This blog is moving!

This blog is moving to! Starting tonight, go there to continue reading all the same content you usually see here!

We are consolidating our websites, so in addition to the blog, also has all of our other information such as social media / joining links, leadership team information, and our FAQ!

Reception Sponsor: Autodesk

We are pleased to share that Autodesk will be one of three sponsors of the Grad Student Reception at WE19! We’ve all heard of them, now here’s your chance to speak to their representatives in person!

Reminder: the Grad Student reception will take place on Friday, November 9, from 5-6:30 PM in the Anaheim Marriott in Grand Ballroom E. Mark your conference calendars!

From our sponsor:

Autodesk makes software for people who make things. If you’ve ever driven a high-performance car, admired a towering skyscraper, used a smartphone, or watched a great film, chances are you’ve experienced what millions of Autodesk customers are doing with our software. 

Join Autodesk and help shape the future.  Visit Autodesk’s career site to view open opportunities.  Curious about #AutodeskLife? Check us out on social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!


IMPORTANT: Early bird registration deadline for WE19 is tomorrow, 10/15

This is just a quick reminder that early bird registration for WE19 is tomorrow, October 15. Late and onsite registration will still be available, though at a much higher cost.

Annual conference is the absolute best opportunity for professional development available to female engineers. Do not miss out on this fantastic experience! In addition to the general programming, there will be lots of graduate student-focused content and events. We’ll post more about that closer to conference!

Here is a link to register. Feel free to reach out to the GradSWE Programming team ( if you have any questions/concerns about conference!

Equity and Inclusion as Catalysts for Innovation: A Discussion on Diversity in Academia – Part One

In this series, we’ll discuss how graduate students, postdocs, and early career faculty can promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in an academic setting. Part One focuses on how to serve as an effective mentor and how to plan an inclusive event.

When people think of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, many think of dry presentations, compulsory workshops, and other forms of training with questionable benefit. However, meaningful diversity and inclusivity needn’t be tedious or complex. Research has identified many ways in which those in academia can have a significant impact on their laboratory and broader university culture. Scientific excellence is a result of creativity and collaboration brought about through diversity, the benefits of which are realized through inclusion. These diversity and inclusion efforts benefit scientific research and facilitate intellectual discovery.

This article highlights two areas in which empathy and thoughtfulness can transform ordinary circumstances into uniquely beneficial and inclusive experiences.


One of the most valuable experiences as a graduate student is mentoring undergraduates and even high school or middle school students. In taking on a protégé, whether in the laboratory or through a mentorship program, there is an opportunity to provide support and guidance tailored to the student’s unique circumstances. If there is a need in your community for a new type of mentorship program – focused on supporting first-generation, LGBTQIA+, or ethnic-racial identities – then consider establishing one.

Once a mentor-mentee relationship has been established, work to maintain open communication with your mentee, don’t make assumptions, and strive to understand the nuances of a particular situation before offering advice. Furthermore, strive to provide encouragement and validation through your comments and learn the best ways in which to impart constructive criticism. This guide from the Dr. Catherine L. Drennan lab at MIT details how mentors can create an environment of trust, combat issues like stereotype threat and imposter syndrome, and ultimately promote diversity and inclusivity.

Event Planning

Whether you’re planning a scientific conference, retreat, workshop, or panel, organizing an event that is truly inclusive requires careful consideration during the event planning process. Start by developing a diversity statement that indicates the event’s dedication to inclusivity; follow through by providing venue accessibility information, an option to include preferred pronouns on nametags, or an opportunity for participants to indicate dietary restrictions.

Select a date for the event that doesn’t coincide with religious holidays or observances. Consider the length of your event and the audience: Would a lactation room be appreciated? What about childcare options? Do your speakers or workshop leaders represent the diversity in attendees?

Finally, gather feedback about the event and spend time reflecting on what you implemented that was successful, as well as areas in which you could improve. Keep these in mind as you plan your next event. By following these guidelines, event organizers can promote inclusion and belonging that enables all members of the scientific community to thrive.

FY19 Outstanding Individual: Isabella Sanders

The SWE Graduate Community would like to recognize Isabella Sanders for her commitment to graduate students in SWE at Georgia Tech and across the Society, and for her diverse academic and extracurricular achievements.


Isabella Sanders, Georgia Tech

Isabella is an avid researcher, student, athlete, and advocate of women in STEM. She is a 4th year PhD student in Industrial Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, expected graduation May 2021. Additionally, she is expected to receive a Masters in Operations Research and Masters in Geographic Information Science & Technology in December 2019. She is also starting Georgia Tech’s dual degree MBA program and will receive a Masters in Business Administration in December 2020.

