Susan Su
Susan Su
Primary Patent Examiner, US Patent and Trademark Office

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Close Up
  • Why Engineering?
    I chose engineering primarily because I was very good at math and also because I came from a family of engineers. And it didn't hurt that engineering was one of the best paid professions out there.
  • School Days
    I attended Binghamton University (part of the State University of New York system) for undergrad and obtained my B.S. in mechanical engineering. I was having such a great time in college that I wanted to stay in school for a few more years, so I went straight into a Ph.D. program in bioengineering at UC San Diego and got my degree in 2007.
  • Best Part
    I occasionally like to take apart no-longer-functional things to try to fix them. In grad school that happened quite frequently with some really old lab equipment. Since it would cost much less to try to fix it on my own than to purchase a brand new one, I set out to solve the problem. Most of the cases I was able to provide a temporary fix, but a few times I actually made the problem worse so I have to seek help from others. But that is what engineering is all about, there are trials and failures, and then you realize that you can learn a lot from other people's expertise if you just ask.
  • Proud Moments
    So far I am most proud of getting my doctorate. Graduate school for me consisted of repeating the same experiment many many times and not knowing when you have done enough. It takes a lot of determination and a lot of hard work for about 5-6 years.
  • Challenges
    One of the greatest challenges I encountered was the language barrier when I first arrived in the US at age ten. I was a very shy kid, so for several months I didn't understand what was going on in class. There was no short-cut to learning and mastering a language other than lots of practice. So I read a lot, did all of the writing assignments given in class, and at some point I started to understand the words that my teacher and fellow classmates spoke. Once I learned the basic sentences, it became much easier to learn new vocabulary and to communicate at the same level as my friends.
  • Dreams and Goals
    I would like to eventually get involved with international policy, particularly in promoting better China-US scientific collaborations. For the next 2 years or so, I hope to build up a good network with the various groups that work on the broad field of international science policy so I can have a better idea of where exactly I can fit in and whether or not it is something that I can do for the long term.
  • Inspiration
    My mom has tremendous influence on me. She is a very intelligent and hard-working individual. She is my role model and also my greatest supporter.
  • Want to be an Engineer?
    Most people generally associate engineering with cars and heavy machinery and working with safety goggles on all the time. But the engineering disciplines have changed so much in the last few decades. The engineering education you get in college will prepare you for an unbelievable number of possible jobs/careers out in the real world. Don't be discouraged if you find some classes boring or difficult, they're not representative of what you will end up doing.
  • Additional Thoughts
    Don't be discouraged if you find some classes boring or difficult, they're not representative of what you will end up doing.
  • Hobbies
    It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I love watching television. I watch mostly the law/crime/forensic shows such as CSI and Law & Order, and I also watch a lot of the shows on the Discovery Channel such as Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs. Of course I also have healthier hobbies/activities, like indoor rock climbing, tai-chi, and Argentine tango, where I met a lot of very very good friends.
I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Binghamton University (State University of New York) and then went on to complete a Ph.D. in Bioengineering in UC San Diego. Soon after, I spent a summer at the National Academy of Engineering as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow. I joined the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a patent examiner. examining patent applications and evaluating the patentability of claimed inventions. I currently work at the West Coast Regional Office of the USPTO, located in downtown San Jose, CA.
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B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Binghamton University, 2001. Ph.D. in Bioengineering, UC San Diego, 2007.
Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
  • I am willing to host a field trip to my place of employment.
  • I am willing to be interviewed by interested students via email.
  • I am willing to answer written interview questions to be posted on the EngineerGirl website.
  • I am willing to participate in a conference call with a group of interested students who would like to know about my career.
Latest Questions
  • Anastasie asked Susan Su, US Patent and Trademark Office

    Added Sunday, November 25, 2018 at 1:38 AM

    My PhD is in organic chemistry. I went to school in Germany. I graduated almost 8 years ago. Thanks in advance, Anna
    Related to Chemical, Merging Fields, Unique Challenges
    Answers 1
    Susan Su, US Patent and Trademark Office
    Answered Wednesday, December 5, 2018 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Anna,

    First sign up for alerts from so that you’ll be notified when the USPTO hires patent examiners again. The job postings will indicate in which area they want to hire, e.g. mechanical, chemistry, design… I assume you have citizenship, ...

    Read More
  • Gracie Hacker

    Added Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 4:08 PM

    I am in high school and I was wondering what it would be like if I went into that field
    Answers 1
    Susan Su, US Patent and Trademark Office
    Answered Monday, March 27, 2017 at 1:55 PM
    Whether or not a major is “worth it” depends on your interests and goals.  Are you interested in engineering? Like solving medical problems (be it on the nanoscale or macroscopic level)?  Is income or job security important to you?  Biomedical ...
    Read More
  • Kira, Renton

    Added Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 12:17 PM

    I want to be a biomedical engineer but it is hard to find a school with a biomedical program that will fit my budget. If I go to a school with a bioengineering program can I use that bioengineering degree to get a job in the biomedical field or do I have to specifically major in biomedical engineering to be a biomedical engineer? Thank you!
    Answers 1
    Susan Su, US Patent and Trademark Office
    Answered Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 12:17 PM

    Dear Kira,

    Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering are synonyms.  While bioengineering technically covers a much wider field than biomedical engineering, but in reality just about all bioengineering programs out there are actually biomedical ...

    Read More
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