Grad Member Spotlight: Akshaya Iyer

Grad Member Spotlight: Akshaya Iyer



Akshaya Iyer

Associate Consultant

MS, Civil Engineering

BS, Civil Engineering

Akshaya Iyer, an associate consultant at Spire Consulting Group is the International Engagement Team Lead for FY18. This position was newly created this year to increase GradSWE’s international presence and to provide resources to international students in the US to help them achieve success.

Akshaya moved to the US from India in August 2015 to pursue graduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin. During her time as a graduate student, she was the President of her Graduate Student Organization and the Co-Director of the International Student Agency, where she developed a passion for helping international students find their feet and feel welcomed to the US when they make the big move. Akshaya is also a personal style blogger on her fashion blog, The Iyer Order .


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

I have an MS in Construction Engineering and Project Management from the Civil Engineering department of UT Austin. I graduated in December 2016.


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

I currently work in the construction claims and litigation industry. I perform cost and schedule analysis on complex construction related disputes, which is pretty much exactly what I was interested in during my graduate studies. Very few people get the opportunity to find a job in the tiny niche that they are interested in and I feel very lucky to have my job. My career goals are to build my skills within the project management realm, even if it is in a different industry down the line.


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

A majority of my time outside of work is spent creating content for my blog, The Iyer Order . I’ve always had an affinity for fashion and writing, and I combined the two to create my blog in December 2016, right after I graduated with my Master’s degree. I love being able to use my creative side on a regular basis despite having a career in a technical field. It has also taught me patience, perseverance and time management skills. My dream is to one day turn my blog into a business while staying true to myself and my style!

I also love fitness, working out and staying healthy. I am a vegetarian that loves to experiment with different cuisines. I also love coffee – particularly if served in a cute coffee shop!


What’s a fun fact about you?

I used to be a freelance nail artist back in my undergraduate days in India!

We17 Graduate Sessions

The SWE Annual Conference, We17, has  focused programming just for graduate students. We are pleased to promote our sessions this year, including:

  • Your First Academic Position: Questions for the Hiring Committee, Thu, Oct 26, 11:30am – 12:30pm
  • Nevertheless She Persisted: My PhD Thesis and Transmission Electron Microscopy, Fri, Oct 27, 3:50pm – 4:10pm
  • Academic Advisement – How to Choose Your Advisor, and Work With Them, Fri, Oct 27, 4:50pm – 5:10pm
  • Engineer Your Life Outside Your Classroom – Put Your Extracurriculars to Work”, Sat,  Oct 28, 10:00am – 11:15am
  • Planning for Life After Graduate School, Sat, Oct 28, 2:45pm – 3:45pm

Additionally, our Grad SWE business meeting will be on Thursday, October 26, 4:30pm – 5:30 pm.

Sessions by your follow peers and academics can be an impactful learning experience at the national conference. If you can’t attend We17, look out for graduate programming at WeLocals and at We18. These sessions are BY graduate students, FOR graduate students. If you would like to get involved, look for calls for applications for WeLocals this fall or for We18 in early March 2018.


Look out for more information on the blog as we approach WE17!


Make A Networking Step with GradSWE!

Hello GradSWEsters and Happy Summer!

I am delighted to greet you all as your FY18 Social Media Coordinator.  I am looking forward to keeping you all informed of the latest GradSWE buzz and news.  As a part of my reign, every few weeks I will also share an interesting tidbit or enlightening discussion point with you all.

Over the last few weeks, I have read several articles providing tips for women business leaders and entrepreneurs in which a common piece of advice focused on the power of networking with other women.  Initially, there were notions of how there seems to be a gap in the lack of women leader role models.  It is imperative for women to see other women have broken these barriers and paved the way so more women can follow and create new paths of their own.

With that being said, as leading women in engineering, future business owners, and creative innovators be sure to use the network around you and what other place to start then SWE!  Many of our members serve as role models as entrepreneurs and leading women in industry in a range of fields all over the world.  If you are not a part of GradSWE and our larger SWE family, be sure to get connected to our cohort of leaders as SWE does not by any means lack a range of leaders as well as opportunities for leadership growth.

There are many ways to connect with women in the organization including through resources such as mentoring groups, interactive webinars, informative podcasts and within our social media outlets. In addition, there are numerous resources, learning tools and programs with all different types of interest that you can align your passions with as well as grow your own seeds. These women serve as a great body of support in a unique way as it can be expected that they would have dealt with similar challenges and issues while building successful empires.

