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Engineering ace

Former Boilermaker tennis star helps bring lifesaving products to market.

Brooke Beier came to Purdue for the chance to play Big Ten tennis and earn a first-rate engineering degree. She has stayed through three degrees and now a position at the Life Sciences Institute for Biomedical Development at Purdue to satisfy her passion for discovery and to help see products through to the marketplace.

The daughter of an audiologist (mother) and civil engineer (father), Beier (BS BME '08, MS BME '10, PhD '11) grew up in Michigan all too familiar with the need to treat nagging sports injuries. She first thought of a career in sport medicine, but after entering into a burgeoning biomedical engineering undergraduate program, she quickly found herself heading down a researcher's path.

The success of an NCAA athlete is often contingent upon her ability to balance her time on the court and in the classroom. Beier was dialed in on both fronts. She lettered in tennis in 2005-08 and was named All-Big Ten in 2008 to go along with three Academic All-Big Ten accolades in 2006-08. A team captain her senior season, Beier won 73 singles matches in her career, tied for fifth most in school history; her 79 doubles wins are tied for the Purdue best. She also won the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award for Purdue in her senior year, which goes to just one female and one male athlete from all sports.

Her best efforts in the biomedical engineering labs helped lead to two patents. "My master's focused on the development of a continuous intravascular glucose monitoring system, a closed loop system for diabetics," Beier says. Instead of pricking fingers to get blood, diabetics could use an implanted device to monitor glucose levels directly from the bloodstream.

For her PhD work, also under the supervision of Pedro Irazoqui, associate professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Center for Implantable Devices, Beier used the same technological platform to create a device to wirelessly monitor pulmonary artery pressure in congestive heart failure patients. That research and patent background makes Beier a good fit for the Life Sciences Institute, where she helps bridge the gap between research and development. "My passion is to see a product through from start to finish," she says.

From better designed football helmets that could soften the blows brought on by repeated potentially concussive hits to a device that will help people living with Parkinson's disease speak louder, Beier not only speaks the same language as fellow researchers but has learned to help them navigate the regulatory lanes of the Food and Drug Administration. A unique entity within a university, Beier and her colleagues enable the researchers to invest their energy in the discovery process.

Experience is often a great teacher and practitioners can make for great leaders. And Beier still keeps it going through tennis and engineering. As a volunteer assistant coach, she was a hitting partner and encouraging voice that helped lead the Purdue women to their first Big Ten tennis championship in 2012.