Making the most of summer in Grad School

Hello Grad SWE community! My name is Amy Zheng. I am the newly elected Developmental Mentoring Coordinator. I am a first year Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University.

Since this is my first summer doing research full-time as a graduate student, I have been thinking about ways to make my summer more fulfilling, in life and in my research.

  1. Set summer and weekly goals


Every semester I schedule a meeting with my advisor to assess my research goals for the semester and come up with next steps. This has been really helpful since I am a goal-orientated person. I love crossing out items on my to-do list.


This strategy also helps me look at the big picture. It is a time where my advisor and I can come to an understanding on where we hope the project will go.


  1. Look up deadlines for upcoming grants and scholarships


Some of the most prestigious fellowships, such as the NSF GRFP, are due in the early fall. The summer is a great time to start looking at previous applications. For the GRFP, I found the website below to be especially helpful.


I also find it helpful to talk with my advisor and mentors about my proposal outline. The summer is also a great time to start looking for workshops and writing seminars for the fellowships and grants you plan to apply for. At many universities, workshops for the NSF GRFP are held in the fall.


  1. Plan time to exercise at least once a week


I try to exercise before lunch. It helps me break up my work day and keeps me from getting drowsy in the afternoon. It also makes my lunch seem extra tasty! I try to hit the gym at least once a week. Many university gyms include exercise classes so it makes creating a weekly schedule much easier.


  1. Leaving your office for lunch


When I feel like I’ve spent too much time at my desk, I go to the outdoor seating area and eat lunch. Smelling the fresh air does wonders for lowering my stress. While I eat lunch, I usually look up recipes that I want to make for future meals or watch Youtube videos. I try to treat my lunch as an opportunity to learn something new outside of work.


  1. Taking a weekend trip


After working in the lab on weekends and not leaving town, I find myself getting sluggish and stir-crazy. Blocking off a weekend to take a short trip has helped me feel refreshed. Being in a new environment and having new experiences can make your struggles in the lab seem less immense. A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Atlanta and explored the city for the weekend. When I return on Monday, my mind was refreshed and ready to work on planning experiments and reading papers.


One Step Closer to your First Job in the US

Written by Keke Chen, International Graduate Team Leader


As an international student myself, I know how hard it can be to land your first job after graduation. As there are many good articles talking about the tips of what we shall do, here I want to share one article from a career advisor at Cornell University. The article gives practical ways to identify the right companies for you in the very first step.

In addition to this, I would like to share some of my own experiences, in particular about what an international student should do when attending career fair or a professional conference.

  1. Always be ready for a conversation. Everyone goes to a professional event to socialize, so you do not want to hide yourself in a corner. Have an approachable attitude instead of a “push-away” face. You can prepare yourself by practicing the questions like “What’s new?” and “How are you?”. If you are attending a career fair, do your homework at least one day ahead by studying the background and technology of the companies. If you are attending a professional conference, you can start by looking into some of your interested speakers and topics. In this way, you will feel more comfortable talking to people.
  2. Do not be afraid to initiate a conversation. If no one comes to talk to you, do not feel isolated. Go to talk to the person you would like to talk to. Nothing can beat an in-person conversation, and you don’t want to waste the opportunity. You do not know when you will next encounter him or her.
  3. Prepare a 1-minute elevator pitch about yourself. This is simply to answer the question of “what do you do?”, and we all know the importance of introducing ourselves. This may be your first and last chance to leave a good impression. Be short and concise about what you want to say, and do not use complicated jargon that only the people in your field would know. Prepare a tailored pitch that is tailored to your audience.
  4. Last but not least, do not ever feel bad about yourself if you didn’t get a passionate feedback during the conversation. Be prepared, but take it easy -practice makes perfect!

After multiple experiences of exposing yourself at a professional event, you will get a hang of what to do and will be more comfortable talking to people. At that time, I am sure you will also be more confident of getting one step closer to land your job after graduation.


Questions about this article, or about the International Graduate Team, can be directed to Keke at

Graduate Member Spotlight: Allie Greaney

Allison Greaney

PhD Candidate

Biomedical Engineering

Yale University


            Allie is a very involved graduate member in SWE, and currently holds the positions of President and GradSWE Committee Co-Chair for Yale SWE. In her time in these leadership positions, the Yale section has been awarded the Outstanding Collegiate Section – Gold Award, Best Practices in Mentoring, SWE Resource Promotion, and the Region F Membership Programs Award. Allie was part of the Collegiate Leadership Institute in 2017 and 2018 and was named an FY18 SWE Future Leader.

