You’re more valuable than you think – and GradSWE needs you!

I’ve seen several colleagues go through their graduate career and get to the ‘mid-life crisis’ point. You may be familiar with it: frustration at experiments or advisors, trouble finding a job, proposals get rejected, wondering if you made the right decision entering grad school in the first place. The good news is, that phase is a common symptom of people who are nearing the completion of grad school, if they resolve to be finished and move on to bigger and better things.

It’s at this point that many people seek mentors. And GradSWE can help with that, connecting you to people who can offer encouragement, share their journeys in your particular field, be a sounding board for you next steps, and serve as role models in a career path you may be interested in.

But what you may not realize is that there are many grad students and undergrads in GradSWE who would love to talk to someone like you too, for the exact same reasons you may be interested in a mentor yourself! Your experiences presenting at lab meetings and conferences, drafting articles on your research, working in industry, figuring out which experiment to run next and how, juggling lab and classes and life, learning about potential career paths in your field, and many, many other things you’ve accomplished even in your first few years are nuggets of gold to those aspiring to follow in your footsteps. If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? What do you wish you knew? You already have all you need to make a very real difference in someone’s life. And what’s more, you might just learn something yourself, gain a great connection or friendship, and develop the marketable skills of training and developing others.

So if you’re interested in getting connected and sharing the love, we’d love to have you as part of GradSWE’s mentoring program! To learn more about it, visit or email the Mentoring Team at To become a mentor, simply fill out the form with a few details on your experiences ( ). If you’re a grad student interested in getting connected to a mentor yourself, you can enroll through this link: . And remember, you’re more valuable than you think, and we’d love to have you as a mentor!


Angelica Payne

GradSWE Mentoring Co-Coordinator 2018


Graduate Member Spotlight: Chima Chukwuemeka

Graduate Member Spotlight

Chima Chukwuemeka


Chemical Engineering


Tennessee Technological University


Chima has been a committed member of SWE since 2014. His contributions have included undergraduate student mentorship, volunteering, and advocating for more youth minority women to engage in STEM education.  


Chima’s work has been recognized with the NSBE Golden Torch Award for Graduate Student of the Year for 2017-2018. This award recognizes excellence among graduate students and is an incredibly high honor. He also received the Graduate Minority Research Award and Graduate Teaching awards from Tennessee Technological University.


Thesis Topic: Comestible Herbs in Wound Management: Effects of Allium sativum, Asparagus officinalis, and Pinus strobus Extracts on Staphylococcus epidermidis.


Effective wound management is one of the key ways to minimize complications and infections in wounds. The rise in antimicrobial resistance, in addition to recent reports of nosocomial infections and the impacts of synthetic antibiotics on aquatic environments, present additional challenges to wound management. Generally, repairing any damaged tissue involves a series of complex, imbricating physiological processes that can be disrupted by many local and systemic factors, such as infection. Infections usually cause wound chronicity as well as prolonged inflammatory phase, and may contribute to other sequelae of events that would result to the formation of abnormal scars, such as keloids. Chima’s work evaluates the effects of crude aqueous and ethanolic extracts from garlic (Allium sativum) cloves, garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) stems, and white pine (Pinus strobus) on Staphylococcus epidermidis for inhibitory properties. Her results are expected to present a potential opportunity to explore herbal extracts for the development of antibiotics and/or antiseptics, thereby helping to address the burden of antibiotic resistance and the rising cost of wound management.


Chima’s career goals are to advance his contributions to the engineering field in both industry and academia with special focus in creating value that promote sustainable livelihood.


Outside of lab, Chima enjoys playing soccer, scrabble, and chess. He also enjoys cycling and traveling.


Fun Fact about Chima: Nigeria, Chima’s motherland, has over 500 spoken languages!




Graduate Student Mental Health

Have you been feeling severe anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, problems falling asleep or even trouble concentrating? With the end of the semester looming, not to mention the fall chill in the air for some of us, some of you may be finding it harder to part with the warmth of your bed and begin your day. While these symptoms may be common to you as you prepare for finals and term papers, it is important to take note if these symptoms become a part of your daily lifestyle—and how to seek help.

