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ASU Law graduate takes on intellectual property world

Combining law, business and science backgrounds

photo of Cristy Salanga

Cristy Salanga, MLS candidate ’20, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

May 12, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Cristy Salanga graduated this week from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Master of Legal Studies program and received her MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

During her time with ASU Law she worked full-time as the patent manager for Northern Arizona University, where she worked alongside faculty to draft patent applications and to license the university’s intellectual property portfolio. She was recently awarded the Outstanding MLS Graduate Award, the MLS Emphasis Award for Intellectual Property and a Dean’s Award.

Between her time as an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona and before starting at ASU Law, she launched her career in intellectual property by becoming a registered patent agent and the in-house patent counsel for managing the patent portfolio for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which discovered the wreck of the sunken Titanic.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study law? 

Answer: After I graduated from the University of Arizona with my Master of Science in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, I worked for a few years as a researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. With only an MS and not a PhD, I soon hit the ceiling on how far I could expand in my position in the lab. I started looking for new ways to use my science background and discovered intellectual property and patent law. Since I had no experience in IP, I decided to start studying patent law using a textbook at home and focused on passing the bar exam. Somewhere in between, I received the opportunity to work at the technology transfer office at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and later moved back to Arizona to work at NAU and decided to pursue a formal education in law and business at ASU.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law that changed your perspective?

A: Although I began the MLS program to formalize my education in intellectual property law, I was surprised to have gained so much more knowledge and experience that helped me understand law in the everyday setting.

Q: Why did you choose ASU Law?

A: I chose ASU because the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is the best law school in the state.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Eric Menkhus was my favorite professor. The candor and experience he brought into the class were so insightful.

Q: What has your experience at ASU Law been like?

A: My experience was very straight-forward; everything I needed for support as a student was available, and the neatly outlined structure of the program made it easy to stay on track.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in law school?

A: Never stop reading outside of the classroom. It is so critical to maintaining a high level of reading comprehension and expanding one’s knowledge base.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will continue to work as the patent manager for Northern Arizona University, and I am excited to incorporate the law knowledge I gained into my position at the university. Secondly, this summer I am beginning a post-baccalaureate degree in software engineering at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. I always wanted to learn programming so I’m going for it!

Q: What was your biggest challenge, and how did you tackle it?

A: My biggest challenge was not becoming overwhelmed with what appeared to be an insurmountable amount of work to complete both the MBA and MLS degrees while working full-time and attempting to keep some work/life balance. I just focused on taking each class one at a time and assignments week by week. Sure enough, it all added up to graduation!

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