University of Delaware graduate student Sarah Geiger has been selected as the 2014 Laird Fellow.

Research excellence

UD graduate student Sarah Geiger named 2014 Laird Fellow

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10:20 a.m., May 2, 2014--Sarah Geiger, a University of Delaware doctoral student in materials science and engineering, has been awarded the 2014 Laird Fellowship.

This prestigious fellowship honors the memory of George W. Laird, a UD mechanical engineering graduate who died in an accident at the age of 35.

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The award is given to candidates who exhibit character, creativity, imagination and perseverance and encourages recipients to engage in “broadening intellectual pursuits” that may or may not apply to the student’s chosen field.

Geiger is a self-described “well-rounded student” who knows that it takes more than just laboratory experience to make a successful engineer.

To succeed, she noted, also requires integrity, concentration and perseverance – principles she has practiced since age 13 while studying Tang Soo Do martial arts.

While studying for her undergraduate degree at Millersville (Pennsylvania) University, Geiger said she applied the concentration and self-discipline of a martial artist to her studies, research and extracurricular activities, hoping to serve as a role model for future scientists as one of the only female physicists at the university.

During this time, she also built strong communication skills through dance. Because of the spontaneous nature of lindy hop and blues dancing, dancers rely less on memorization and instead focus on maintaining a strong connection between themselves and their partner.

“In many ways, a dance is like a conversation. Through following, I improved my listening skills and awareness of others, and by learning to lead, I learned to express myself clearly and creatively,” Geiger explained.

Today these skills enhance her research focused on improving cancer studies. Co-advised by Xinqiao Jia, associate professor of materials science and engineering, and Juejun Hu, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, Geiger is incorporating flexible photonic stress/strain sensors into three-dimensional artificial cell scaffolds made from biocompatible hydrogels.

Geiger’s research will bridge the gap between physical and organic materials research by offering minimally invasive and highly sensitive stress/strain detection, as well as dynamic control of the scaffold properties, within a highly biocompatible hydrogel environment.

These new technologies can improve cancer research and treatments by helping researchers develop a better understanding of tumor behavior in artificial environments. 

“With these sensor-integrated systems,” Geiger noted, “we hope to strengthen the fight against cancer by providing a dynamically controllable and biocompatible platform for studying the mechanics of tumor growth.”

Following graduation, Geiger plans to pursue a career in the research industry.

Geiger received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and physics with a minor in mathematics from Millersville University in 2013.

Article by Jessica Zoch

Photos by Ambre Alexander Payne and courtesy of Sarah Geiger

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