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Bridgette (Moody) Peake
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WIU Alumna Providing Opportunities for Women and Minorities in Science

November 2, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – When Western Illinois University alumna and Merck & Co., Inc. executive Bridgette (Moody) Peake was a young girl, it was the actions of her fifth-grade teacher and mentor that helped develop a love of science. Now Peake hopes to be that spark for more young women through the two organizations she founded to encourage their participation in scientific study.

Peake came to WIU as a graduate student in biology after getting her bachelor's degree from Michigan State University. She graduated in 2010 with a master's degree in biology and went on to get her doctoral degree in molecular pharmacology from Emory University. She is now a Women's Cancers Regional Medical Scientific Director at Merck, Inc.

At Western, Peake was a graduate assistant in the laboratory of biology Professor Richard Musser. She said it was Musser who taught her how to translate their work with plant hormones into her realm of interest with cardiothoracic therapy and protections.

"It was taking studies from the bench to the bedside," said Peake. "I was able to see the clinical benefits in what we were doing in the lab."

Musser said Peake was working in his lab as he was battling cancer and she participated with him in walk to raise money for cancer research.

"Bridgette and I engaged in a great deal of science-related philosophical conversations," he said. "The lab was like a family."

As Peake developed her academic and career interest in scientific study, she said there was little to no exposure to doctors from minority backgrounds. Her fifth-grade teacher was the first Black doctor she met.

"He encouraged me to apply to science camp at Michigan State and my mind was blown," she said. "I was one of three minorities among 300 students and none of the other students were Black. This opened me up to open the world to people who look like me."

The realization of her minority status in the science world led Peake to develop "Infinite Brilliance," which she calls "my baby." The coaching, mentoring and consulting business helps Under Represented Minorities (URM) interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields develop the resources and networking needed to get ahead in a highly-competitive job market.

"We want to drive research and innovation and educate women about it; that's something I'm passionate about," said Peake.

A second organization co-founded by Peake is "Resilient Grace," which she calls a "safe place for women who are mothers and professionals" and a place to have a conversation when their lives get overwhelming.

"It is a holistic approach to helping women be as successful as possible," she said.

Peake's interest in science and critical thinking was fostered by her mother, who helped cultivate her imagination and critical thinking skills. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion and empowering women, especially in letting women know that it's okay to need encouragement.

Peake said WIU was the only graduate school she applied to after visiting campus and feeling at home. Mentors at the Illinois Institute of Technology helped her prepare for higher education.

While her studies at Western were her top priority, Peake said she met some of the "greatest people" in the faculty of the biology department that challenged her to do great things.

"When I got to Western, I did a complete flip," she said. "I was socially active, I went to football games, I worked at a jazz club and a local coffee shop; I enjoyed the culture of Macomb. It was a great transition for me in my evolution and maturation."

Peake now lives in Atlanta, GA, with her husband and their four children. Her story was recently featured in a podcast, which can be found at

For more information about WIU's Department of Biology, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing