Grad member spotlight: Ashley Bucsek

21 May 2015

Ashley Bucsek

PhD student, Expected graduation Spring 2018

Mechanical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Ashley has been awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for Mechanical Engineering. More information here: http://www.minesnewsroom.com/press-releases/five-mines-students-receive-nsf-graduate-research-fellowships

 

What is your research?

For my thesis project, I’m developing a unique data analysis technique for X-ray diffraction experiments.  Diffraction is an amazing investigative tool.  With it, one can observe deformation evolution on the granular level, through the entire thickness of a sample, in-situ, and without destroying the sample.  Often, advanced materials owe their extraordinary properties to multiple types of deformation competing with each other.  My technique will provide quantitative information about different mechanisms (e.g., phase transformation, twinning, and plasticity) that are occurring simultaneously within each crystal.  I then plan to use this technique to study the relationship between different deformation mechanisms and intergranular constraints in advanced materials.

 

What do you plan to do after graduation?

Despite the power of X-ray and neutron diffraction techniques, one of the hurdles to its widespread use is the complex data analysis.  When I complete my thesis, I will publish open-source software in the hopes that it will allow for scientific investigations without necessarily understanding the nuances of high-energy diffraction microscopy (HEDM).  Something similar happened with electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), a tool that is now quite common.  After I graduate, I hope to work at one of our national laboratories that have neutron or synchrotron X-ray sources to keep studying advanced materials and pushing the capabilities of diffraction.

 

What are some of your hobbies?

I play for the women’s all-star team of Denver Roller Derby.  We’re ranked among the top 10 teams in the world, and we travel all over the country to compete with other top-tier teams.  We practice 3-4 times a week in addition to cross-training, so research and roller derby are about all that I have time for.

 

What’s a fun fact about you?

I rescued two puppies when they were each 8 weeks old, so now I have two very cute, very mischievous dogs under the age of one!

Opinion: Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

I don’t know about you, but I watch a lot of news, including what my husband and I fondly call the “Talking Heads” shows on Sundays. That is, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, etc. One of these shows is hosted by Fareed Zakaria, and it’s called GPS – Global Public Square. It airs on CNN Sunday mornings at 10am ET. In the past few months, he has been on all the talk shows promoting his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. What I had been hearing him say kept making me angrier and angrier, so I decided to look into his book and his argument. While I didn’t read the entire book, the Huffington Post article linked below does a great job outlining his main arguments, with quotes from Zakaria himself. This blog post serves as my reaction to some of the article/Zakaria comments.

In short, he was making me angry because all I ever heard him say in interviews was that STEM education has had its 15 minutes of fame, and the world should focus more on liberal arts education. Of course, as someone who just completed a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, this made me incredibly mad. I do a lot of STEM outreach and I constantly tell kids that a STEM career opens a lot of doors, and that you can always take Liberal Arts classes, if that is something which interests you. Plus, I disagree with his premise that the world does not need more scientists and engineers. I believe that we are in desperate need for these people more than ever, as there are world crises that require, or at least prefer, a STEM degree or experience to solve. However, after reading the Huffington Post article, I see now that he is not denying the benefit of a STEM education, but rather advocating for incorporating Liberal Arts and STEM together to allow for a broader and more comprehensive education. I completely agree with this conclusion, but I wish he would explain it better on his interviews.

Link to Huffington Post Article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/20/digital-liberal-arts-zakaria_n_7048496.html

Find the book on Amazon: http://amzn.com/0393247686

 

And so here begins some quotes from the article and my thoughts:

A liberal arts education is the best preparation for many careers, especially in the U.S., given today’s global technology-driven economy

Actually, no, a STEM education is much better preparation for a technology-driven career. By understanding how to use and program computers, one is much better equipped to move forward in a career which is dependent upon these technological advancements. Furthermore, understanding the scientific and engineering processes is imperative for many careers. For example, the primary thing engineers are taught is problem solving – regardless of the problem. With a liberal arts education, many students do not even learn how to think through technical problems or get practice with the engineering and scientific methods. They may learn how to analyze and think critically, but they are not taught the advanced math, science, or engineering skills which are obtained through a STEM education. It is these advanced skills that are necessary to succeed in many careers.

