Sarah McFann is using her Hertz Fellowship in combination with an NSF GRFP Fellowship at Princeton University to pursue a PhD in chemical and biological engineering. Her major research interest is the mathematical and computational modeling of complex biological systems. As a chemical and biological engineering major at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (UA), Sarah conducted nonlinear optical chromophore and carbene synthesis research under Dr. Anthony Arduengo at UA, and under Dr. Yohsuke Yamamoto at Hiroshima University in Saijo, Japan. As an Amgen Scholar under Dr. Daniel Fletcher at the University of California, Berkeley, she designed and built an automated iPad-based microscope and app to inexpensively and effectively track tissue development and used this device to help identify signaling pathways involved in “mechanically-induced phenotypic reversion” in breast cancer cells, i.e., the return of non-malignancy to malignant cells in response to mechanical signaling. In her third and fourth years of undergraduate study, Sarah conducted several independent research projects under Dr. Margaret Liu that involved the development of computational cellular models to aid in the optimization of bacterial cells for biobutanol production and the optimization of mammalian cells for the production of cancer-treating monoclonal antibodies. In the future, she plans to develop mathematical models and computational techniques to resolve data generated by body-on-a-chip systems, human microbiome studies, and studies focused on elucidating patterning mechanisms in human and cancer development. These efforts will help reveal mechanisms of drug action and disease progression.
Through her experiences conducting research in Japan and completing her capstone experimental design course at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, Sarah has discovered a penchant for traveling and exchanging ideas with people from diverse cultures. In her free time, as a formerly trained classical ballerina and an avid lover of the arts, Sarah enjoys choreographing and writing. Through tutoring and outreach, she inspires those underrepresented in STEM-related careers to pursue science and engineering. Sarah is from Arlington, Tennessee.