U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director virtually addresses engineering students

Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, made a virtual appearance Dec. 2 to speak with seniors in UIC’s mechanical and industrial engineering department.

Iancu leads one of the largest intellectual property offices in the world, with a budget of over $3 billion and more than 12,000 employees. As under secretary of commerce for intellectual property, he also is the principal advisor to the U.S. commerce secretary on domestic and international intellectual property policy matters.

Iancu spoke about the lack of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) across the country.

“These are complex issues, but what you are all doing at the university — educating a broad base, a diverse community of new scientists and engineers — is obviously the foundational component of that. But more needs to be done,” Iancu said.

“Folks need to be employed and have equal opportunities to be employed and get the job. Then they have to have equal opportunities to invent while in the job. Then they have to have equal opportunities to pursue patents and pursue financing to get products to market, and every one of these levels we probably come up short.”

The National Council for Expanding American Innovation was formed in response to the lack of diversity in the STEM field nationwide, he said.

“Fifty percent of all jobs in the United States are held by women. When you look at STEM jobs, you only have about 28% women. Already, we’ve lost about half and there are many reasons behind that, and we have to work on that,” Iancu said, noting that the invention rate for women in STEM as measured by patents is 13%.

Iancu hopes that each university can adopt a curriculum that includes innovation entrepreneurship and intellectual property at the undergraduate level in addition to its STEM curriculum.

“Beyond that, we need to create similar programs for K through 12,” he said.

“Innovation can be the great equalizer in the United States.”

Iancu holds a Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law. He graduated from UCLA with a Master of Science in mechanical engineering and a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering.

The event was led by UIC’s Matthew Alonso, visiting director of the engineering learning center and student success and visiting clinical assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

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