Grad Member Spotlight: Becky LaCroix

SWE spotlight pic_BeckyBecky LaCroix
PhD Candidate, Biomedical Engineering
Yale University

Becky is a founding member of the Yale SWE section. She has served in many key roles including section outreach chair (2014-15), section vice president (2016-present) and co-director (2015-17) of Yale’s GradSWE Committee. In every role, Becky has led the Yale SWE section to grow sustainably through establishing lasting programs and leadership structure. Example programs include outreach programs with New Haven K-12 students several times per year, large annual Grad-oriented events such as a Gender Bias in STEM workshop, and collaborative events with other student groups such as Women in Science at Yale, STEMentors, and League of Black Scientists. Becky has a bright future in SWE.

During her time as vice president of Yale SWE, Becky led her team to apply for and receive several awards including the Outstanding New Section (silver level) and outreach awards at WE16 and the outstanding communications award at the 2017 Region F conference. For her research, Becky was recognized with an honorable mention from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Congratulations, Becky, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

I am working towards my PhD in biomedical engineering and expect to graduate by the spring of 2019.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
I study signaling pathways involved in cancer cell migration. Our lab has developed tools to tap into these pathways at specific locations in order to untangle potential feedback loops between different proteins. We hope that doing so will help us to better understand how cells make the decision to migrate in response to extracellular cues.

What do you want to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I really enjoy working with undergraduate students, so I’m considering a career in either teaching or academic administration.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy cooking, hiking, and playing video games (the games in the Civilization series are my favorite). I’m also a member of the Yale Taekwondo Club!

What’s a fun fact about you?

I have a pet freshwater snail that I keep on my desk at work. He cheers me up when my experiments aren’t working.

Grad Member Spotlight: Caity Clark

caityCaity Clark
PhD, Mechanical Engineering
Oregon State University
As a member of the SWE since 2010, Caity has been engaged with SWE at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional level through the Oregon State University, Willamette Valley, and Columbia River sections. She enjoys bridging the undergraduate, graduate, and professional groups through event participation, service activities, mentorship, and social activities. In 2016, she also presented at the regional ABJ conference in Seattle with fellow SWE member, Aisha McKee.
In the past year, Caity has received four research awards. First, she was recently awarded a Fulbright fellowship to conduct research in Denmark next year on risk and reliability in offshore renewable energy systems. Currently, she is sponsored by Iberdrola as a Research Fellow at OSU and is a NSF National Research Traineeship Fellow through OSU’s Risk and Uncertainty in Marine Sciences program. Lastly, she is an OMSI Science Communication Fellow with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, through which she has created a mini-exhibit and participates regularly in presenting her exhibit at public outreach events. Through OMSI, she also participates in the Designing Our World program, which focuses on engaging young girls in engineering throughout Oregon. Congratulations, Caity, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

I am a second-year graduate student, pursuing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. I focus on challenges at the nexus of offshore renewable energy, computational optimization, and machine learning. I will be receiving my MSc this summer before traveling to Denmark for a year. Previously, I have worked at Anchor QEA in Portland, and received my Honors BSc from Oregon State in Ecological Engineering in 2014.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
I currently work on a few projects. My MSc thesis involves computational optimization techniques applied to co-located wind-wave energy systems, and my NSF side-project applies machine learning techniques to coastal community resilience and emergency renewable energy generation. Next year, I will be studying risk and reliability propagation in offshore renewable energy systems.

What do you want to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I want to conduct research for the rest of my life in renewable energy systems. I am unsure yet if that research position will be in a researching university, national laboratory, or industry.  Research gives me the outlet to express my creativity and ambition, and a career which allows me to do that every day would be nothing short of a dream come true.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, you can usually find me out on a run (I have run three full marathons and a handful of half-marathons), or in my garden. I also like to get out on the weekends to hike, bike, raft…any activity in which I can play outdoors and get my blood pumping.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I have Type 1 Diabetes.

Grad Member Spotlight: Tara Eicher

TaraTara Eicher
PhD, Computer Science
The Ohio State University
Tara has been a member of SWE since 2012.  She is currently the first graduate representative for the Ohio State University section. As the graduate rep, she has designed and hosted new events for graduate students and networked with existing graduate student organizations to increase awareness of the group.
Tara is an active young researcher. She has an upcoming publication in this year’s International Joint Conference on Neural Networks conference proceedings.  Her campus research is funded by a university fellowship. She is also a member of the electrical engineering honor society, Eta Kappa Nu. Congratulations, Tara, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

I am a first-year PhD student in the computer science department. I expect to graduate in 2021.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
My research applies computational methods to genomics data analysis. My current project involves designing an algorithm for detecting open chromatin, or regions of DNA that are accessible for protein binding. Having an accurate algorithm for this analysis could enable computational biologists to more accurately characterize the influence of binding patterns on genetic expression.