It is normal to experience times of anxiety and stress throughout your life, but daily symptoms such as those described above could be indicative of a mental illness. A mental illness can be any type of mental health disorder that affects a person’s mood, thoughts, and behavior. If you feel you have experienced any of these symptoms on a daily basis, you are not alone. In fact, a large number of college students (1 in 4 students) have a diagnosable mental illness. Mental illnesses that are most likely to affect college students include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Additionally, studies report that graduate students in particular are six times more likely to experience depression or anxiety over the course of their graduate studies. In these studies, approximately 40% of graduate students surveyed were categorized as having anxiety and/or moderate to severe depression, with higher rates for women in both categories. There are several reasons that may contribute to higher risks of anxiety and/or depression for graduate students, including the isolated nature of graduate level work, feelings of inadequacy or “impostor syndrome,” little to no support from advisers, or worries about post-graduation employment.

Many of you may be thinking, “Who hasn’t experienced these thoughts and feelings in graduate school? Isn’t this normal?” From personal experience, I’d agree and certainly relate to many of these feelings. However, it is important to realize when these symptoms begin to affect your daily life. Having problems falling asleep night after night can have long-term effects on your ability to complete daily tasks. Noticing patterns such as these is key to realizing there may be an underlying reason for these behaviors and motivating you to seek help.

Fortunately, there are several science-backed activities/treatments that can help alleviate mental illness symptoms and even reduce your risk of developing a mental illness. One of the most recommended treatments for depression is exercise. Aerobic exercise has been shown to treat mild depression through the release of endorphins that can improve your mood. Other treatments include cognitive and behavioral therapies that target thinking and behavioral patterns towards positive thoughts and more involvement in activities you enjoy. Treatments for anxiety (and depression as well) include stress and relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture. Treatments for these and other mental illnesses also include medications that can be prescribed by a doctor.

To conclude, it’s important to educate yourself and others about mental illness and its symptoms, and, even more important, to remember that mental illness is a real challenge that affects people and is nothing to be ashamed of. Do not be afraid to reach out to friends and loved ones or schedule an appointment with a doctor at any time to discuss mental health. Remember to keep an eye on your fellow graduate students during this stressful time as well, and extend a hand of kindness if you think someone may be going through a tough time.

I wish everyone happiness and peace as we approach the holidays, as well as a successful end to the semester!

Travel Grants to attend your WE Local!

WE Local Baltimore

WE Local is pleased to announce travel grants are available to attend WE Local Baltimore February 8-9, 2019. Applications for travel grants should be submitted by November 16, 2018. Travel grant benefits for FY19 include discounted registration and a WE Local awards banquet ticket. Professional or collegiate members are eligible to apply.

WE Local Baltimore will be an energetic conference rich with opportunities for networking, professional development, career advancement, comradery and recognition. We hope to see you at this exciting event! For consideration of assistance by means of a travel grant, click here.

WE Local Tampa

WE Local is pleased to announce travel grants are available to attend WE Local Tampa February 15-16, 2019. Applications for travel grants should be submitted by November 16, 2018. Travel grant benefits for FY19 include discounted registration and a WE Local awards banquet ticket. Professional or collegiate members are eligible to apply.

WE Local Tampa will be an energetic conference rich with opportunities for networking, professional development, career advancement, comradery and recognition. We hope to see you at this exciting event! For consideration of assistance by means of a travel grant, click here.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Kritika Iyer

Kritika Iyer
Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan


Kritika Iyer has been a member of SWE since her undergrad at UCLA, where she held various officer positions, including Publicity Chair, Outreach Chair, and Internal Vice President. Her proudest achievement during that time was initiating the Women in Engineering Stayover Program (WESP) for potential incoming freshmen. The goal of WESP is to show incoming women engineers that they can have a safe, supportive, and fun community in UCLA engineering. The program has continued to grow and has led to an increased percentage of women enrolling in UCLA engineering! Since starting grad school at the University of Michigan she has continued to be an active member. She is a member of the Outreach Planning Committee, mainly participating in elementary school outreach, and she is also involved in mentoring undergraduate SWE students.

