ERIC T. ROMEO
Eighteen months ago, I viewed my career path as very divergent from that of my parents; both were attorneys, and I was a scientist. I had just entered my third year of employment at a major pharmaceutical company, and I was starting to come into my own as a medicinal chemist and making significant impacts on our drug discovery programs. I was working side by side with incredibly talented people at the cutting edge of my field, and yet I felt strangely unfulfilled. I began to re-assess my plans for doctoral study in chemistry and in doing so, reflected on my path thus far.
My scientific career began in earnest in the chemistry lab of Professor William Armstrong at Boston College. Due to a lack of funding and resources at that time, I was given full reign over a research project normally reserved for graduate students. To compound the challenge, the research was centered in bioinorganic chemistry, something I had never studied before. Nevertheless, the prospect of leaving behind my textbooks and designing my own experiments proved sufficient motivation for me to start finding my way. With the generous support of my faculty adviser and labmates, my research grew over the next year and a half to include two other undergraduates, and produced an award-winning thesis project. The collaboration and problem-solving skills I learned in the Armstrong Lab would become invaluable as I moved into the next phase of my career, the pharmaceutical industry.
When I arrived at Merck Research Labs in the summer of 2007, I was excited to finally put to use the teachings from my favorite college class, synthetic organic chemistry. Unfortunately, I quickly learned that doing chemistry on paper is very different from doing it in real life. Because associate chemists at Merck are expected to spend most of their time making compounds in the lab, my lack of experience with organic chemistry techniques meant that I would have to start from scratch if I were to succeed. Thankfully, my experience of being thrown into the deep end at school prepared me well for this dousing, and with the help and patience of my manager, my skills in the lab grew by the day. Eventually, I became comfortable enough making compounds that I was able to think about designing and optimizing them. Delving into the patent literature and finding free intellectual property space to make novel drug candidates became my favorite task at work, and before long I was named as a co-inventor on my first of five U.S. Patent Applications. It slowly became apparent that what I really liked about my job was not the chemistry of drug design, but the problem solving and strategy involved. I found 'myself in a quandary: I had fallen in love with the process of doing science, not just science itself.
The remedy for my dilemma was provided in short order by a "Patent Law 101" presentation given by members of our in-house counsel. There, I was introduced to the idea that intellectual property, rather than internal research and development, is the true life-blood of the pharmaceutical industry. It quickly became clear to me that the ability to create, protect, and manage this resource effectively is essential to generating the necessary revenue to fund all of a drug company's other functions, including my chemistry department. As the session drew to a close, I realized that intellectual property law, in the context of pharmaceuticals, offered me an opportunity to combine my aptitude for drug discovery with my love of creative problem solving. Over the next year, I met with patent attorneys both within and outside of the pharmaceutical industry to discuss my path forward. Additionally, I was able to attend a patent trial in Federal Court, and found the challenge of explaining science to the lay jury fascinating. In sum, these experiences served to further crystallize my desire to enter the field of law.
I intend to pursue a career in intellectual property law with a focus on chemistry and drug discovery. Therein, I hope to leverage my skills and experience as a medicinal chemist to provide clients with the unique perspective of someone who has stood in their shoes. I believe that such enhanced communication and understanding would foster a more collaborative, innovative, and productive discovery environment. I am confident that my past experiences in solving new and difficult problems will facilitate my ability to discover the common ground between the rule of law and the laws of science.
Every good essay makes a point to emphasize the positive qualities of the applicant. This one certainly takes home the trophy, punching out a different theme at the end of each anecdote. The first paragraph ends with an assertion of Eric Romeo's self-reflection and evaluation skills. The second brings out his quick adaptability and independent learning abilities. The third showcases his creativity in producing chemical compounds and willingness to seize and make the most of opportunities given to him. The fourth tells of his enthusiasm for his newfound passion, and his impeccable motivation and drive in pursuing his interests. Each paragraph homes in on a specific trait, and each fits with the others like the pieces of a puzzle that compose and present the ideal applicant.
Still, this essay does take on a fairly daunting task-explaining a career switch-and that comes with its pitfalls. Romeo sets the stage for his switch with the line, "I had fallen in love with the process of doing science, not just science itself." That line raises more questions than answers: Isn't a job in science a fusion of those aspects?
Romeo then leaps to a presentation, and in a flash he is a law school applicant. The shift is abrupt. He doesn't need to attribute the shift to a single moment or quandary. The essay is at its best when it tracks his organic interest in patent law and its yearlong evolution.
That said, Romeo appeals to the applicative nature of careers in law by emphasizing his underlying passion for drug discovery, which drives his interest in intellectual property law. He ties this together in the last paragraph, where he specifically states how his indispensable previous experience in organic chemistry will assist him in his law studies, and how it grants him a unique perspective as a law practitioner.