Grad Member Spotlight: Keke Chen

As we enter the new year, we’d like to introduce you to our International Team Leader, Keke Chen!

Keke - Bio

Keke Chen
PhD Candidate, Polymer Engineering, The University of Akron

Keke became a SWE member in 2015 during her PhD study in Polymer Engineering in The University of Akron. She is active in Akron Global Polymer Outreach and K-12 Outreach. During the year of 2015 to 2016, she served as the president of Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and organized several major events for the Chinese community in Akron, including the annual new year party. She obtained a master degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Iowa State University, and later she worked as a Research Engineer for SABIC in Shanghai for two years. During her job in Shanghai, she volunteered as a business mentor for Junior Achievement with local high schools.

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

Current I am in my fourth year of pursuing a PhD degree in Polymer Engineering. I expect to graduate during the year of 2018.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
My research topic is to utilize and understand different processing techniques to process medical grade polymers for biomedical application. One part is the fundamental study of hydrogen bonding effect on materials properties during processing using a real-time birefringence characterization. Another focus of my research is to develop a continuous roll-to-roll process for electrospinning nanofiber membranes with post-fabrication surface functionalization using “click” chemistry to impart antimicrobial properties.

What do you want to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I would like to continue the research of polymer materials/process development in the industry settings. My career goal is to use my expertise in polymer engineering to translate new idea and processing techniques into actual products and solutions. I am particularly intrigued by biotechnology and hope to have the opportunities to work in biomedical field with design and processing development.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love doing yoga, hiking and biking (when weather permits). I also spend a lot of time with food, cooking, researching, and writing my own blog about food (in Mandarin though, but you can look!).

What’s a fun fact about you?

I am a lot older than how I look. I have seen the Aurora Borealis. I have also been to 4 continents and 12 countries.


FY19 Call for Feedback – What does this mean, and what do I do?

Hello SWEGrad Friends!


I hope you enjoyed the WE17 conference.  I know that I did!  I will leave conference wrap up to our GPC Emily Hoffman, who will soon transition out of her role.  Thank you again Emily, for your tireless devotion to helping with annual conference programming, and being an advocate for us!


The reason I am blogging today is to discuss something very exciting to our society.  At the WE17 senate meeting, the senate voted in favor of allowing collegiate members to have voting rights in the society!  Congratulations to you all – you have a right to vote!  This means that for this election cycle, you will be able to vote for the last Region senator which can be either a collegiate or a professional, as we have passed all bylaws amendments!  (If you would like to get involved in the senate, email me and I’ll tell you how you can run for/ be nominated for a senate seat!).  This also means that the FY19 Nominations for the Society that I previously blogged about are something you can vote for.  Candidate selection is currently in process, and you will get an email from SWE on February 1st with the slate they provide.


So – why does this matter right now?  HOW these leaders are chosen every year, requires YOUR input!


Last week during conference, and email was sent out asking for feedback to the Society Nominating Committee regarding the people that have been nominated for positions this year.

Why does this happen?  The nominating committee values the feedback/perspectives from SWE’s members on all the potential candidates so that the best possible slate can be presented.  As such, it’s our job as society members to give feedback when it is needed!  If you have ever worked with these individuals, then you can submit feedback.  I remember last year reaching out and asking – as a collegiate, does my opinion on this nomination matter?


The Answer:  IT DOES!


If anything, the collegiate voice here is probably one that matters most, and I say that with complete sincerity.  There are few collegiates that participate in the nominating process, and as such collegiate feedback is typically at a minimum.  Your input as a collegiate is a unique, and diverse perspective that the society genuinely wants, and incorporates into decision making!  Collegiates make up half of our society, and our voice is needed!


So, what will you see if you decide to leave feedback regarding any of the individuals on the list?  The first page once you click on the link will bring you to a page asking for your SWE info, followed by the info of the nominee you are choosing to provide feedback for, and then this list of questions that you might answer about the nominee:

In what capacity do you know this nominee, and for how long? Please also indicate if this nominee has served as a direct report (within or outside of SWE) to you.

Business Acumen:  Please provide one example of your experience with the candidate’s abilities to develop, execute, and prioritize strategies, goals, or objectives.

Self-Management & Development:  What characteristic(s) does this nominee exhibit that demonstrate she or he is self-motivating or a self-starter? Please describe one experience you have had with the candidate where she or he exhibited these characteristic(s).

Leadership Abilities: What makes this candidate an effective leader? Please describe one example or experience you have had with the candidate in an effective leadership role within or outside of SWE.

Communication:  Please provide one experience with the candidate’s communications skills, specifically on her or his ability to work as a team, leveraging diversity and building relationships with her or his peers, direct reports, administrative support, and managers.

