Dr Kate Macdonald
Chartered UK and European Patent Attorney, Director
Capella IP Ltd
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be in the job you are currently in?
I left the Patent Law Department serving the R&D department of Lifescan Scotland, a Johnson and Johnson company and started my own business last year providing services and advice in intellectual property, particularly patents and designs. I have a PhD in Physics from Manchester University and following a post doc, I decided to switch to a vocational career that of a patent attorney. The training requires extensive professional examination over 3-5 years.
What attracted you to this area of work?
Its fun! I get to learn about all sorts of wild techy inventions and to meet wild entrepreneurial people.
In what ways were you encouraged or discouraged to pursue your chosen career? Please explain further.
In my year at school over half the sixth form (of girls) wanted to do physics and had to be discouraged from doing so as they did not have the staff.
I had a great (female) physics teacher and a great (female) maths teacher. They enabled me to see the delight in solving problems. Later, I met strong women in physics although when I look back, they were simply friends. One in particular pointed out the patent system to me. I was unaware if it before then.
What subjects did you study at school/college/university?
Physics, Maths Chemistry, technical drawing, Physics BSc and PhD
What attracted you to taking those subjects?
All children wonder at the world. I was lucky enough to encounter a talk by Richard Feynman on a Horizon programme, when I was 15. He explained the amazing idea that the wonder of the world is reflected in the beauty of the physics and the elegance of the mathematics. To understand the beauty of a snowflake through its visual appearance and then through its mathematical aesthetics is something!
It brought the romance of childlike dreaming into the supposedly hard world of physics and maths.
What advice would you give to other girls and young women who are thinking of pursuing the same career as you?
More practically, do what you love. Be your own person. Follow your
own passions not those of anyone else. It’s very hard to buck the
trend/the fashion. Be independent.
Finally, you get better choices, better career prospects and better control over your destiny if you are able to use your brain to support yourself, and it is easier to do that in STEM professions than in almost any other!
Finally, in general why do you think less girls and young women study science, engineering and technology subjects?
It can be hard to stand out from the crowd. And you have to work at it to understand it. Everyone does. Believing that if you work at it you can understand it is a powerful notion. Generalising terribly, girls perhaps lack that self belief.