Postdoc Spotlight: Sarah Sachs

Sarah Sachs

October 5, 2020

Sarah Sachs is a postdoc in science and technology studies from Sacramento, California. She holds a B.A. from UC Davis and a Ph.D. from Columbia, and her research at Cornell focuses on algorithms. She is a recipient of a Postdoc Achievement Award as part of Cornell’s celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2020.

What is your area of emphasis? Why is this work important?

I’m interested in the social study of algorithms—the work that people do around algorithms and the work that algorithms do. As machine learning becomes more and more ubiquitous, we increasingly take for granted how our technologies are informing our decisions and actions.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I used to have a career working in tech, and I knew that my ability to understand and interpret what was going on in the development process would allow me to bridge that process and social science.

What does receiving a Postdoc Achievement Award mean to you?

It means a lot to me, because it’s for my work on the Equity & Justice Committee in my department. We took on the task of codifying our department’s commitments to equity and justice, recognizing that this was an important opportunity for starting important and difficult conversations about privilege, harm, and accountability and creating change within the department. I feel strongly that we have taken a huge step toward incorporating these conversations in our everyday operations.

What hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your spare time?

I write speculative fiction and spend a lot of time hiking and playing with my dog, Mac.

Why did you choose Cornell?

Cornell and my department have been incredibly welcoming, and Ithaca is a peaceful respite after so many years in NYC. I’m loving it here so far!

What is next for you?

I would really like to publish a social science fiction novel.

Do you have any advice for current graduate students?

The job market can temporarily make us forget ourselves. It can sometimes feel like we’re trying so hard to be the right candidate that we lose touch with what matters.

Just try to stay connected to what gives you energy and makes you feel satisfied at the end of the day.