Sally Lingjun Gao

Electronic Engineering PhD

My background in electronic engineering enables me to understand cutting-edge research.

Why did you decide to study at postgraduate level at Kent?

I had a taste of doing academic research in the last year of my undergraduate study and enjoyed it the whole time. For me, it was very exciting to work on my own project within a research group, alongside supervisors and researchers who are specialists in their field. Also, I felt a postgraduate degree would provide better opportunities to land my dream job.

I compared postgraduate programmes not only in the UK but in other English-speaking countries, and I chose Kent for two main reasons. Firstly, universities in the UK hold the reputation of being the best in the world. Secondly, the School of Engineering and Digital Arts in Kent provides a world-leading and supportive research community where I received top-quality supervision and opportunities to work with cutting-edge experimental equipment and facilities. 

How did your postgraduate studies help you to get started in your career and how has your career evolved?

Thanks to my PhD degree in Electronic Engineering, I went straight into a research role working as an algorithm engineer for a global automotive supplier developing advanced driver assistance systems. After spending four years in the development of computer vision algorithms for commercial applications, I was named as an inventor on a number of patents and offered a part-time role as an in-house patent specialist. At that time, I realised that patent law appealed to me as a career, so now I am a trainee patent attorney working in a top-tier intellectual property firm. My background in electronic engineering enables me to understand cutting-edge research and work with inventors to protect their work.

What does your day-to-day work involve?

My days typically include studying patent office actions from various patent offices around the world, reporting to clients, and preparing responses to the UK or European Patent Office or instructions to overseas attorneys. As a trainee, I am working with experienced patent attorneys every day and there is so much to learn about the profession.

What do you enjoy most about your work? What have been your career highlights so far?

In this profession, no two days are the same. I love the variety of work – it provides a good combination of technology and law. In terms of career highlights, I have written a few articles in which I discussed iconic cases in patent litigation in China from a UK/EP perspective.

Ultimately, where do you hope your career will take you?

My aim is to become a qualified patent attorney as the first step and, ultimately, a partner in a firm of attorneys.

What advice would you give to someone considering postgraduate study at Kent?

Spend some time doing your research on the Kent website: you will find loads of helpful information  on supervisors, programme content and scholarships that may help you to decide on the postgraduate course you want to study. And there are some wise words from my supervisors at Kent, which I found really useful: ‘Learn from good examples’ and ‘Do things properly and efficiently’.