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Andy Flaxman (MPhys Physics and the Universe 2003)


I am a Chartered and European patent attorney for Withers & Rogers LLP, a large firm of patent and trade mark attorneys. I use my physics knowledge to help companies protect their intellectual property. My job involves preparing patent specifications by describing in detail an invention, applying for a patent, making any necessary changes required to get the patent granted and, sometimes, helping patent owners to enforce their rights against potential infringers.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

Firstly, the course (Physics and Universe) sounded perfect for combining my interests in physics and space and astrophysics. Secondly, during my visit to the University, I fell in love with it! The campus environment made it feel independent from the town, but close enough that the town centre was a short walk away.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

The summer days in the first year, while living in halls, are the most memorable. After our final lectures of the day, hundreds of people would relax in the sun outside the students' union bar. My hall (Windsor Hall) was just a 5 minute walk away, meaning we could enjoy the sun right up to dinner time!

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Live in one of the Halls of Residence - I met some of my best friends there and enjoyed some of the best days of my life. Get involved in clubs and societies - they give you something to focus on other than your course.

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

After graduation, I worked in and travelled around Canada and the USA, then got a job in a restaurant back in the UK while I applied for jobs in the patent industry. After a brief spell as a patent searcher, I got a job as a trainee patent attorney, working on electronics and physics related inventions. I am now qualified as a Chartered and European patent attorney, and enjoy the variety of work that I have.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

The job requires a 2:1 or first class degree, so work hard! It's quite a small profession, so can be difficult to get into. However, persevere - it took me 18 months to get a job and I don't regret the effort! Also, research the career thoroughly before applying for jobs. If possible have a chat to someone who's been in the profession a year or so, and find out from them everything you need to know!

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

I found out about the patent attorney profession from an Inside Careers guide I found in the physics department library. Without that, I might never have made it into the profession!

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

When you're ready to start applying, persevere. It takes effort to find the perfect job, but it's definitely possible, and well worth it. However, don't rush into a career if you're not ready for it. I fully recommend taking a year out, fulfilling some life ambitions, and gaining some "life experience". I travelled and worked for a season in a Canadian ski resort. After a year away, I felt ready to settle down into a career. It also gave me lots to talk about in job interviews.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

Although the physics department has now closed, it provided me with four amazing years. Apart from the course, I was involved in Junction 11, the student radio station. One of my fondest memories was interviewing Timmy Mallett for the radio station, backstage in the students' union at 1:30am after a few beers. That was one of a large number of bizarre memories that will remain with me forever!

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