With a Ph.D. in Translational Biomedical Sciences under her belt, Latika Luthra is ready to start her career focused on intellectual property and research commercialization with plans to one day become a patent attorney.
By LaTina Emerson
Latika Luthra dreamed of advancing her career and becoming a biomedical scientist, so she traveled over 8,000 miles from New Delhi, India, to Georgia State.
The first in her family to earn a doctor’s degree, Luthra completed her Ph.D. in Translational Biomedical Sciences at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) this summer. Now she’s embarking on a unique career path by combining her love for science and law. She’s weighing job offers in the realm of law and business and hopes to one day attend law school to become a patent attorney.
Before coming to the United States, Luthra earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical science from the University of Delhi, a premier university in India.
“Being an expat, the decision to uproot oneself and start afresh in a different culture isn’t trivial,” Luthra said. “After spending time researching options and planning, I chose Georgia State as the best place for me to pursue a Ph.D. There are many reasons behind this decision, including Georgia State’s large, diverse student body, lower tuition costs and fast-growing research portfolio.
“Universities in the U.S. are known to have highly advanced research facilities and laboratories for researchers,” she said. “The skills and knowledge you gain from studying in the U.S. prepare you to work toward your dream career anywhere in the world.”
At Georgia State, Luthra worked in Didier Merlin’s lab, which is focused on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research, under the guidance of Pallavi Garg. For her dissertation, Luthra studied the role of Notch-1 protein in wound healing in ulcerative colitis, a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the colon.
“I researched the patents and discoveries made so far for Notch-1 protein in IBD and found there is a huge potential for therapeutics to harness its benefits,” Luthra said. “I soon discovered that I have a passion toward intellectual property law and commercialization of innovations. After starting the IBMS Ph.D. program, I realized that there are endless opportunities to leverage my Ph.D. The cross-training in research, business and entrepreneurship led me to explore the other part of the spectrum, bench to the bedside.”
The core curriculum in the Translational Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program combines fundamental knowledge of biomedical science with an understanding of how to practically apply this knowledge in research and the business world, Luthra said.
“I started attending seminars and events and associated myself with organizations working in law and business. Additionally, I began educating myself by pursuing law courses. After that, I was unstoppable,” Luthra said.
Through a highly competitive selection process, Luthra was chosen to participate in the Emory University patent internship program offered by the Emory Patent Counsel, where she became interested in becoming a patent attorney and gained experience in licensing and commercialization. This internship helped Luthra land a part-time job at a Philadelphia-based law firm as a technical adviser, where she assisted with patent prosecution, strategic management of patent portfolios, building freedom-to-operate opinions and due diligence analysis.
Luthra balanced the part-time law job and the laboratory research required to complete her dissertation through the support she received from her research mentors.
“Dr. Merlin and Dr. Garg are the best mentors one can ask for,” Luthra said. “They have progressive thinking. They inspire students to be their best selves. They identify students’ competent qualities and bring them out by pinpointing growth opportunities. Managing a part-time job or internship with lab work seems impossible, but a supportive, helpful, encouraging environment takes the load off. I had full support, cooperation and assistance at every stage of my research project.
“The professional connections I established through the IBMS program allowed me to venture into fields like law and business,” Luthra said. “I feel fully ready to take my first big step into the professional world.”
Photo by Wesley Shelby Jr.