“The future of a country like the U.S. rests on our ability to master how technology interacts with how humans live, work and play,” Zakaria said to The WorldPost. “And that depends on skills fostered by the liberal arts, such as creativity, aesthetic sensibility and social, political and psychological insight.”

STEM education fosters creativity. Insight into the world’s problems is a must for many STEM majors, since they’re the ones who are going to create (ah, there’s creativity!) methods by which to solve these problems. Engineers are also key designers for electronics, which must be aesthetic by necessity in order to be financially successful.

Because of tough economic times, the rising cost of higher education and an increasingly competitive job market, too many Americans — and American politicians — are turning away from the liberal arts under a false perception that they are a poor career option, Zakaria says.

And yet, many of the highest paid career options are STEM careers. While salary does not make the best indicator of  a career option, it indicates the value of the college degree to the employer. And when looking for a job immediately out of college, rates have shown that it is much easier to get a STEM-related job than a non-STEM job, which is incredibly useful if you have student debt. Zakaria mentions that non-STEM salaries and career prospects may reach the same salary and unemployment rate as STEM majors later in life. But as I mentioned, this does not help a soon-to-be college graduate when faced with trying to pay bills, including student debt.

http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-paying-jobs

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2012/09/12/college-majors-with-the-best-return-on-investment

Liberal arts subjects — such as English, philosophy and political science — teach people how to think, write and communicate; those skills remain useful through the many twists and turns of a career in today’s ever-changing digital economy, he argues. And, he says, it is dangerous to overemphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education as separate from or more important than the liberal arts.

STEM disciplines also teach one how to think. I will admit that I wish my engineering studies would have emphasized writing and communicating more, but these were things I could get elsewhere. In fact, my skills were strengthened through my involvement in other activities, such as giving campus tours, attending and presenting at conferences, and writing technical papers – not to mention my Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertation. I will also admit that I think STEM outreach does sometimes focus on the technical skills, and should perhaps include more arts, reading, and communication skills. With that said, I know many STEM outreach programs which are trying to encompass all these skills, with an emphasis on the engineering and scientific methods. Zakaria mentions this technique as “cross-pollination” and suggests that creativity and innovation excel when liberal arts and STEM fields are mixed during the education process.

 

And so, I came to the conclusion I mentioned in the second paragraph. I agree with Zakaria’s conclusion – that STEM and liberal arts need to be integrated to develop the next generation of thinkers. But I disagree with how he has been going around advertising this bottom line.

 

What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, I’m eager to hear other opinions on this topic!

-Katharine

Financial Advice for Graduate Students Part 2: Insurance

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 @ 10:30 AM CST

Abstract

Compensation packages in the US can be confusing for new graduates.  This series of three webinars is designed to explain the three main elements of a compensation package: salary, retirement and insurance.  In the first talk we discussed income and taxes in the US.  I gave a brief overview of the other non-monetary forms of compensation such as paid time off (vacation, sick leave), retirement and insurance.  In this, the second, talk we will delve deeper into the various insurance products that will likely be offered – or that you may wish to purchase on your own.  These will include medical, vision, dental, disability, and life insurance.  In the third talk we will discuss retirement plans offered by US employers, how they work and the pros and cons of each.  The goal of the series is to acquaint you with the likely options you will encounter as you transition from university to paid compensation so as to empower you to make the correct choices for you and your family.

Biographycc-jw-Karen-Feigh-4-web

Karen Feigh is an Associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering. As a faculty member of the Georgia Tech Cognitive Engineering Center, she leads a research and education program focused on the computational cognitive modeling and design of cognitive work support systems and technologies to improve the performance of socio-technical systems with particular emphasis on aerospace systems.  She is responsible for undergraduate and graduate level instruction in the areas of flight dynamics, evaluation of human integrated systems, human factors, and cognitive engineering.  Dr. Feigh has over nine years of relevant research and design experience in fast-time air traffic simulation, ethnographic studies, airline and fractional ownership operation control centers, synthetic vision systems for helicopters, expert systems for air traffic control towers, and the impact of context on undersea warfighters.  Dr. Feigh serves on the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB), as the Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Helicopter Society, and as a guest editor for a special addition of the AIAA Journal of Aerospace Information Systems on Human Automation Interaction.

Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1947376196552823553

How to keep up with SWE

If you are reading this then you probably follow the grad community on Facebook.  THANK YOU!  But did you know there are a lot more ways to keep up with not only the SWE graduate community but also all of SWE?  For example, SWE also has a Facebook page , a tumblr, a Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube and Google+ 

If you use a RSS feed aggregator you can follow this blog and soon you will be able to follow the new SWE ‘All Together’ Blog. The ‘All Together’ is the best way to keep up with society news.  As GMC I get a lot of email questions about membership, the annual conference, and scholarships.  The ‘All Together’ will have a lot of this information.

If you are a member of the society (and you really should be, it is absolutely worth it) you will receive the magazine in the mail but you can also read a digital version online.

The SWE website is a really great site.  You can find information on scholarships,  the WE15 annual conference, Outreach for girls K-12 and podcasts.

Interested in attending a webinar?  You can register for any webinar on the Advanced Learning  site even if you can’t attend a webinar live go ahead and register some can be watched later! You can find links to past webinars at the SWE Webinar Archive.

SWE is really, really big and has a lot of resources.

 

 

 

Tips for starting a Grad SWE group

Are you looking to start a Grad SWE group at your local collegiate or professional section? First check out these resources to give you an idea of how to engage graduate students as either professionals or collegiates:

Graduate Students as Professionals

Graduate Students as Collegiates

Then check out an older webinar about starting a Grad Group: Grad Student Involvement in SWE Sections webinar presentation

And finally, take a look at these tips from successful Grad SWE groups across the country to help you build your membership and host events. Do you have suggestions or additional tips? Add them in the comments below, or send them to grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org and she’ll post them on this page.

Membership tips:

-Draw on existing university resources such as an Office for Graduate Education. Build partnerships with them for financial resources and recruiting.

-Be sure to work closely with the local collegiate SWE section to define your group’s role and place in the section structure, since there cannot be more than one section at a college or university.

-Collaborate. Work with other graduate groups and women in science groups.

-Just go for it! It only takes a couple people.

-Find a common ground, find interests or events that will keep members grounded.

Event tips:

-Have fun! If there is a social event you want to attend but don’t want to go alone, make it a GradSWE social.

-We always hold a “How to apply to grad school” type session for the undergrads that are interested in grad school which is a good way to mix the regular SWE sections with our Grad SWE committee.

-Surveys are also helpful to find out what the female graduate students at your school are interested in doing with the group.

-Start small. Advertise. Free food.

-Students in general love free stuff, right? Always try to provide something at your meetings – crafts, coffee, tea, and fabulous discussions, of course. If you have a budget to work with, lunch is great too!

-Use resources in your town or at your university. There’s a lot of knowledge about various topics of interest right around the corner, and lots of people will help out for free. An outside perspective is very refreshing – if your university has visiting speakers, see if you can snag them for a presentation or panel.

-At a loss for what your events should be? Do some Googling –  look up previous SWE conferences or other SWE groups to see what they’ve done in the past!

Leadership tips:

-The group really needs to have a couple devoted people to get your Grad SWE sections off of the ground and work hard to fundraise and find ways to monetarily support your group.

General tips:

-Even if the group hasn’t done much yet, it’s nice to have a group of female graduate students who understand where you’re at, what you’re doing, your goals for the future and your passion to promote women in engineering.

 

FAQ: Being a Grad Community Coordinator

The deadline for FY16 Graduate Community Coordinators is only a few days away — April 1st! We’re looking to fill three positions: Graduate Member Coordinator Elect (GMC-Elect), Regional Conference Coordinator (RCC), and Webinar Coordinator (WC). See my previous post for a brief description of each position as well as the application information here. I also wrote a post about why I got involved with the Grad Community, and why you should too here.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten several emails with a lot of the same questions, so I thought a FAQ post may help answer many of your questions about these positions. Even if you’re only slightly interested in these positions, I highly encourage you to apply! The application is super easy — only a few questions!

Question: What is the time commitment for the positions? What are the benefits of being a Coordinator?

