Samantha McBirney

Photo of Samantha McBirney
Associate Engineer
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, University of Southern Calif; M.S. in biomedical engineering, University of Southern Calif; B.S. in bioengineering, UC Berkeley


Samantha McBirney is an engineer at RAND with a background in biomedical applications, emerging technologies, and laser physics. At RAND, her work has focused on medical readiness, medical logistics, emerging technologies (and how they're used by near-peer adversaries), pharmaceutical supply chains, and international drug policy, with interests reaching into national security, biotechnology, and public health. McBirney received her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, and her doctoral research focused primarily on two topics – studying blast-induced neurotrauma in soldiers as the result of a blast while also designing, building, and validating a non-invasive optical malaria diagnostic. Her work on the malaria diagnostic was highlighted by NPR’s All Things Considered with both her and her Ph.D. advisor making appearances on air, as well as by the MIT Technology Review which listed it as one of the top ten low-tech inventions that changed the world in 2018. McBirney received her B.S. in bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Selected Publications

S.E. McBirney, D. Chen, A. Scholtz, H. Ameri, A.M. Armani, "Rapid Diagnostic for Point-of-Care Malaria Screening," ACS Sensors, 3(7), 2018

S.E. McBirney, K. Trinh, A. Wong-Beringer, A.M. Armani, "Wavelength-normalized spectroscopic analysis of Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa growth rates," Biomedical Optics Express, 7(10), 2016


  • Laura Ng, who has lupus and had to recently call at least five pharmacies before she could find a place to fill her hydroxychloroquine prescription, in Seattle, Washington, March 31, 2020, photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

    The Unintended Consequences of a Proposed Cure for COVID-19

    The very discussion of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as therapeutic options against COVID-19 has decreased their availability for proven treatments, exacerbated global shortages, fueled a rampant counterfeit drug market in Africa, and worsened trade tensions. What can be done to deal with these unintended consequences?

    Apr 29, 2020 The Hill