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Career Ladder

Career Ladder: Kerisha Bowen

This litigator and patent prosecutor uses her background in chemistry to help clients get access to information they otherwise could not

by Jonathan Forney
March 4, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 8



Dreams of teaching

Kerisha Bowen smiles alongside Madeleine Joullie. The two are in front of a wall of books. A sign on the wall reads “boss” in capital letters.
Credit: Courtesy of Kerisha Bowen
Bowen assisted Madeleine Joullie in her lab for a summer during her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kerisha Bowen was born in Trinidad and moved to Toronto before her family finally settled in Pennsylvania. A good student, Bowen wanted to be a professor. She majored in chemistry at Lincoln University, then earned an MS and PhD in chemistry at Temple University as part of a program to help students from underrepresented groups enter academic careers. Her first job, as an assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State Brandywine, ended when a fellow professor casually used a racial slur in conversation with Bowen. The university launched an investigation, but ultimately sided with the professor. “I felt like the academic atmosphere wasn’t conscious about how diversity and inclusion mattered,” she says. Bowen eventually left for Rowan University, which she liked more. But in the end, she decided that academia wasn’t for her.


Pivot to patents

After considering her options, Bowen decided to enroll in a master’s program in patent law at the University of Notre Dame. She didn’t know much about the field other than what she had heard from a graduate school classmate who had gone into patent law. She noticed during her studies that, like her, many of her classmates had not planned to enter the field. “A lot of people that got into IP [intellectual property] law—it wasn’t what they wanted to do,” Bowen said. “I wanted to teach, and it didn’t work out for me.” She was surprised by how science-based the field is: people can take the patent bar without attending law school; they just need a bachelor’s in science to take the exam. After finishing her master’s program, Bowen joined the intellectual property and technology group at Dentons as a patent agent—and she still works there.

Kerisha Bowen poses with US Representative John Lewis. The pair are in the hallway of Bowen’s legal practice.
Credit: Courtesy of Kerisha Bowen (all)
The late congressman John Lewis visited Bowen’s practice in 2019.


Becoming a lawyer

After gaining experience as a patent agent, Bowen enrolled in law school at the George Washington University. “A lot of people start as a patent agent,” she says. Some firms will even pay for employees’ law degree studies. Going to law school enabled Bowen to handle much more than patent law in the chemical field. After obtaining her law degree, Bowen moved up from patent agent to law clerk at Dentons and, most recently, to associate in 2021.


Litigator and mentor

These days, Bowen is more focused on the litigation side of patents, representing companies accused of infringing on chemical patents or trade secrets. In one recent case, she assisted her client in getting a Digital Millennium Copyright Act ruling that allowed it the right to repair medical equipment. That relieved the company of the financial burden of outsourcing repairs. In addition to her legal work, Bowen joins some of her Black colleagues in giving presentations to schools and other organizations about improving diversity in science fields—reaching out to Black people in particular. “I try to do what I can to support people that are coming up,” she says.

Bowen leads a table of children through an experiment. She is wearing a lab coat, goggles, and gloves. She is holding a graduated cylinder. The chalkboard in the background reads “Sunday school is over here, Jesus”.
Credit: Courtesy of Kerisha Bowen
In 2009, Bowen was a part of the Kudos program, which helped give children the opportunity to see Black scientists in action and inspire them to pursue careers in the sciences.


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