What do you want to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I hope to obtain a position in academia at a major research institution. I am planning to do a post-doc after graduating.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love nature, cooking, and listening to music. In my free time I usually go for walks, meet up with friends, or watch T.V.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I grew up in a military family, so I have lived in many places around the U.S. I did my undergrad at Wichita State University, Home of the Shockers.

Grad Member Spotlight: Jodi Boutté

jodiJodi Boutté
PhD, Industrial Engineering
Louisiana State University A&M 

Jodi has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2008. She currently serves as Graduate Program Coordinator-Elect (GPC-E) on the Graduate Leadership Team. At LSU, she created and presented a talk for the SWE Chat with Freshman program in 2015. She also developed a workshop entitled Yes, SWE Can! Lessons Learned on her Path to the Ph.D. In addition, she has contributed to several events involving SWE over the years, such as: volunteer for the Sally Ride community event held by the LSU College of Engineering, volunteer and participant for the Women Impacting Style in Engineering (WISE) Style Show and Networking Event, and student volunteer at the SWE Annual Conference talks.
Jodi has received numerous scholarships/fellowships including the Marathon Engineering Diversity Fellowship, the Cummins Scholarship, and the LaSpace Fellowship. For her research, she also placed 2nd in the National Society of Black Engineers’ 2014 Technical Research Exhibition (TRE). Congratulations, Jodi, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

I’m in the Ph.D. Engineering Science program in the College of Engineering at Louisiana State University A&M; my major is Industrial Engineering with a concentration in Human Factors and Ergonomics. My expected graduation date is December 2017.

Give a brief explanation of your research experience.
Very little is known about fatigue behaviors and/or characteristics in the medical domain. Much of what we know about fatigue in healthcare has been transposed or adopted from other work environments. My current research focuses on human factors in healthcare; specifically, I am interested in the assessment of fatigue in medical workers by mental and physical work factors in various work environments. The results from this research will be transformational as it will be critical to making healthcare safer and reducing the vulnerability of patients during the care process. Thus, this research is integral in the improvement of healthcare processes and patient safety practices.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I would like to continue in research studying human factors in healthcare or healthcare systems engineering. My dream jobs would be to work for Nike in Research and Development and at some point start my own consulting company

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I truly enjoy traveling; I hope to do more of it once I complete my degree program. I also enjoy baking, gardening, DIY projects, exercising, and shopping.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I can make a really funny baby voice that would be perfect for a kid’s cartoon. My sisters have always gotten a kick out of it.

Outreach and SWE

Outreach is important! Many of us would not be where we are without someone else taking the time to teach us a bit about STEM. For me, it was participating in an Engineering summer camp that helped convince me to be an engineer. What was it for you?

Numbers are also important. As graduate students, we understand that data needs to be collected to convince others of the impact of our design or research projects.

Combine outreach and numbers and we get the SWE Outreach Metrics Tool! The OMT is a rather neat way of measuring the impact of SWE members around the world.

The Outreach Metric Tool (OMT) is a simple 10 question survey to complete after your outreach events. These are events that focus on students ages 4-18 and/or their adult advocates such as parents, educators, and group leaders. These events should directly impact K-12 students, parents, and educators, to help them explore and understand engineering disciplines and careers. K-12 outreach events to be entered into the OMT include:

  • Special engineering events planned, executed, and led by SWE member organizations OR led by a partner organization, such as an engineering society or industrial firm, where, for example, a SWE collegiate, professional, or MAL chapter, formally participated
  • Individual K-12 outreach efforts of SWE members

This means that you can catalog EVERY outreach activity you engage in to further SWE’s mission.

  • Volunteer at your local Science Olympiad? Enter it.
  • Give high schoolers a tour of your lab or company? Enter it.
  • Visit an elementary school for career day? Enter it.
  • Collaborate with Tau Beta Pi for one of their programs? Enter it.

The more data we collect, the more we can advocate for the SWE mission!