She has been recognized as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Rackham Merit Fellow, and a Michigan Institute of Computational Discovery and Engineering Fellow. If you were at WE18, maybe you saw her presentation as a SWE Rapid Fire Finalist, where she ended up winning 3rd place! Congratulations Kritika!


Kritika at the WE18 Rapid Fire Competition

Thesis Topic: Non-invasive Diagnostics of Coronary Artery Disease using Computational Fluid Dynamics and Machine Learning

After graduation she plans to work in industry, using machine learning and computational modeling to improve healthcare.

Kritika enjoys dance/choreography and reading. She also enjoys crocheting winter gear to get through the frigid Michigan winters!

Fun Fact about Kritika: She is trilingual when she mumbles in her sleep!

GradSWE Journeys in Leadership: Part 1

By Cecilia Klauber, FY19 Grad Member Coordinator Elect

When looking at an organization as large as SWE, it can be hard to understand all the opportunities and how to leverage them to achieve your leadership and service goals. The purpose of the GradSWE: Journeys in Leadership series is to de-mystify just a few of the leadership pathways in SWE. Join me over the next few weeks as I blog about section and society-level options you can pursue now or aspire to in your SWE future!

Hopefully you’ll be inspired to explore your options and to ask your peers, mentors, and the GradSWE community what paths they took and opportunities they know of!

My SWE Journey


I love catching up with Baylor alums at annual conference!

I first joined SWE as a freshman at Baylor University. I had just moved two time zones away from my friends and family, and SWE was one of a few engineering student organizations that helped me find community, as well as study groups and professional development opportunities. I was an officer in the section my junior year, but I wasn’t sure what extracurriculars I would have time for as a graduate student.

GradSWE at Illinois and I had a slow start, but when I started volunteering for their weSTEM Conference and helping plan social events, I was hooked. Before I knew it, I had a committee position, friends in STEM departments across campus, and a support group for the days when grad school was especially rough. Throughout my time in various positions on the GradSWE at Illinois Committee I was able to improve my communication and strategic thinking skills and when I led the GradSWE group in FY17, I especially honed my conflict resolution and people management skills. My involvement with GradSWE at Illinois was one of the best things about my time in Illinois and I am so thankful to have the close friends and leadership experience I gained.


The weSTEM 2016 committee at Illinois.

As I transitioned to Texas A&M this year, I knew I wanted to continue to stay connected to SWE as I finished school and began a career, but all I really knew was how to be involved at the collegiate section level and a little bit of understanding of the now defunct Region structure. I wasn’t even 100% sure about the structure of the GradSWE Leadership Team and how it fit into the organization as a whole when I was interviewing for my current position!

Now here I am as FY19 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect and I am constantly amazed that I get to work with such amazing people from across the country who are passionate about SWE’s mission! Working at the society level has been eye-opening and challenging, but so worth it. As I work with people remotely or meet them at annual conference and hear about how they have exercised leadership within the organization, it gets me excited about what my SWE future could hold. After I graduate, I think I would like to try joining a different committee and I hope to be in an area with a strong professional section that I can participate it.

What path will you take?

There are so many ways to get involved in SWE and there is no one right path to success within the organization. I hope you can take a moment to reflect on your experiences with SWE and dream about how SWE might help you develop and grow as a leader!image3

I look forward to sharing more insights about potential leadership pathways for you to explore in SWE in the coming weeks. If you have any particular questions or particular perspectives you would like to hear from regarding future leadership opportunities, please comment, or email me directly at


Increase networking in your organizations & colleges easy coffee hours!

Increase networking in your organizations & colleges with easy coffee hours!


As graduate students, we are confined mainly to our departments, interacting primarily with those students in our labs and cohorts. While this allows us to build deep bonds with our current and future colleagues, our network can easily remain small. For part time and professional students, the network can be even smaller. Unlike the undergraduate culture, our work styles are not conducive  to frequent opportunities to meet and interact with other students. Club participation and student group activities often don’t feel relevant to graduate students.

