September 19, 2017

Purdue Profiles: Kaethe Beck

Kaethe Beck Kaethe Beck, director of operations, life sciences, in the Office of Research and Partnerships. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) Download image

Kaethe Beck has always been passionate about science, but after too many late nights staring into a microscope at the University of Illinois, she decided she needed a change. Still inspired by the infinite possibilities that come with research, she was determined to find a way to contribute to the advancement of science from outside the lab. Her position as director of operations, life sciences, in the Office of Research and Partnerships has allowed her to do just that.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every single day is different. I’m largely responsible for coordinating the efforts among the life science institutes (Integrative Neuroscience; Drug Discovery; Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease) in Discovery Park. There are a lot of overlapping members and interests, so I want to make sure they talk to each other and know what’s going on. The other main part of my job is managing the new Eli Lilly partnership to conduct life science research. The main goal of that is developing better injectable medicines and predictive models that reduce the risk of investing in drug development.

What is Discovery Park and how is it advantageous for the institutes to be part of it?

Discovery Park is a hub on Purdue’s campus where researchers are able to collaborate across disciplines. Everyone has their academic homes, and there are some incredibly valuable things that come along with that, but you might have virtually no overlapping research interests with other people in your department. In Discovery Park, you’re likely to have interactions that support your research interests. A lot of different people from all of these academic units are in a space where they can talk to each other and look at things they’re all interested in, but coming from very different perspectives. I can’t think of a better thing you could do in terms of advancing research. If you have a bunch of people who all think the same way working together, you’re never going to come up with anything new.

Is there anything we should know about the life science institutes?

Yes, we’re not calling them life sciences pillars anymore! They’re now the life science institutes. They each have their own initiatives. For example, Inflammation, Immunology and Infectious Disease is currently focused on developing the relationship between some of the life science and engineering departments, and trying to create early detection devices. Integrative Neuroscience has a number of different focus areas, including an amazing brain and spinal cord injury group. We have some rock star engineers, and there’s also a center for implantable devices. There’s a lot going on here.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I really love it when a plan comes together. I’ve been fortunate enough to assist faculty members in shaping some of these institutes and assisting the directors and their leadership teams on large projects. I get to come up with a plan for how these things are going to function, and nothing makes me happier than seeing that pan out. I also really like watching other people achieve the same thing; I can help them come up with a plan and see it through to completion, and there’s definitely a sense of satisfaction with that. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I run at the Co-Rec almost every day and I do yoga. I have two gorgeous children and they’re the light of my life, so I spend a lot of my time with them. West Lafayette is a great community, so we have some really good friends that we hang out with here, too.

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