Harvard Law School

Application Essays – RITU GUPTA

With latex-covered hands and goggled eyes, I maneuvered the flask in my palm, scrutinizing it for a trace of my chemical product. Recalling the hundreds of grams of alkaline salts I had fused as the initial reaction in this sequence, my co-researcher and I marvelled at the milligram of product that remained after two years. We had, at last, successfully synthesized our target molecule, the potential drug candidate, Napyradiomycin A1 (NAP A1).

My interest in law burgeoned from the seeds of scientific inquiry. As a graduate researcher, I complied with federal and university regulations that governed issues of chemical storage and waste disposal. Importantly, laws also determined the practical fate of innovations: that is, whether students could claim ownership of their intellectual property. When formulating the synthesis of NAP A1, my research team and I emphasized atom-economy and environmental sustainability while developing a chlorination process that overcame a significant chemical hurdle. Together, these features made our synthesis desirable, and thus potentially patentable.

My fascination with the intellectual property issues governing my synthesis exposed me to this intimate relationship between science and law that prevailed even outside the laboratory. From the inception of an idea to the ownership of a chemical product, science is governed by the boundaries of law. Nevertheless, this dependence is constantly evolving. When complex, multi-disciplinary scientific problems raise legal and ethical questions that fall outside the scope of existing laws, scientists unwittingly initiate the development of novel intellectual property laws, or the medication of existing ones. In this context, cooperation between those who speak the language of science and those who understand its relevant laws becomes a critical feature for both scientific and legal progress. Already fluent in the language of science, attending law school will enable me to understand the language of laws. With bilingual fluency, I want to harness the synergy of my dual backgrounds toward their mutual progression.

One instance in which scientific progress has raised ethical questions that require legal remedies is illustrated in the ongoing crisis between pharmaceutical companies and the people of developing countries, who are often unable to afford the patent-induced prices that such companies charge for their drugs. Local drug manufactures are then induced to infringe patents and instead manufacture generics. As a scientific investigator-cum-lawyer, I value the patent system that internationally rewards innovation, and want to contribute to remedies such as drug credit schemes to ensure that equitable access to vital medicines precludes patent infringement.

As a nascent student of law, I am excited to employ the analytical and writing skills I have acquired as a chemist toward the solution of legal problems. Just as organic chemists rely upon prior methodologies and published reactions to provide a framework for product formation, lawyers rely upon precedent. No two chemical problems are identical, however, and thus adaptation is critical. In the same way, legal problems arise from a variety of issues that necessarily differ from one case to another. Already harbouring an analytical framework for legal problem solving that will enable me to navigate complex cases, the writing skills I have acquired its vis-à-vis involvement in our research group’s journal submissions will further bolster my command of intellectual property law, which necessarily demands technical writing.

In our ever-more inter-disciplinary world, scientific innovations and laws inform and influence each other, ultimately emerging in response to each other. I wish to integrate my scientific domain knowledge, garnered through my undergraduate years and fortified as a graduate researcher working on the syntheses of NAP A1, with my emerging legal skills, through my role as an intellectual property lawyer. Thus harnessing the synergy of these fields, I want to ensure that our lawful society reaps the benefits of its scientific engine.


Ritu Gupta’s beginning anecdote sets the stage for what is a very successful essay. Gupta already distinguishes herself in these opening lines by describing a scene from her days as a graduate school researcher in chemistry. This anecdote not only qualifies her knowledge of chemistry but it also provides a snapshot of her life that is unique and more likely to be remembered by the admissions officer reading her essay.

After beginning with a scene, Gupta does a great job of connecting her science background to her newfound passion for the law. She paints an image of herself doing research in the lab, developing the new synthesis for NAP A1 but then discovering all of the legal issues surrounding the intellectual ownership over this property. This second anecdote follows smoothly from the first, and it is effective at describing how questions of patent law continued to arise for her both inside and outside the laboratory.

Gupta’s essay is also successful because it specifically communicates why she is applying to law school. Her passion for science is already well established in the beginning of the essay, and Gupta further distinguishes herself by writing about how she intends to become bilingual in the worlds of science and law. When she refers to herself as an “investigator-cum-lawyer” hoping to help resolve the ongoing crisis between pharmaceutical companies and the people of developing countries, the reader is given a specific mental image of what this bilingual scientist-lawyer hopes to do with her law degree. This confidence in her own passion really sets her essay apart.

Overall, Gupta’s essay is both informed and passionate. Her essay goes beyond just stating an interest in law school. She immerses the reader into the world of intellectual property law, and she successfully communicates why she is passionate about it.

Dennis Ojogho

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