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Innovation From the Water to the Classroom

Innovation From the Water to the Classroom

Bre Przestrzelski came to Clemson having never rowed in her life. By the time she graduated with her bachelor’s in 2012, she had become an ACC Champion with the 2009 rowing team.

A native of Ashville, N.C., Przestrzelski was a three-sport athlete in high school but was recruited to row for the Tigers although she had no experience with the sport. The biggest thing that Przestrzelski took away from rowing and being a student-athlete is the role that teamwork plays in life.

“With rowing, the person behind you matters just as much as the person in front of you,” she said. “You all have to pull together, in unison, to move forward.”

The importance of teamwork, as well as the other lessons that Przestrzelski learned from rowing at Clemson has played dividends in other aspects of her life.

Przestrzelski originally came to Clemson as an undergraduate because she was looking for a school that was not only close to home, but also offered a strong engineering program. With her love of math and science and her desire to help others, she chose to major in bioengineering. With both her parents in the healthcare industry, bioengineering was a natural fit.

It was during her senior year that Przestrzelski discovered her passion for innovation. Teaming up with Professor John DesJardines and the rest of her senior design class, Przestrzelski worked to create a device that would help keep patient’s chest tubes securely in place at the Greenville Hospital System.

The team earned national recognition for the device, winning the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) BMEStart undergraduate design competition in 2012.

That experience helped Przestrzelski realize what she wanted to do with her life. She wants to help college students take their ideas and turn them into solutions for real-world problems.

Currently, she is a University Innovation Fellow, which is a program funded by the National Science Foundation and run by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation. The Fellows program trains and supports students to become leaders in creating a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and venture creation on respective campuses.

Last year, Przestrzelski started the Design and Entrepreneurship Network (The DEN), which gives students a place to share ideas and make them a reality. Ultimately, the goal of The DEN is to pair students with industry mentors and experts and to help students get their ideas to market.

Though it began as an initiative for engineering students, The DEN has quickly expanded to include students from a variety of majors from English to business to graphic communications.

Przestrzelski wants to help students realize that they don’t have to be business majors to be entrepreneurs or engineering majors to be innovators. Rather, if a student has an idea, they should be able to make their dream a reality.

Przestrzelski credits the support of the faculty in her department, specifically Dr. Martine LaBerge and Dr. DesJardines, for creating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in bioengineering and helping her realize her dreams.

Continuing on her education, Przestrzelski earned her master’s in bioengineering in 2013 from Clemson and is currently working towards her Ph.D.

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