Isabella has been involved with SWE since 2016. She spent one year as social chair in Georgia Tech’s GradSWE Group, which she found to be largely inactive and lacking in strong leadership. Determined to support a community for graduate women at Georgia Tech (GT), she (along with another student) relaunched the GradSWE group. Together they interviewed and assembled the GT Grad SWE Group executive board. With renewed energy, the group now holds several events throughout the year, attracting hundreds of students and several sponsorships. Isabella has also worked hard to integrate the group with the existing primarily undergraduate section present at Georgia Tech. Under Isabella’s leadership, over 20 diverse and meaningful events have been held and multiple students have been given the opportunity to attend WE18 in Minneapolis and WE Local St. Louis, fully funded. After two years of leading GT GradSWE, Isabella is stepping down assuming the role of treasurer for FY20.

At the society level, Isabella is the current Graduate Programming Coordinator-Elect. In this role, she is actively involved in encouraging and supporting graduate students in submitting session abstracts for the SWE annual conference. She is also involved in planning and promoting other graduate student centered programming at WE19. Isabella will also be presenting as a speaker at WE19; be sure to check out her session in Anaheim in November!

Other SWE highlights include being the first graduate student awardee of the Outstanding Engineer Award by the Georgia Tech SWE Section, attending the Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering (ALWE) program on an NSF-ASSIST award at WE18, and placing 1st in the Graduate category of the SWE Collegiate Competition at WE Local St. Louis 2019.

Beyond SWE, Isabella is heavily involved to the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineering (IISE), speaking at the 2019 IISE annual conference, and participating in the Student Innovation Design Competition. She is helping rebuild the Georgia Tech Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) chapter and part of the organizing committee for the International Physical Internet Conference (IPIC). She is also a Sustainability Fellow in the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech. 

Isabella was a member of the Georgia Tech Swim Club from 2016-2019, competing at regional meets throughout the year. She competed at the National Championship for College Club Swimming, where Georgia Tech took 1st place in 2018. She also participates in the Atlanta Adult Summer Swim League on a local team.

Isabella’s commitment to academic excellence and the Georgia Tech and Atlanta community have been recognized through various avenues. She was selected as Georgia Tech’s Outstanding Graduate Woman of Distinction in 2019 for her “demonstration of exemplary leadership abilities, leading with heart, creating innovative solutions while inspiring and uplifting the entire Georgia Tech community.” While pursuing multiple graduate degrees, Isabella is a published author in publications including the Physical Review Letters, and the IISE Conference Proceedings. Her academic achievement and potential have been recognized through the awarding of the 2019 SWE John Deere Scholarship, 1st place in the Graduate Engineering & Technology category of the research poster at the International GMiS conference, the A.J. Land MBA Fellowship to pursue a dual-degree at Georgia Tech, and the John Morris Fellowship from the Georgia Tech Industrial Engineering Department.

Isabella is dedicated to her research and coursework, her academic and SWE communities. Her passion permeates the diverse interests and achievements, bringing people together and inspiring those around her. 


The SWE Graduate Community is proud to recognize Isabella Sanders (Georgia Tech) as a 2019 GradSWE Outstanding Individual!

FY19 Outstanding Individual: Jessica Stieglitz

The SWE Graduate Community would like to recognize Jessica Stieglitz for her contributions to the founding of GradSWE at Tufts, involvement across the Tufts campus, and excellence in chemical and biological engineering.

J Stieglitz Lab

Jessica is a passionate researcher, science communicator, leader, and community member. She is a 5th year PhD student in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Tufts University, expected graduation December 2020. She conducts research in the Van Deventer Lab, working on developing a new class of cancer therapeutics. SWE has had an influential impact on her life. Through it, she has found a supportive community that helps her in achieving her professional and personal goals, and through her dedication to the SWE mission, she in turn strives to support others in their careers.

Jessica’s SWE journey began during her first year as an undergraduate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). She was later elected to the position of Co-Engineering Event Director, where her responsibilities included planning the event Exploring Engineering Day. She coordinated 200 volunteers from across 16 student organizations and procured a $13,000 grant from SWE and ExxonMobil for the event which attracted 450 children and 300 parents. She then held the role of Outreach Director through her junior and senior years. During this time, she coordinated annual events with partners such as the Girls Scouts of Northeastern New York and initiated more than half a dozen new events and partnerships. She was thrilled to be able to attend the annual conference for three years and contributed to her section receiving a Region F Outreach Award in 2013 and an MOU Outreach Award in 2015. In 2013, she was named a SWE Future Leader.

When Jessica started graduate school at Tufts, she was still very passionate about SWE so she reached out to the existing (primarily undergraduate) section and co-founded the GradSWE group at Tufts. Since its inception, this group has hosted dozens of events to strengthen the graduate community on campus. Jessica has coordinated professional development events, such as the Transitioning from Graduate School to Academia Panel and annual Mentoring Lunch, and community-building events, such as Networking Coffee Hours and the Boston SWE Networking Dinner, in partnership with the Tufts SWE Section, Tufts engineering faculty, SWE Boston, and more. Even though the group is young, Jessica’s passion for supporting those around her has led her to meet with and provide advice to other local up-and-coming GradSWE groups.

