Purdue Profile: Bill Schoenlein

December 5, 2013  

Bill Schoenlein

Bill Schoenlein, preclinical studies manager in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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When Bill Schoenlein started working for the Biomedical Engineering Center after graduating from Purdue, he had no idea that he would stay in Indiana, let alone at Purdue, to pursue a 40-year career in the field. 

Schoenlein is a preclinical studies manager in the now Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. He works on studies with industrial sponsors to test and sometimes develop intravascular devices to monitor or change the physiology of the human body.  


What does your job entail?

My job is one of many hats. I’ve got a team of five wonderful technicians that do a lot of the actual work. I stay here and do things like preparing protocols and budgets and other things that allow us to go ahead and conduct the studies. Historically, I have done it all. I’ve worked at all levels. I also work as a department safety officer. I try to help faculty get their own projects off the ground. Our department works very much in the area of translational research, so I do my best to try and help faculty who are working with other entities to try and get technologies translated into products.

What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on in the past?

I was really lucky to start working at Purdue back in the 1970s and to work with a tremendous team of people headed by Dr. Les Geddes, who really was the seed of biomedical engineering at Purdue. Over the years, we did a lot of studies in the area of developing the algorithms used for cardiac defibrillation. These were integrated into the products that became the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator and automated external defibrillators, ICDs and AEDs. We’ve done a lot of work with magnetic resonance imaging. Early work in biomed at Purdue resulted in national standards that permitted approval of the higher speed scanning with MRI. We did a lot of development work with cardiac pacing and cardiac pacemaker development.

Today, we tend to go more into the deployable vascular devices, such as cardiac stents and devices for closing aneurysms. We work closely with industry to help test their products. In some cases, we help develop products, although today, they do much of that development at their own facilities. We work with their engineers and scientists to do some testing of prototype devices. It’s a lot of fun.

What do you like best about your job?

That’s always easy; it’s the people. The people I work with, but also the fact that this is a department and a group that always gives people opportunity, both for staff and students. The Geddes philosophy was to create an environment where everyone was encouraged to develop and expand their capabilities. He then found the best possible faculty, staff and students from many disciplines to work in that environment. Every project was an opportunity to grow and develop new skills; then to apply those skills to solving new problems. It’s been a long, fun career for that reason: great people, great opportunities. Biomedical engineering is a great area for people who don’t want to just settle on one thing. It’s an area that has constantly reinvented itself, which means that what we do is constantly changing. That’s one of the reasons people can stay: change and development. It keeps you interested.

With what other activities are you involved?

I serve on the Purdue Animal Care and Use Committee. I work with the campus veterinary staff and others to keep the overall University program working well. I got started with the committee because they needed a representative from biomedical engineering. Since it’s a group with a very small faculty, they were looking for someone who was willing to put the time in. It’s a relatively time-consuming committee assignment. I’m able to work with a variety of people reviewing protocols and things that are necessary on the committee.

What do you do in your spare time?

Other than spending time with my wife and family, we have horses at our home farm. I take care of the horses and enjoy them. I love to travel when I can, but I don’t do much of that because of the horses and the dogs. The animals at home are probably my biggest outside activity.

Writer: Hannah Harper, harper4@purdue.edu

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