The World Wide Web was embryonic in 1995 when Paula Blizzard began a consulting project to bring NASA satellite data to elementary-school children. “This was back when everyone thought that copyright laws would stop the Internet from happening,” she says. “My boss said, ‘You can’t put any of those images up.’ I said, ‘That’s the project! Putting the images up for kids!’” The copyright tangle inspired a new career in law. Blizzard is now a litigator and partner at Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco, sorting out—among other things—the obstacles to bringing cancer- and cholesterol-fighting drugs to market.
At MIT, Blizzard studied physics and literature. She led the basketball cheerleading squad and performed with the MIT Dance Club and Lois Hoffman’s Dance Theater in Boston. For a UROP project, she analyzed spacecraft data in the Center for Space Research. And she went on a January trip to Arizona’s Kitt Peak Observatory to do astronomical research with astronomy and physics professor James Ludlow Elliot ’65, who led the discoveries of Pluto’s atmosphere and the rings of Uranus. “Professor Elliot was one of my favorites,” she says. Over the years, her comfort with science, math, and technology has been a boon in her work with the Silicon Valley set. “It’s easy for me to speak their languages,” she says.
After eight years in aerospace consulting, Blizzard earned her JD at the University of California, Berkeley. She joined the U.S. Department of Justice, where she worked on United States v. Microsoft—”a very hard-fought battle with pluses and minuses on both sides,” she says. Researching the case, she says, “I was deep into the Windows source code. It was fascinating.” Now, biotech and pharmaceutical cases dominate her desk. “Health care is a huge issue,” she says. “There have been a couple of big, significant Supreme Court rulings about whether you can patent a gene, and cases between branded and generic drugs. That’s got everybody scurrying around.”
Blizzard and her husband, David Brown, an independent computer consultant, have launched their daughter and son off to college and are enjoying the view from their oceanside weekend home in Dillon Beach. “I have been a NASA consultant; I worked on the Microsoft case,” Blizzard says. “But when you get to be an empty nester and you realize you did a good job raising two kids into well-rounded adults, that’s the most amazing thing in the world.”