by Ron Sanchez
Vanessa Sanchez, 27, a 2011 graduate of BBP was selected to Forbes Magazine’s 2021 30 Under 30 list of outstanding young achievers in Science. This annual award is given to 30 Americans under age 30, in several different categories, with noteworthy accomplishments in their individual fields.
Sanchez, a PhD candidate at Harvard University, conducts research in soft material robotics. Her focus is on developing materials to create wearable garments that can improve the quality of life for elderly and disabled patients through increased mobility, as well as provide greater protection to health care workers, police, fire, and military service personnel. Similar to a smartwatch, the garments of the future will also incorporate sensors and microprocessors to provide feedback that can monitor health, recognize and warn of toxic conditions, excessive heat or cold, and perform other useful functions.
Following her BBP graduation, Sanchez initially attended New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, fully expecting to become a garment designer. After learning how to design and construct clothing, she realized that, instead of creating for the runway, she was inspired to develop the kinds of attire that provided functional benefits to the wearer. She then transferred to Cornell University where she studied textiles and fabrics in order to achieve this goal. After earning her BS in Materials Science degree from Cornell, Sanchez joined the robotics lab at Harvard University where she learned how to construct robots from soft materials. She was invited to stay on at Harvard to complete her graduate studies and received her MS in Engineering Sciences there in March of last year.
Upon competition of her PhD requirements at Harvard, Sanchez intends to join the faculty of a university where she will both teach classes and build her own lab to conduct further research.