Answer: For the time commitment. it really depends on you. As with many roles, organization and dedication go a long way in getting things done quickly and efficiently. The GMC-Elect position is primarily a support role, as you would be learning more about how the Grad Community works within the SWE big picture. You support the GMC on conference calls and in building our quarterly reports. With all that said, I would like to encourage the next GMC-elect to implement the ideas they have to make the Grad Community more awesome. So, the GMC-Elect role has, on average, an hour time commitment per week. However, you will transition into the GMC role after the first year, so this position is a 2-year commitment. The Regional Conference Coordinator (RCC) is more time intensive during the fall semester, when all region conferences are planning their sessions and have abstract deadlines. Over the past two years, though, we have created a detailed list of contacts and session topics, which will serve as an important resource for the next RCC. This position also has, on average, an hour time commitment per week with the fall semester being the most intense period. The Webinar Coordinator (WC) is heavy on email communication and involves reaching out to potential webinar speakers, and setting up the webinar with SWE. As with the other positions, the WC has, on average, an hour time commitment per week.

Yes, it is another commitment on top of your research and anything else you may have going on. But honestly, it’s well worth the (little) time. As a Grad Coordinator, you are introduced to SWE on a Society level. If you’ve only ever been involved in a collegiate or professional section, then this is a tremendous opportunity to see how SWE works, and how the various committees work together to achieve SWE’s mission. This is especially useful experience if you’re interested in other SWE leadership  positions. Additionally, you’re making a huge difference in the lives of your fellow grad students. The Grad Community, as many of you know, offers great networking and learning opportunities, as well as provides a community for all of us know we’re not alone. But, we can’t achieve all these great things without fantastic leaders like yourself.

 

Question: What requirements are there to be a Grad Coordinator?

Answer: You must be a SWE member in good standing. You can have either professional or collegiate membership. We prefer current, or recently graduated, graduate students to hold these roles, as they tend to have the best understanding of what graduate students need and want.

 

Question: Can I hold a Coordinator position if I’m going to be graduating soon?

Answer: YES! This seems to be a common misunderstanding. As I mentioned in the above response, we prefer that people have graduate school experience so they understand and are able to represent graduate student needs and wants. This does not mean, however, that you can be a Grad Coordinator only while you’re in grad school. E.g. I am graduating in May and transitioning to the workforce, so I’ll be serving as GMC after having graduated.

 

Question: Why are there two different applications?

Answer: The GMC-Elect role is a position which must follow SWE committee chair rules, so a separate application was necessary. In the past, the RCC and WC positions were not filled until early summer. This year, we thought it would be easier to ask people to apply for all three positions at the same time.

 

I’m sure I didn’t answer all of your questions, but I hope I hit the big ones. If you have additional or specific questions, please feel free to contact me (Katharine) at grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org and don’t forget to submit your applications by this Wednesday, April 1st!

Financial Advice for Graduate Students Part 1: Income, Taxes and other Compensations

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 @ 9:30 AM CST

Abstract

Compensation packages in the US can be confusing for new graduates.  This series of three webinars is designed to explain the three main elements of a compensation package: salary, retirement and insurance.  In the first talk we will discuss income and taxes in the US.  I will give a brief overview of the other non-monetary forms of compensation such as paid time off (vacation, sick leave), retirement and insurance.  In the second talk we will delve deeper into the various insurance products that will likely be offered – or that you may wish to purchase on your own.  These will include medical, vision, dental, disability, and life insurance.  In the third talk we will discuss retirement plans offered by US employers, how they work and the pros and cons of each.  The goal of the series is to acquaint you with the likely options you will encounter as you transition from university to paid compensation so as to empower you to make the correct choices for you and your family.

Biographycc-jw-Karen-Feigh-4-web

Karen Feigh is an Associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering. As a faculty member of the Georgia Tech Cognitive Engineering Center, she leads a research and education program focused on the computational cognitive modeling and design of cognitive work support systems and technologies to improve the performance of socio-technical systems with particular emphasis on aerospace systems.  She is responsible for undergraduate and graduate level instruction in the areas of flight dynamics, evaluation of human integrated systems, human factors, and cognitive engineering.  Dr. Feigh has over nine years of relevant research and design experience in fast-time air traffic simulation, ethnographic studies, airline and fractional ownership operation control centers, synthetic vision systems for helicopters, expert systems for air traffic control towers, and the impact of context on undersea warfighters.  Dr. Feigh serves on the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB), as the Associate Editor for the Journal of the American Helicopter Society, and as a guest editor for a special addition of the AIAA Journal of Aerospace Information Systems on Human Automation Interaction.

Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/354578571433354498