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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

UC Hastings Drawing Students with Hard Science Degrees

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1Ls Asha Pandya, a former rocket scientist with a master's in computational fluid dynamics, and Zach Flood, who has a degree in biopsychology and worked in a neuroscience lab at MIT.

First-year student Asha Pandya came to Silicon Valley in the early 1980s after finishing her master’s in aerospace engineering at the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology and a second master’s at Penn State in computational fluid dynamics.

After working for a computer hardware company, Pandya embarked on a second career teaching AP high school calculus and physics. At the age of 60, Pandya decided her true calling was motivating more girls and minority students to get involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and to help restore the United States’ international standing in K-12 math and science education—and she decided she needed a law degree to do it.

“I thought if I got a law degree, I’d be able to make a difference at the policy level,” she says. UC Hastings’ location and reputation made it an easy choice, she adds.

Whether it’s the school’s proximity to the city’s startup world, or its specialized offerings in health care and patent law and its affiliation with UCSF, UC Hastings is becoming a magnet for law students who have backgrounds in science and engineering.

"We've definitely seen a bump"

In fact, just under 10 percent of incoming students over the past three years hold some kind of science degree, according to Greg Canada, UC Hastings’ assistant dean of admissions. “We’ve definitely seen a bump,” he says. “A number of things contribute to that: One is our intellectual property and health law programs, certainly, in addition to all the tech firms in this area with a growing interest in biotech.”

Zachary Flood, another first-year student, points to the school’s location as one of the biggest reasons he applied here. He was also attracted to its strong patent law program and the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science, and Health Policy, which pairs law and medical students in joint research, training, and service programs at the two campuses.

Flood graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in biopsychology. As an undergraduate, he led a study on brain growth dynamics that was published in the journal Neuroscience. Flood then worked for three years in a lab at MIT, investigating genetic risk factors for psychiatric disorders. As a JD candidate, Flood is interested in the intersection of criminal law and behavioral psychology. “I always knew UC Hastings was a good school,” Flood says, “and the Consortium is really interesting.”

For 2L Foram Dave, who has also been published in a medical journal, UC Hastings’ patent law program was the primary draw. After working for a medical device company after college, she decided to pursue a JD, having already seen just how complicated—and crucial—patent law is to the science world.

In addition to patent law, UC Hastings also offers a health law concentration that includes courses in disability and elder law, food and drug law, plus bioethics and public health law. The school’s science-to-law writing program offers help in the area where science students often need it the most: learning to write for a legal audience.

Premier School for Interdisciplinary Studies

David FaigmanProfessor David Faigman, who co-directs the Consortium, observes that UC Hastings has “become a leader where law and science meet.” He says, “Whether students are interested in intellectual property, neuroscience, forensic psychiatry, or any other specialty area, they have the opportunity to work with premier researchers blazing new paths in interdisciplinary understanding.” It is, he says, “a very dynamic time to be working in law and science, and, in particular, it is very exciting to be doing this work at UC Hastings.”

For information on admissions standards, click here.

Editor's Note: This story is excerpted from the Spring 2014 UC Hastings magazine, delivering April 22, 2014.

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