January 26, 2011 14:58 Age: 3 yrs

GIVING BACK: EPIC Grant Leads to Mentorship

By: Lori Johnston

Pleas from the Emory Public Interest Committee for grant donations tugged on the desire to give back for Woodruff Scholar Laura S. Huffman 08L. epic grants provide money for unpaid public interest summer jobs. In Huffman’s case, it also created the opportunity to mentor an Emory Law student with common interests.

Her $5,000 gift enabled Ashley Pecora 11L to continue working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Technology Transfer Office, where she worked for academic credit, in spring 2010 through the Field Placement Program.

Pecora was an excellent choice for Huffman because the third-year student shared the same intellectual property focus Huffman did as a student. Huffman is an associate with King & Spalding in Atlanta in the intellectual property group.

Like Huffman, Pecora is involved in Emory’s Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results, or TI:GER, Program and the Emory International Law Review. As a student, Huffman served on a TI:GER team commercializing an application of nanotechnology in disease diagnosis that won awards in international commercialization plan and business plan competitions. She also was editor in chief of the Emory International Law Review.

“She was someone who shared my perspective and who I felt like I could really talk to and keep learning from,” Pecora says.

Pecora’s Emory International Law Review work demonstrated to Huffman that the third-year student is aware intellectual property is a global practice. Pecora’s involvement in ti:ger shows that she understands what it takes to make a technology into a business.

“Ashley was really taking advantage of all of the opportunities that were available at Emory,” Huffman says.
Huffman’s gift was part of the $142,000 in epic grants, combined with endowment revenue, that allowed 36 students to work for government agencies, nonprofit organizations and legal aid groups in Atlanta, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Illinois and Israel over the summer.

“I couldn’t have done this internship if I didn’t have the financial support,” Pecora says. “An unpaid internship would have been a financial hardship, and I really wanted to stay at the CDC.”

Pecora’s work with the CDC showed her the importance of her international focus. Her duties included drafting licenses that allowed biotech companies and nonprofit research institutions in China, India, South Africa, Denmark and other countries to work with and build on patented cdc technologies to improve public health worldwide.

Huffman and Pecora met over the summer and have kept in touch through emails and Emory gatherings. The relationship has been “invaluable,” Pecora says, in helping her learn about the intellectual property area. Huffman also has introduced Pecora to others in the field, such as Huffman’s alumni mentor who provided the perspective of working in a corporate environment.

“I try to be always available whenever she needs me,” Huffman says.
Huffman credits her accomplishments and position with King & Spalding to her Emory education, and sees the EPIC grant as just one way to give back.

“It’s incumbent on those of us who have done well because of what we learned at Emory to help it continue to help the next generation of students,” Huffman says.

Lori Johnston is a freelance writer in Athens, Ga.

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