Grad Member Spotlight: April L. Keene

April Keene

April L. Keene

MS Electrical Engineering, Wright State University

April L. Keene is an enthusiastic technical analyst and team leader where she bridges the gap between details and impact through technical storytelling. Mrs. Keene’s interests have been primarily focused on waveform level modeling to include digital signal processing (DSP), antenna receiver capability and limitations, and radar analysis with a priority on increasing aircraft survivability through electronic countermeasures (ECM). Her work directly aids the Air Force by reducing live testing costs.

From undergraduate involvement to her current role as one of the SWE Professional Graduate Team Leads, Mrs. Keene has always made her community and SWE a priority in her life. From Section Representative for her professional section, South Ohio, to Region G Nominating Committee Chair, she has focused her efforts on supporting the organization locally and regionally.

In addition to her society roles, Mrs. Keene is the Booz Allen Firm-Wide SWE Deputy Program Manager (term 2016-2018). She works directly with the program manager and the Booz Allen SWE Partner Steering Committee—senior firm-wide leadership—in establishing plans and goals for Booz Allen’s Corporate Partnership Council (CPC) and internal funds. Ms. Keene is also working with the regional ambassadors at their respective geographic offices to help grow their SWE presence and leadership support.

 

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

I’m pursuing the continuation of my education and along the way I hope to gain my Masters in Electrical Engineering with a focus on signal processing. For me, graduate school allows me to deep dive into specific areas and expand my knowledge and support my full time work. I take courses as they fit my interest, and at this point in time, I think my expected graduation is 2020. However, my priority is on learning versus checking the boxes to get a diploma, so depending on what’s offered it may be sooner or later

Give a brief explanation of your research experience.

As a professional returning to school, I’m not looking to switch tracks or careers and am focused on complimenting the current work that I do. Therefore all of my research experience has been directly tied to my full time work the past 7 years. For school my focus has been on understanding the basics on signal processing beyond the toolkits provided by Mathworks, so that I can move towards developing my own innovative techniques. My research is on understanding the rules, so that I can break them appropriately.

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

I don’t think this degree will provide me with a groundbreaking new option, but it does provide me more tools with which to use in my career.

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

I enjoy woodworking and have built an outdoor table, a kitchen bench, and a bunk bed for my daughters. I’m currently developing plans for our garage and shopping for table saws to continue to learn and build new furniture which includes cabinets for our kitchen renovation.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I absolutely love reading, and I love listening to podcasts.

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Start the Year off Right: How to get involved in SWE

If you are looking for more ways to get involved in SWE, and you are reading this blog post, you are off to a good start! SWE is a great resource for graduate students, and has many options so that you can find what works best for you. Below I have outlined several of these options and ways to get involved.

  1. First step in getting more involved is becoming an official member! Check out the membership options at swe.org. The “Collegiate to Career” is a great ,affordable way to get involved in SWE.
  2. Find GradSWE through all media outlets
    1. Join the e-mail list: http://tinyurl.com/mbrd429
    2. Check out the GradSWE blog (where this article has been posted): https://swegrad.wordpress.com/
    3. Watch out for helpful webinars. These will be advertised through the e-mails as well.
    4. Like us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/SWEGrad/
    5. Follow us on Instagram @swegradcommunity
    6. Check us out on twitter @SWE_grad
    7. Check out resources on swe.org. Some of the resources meant for professionals will also be useful to you in your professional development. Look out for scholarships on swe.org as well!
  3. Go to a conference! (Annual conference info is found at We17.swe.org , and look out for the WeLocal conferences this coming spring)
    1. The annual conference offers an INCREDIBLE amount great professional development and networking opportunities.
    2. Career Fair – Many companies come to these conferences to recruit great students like you! Additionally, there is a great program to help graduate students as they transition into jobs in academia – ALWE, so there are options for everyone.
    3. The sessions offered throughout annual conference are a great way to improve your soft skills, and there will be several sessions geared specifically towards graduate students.
  4. Get involved at the section level at your university
    1. Get to know the women in your department to form a good network and support system. These women will be your allies throughout graduate school and afterwards, so use SWE to help connect with them. Most engineering departments are male-dominated, so it is a bonus to be able to meet and engage with the few other women in your department.
    2. Get involved with outreach events to engage young girls in engineering
      1. These events will allow you to practice teaching STEM topics and will be incredibly beneficial if you are considering a career in academia. They are also great times to practice your leadership skills, which are transferrable to any career path.
      2. Show off your research! These events are great ways to be reminded that what you do in the lab really does matter. Talking to kids about your research and getting your ideas out to the public is a very important, and often underrated, role of a grad student.
    3. Mentor undergraduate students through your SWE section. These students may be considering going to grad school and would greatly benefit from your knowledge!
    4. Get connected with future employers! Sections often have professional development events as well as opportunities to engage with future employers.
  5. Get involved at the societal level
    1. Region Grad Reps are the point person for their regions, and represent the needs of graduate students. Get more leadership experience and make a difference in your region!
    2. Looking for a mentor? Check out Grad SWE’s mentoring program https://goo.gl/forms/BXTYWIjV8Dj2OC6k2
    3. Like providing professional development workshops? Look into the Leadership Coaching Committee, which provides great professional development opportunities for all sections. Help sections provide their members with great new resources. https://www.facebook.com/swelcc/
    4. Think we need more grad representation in societal SWE? Check out all of the amazing committees within SWE, and if the topic appeals to you, request to join. You’ll learn more about the area in SWE and help us to be more inclusive of women at all stages of their career. Additionally, you can check out leadership roles within your section, or even the SWE Senate!