Thesis: Developing a functional tracheal replacement graft

Allie’s research focuses on pulmonary tissue engineering. For her thesis project, she is working to address three of the biggest challenges to clinical adoption of engineered tracheal replacement grafts: (1) mechanical sufficiency (2) re-epithelialization and (3) host response. The overarching goal of this work is to develop a functional replacement graft for patients with long-segment tracheal damage, which can be caused by cancer, trauma, infection, or prolonged intubation. Additionally, she works on a team within her lab conducting research on whole lung tissue engineering, with the broader goal of developing bioengineered lung transplants. It takes a village to make a lung, so her focus within the group is specifically on airway epithelial cell sourcing and culture.

After completing her PhD, Allie plans to follow the research she loves, likely remaining in academia to someday run her own lab in lung or some other type of tissue engineering. She aspires to inspire the next generation of biomedical engineers, particularly those who have historically struggled to find their place in the field, through excellent research and strong mentorship.

Outside of lab, Allie enjoys hanging out with friends, doing yoga, biking, baking, and doing crossword puzzles.

Fun Fact from Allie: I am a member of the 2019 Cohort of Homeward Bound, an international program for women leaders in STEM to develop their skills around leadership development and strategic programming, culminating in an all-women expedition to Antarctica at the end of the year! (Applications for the next cohort just opened:


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Graduate Member Spotlight: Molly Baker

Graduate Member Spotlight

Molly Baker

PhD Candidate

Biomedical Engineering

Yale University


            Molly is an active graduate member in our Society, and currently holds the position of Treasurer and GradSWE Committee Co-Chair for Yale SWE. During her tenure in these leadership positions, the Yale section has been awarded the Outstanding Collegiate Section – Gold Award, Best Practices in Mentoring, and SWE Resource Promotion.

In addition to leading her SWE section to success, Molly is pushing boundaries in genital herpes research. Her PhD work focuses on a polymer nanoparticle drug delivery system for the treatment of genital herpes, which is an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection. Herpes affects 17% of U.S. adults and 417 million people worldwide—yet there is currently no effective vaccine or treatment. Genital herpes is incidentally the top reason why potential contenders are turned away from The Bachelor. Molly’s research project focuses on developing polymer nanoparticles that will provide improved delivery and extended retention of herpes prophylaxis drugs. Her favorite part about nanoparticle research is how cross-disciplinary the field is; she works with lab members from a variety of STEM backgrounds, including inorganic chemistry, polymer chemistry, physics, biology, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine, and more.

After completing her PhD, Molly would like to work in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Her dream is to work for an organization like the Population Council, which is a non-profit that conducts research in biomedicine and public health.

Outside of lab, Molly’s current obsession is growing plants and baking bread. She has been perfecting a Bavarian sourdough rye bread that her brother taught her (she brought his sourdough culture all the way from Portland, OR to New Haven, CT on the plane!). She is also working on whole wheat sandwich bread. You can usually find her reading, baking cookies, or cooking extravagant vegetarian meals.

Fun Fact from Molly: My favorite color is purple because my alma mater is Northwestern University. I will always believe that purple is the best school color—go ‘Cats!

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Voting Opportunities in the Society!

Calling all graduate students! This year has been especially exciting, as we have gained significant rights as collegiate members. A change in the bylaws now allows you to vote for the FY19 Board of Directors, Trustees, and Senate Leadership. FY19 will be the first year that collegiate members can participate in this vote, so exercise your right!

Positions up for vote include:

  • Board of Directors Positions: President-Elect, Treasurer, and three Directors. These leaders help guide the direction of our society: they are very involved in creating the strategic plan of the Society.
  • Trustees: The trustees are responsible for managing the assets in the SWE Endowment Fund and in the SWE Reserve Fund.
  • Senate Leadership & your last Region Senator: You will each get the chance to elect a senator to represent your region, and therefore to represent you and your interests. The Senate leadership will help facilitate the issues discussed in the senate. This is the last year we will ever elect region senators! As we move away from regions, all senate members will be key to our transition.

