Love, Loss and Legalities: A Journey from Science to Law

Author: Amy Olyaei
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2026

As a child, my pharmacist father instilled a natural curiosity in science in me, that later translated into a love affair with research, and a passion for intellectual property law.

The Affair
My affair with scientific research grew to fruition while I was an undergraduate student Research Assistant in a chemical engineering lab. I worked alongside a team to create a device that would draw toxic material out of the blood. Here, I was first exposed to wet bench research and quickly became mesmerized. From learning sterile techniques to understanding how to operate laboratory equipment–I wanted to learn it all (nerd, I know).

Following graduation, my interest in research continued while working as a Research Coordinator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Oregon Health and Science University. In this role, I aimed to optimize nutrient intake and characterize the stability of proteins in an infant’s digestive tracts. At first, I was drawn to expanding my clinical knowledge by learning about different disease processes. At this time, I planned on obtaining my doctorate in Biochemistry. However, throughout my three years of employment, my social concerns broadened.

The Break-Up
As I served the NICU community, I saw the health and social barriers that impacted patients and their families. I witnessed non-English speaking families struggle to participate in their child’s care due to language barriers. As the daughter of an immigrant, I directly related to these encounters. Quickly, my curiosity grew to better understand the laws that govern these systems.

These encounters made me question whether I was embarking down the right career path. I knew a doctorate in Biochemistry would deepen my theoretical understanding of social disparities, although I wondered if it would equip me with the practical tools to advocate for marginalized communities.

I considered, first, exploring other fields. In doing so, I remembered the joy I had participating in Mock Trial during high school and college. I considered exploring if a legal career would provide me with the opportunity to advocate for the marginalized patients I worked with, like the advocating I did in Mock Trial. I feared the hours I worked in medical research labs over the last three years would not be helpful for a career in law. Regardless of these feelings, I had to try. The possibility that a law degree could offer a more practical and action-oriented approach to addressing health and social disparities was enough to overcome my fear.

Moving On
As I thought about considering a legal career, I was curious how my experience on mock trial and my knowledge from the television show How to Get Away with Murder compared to real-life legal work. So, I began working as a legal assistant at a personal injury firm. Sadly (or maybe thankfully), it was quite different.

I observed and participated in client intakes, legal research, and depositions. I found meaning and an innate joy in working with clients. One memorable interaction occurred when I had the opportunity to work with a client who sustained significant injuries in a car accident. In the client intake, I learned about the emotional toll the accident had taken on her life. I relished in gaining the client’s trust and walking them through times of vulnerability and uncertainty. Unlike my previous thoughts, I learned that being an attorney is not a theatrical performance. Rather, it is a privilege that demands a complex understanding of dynamic and interchanging relationships that exist in society.

Rekindling (with a Twist)
While I enjoyed my experience working on personal injury matters, I yearned to combine my new legal experience with my STEM degree. So, like any 20-something year old, I turned to Reddit to figure out how to weave together the arts of science and law. You guessed it – I discovered intellectual property and patent law. It became apparent to me that intellectual property and patent law offer a unique bridge between the worlds of science, innovation, and legal advocacy. I saw that a science background can play a pivotal role. It allows an attorney the ability to grasp complex technical arguments, present evidence persuasively, and effectively advocate for their clients in the world of intellectual property. It enables an attorney to provide informed advice tailored to the client’s industry and technical expertise. For example, an attorney can develop legal strategies that align with their client’s business objectives and technological capabilities.

I came to law school hoping to lean on my ambition, originating from my work in the NICU and as a Legal Assistant, to promote equity and fairness in society. While some might view intellectual property and patent law as primarily concerned with inventions and innovations– I see it differently. At its core, the field possesses powerful tools for promoting global prosperity. Notably, patents related to sustainable technologies, clean energy, and healthcare innovations have the potential to address pressing global challenges like climate change and access to healthcare.

While my affair for research continues, I now see a new way to blend my science background with my legal education. As a practitioner in intellectual property and patent law, I hope to harness the power of innovation and creativity to address some of the pressing challenges facing society today.

Amy Olyaei
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2026