At least six members of the graduating class of 2013 left Virginia Tech as trailblazers – earning the very first Science, Technology, and Law minors offered through the College of Science.

They are John Baroncelli of Alexandria, Va., a political science major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; Alexander Callo of Clifton, Va., biological sciences in the College of Science; Jerelle Downing of Hempstead, N.Y., biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Kyle Friedland of Bayville, N.J., mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering; Jennifer Hundley of Boydton, Va., biological sciences in the College of Science; and Joshua Rice of Smithfield, Va., materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering.

Of these graduates, at least five say they are considering continuing their education in law. Baroncelli has already been accepted to the University of Virginia law school and Callo says he plans to study for the Patent Bar exam and get a job as a patent agent to help put himself through law school to become a licensed patent attorney. For Friedland, he says he will work as a mechanical engineer in New York City and prepare for the Law School Admissions Test and apply to law school in the fall; and Rice is currently working at Newport News Shipbuilding as a welding engineer and will start a masters degree program at William and Mary in January. For Hundley, it’s back to Blacksburg for a master's degree in chemistry and then law school.

The minor, funded through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Grant awarded in 2010, and forms part of the Scieneering program offered through the Division of Undergraduate Education. The minor is available to anyone in the university but has its roots in a program developed specifically for future scientists.

“When we started working with law programs, they focused on patent law, something our students need to understand as they go forward with their research careers and potentially develop products, processes and systems that can be patented,” said Anna-Marion Bieri, director of the Science, Technology, and Law Program.

The program has evolved from a single class centered on intellectual property rights to a full 18-credit minor where students take at least 12 credits in intellectual property law, patent law, current topics is science, technology and law, and global aspects of intellectual property law.

“The research we do in the College of Science is global in nature,” Bieri said. “So, it’s important our students understand the ways different countries approach intellectual property law. People have lost the ability to patent and produce products because they didn’t recognize the implications of the differences in the laws. We want to help protect our scientists and researchers by providing them with the tools to look after their own work, so it can benefit everyone.”

The program, unique among undergraduate and graduate programs, offers Virginia Tech graduates another interdisciplinary skills set to bring into graduate school or the workplace.