You can reach out to your fellow SWEsters in your own backyards within graduate sections and at the upcoming WE Local events.  And of course, with the theme of Always Connecting, Always Engineering, what other event will connect you and increase your network with over 11,700 women in attendance? None other than the highly anticipated WE17 conference coming this fall in October.  For more on WE17:

Let GradSWE be your step into a larger network of professional and business women.  Even as graduate students, do not be afraid to ADVANCE thoughts into creations, ASPIRE meaningful collaborations, and ACHIEVE success positively impacting the world.

Summer dreams -Not Deferred! Let’s go GradSWE!

Grad Member Spotlight: Angelica Payne

Grad Member Spotlight: Angelica Payne




Angelica Payne

Product Design and Development Engineer

M.S. Biomedical Engineering

B.S. Mechanical Engineering


Angelica has been a member of SWE since 2007. She currently serves as the GradSWE Mentoring Co-Coordinator. In college, she was Vice President of her SWE section where she led outreach events, and has been involved with local STEM outreach events ever since. Having worked in both academia and industry, in February of 2017 she served as a panelist for the seminar Transitioning into the Unknown: Careers in Industry, Academia, and Government. She also served as Vice President of Pi Tau Sigma, a mechanical engineering honor society, where she started and ran a peer tutoring program for major classes.


In 2013, Angelica was selected from a global pool of applicants as a participant in the NASA Space Radiation Summer School program, where she took second place in a slide competition for her explanation of Multicolored FISH. She was awarded the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity fellowship and North Carolina Space Grant for two consecutive years during her graduate education, and won a research presentation competition at a minority conference at Shaw University for her work on the impacts of space radiation and microgravity on bone.


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

I graduated with my Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2014 from the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Give a brief explanation of your research experience.

I researched the short-term response of clinical doses of acute radiation exposure on pediatric bone. Radiation is known to cause severe bone loss weeks after exposure as characterized in space flight and clinical settings, but the cellular responses responsible for these effects are not well known. I saw that in pediatric applications in particular, within a week of radiation exposure, there appeared to be a small amount of increased bone mass before the dramatic losses in trabecular bone we’re accustomed to observing. This could influence treatment regimens in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia radiation therapy, where the lifetime effects of exposure on bone range from stunted growth to deformities.

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

One of the aspects I enjoyed most about my research was the translational aspect of it. There are direct correlations to what I saw in the lab and how that can be compared to the clinic. I currently work as a mechanical design engineer, often developing medical equipment to improve laboratory procedures or tests. I would like to focus my career solely on medical device development, with a preference toward translational projects that bring research discoveries to clinical implementation in radiation or orthopedics.

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

A few years ago, my (now) husband and I got engaged at the very beginning of our south to north section hiking saga of the Appalachian trail. In our free time, we can usually be found hiking, spending time with family and close friends, and volunteering with the food bank or home building and disaster relief efforts.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I’m from Niagara Falls, NY and got my start with wilderness tripping by canoeing in Canada in the summers, and used to be a Level II whitewater canoeing instructor.

The right SPICE for engineering women graduate students

Hello GradSWE! My name is Prerna Jain and I am serving as the GradSWE Graduate Transition Lead (GTL) for this year. As GTL, I will be working with many different facets of SWE in order to implement and move transition forward for the GradSWE. My primary aim is to ensure GradSWE continues to grow and thrive. To achieve this, I will be working closely with the Region Grad Representatives and the GradSWE committee. I hope to address various challenges faced by the GradSWE community at the regional levels and facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the Regions. Additionally, I would support and mentor budding GradSWE leaders and help them in facilitating new GradSWE groups. So, if you have any questions or need information on resources, please send an email to

Also, I am working on my Ph.D. at Texas A&M University, College Station in Chemical Engineering. I have been in the program for around 4 years and would like to share my learnings in form of the right ‘SPICE’ you need to be successful in grad school. SPICE stands for S: Stay strong, P: Plan, I: Invigorate, C: Communicate, E: Empower. So, here are the details of this SPICE:Spices

Stay strong (S): In grad school, we all face difficult situations. I would like you all to remember to stay strong and positive during your difficulties. Whenever there is a phase of low energy, take a moment to look at your ‘Kudos list’, remind yourself of your accomplishments and feel great about those moments. I can assure you that the bad phase we go through teaches us and brings the BEST in us. Therefore, we all need to remember to stay strong and focused to be able to enjoy the success. As someone said “Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain. Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain”.

