First Ever International Day of Women and Girls in Engineering


Today marks the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science!  Check out an article on the celebration here

“According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%. In light of this, the UN announced last year that the first ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science would take place on 11 February 2016, as an opportunity to celebrate women in the field, encourage others to become engaged with science and highlight issues women are facing.”



Finding a Mentor in SWE

There are many types of mentors to find through SWE. As an undergraduate, you can find an upperclassman mentor, or as a soon-to-be graduate you can find a professional mentor. For me, I wanted to connect with powerful women in high leadership, but I found that meeting the accomplished CEO-type mentor to be elusive. How was I supposed to meet her? What would we have in common besides SWE? Now, after eight years in SWE, I’ve found that C-suite mentor. Here, I’ll share my experience to unravel the mystery.

I first met my mentor in Washington, DC when we both attended the SWE Hill Day training session. When she offered up her card, I took one –  as simple as that. Just a few minutes later, I learned she was walking over to the reception too, and I offered to show her the way. I had walked over to our destination the day before and could easily guide us – with the perk of getting more one-on-one time.

Next, the textbook move would have been to follow up within the week. But alas, I’m human and time got away. Instead, about six months after our DC run-in, I saw her at the national SWE conference. I went to her session, and went up to reintroduce myself afterwards. She remembered me (yes!), and I got her updated business card. I told her I wanted her opinion on my job search, and she offered to chat with me sometime. This time I would not miss my opportunity to connect, I marked my calendar and followed up within two weeks. We emailed back and forth, with her sending me encouraging advice.

When I landed a job a few months later, I again reached out. I was professional and thankful for her wise words, which she returned with a friendly congratulations and multiple exclamation marks. And here is how you begin a professional mentor relation. Not someone to call every day, but someone with who you can network, ask questions, and catch up at professional meetings.

There are many amazing women in SWE, it just takes being in the right place with the opportunity to introduce yourself. Sign up for meetings, conferences, and events –  you never know who you might run into!

Role Models for the Next Generation of Females Engineers

Last weekend I volunteered for a SWE outreach event put on by my university chapter where around two hundred high school girls came to campus to learn about what it is like to be an engineer and how to prepare for college.  It got me thinking about my own experiences regarding applying for college, deciding about whether or not to go into engineering, and sticking with engineering in graduate school.  There have been many times in my academic career that I have wanted to quit and thought that I wasn’t as good as my male colleagues, but every time this happened there always seemed to be a figure in my life that encouraged me to continue.  I had read and listened to many different opinions and studies that suggest that improved mentoring to young girls can help get and retain women in the engineering fields.  I wanted to share two interesting sources I have come across regarding the women in engineering and the importance of role models for women in engineering.

I recently listened to a Podcast called Stuff Mom Never Told You about women in engineering.  Its a really good listen and if you are interested click here for full Podcast.  The Podcast has some interesting statistics and stories about women in engineering and why it is important to have both a male and female preceptive in the engineering industry.  They also talk about the importance of role models for young women interested in engineering and how many women aren’t exposed to the various engineering disciplines until they reach college.  They referenced an interesting study that found that more female than the male engineering students were directly influenced by seeing other engineers and that many women studying also had engineers in their families.

The second source I want to share is a TedTalk by Debbie Sterling, the creator of GoldieBlox.  It is an awesome TedTalk so check it out below!  If you don’t know about GoldieBlox, they are toys for young girls to help them get interested in building and engineering.  Here is what the GoldieBox website has to say about role models.  “What we believe is so important in this space are role models — characters that are cool, interesting, smart, and relatable. We’re so glad to have organizations like Techbridge, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and the Society of Women Engineers for their work in providing role models and support for women in STEM. We hope that Goldie and her friends provide a vital way to see all the different things that girls can be, and are inspiring examples for girls and boys alike.”

I encourage you to think back about the role models who have influenced your engineering path and remember that we are now the role models for the next generation of young girls.

Newsletter – 9 February 2016

Hello Grad Community!

In this newsletter:

  1. Upcoming webinar: Economist’s Perspective on Staying Motivated in Grad School
  2. Apply for a SWE Scholarship!
  3. Upcoming Region Conferences!
  4. Grad Community Spotlights
  5. Blog Basics: Calendar page
  6. Nominate yourself or request to be nominated for SWE Individual Awards!

