This summer, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation welcomed six interns at its two offices in Knoxville and Memphis. UTRF’s internship programs provide students with valuable experience for careers that merge science with business development, entrepreneurship and law.
At UT Knoxville, Briana Zimmerman, Jacob Hale and Daniel Mendoza serve as Commercialization Analysts, while Haley Rainwater and Jack Pitcock joined the UT Health Science Center office as Legal Interns. Maxwell Schwam began working for UTRF last summer. UTRF promoted him to Senior Legal Intern in May 2023.
UTRF is happy to collaborate with UT’s College of Law and the School of Law at the University of Memphis for these programs,” said UTRF President Maha Krishnamurthy. “These programs allow students to explore innovations in development at the university and gain a holistic perspective on the intricate commercialization process.”
Originally from New York, Zimmerman attended Northeastern University for dual bachelor of science degrees in biology and political science and government. After working for a few years in oncology research, she found she wanted to work with the public rather than in a laboratory, leading her to apply to law school and use her STEM background in a new environment at UTRF.
It’s nice to be pushed outside of our comfort zones because you never know what technologies might come across your desk,” said Zimmerman. “The patent process takes a lot of time and is expensive, making it unattainable for many in academia. UTRF helps expand what technologies can go onto the marketplace.”
Hale is from the Knoxville area and studied aerospace engineering at UTK. He joked that he didn’t like the “nuts and bolts” of working as an engineer. At the encouragement of a family friend who is a patent attorney, he decided to apply to law school to keep in touch with his interest in science, math, and technology without being an engineer.
Mendoza holds a master of arts in education and human development from George Washington University and a specialization in teacher leadership for school improvement from the University of Florida. He completed his bachelor of science in biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Before starting law school at UTK, he taught middle and high school science.
I started in the pre-med track, but when my mom passed away from breast cancer when I was in college, I joined the teaching track just because a lot of teachers gave back to me – being a first-generation student and American. I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did without their support,” said Mendoza. “But after completing my graduate degrees, I wanted to get back into science, which led me to law school and intellectual property work.”
Rainwater, Pitcock, and Schwam are all in law school at the University of Memphis and are interested in patent law after graduation. For Staff Attorney James Parrett, UTRF’s partnership with law students at the university provides them with practical, real-world experience, helping them get ahead and discover their legal calling.
We’re offering more of a business perspective than they would get at a traditional law firm,” said Parrett. “For me, it’s been rewarding to work with bright, young law students. We hope the program is an enriching experience that gives them a unique legal perspective.”
Rainwater is originally from the Memphis area and received her bachelor of science degree in biology. Before UTRF, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant doing biomolecular work and interned at two law firms focused on criminal and family law.
Pitcock is also from the Memphis area and attended Harding University in Arkansas for his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. He previously served as a case manager for a Memphis law firm, where he collaborated with engineers and attorneys to file patents.
In his first year at UTRF, Schwam was surprised at how dynamic the transition from conceptualizing an idea to marketing and commercializing it would be. He’s thankful for Parrett’s guidance and UTRF’s support.
In addition to this position, I’m studying to take the patent bar at the end of the summer to become a patent agent,” said Schwam. “I’m excited to not only use the summer to learn about what a patent agent does and what they need to know to do that job but also get hands-on with patent prosecution.”