UD alumna Christina Tao poses for a photo while sitting outdoors with lots of green space behind her.
Christina Tao graduated from the University of Delaware with her master's in medical sciences and said her advanced degree and conducting research prepared her for the next step on her career journey - law school.

From medical sciences to law school

November 02, 2023 Written by Amy Cherry | Photo Submitted by Christina Tao

UD alumna touts master's in medical sciences as career pathway to law school

From a young age, Christina Tao was always interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. She remembers her mom and dad, who obtained their doctorates in physical chemistry and biophysics, respectively, advancing her knowledge.

“While I was learning addition, they would start teaching me multiplication,” Tao recalled. “We also did fun science experiments and watched chemistry videos geared towards kids in the early days of YouTube. They’ve always been supportive of my educational pursuits.’

It’s no surprise that after getting her undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Maryland, Tao went on to earn her master’s in medical sciences from the University of Delaware.

“I enjoyed working in the laboratory doing organic chemistry, so I knew I wanted to pursue research,” she said.

While at UD, Tao worked closely with professors of medical and molecular sciences, Mona Batish and Vijay Parashar, conducting biochemistry research on proteins and inhibitors.

“With a foundation in chemistry, Christina brought a keen passion for drug discovery,” Batish said. “Her precision played a pivotal role in successfully organizing and executing drug screening experiments in the laboratory.”

Both Batish and Parashar served as mentors to Tao.

“They helped me define exactly what I was doing with my research and what I wanted to do going forward while also giving me the autonomy to think critically and expand my research into areas of interest,” Tao said. “In my studies, I’d make a discovery, and they’d encourage me to pursue it further. I enjoyed that independent aspect of research in academia.”

Batish and Parashar remember Tao as a bright, budding scientist.

“Infused with enthusiasm, Christina frequently brought forward 'newly discovered' drug candidates and was always open to optimizing methods that could potentially revolutionize our conclusions,” Parashar said. “This commitment reflected her unwavering dedication to uncovering the most potent drugs.”

After graduating with her master’s in 2021, Tao worked for a year as a staff scientist at QPS in Newark. While she loved research, she realized she didn’t want to spend her career in a lab.

“I wanted to be more involved in the reading and writing about research, so I began exploring different pathways,” she said.

She craved further education but wasn’t sure a Ph.D. was the best fit. She didn’t know it then, but her graduate studies at UD extensively prepared her for the next step in her career journey. Tao is now in her first year at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey.

“Being able to read and understand scientific research and being familiar with PubMed has been instrumental in helping me succeed in law school,” she said.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” she admitted. “There’s a lot of technical reading and writing, and that’s where coming from a science background prepares you. You can read dense writing, and at times, you’ll see terms in Latin, and you can figure out the meaning from context—that’s a skill that gets built on when conducting scientific research. Law itself is built on researching previous cases, so my classes in medical sciences also really helped me with how to pick out relevant information and ways to conduct research.”

Her studies also helped her develop a logical mindset that’s much needed in law school.

“I entered law school not knowing much about what litigation involves, and I’m looking forward to bettering my skills in that area.”

She aspires to be an attorney specializing in patent law because it combines her passions.

“It’s the most scientifically relevant field of law,” she said. “Patent law is a cutting-edge science. Businesses need patent-protected products. In undergrad, I was always interested in pharmaceuticals because of the links to organic chemistry and biochemistry.”

She’s interested in the patent disputes that have emerged over mRNA vaccines developed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m interested in keeping up to date on those developments, and someday, want to help companies when and if they fail to get a patent,” she said. “New Jersey has a lot of pharmaceutical companies, so I’d love to be in-house counsel for one of those companies or work for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Virginia.”  

She’s not alone in her somewhat unusual path to law school. Tao said she’s met others who went to pharmacy school and are now getting their law degree. Her master’s in medical science is perfect for her specialization in patent law.

“You don’t need to go to law school to take the Patent Bar Exam, but you do need at least a bachelor’s in either science or engineering,” Tao said. “Many experts in patent law have Ph. Ds in fields like chemistry or biology. My master’s in medical sciences has made me much more familiar with talking and reading about science and being able to explain science to others.” 

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