Coaching, Mentoring & Sponsorship:  Please provide one experience you have had with the candidate’s ability to support and/or develop others.

Governance Structure: Given the potential modifications to the Governance Structure of the Society, please provide one experience you have had with the candidate regarding fostering change management.

What unique perspective/value will this candidate add to the SWE position she or he is being nominated for?

Would you recommend this candidate for a Society leadership position?  If yes, please describe in one sentence why this candidate should be selected above other potential candidates.  If not (and if not detailed in your response to a previous question), please describe why not.


One thing that I have been caught up on in the past is that maybe I can’t answer every question regarding that candidate.  Well guess what?  You don’t have to!  Just fill in the information that you know and are comfortable with, and submit the form.  From that point on, the nominating committee will have a record of your submission, and will be able to use that feedback in their evaluation of candidates.


How does the Nominating Committee slate candidates?  That’s a complicated process, and one that I hope to gain understanding and insight on this year.  From a basic standpoint though, the process includes a few different things:

1) Determine which nominees are eligible based on their service and leadership competencies

2) Solicit the Society for Feedback

3) Interview and record each candidate as the nominating committee chair asks some selected questions depending on where you were nominated

4) Carefully look over all of the data collected as a group, and try to choose a diverse slate of candidates for the positions that they solicited for based on the information provided, and a look going forward of the society’s strategic plan.


You may ask – why am I telling you this?  The reason that I’m expressing this to you is because at WE17 I heard over and over that women do not tend to self-nominate or step into positions of leadership unless encouraged by others.  By making this process more visible, and saying YES you are eligible and can be part of this process, I am hoping to inspire others with a diverse SWE background to also consider nominating for these positions in the future.  One of the things I am passionate about is making sure that the leadership pipeline for collegiates within SWE is preserved, and that collegiates are actively asking to be part of the dialogue, and to assist in creating change in the society.   The first step to making sure that the candidates that you want to see on the slate are selected is by giving that information to the nominating committee, and providing feedback that only YOU have, and a fresh perspective!   Please exercise the voice you’ve been given – the future of our society depends on your participation and feedback!


You will continue to get posts from me in the upcoming months regarding how to apply for different leadership positions (in the society and in GradSWE), and how to write a SWE resume to help you along in your own leadership journeys.  As always, if you have questions or want to discuss, feel free to comment below, or email me!  I look forward to hearing from all of you, and I deeply value the connections that I was able to make with many of you at WE17.




The SWE Leadership Competency Model, What’s Next for Leaders in SWE, and FY19 Call for Society Nominations

The SWE Leadership Competency Model, What’s Next for Leaders in SWE, and FY19 Call for Society Nominations

Hi SWE Grads!

I wanted to make my post this week something fruitful for future society leaders, as well as a bit of a personal story about SWE from me to you.    This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the SWE Region F Leadership Summit in Essex Junction, VT at Globalfoundries.

Blog 1

We discussed many of the governance changes and bylaws amendments that are coming up (See our Facebook   for links, SWE Governance Website or an All Together Article about the Bylaws Proposals for more info).  But, one of the things that was a really informative, and stuck with me was a talk given by SWE President Jonna Gerken, called “What’s Next in SWE for Me?”

Blog 3

Jonna did a great job of discussing how SWE as a whole is starting to embrace the idea of non-traditional paths to leadership, and how leaders from these paths have a lot of diverse perspective to offer the society.  This resonates with me in particular, because I (like many of you, SWE Grads) have never been a section president.  Up until the point where I became a Region Grad Rep in Region F, I had never held an official SWE position!  I did champion and lead grass roots efforts to increase membership in SWE, but I never did it in an official capacity.  Now, I have been an RGR, Graduate Member Coordinator, Region Collegiate Senator, and am part of several society and region based committees!   An unconventional path, but a lot of knowledge and insight can be gained sometimes, especially when you go down The Road Not Taken.

So – why am I bringing this up now?  I get to talk to a lot of SWE members that are looking to improve themselves, and want to become more involved with leadership opportunities in the society.   Jonna’s talk highlighted something called SWE’s Leadership Competency Model which is a model used by the society to help members develop leadership skills.  The model highlights 5 core competencies, including:

  • Communication
  • Self-Management
  • Business Acumen
  • Leadership Abilities
  • Mentoring, Coaching, and Sponsorship

SWE believes in this model, and uses it as a way to assess present, or future leaders in the society!   It is also a way to present positive feedback, and give others a way to work on their skills where they may need some help.  Two of the resources that SWE provides are things that could even be used to help you with your career/ personal path.

