NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship Opportunity for U.S. Graduate Students

NSF funding opportunity for graduate students: www.nsf.gov/eapsi

Proposal submission deadline for Summer 2013 has been extended until Thursday, December 6, 2012.

EAPSI Program provides U.S. graduate students in science and engineering (U.S. citizens and permanent residents) with an opportunity to spend 8 weeks (10 weeks for Japan) during the summer conducting research at one of the seven host locations in East Asia and Pacific: Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan.

NSF provides EAPSI Fellows with a $5,000 stipend and roundtrip airplane ticket to the host location. Our foreign counterparts provide in-country living expenses and accommodations (arrangements vary by host location).

For more information, please read the Program Solicitation, host location-specific Handbooks, and How to Apply Guide available at www.nsf.gov/eapsi

Please note that only one letter of recommendation (from current advisor) is required. We look forward to receiving applications from U.S. graduate students. For program related questions you should contact:

Elena Hillenburg
Program Specialist
National Science Foundation
Office of International Science and Engineering
East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) Program
4201 Wilson Blvd, Room II-1155
Arlington, Virginia 22230
Phone: 703-292-2993      
Fax: 703-292-9067
Email: ehillenb@nsf.gov

I was an NSF EAPSI Fellow to Taiwan in Summer 2011.  It was a fantastic experience!  At WE11 & WE12 I shared about my time in Asia as a panelist on “Global Opportunities for Graduate Students and Post-Docs.” For more info about my EAPSI project click here.  If you have questions about my experience, please feel free to contact me at marcella.vaicik@swe.org

Marcella Vaicik
SWE WE13 Graduate Programming Coordinator


WE11 Session Summaries

Wow!  I can’t believe that we are already halfway through November!  This semester really seems to be flying by, but I am looking forward to Thanksgiving Break before the final grind at the end of the semester.

Over the past month, several of the fabulous graduate students that organized graduate school and graduate student related sessions for WE11 have been writing up summaries about their sessions.  I have posted them all here on the blog so that you can read through them and cram in some graduate student professional development.

Having attended several of these types of sessions at WE Conference over the past few years, I am sure that we had record attendance for graduate student related sessions!  If you were there, I am so glad you were able to join us, ask questions, and make these sessions a success.  If not, hopefully you can sift through the summaries to see what you missed — and be excited to join us next year at WE12!

All the sessions are under the “WE11” category, but I’ve linked them all here for your convenience.  If you have any questions or comments, I invite you to leave them in the comments section and we’ll get back to you!

I hope this has convinced you to join us for WE12 in Houston next year!  If you’d like to get involved, applications for the WE12 Graduate Programs Coordinator are out now, and we will soon be organizing a call for participation for similar sessions for WE12.  Stay tuned!

Prinda Wanakule
FY12 Graduate Member Coordinator

WE11: Graduate Students and SWE: Growing Opportunities

Prinda Wanakule

This panel session addressed the growing presence of graduate students in SWE, and the many opportunities for growth and leadership for this collegiate membership sub-sect.  This session especially highlighted the creation of graduate student focus groups, or committees, in several collegiate sections across the US, and discussed several membership incentives for graduate SWE members. Panelist and moderator Prinda Wanakule (University of Texas at Austin and SWE Graduate Member Coordinator) started off the discussion with an overview of the Graduate SWE Committee at UT Austin, one of the older and larger graduate SWE groups in the US.  Tabitha Voytek (Carnegie Mellon University) followed with her successful experiences with the SWE Grad Greets program at CMU.  Younger graduate groups of different sizes were also represented by Courtney Faber (SWE Graduate Branch at Cornell University), Marcella Vaicik (SWE Group for Grads at the Illinois Institute of Technology), and Rebecca Macdonald (SWE Graduate Student Group at the University of Alabama).  Each representative gave an overview of the leadership and reporting structure of their specific graduate group, the types of programs and activities held for graduate students, membership and attendance, and their budget/finances.  Lastly, Tricia Berry (Women in Engineering Program Director at the University of Texas at Austin) gave an administrator’s perspective on how to effectively engage with Faculty and University Administration to improve the quality and content of graduate student professional development programs.

WE11: Transitioning from Industry to Graduate School

Marcella Vaicik

Transitioning from being a full time engineer in industry to full-time or part-time graduate student can be challenging.  A panel of 5 women shared their experiences and offered candid advice about how to successfully transition as a Q&A forum.  Here are some of the questions asked with some of the answers shared by the panelists.

What were your Motivations for Going Back to School?

Diane Peters shared that her motivation for going back to graduate school was because she wants to be a professor in Mechanical Engineering.  Other panelists had different reasons.  Marcella Vaicik wanted to transition from chemical engineering into the field of biomedical engineering.

What was the transition back to school like?

“The first semester in my master’s program was very difficult” shared Marcella.  “I had been out of school for 3 years and had to spend time refreshing myself on basic concepts in addition to studying the advanced new material.  I found forming study groups with other students really helped me.”