Plan (P): I have often heard from my mentors that if you devote time in planning, it can add hours back to your day, each and every day. As a graduate student, both short-term and long-term planning is important. For short-term, we all have multiple jobs to complete every day and we also depend on others for their completion. So, planning ahead of time would help us stay organized, prepared for any expected or unexpected situations, and give time to others to help us with what we need. In the long-term perspective, planning would benefit us by being proactive with items such as degree plan, critical milestones for graduation, conference attendance, publications, and finding job opportunities. In my experience, planning has helped me with all of the above perspectives and also in keeping my mind free. I feel I have dumped everything on the calendar or a sheet of paper and can focus and be most productive with the work at hand without having a thousand thoughts running in my mind.

Invigorate (I): Everyone needs the time to relax, de-stress or calm themselves. This is essential because if one is healthy, they are likely more efficient and productive in their work. So, remember to take the time to rejuvenate yourself by indulging yourself in activities you like outside work and research. These could range from exercising, meditation, other fun activities like painting or any other hobbies you may have. This will help you in refreshing yourself, exploring yourself, and meeting new friends.

Communicate (C): This is another vital component of the SPICE. As great researchers and engineers, we all succeed in advancing the science and technology with our contributions. However, it is critical to have our ‘Grandma story’ that we can sell to other people both from the business side and for common understanding. This skill can be practiced by talking about your research with friends who are not from the same background as yours. And this brings me to another aspect of communication, which is ‘Networking’. The three most important things to do in grad school and even after that are – network, network, network. Once you start working on this, you will realize how far you have come from when you first started and the great network you have built around yourself. Needless to say, SWE is a great platform, to begin with.

Empower (E): This deals with giving back to the community in some way. When you empower someone else, it gives a strong feeling of satisfaction. Most of you will agree that in your journey, there was at least one person who empowered you and supported you to move forward. All of us have those unique qualities and experiences that we can share with someone to assist them in their success journey. These could include simple things like – giving compliments, doing short conversations with people in your research group, volunteering with student organizations (SWE is again a great example), mentoring some new grad student or an undergraduate student and many other innovative ways. I have mentored few students and also learned in this process when I am challenged to respond to some difficult questions they ask. I believe, when we practice these little things, they come together to create a huge positive impact on our women engineering community. So, let us not hesitate to share and empower.

I will conclude by saying that GradSWE has given me opportunities to practice all of the above and this has helped me to become a confident and inspiring leader. So, DREAM big, LIVE your dreams and ACHIEVE them! ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Latin for Faster, Higher and Stronger). I hope you all found this useful.

I would love to hear from you all at


Hello SWE family, Jodi here…..current GradSWE GPC-Elect!

In my role as GPC-Elect I’m truly looking forward to building some great programs over the course of the next year in order to improve the graduate student experience within our organization and during conference attendance….Hope to meet some of you at SWE17 in Austin, Texas!

So, I thought I should share some advice on important career topics that can benefit anyone from someone considering graduate school to a senior graduate student because I’m very passionate about helping others in their career endeavors.

Throughout my graduate school career I noticed myself and other fellow college students suffering from the ‘shoulda-­‐coulda-­‐woulda’ syndrome. I should have done this, I could have participated in that, or if I had known, I would have done this instead of that. Sound familiar? I thought so. 🙂 As I approach the end of my graduate career, I find myself reflecting a lot on my previous years as a student, and everything just seems to be a blur or filled with overwhelming moments of rush, rush, rush. So how could I have provided myself with a better experience? Just as we apply engineering principles to a vehicle or process…Why not Engineer Your Career! Designing your career path ahead of time can be very helpful and a huge weight off your shoulders as you work your way through undergrad and determine your next route…graduate school or industry. Here are a few ‘lessons-­‐learned’ throughout my graduate career that you may find helpful:

Lesson #1: Think with the End in Mind!
Put together Education and Career Plans as soon as possible. An education plan is a guide through your academic program. For example, you may want to get a minor in an area unrelated to your major; with an education plan, you can determine how to incorporate the additional courses into your current work load. A career plan is an action plan to follow to help you acquire knowledge and skills in addition to opportunities that will help to excel your chosen area of interest, such as internships, research experiences, or volunteer programs. Try using Microsoft Excel to list these milestones and be certain to include significant dates and deadlines.

