Dr. Erin Purcell
Name: Dr. Erin Purcell
Title: Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
How and when did you know what you wanted to do?
During my senior year in high school, I learned about a new degree program that many universities were beginning to offer: Biomedical Engineering. I felt that it combined my interests in engineering and biological science and offered the potential to help people. Having had a mother with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, the ability to create new medical solutions for patients was very appealing to me. Between my junior and senior years as an undergraduate at Michigan Tech, I had the opportunity to do a summer research internship in Bioengineering at the University of California-Berkeley. That experience made me want to stay in academia, and my experience as a graduate student studying neural engineering at the University of Michigan solidified that goal.
Can you describe a typical day at work?
One of the things that I appreciate most about this job is that there really is no “typical” day; I divide most of my time between grant writing, teaching, working on manuscripts, working in the lab, and mentoring students in their research. Having started a new lab, I also spend a fair bit of time thinking about effective management of the lab, developing strategies and planning for growth, positioning our research directions to be competitive for funding, meeting with prospective lab members, and maintaining and forging relationships and collaborations with colleagues. I also engage in outreach, particularly for initiatives involving Women in Engineering.
What are the perks/positives of your job?
I find almost every aspect of this job to be rewarding, but being in a position to have a positive impact on students is the biggest “perk” of this job.
What were the keys to your career advancement? What are your long-range goals?
For me, I believe that being driven and having a competitive spirit has been critical in my career progression, but prioritizing the quality of students’ experiences that I interact with has been my paramount guiding principle for ensuring a successful academic career. I also have had the good fortune of having the support and guidance of several outstanding mentors who have promoted my career and developed me as a scientist and educator. My long-range goals are to: (1) have a positive impact on the students that I teach and mentor, (2) perform research which enhances the development and integration of devices implanted in the nervous system, (3) provide bridging experiences between the life sciences and engineering curricula (both in the classroom and through research), and (4) contribute to building the new Biomedical Engineering program at MSU.
What advice would you give to the current Neuroscience majors?
This comes from my mother: “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Whatever path you decide to pursue, don’t settle for less than your very best effort!