Currently, a bioengineering doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Kimber Brenneman shared how she transitioned from working in the meat casing industry as a food process engineer to a master’s student in bioengineering.  She found that once she got into her first year of studies her desire to be a technical expert motivated her to switch from a master’s program to a Ph.D. program.  In her opinion another couple of years of school is not very long for the amount of in depth research experience she is getting by pursing her PhD.

What are the financial aspects for doing graduate work?

Anne Lucietto shared that she did master’s work part-time so she was able to take advantage of her company paying for her courses while she worked full-time.  Now she is back in school full-time for her PhD and while the salary discrepancy is large she has been able to prioritize and utilize her PhD graduate student stipend.  Kimber shared that most master’s degree students do not get stipends but PhD students in engineering do get stipends.

How do you balance school-life?

Chelsea Spier is currently working on her master’s degree part-time while working full -time as an environmental engineer.  When asked about work-life-school balance she explained that her weekends were committed to doing school work and between work and school work it reduced the amount of free time she currently has.   Kimber mentioned that she does NOT stop having her life just because she is in school.  She continues to travel and pursue her outside interests and treats her Ph.D. work like a job.

The following are some suggested website resources for more information related to graduate school.   The panelist encouraged people to contact them with further questions. Please email Marcella Vaicik at mschmid8@hawk.iit.edu with any additional questions.




Web Resources for Financial Assistance and Adult Students

Adult Student Sites

Graduate Program Information

Grad School Humor


WE11: To Post-Doc or Not to Post-Doc

Richelle Thomas

This workshop was meant to help current graduate students and graduate degree holders negotiate if they should complete Post-Doctoral research position in order to achieve their career goals. The panel was meant to show the benefits, drawbacks and limitations of Post-Doctoral positions in an effort to allow the workshop participants to decide if it is applicable for their professional journey. The workshop consisted of a panel of a current Post-Doc, Marcella, a completed Post-Doctoral researcher Diane Peters and a current faculty member who completed a Post-Doc Laura Fabris. The moderator, Richelle Thomas, directed the lively discussion. The panelists were very open about their experiences and attendees left the workshop with a realistic glimpse of the Post-Doc life and options thereafter.


WE11: Global Opportunities for Graduate Students and Post-Doctorates

Kimber Brenneman

Our three panelists were able to discuss doing research abroad on different continents as well as different lengths of time. Marcella Vaicik explained how being an NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship awardee meant that she was listed as the PI on her proposal and it allowed her to spend 3 months in Taiwan doing research. Katherine Alfredo spent closer to a year working in Ghana doing drinking water research as a Fulbright Scholar. At the other end of the time spectrum Jennifer Patterson spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. They all shared amusing and interesting stories about their adjustments to a different culture and the challenges involved in completing a research proposal in a set amount of time. While entertaining and informative about research in other countries, this panel was also a great resource to anyone interested in applying for fellowships.

WE11: Navigating the Academic Career Pathway

Christine Pitner, Courtney Faber

The primary objective of this session was to give women engineers an idea of what an academic career is like from the perspective of women at various stages of the academic career pathway. The panel consisted of four women including two assistant professors, an associate professor, and a post-doc currently searching for an academic position. These panelists gave great advice about everything from obtaining an academic career to raising a family while in academia.

As a graduate student, you are able to get a pretty good idea of what it would be like to be a professor at a Research I institution, but we rarely hear about Masters level institutions. This panel had two professors from Masters I institutions who were able to give the audience an idea of what it would be like to be a professor at one of these institutions as opposed to a Research I school. The most notable piece of advice they gave is that if you love teaching you should look into masters level school and if research is what you love then you should look into research I schools.

In addition to explaining their experiences in their profession, the panelists delved deeper and provided their thought processes for when they were making the decision as what school they would like to be a professor in. This insight was particularly valuable, as several of the women in the audience were nearing completion of their PhD career and approaching that stage in of the process. Since there were also several members of the audience who were seniors in college who were considering graduate school as their next step, the panelists also explained why they chose higher education versus industry, and what they looked for when they were considering when looking at graduate schools to apply to, as well as what to ask when actually visiting/tour the school upon acceptance.

Another value topic of discussion during the panel was adjunct professors. There were a handful of women in the audience who were currently in industry, and were considering either transitioning to academia via an adjunct professorship or were interested in a part-time job as an adjunct professor. Since one of the panelists had been an adjunct professor at one point of time and another panelist was involved in the process of selecting/accepting adjunct professors, a lot of information was shared regarding this topic, and those in the audience considering this path left satisfied.

Probably one the best components of the panelist, though, is the panelists’ interest in helping the attendees. All of the panelists shared their contact information with the audience, and encouraged them to email should they have additional questions down the road. Thus, the support network established by session allowed the audience to leave with not only a good session experience, but with knowledgeable and caring mentors who had been in the same situation as them.