• YEAR: Doctoral student
  • MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering
  • HOMETOWN: Akron, Ohio

Anne Zakrajsek

Anne Dye Zakrajsek personifies student inventors at Purdue. A mechanical and biomedical engineering senior design project she developed and facilitated helped create a custom-fitted prosthetic that now enables a young boy to run, play and ride his bike. Her master's work with redesigned helmet padding is aimed at better protecting football players and soldiers from brain injury. But her greatest invention to date may be the educational path and future career she is creating in assistive technology device design. Patents pending, indeed.

What a feeling!

"It's awesome just to know that you are part of a long line of inventors that have come from Purdue," Anne says.

"When I realized that engineers can have a direct impact on solving biomechanics and medical problems that currently don't have a solution, I knew biomechanics was a good fit for me. Ultimately, I chose the area because I want to help people. Being an inventor never crossed my mind. But certain classes at Purdue and research opportunities encouraged and fostered the creativity that leads to innovation and patent pursuit."

Early inspiration

"In high school, I volunteered a lot with my dad and our therapy dog Murphy at a nursing home for profoundly disabled children in Mantua, Ohio," Anne says. "I saw firsthand where assistive technologies were lacking and really developed a desire to do something about it. Volunteering with my dad was really the main inspiration for the work that I'm currently pursuing with assistive technology design."

Purdue supports student invention

Anne worked with Purdue's Office of Technology Commercialization, which walks students and faculty through the process of provisional patents and full patent conversions. And she applauds the University's support of student inventors. "The ability to hold rights to anything invented while at Purdue is appealing to any student trying to make his or her mark on the world. Simply knowing that opportunity exists further encourages innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization," she says.

Passion, preparation and patents

"Purdue not only has prepared me for my career path, it has helped me make my career path," Anne says. Prosthetic research and design opportunities grew at Purdue thanks to mentor and inventor Eric Nauman, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering. Anne worked with him on her master's thesis and as a graduate research assistant in the Purdue Neurotrauma Group. That's where the safer helmet redesign emerged.

"A mentor who encourages students to move their ideas into the marketplace is invaluable," she says.