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.

Grad Member Spotlight: Carolyn Chlebek

Our Spotlight today is our new GMC-Elect, Carolyn!



Carolyn has been a member of SWE since 2012. She currently serves as the Graduate Member Coordinator-Elect (GMC-E) on SWE’s Graduate Leadership Team. As an undergraduate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Carolyn served in many different roles within her SWE section spanning outreach and professional development functions. She was also active at the regional and societal levels, and held the position of Collegiate Senator for two terms. Combining her experience as part of the Region F Collegiate Team and as a member of RPI SWE, she created the first Collegiate Leadership Summit in Region F. This region-wide meeting provided collegiate members with targeted presentations on everything from soft skills that increase success in technological fields to developing strategies for personal financial investment success.

Carolyn received assistance from the Rensselaer Leadership Scholarship in her undergraduate studies. She has received funding from the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program to allow her to focus on developing effective teaching skills during her PhD studies in addition to the research skills she will gain.

What is your degree program? When do you expect to graduate?

I am in the Ph.D. program in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. I expect to graduate in 2021 or 2022.

Give a brief explanation of your research experience

Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are diseases affecting a significant portion of the population – 10-12% of the adult population suffer from osteoarthritis and 30% of the people over 65 suffer from osteoporosis. These diseases also both present in higher prevalence in women than men. As a first-year Ph.D. student, my research project is still under development but I plan to develop methods to improve treatment of each of these diseases. I am interested in better understanding the onset of these disease states and identifying targets for healthcare intervention.

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

I would like to continue performing biomedical research. Ideally, I would like to hold a professorship in which I could perform research, teach the next generation of engineers, and possibly work on start-up medical device companies to help my research transition to mainstream healthcare more quickly.

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

I love to bake – recently I have become interesting in baking bread specifically. I am a very active person and love to run and play soccer. Recently, photography has become a new hobby for me as well!

What’s a fun fact about you?

One of my life goals is to visit all the national parks in the United States. I have only been to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Acadia, Haleakala, and Hawai’I Volcanoes so I have some exciting adventures waiting for me!

GradSWE – Welcome to FY18!

Genevieve First Blog

Welcome to FY18 my fellow SWE Members!  I am excited to continue my work on the GradSWE team this year, now as your Graduate Member Coordinator.

Many changes are coming about in SWE this year, and as we being our new year in GradSWE, we announce that we have expanded our community to include sub-teams! As such, I’d like to introduce the rest of the Grad Community Leadership team. Our team for FY18 is:

  • Graduate Member Coordinator (GMC): Genevieve Kane
  • GMC-Elect: Carolyn Chlebek
  • Graduate Programming Coordinator (GPC): Emily Hoffman
  • GPC-Elect: Jodi Boutte
  • Social Media Coordinator (SMC): Renee Oats
  • Webinar Coordinator (WC): Elisa Duesing
  • Mentoring Coordinators (MC): Josa Hanzlik and Angelica (de Rosa) Payne
  • Professional Graduate Team Leads:  April Keene and Elizabeth Rasmussen
  • International Team Lead: Akshaya Iyer
  • Graduate Transition Lead: Prerna Jain
  • Diversity and Inclusion Liaison: Bridget Hegarty


You can read a short bio about each person and a little bit about the positions here:  Over the next few months, we will be spotlighting members of our team, so you can get to know them better!


Goals for FY18

With an expanded team, we have the opportunity to better address issues that graduates face and help advocate for graduate students in the society!   Some of the plans that we currently have include:

  • Continued use of our online presence to contact all of our SWE grad members.
  • Improve resources and knowledge sharing for grad students and SWE grad groups.
  • Offering mentoring options for graduate students through our revamped mentoring program.
  • Increasing our international presence through GradSWE globalization efforts, as well as helping international students that are new to our country with new SWE resources.
  • Identify needs of graduate student members within Professional sections or with Professional grade memberships.
  • Navigate the governance transitions, and create a strategic plan for GradSWE in order to maintain our presence in SWE.


If you have any suggestions for us, free to email me at (or comment on our social media).  We’d love to hear any and all ideas on how the grad community can better serve your needs.


How to get Involved!

This upcoming year is full of ways to increase your involvement with the SWE Grad Community, especially with the formation of our new sub teams!  Here are a few examples on how to get involved:

  1. Become a Region Grad Rep. Some Regions still need RGRs for FY18 (our final year for Region representation). Email me to ask if a position in your region is available!
  2. Participate in your local SWE Grad Group or start one within your SWE section. Current SWE Grad Groups are listed here.  We would love to help universities start GradSWE groups, and to see some pop up in Professional Sections as well!
  3. Join our sub-teams by expressing your interest at
  4. Attend WELocal or be part of a WELocal Host committee!
  5. Attend WE17 in Austin TX! We will have GradSWE programming at the conference as well as a reception for Grad Students!
  6. Write a guest blog post for the SWE blog. Contact Genevieve at
  7. Engage with us on social media:
    Facebook page:


I look forward to serving you during FY18 and hope that I will be able to interact with many of you personally over the course of the year through the blog, and through SWE conferences.  Many of my blog posts will talk about issues that I have faced in the past including how I navigate through grad school, the failures I’ve overcome, and how important work-life balance and healthy living is in being successful as a graduate student for me!

Here’s to a great fiscal year, and the continued growth of our SWE Graduate Community!

Genevieve Kane

Mentoring Program Updates

Hello Everyone!

Today’s blog is an update on the progress so far from our mentoring program!

Our initial survey was a hit – we had many graduate students indicate they were interested in having a mentor, and we were able to gauge what types of mentors people wanted.  We took this information/some feedback from our graduates and mentors that signed up initially, and we were able to narrow down some of the important aspects of mentor pairs from a graduate perspective.  As a result, we created two new surveys (these MUST be filled out in order to be assigned a mentor!):


For Mentors:


For Graduate Mentees:


At this time, we are still low on mentors (especially in academia and government), so we are currently waiting for more mentors to sign up in order to pair students interested in these areas with a match!  If you know anyone who may be a good candidate to mentor for this program – please spread the word!  One of the things that impresses me the most about SWE is the ability to access such a huge network of dedicated people who are always willing to help build up our STEM community.  I have been able to access some great committees/ regions/ sections that have been very helpful in promoting this initiative to our membership!

The process of developing a mentoring program takes time to implement, since we are building this for the first time.  There will be another round of mentor pairings sent out within the week for mentor/mentee approval, but for some students with specific requests/ specialized fields, this process is taking a bit of time to find the right match.  I sincerely thank those that have signed up for their continued patience!

Some people have expressed interest in meeting and discussing this program/ meeting other people who have signed up at WE 16!  Though some mentors have set up lunch/ a meeting with their mentees already, another option for this is to join us at our GradSWE meeting on Thursday, October 27th from 10:15 AM to 12:00 PM and meet other students who are involved in mentoring!  We will also be setting up an online group in the near future for mentoring – so anyone who fills out this new survey will be sent the link to access the group if they so choose.  Remember, if you have not filled out the new survey above, you will not be assigned a mentor, or gain access to the mentoring group.

I want to thank you all for your positive feedback and kind words supporting this initiative.  I have received so many wonderful emails and personal stories about how mentoring has impacted people, and how excited people are about the opportunity to try mentoring/ being mentored through GradSWE!  I am so happy that as a result of this program, I am also able to get to know some of you on a personal level as well.   I  hope to get to meet many of you at WE 16!





For questions or comments regarding the mentoring program, please email or