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Celebrating DHS Women Inventors for International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, we wanted to highlight the women of DHS who are inventors. To date, DHS has a total of eight women inventors who hold six patents. In addition, more than 20 inventions by DHS women are currently awaiting approval by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).  

For DHS, the ability to obtain patents for employee inventions provides an important vehicle for recognizing and rewarding the accomplishments of our employee inventors, fostering innovation, and promoting the commercialization of technologies that have been developed using federal resources. It also allows the Department to create defensive publications to help reduce the likelihood for others to obtain patents that dominate inventions first conceived of in DHS, and to show Congress and the public that DHS has a strong presence at the forefront of technologies critical to our missions. 

S&T has had a significant role in promoting the work of all these inventive women. S&T manages the intellectual property program for all of DHS through a delegation from the Secretary, with the support of the intellectual property group of the Office of the General Counsel (OGC IP). Accordingly, S&T and OGC IP are responsible for every patent application filed in the USPTO. 

In 2005, Gladys Klemic, Paul Bailey and Cecilia Breheny of S&T collaborated to invent a new type of wearable radiation dosimeter to help detect the amount of radiation to which a first responder or a laboratory scientist is exposed. The invention features a very thin dosimeter filter made of an optically stimulated luminescent material. This team of inventors worked closely with the OGC IP to file a patent application. The patent was granted in August 2010, making Gladys and Cecilia the first two women in DHS to be recognized as inventors on a patent.  

Katie Spira, working with classmates at the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), co-invented a quick release adapter that enables maintenance staff to quickly install illumination flares on the underbelly of an aircraft for use during night operations. She was recognized in a U.S. patent in July 2014.  

In December 2014, the USPTO recognized DHS inventors Jessica Rozzi-Ochs, Erin Nolan and Sarah Troch for inventing an improved connector ("split key") for a navigational buoy that helps protect Coast Guard maintenance crews from injury when separating a buoy from its mooring chain. Jessica, Erin and Sarah collaborated with classmates at the USCGA on this invention. 

Linda Weigel, while working at S&T, co-invented a way to help rapidly identify Bacillus anthracis or anthrax. Linda and three colleagues created a novel peptidoglycan hydrolase that can specifically attack the peptidoglycan cell wall of bacteria. Their patent application, prepared by OGC IP in 2016, culminated in a patent in February 2019.  

Cecilia Barela obtained two separate patents for an invention that she and a colleague, Tye McGrath, co-invented at TSA in 2017. Their invention is a system to help TSA carry-on baggage screeners get a better view into possible threats. The system adds special markings to the bins that travelers place their belongings in for screening, and to the belts that move the bins. These markings, detectable with x-rays, enable the screener’s display equipment to accurately align various images of the same bag that are taken from different x-ray sensors and locations. Cecilia, now working at CISA, is a co-inventor of U.S. patents issued in January 2020 and January 2021.  

Like all federal employee inventors, DHS employee inventors are entitled by law to a share of revenues that the government may obtain from licenses and royalties. OGC IP supports inventors by writing the technical description of each invention, preparing and filing the required legal papers, and advocating for the technology with the Patent Examiner. For more information, contact OGC IP at DHSOGCPatents@hq.dhs.gov.

See "Patents and Pending Patents: Women Inventors Working for DHS, both Federal Employees and Contractors" for the full list of DHS patents and pending patent applications that include DHS women.

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