Sarah Heymer grew up on a farm near Willmar, Minnesota. She credits her farm background for her common sense and practical skills, but she credits her high school physics teacher, Jim Aagesen, for her love of science: "He said that the science community needed intelligent women like me and that I could someday encourage other young women to enter scientific fields."
She entered the University of Minnesota, Morris without a particular major in mind but knew it would have to involve science. After the second quarter, Sarah determined, with the help of her faculty advisor, that she was interested in computer science. She was also fortunate enough to have had a female faculty mentor in a department of only five. As a junior, Sarah worked as a research assistant where she helped write a paper on computational geometry.
During her undergraduate years, Sarah also participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program that took her to Utah State University to study parallelism and genetic algorithms. According to Sarah, "This opportunity taught me about new, complex ideas in computer science and about living in another area of the United States."
Also at the University of Minnesota, Morris, Sarah helped found a Women in Computer Science organization, which is still active and has the goal of encouraging women to continue studying computer science. Sarah says, "Some women used to change to another field after the first couple of courses due to a lack of role models or people to inspire them to continue. By reaching out to younger students, we are encouraging them to stay with the program."
Sarah completed her bachelor's degree with a major in computer science and minors in mathematics and Spanish in June of 1994. She comments, "I have always thought that it is important for everyone to learn about different cultures." To continue this learning process, she has traveled through Spain and Mexico.
The summer after graduation, she worked as an intern at Rice Memorial Hospital where she computerized operations in two clinical departments while being introduced to the complex world of health care. Sarah has also pursued other interests, including playing varsity volleyball and coaching a Junior Olympic volleyball team. According to Sarah, "Coaching is another way to encourage young women to challenge themselves and strive toward success."
Sarah is now attending graduate school in computer science at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She is considering thesis work in artificial intelligence, with applications in agriculture and health care.