Grad Member Spotlight: Samantha Knoll

5 Oct 2015

Knoll Samantha_3245

Samantha Knoll

PhD Student

Mechanical Science and Engineering, expected graduation May 2016

University of Illinois

Research website:


Samantha has been a SWE member since 2007 and has been active both as an undergraduate and graduate student. She helped to establish the Grad SWE group at Illinois in 2012 and led the group as President during 2013-2014. Samantha was one of the key developers of the Women Empowered in STEM (weSTEM) conference for graduate students each spring, serving as the speaker coordinator for 2012-2013 and Director for 2013-2014. She is now the Graduate Student Representative for Region H.

Sam has been the recipient of the Linda Su-Nan Chang Sah Doctoral Fellowship (2014 – 2016), the Illinois Graduate Student Leadership Award (2015), and the NSF CMMB-IGERT Fellowship (2011 – 2013). She has received accolades from SWE as well, winning the Central Illinois Scholarship (2014) and Outstanding Collegiate Member Award (2014).
What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?

  • Degree program: PhD, Mechanical Science and Engineering program
  • Expected graduation: May 2016

Give a brief explanation of your research.

My research is in the area of cellular biomechanics and is focused on understanding the effects of excitation light on cell force dynamics. Living cells have been known to exhibit adverse morphological responses to illumination by various forms of excitation light. I study how nanoscale, localized cell forces change as a result of exposure to fluorescence excitation light. These force changes manifest long before any visible, morphological changes occur. Knowledge of the time evolution of cell force response to excitation light could improve the ability to identify adverse photo-effects before evidence of such changes is available.
What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?

I plan to pursue a career in industry, and fulfill a role at the interface between science and business. I aspire to grow as a leader in a role where I can contribute to product development and innovation, as well as business strategy development.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy running, watching sports, hanging out with friends, and playing piano.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I attended the 2012 Olympic Games in London


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