Crossing the Ocean: Cancer Research on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Author: Zoë Langsdale

Sarah Nano

When Sarah Nano decided to pursue a PhD and continue her studies in Bioengineering, she never expected to be not only traveling halfway across the USA to the University of Notre Dame to work with Professor Glen Niebur, but also across the Atlantic Ocean to the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI, Galway) to work with Professor Laoise McNamara. Sarah grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, and attended Northeastern University in Boston, where she studied Bioengineering and worked closely with Professor Sandra Shefelbine in her lab. Prof. Shefelbine first brought the PhD programme at Notre Dame to Sarah's attention. "I never really thought about moving to the Midwest," says Sarah. "Notre Dame was not on my radar too much until [Sandra] connected me with [Prof. Niebur]."

While in Galway, Sarah has been working closely with Prof. McNamara, someone very familiar with Notre Dame due to her collaboration with Prof. Niebur. According to Glen Neibur, Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at Notre Dame, the partnership began over ten years from his sabbatical visit to NUI Galway. "Since then, we have had several collaborative projects related to the interactions of mechanical forces and biology in bone that led us to this vexing problem of cancer metastasis. We were fortunate to get funding for our project from the Naughton Family Foundation, which has been extremely supportive of Notre Dame's engineering research. Beyond supporting the important science, they have allowed Sarah to work with Laoise and the NUIG Mechanobiology Lab, which will greatly benefit her Ph.D. studies and future career."

This Galway component was a significant factor in why Sarah chose the PhD programme at Notre Dame. Hearing not only about Prof. Niebur's research in bioengineering with a focus on bone but also Prof. McNamara's cancer metastasis work at NUI, Galway sealed the deal; "everything kind of fell into place," says Sarah. 

Learn more about Sarah Nano, her current PhD research project funded by a Naughton Fellowship, and her journey at the University of Notre Dame and the National University of Ireland, Galway in the full story below:

Crossing the Ocean: Cancer Research on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Originally published by Zoë Langsdale at on June 24, 2022.