SARAH DU, Ph.D.
By Yaffi Spodek
Can you describe your career path and how you came to FAU?
I earned my PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and was awarded the James Henry Porter Award for Outstanding Performance in the Doctorate Program. From 2011-2014, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Nanomechanics Lab at MIT, where I did research on biomechanics and biorheology in sickle cell disease and malaria. In 2014, I joined FAU as Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2019.
Who or what inspired you to enter the field of engineering and computer science?
I’m interested in how things work and how I can develop new tools to better understand and sense the biophysiological and pathological processes in the human body. Mechanical engineering is the oldest and broadest of the engineering fields, which prepared me with the fundamental knowledge. My postdoctoral training further paved the way to my current researches at the interface of engineering, biomaterials, life sciences and medicine.
What are your areas of research expertise?
My primary research interest is in microfluidics and biosensors for cell biology and medicine. Microfluidics provides a useful platform to interface with biological systems, where engineering and materials science approaches can be integrated for replicating the microenvironment of cells while quantitating how they exert and respond to physical forces and biochemical stimuli. My Living Devices & Biosensors Lab develops microfluidic chips and biosensors to study these processes and then applies them for both fundamental biological and applied clinical researches.
What achievements in your career are you most proud of?
I received the recognition of mHealth Scholar from the NIH mHealth Training Institute (2015), Researcher of the Year from Florida Atlantic University (2018), and the STEM Educator Award from the Engineers’ Council (2019). My research has been funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF).
What has been your greatest challenge?
I realized that there is no such thing as work-life balance, or at least it is very challenging to achieve that balance.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in academia vs. industry or government?
I feel that academia offers a better working and social environment, and I also enjoy the flexibility of the summer semester. My most rewarding experience is to see my students grow and succeed.
As you reflect on your career, what advice would you give to women who are interested in entering the field?
Focus on what you love to do and stay open-minded.
Sarah Du earned her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology and completed her postdoctoral research at the Nanomechanics Lab at MIT. She joined FAU in 2014 as Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering. In 2019, she was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Dr. Du teaches Fundamentals of Engineering, Comp Apps in Engineering, Computer Applications in ME 2, Introduction to Microfluidics and BioMEMS, and Innovative Sensing Actuation Technologies.