Sarah Heilshorn is the Lee Otterson Faculty Scholar and Associate Professor with tenure of Materials Science & Engineering at Stanford University. She received her PhD in 2004 from Caltech while working with David Tirrell and completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, Berkeley, with Mu-ming Poo before joining the Stanford faculty in 2006. As a Bass Education Fellow, Heilshorn has received campus-wide honors for her excellence in teaching, mentorship and curriculum development. She is a fervent supporter of diversifying the broader engineering community and serves in multiple leadership roles to help achieve this goal. Her research team specializes in integrating concepts from polymer physics and protein engineering to design materials for medical applications. This interdisciplinary approach to biomimetic materials design has enabled several new technologies including the development of injectable materials for cell transplantation and printable materials for regenerative medicine. She has authored more than 90 publications with over 5,000 citations. Among other recognitions, she received the New Innovator Award from the US National Institutes of Health and was elected as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Heilshorn has been actively engaged with the MRS community throughout her professional career. She has organized multiple symposia on the topics of polymeric materials, bioinspired materials, gels and networks, and medical materials. As a Meeting Chair for the 2016 Fall Meeting in Boston, Heilshorn successfully worked to increase the participation of industrial scientists as symposium organizers and invited speakers at the meeting. As a current member of the Program Development Subcommittee, she continues to promote inclusivity at MRS meetings to represent the diverse range of interdisciplinary scientists from across the globe that participate in materials research. She is particularly interested in strengthening ties between industrial, academic, and governmental labs to synergistically drive innovation that spans basic materials science to technological advances. In addition to her service to MRS, Heilshorn was elected the 2016 Vice-Chair and 2018 Chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Engineered Extracellular Matrices. As broader service to the materials science community, she is an associate editor for Science Advances, serves on the editorial board of Biomaterials Science, and has been guest editor for recent issues of Acta Biomaterialia and Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science.
MRS has always been a forward-looking community that places an emphasis on advancing the most promising technical frontiers, both through its meetings and publications. This interdisciplinary and inclusive approach uniquely positions us to rapidly respond to emerging global challenges by bringing together a diverse scientific community. To build upon this strong foundation and further accelerate the leadership position of MRS, I believe there are three critical areas for success.
First, the Society must continue to emphasize the importance of international scientific cooperation as a requirement to advancing scientific knowledge and to developing impactful technologies. This focus on international cooperation begins internally with our own members by promoting geographic diversity in our meetings and publications, encouraging volunteers from across all regions, and advancing a global perspective within materials science education. We can further promote international cooperation by nurturing partnerships with other international materials science societies. Externally, the Society can highlight both to the public and to governmental agencies the critical role of international scientific cooperation in achieving economic growth and developing technologies that address global societal needs.
Second, while scientific inclusivity has long been a foundational pillar of MRS, this can be broadened to include geographic, career-path, and demographic inclusivity. We must recommit ourselves to diversifying participation throughout all of our events. The scientific challenges of the next decade demand the creativity and innovation that can only be achieved when a diverse set of skills and views are brought together. The Society can support this ideal by promoting an inclusive mindset within our leadership, staff, and volunteers. We can further cultivate this culture of inclusivity through the support of mentorship programs to connect materials scientists across different career stages and through the development of local programming at university member chapters to promote and celebrate diversity.
Third, to achieve both of the goals above, MRS must continue to develop a strong advocacy network for the materials science community. Through partnerships with industrial stakeholders and other scientific societies, we can amplify our message to promote science-based policies to the public and governmental agencies. As a global organization, MRS is uniquely positioned to champion the critical need of international scientific cooperation. I hope to further contribute to this goal through advocating for governmental policies that enable and support the exchange of people and ideas across national borders. As a dynamic and inclusive organization, MRS can publicly champion the scientific successes of our diverse members. This will serve to promote scientific literacy and to present materials science as an inclusive community whose work has societal impact. Advocacy to both governmental agencies and the public will encourage sustainable funding for materials research that spans from basic science through to development of enabling technologies. Investing in materials innovation is an engine for economic growth and a catalyst for breakthrough technologies that address our global needs.