Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Joanna Brougher
Education (UR and additional): BS (Microbiology), BA (German), University of Rochester, 2004; MPH, University of Rochester; JD, Boston College Law School
Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY
Job Title: Senior Counsel
Family: Married with a one-year old son and two cats.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
I chose the University of Rochester for several reasons. First, my family is in Rochester and I wanted to stay close to them. Second, I wanted a school where I could get a top-notch education in science and languages while still allowing me to broaden my experiences through extra-curricular activities. The UofR allowed me to do just that. I was able to double-major in Microbiology and German, minor in Russian, spend one year abroad in Cologne, Germany, and also play on the school’s tennis team.
When and how did you choose your major?
When I began college, I was determined to be a doctor, and specifically, a doctor who worked with infectious diseases. So, like many other pre-med students, I focused on biology. Since my interest was mainly with infectious diseases, I decided to focus on microbiology and immunology since that would give me a good foundation to learning about how diseases work. In addition to majoring in microbiology, I also majored in German. The reason I chose German is because I was born in Germany and have spent a great deal of time there.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
The main activity that I participated in was to be a member of the UofR’s women tennis team. In fact, I was a three-time All American in tennis. I really enjoyed my time on the team. It taught be a lot about hard-work, dedication, and being able to manage my time. At the same time, it allowed me to meet a lot of great people who I am still friends with to this day. For instance, my doubles partner at the UofR was a neighbor of mine in Boston and also a bridesmaid at my wedding.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
Instead of going to medical school like I always imagined, I decided to go to law school and become a lawyer. In law school, I decided to focus on patent law since that would allow me to use my background in science. After law school, I spent a few years working at an international law firm in Boston focusing on patent law within the biotechnology space. I moved back to Rochester in November 2010, and now work for a biotechnology company where I can combine my interests in science, medicine and the law.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I am involved with a number of projects these days. First and foremost, I am the in-house legal counsel at a biotechnology company in Rochester called Vaccinex, Inc. The company focuses on developing novel therapeutic antibodies for use in treating cancer and various autoimmune diseases. I handle basically any and all legal issues that the company deals with, including intellectual property. I really enjoy working with the company because I am able to get involved in all aspects of the company and learn about what it takes to develop novel therapeutics. In addition, I am an Adjunct at the Harvard School of Public Health where I teach a class on intellectual property and healthcare technologies. Teaching has always been an interest of mine because it’s such a great way to connect with students and help them understand a specific topic. Based on the class I teach, I have also been working on a book. Between work and having a one-year son at home, it’s been difficult to find time to write, but I hope to have the book finished this summer.
What advice do you have for current students?
Do not try to rush through your undergraduate experience – it will be over before you know it. Take your time to fully nurture and develop your interests. Definitely take advantage of programs like Take 5, and various other programs that let you combine your BS or BA with a graduate degree. For instance, I did a combined BS-MPH program which let me combine the last year of my undergraduate studies with the first year of my graduate studies. In the end, I was able to get a Masters degree in less time than I would have otherwise.