As a litigation lawyer specializing in intellectual property, Veronica Tsou (NE BASc 2011) uses the expertise she gained from her Nanotechnology Engineering degree to understand the needs of and advocate for her clients.
The broad, multifaceted Nanotechnology Engineering (NE) program provided Veronica with the technical foundation to quickly learn and understand different technologies in the fields of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and entertainment technology, to name a few. In her job, she works with experts to understand novel inventions, and she protects the rights of her clients.
The multidisciplinary nature of nanotechnology engineering drew Veronica to the program. Known for its rigorous academic training, NE gives students broad exposure to a variety of subjects, including materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics, biology and medicine, among others.
As Veronica says, “NE students expect to be challenged.” For her, the NE 334: Statistical Thermodynamic course was the most demanding aspect of the program. She laughs as she confesses, “Even now, I still have to explain that grade!”
Veronica admits dryly that 3B was the “least fun” semester of her education, acknowledging that it would have been a good idea to use the resources Waterloo makes available to help students meet the challenges of their schooling.
Nevertheless, she recalls fondly 4A and 4B as a highlight, both socially and academically. In her Capstone Design project, she applied the skills and knowledge she had learned in class: “I enjoyed working with my team, brainstorming and problem solving. We had fun developing our concept and researching how to make it happen. Along the way, we had great guidance from our supervisor and access to excellent lab resources. And we learned a lot in the process. Our approach changed significantly over the course of the project…our prototype wasn’t even close to our original idea!”
Waterloo’s world-class co-op program was a big draw for Veronica. It allowed her to work in a variety of environments with a diverse range of people, which helped her identify what she enjoyed and disliked most. Co-op gave her first-hand insight into the many career possibilities open to her, in academia and beyond.
While she had previously considered pursuing a degree in law, working at a law firm during co-op gave her the confidence to decide. During her third work term, Veronica had the opportunity to support patent agents at a full service Canadian law firm. This experience piqued her interest in both the work environment and the opportunity to be an advocate.
Shortly after this significant work term, Veronica decided to pursue a law career. She studied for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) while completing her BASc and began her Juris Doctor degree at the University of Ottawa the same year she graduated from NE.
Veronica’s Co-op Work Term Employment History
Veronica’s work days vary, depending on where she is in the lifecycle of a case. Early on, she may spend considerable time in her office, where she conducts research, consults with technical experts, works with the client to gather facts to prove the case and strategizes with the team. During trial, she may spend weeks in court. She enjoys the ongoing opportunities for learning, the teamwork and interaction with colleagues and experts, and the balance she has between focused solo work and collaborative teamwork.
Veronica also strives to balance her professional and personal lives.
She understands the importance of walking away from work and being able to “turn off the work brain.” Engaging in other activities and setting other personal goals helps her manage the stress of her job. Her favourite activity – rock climbing – provides the dual benefits of exercise and time with friends.
“It’s not always easy to take a break from work or school,” Veronica says, “but having boundaries is crucial. If you make a conscious effort to take breaks, it becomes easier over time to compartmentalize and enjoy whatever you’re doing in the moment,” she says.
Her advice for NE students emphasizes that self care and having goals in different aspects of life create strong, adaptable and successful people:
- Reach out for help when you need it. Waterloo has lots of resources to help you through tough times. Take advantage of them to learn the strategies you need to handle stress and adversity. Those skills will serve you well throughout your education and personal life.
- Never be afraid to try new things. Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and try everything! There are lots of opportunities available at University, whether its sports, clubs, research, competitions, startups, etc. Don’t be shy or afraid to take them on. You’ll have all the support you need. It doesn’t matter if you fail or succeed, you will learn something important, make new friends and/or have fun. Trying new things will be extremely valuable in your personal life and career; hopefully, it will also make you more open minded. And trying new things can become addictive over time!
- Have a social life. Your friends are just as important as your academics. Have fun together, and don’t underestimate what you can learn from each other.