But you don’t need to stay in your lab bubble! One particularly interesting talk at WE18, given by Marlo Abramowitz of HDR, introduced a new model for easy networking. Marlo created a randomized coffee hour to encourage employees at her company to create more internal connections. All employees interested in participating in this networking program signed up through a link. Marlo then randomly assigned the participants in pairs. The pair was emailed and asked to set up their coffee meeting. This coffee hour is an easy way to network and build connections with both people you already know as well as those in other departments. In companies and organizations, the pairs could be lateral matches as well as matches containing people at different levels which could lead to potential mentor pairs. Marlo decided to set up these meetings approximately once a month, for a total of 8 months a year (no meetings during holiday and summer months).

Interested in meeting more graduate students at your university? Try setting up a similar program and let us know how it goes!

Towards a Gender Expansive Engineering – Part One, What’s the Gender Binary?

By Andrea Haverkamp & Rachel Tenney

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at We look forward to working with you!


Gender in engineering is an important and much-discussed topic. This might be why you are reading this blog. Organizations such as Society of Women Engineers (SWE) exist specifically due to the underrepresentation and marginalization of women in engineering. However, gender is much more broad than just a simple two-category dichotomy of men and women. We would like to be sure that in our efforts to increase gender inclusion and gender diversity in engineering that we are paying attention to those different from us – women with complicated relationships to gender and nonbinary (third-gender category or otherwise not men/women identified) engineers.This is why SWE is welcoming not only to those who identify as a woman, but to everyone on the gender spectrum – including male allies. This is why we find this to be an important topic to our inclusivity in GradSWE.

The trouble with centering a gender binary

“Hi ladies!” “Hey girls.” “What a wonderful woman.” “An accomplished woman.” “She’s not only a mom, she’s an engineer.” “As women, how do we do engineering?” “Women in engineering bring unique skills.” “We need to hire more women.”

Did you know that many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community identify as a third gender option, or even construct their identity outside of the gender system all together? Nonbinary is defined by the National Center for Transgender Equality  in an article titled Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive:

Most people – including most transgender people – are either male or female. But some people don’t neatly fit into the categories of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don’t identify with any gender. Some people’s gender changes over time.

People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.

Developing an inclusive culture around gender in engineering means we may need to move beyond just advocating for women. As women, we understand what it is like to be underrepresented and undervalued. Nonbinary individuals in engineering perhaps experience a sharper brunt of gender discrimination. As women, we are aware of sexism in society that often permeates its way into the workplace and classroom. Anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans sentiments can also exist alongside sexism – and a specific form of sexism, known as cis-hetero-sexism, combines all three together into what can become a chilly climate for transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming engineers.

Studies show that engineering may be the chilliest climate out of the STEM disciplines for LGBTQ+ engineers, and LGBTQ+ engineering professionals report greater discrimination than other occupations in our federal government.1,2 In particular, we wish to draw attention to “gender binary discourse” that can exist within higher education and engineering.3 Put simply, gender binary discourse is discussion and activism that only recognizes two simple gender options. “Men and Women” or “Ladies and Gentlemen.” Think of the last time you filled out gender in a survey – were there two options? Three? Four? When presented with just two options certain individuals such as nonbinary or gender nonconforming people feel left out and excluded. In our gender activism perhaps it is time to adopt approaches that welcome other gender minorities such as nonbinary or genderfluid engineers alongside other LGBTQ+ or gender nonconforming women.

Want to learn more about what we can do as a community to open up our culture for a broader gender spectrum? Look forward to Part 2 for ideas on how to incorporate these concepts into your organization or daily life.

If you are interested in contributing in any way to GradSWE’s Diversity & Inclusion team (such as assisting in blog posts, brainstorming ideas, sharing ways we can become more inclusive, or developing outreach initiatives) please contact Diversity & Inclusion Liason Andrea Haverkamp at We look forward to working with you!

  1. Z. Nicolazzo, Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2017.
  2. J. Yoder, A. Mattheis, “Queer in STEM: Workplace Experiences Reported in a National Survey of LGBTQA Individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Careers. Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 63, no. 1, 2016.
  3. E. Cech, LGBT Professionals’ Workplace Experiences in STEM-related Federal Agencies. 122ndASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 2015
  4. M. Wittig, “One Is Not Born a Woman.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge. 246-250, 2013.