Nanoelectromechanics to Polyfluoroalkyls: Not Your Typical Summer Job at the Innovation Law Center

Dineen Hall incorporates many natural light-filled spaces throughout its design, places where faculty and students can sit together and collaborate, and that is certainly true for the Innovation Law Center’s (ILC) suite in the southeast corner of the College of Law’s third floor. This is where a team of six students—supervised by adjunct professors—has been working diligently throughout the summer on IP, patent, and market landscape projects for the Law Center’s numerous emerging technology clients.

In fact, over the summer months the students—Senior Research Associates 3Ls Cody Andrushko, Parker Mincy, Amanda Wang, and Xiaotong Wang, and Research Associates 2Ls Christina Brule and Kristian Stefanides—have been assisting more than 20 start-ups. Referred to the Law Center via relationships with GENIUS NY, NEXUS-NY, the CNY Biotech Accelerator, and other statewide research centers and innovation economy partners, these clients are seeking help commercializing inventions that range from eye-tracking technology and weather drones to anti-microbial coatings and a carboxylate fermentation process.

In addition to assisting these clients, the students also have presented on IP protection for computer applications to the Syracuse-based StartFast Venture Accelerator and have updated guidebooks on FDA regulations and computer apps for Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR).

Normally, the summer ILC projects are tackled by rising third-year students, so the rising 2Ls Brule and Stefanides are somewhat unusual recruits, explains ILC Associate Director Molly Zimmermann. “We had a number of openings this year and found room for two first-year applicants who had already impressive résumés,” says Zimmermann. “The advantage for these two students is that they will go into the ILC Research Center course in the fall with good experience in the process of helping clients, and they will be able to guide their peers.”

On a hot Friday morning in July, Brule and Stefanides were joined by rising third-year law student Amanda Wang around one of the conference tables in the sunny Law Center suite. Working as a kind of study group, the students were in the midst of researching and writing reports for ILC clients with various technology commercialization challenges.

One of Brule’s clients, for instance, is water remediation company RemWell. This company was referred to ILC via clean energy accelerator NEXUS-NY. RemWell’s new technology addresses drinking water contaminated with an emerging class of chemical contaminants, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. “RemWell proposes groundwater remediation using a specialized reactor that can destroy harmful chemicals,” explains Brule, who is writing a patent landscape for the company, as well as a technical language section that has emerged from her own understanding of the technology. “The technical language section will help these highly specialized engineers explain their concept to other audiences using less technical terms,” notes Brule.

As Brule immerses herself in the green and clean economy, for one of her clients Stefanides is mastering a relatively new market that combines real estate, interior design, and furniture making. “My client—called essem|BLÉ—is exploring a line of lightweight furniture for the real estate market,” says Stefanides, who is preparing essem|BLÉ’s IP and market landscape report. Stefanides explains that her client “stages” (in other words, decorates and customizes) homes so that prospective buyers to get a feel for a room, whether visiting in person or viewing the property online. “Currently, my client requires a warehouse full of furniture in order to stage homes, but her lightweight furniture idea means her job could be done more effectively and easily.”

While Stefanides gets to grips with the real estate and interior design industries, across the conference table Amanda Wang is becoming something of an expert in mechanical engineering, having worked with numerous inventors in this field. Wang is currently working with Xallent, a company in the extremely specialized area of nanoelectromechnical characterization, measurement, and probing. “Xallent is a repeat customer,” explains Wang. “They liked the job we did with a previous project so much, they asked ILC to work with them again. Their new technology uses ‘nano-probes’ to image or test the hardness of compounds at an atomic scale.” Wang says that the company has been researching this technology for more than a decade and has a lot invested in it, “so I’m performing a comprehensive IP landscape, as well as researching other competitors in this niche market.”

All three students agree that this summer work experience is not just leveraging what they have learned in the classroom, it’s synthesizing their book knowledge—and even their undergraduate experiences and specialties—into highly marketable curricula vitae, for when it’s their turn to enter the job market.

Observes Stefanides, “Working at the Law Center gives you the ability to use what you have learned through the College of Law’s technology commercialization curriculum, including IP law, business law, and even writing skills. It helps you develop a very large skill set to utilize not only in law school but also after graduation.”