Outside of SWE, Jessica contributes to her campus and field through extensive involvement and leadership. She has been a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) since undergraduate and co-founded another graduate student organization called the Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Society (BEaChES). This highly active group hosts 2-3 events a month that attract students from across departments and campus. During her two year as BEaChES President, the organization was awarded the Robert P. Guertin Student Leadership Award and the Outstanding Graduate Student Organization Award, from the Graduate School of Arts and Science/School of Engineering and the Graduate Student Council, respectively. Jessica also served as the STEM Education Graduate Assistant for the Tufts STEM Ambassadors, helping coordinate outreach visits to local high schools. Jessica was recently elected Secretary of the Graduate Student Council, which oversees all graduate activities on Tufts campuses.

In the community, Jessica can be found preparing food through an organization that brings meals to people with chronic or terminal illnesses, participating in a Reverse Science Fair, and co-organizing the Boston Academic Researchers Symposium, which fosters collaboration and research excellence abong graduate students and post-doctoral researchers in the greater Boston area.

Jessica’s academic excellence is endorsed by her reception of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP) for her research in protein engineering as it pertains to cancer therapeutics. She received a Helmsley Fellowship to attend a Yeast Genetics and Genomics course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories and has presented her research as the Protein Society Symposium and Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution & Design Conference. She is also the first author of an original research manuscript published in 2018.

Jessica is a passionate and dedicated leader who hopes to continue being a member of SWE throughout the remainder of her graduate and industry career and who will continue to lead in her community and field of study.


The SWE Graduate Community is proud to recognize Jessica Stieglitz (Tufts University) as a 2019 GradSWE Outstanding Individual!


Change of Plans: Frustrations of Part-Time Study

I dropped a class for the first time.

To date, I’ve completed 40 undergraduate and 7 graduate level classes. As much as I wanted to drop a few classes along the way, I always stuck it out, through the blood, sweat, and tears (or rather, the caffeine, frustration, and tears). But the first day of an attempted class this semester, I was informed it was extremely unwise to take the class without the undergraduate prerequisite. I didn’t want to quit, but it was too much to handle on top of my other class, full-time job, and general life activities.

As the Professional Graduate Team Leader of GradSWE, my mission is to promote part-time or professional graduate studies. I aim to inspire and encourage in my blog posts. But things are never perfect, and I do not want to convey otherwise.

Unsurprisingly, part-time study is incredibly frustrating. It often takes part-timers 3 to 6 years to finish graduate school, compared to 2 years for full-time study. Quitting is extremely easy – just don’t sign up for the next semester. There’s no need to move or uproot an established academic life. 

Pool an office full of engineers, and you’ll find a number that started graduate school and never finished, getting as close as one class or one project away. I’m reminded constantly by coworkers how I’m wasting my time getting a “pointless degree”. They sometimes mean well. They sometimes are expressing their own frustrations in plans gone awry. 

No matter how well designed a graduate plan might seem, it will fall apart at some point. I’m fortunate that I can take a replacement class for the dropped one, but it does shake up my plans. Graduation dates are influenced by so many factors.

I have a rough spreadsheet of how I want my next five or so years to go; I have to remain flexible and revise it every quarter, at a minimum. In some cases, a change in plans can be exciting. It can signal a new passion or a radical life change. It might be a new romantic partner, a new baby, a new pet. I love revising my long term plan to put a new goal on the chart.

It’s not as exciting to have to change the long-term plan because of something outside my control or a poor decision. Dropping my class was the latter. I didn’t inquire about the background knowledge in advanced, and it was too late by the time I knew. Hitting the “DROP” button was agonizing. Still, it was the right thing for where I am in this season of life. 

I know I’ll be finished with my studies someday. I already have dreams of how I’ll spend the time and energy on my next goal after graduation. The plans will change as quickly as Midwest weather, and I’ll keep going.   

Graduate Member Spotlight: Pratyasha Mohapatra

Graduate Member Spotlight

Pratyasha Mohapatra

Third Year PhD Student

Materials Science and Engineering

Iowa State University

We are excited to welcome Pratyasha to the GradSWE Leadership Team as our FY20 International Graduate Team Lead. As the IGTL, she aims to work to develop resources for professional development and improved networking among international graduate students.  Pratyasha has been involved in the GradSWE leadership at Iowa State University (ISU) section since 2018 and has served as the Director of Events Committee in the past. One of her major efforts have been to organize professional development and social events designed for graduate students and promote participation in the GradSWE group. She has been instrumental in setting up the social media presence and promotion for the ISU GradSWE group which lead to a ten-fold increase in member participation.  Pratyasha is currently serving as the leader of the Grad SWE group at ISU. In this vital role, Pratyasha aims to continue to provide a platform for women graduate engineers to exchange ideas, freely discuss their difficulties, celebrate their achievements together, and encourage other young women to pursue STEM careers.