Be sure to check out the election site to get more info on the candidates so you can make an informed decision!



How to Vote

To vote, log-on to and enter the control code you received in a recent e-mail. Note: only SWE members are eligible to vote. If you have questions about voting, feel free to e-mail Carolyn at and I can help you figure things out!

Graduate Member Spotlight: Claire Wemp

Claire Wemp
PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering
UC Berkeley
Claire is a very accomplished graduate student expecting to finish her PhD in May 2018. As an undergraduate student, she served as Vice President of the Santa Clara University SWE section. As a graduate student, she spread the support of SWE to graduate students at her institution and helped to start the GradSWE group at UC Berkeley. Claire has been recognized by the National Science Foundation through the Graduate Fellowship Research Program.
At UC Berkeley, Claire studies enhanced heat transfer with zinc oxide nanostructured surfaces. In this research field, Claire makes hydrophilic surfaces by coating metal with Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles. She then studies the heat transfer benefits of water evaporation on these nano-structured surfaces — as it turns out, she can get over two times better heat transfer during evaporation and boiling with the coating!
Claire is graduating soon, and currently plans to spend time in industry to develop  stronger real-world applications for her engineering toolbox. Eventually, she hopes to go back into academia at a teaching university and be an awesome engineering professor! We know that she will succeed at whatever she sets her mind to!
Outside of lab, Claire loves to cook and bake new things. She uses YouTube to learn new recipes and techniques and shes is currently exploring Japanese cuisine.
Fun Fact: “I’ve been singing in choirs and voice lessons since I was little. More recently, I’ve been in two operas with a semi-pro opera troupe in the Bay Area!” 
Keep up the good work Claire, and best of luck on your defense!

Call for FY19 Leaders

Call for FY19 Coordinators

Get more involved with SWE as a graduate student!

Apply here:

The Graduate Leadership Team (consisting of the Graduate Member Coordinator, the Graduate Programming Coordinator, and their coordinator-elects) is looking for new leaders for FY19, starting in July 2018!  This is a great opportunity for grad students to get involved in the SWE Grad Community. The positions are:

– Graduate Member Coordinator-Elect (GMC-Elect): Supports the Graduate Member Coordinator in working to foster a strong community and network for graduate students in SWE by facilitating communication between graduate students in SWE and SWE graduate student groups, and by representing the interests of graduate students to the Society. The GMC-Elect assists the GMC, in preparation for assuming the GMC role the following year.

– Social Media Coordinator (SMC): Ensures that all the Graduate Community social media and online outlets have current and regular content in order to allow graduate students to stay up to date on relevant information.

– Webinars Coordinator (WC): Assist in coordinating the webinars hosted by the Graduate SWE community, by selecting topics, inviting speakers, and coordinating logistics with SWE headquarters to ensure webinars are advertised and routinely presented

– Mentorship Coordinator (MC): The mentorship coordinator will assist in the development and implementation of GradSWE’s new mentorship program.  Tasks include soliciting for mentors, keeping track of mentor/mentee applications, and making mentorship pairings.

Graduate Transition Lead (GTL): Leads the Region Grad Rep team, and assists the GMC with strategic planning for GradSWE throughout the governance transitions, aiding Regions in solidifying their section graduate contacts.

– International Graduate Team Leader (IGTL): Creates resources for international graduate students, and aid in the efforts of GradSWE globalization.

-Professional Graduate Team Leader (PGTL): Assess of the needs of professional graduate students, and make recommendations and resources based on those assessments.

– Diversity and Inclusion Liaison (DIL): Facilitates relationships between affiliate groups and graduate student members to further promote the support of minority groups in STEM fields, and throughout STEM education.

The applications are due by April 01 2018 11:59 pm CDT (Midnight).

  • GradSWE team application:
  • SWE HQ application (to be considered for GMC-E):—Please-Include-The-Name-Of-Application-In-Subject-Of-Email

Note that the GMC-Elect position requires the SWE HQ Committee Chair application. The GradSWE team application includes an area where you indicate whether or not you submitted the GMC-Elect application and allows you to rank your preferences. Both applications require similar information and responses, but please make sure to follow the directions!

Applicants will be notified within 2 weeks after the deadline if there any additional questions and to schedule a phone interview. If you have any questions, please contact Carolyn at