I’ll start by highlighting the Leadership Development Plan and Vision Statement Template.  This is a document that provides an instructive way to help you see what your leadership goals are, and how you can achieve them!    You can use this template to answer questions like, “Where do I want to take my Career?”  for professional development or “What is my ultimate objective and leadership goal within SWE?”  I have also used this resource for things like “What is the highest mountain I will climb next year?” or “What fitness level do I want to achieve?”  Each of these gives the template a little bit of a spin, but it does help you create a strategic plan to answer all of these questions!   The guide then takes you through a series of questions, and gets you to list the actions you will take, the obstacles you may face, what strengths and resources you can leverage to achieve your goal, and how to hold yourself accountable to reach it.  Overall, a great way to help you look at your goals in a new light.  For me – it also helped me realize that if I couldn’t answer some of these items, I wasn’t sure how invested in the goal I truly was.

Now that you have a goal, though, what do we actually use to assess ourselves on, and how can we do it?  SWE provides this handy Leadership Competency Model Evaluation Spreadsheet to help you with just that!  I know that many of you sit there and take quizzes to see if places like Buzzfeed can tell you, “What Type of Pizza Are You?” Although this isn’t nearly as delicious, 10 minutes out of your day may give you some perspective on which of these five categories you are a rockstar in, and which you may want some more resources to help you learn more about.


The best part is that it’s simple to use – and gives you a list of all competencies on the tab labeled “Dashboard.”  Once you self assess, and determine if you feel the need to improve in an area, you can take a look at the “PD” tab, for the Professional Development Content SWE provides to help move forward in those categories.  Remember though:  Watching a webinar from SWE’s awesome Advanced Learning Center on something like Being a Thought Leader may be a great start to your leadership development in some areas – it isn’t going to happen overnight.  You need to internalize the changes you want to make, and be proactive in utilizing the tools in every day life to truly improve.


FY19 Nominations for Society Leadership

Now that we’ve discussed some of these awesome tools, I want to highlight one way that you could use them in the future.  Recently, a call for FY19 Society Nominations may have crossed your inbox if you are a Professional Member, or a Collegiate Senator.  This does apply to some of GradSWE’s membership, as half of grad students choose to identify as professional members in the society!  Although you may not be part of that group, I’m still choosing highlighting this information as your Grad Member Coordinator because there are a few collegiates that this post may still pertain to, as they may have the leadership experience/ the passion to nominate themselves, or others, to a position in the society.  Also – this is something that you could use, if your Vision Statement and Goals point you toward future society leadership in SWE.

What is on the slate for FY19 Nomination?  

Slated positions available for nomination are:

  • President-Elect
  • Treasurer
  • Director (3 positions available)
  • Trustee (3 positions available)
  • Deputy Speaker of the Senate
  • Senate Secretary

How does this involve me now (if I am a collegiate), and in the future?:

Remember how I told you before that we are proposing Bylaws Changes?  One of these changes will allow all collegiates voting rights in SWE.   According to The Eligibility Requirements in the SWE Bylaws for Elected Positions, voting members of the society have the eligibility to run for these positions!   Although some region leadership opportunities may go away if these bylaws changes go into effect, you may one day be able to nominate for these society positions, or positions as committee chairs/ chair-elects, too!

Regardless, your vote could change the outcomes as early as this FY19 slate, which is an exciting thing for SWE if the Bylaws Changes are accepted!  The eligibility requirements do ask for specific experience for different positions, though, so you need to be aware of what leadership requirements may be before you nominate.

What do they use to evaluate leadership?

Ah, here’s the tie in – SWE uses the leadership competencies that they resourcefully teach us about to help pick the slate for nomination!  Beyond meeting eligibility requirements, candidates are vetted by the Society Nominating Committee to understand where they stand with each of the competencies and pick the best group of nominees that they can.  It’s important to understand though, that SWE doesn’t want leaders that are necessarily strong in all competencies.   The power of diversity is important, and having a diverse body can happen when you have different strengths and weaknesses.


I want to nominate myself, another leader, or be nominated in the future.  What do I do?

If you are ready to nominate now, you need to fill out the Candidate Consent Form and Nomination Form.  Do it soon!  It’s due September 28th.

For those of you that are striving for leadership in SWE in the future – reach out to people who are currently serving.  Reach out to GradSWE and let us know that you are interested in understanding the SWE Career Paths available to you!  Reach out to the Senate and Committee leaders and ask them what it’s like to be involved, and how you can be involved in the future.  We exist and thrive because many SWE leaders take time to build relationships with future leaders and help preserve the leadership pipeline by educating them in SWE, and in professional pursuits.

Blog 2

I leave you with this photo – RPI Alumni at all different stages of their personal, professional and SWE lives!  I became more involved in SWE because some of the women in this photo invested their time and attention in helping me develop as a SWE leader.  “What’s Next in SWE for Me?”  I don’t know yet, Jonna – but I know now that I have the tools, the resources, and the mentorship to figure it out!






