World Intellectual Property Day (April 26th) celebrates the importance of contributions in technology and culture while promoting the significance of intellectual property (IP) rights. These rights help foster future innovation, stimulate the economy, and enrich our quality of life.

This year, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) applauds women leaders and inventors whose global contributions work to progress creativity and ingenuity. Dr. Shalini Prasad, a leading innovator and associate department head for bioengineering, holds a series of distinctions here at UT Dallas. In recognition of World IP Day, she shares a unique perspective: how IP has transformed her career.

How has IP helped facilitate your success?

IP has helped translate interesting and novel research ideas into functional and workable product prototypes, poising them for commercial translation. I design sensors for wearable tech, environment monitoring, food quality testing, point-of-care, and point-of-need diagnosis. Most research in this space looks at the mechanistic novelty in the sensor functioning. However, while that provides the starting point for the IP, IP development has given me the platform to translate the promise of novelty to sustainable technological impact. The ability to solve for multiple facets in sensor development has enabled successes in creating human-centered technologies.

According to WIPO, there is gender inequality in intellectual property ecosystems. What can parents and educators do to promote young women as they pursue creative fields in innovation?

It is important for young women to understand that success is the outcome of careful planning and strategic thinking. Hence my 3 step mantra:

(1) create a business plan for your life;
(2) set specific goals and work backward to create accountability for yourself; and
(3) use life experiences to adapt and reconfigure, but stay the course and never lose self-confidence.

Parents and educators have the immense opportunity to function as enablers and influencers in young women’s lives as they pursue creative fields in innovation and bridge the gender inequality.

What led you to pursue a career in research?

Curious George—the children’s books by H.A and Margret Rey. It taught me to be curious about all facets of life and solving for “inexplicable observations” in life. I have worked on honing these instincts all through my life and the natural outcome is a career in research. It gives me great pleasure that my kids love the TV series Curious George on PBS… hopefully, this will be their first step in exciting adventures of problem-solving in life.

What advice would you like to share with innovators?

IP generation is the first step on the long and adventurous road to product creation. There is significant creativity that the inventor needs to demonstrate towards identifying workable solutions during IP creation. Minding ones “Ps” is very important: (persistence, patience, and persuasion).