For The Record

Kristen Osenga’s road to becoming a law professor was anything but typical.

“I grew up wanting to be an engineer, and specifically, I wanted to make artificial legs,” Osenga said. “I thought they were the coolest feat of engineering in the world.”

Her interest in engineering and prosthetics was the result of an internship at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Chicago while in high school. Osenga went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa, but a lack of female role models in the discipline left her disheartened with her chosen career path.

“I thought I might want to be a professor because I had a miserable experience as a female undergrad in engineering,” Osenga said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to go to grad school, switch my focus to electrical engineering, get my Ph.D., and be this amazing female engineering professor that people can look up to.’”

But midway into her pursuit of a master’s degree — following a chance encounter with a patent attorney at a Society of Women Engineers conference — Osenga decided switching fields was in order. She enrolled in law school and never looked back.

Osenga, who joined the Richmond Law faculty in 2006, specializes in intellectual property and particularly patent law. As a professor and self-proclaimed lover of patents, she tries to be the role model she so often missed during her college days and instill a love of learning in students by helping them find “little bits of joy” in their work.

“I love shaping students into lawyers,” said Osenga, who finished her thesis in electrical engineering and received a master’s degree — after graduating from law school. “When a student comes back in the fall and tells me how amazing their summer was in part because of something I told them, I love that. That’s why I’m doing this.”

Outside of the classroom, Osenga lives life with the same ambition she’s had as a student, lawyer, and professor. The triathlete entered her first multisport competition in 2007, just 1 1/2 years after learning to swim. She has trained for and hopes to complete an Ironman triathlon — 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run — in the future, all driven by her need for a challenge and the work ethic instilled in her as a child.

“We don’t quit,”  Osenga said. “That’s our family motto. You set your mind on something, and you do it.”