7/28/15 newsletter

Hello Grad Community!


In this email:
(1) We want your opinion! FY16 Grad Community Needs Survey
(2) Get involved! Join a SWE Committee
(3) Grad member spotlight: Mary Phillips Dournaee
(4) Connect with us!


(1) FY16 Community survey
In an effort to cater to the needs of Grad Community members we created a survey: https://goo.gl/N0eZmL


Please take a few minutes to fill out this short survey and let us know what you would like the Grad Community leadership to focus on for FY16. Questions include participation in a Google Hangout introduction to the Community, what types of webinars you would like to see, as well as an opportunity for you to tell us what you would like to see in FY16.


(2) Join a Committee!
It’s not too late to join a committee for FY16. This is a great way to get involved at a Society-level. Many committees would absolutely love to have graduate student participation!

List of committees/descriptions: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/images/about_swe/FY16_Committee_Descriptions.pdf

Volunteer: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/?sm=lmtzXBy4mKmcs%2b9yGcBeGXWfpqftDB9avZshKz7P5J0%3d


(3) Grad Member Spotlight: Mary Phillips Dournaee
Mary has done some amazing things for STEM outreach. Check out her spotlight on the blog: https://swegrad.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/grad-member-spotlight-mary-phillips-dournaee/


(4) Connect with us!


As always, please let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns!


MS vs. PhD: Which should I choose?

The short answer is: whichever you think is best for you.

I know, that’s a cop-out answer. But, in truth, choosing whether to leave with an MS or continue on for the PhD is such a personal decision that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In an effort to help people think about both sides and make their informed decision, here’s a Pro-Con chart (modified from a WE12 presentation I co-presented) and some things to think about.

Master’s Ph.D.

  • Geared toward a career in industry in technical areas or management.
  • More $$ than earned by a Bachelor’s
  • More competitive resume; range of job opportunities.
  • Allows higher level entry than with BS.
  • Required for some positions.
  • Interested in research but don’t want to commit to PhD.
  • Usually only 1.5-2 years full-time.



  • Geared toward a career in research, think tanks, highly technical areas in industry, or consulting.
  • Often more $$ than MS or BS.
  • Overall curiosity and desire to learn.
  • Required for some positions (primarily R&D, academia).
  • More funding opportunities.
  • Love for the research.
  • You get to call yourself Dr. at the end.
  • Skill set gained is beyond just the specific research project, e.g. deep research, writing (grant and technical), mentoring (if you worked with undergrads), time and project management, etc.

  • Little funding for those who are only interested in Masters.
  • Usually only focused on coursework and minimal research.
  • Non-research skill set not as transferable as with PhD.

  • Exhausting, longer commitment than MS. Usually 5-7 years total (full-time).
  • Qualifying exams are scary.
  • If you don’t have a fellowship, you have to do research for another professor or teach. These things often interfere with making progress on your own research (and therefore graduation).
  • Sometimes companies pigeon-hole you into your research area. I suggest looking at R&D places, National labs, Federally Funded R&D Centers (FFRDCs) aka Think Tanks, and government. These places will put a premium on the PhD degree and the experience you obtained by getting it as well as allow you to work in as many areas as interest you.


Keep in mind, too, that some degree programs only offer certain paths. That is, some programs only offer PhDs, with no option for an MS along the way. Other programs don’t even offer PhDs. Make sure to research your program, or even similar programs not in your specific discipline, so that you know your options.

Think about your own situation: do you have a significant other or children? Do you really enjoy the city in which you’re going to grad school? These things often are the biggest influences in the MS/PhD decision.

For me, I had entered graduate school thinking I would get the MS and leave, heading to industry. When at my internships, I had seen a lot of Managers with MS degrees in positions I aspired to. This was my primary motivation. Once in graduate school, I fell in love — with my research, my lab, my now-husband, and my city – Austin. Complete with an amazing advisor and support system of friends, family, and SWE, I decided that a PhD would be no big deal. Additionally, I had another amazing internship which showed me the value of obtaining a PhD for the career I wanted. My primary motivations were: the career I wanted, my support system was intact, and I loved my research.

Overall, I think my biggest piece of advice is to have an idea of what you want to do after graduation. Take a look at the education level of the people holding positions you aspire to. What degree do a majority of these people hold? This can help you figure out what the company/position values. The PhD is a huge investment of a lot of time and energy. The biggest question of all is: will it get you where you want to go?


What are people’s thoughts? Are there pros/cons that I forgot to include?


