Alexis Blake

Alum raises the bar on scientific career opportunities

February 19, 2024


As Alexis Blake saw it, two scientific career roads stretched before her. One track led to academia, the other, to a lab. Instead, she decided to forge an entirely new path in patent law, and she’s hoping other early-career grads will follow.

Blake passed the patent bar exam, becoming a licensed professional who can help inventors prepare applications. She recently accepted a job with the law firm Haynes and Boone’s life sciences practice in Washington, D.C., all while preparing to defend her Ph.D. in chemistry.

“Science is a little bit black and white,” she said. “The law exists in more of a gray space, where both sides have the same set of facts, but it really is who can craft the best argument. It’s this beautiful tango of logic and feelings.”

New possibilities for Blake emerged based on formative UR experiences, a fellowship with a major automaker, and support from a nonprofit organization focused on making patent law more inclusive.

I absolutely love acquiring new knowledge, and I feel like a Ph.D. is one of the few things you can do in life where you can get paid to continue to learn," said 2019 grad Alexis Blake.

“A lot of Ph.D. students don’t actually want to become professors, and a lot of them also don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in a lab,” she observed. “But they don’t know what else is out there.”

Early on, science was an obvious direction for Blake even though she knew she eventually wanted to attend law school. Chemistry came easily to her in high school. Her decision to attend UR was cemented during a campus visit with her parents. Her mom’s confidence that the school’s smaller size was a better fit than the others tipped the scales.

“I realized very quickly I’d made the right decision,” Blake said. Chemistry professor Carol Parish emailed that summer with an invitation to join her lab at the University. “I didn’t even know what research was,” Blake admitted. “But I said, ‘Okay great!’”

She worked all four years in the lab with Parish as her research advisor and appreciated that her professor set high expectations for undergrads.

“I loved coming up with ideas and then trying to figure out different ways to test them,” Blake remembered.

At UR, she majored in chemistry and minored in law. Taking classes with associate political science professor Jennifer Bowie, Blake found herself drawn to case law, especially the art of making a convincing argument. Then she took the hardest and most rewarding class in her life: a philosophy course in symbolic logic.

“Imagine a little cartoon pop-out that’s just scribbles. That’s what symbolic logic looks like,” she said. “It was probably one of the first courses I’d ever taken that I wasn’t just automatically excelling at. My first test, I got a C.”

Rather than dwelling in disappointment, Blake threw herself into studying. “I was getting A's by the end, but I really just enjoyed it,” she recalled. “The way you have to rewire your brain for that course is exactly what you would need for the LSATs. That further proved to me the legal field is something I can do.”

After completing a post-baccalaureate with Parish, Blake was accepted to Emory University’s Ph.D. program in chemistry. She brought along her passion for the law, and received a fellowship that gives masters and doctorate-level students access to top engineering and science firms.

The fellowship matched her with Ford’s battery manufacturing engineering unit. She worked on a mixture of intellectual property and business law for the automaker, including scrutinizing emerging battery technology patents.

Along the way, Blake discovered Patent Pathways, a free diversity and inclusion program that provides education, training, and financial support to lower opportunity barriers in patent law. Racially diverse women make up only 1.7% of all registered patent attorneys, according to research published by the American Bar Association. 

Concentrating on this specialized area means talking with scientists and inventors, and understanding how to protect their cutting-edge ideas. Blake’s plan is to study for the LSATs, go to law school, and become a patent attorney.

When students ask Blake for guidance, she frequently puts them in touch with her own mentors in science and patent law. “Being a real-world example for people in the same position, I feel like I’m empowering them to make their own decisions,” she said.