Lesson #2: Show Your Work!
Make it a point to start a Portfolio. Portfolios are a purposeful collection of work that exhibits your efforts, progress, and achievements. Your portfolio should contain personal statements, cover letters, resumes, transcripts, diplomas, certificates, awards, presentations, projects, and letters of recommendation to name a few. It’s easy to get started, just grab a binder and begin organizing your materials. By the way, it’s always a great idea to have hard-copies of your work, so include anything you’ve worked on that provides substance.

Lesson #3: Build and Maintain Bridges!
Everyone needs a Mentor, especially students because we have a lot of uncertainties in various areas of life during our college years. A mentor can be a family member, fellow student, company employee, church member or someone you may happen to meet and look up to. Mentors are there to provide encouragement, guide you in your career choice, be resourceful, and offer opportunities and advice as you grow into a professional. Don’t know how to reach out to a potential mentor? First, make a list of potential mentors or reach out to a local organization with a mentoring program. Second, try reaching out to these specific individuals by email or phone and set up a time to meet over coffee or lunch. Third, be prepared with a list and be clear about your expectations of them as a mentor; it won’t hurt to be familiar with this individual’s background as well.

In addition, every design requires balance, so be sure to find balance in your everyday life – spiritual, social, physical well-being, emotional and intellectual. You are sure to reap the benefits of your college years when implementing these lessons into your daily life. Need further information on the tips mentioned, feel free to contact me at And don’t forget; Start today….Engineer Your Career!

Written by Jodi Boutte’, GPC-E

Welcome from the FY18 Diversity and Inclusion Liaison!

Hi GradSWE! My name is Bridget Hegarty and I am a PhD student at Yale University in environmental engineering. I am so excited to join the GradSWE Leadership Team as the Diversity and Inclusion Liaison (DIL) this year! This role is a new one for the Grad Leadership Team, so I will start my first post with an overview of what I hope to accomplish and wrap it up with some of SWE’s resources on this topic.

What is the DIL? 

This role was created to facilitate relationships between affiliate groups and grad student members in order to further promote the inclusion of minority groups in engineering. Through this position, I will work to support minority grad students in two main ways. The first will be to connect women and minorities in STEM with SWE’s resources whether or not they have an active local section. My second focus will be to create tools and initiatives that grad groups can use to increase diversity and foster inclusion on their own campuses.

What are my plans for the coming year?

Before getting this role, I didn’t know anything about SWE’s affinity groups. Therefore, my first task is to introduce them to the grad community. To learn more about them, check out the end of this post. Alongside connecting interested GradSWE members with the affinity groups, I will also be collaborating with their leaders to better engage grad members.

Additionally, I will be collecting best practices and creating toolkits that gradSWE sections can use to increase their own D&I efforts. I will start my efforts by focusing on ways that SWE sections can help to increase both the diversity of applicants to grad school and their subsequent recruitment. If you have any thoughts on this topic, whether it is an initiative that has been successfully implemented at your university or an idea that you think is worth exploring, then please send them to

What resources does SWE already have for D&I?

Affinity Groups

Affinity groups exist at the society level to bring together SWE members that share a common identity. They are open to anyone in SWE and are a great way for grad students to get involved with the broader SWE community. In addition to being a resource for their members and a platform for networking, they advise SWE on issues affecting their group’s interests. You can read more about them here:

If you are interested in reaching out to any of SWE’s affinity groups, check out their Facebook pages: SWE African-American AGSWE Latinos AGSWE Native-American AGSWE LGBTQ And Allies AGSWE Global Women Engineers AGSWE Small Business AGSWE Women in Government AG and SWE Entrepreneurs AG.

Joint Memberships           

SWE also offers reduced membership rates to members of the National Society of Black Engineers, the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. To learn more about the options available, check out:

SWE’s Research and Trends for Women in STEM Website

If you are looking for either an overview of trends or an in-depth look at the research surrounding women in engineering, then should be your first step. Launched last year, this site brings together the latest research on women in engineering. It hosts the results of SWE’s own studies on women in engineering, their annual literature reviews, and contains links to many other sources of information.

Diversity and Inclusion Knowledge Cards

These cards were developed to act as a catalyst for discussion on D&I and to help guide reflection on how companies can foster a welcoming environment. Each card presents a key aspect of identifying unconscious bias. They were developed by SWE and Arup to be tailored to the specific needs of the engineering community.

How can you contact me?

As this role is new, my efforts will be evolving based on your input. I look forward to hearing from you at!