Student Eugene Mishchenko builds on stellar career in physics by pursuing a law degree

Law students come from a diverse range of academic backgrounds prior to enrolling in law school and third-year student Eugene Mishchenko is no exception.

Mishchenko, a theoretical physicist and a longtime physics professor at the University of Utah, wanted to broaden his legal knowledge. So with a Ph.D. from the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow, Russia and a Diploma of Physicist degree from Chernivtsy National University in Ukraine already under his belt, Mishchenko set out to add a law degree to the mix.

He’s excelled during his time at the S.J. Quinney College of Law as part of the Class of 2018. He recently received the Utah State Bar IP Section Law Student 2018 Scholarship at the annual IP Summit 2018. 

A selection panel chose Mishchenko for the scholarship because of his experience and demonstrated potential for excellence in the practice of IP Law, said Andrew A. Hufford, assistant general counsel at Ogden-based Global Intellectual Property, who notified Mishchenko of the award.

Eugene Mishchenko

Mishchenko spoke to the College of Law in a Q&A about his legal studies and his hopes to meld his passion for science and the law into a new career direction after graduation in May.

Describe your path to law school. What made you want to pursue a legal career? Why was the S.J. Quinney College of Law a good fit for you?

I have been a theoretical physicist for over 20 years and a physics teacher here at the University of Utah for the last 14. Through both my exposure to technology and involvement in diverse university activities I became interested in a variety of legal issues, ranging from administrative law to patent law. Unlike many of my scientist peers, I find legal questions fascinating. To me, solving a legal question is not so different from solving a scientific problem. In both instances one uses logical reasoning (even if expressed in mathematical form) to solve a specific problem and advance one’s comprehension of the outside world, in the broader sense. S.J. Quinney College of Law was the best fit for me because it allowed me to learn law without interrupting my own research and teaching.

What is it about patent law as a specialty that makes the field a good fit for you?

I enjoy learning about new technology and like the challenges of having to do it quickly and at the same time competently. Good patent lawyering adds value to an invention by critically assessing it, on one hand, and conceptualizing/generalizing it, on the other. An inventor (or a scientist) is a “vertical” specialist—someone who knows a lot about something. A good patent lawyer is “horizontal”—someone who knows something about a lot.

Tell us about your involvement in law school. What activities and opportunities have you participated in here? What is one memorable experience from your time in law school that will stick with you in the future?  

I enjoyed most of my law school classes. As someone whose thinking had always been shaped in terms of integrals and differential equations, learning a mostly verbal discipline of law in the second language was both a challenge and a joy. Becoming more knowledgeable in law and proficient in legal writing has been a rewarding process. One experience that will probably stick to my memory is my participation in the Intellectual Property Moot Court which provided an opportunity to interact with the broader Utah patent law community.

I have also had an unforgettable time interning for Judge Jill Parish at the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, where I had a chance to work on cases involving all three “staples” of IP law—patents, copyright, and trademarks.

What are your career goals after law school?

One of the things that I really would like to accomplish is something that is rarely done by science departments around the country. I would like to establish a curriculum for teaching the basics of IP law to our science and engineering students. The share of IP in the modern economy is increasing all the time. The University of Utah educates future inventors, start-up business owners, industry workers. All such people could benefit from learning what protections are available to their (and other people’s) intellectual property, what is beyond protection, what types of protections—trademarks, copyright, patents, trade secrets—are best used in different situations, and how to maximize the economic value obtained from interacting with their IP attorneys. I believe that I possess a unique combination of a long scientific experience, an understanding of law, and a certain ability to explain things that I comprehend (in 2008 I was a recipient of the University Early Career Teaching Award). Academic benefits of interdisciplinary studies are well-recognized and the patent law is truly an interdisciplinary field.