Catherine Klapperich had her sights set on a biomedical engineering career soon after she took a tour of Northwestern University’s engineering school, where she completed her undergraduate degree. Although discouraged from pursuing science in high school because of her strong writing skills, it was love at first sight for Klapperich when she saw the cutting-edge technologies, including an electron microscope, that led her to change her major from Journalism to Materials Science. “I was sold. I knew it was the right place for me,” said Klapperich.
Klapperich is the Director of the NIBIB POCTRN Center for Future Technologies in Cancer Care (CFTCC) at Boston University. She is the Dorf-Ebner Faculty Fellow, a Kern Innovation Faculty Fellow and an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. She also holds appointments in the Division of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She is the Director of the Laboratory for Diagnostics and Global Healthcare Technologies and a member of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
Klapperich earned a master’s degree in engineering sciences from Harvard University and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. After finishing her Ph.D., Klapperich worked as a senior research engineer for a start-up company before completing post doctorate work in molecular biology. Klapperich then moved on to work at Boston University, where she is currently teaching and conducting research.
“Everyone steered me toward journalism because of my writing, but I really wanted to be a scientist,” Klapperich said. Her chance tour of the Northwestern University’s engineering school set in motion a dream deferred.
These days Klapperich and colleagues work on biochemical test development and device engineering in her lab at BU. They design devices to detect infectious diarrhea, HIV, influenza and MRSA. Klapperich likens operating the lab to running a small business. She directs undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, plans a budget, and secures funding to keep it all going. Klapperich enjoys managing her own enterprise because she is able to turn ideas into meaningful experiments that may significantly improve medical care.
Klapperich contends that Biomedical Engineering has something to offer for everyone. “If you are introverted, you can find yourself in the lab conducting challenging bench work. If you are an outgoing person, biomedical engineering really let’s you have that experience of seeing your work impact real people, and it’s extremely rewarding,” Klapperich indicated.
“It’s not just a career where you end up sitting at a desk. [Biomedical engineering] is a springboard for a lot of different areas. It is a hugely important area as health care becomes a driver of economic development,” said Klapperich.