Abigail Bock '22
Class of '22
Biomedical Patent Examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering in 2022, I started working with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a biomedical patent examiner. I’m responsible for reviewing electrosurgical device applications for novelty, patentability, and feasibility in accordance with patent law and regulations. This includes any device that uses or delivers energy to tissue in a medical procedure or operation theater. I work with inventors, attorneys, and other examiners to determine the best way to describe claimed inventions and improve applications for potential allowability. When I am not working, I like running, hiking, paddle boarding, and stargazing with my dog, Duke.
How did the technical electives and/or service courses you took at Virginia Tech help prepare you for your current role?
My cardiovascular mechanics class prepared me the most for my current role since a majority of the devices I look at are related to catheters or shunts that navigate the cardiovascular system or ablate cardiac tissue. Being well-versed and familiar with the anatomical structure of the heart and cardiovascular system has been essential to understanding the functionality of the inventions that I have worked on so far.
How did you position yourself in the job market coming from a new degree program?
Virginia Tech’s biomedical engineering program, although new at an undergraduate level, was well established as a department and incredibly competitive from start to finish. Not only was the application process more rigorous (involving an application with essay questions and numerous interviews) than any other engineering undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech, but the process was also extremely selective. Although upwards of 150 students applied, only 40 were chosen based on a variety of factors such as GPA, involvement in extracurricular activities, and undergraduate research.
Once accepted into the program, I had to be adaptive and flexible after COVID-19 forced the program online for a year. There were also the challenges that come along with being the first to do anything — every problem or obstacle I faced, I had to figure out for myself; there was no sample or example to refer back to. Moreover, I had the opportunity (and associated pressure) to set the standard and the model for the program with my coursework and establish relationships with community partners such as Carilion Clinic. This will, hopefully, leave a legacy for the following cohorts to come.
What was a project that you worked on while at Virginia Tech?
During most of my time at Virginia Tech, I worked in Carla Finkielstein’s Integrated Cellular Responses Lab where I created and designed a dual extrusion 3D bioprinter. Initially, it was used to create sacrificial matrices that mimic native tissue structure. Later, I developed a method to print 3D tissue structures for experiments about mechanotransduction, gene activation, and cancer metastasis.
My fondest memory from my time in the College of Engineering is...
Taking the Introduction to Biomedical Engineering course. We took apart different biomedical devices to learn how they worked while having the opportunity to suggest improvements in functionality and manufacturing processes. Breaking the device down into its basic components to fully appreciate how each part contributed to the entire system and its capabilities was very rewarding.
What faculty/professor had the most impact on you and how?
Chris Arena had the most impact on me as a student and young professional. He encouraged me always to push the envelope of what I thought was possible to accomplish. He was incredibly compassionate and supportive – always willing to lend a hand with senior design and coursework while also assisting me with letters of recommendation, resume reviews, and career opportunities.
Being a Virginia Tech alumna means...
Having pride in getting a great engineering degree from an ABET-accredited program while embodying Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in my career and day-to-day life.
B.S., Biomedical Engineering, Virginia Tech, 2022