Sara S. Metcalf, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography

The State University of New York at Buffalo


I study urban geography and practice dynamic modeling while teaching courses in both. My research agenda is focused on urban health and sustainability. As related to my particular interest in the social dimensions of healthy aging in urban environments, an NIH project is funding my collaboration with the dental schools of New York University and Columbia University to model policy and program interventions that address disparities in oral health outcomes among older adults in Manhattan. A broader thread of my urban health research agenda is embodied in a collaborative study examining the integration of grey and green urban infrastructure to promote the health and well-being of urban populations.

On the sustainability front, I am part of an interdisciplinary working group modeling human risk perception and associated behavior in response to global climate change. My research on the sustainability of urban ecosystems has benefitted from a civic engagement with the Massachusetts Avenue Project to model urban agriculture and the local food movement. This line of research also builds upon an earlier collaboration with Georgia Tech on an NSF-funded project that examined the role of mental models in shaping stakeholder decisions about shared resource concerns in metropolitan areas.

I employ the methodology of system dynamics in constructing, simulating, and testing stock-flow and agent-based models of resource issues, migration patterns, and other aspects of human interactions in the urban context. I work with a variety of simulation software (primarily AnyLogic and Vensim, but also Stella and NetLogo). Prior to academe I accumulated several years of industry experience as an engineer and strategist with United Technologies, General Motors, and Intel corporations.

Courses Taught:

Educational Background:


UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, Urbana-Champaign, IL
Ph.D. (2007) degree in Geography.
Thesis: Simulating the Social Dynamics of Spatial Disparity through Neighborhood Network Evolution.

MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, Cambridge, MA
M.S. (2001) degrees in Management and Chemical Engineering through the Leaders for Manufacturing program.
Thesis: A System Dynamics Exploration of Future Automotive Propulsion Regimes.

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY, College Station, TX
B.S. (1996) degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry.

SANTA FE INSTITUTE, Santa Fe, NM
Participant in the 2004 Complex Systems Summer School (CSSS).