Engineering an Olympic Opportunity

January 25, 2021

Sarah Thompson

Mizzou Engineer Sarah Thompson after a race at the Mizzou Recreation Complex, home of Mizzou’s swim teams.

Engineering spans into almost every part of one’s daily life. For senior Sarah Thompson, this includes being a student-athlete on the Mizzou swim team. The biological engineering major enjoys learning the science behind being a better swimmer, including biology, fluid mechanics and materials science.

“It’s cool to see the connections of how you can use science to improve the sport,” Thompson said. “I had professors who have studied the materials that make up our suits. Another professor is working on waterproof patches that would measure lactic acid, which would help us maximize our training.”

With these innovations and training 20-plus hours a week, Thompson has a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team planning to go to Tokyo this year. She has already qualified for the USA Swimming trials in June.

“I love swimming. I think it is a way to let out my competitive side,” Thompson said. “It’s been such a blessing to showcase my talent alongside all these incredible athletes these past four years.”

Thompson has been the Southeastern Conference Swimmer of the Week twice – once in 2019 and once in 2020. She also has been part of the 200m and 400m freestyle and medley relay teams this season. And, at the November 2020 Mizzou Invitational, she set the 2nd fastest time in the 50m freestyle in the U.S.

Getting Outdoors

Sarah Thompson at Grand Canyon

Biological engineering student Sarah Thompson at the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Away from the water, Thompson is successful academically. She has made the Dean’s List and has been named a Scholastic All American. Her success in the pool and in her coursework are interrelated.

“Engineering has taught me to manage my stress better and that has carried over into my swimming. It (swimming) provides a really nice way to leave your problems in the locker room,” Thompson said.

After her time at Mizzou, Thompson wants to work outdoors, ideally for the National Park Service or a similar organization.

“They have sustainability engineers for the parks that oversee the goings-on – wastewater, trail maintenance, how people affect the park,” Thompson said. “Basically, I would like to help preserve the parks for the future.”

She credits the biological engineering program in helping her find a path to combine her passions for the outdoors and sustainability.

“I can take classes in soil, natural resources and civil engineering that combine to form this diverse background which has helped me figure out what I enjoy most,” Thompson said. “All the professors and my advisor have been supportive about helping me in career planning.”

Learn more about biomedical, biological and chemical engineering at Mizzou.