Okay, now you are thinking, “Liz, this is great! But, I don’t do much outreach…” Fear not dear SWE member, there are lots of resources to help you. I’ve listed a few interesting ones below.

Outreach Resources 

  • Constance and Nano – SWE’s new comic book:
  • Simple Science “Snacks” from San Francisco’s Exploratorium:
  • SWE’s Outreach Home Page:
  • SWE Member Resources:
  • Instructions on how to plan an event:

My current favorite is the new SWE poster! What is your favorite outreach tool?


Grad Member Spotlight: Sarah Watzman

Grad Member Spotlight: Sarah Watzman

Watzman_HeadshotSarah Watzman

PhD student,  Mechanical Engineering

The Ohio State University

Sarah has been actively involved in SWE since her freshman year of undergrad. Since then, she has been involved in SWE at all levels of the society. At Ohio State, she has served as both outreach coordinator and section president. For Region G, she has been the Region Collegiate Representative (RCR), a member of the conference planning committee, and a leadership coach.  Currently, she is serving as Collegiate Director on the Board of Directors.

Sarah is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a University Fellow through Ohio State’s Graduate School, and a FAST (Future Academic Scholar Training) Fellow through her department. She received the Rob Wolf Outstanding Senior Award from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Ohio State as well as the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award in 2013. Congratulations, Sarah, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

I am a 4th-year PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering, hoping to graduate in the spring of 2018 (although anytime I write this on anything, my advisor “corrects” the date to 2118).

Give a brief explanation of your research.
I work on materials that convert heat to electricity, and I specifically look at how magnetism can increase this transport.  Typically, these materials are semiconductors, but I’m exploring metals and semimetals for my dissertation.  Applications for these materials are in waste-heat recovery, where these materials would utilize heat released from other energy generation processes to produce their own power output.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I hope to become a professor!  I really love research, and I also love working with students (I’m co-instructing my advisor’s undergraduate thermodynamics course this semester).  I think a professor position would well combine these two passions.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love to cook and hike!  I have also gotten into TRX (body resistance strength training on something that looks like monkey bars) this year.  And of course, I spend lots of my free time on SWE!

What’s a fun fact about you?
I’m moving to Germany in the middle of April to work in my collaborator’s lab for the summer!

Watzman_In Lab

Sarah Watman working in her lab at Ohio State

Grad Member Spotlight: Aqsa Fulara

aqsa-fularaAqsa Fulara

M.S., Engineering Management

University of Southern California

A member of the SWE since 2015, Aqsa actively serves the graduate and undergraduate community at USC. At USC, she is involved with other student organizations that work closely with SWE at USC, like the Viterbi Graduate Student Association (VGSA), Engineering Management Student Association (EMSA), and most recently the Business Technology Networking Group (BTNG). During her time with these organizations, Aqsa works to bring professional development and networking opportunities in order to secure industry jobs, by planning Company Information Sessions, Tech Panels, Mentoring programs and Social Mixers. Aqsa also served as a liaison between the ISE graduate students and the USC Graduate Office as a Senator with VGSA.

In addition to her extracurricular involvement, Aqsa has excelled in her academics. She received a scholarship during her undergrad in India, based on merit-CET marks. She also actively participates at several competitions, and has been a finalist at several competitions, some of which include USC Marshall Datathon 2016, WCE Elite Feats Startup Pitch Competition(India) and MEMPC Business Simulation Game(USC). Congratulations, Aqsa, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

I am currently in my last semester at USC pursuing Masters in Engineering Management, with a focus on data and business analysis. I expect to graduate in May 2017. I have my bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering from Walchand College of Engineering, India.

Give a brief explanation of your industry experience.
My major is very industry focused, and gives an opportunity to advance and excel in your undergrad area of expertise. I am fortunate to have multiple internship experiences. Most recent ones include the Technical Solutions Intern at CornerStone OnDemand, Santa Monica. Another notable includes my time at SoCalGas, Los Angeles as an intern with the e-Services team, mainly as a Business Analyst.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I am very focused on using technology within organizations. I plan to pursue a career in industry, and fulfill a role at the interface between technology and business. I aspire to grow as a leader and manager in a role where I can contribute to project and product management, as well as innovation in technology.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I go for the zumba classes. I also like meeting new people, shopping and traveling. In California, I also enjoy the beaches.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I am a foodie, and have tried over 10 different cuisines. I have also never enjoyed junk food, and am a huge preacher of healthy foods!