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Career Ladder

Career Ladder: Paul Dietze

Chemistry professor turned patent attorney says there’s life after being denied tenure

by Linda Wang
June 3, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 23


Credit: Courtesy of Paul Dietze
Black-and-white photo of Dietze as a boy.
Credit: Courtesy of Paul Dietze

Growing up on Long Island, N.Y.


Dietze liked science starting at an early age. “I had a chemistry set, I had a microscope, and I had one of those Van de Graaff generators that you crank and make static electricity.” His father was a chef, and his mother stayed at home with Dietze and his two brothers.


Working his way through college


Dietze started undergrad at Queens College, City University of New York, attending at night during his first year and then going full-time after that. “I never borrowed a dime to go to school. I worked in an ice cream store and worked a 40-hour week all through college.” He initially majored in biology but quickly switched to chemistry after falling in love with the subject.


Credit: Courtesy of Paul Dietze
A black-and-white photo of Dietze as a young adult.
Credit: Courtesy of Paul Dietze

Struggling to find a first job


Dietze graduated into a bad job market, so he continued working at the ice cream shop for a year. He eventually got a job as an analytical chemist at Fritzsche, Dodge & Olcott, a flavor and fragrance company in New York City. In the evenings, he pursued a master’s in chemistry at New York University. “I liked school much better than I liked the job, so I applied to the Ph.D. program and got accepted.” Dietze went on to earn a Ph.D. from New York University.


Finding his place in academia


Dietze joined the chemistry faculty at Earlham College, where he focused on teaching undergrads. He missed doing research, though, so in 1984 he began a postdoctoral position in the lab of William P. Jencks at Brandeis University. In 1987, Dietze joined the chemistry department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), as an assistant professor.


Photo of Dietze graduating from law school.
Credit: Courtesy of Paul Dietze

Charting a new path


Dietze was not offered tenure at UMBC so he applied to law school, an idea he had toyed with early on. Dietze worked as a review chemist for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and attended the University of Maryland School of Law in the evenings. He earned his law degree in 1998.


A current photo of Paul Dietze.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

Blending chemistry and law as a patent attorney


As a special counsel for Haynes & Boone, LLP, Dietze advises clients in the generic pharmaceutical industry on patenting issues. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I get to use my chemistry, and I get to use my law degree. It’s really a perfect blend of everything. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it exactly the same way.”


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