Grad Member Spotlight: Mary Phillips Dournaee

15 July 2015

Mary Phillips Dournaee, M.S. Computer Science


Mary has taken all her experience as an engineer, computer scientist, math and physics teacher and developed a wonderful STEM resource called NewMathTeacher.net. This website is a one spot stop for engaging and effective math/science curriculum including lessons, activities, games, and additional resources in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education.

This whole process of creating an informative math teacher website, hosting it online, and providing relevant STEM education activities and research via blog and online media has also broadened Mary’s experience of how we use math and science in the real world. She’s currently looking for more ways to connect junior and high school girls to SWE and other STEM career opportunities.

Are you currently enrolled in a graduate program? If so, what is your degree program and research?

Just this year, I graduated from the University of Illinois (Springfield) program for computer science (master’s degree).  I had a great mentor, Dr. Mims, who helped me choose programming, technology, and design classes that linked computer science with educational applications.  For one of my UIS classes, I designed and implemented a simple adaptive pre-algebra diagnostic test that I was able to use in my classroom at the time.  In another, I created a handy user interface for helping my students graph multiple functions at a time to find intercepts.  It’s so energizing to link my passions: technology, math, and education.

You have done some great things for STEM education, can you tell us a little more about that? 

One program that really inspired me was the Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo amazing program called the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program (STAR).  It’s a summer program where teachers become scientists and do their own research project.  I did mine at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies.  My research was on the San Francisco bay possible, measurable climate changes and the affects on indigenous and invasive species.  So exciting!  I brought that experience back to the classroom and have my students do similar research projects.  One example is on my website at http://newmathteacher.net/stem-research-articles.html.

Why did you decide to start this? What is your background?

Originally, I received my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Cal Poly, SLO.  While there, I worked as a calculus tutor.  I loved working with small groups of students and helping them learn using different styles and strategies.  After college, I worked for a few years as a mechanical designer and energy engineer before deciding to move into math education.  I missed working with students on challenging math problems and watching as the spark of knowledge in them began to develop.

Anyway, I went back to school for my math and physics credentials as well as a math education master’s degree.  I now teach and tutor both junior and high school math students.  I love to use manipulatives and project-based learning to help students connect math to the real world.  While teaching, I’ve also completed my master’s in computer science (as mentioned above).

Now, I’m mostly tutoring and occasionally subbing in the local San Mateo school district while I develop my NewMathTeacher.Net website (and care for my super high energy 3 year old son who also loves math, by the way :-) ).  In a way, the website is a culmination of my own learning opportunities.  It’s so rewarding to have the opportunity to develop it.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Looking forward, I would love to get involved with some of the extraordinary online learning programs and online educational systems currently available.  Knowing first hand how exhaustively rewarding teaching is, I’d love the chance to help other teachers manage their curriculum and grading so that they can focus on the most important thing: the students and our future.


Be part of the WE15 Collegiate Leadership Institute!

The Collegiate Leadership Institute is a great way to gain important professional development and leadership skills while at the Annual Conference. Note that this opportunity is only for collegiate SWE members!

Applications are due August 10th!

WE15 Collegiate Leadership Institute

October 22-24th

We would like to invite any interested collegiate members to apply for the Collegiate Leadership Institute which will be hosted at the WE15 Annual Conference in Nashville, October 22 – 24th . The Institute will span three days and each day will consist of 2 to 3 highly interactive sessions. All of the speakers and facilitators selected for the Institute are noted experts in the area of leadership and career development.

This year’s keynote presenter will be Erica Dhawan. Erica is the Founder & CEO of Cotential, a global consultancy that accelerates the connectedness of employees teams, customers and clients. She is the co-author of the book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. Erica speaks on global stages ranging from the World Economic Forum at Davos to companies such as FedEx, PepsiCo, and McGraw Hill Financial.

A tentative agenda for this Institute is as follows:

Thursday Oct 22nd

10:15am-12:15pm Alaina Levine Mentor-Protégé Relationship and Speed Networking Coffee Hour

Friday, October 23rd 8am – 12pm

8am – 9:15am Keynote – Erica Dhawan, Get Big Things Done

9:30-10:45am Selena Rezvani, Negotiating with Confidence for Collegiates

11:00-12:15pm Cecilia Rose, Navigating Campus to Career: Starting Your Career On the Right Foot

Saturday, October 24th 9am – 12pm

9am – 10:15am Jo Miller, Launch Your Career on the Leadership Track

10:30am – 12pm Catherine Kaputa, From University to Career: Successfully Launching Brand You

Participant Criteria:

  • The workshop is designed for collegiates who aspire to be leaders in engineering and technology
  • Active collegiate members of the Society
  • Exhibit strong leadership potential
  • Aspire to take on leadership and executive roles within their career
  • Aspire to be a catalyst for change in the world
  • Intellectually curious
  • Plan to participate in the entire 3 days of the Institute

Space is limited to 60 attendees, so we can only accommodate up to three women from a given university. This is a free opportunity for you so don’t hesitate to apply.

