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Pruden embraces liberal arts approach for postgrad plans

When John Pruden, ’21, was deciding what to do after college, he realized he didn’t want to be too specialized in any one field.

He had started Lyon College with an interest in patent law and knew he needed an undergraduate degree in science to be successful in the field. He double majored in chemistry and French and double minored in mathematics and physics.

“My original plan was to do four years here and then go to graduate school and law school for a joint JD/Ph.D.,” Pruden said.

After completing undergraduate research experiences, however, he discovered that academic chemistry was not the right path for him.

“With the pure sciences, like chemistry, physics and biology, you need a Ph.D. to become a patent attorney,” Pruden said, “and you will be working in one specialization your whole life.”

“I wasn’t interested in that.”

Pruden prefers the liberal arts approach of combining different disciplines and interests.

His internship with the United States Patent and Trademark Office helped him decide on his next steps.

“I really liked it. I realized the parts of chemistry I like aren’t the chemistry itself,” Pruden said. “It’s applying physics and scientific understanding to a problem.”

He ultimately decided that engineering would be more his speed and give him the chance to use his communication, learning and critical thinking skills.

Pruden received a research fellowship to attend Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, this fall. He will be working on his master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, while researching emerging computer architectures under Dr. Dwaipayan Chakraborty.

“The more I looked into it, being able to study different fields is more common in engineering, especially in patent work,” he said.

“The more diverse your scientific background, the more diverse patents you’re able to work on.”

Lyon helped him learn the value of taking time to decide on a career path.

“The Career Center got me in touch with an alumni who works with the patent office, and we had a lot of conversations,” Pruden said.

He continued, “She told me ‘You are 21. You have nothing but time. You have time to go into a career and see if it’s right, and if not, you have time to change it.’”

While Pruden has since applied this philosophy to his life, he believes it’s equally important to seize opportunities, such as internships and study abroad experiences, while they are available.

“You need to take opportunities when they show up. You can’t just assume they’re still going to be there.”

Pruden said he is going to miss the tight-knit community at Lyon, but he is looking forward to being in the middle of so many major metropolitan areas, with Glassboro being a few hours from New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore and other major cities in the Northeast.

“Grad school is hectic and I’m probably going to be working most weekends, but I’m looking forward to traveling and seeing the area when I can,” Pruden said.