Elizabeth Vorkurka

Elizabeth gained a scholarship to undertake a doctorate in high energy physics, and completed her research at Cern in Switzerland. She began her career as a research associate in the medical imaging department at the University of Manchester, and from there moved into intellectual property protection for a medical imaging company in Edinburgh. She is now working as an intellectual property management and innovation consultant.

The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name is Elizabeth Vorkurka and I am an Intellectual Property Management and Innovation Consultant. It means that I advise businesses – predominately software companies, physics based high-tech companies, medical devise companies – on how they should manage their intellectual property. I went to university at the University of Illinois and Champagne Urbana. In my third year at university I had already decided to focus on physics instead of chemistry. I was getting a bit bored at university in the middle of nowhere in farmland in Illinois. And so I decided that I was going to be an exchange student, so I ended up as an exchange student at the University of Manchester. At that point I knew that I really liked my statistics lecturer and actually went back to the States and ended up getting a scholarship so I could come over and do a PhD with him. Err I started a PhD in the high energy particle physics group and did my research at Cern in Switzerland. I found it er very fascinating that you could look at the fundamental aspects of the physical world. I should explain that I do have multiple sclerosis and I was diagnosed just before my PhD. I started looking into ways of potentially moving into something that I would find that would hold my interest as much but might be more useful to people in general.

"And so I then found out that the medical imaging department had some research into MS for their MRI imaging lab, and went to the professor in that group once every two weeks for about two months explaining to him that I would really like to work for him, and finally he caved and allowed me to come in and work for him. So I spent three years as a research associate, a post doc at the University of Manchester Medical Imaging Department. I had a boyfriend who erm, refused to move further south than Newcastle and around this time I got slightly disillusioned with academic research, just the, the constant having to find funding. Two things happened in quick succession, one of them was I spoke to some people that I knew in the television industry erm about possibly becoming a researcher and I applied for a position in a small medical imaging company that did clinical software in Edinburgh. They were advertising for software engineers and at the time I had no real training in software development but they recognised that I had certain skills based on the work that that I had done, the research that I had done, and my background, the fact that I had such an experience in doing research that they hired me on not really knowing what they were going to do with me.

"They started having some problems with patents. They had been advised not to file any patents because it was, it's an extremely expensive thing to do. There was a company in the States who wanted to try to make an example of them and sued them. That started me working quite extensively in intellectual property protection in the company and working very closely with some patent attorneys. It is because of my research background that has enabled me to get to this point. Virtually everything that I do is research based. I didn't think that I was going to be what amounts to a management consultant, but I don't know whether or not I am going to be doing this another five, ten years, I might be moving into some other type of career. Who knows?"