fellow SWE Members!  I am excited to continue my work on the GradSWE team this year, now as your Graduate Member Coordinator.

Many changes are coming about in SWE this year, and as we being our new year in GradSWE, we announce that we have expanded our community to include sub-teams! As such, I’d like to introduce the rest of the Grad Community Leadership team. Our team for FY18 is:

  • Graduate Member Coordinator (GMC): Genevieve Kane
  • GMC-Elect: Carolyn Chlebek
  • Graduate Programming Coordinator (GPC): Emily Hoffman
  • GPC-Elect: Jodi Boutte
  • Social Media Coordinator (SMC): Renee Oats
  • Webinar Coordinator (WC): Elisa Duesing
  • Mentoring Coordinators (MC): Josa Hanzlik and Angelica (de Rosa) Payne
  • Professional Graduate Team Leads:  April Keene and Elizabeth Rasmussen
  • International Team Lead: Akshaya Iyer
  • Graduate Transition Lead: Prerna Jain
  • Diversity and Inclusion Liaison: Bridget Hegarty


You can read a short bio about each person and a little bit about the positions here:  Over the next few months, we will be spotlighting members of our team, so you can get to know them better!


Goals for FY18

With an expanded team, we have the opportunity to better address issues that graduates face and help advocate for graduate students in the society!   Some of the plans that we currently have include:

  • Continued use of our online presence to contact all of our SWE grad members.
  • Improve resources and knowledge sharing for grad students and SWE grad groups.
  • Offering mentoring options for graduate students through our revamped mentoring program.
  • Increasing our international presence through GradSWE globalization efforts, as well as helping international students that are new to our country with new SWE resources.
  • Identify needs of graduate student members within Professional sections or with Professional grade memberships.
  • Navigate the governance transitions, and create a strategic plan for GradSWE in order to maintain our presence in SWE.


If you have any suggestions for us, free to email me at (or comment on our social media).  We’d love to hear any and all ideas on how the grad community can better serve your needs.


How to get Involved!

This upcoming year is full of ways to increase your involvement with the SWE Grad Community, especially with the formation of our new sub teams!  Here are a few examples on how to get involved:

  1. Become a Region Grad Rep. Some Regions still need RGRs for FY18 (our final year for Region representation). Email me to ask if a position in your region is available!
  2. Participate in your local SWE Grad Group or start one within your SWE section. Current SWE Grad Groups are listed here.  We would love to help universities start GradSWE groups, and to see some pop up in Professional Sections as well!
  3. Join our sub-teams by expressing your interest at
  4. Attend WELocal or be part of a WELocal Host committee!
  5. Attend WE17 in Austin TX! We will have GradSWE programming at the conference as well as a reception for Grad Students!
  6. Write a guest blog post for the SWE blog. Contact Genevieve at
  7. Engage with us on social media:
    Facebook page:


I look forward to serving you during FY18 and hope that I will be able to interact with many of you personally over the course of the year through the blog, and through SWE conferences.  Many of my blog posts will talk about issues that I have faced in the past including how I navigate through grad school, the failures I’ve overcome, and how important work-life balance and healthy living is in being successful as a graduate student for me!

Here’s to a great fiscal year, and the continued growth of our SWE Graduate Community!

Genevieve Kane

Farewell FY17

My dear SWE members,

This is my last official post to you as Graduate Member Coordinator. Fiscal Year 2017 has come to an end and I leave you in the very capable hands of Genevieve Kane. This upcoming year promises to be one filled with exciting new initiatives which Genevieve and the rest of the team will champion.

Looking back, this year has been a great year for SWE and the Graduate Community. We saw our influence within the Society grow to record levels. By the numbers:

  • 70+ graduate students at the We16 GradSWE reception
  • 6 webinars hosted
  • 21 Grad Member and Group spotlights
  • Blog: 6405 visitors, 10314 views (19% and 9% increases from FY16 July-May)
  • Facebook: 465 likes (40% increase since start of FY17)
  • Twitter: 190 followers
  • LinkedIn: 130 members
  • Instagram: 88 followers

Now, I wish all of you success in your future endeavors. Good luck with your classes, jobs, and research. I believe in each and every one of you and your power as a Woman and as an Engineer. Thank you all for allowing me to the honor of serving you this past year.

Sincerely yours,
Liz Dreyer

PS – Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you want to stay in touch!

Grad Group Spotlight: Northwestern University

SWEGrad_NorthwesternUnivNorthwestern University

Evanston, IL

When did your group start?

GradSWE at Northwestern originally began in 2012. For several years, a small handful of women ran the group. In summer of 2016, we formed our first executive board which has greatly expanded our programming.

How is the group organized? i.e. how many core people are typically involved, do you have officers, how do you fit within the collegiate section, where do you get your budget (if you have one)

We have an executive board that is currently nine people strong – comprised of a president, VP, administrative chair, finance chair, professional development chair, outreach chair, mentoring chair, social chair, and assistant coordinator. The mentoring and outreach chairs are our liaisons with the overarching collegiate section – attending their weekly meetings and keeping each board updated on the other’s events. Our most popular collaborative initiative with the collegiate section is our “Coffee With a Grad Student” program, in which we pair up an undergraduate interested in grad school with a graduate student mentor and supply coffee money. Since its initiation, over 40 students have participated in this program, with 92% of undergrads responding that they learned a lot about graduate school, and 64% more likely to attend grad school because of our program. We are also currently planning a series of workshops for the collegiate members on graduate school to be held this fall, with topics including “Applying to Graduate School” and “Applying for Fellowships”.

What type of events do you host? How often do you host them? How many people tend to come to these events?

We host a combination of social and professional development events, with the intent of community building through social events and empowering women in STEM through professional development events. For social events, we organize a monthly happy hour for women to casually get the know other women in STEM in a relaxed environment. We also host monthly coffee hours on campus. Our recurring professional development event is our quarterly lunch discussion series, in which we invite a Northwestern professor to lead a discussion on a topic of her choice over lunch. Our inaugural lunch was this past April on the topic of “Articulating purpose, presence, and grit” with overwhelmingly positive feedback. We also aim to hold events with the local professional SWE sections several times a year, and have previously organized a joint trivia night and networking evening. On average, we usually have about 15-30 attendees at these events.

What is the one event or program of which you are most proud?

Our hallmark event is our Professional and Graduate Women in STEM Networking Night. We held our first event this April in downtown Chicago, and invited women from Northwestern graduate programs, local Professional SWE sections, and the Chicago Association of Women in Science (AWIS). It was a wonderful evening of networking and learning about various career paths. Attendees were invited to prepare lightning talks, and topics ranged from research to advocating for women in STEM to engaging in public outreach. We are looking forward to expanding this event even further and making this an annual event.

What tips do you have for a newly-started grad group?

For a new graduate SWE group, remember there’s a lot you can do with a limited budget, especially on the community building side! Organize women to go out to happy hour together, or host a brown bag lunch for participants to gather and discuss a specific topic. Reach out to your local professional SWE sections about co-hosting events. Activities like these are not only low budget, but will also build up your visibility as an organization so you have a strong foundation for future larger events!

How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?

Please email us at