Internship spotlight: Sophie Tanker

Internship spotlight: Sophie Tanker
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Sophie Tanker is a senior and early entry master's student at UNC Charlotte who is studying computer science with a concentration in bioinformatics and a minor in mathematics. She recently interned at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick. As it’s time for students to explore internships, read about Tanker’s experience, what she learned, and how she is using her experience at UNC Charlotte. 

What was your role at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick? What types of projects did you work on?

My title at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick was patent agent intern. I worked on all parts of the patent application process, including being able to write a little bit of a patent myself. We discussed how to argue for granting a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, conducted interviews with patent examiners from the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and interviewed clients to ensure we have the best possible understanding of their invention and how to protect it.

What did the internship teach you? What did you learn about yourself?

The internship taught me a lot about myself. I touched technologies I had never heard of before and had to teach myself the material effectively without a professor present. I also learned about possible careers within the patent industry. I am the daughter of a lawyer; I did a mock trial in middle and high school for seven years, and then I gave it all up when I went to college because I didn't know how to intersect my love of science with my love of the law. Being able to get hands-on experience with the process of protecting intellectual property at Shumaker helped me get back in touch with my passion for crafting good arguments. There is truly such an intersection between the skills you gain from scientific research and the skills needed to perform good legal research.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

My favorite part of the experience had to be when I was able to take a try at writing a patent myself. Armed with an outline given to me by my supervisor and my good friend Google by my side, I spent the last few weeks of my internship doing largely independent work. At the end of the summer, I was impressed with what I had been able to do with only a few months’ worth of experience and so were my supervisors. Another experience that stuck with me was when we did a patent clearance search for a client. These searches are performed before a firm begins drafting a patent to ensure that there are no similar competitors in the space, and if there are similar competitors, prepare to draft a patent application that differentiates our client's intellectual property from existing brands and companies. A lot of the research skills I gained from working in a lab in the Bioinformatics and Genomics Department allowed me to do well on this project.

How are you using what you learned over the summer at UNC Charlotte?

Now that I am back at UNC Charlotte, I am learning more and more about the patents that the University has filed through the database that the Division of Research maintains. Since the internship was limited, I'm using my connections on campus and the University's open-source resources to learn more about the patent application processes for technologies I could not work on during my time at Shumaker.

What organizations are you involved in on campus?

I am involved in the Graduate and Professional Student Government and Alpha Omega Epsilon on campus. Alpha Omega Epsilon has really supported me in my journey to get where I am today. We are a sorority for women in STEM and being surrounded by women who understand what it is like to be the only girl in your classes empowers me to be a headstrong woman. GPSG of course has been wonderful as well. Before I was admitted into graduate school, I was involved in SGA, and those two organizations combined have both educated me about the legal processes that go on in higher education and allowed me to practice my public speaking skills.