Van Vliet earned her Sc.B. in Materials Science & Engineering from Brown University (1998) and her Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering from MIT (2002). At MIT, Van Vliet was a National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellow, was President of the Graduate Materials Council, and won the MRS Gold Medal for her thesis research. Her MIT thesis work with Prof. Subra Suresh established the experimental and computational basis for predicting homogeneous nucleation of dislocations (plasticity carrying defects) in crystalline metals. She then conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Marsha Moses at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she developed new experimental approaches to measure the effects of mechanical strain on cells that comprise blood vessels.
Van Vliet joined the faculty of the MIT Department of Materials Science & Engineering in 2004, and leads the Laboratory for Material Chemomechanics. She also joined the MIT Department of Biological Engineering in 2011. She directed the DMSE Nanomechanical Technology Laboratory (2004-2012), a multiuser research facility that includes training of student and staff researchers with approximately 60 new users each year, and co-directs the MIT Biomedical Engineering Minor Program (2008-present). Van Vliet currently leads the Singapore-MIT Alliance in Research & Technology (SMART) BioSystems & Micromechanics IRG, which includes approximately 175 researchers in Singapore and MIT, including 8 other MIT faculty from several engineering departments and 25 Singapore-based faculty collaborators. This team invents and develops new technology platforms for diagnostics and treatment of cell & tissue disease. Within five years, this team of engineers, biologists, and clinicians has contributed several key breakthroughs and inventions to cell imaging, drug screening, and optical imaging; this includes one start-up company and several devices now involved in international clinical trials.