5 questions with…biomedical engineer, former skating champ Nicole Steinmetz

When the Olympics kick off this evening, there’s a good chance biomedical engineering assistant professor Nicole Steinmetz will be tuned in. But she’ll be watching with an entirely different view than most of us; after all, she’s one of the few members of the campus community who has experienced first-hand the thrill of international sports competition. She’s even earned herself a medal.

A former member of the German national team, Steinmetz medaled at the German National Championships and at the European Championships and was at one point ranked among the top 10 at the World Championships. Her sport? Figure skating (both ice and roller skating, though she earned the honors on wheels).

It’s a far cry from her work today, where she uses nanotechnologies to turn plant viruses into cancer-fighting “medicine containers” and to fabricate electrochemical sensors.

Though her work sounds complex—and it’s certainly not easy—Steinmetz wants to erase the intimidation that surrounds research like hers and present it in a way that engages and encourages students to get involved. So, in conjunction with a playwright and a multimedia developer, she’s created The Nanoman. Part Pac-Man, part science lesson, the video explains basic principles of drug delivery and nanomedicine in a format everyone can understand and appreciate—especially the core audience of students, ranging from grades K-12. (You can see it below or watch it on YouTube.)

The Nanoman is the start of a multimedia outreach program I am developing in parallel to my research program,” Steinmetz said. “Nanomedicine has become a clinical reality, so it is important that we communicate it.”

From national champion figure skater and surfing aficionado to award-winning researcher and science video designer, there’s certainly plenty to learn about Steinmetz. Read on.

1. What superpower would you most like to have?
Definitely time travel! This would certainly make more time for surfing and snowboarding.

2. What’s your favorite place to dine in Cleveland?
I don’t care so much about food, but one of my favorite hangouts is The Fairmount Martini and Wine Bar.

3. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A figure skater! I actually lived this dream for a while: I was on the German National Team, won the gold medal at the German Championships, silver at the European Championships, and was ranked in the top 10 in World Championships.

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of—personally and professionally?
I’m not sure if I can single out one accomplishment. However, I am proud that I never give up. I always stand up and try again until I succeed.

I broke my ankle several times skating, in 1991 on ice and in 1994 on roller skates—the second injury was a particularly bad one that took me out for almost a year. But it never stopped me. I had several surgeries and had to stay in bed for several months, learn how to walk again, then how to skate…

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve University?
My favorite thing about CWRU is how integrated the medical school and engineering school campus are. It’s what brought me here in the first place.