Dr Elly S. Chow

Graduate, College of Science
Associate, Fenwick & West, LLP

“Make each day count.”

Elly received her PhD from the California Institute of Technology.
Elly’s motto is “Make each day count.”

From scientist to lawyer, Elly’s journey at CityUHK is the perfect segue to a fulfilling career.

Elly was sick a lot when she was a child, but she found it fascinating that her sickness could be cured after visiting a doctor, sparking her interest in biology and science. Her curiosity for science was further propelled by the movie Jurassic Park. The movie introduced DNA to her and planted in her the magical idea that one could bring an extinct organism back to life with DNA modifications. When Elly entered university, she discovered her passion for molecular biology.

Fate brought her to her mentor, Professor Cheng Shuk Han, Associate Vice-President (Research), and Chair Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, at CityUHK. When choosing a research project, she found that Professor Cheng was working on cloning, which she believed was her true calling. She started working in Professor Cheng’s lab on toxicity and embryonic development in zebrafish and received a confidence boost when she successfully cloned a gene related to hypoxia and cell survival. She later found it serendipitous that she and Professor Cheng shared the same Chinese name.     

When Elly graduated, Professor Cheng offered her a position as a research assistant in her lab, so Elly began her research career at CityUHK. After completing a master’s programme at CityUHK, Elly left to pursue a doctorate in genomics and neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology. She was a teaching assistant for a class exploring issues related to research, such as intellectual property, which led her to discover her interest in patent law. She also filed a patent application for her research work. These experiences prompted her to think about pursuing a career as a patent lawyer.

Having the curiosity to learn and the drive to continually improve her work were key when transitioning from scientist to patent lawyer. Elly believes that if you do your work well, the word will travel. Now as a patent lawyer, she works with cutting-edge science and needs to understand it thoroughly to protect inventions with patents. She also advises clients in life-cycle management of their patent portfolio. Her projects vary from cancer treatment drugs and gene therapy to ultrasonic energy for treating vision disorders. She is currently working on patenting a drug that treats breast cancer, which is undergoing clinical trials.

Research involves having a question, developing a hypothesis, and looking for the answer, she says. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and if one is not curious enough, it is easy to give up. Elly learned some important life lessons as a scientist, which are equally useful in her current career: persistence, reading and learning well, and asking questions. When asked for her motto, Elly says, “Make each day count. Try to achieve something every day. Even going for a walk is as important as writing a patent application because it makes me feel good, improves my mental health, and keeps me focused.”

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