Student Highlights: Sarah Hankins


Class:  Graduate Student

Major:  Mechanical Engineering

Sarah Hankins was born and raised in Thornton, Colorado. Growing up she enjoyed STEM-related activities such as participating on a Lego robotics team and competing in (and winning) the Colorado Skills USA CAD competition. In addition, she also developed a passion for golf which ultimately allowed her to pursue both of her dreams as a NCAA Division I collegiate athlete and an engineering student at UW.

As she progressed in her studies as an undergraduate student, she cultivated a deep love of learning and curiosity in her field. This ultimately led her to pursue a master’s degree, and now a doctoral degree, in mechanical engineering. In her free time, Sarah enjoys participating in a variety of different sports and activities such as golf, pickleball, paddle boarding, and rock climbing.


Heat exchangers play a critical role in a variety of aerospace applications ranging from protecting onboard electronics and instruments to heating/cooling cabin air. For the past several decades, researchers at NASA have studied and patented various heat exchanger designs. With the advent and rapid growth of additive manufacturing, it is now possible to push the boundaries of traditional heat exchanger design towards more bio-like architectures. In fact, nature has inspired some of the most successful high-performance designs. The goal of Sarah’s research is to exploit natural architectures in the design of heat exchangers via a bioinspired pattern generation methodology within a topology optimization framework. State-of-the-art machine learning techniques will be used to drive the model towards optimal solutions. Ultimately, Sarah’s research aims to improve current design tools in an effort to generate more efficient heat exchanger architectures that are vital to reducing weight penalties and space requirements in aerospace applications.


Every year, we award fellowships to graduate and undergraduate students attending the University of Wyoming or one of Wyoming’s community colleges in order to provide them with the opportunity to do “real” research. Occasionally, we feature one of these students and their research on this blog. For more information about our student fellowships, visit our College Programs page.