A modest stipend will be distributed at conference to CLI attendees.

As an added benefit, CLI participants get first priority to schedule career counseling appointments.

Click here to apply to attend the workshop. Please complete the participant application by August 10th.

All accepted applicants will be notified and receive further details regarding the curriculum by early September.

Please contact learning@swe.org if you have questions about the workshop.

Good Morning Grad Community!

My name is Allie Anderson and I am so excited to be serving as the social media coordinator this year! As my first post, I would like to share an article about women in science that was brought to my attention a few months ago. I found it to be an interesting read.


Welcome to FY16!

Hello SWE Graduate Community!

Warning: For those who receive the emails, this is repeat information from the email! If you do not receive the emails, please sign up to receive them by filling out a short Google form here: http://tinyurl.com/mbrd429

Happy July, and welcome to FY16! I am honored to be the Graduate Member Coordinator for this year, and my primary goal is to connect more with our existing graduate member base (you all!) as well as to attract more graduate students to the Grad Community and SWE as a whole.

If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do feel free to contact me at grad-coordinator@swe.org or Liz at grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org.

We wanted to share some updates with you to start off the year. I hope to send regular email updates at least once a month with upcoming events relevant to graduate students and updates from the Grad Community. Be sure to follow the Facebook page and blog for up-to-date information!

Blog: https://swegrad.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/swegrad/

In this email:
(1) FY16 Grad Leadership Team
(2) Grad Member Spotlight: Himani Agrawal
(3) Two new FY16 features: Grad Member Spotlight and Ask Grad SWE a Question!

(1) FY16 Grad Leadership Team
Congratulations to our wonderful FY16 Grad Community Leadership team! I am excited to work with each and every one of them to accomplish great things this year!
Liz Dreyer – Grad Member Coordinator Elect
Richelle Thomas – WE15 Grad Programming Coordinator
Rachel Unruh – WE15 Grad Programming Coordinator Elect
Meisha Berg – Regional Conference Coordinator
Judy Amanor-Boadu – Webinar Coordinator
Allie Anderson – Social Media Coordinator

Read a bit more about each of us on the Leadership page of the Blog: https://swegrad.wordpress.com/grad-leadership/

(2) Grad Member Spotlight: Himani Agrawal
Congratulations to Himani Agrawal, our June Grad Member Spotlight! Read more about all she has accomplished as well as some fun things about her on the SWE Grad Blog:

(3) Two new features for FY16: Grad Spotlight and Ask Grad SWE a Question!
The Spotlight is meant to highlight the great work being done by members or Grad Groups of the Graduate Community. To nominate someone (or yourself) for this recognition, please fill out this quick Google Form:

Ask Grad SWE A Question! Is meant to provide a forum for people to ask questions to the entire Graduate Community, anonymity is an option. The question is then posed on the Facebook page for the Community to provide feedback. The first (and most recent) question was in regards to WE15 travel. To ask a question, please fill out this quick Google Form:

Thank you for reading! As always, please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

Grad member spotlight: Himani Agrawal

29 June 2015

Himani Agrawal


PhD Student, Expected graduation Spring 2017

Mechanical Engineering, University of Houston

Himani was recently selected for the Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship, a prestigious $50,000 per year fellowship awarded to women PhD students from developing countries. You can read more about it here:



What is your research?

In the summers right now, I am doing internship at Microsoft Research Redmond. My research interests are Computational Biology and Statistical Mechanics. My research project is “HIV induced membrane softening”. Please visit my research blog: hagrawal.me.uh.edu.


What do you plan to do after graduation?

I am very interested in becoming faculty after doing a Post Doc.


What are some of your hobbies?

I am very fond of singing and taking Indian Classical Voice Lessons presently. This Fall, I also plan to enroll at the Moore School of Music at UH for Opera Voice Lessons.


What’s a fun fact about you?

I am also very fond of travelling. In fact I am travelling to Germany tomorrow to take part in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting where I will get to meet and interact with 70 Nobel Laureates and also go on a boat trip with them. Apart from that I am invited by the State of Baden-Wurttemberg to explore the German Southwest for a week which include to several universities, labs, German Black-forest and many more exciting places!!!