While engineering and law may seem somewhat incongruous, for alumna Elisabeth Koral, her engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis was excellent preparation for her career as a patent attorney.
"All of the skills you learn and develop while an engineering student, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, are skills that can be applied across a wide spectrum of fields," said Koral, JD, a principal who practices patent law at Harness Dickey in St. Louis. "As I went through the engineering program, a career in patent law presented itself as a better fit for all of my interests."
Koral earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from WashU in 2004, then earned a juris doctoris degree from Northern Kentucky University in 2007.
“All of the skills you learn and develop while an engineering student, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, are skills that can be applied across a wide spectrum of fields.”
"Even when I knew I was not going to pursue a traditional chemical engineering career, I knew I wanted to continue to use my engineering degree and to work in the science field. Patent law was a natural fit for that," said Koral, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio.
As a patent attorney, Koral focuses her practice on securing patent rights for her clients through all stages of patent preparation and prosecution.
"It's really exciting to work with inventors and be a part of new science and new technology," she said. "I am able to work with innovations in many fields; for example, pharmaceuticals, chemical engineering processes, materials, organometallic chemistry and semiconductors. It is very rewarding to work with so many different innovations and to help inventors secure their rights."
Earlier this year, Koral was named St. Louis Small Business Monthly's Best Patent Attorney, and in 2018, she was named among Missouri Lawyer's Weekly's "Up & Coming."
Koral was drawn to WashU by the flexibility allowed in the curriculum.
"WashU offered me the opportunity to explore outside of the engineering field and take other classes that interested me," she said. "I always enjoyed writing and history and was able to get a history minor."
Koral said that female inventors seeking patents are still a small minority, meaning there is still so much underutilized potential from female inventors.
Growing up, Koral was supported by her family and teachers to pursue her interest in the STEM fields, so it is important for her to give back and encourage and support women to pursue the STEM fields.
"I feel very lucky to have had access to programs to learn more about careers in the STEM fields and to have encouragement from my family to explore my interests in science and math," she said.
She is a member of the Women & Engineering Leadership Society, which fosters professional and personal growth of female engineering students to develop them into leaders and serves as a support and advocacy network for female engineers associated with WashU.
"I really enjoy providing support, encouragement and career advice to my mentees, whether it relates to engineering or if they have an interest in patent law," she said.
Though a transplant to St. Louis, Koral is active in the St. Louis community by serving on the board of the Downtown Children's Center in St. Louis and volunteering with Brazen, a local nonprofit that supports women entrepreneurs.
"St. Louis has a great startup community and culture, and I enjoy participating in it," she said. "I believe it's very important to support the city and the success of our residents."