Patek received her A.B. with honors in Biology from Harvard University followed by a Ph.D. in Biology from Duke University. She was then awarded a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Berkeley. She has received several honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the George A. Bartholomew Award for distinguished contributions to comparative physiology, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a NSF CAREER award, and the Brilliant 10 award from Popular Science magazine. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Hellman Family Foundation, Armstrong Fund for Science, Department of Defense, and others. She serves as Monitoring Editor for the Journal of Experimental Biology and Associate Editor for the journal Evolution. She is Director of the Physical Biology of Organisms consortium as well as for the program Matching Undergraduates to Science and Engineering Research (MUSER). Patek is Chair of the Biomechanics Division at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. She currently leads a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) funded by the Army Research Office. In addition to training scientists in the Patek Lab, she also teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in animal physiology, biomechanics, introductory biology, invertebrate biology and comparative analysis. Patek has run a Research Experience for Teachers program in her lab for five years; with NSF-funded summer fellowships, teachers perform research and integrate their research experience in their curriculum development. The Patek Lab involves high school students and undergraduate summer researchers from around the country through fellowship programs, such as the Army Educational Outreach Program. Patek regularly presents her research internationally, through both academic and public lectureships - including a mainstage TED talk. The lab's research has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including the New York Times, National Public Radio (NPR), Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC), British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), National Geographic and others.