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Monday Oct 07, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Jim Alstrum-Acevedo, Supervisory Patent Examiner, USPTO

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Guest blog by Supervisory Patent Examiner Jim H. Alstrum-Acevedo

Supervisory Patent Examiner Jim Alstrum-Acevedo

Jim Alstrum-Acevedo, Supervisory Patent Examiner at the USPTO. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

I am a Supervisory Patent Examiner (SPE), whose team examines pharmaceutical and biotechnology patent applications. My skilled team of fifteen examiners evaluates patents concerning short polypeptides having less than 100 amino acids, compositions containing these polypeptides, and methods of making and using these compounds. Examples of polypeptides examined by my team include insulin derivatives used to improve the treatment of diabetes mellitus as well as polypeptides with uses as antibiotics effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria, immunosuppresants useful in organ transplantation, and polypeptides to control blood clotting for the treatment of clotting disorders, such as, hemophilia. In short, the patents issued by my team help promote the well-being and health of people all over the country by facilitating intellectual property protection for new peptidic drugs, pharmaceutical compositions, and treatments for chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes) and public health concerns, such as bacterial infections caused by methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA).

I was born in Bogotá, Colombia to a Connecticut yankee, who was a former Peace Corps volunteer and an aspiring literature and Spanish language professor, and his smart Colombian wife, who was a high school English teacher. My family moved first from the high mesa of Bogotá to Laramie, Wyoming and Oxford, Mississippi, before settling down in Normal, Illinois, where my father was a Spanish language and Colombian literature professor, and my mom was a family counselor, after finishing a master’s degree in counseling. I grew up in an environment that emphasized education, learning, and helping others. My parents set a great example for me and my three siblings by their love of books, teaching, and service to others through their chosen professions, and work helping out the local Latino community in central Illinois.

Unlike patent examiners in many other areas of patents at the USPTO, I’m not an engineer. I have a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. For my dissertation, I worked on the synthesis of photoactive inorganic coordination compounds that I appended to organic polymers to obtain an “artificial photosynthetic system.” I did a short post-doc and was hired to be a patent examiner in Technical Center 1600 in 2005. After a few years of patent examining, I decided to get a juris doctor (JD) in the part-time program at The George Washington University and passed the Virginia bar in 2012. Having a law degree has helped me better understand case law, the positions advocated by applicants’ attorneys during patent prosecution, and to facilitate communication between examiners and applicants.

I am a people person and helping others is something I really enjoy and find rewarding in my job as a SPE and in other interests that I have. For example, I am a member and president of the USPTO professional chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, an affinity/employee resource group, which seeks to promote STEM education at all levels, provide a sense of family to SHPE members at the USPTO, and help with recruitment of talented Hispanics into STEM-based positions at the USPTO.  I’m also involved in a local non-profit called Asian American Success (AASuccess), which provides life skills training to Asian American youth, especially from the local Vietnamese community and remotely to a community in Vietnam. AASuccess tries to inspire youth to make giving back a key facet of their lives as they acquire life skills that will help them succeed in their chosen careers.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs each year from September 15 through October 15 and highlights the many contributions Hispanics have made and continue to make to our great nation in various areas ranging from science and technology, to service in the armed services, and enriching our culture through new creative works, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recent musical, Hamilton. This yearly celebration is also a great opportunity to inspire Hispanic youth, who are under-represented in STEM fields, to strive for careers in STEM so they can become tomorrow’s innovators, physicians, and educators who will continue to improve the lives of people all across the world.

My advice for today’s youth interested in a career as a patent examiner or in STEM generally is to follow your passions, believe in yourself, ask questions, and always try to keep learning something new, regardless of where your life path takes you.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Hispanic employees in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15--October 15).

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