Katherine Mares

“I've known for a really long time that I wanted to do something science related,” Master of Biological Sciences (MBS) alumna Katherine Mares says. “And I was hoping to use college as a way to figure out where my niche is.”

Katherine earned a double major in biochemistry and Spanish as an undergraduate. She also ran for the cross-country team, which kept her extremely busy. And while she had found her niche in the life sciences, her schedule kept her from fully exploring her interests.

“There were time blocks where I couldn't take classes,” she says. “Immunology was on my list, and it just never worked out. I knew I wanted to get an advanced degree in the biology-immunology field. I found that the Master of Biological Sciences could be shaped so that I could take classes in immunology, and I thought, this is perfect.”

Two Paths Converge

Katherine Mares inside the Graduate Hotel

Did we mention that Katherine was in her second year of law school when she decided to pursue her MBS degree? Just as she had as an undergraduate, she was again motivated to study two fields at once.

“I started law school in the fall of 2020,” she says.” You aren't allowed a dual degree in your first year, so I just did law. Then for my second and third years, I did the MBS full-time.” In graduate school, Katherine was able to take a lot of courses in her chosen subjects: microbiology, immunology, and cancer biology.

How did she manage to complete two degrees in three years? On top of being a master at time management and a hard worker, she gives a lot of credit to her MBS advisor, Dr. Anke Reinders.

“She is the best advisor and advocate someone could have possibly asked for,” Katherine says. “She has done so much rescheduling and advocating for me. I can't tell you how appreciative I am of her.” Her key piece of advice for incoming MBS students is to get to know your advisor.

Into the Courtroom and Back to the Classroom

Katherine first became interested in the connection between law and the sciences when she was a legal aid in an intellectual property law firm. She was exposed to patent law related to the various fields, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and immunology.

She says, “Based on their guidance, I learned that if I wanted to go into intellectual property it would be beneficial to have an advanced degree in the life sciences. This is something I could see myself doing. I needed to find a program where I could put a little more education behind me before I entered the legal field.”


Katherine recently secured an associate position with an intellectual property and technology law firm in Minneapolis.

“At my previous firm the prosecutors called their work 'happy law,' because it wasn't criminal or family law. Patent prosecution is essentially you versus the United States Patent and Trademark Office or you versus the United States government. 'I've got an idea; I need to protect it.' And then litigation is, 'hey, the United States government has recognized that I have this property. Please stop doing what you're doing with my property.' It's fun. I'm excited to see what it's like actually practicing.”

Katherine is also looking forward to teaching a University of Minnesota intellectual property moot court competition team this year. “I didn't think I was a really competitive person,” she says. “And then we got out there and I was like, oh, I want to win.” The students get to choose which competitions to join, and last year they went to Boston.

“It's going to be fun to get back to the school because I had a lot of really good teachers,” she adds. “Hopefully, I'll be like them.” 

The Big Takeaway

“I'm continually amazed and interested by how many different facets of research are going on at one time. Specifically, two of the courses I took, cancer biology and immunopathology, were taught by rotating PhDs each week. They would come and talk about their research. It led me to believe I'm going to be a student for the rest of my life because it was just so cool to hear about all the different areas that we know a lot about and what we know nothing about. And it was very encouraging to see the different ways research is expanding.”

Pro Tip for Students

“Just because it's not advertised doesn't mean it's no. So if you want something, don't be afraid to ask for it.”


Katherine is a recipient of the Ingrid Lenz Harrison Scholarship.