Sarah Bailey


Dallas, TX

Academic Interests

Civil Engineering: Water Resources and Environmental Engineering Track

Fun Fact

I have grown a tree from seed.

For most, climate change is overwhelming and creates a feeling of helplessness. However, it has also provided an important opportunity for collaboration amongst scientists, economists, politicians, and engineers in developing strategies for mitigation and prevention of further warming. This intersection of the natural sciences and our social context is what drew me into civil engineering. In this field, there are many ways to increase sustainability through structural and technical designs that can provide adaptations to climate change for both people, the built environment, and natural ecosystems. My interests are still broad from incorporating renewable energy technologies and better public transportation into city infrastructure to developing water remediation systems that are better adapted to the uncertainties of worsening natural disasters. I am excited to continue exploring the variety of interdisciplinary and sustainable projects that the civil engineering field can provide.

I started my time at Duke exploring renewable energy by taking classes in the global energy FOCUS. This introduced me to current and potential technology and their implications while also giving me the chance to work on an energy-related project in our engineering 101 class. My group of three worked together to provide a prototyped solution of a solar panel soiling sensor for a PhD candidate looking to make solar farm cleaning more efficient. 

During my second year, I focused on the implications of climate change on urban centers. I collaborated with a master’s student in the Nicholas School through our Bass Connections project – A City and Its River – to begin research on how urban green spaces such as parks and undeveloped land can be useful to mitigating the urban heat island effect in our very own backyard – the Ellerbe Creek Watershed. 

Over the past summer, I learned more about field engineering and community-driven projects through Duke Engineers for International Development’s (DEID) partnership with Engineers in Action’s College Bridge Program. I worked with a team of students and professional engineers to design a suspended pedestrian footbridge during the spring semester that included presentations on design decisions and development of plans for implementation and on-site safety. During the summer, we traveled to Bolivia to support the community in constructing the bridge. In the future, I plan to pursue my PE license before returning to school for a master’s degree.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

I like that the SPIRE Fellows Program provides both great opportunities for professional and career development and also social development and community building. It is not just about working to get the best or highest paying job, but rather about emphasizing the importance of the overall wellbeing of each member as they discover what they want to do in life, which creates an environment where it is easy to learn and grow.

Sarah Bailey
Sarah Bailey