Psychologist-turned-lawyer MELISSA CHAPMAN ’15 has followed her passions across industries and applications. After earning her undergraduate degree in psychology from Florida Tech, she went to Eastern Michigan University to study for a master’s degree in higher education. While there, she worked part time as a legal assistant at an intellectual property (IP) law firm.
Through this experience, Chapman remembered how much she enjoyed her undergraduate law classes. Coupled with her interest in technology and how things work (She had a knack for tinkering and rebuilding engines in high school!), she took a chance and applied to Wayne State University Law School. Chapman has worked full time throughout her doctoral studies, gaining experience in different areas of IP law at various law firms, automotive suppliers and Ford Motor Co. Now in her last semester of law school, she is a law clerk for Fishman Stewart PLLC, protecting future innovations for automotive companies that the general public will see in the era of autonomous vehicles.
“While practicing IP law, I get to help protect inventions that may not be commercialized for another 5–10 years,” Chapman says, “and seeing what is coming down the pipeline in terms of technology that will be available— well, that’s just really cool!”
A point of pride in her career thus far is the work she did at Ford when the pandemic began. As demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) mounted, Chapman helped swiftly draft and negotiate licensing agreements to enable the company to manufacture PPE and other necessary medical equipment.
“Being able to help with a project so impactful and that benefitted our local community made my work much more meaningful,” she says.
Even with a career shift, Chapman still relies on her undergraduate psychology education in the field of law—specifically, what motivates people and how to identify those motivations when speaking to clients, interviewing trademark examiners or negotiating agreements.
“Understanding what is most important to a person on the other side of the table can help you identify what areas of an agreement you may be able to leverage. It’s not exactly psychology, but those simple concepts they really drill into classes like Learning and Motivation have been a huge asset in my career so far.”
TV Show of the Moment: Currently re-watching “New Girl”
Most Important Quality in a Business Leader: Someone who thinks outside the box
Alternate Career: Training dolphins, the reason I originally went to Florida Tech
Pets: Two treeing walker coonhounds, Paisley and Levi
Usual Weekend Activity: Enjoying Michigan craft breweries
Your Happy Place: In the sun, looking out over any body of water
Favorite Florida Tech Memory: Tuesday nights at Old School Pizza
This piece was featured in the fall 2021 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.