(1) Upcoming webinar: Economist’s Perspective on Staying Motivated in Grad School

An Economist’s Perspective on Staying Motivated in Grad School

Thursday, February 18th, 2016 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm (EDT)

About the Webinar:

Going to grad school costs you anywhere from two years to six years, depending on your program.  If we assume that you will make a minimum of $50K per annum, plus 35% fringe and 5%-10% seniority advantage per year, those years in school begin to get very expensive quickly.  But there is more to graduate education than cash and that is what staying motivated in grad school is all about.  Developing the right attitude to stay motivated to accomplish a lot during your time as a grad student besides just coursework is very important to not only addressing the pecuniary gaps that emerge with time away at school but create a cache of non-pecuniary benefits that put head and shoulders above your competition.  In this lively and humorous webinar, we will discuss some specific steps to ensure you are motivated and stay motivated throughout your grad school experience.  We will discuss the importance of developing a philosophy of life to guide your graduate studies, the criticality of fostering a passion for pursuing what you are passionate about and to use results as the driving forces for your motivation.

Presenter: Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu

Register for this Webinar


(2) Apply for a SWE Scholarship – Deadline February 15th!

Many grad students are not aware that they are eligible for SWE scholarships, but you are! Speaking from experience, it is a great way to help pay for attending conferences, cover living expenses, buy books and school supplies, etc. But hurry, the application is due February 15th!

Check out this All-Together article for more information on eligibilty and how to apply:

(3) Upcoming Region Conferences

Region Conferences season has begun! Many conferences have poster competitions, sessions, and other events for graduate students. Check out the blog article for more details and make sure to submit your poster abstract for the competition! It’s a great way to get practice explaining your research!

(4) Grad Community Spotlights

Did you see the most recent Spotlights?

Texas A&M Grad SWE (25 Jan 2016):

Denise Freeman (8 Feb 2016):

Do you know someone (or yourself) or a Grad Group who deserves recognition? Submit their name here:

(5) Blog Basics: Calendar page

Ever wonder what’s coming up in the Grad Community? Check out our Calendar page of the Blog and even add the calendar to your personal calendar to keep track of upcoming events. Right now, it’s all about Region Conferences!

(6) SWE Individual Awards nominations now open!

It’s always nice to be recognized for the work you’ve done to promote SWE and the SWE cause. Have you considered nominating yourself for a SWE Individual Award? Find information on the awards, eligibility, and deadlines on

As added incentive, if you are chosen for an individual award you receive complimentary WE16 conference registration, a travel stipend, AND an awards banquet ticket (for Outstanding Collegiate Member this is for Celebrate SWE!)!

Not wanting to nominate yourself? Contact myself ( or Liz ( and we will nominate you.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at!

Grad Member Spotlight: Denise Freeman

8 February 2015



Denise Freeman

PhD Student, Materials Science and Engineering, Expected graduation 2019

Michigan Tech


Denise has worked alongside Ericka Sheeran to start-up GradSWE at Michigan Tech, and has served as the co-director for the committee. They have held webinar viewings, study groups, and outreach events on campus. In the future, they are looking forward to starting writing groups and sponsoring professional development workshops. Congratulations, Denise, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

What is your degree program (MS/PhD, department)? When do you expect to graduate?

PhD in Materials Science and Engineering
someday…hopefully by 2019
Give a brief explanation of your research.

Aircraft construction increasingly consists of materials constructed with epoxy resins. Despite the many advantageous properties of these resins, the exposure of aircraft to extreme temperature and pressure conditions over time leads to degradation and hence compromised performance. The thermo-physical and mechanical properties of these resins are currently predicted with Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations; however, the simulations are only as accurate as the inter-atomic potential, or guidelines, employed. My focus is on the parameterization of the Reax Force Field (ReaxFF) potential through the use of ab initio Density Functional Theory (DFT) simulations.


What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?

I aspire to become a faculty member at a mid-size university, where I can both teach and continue research-related in the area of computational materials science. I am very passionate about advancing women in STEM, and I will continue to serve as a role model and mentor for other women considering STEM fields.


What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

In the summer, I enjoy gardening and cooking with the veggies and herbs from my backyard/porch gardens. In addition, I enjoy running (I’ve run 4 half marathons) and learning how to cross country ski.


What’s a fun fact about you?

I am sometimes over ambitious in the kitchen, and I have actually cooked squid before. I made a squid stew once…it was actually pretty good. (This was to commemorate learning the acronym “SQUID” in my graduate level Magnetism class…superconducting quantum interference device).

Grad Community fliers

Heading to an event, say Region Conferences? Feel free to print off some Grad Community fliers to hand out to interested parties. See a graduate student? Make sure that they know about the Grad Community!

Feel free to use the flyer below (thanks to Rachel Sheppard!) and help us recruit more grad students into the Grad Community!




Region F Call for Speakers

Hello All,

The Region F conference is right around the corner and the graduate group is in desperate need of speakers. There are several sessions geared towards graduate students including a rapid-fire presentation and a panel on mentor relationships in graduate school. These are great opportunities to get involved the regional conference and build your network. Additionally, many colleges will offer financial assistance to speakers at conferences. If you are interested in learning more about these presentation opportunities, visit  contact Genevieve Kane at

Enjoy Regional Conferences everyone!