Grad Member Spotlight: Elizabeth Rasmussen


Elizabeth Rasmussen_Formal Picture

Elizabeth Rasmussen

MS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Washington – Seattle

Elizabeth has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2012. She currently serves as a Professional Graduate Team Leader on the Graduate Leadership Team. She was Michigan Tech’s SWE section webmaster for two years and chaired the Certificate of Merit outreach program that recognized and encouraged over 600 high school girls across 3 states who excelled in math and science classes. She also developed a workshop on campus to teach 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) skills to students and local community members. In addition, she has contributed to several events involving SWE over the years, such as: Registration Chair for the 2013 Region H conference, volunteer and participant for Michigan Tech’s SWE Evening with Industry Dinner and Networking Event, and student volunteer at the SWE Annual Conference talks.

Elizabeth has received numerous scholarships/awards including the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Grant, Michigan Tech Presidential Distinction Scholarship, has been awarded as a American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Kenneth Roe Scholar. Her research work has been recognized internationally as a part of the ASME Young Engineer’s Paper Contest, and she has won numerous conference presentation awards including placing 2nd at the 2014 National Society of Women Engineers Conference. In the past year, she has also become a co-inventor on two pending patent applications. Congratulations, Elizabeth, 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 a thesis based Master of Science (MS) candidate in the College of Engineering at University of Washington – Seattle with plans to continue onto my PhD. My major is Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in thermo-fluids. My expected MS graduation date is June of 2018.

Give a brief explanation of your research experience.

During my undergraduate education, I was inspired on all the innovation happening in fluid mechanics and heat transfer sector of mechanical engineering. Understanding fluid flow affects all industries ranging from healthcare and microfluidics, to the energy industry and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power generation. My current research focuses on thermal management of electronics; specifically, I am interested in high reliable liquid cooling for high heat semiconductors such as those found in computer servers, automotives, and solar cells. The results from this research will be transformational in making energy efficient current standards, while enabling future advancements. Thus, this research is integral in the improvement of computational, transportation, and energy practices.

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

I want to be a subject matter expert in my field, and along the road of my career inspire others to find their own subject to master and then go out and master it! Given this, I would like to continue working in a research and development role in either an industry, or government sponsored laboratory. I interned at MIT Lincoln Laboratory for two summers and had an amazing experience there, and think it would be an honor to be able to return.

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

I love to trail run, road bike, and paint. I am also a fierce competitor when it comes to Monopoly, and Settlers of Catan.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I have a passion for a wide variety of music, ranging from Rachmaninoff to Kids These Days.

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!

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.

Grad Member Spotlight: Josa Hanzlik

Next in our GradSWE Leadership Spotlight:  Josa Hanzlik, our newly appointed Developmental Mentoring Coordinator!


Josa Hanzlik, PhD
Research and Development Engineer, ZSX Medical
NSF Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellow


Josa is the newly created GradSWE Developmental Mentoring Coordinator. She is very excited to serve in this role and help build the GradSWE mentoring program. Josa has had limited experience with SWE, but founded a SWE style group for graduate women at Drexel University. Josa was the founding member of Drexel Graduate Women in Science & Engineering in 2010. After serving as president for two years, she developed and executed a mentoring program at Drexel. This group has won numerous awards at Drexel, recognizing their efforts at academic and career focus, as well as outreach to the local community.

In addition, Josa has been actively engaged in global research community. She was a Whitaker Fellow and spent a year abroad conducting research. During her year abroad, she traveled to 14 different countries. She was awarded NSF grants to attend an advanced institute and summer school program in Turkey.

What is your academic history and previous research?
I completed my Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Drexel University in 2015, and also have Masters degrees in both Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering. My doctoral research focused on retrieval analysis and finite element modeling of porous-coated orthopaedic implants. I have also been involved in other projects, including fretting/corrosion assessment of total hip implants, failure analysis of spinal implants and oxidation and wear assessment of polyethylene implants..

Give a brief explanation of your job.

I am a research and development engineer at a medical device start-up company. I am funded through the NSF Small Business Postdoctoral Research Diversity Fellowship. I am responsible for development and execution of pre-clinical work including bench testing, biocompatibility and efficacy studies. My responsibilities include management and execution of cadaver studies, set-up and maintenance of a cleanroom for medical device builds, bench-top testing, and supervision of co- op engineering students.

What are your career goals?
I enjoy working on medical devices and really love mentoring students. I would love to work in the medical device industry for the next 10-15 years and then eventually return to academia.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and baby. I also currently train in karate and jiu jit-su.

What’s a fun fact about you?
During my PhD, I spent a year abroad in the Netherlands and completed a half-marathon.