Pratyasha is pursuing doctoral research in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Iowa State University. Presently in the third year of her Ph.D., she focuses on developing novel antiferroelectric ceramic materials for high energy density capacitor applications by powder processing techniques. Her work is directed towards developing new strategies to investigate the cause and mitigate hysteresis loss in ferroelectric/antiferroelectric dielectric ceramics to improve energy efficiency. She also completed her Master’s degree at Iowa State University in Materials Science and Engineering, where her research focused on the synthesis of colloidal nanoparticles like silicon, silicon dioxide, and thin-film synthesis using plasma processing.   

This year Pratyasha also completed a four-month summer internship at Intel Corporation where she worked on Surface Mount Technology development. She has been working on developing metrology for testing flow and adhesion characteristics for package-board underfill adhesive materials, for upcoming Intel components. She considers the experience as one of the most enriching ones during graduate school and a great insight to work in the industry.

Apart from her research, she loves photography, sketching, traveling and cooking. 



Graduate Member Spotlight: Rasika Bhalerao

Rasika Bhalerao
Computer Science
Expected Graduation Date: 2022
New York University


Rasika has been involved in SWE since her freshman year of undergrad at the University of Washington, when she joined the section of about 30 students. During her second year, she served as a Director of Evening With Industry, an annual 1000-student career fair and 200-member banquet. During her junior and senior years, she served as the treasurer of UW’s section. By the time she graduated, the section had over 400 students, and she greatly enjoyed watching it grow. Last year she was the Social Media Coordinator for the SWE Grad Leadership Team, and this year she is taking on the new role of Communications Coordinator. She has been to several SWE conferences, and is looking forward to working with SWE in many different ways in the future!

Rasika’s hard work and dedication go further than SWE alone. She has been involved in acapella, and her most cherished award is the one that her acapella group named after her, the Rasika Bhalerao Award, in 2017. It is awarded to the most helpful and caring member. 

Rasika’s research is focused on applying machine learning and natural language processing tools to cybersecurity. Some of her work includes analyzing illicit activity on underground forums, understanding speech in chat applications, and detecting hate speech. In Spring 2019, Rasika was the instructor for the graduate course Artificial Intelligence at NYU Tandon. Currently, she is a co-instructor for a Security Analytics course.

Rasika’s long-term goal is a career in academia. She would like to continue to conduct research, using natural language processing tools for cybersecurity and social justice, while teaching at a university.

Outside of computer science, Rasika enjoys music and rock climbing.

Fun Fact about Rasika: Despite being allergic, Rasika has a cat!

Graduate Member Spotlight: Danielle Shaffer

Danielle Shaffer

Part-Time Non-Thesis Master of Science

Mechanical Engineering

December 2020

University of Akron

We are incredibly excited to have Danielle return to the Grad Leadership Team as the Professional Graduate Team Lead. She will be continuing to lead our efforts in providing part-time and non-traditional graduate students in the resources they need to excel! She has been an active member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2011 and is currently a member of the Northeastern Ohio Professional Section. Danielle attended her first annual conference at WE18, representing her company at the job fair, and attended her first local conference last year in Baltimore.

Danielle is currently employed at BWX Technologies as a Tooling Engineer. She works with the mechanical structural design of fixtures, jigs, tools, etc. to support the manufacture of the company’s products, heavy pressure vessels. Danielle is also extensively involved with below-the-hook rigging on the overhead cranes and one of the first fully automated 6-axis robot in the plant. After completing her ME Master’s degree and Structural Engineering certificate, Danielle plans to obtain her Professional Engineering license.  

Research Topic: Analysis of U-Shaped Lifting Lugs

Danielle’s manufacturing plant primarily uses a non-typical lifting lug made out of a bent rod, instead of only plate lugs. Plate lugs have been heavily studied, but limited analysis has been performed on U-shaped lifting lugs. The original design report was made by a former member of her department in the 1970s, prior to the widespread implementation of FEA software. Danielle’s Master’s report will focus on performing an FEA analysis of multiple rigging angles to better understand how the angles affect the overall capacity of each lug size. She will also determine the composite factor of safety, which was not solidly determined in the original design report.

Outside of her job and studying, Danielle enjoys sailing and volunteering on a tall ship, The Brig Niagara. She is also an active volunteer on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can find Danielle participating in triathlons and bike tours. She also enjoys sewing, reading and chasing her two cats, Bowline and Spur, around her house in an attempt to keep them out of trouble.

Fun Fact: Danielle has sailed on all five Great Lakes!

WE18 Headshot