People

Rebekah Holtz, A'11

Rebekah Holtz

"I find myself calling upon the problem-solving and analytical skills I developed as a physics major on a daily basis." (Rebekah Holtz)

Current occupation:
I currently work as a patent agent for a consumer electronics company. Among other things, I manage and develop a portion of the company's patent portfolio by deciding what inventions to protect and strategizing how best to protect them.

How do you use your physics background and training in your line of work?
Generally speaking, patent agents must understand and appreciate innovations in a variety of technology areas. Having a strong foundation in the sciences proves to be extremely valuable in understanding new inventions (regardless of the underlying technology) and in effectively teaching, explaining, and precisely defining ("claiming") those inventions in patent applications.

Besides relying on my physics background to help me understand new technologies, I find myself calling upon the problem-solving and analytical skills I developed as a physics major on a daily basis. Physics taught me to approach unfamiliar situations with an open mindset and helped me develop the persistence and drive needed to tackle complex problems. My physics experiences showed me that sometimes solutions are best sought after with linear, logical thinking while at other times abstract, imaginative, and seemingly irrational ways of thinking return the greatest dividends. The ways in which I learned to think about physics are broadly applicable and adaptable to my everyday work whether I'm digging into the details of a single patent case or developing an overall strategy for the patent portfolio.

Did the Tufts physics department prepare you for your current career path?
Definitely! I've mentioned how Tufts physics provided me a solid foundation in the sciences and how studying physics taught me new ways to approach problems. What I haven't mentioned yet is how Tufts physics also helped me develop an ability to articulate and communicate complex concepts and ideas. I can think of many experiences at Tufts that challenged me to understand difficult subject matter and helped me learn how to convey my ideas relating to that material to others. Some of these experiences were informal (like discussing thoughts with peers in study groups), while others were more formal (like class writing assignments). In particular, I remember an assignment in Professor Tobin's Quantum Theory & Atomic Physics class in which we were challenged to write about recent quantum mechanics research in a way that made the research accessible and relevant to a non-physics audience, and I recall an assignment in Professor Ford's Relativity & Cosmology class in which we each aimed to write a paper that seamlessly combined a written discussion of a cosmology topic with mathematical derivations related to that topic. Through experiences like these, I learned to convey complex ideas in clear and accessible language. These skills have proved extremely valuable in my career (and in life in general!).

What is your favorite memory of your time in the Tufts physics department?

I loved spending time at the physics library in Robinson Hall. Between classes and lectures, the library was a quiet place to work. I could get through readings and intensely focus on problem sets. And when lectures and classes let out, it was a fun place to chat with the great students, TAs and professors Tufts physics is known for. During this busy cross-over time, I could always find someone wanting to talk about a crazy aspect of physics or just life in general. As an added bonus, there were often leftover cookies in the physics library from lectures or presentations earlier in the day.