http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/page2/91-about-swe-leadership-committees

http://senate.swe.org/about-the-senate.html

  1. Check out some of the Affinity Groups! These are great resources to meet more amazing members, and offer additional resources for SWE members that qualify as double minorities in engineering. There are also some affinity groups geared towards minority-related careers, such as small businesses and women in government.
  2. Have more ideas and want to support the Graduate SWE Team? Send in ideas for webinars, new events, and ways to support grad students! Feel free to e-mail these thoughts to me at: grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org
  1. Check out some of SWE’s great tool kit, specifically for grad students: http://societyofwomenengineers.swe.org/single-category/download/2-senate-documents/4639-graduate-swe-community-toolkit
  2. Have something you’re proud of? Send us a spotlight post so we can feature you on the blog! Feel free to send in spotlights for your friends as well! Share your accomplishments with the GradSWE community! http://goo.gl/51Oh1H

Translating your Research into Intellectual Property

Hello fellow graduate students! I am excited to be a part of the community this year. For my first blog post, I wanted to write about something that is particularly exciting to me – transitioning our research into the field! This is an essential step in the scientific journey we are taking as we go through graduate school. Our research needs to be accessible to the public after it is completed, and can make a huge difference in our society.

If your research could be patented and converted into a good or service, you should benefit as well! There are some ways that you can avoid pitfalls and navigate through the more difficult, unfamiliar work as you try to obtain protection for your Intellectual Property (IP).

The first and most important thing that you can do is to understand your school’s IP policies. Do they have ownership on any idea you develop? Does the school only have a stake in this idea if you used their materials or resources (computer programs, etc.)? Do they let you run completely free and make no claim on your invention? Better understanding the policies in place and knowing if you have already signed IP documents will help you understand your next steps.

Most engineering schools have technology transfer offices that may be able to help you file a patent application – oftentimes they will even pay the filing fees associated with your provisional patent application. This patent is never actually examined by the Patent & Trademark Office, but acts as a placeholder to establish a filing date. You are granted a one-year period in which to upgrade to the more expensive, “full” patent application (a “nonprovisional patent application”) while still retaining the filing date of the provisional patent application. The provisional patent is especially useful for us graduate students. Any information that is publicly disclosed (at a conference, in a journal, at a public presentation, etc.) is no longer able to be patented globally. If you do need to complete one of these activities and discuss your potential IP, you should file your provisional patent application with some write-ups of your idea, as well as notebook pages relevant to the idea. Consulting legal counsel, even for these provisional patent applications, will definitely help your application be more robust. Again, your school may have some sort of office with legal staff that could help in this matter. You should also mention at your conference, talk, etc., that you have already filed a provisional patent application.

Your lab notebook is also very important! It not only provides proof of your idea, but it also provides proof that YOU contributed to the IP. This could be essential in ensuring your name is on the patent submission.

Once you get to the point of actually submitting a nonprovisional patent application, be informed of the market in which your design will flourish – is it worldwide? You may want to file a more wide-reaching application – like the PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent application, which is an international application. Some specific countries may still have differences, so if you expect to have large impacts in specific regions, take a look at those too. In addition to knowing what type of patent application you wish to file, be knowledgeable about the patents filed in this field already. You are the best person that can understand the technical similarities of your design to others already patented. By determining that no prior art exists, you can also keep your bill lower and not ask your lawyers to do this search for you. Keep in mind that your patentability is defined as “new, non-obvious, and reducible to practice”.

Once you have filed your patent application, decide how far you are willing to go to bring this to market. Do you want to simply license your patent to a larger company already in the field? Do you want to run a start-up for a little while and then accept the money when someone comes to buy you? Do you want to be the next Google? Understanding what you and your team members are willing to do will be important so you can avoid arguments in the future.

Additionally, as you continue to work on your design prior to obtaining approval, remember to mark anything you contract as “confidential”. You should also look into sending Non-Disclosure Agreements to any contractors who may need access to your design or IP in order to complete their job. These legal documents are older and you can even find samples on the internet for free. This will help to protect you until you get your patent.

Lastly, if you are in the medical device field, try to master two totally different mindsets. When the FDA comes calling, you will benefit most if you can prove similarity in safety and efficacy to other currently approved devices. This will set you up to be able to obtain FDA approval through a 510k submission, which is significantly cheaper and shorter. When working with your lawyers and the PTO, remember to emphasize all of the differences and improvements your new device will offer – it is nothing like those currently on the market!

I hope this information was helpful to many of you – I have learned most of this through my own experiences so I would love to hear any feedback any fellow entrepreneurs in GradSWE have!

Feel free to comment on this post through social media, or e-mail me at grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org

Hope you are all enjoying your summer!

Carolyn