In our Summer 2021 series, we're asking alumni and current students to tell us about their career interests, experiences, and reflections.

Hi, I'm Harshal Patel, a 3rd Year Systems Engineering Major + Business Minor. Outside of class I enjoy running and playing volleyball. This summer I am pursuing a virtual externship at the United States Patent and Trademark Office


Describe a typical day/week in your summer experience. What tasks do you perform? What technologies are you using? Who are you meeting or collaborating with? 

A typical day starts with a meeting with my mentor who goes over the tasks that need to be completed. Tasks include conducting patent literature searches, nonpatent literature searches, and analyzing patent documents. I use an application called Patent End to End (PE2E) to analyze patents and conduct searches. Since these tasks are completed individually, there is a Microsoft Teams channel for externs to collaborate.

What most excites you about what lies ahead in your summer experience?

I am most excited about the people I will be able to meet through this experience. Although most of the tasks are completed individually, there are resources set in place to meet other externs, such as weekly icebreaker activities.

What did/do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge in this summer experience? How do you think you will address this challenge (or how have you overcome them)?

My biggest challenge thus far is being able to adapt to a virtual work experience. Due to COVID-19, the entire program is being held virtually, so it has been difficult to meet other externs and employees of the USPTO. However, groups haven been created on Microsoft Teams for everyone to get to know one another. 

What have you learned at UVA (in or outside of the classroom) that’s helping you succeed in your summer experience?

An aspect that is helping me in my summer experience that I learned at UVA is professionalism. Through group projects, I learned the skills needed to effectively communicate with others, complete tasks efficiently, and apply problem-solving strategies to overcome challenges.

Tell us about the resources, events, and/or strategies you used to look for and ultimately secure your summer experience.

The UVA Engineering Career Center is such a great resource and the counselors are extremely kind and helpful! I have no idea what I want to do after graduation, so I applied to a variety different internships and externships. I also attended career fairs and networking events. I found this externship by looking at the list of companies that recruit at the UVA Engineering Career Fair to see if any of the companies had opportunities on their websites. Fortunately, USPTO had a summer externship application on their website, and I applied in December and heard back at the end of February. 

How can future students prepare themselves for a summer experience like yours?

Future students can prepare themselves by being open-minded. I had no idea what working at the USPTO entailed, and now I know that I would not want to pursue a career in this field. However, I would not have come this conclusion without trying. Overall, this has been a great learning experience!