Sara S. Metcalf, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography, University at Buffalo


I am a geography professor and systems scientist who conducts research on urban health and sustainability. My urban health research is supported by an NIH-funded project to model a community-based intervention designed to improve health for low-income Chinese Americans living in New York City. This line of research has also been supported by an NIH-funded project to model health-promoting interventions integrating primary and oral health screening for older adults in underserved community settings. Another part of my urban health research is a study of how grey (built environment) and green (natural environment) urban infrastructure may be integrated to promote the health and well-being of city residents.

On the sustainability front, I am part of an interdisciplinary working group modeling human risk perception and social behavior in response to global climate change. At the local level, 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 NSF-funded project that examined the role of mental models in shaping stakeholder decisions about shared resource concerns in metropolitan regions.

As a systems scientist, I apply principles of system dynamics in constructing, simulating, and testing stock-flow and agent-based models of local resources, household mobility, networks, and other aspects of human interactions in urban environments. In doing so, I work with a variety of simulation software (primarily AnyLogic and Vensim, but also Stella and NetLogo). Prior to my academic career in geography, I worked as an engineer and strategist for United Technologies, General Motors, and Intel corporations.

Educational Background:


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

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

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

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

Courses Taught: