GradSWE Journeys in Leadership: Part 1

By Cecilia Klauber, FY19 Grad Member Coordinator Elect

When looking at an organization as large as SWE, it can be hard to understand all the opportunities and how to leverage them to achieve your leadership and service goals. The purpose of the GradSWE: Journeys in Leadership series is to de-mystify just a few of the leadership pathways in SWE. Join me over the next few weeks as I blog about section and society-level options you can pursue now or aspire to in your SWE future!

Hopefully you’ll be inspired to explore your options and to ask your peers, mentors, and the GradSWE community what paths they took and opportunities they know of!

My SWE Journey


I love catching up with Baylor alums at annual conference!

I first joined SWE as a freshman at Baylor University. I had just moved two time zones away from my friends and family, and SWE was one of a few engineering student organizations that helped me find community, as well as study groups and professional development opportunities. I was an officer in the section my junior year, but I wasn’t sure what extracurriculars I would have time for as a graduate student.

GradSWE at Illinois and I had a slow start, but when I started volunteering for their weSTEM Conference and helping plan social events, I was hooked. Before I knew it, I had a committee position, friends in STEM departments across campus, and a support group for the days when grad school was especially rough. Throughout my time in various positions on the GradSWE at Illinois Committee I was able to improve my communication and strategic thinking skills and when I led the GradSWE group in FY17, I especially honed my conflict resolution and people management skills. My involvement with GradSWE at Illinois was one of the best things about my time in Illinois and I am so thankful to have the close friends and leadership experience I gained.


The weSTEM 2016 committee at Illinois.

As I transitioned to Texas A&M this year, I knew I wanted to continue to stay connected to SWE as I finished school and began a career, but all I really knew was how to be involved at the collegiate section level and a little bit of understanding of the now defunct Region structure. I wasn’t even 100% sure about the structure of the GradSWE Leadership Team and how it fit into the organization as a whole when I was interviewing for my current position!

Now here I am as FY19 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect and I am constantly amazed that I get to work with such amazing people from across the country who are passionate about SWE’s mission! Working at the society level has been eye-opening and challenging, but so worth it. As I work with people remotely or meet them at annual conference and hear about how they have exercised leadership within the organization, it gets me excited about what my SWE future could hold. After I graduate, I think I would like to try joining a different committee and I hope to be in an area with a strong professional section that I can participate it.

What path will you take?

There are so many ways to get involved in SWE and there is no one right path to success within the organization. I hope you can take a moment to reflect on your experiences with SWE and dream about how SWE might help you develop and grow as a leader!image3

I look forward to sharing more insights about potential leadership pathways for you to explore in SWE in the coming weeks. If you have any particular questions or particular perspectives you would like to hear from regarding future leadership opportunities, please comment, or email me directly at



You’re more valuable than you think – and GradSWE needs you!

I’ve seen several colleagues go through their graduate career and get to the ‘mid-life crisis’ point. You may be familiar with it: frustration at experiments or advisors, trouble finding a job, proposals get rejected, wondering if you made the right decision entering grad school in the first place. The good news is, that phase is a common symptom of people who are nearing the completion of grad school, if they resolve to be finished and move on to bigger and better things.

It’s at this point that many people seek mentors. And GradSWE can help with that, connecting you to people who can offer encouragement, share their journeys in your particular field, be a sounding board for you next steps, and serve as role models in a career path you may be interested in.

But what you may not realize is that there are many grad students and undergrads in GradSWE who would love to talk to someone like you too, for the exact same reasons you may be interested in a mentor yourself! Your experiences presenting at lab meetings and conferences, drafting articles on your research, working in industry, figuring out which experiment to run next and how, juggling lab and classes and life, learning about potential career paths in your field, and many, many other things you’ve accomplished even in your first few years are nuggets of gold to those aspiring to follow in your footsteps. If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? What do you wish you knew? You already have all you need to make a very real difference in someone’s life. And what’s more, you might just learn something yourself, gain a great connection or friendship, and develop the marketable skills of training and developing others.

So if you’re interested in getting connected and sharing the love, we’d love to have you as part of GradSWE’s mentoring program! To learn more about it, visit or email the Mentoring Team at To become a mentor, simply fill out the form with a few details on your experiences ( ). If you’re a grad student interested in getting connected to a mentor yourself, you can enroll through this link: . And remember, you’re more valuable than you think, and we’d love to have you as a mentor!


Angelica Payne

GradSWE Mentoring Co-Coordinator 2018

WE18 is almost here!

It is officially October which means that WE18 is right around the corner! Now is the time to start preparing for the conference so that you can get the most from the experience.

UPLOAD YOUR RESUME: On the job market? Upload your resume ahead of time to make sure companies know you are available.

CHECK OUT THE WE18 EXHIBITORS: There will be more than 300 exhibitors at the WE18 career fair! Take some time to pick out the specific exhibitors you are interested in meeting.

Career Fair Hours

Thursday, Oct 18:
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Professional and Collegiate members only)
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (all registrants, including Career Fair only)

Friday, October 19:
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. professionals only (members and non-members)
10:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Professional and Collegiate members only)
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. (all registrants, including Career Fair only)

USE THE MOBILE APP: WE18 is a HUGE conference with more sessions than you could possibly attend. Make the most of your time by using the mobile app to build your schedule and stay organized!

TIPS FOR FIRST-TIMERS: Check out the podcast by FY19 SWE President Penny Wirsing and FY17 SWE President Jessica Rannow about tips and advice for First-Timers at WE18.

Finally, don’t forget to come to our GradSWE specific sessions:

Thursday, October 18th

  • 12:45-1:45 PM | Big Step for Me, Giant Leap for SWE-Kind: Staying Involved in SWE After College
  • 2:00-3:00 PM | Life after Grad School: Transitioning from Graduate Student to Professional
  • 4:30-5:30 PM | Preparing Powerful Application Essays

Friday, October 19th

  • 9:30 AM-6PM | Collegiate Poster Competition
  • 10:15-11:45 AM | Rapid Fire 1: Graduate Students
  • 4:30-5:30 PM | A Tale of Two PhDs and The Value of Diversity (may be rescheduled)
  • 3:00-5:00 PM | Graduate Member Meeting
  • 5:00-6:30 PM | Graduate Student Reception (Sponsors: Autodesk and Praxair)

Saturday, October 20th

  • 12:45-1:45 PM | Embracing Failures in Academia to Break Personal Boundaries
  • 1:30-1:50 PM | Utilizing Online Platforms for Self-Promotion: Personal Websites and Social Media

We highly encourage participation in these sessions led by your fellow peers and academics. It can be an impactful learning experience, and high attendance numbers demonstrate that the graduate population in SWE continues to grow!

If you cannot attend WE18, watch for graduate programming at 2019 WE Locals or at WE19.

Any questions about programming at WE18 can be emailed to

Graduate Member Spotlight: Nancy Lu

Graduate Member Spotlight: Nancy Lu

Nancy Lu


Chemical and Biological Engineering

Expected Graduation Date: 2021

Princeton University

Nancy’s SWE involvement began as an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As Internal Mentorship Chair in 2014 she worked to plan events to partner underclassmen with upperclassmen. As Vice President of Campus Relations in 2015 she was in charge of all MIT SWE social events. Because SWE partnered with the MIT Fall Career Fair, she also spent two years on the Career Fair Committee. As the Week-of-Logistics Director in 2014 and Treasurer in 2015, she was part of the team that brought over 350 companies to the MIT Career Fair. Lastly, she was a Senior Class representative in 2016, where she planned events to celebrate the seniors in SWE. Her favorite SWE memory is attending her first annual SWE Conference in 2015, where she was able to reconnect with the alumni that inspired her to join SWE.

During her time at MIT, Nancy was also actively involved in MIT’s First Generation Project, where she participated in a poster campaign to raise awareness of first generation students at MIT.Kaempf, FGP poster 3

At Princeton, Nancy is involved in GWiSE (Graduate Women in Science and Engineering), GradSWE, GEC (Graduate Engineering Council), and various mentorship activities such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) near-peers, Princeton’s Scholars Institute Fellows Program for low income/first generation undergraduates, and ReMatch, a summer research program for Princeton underclassmen.

Nancy’s accolades include a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention (April 2018) and the Princeton Environmental Institute Mary and Randall Hack ’69 Graduate Award (July 2018). She has been selected as a finalist for the WE18 Poster Competition  – be sure to check out her poster on Thursday, October 18, 2018 in Minneapolis!

Thesis Topic: Multiphase Flow in Porous Media

The motivation for Nancy’s work comes from oil recovery in shales, a type of layered rock. The layers of the rock have different properties such as pore sizes. The interfaces between these layers are often not sharp but rather have transition regions with gradients. Her current project involves understanding how gradients in pore sizes affect oil recovery. Using a model microfluidic porous medium with controllable pore size gradients, she can systematically understand how the displacement pathway of the oil is affected.

She plans to go into research after graduation, but is still deciding on the specific industry. Regardless of the industry, she still plans to find time to mentor young women who are pursuing STEM.

Nancy’s hobbies include baking and bartending at the graduate student bar. She is also a fitness instructor and MIT alumni interviewer!

Fun Fact about Nancy: She can fold an origami crane while hula hooping!


Graduate Member Spotlight: Erica Stevens

Graduate Member Spotlight

Erica Stevens

Ph.D. Student

Materials Science and Engineering

Expected Graduation Date: 2020

University of Pittsburgh

Erica currently serve as a SWE Counselor for the University of Pittsburgh, continuing a long legacy of involvement in Pitt SWE. Past roles include Corporate Relations Chair and Vice President. She is most proud of her work as Vice President (with then President Dhanu Thiyagaragen) to increase the number of officers, members, and events. They were able to strengthen the section by encouraging a sense of community and making sure that the work was spread out among all of the officers so that they could get a lot done without overwhelming anyone. During her time as Vice President, she attended WE14 in Los Angeles. She still reflects on what an amazing experience it was and a particular session presentation about giving and receiving criticism.

In her current role, she works to strengthen the relationship between the undergraduate and graduate women in engineering. She is proud of the strength of the Pitt SWE collegiate section and has found that she is most useful when she steps back and lets the current leadership know that she is there for anything they need.

A self-described chronic leader, Erica is a past President and current Secretary of the University of Pittsburgh Engineering Graduate Student Organization, current President of the Oakland Toastmasters Club, current Area 34 Director for District 13 of Toastmasters International, and President-Elect of the Microscopy Society of America Student Council.

Erica’s achievements have been recognized nationally, as she was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) Honorable Mention in 2016 and a National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG) in 2017. Her research has been the recipient of numerous awards, including 1st place at a 2017 WE Local Graduate Poster Contest (SWE), 3rd place at the 2018 Microscopy & Microanalysis Physical Sciences Poster Contest (Microscopy Society of America), and 1st and 3rd place at the Young Member’s Night Graduate Poster Contest (American Society for Microbiology) in 2016 and 2018, respectively. In 2017 she received multiple travel grants and scholarships from the Pitt MEMS Department, the Pitt Graduate and Professional Student Government, and The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. In 2018 she was the recipient of the Josephine and John McCloskey Memorial Grant, a University of Pittsburgh scholarship for study abroad.

Thesis Title:  Additive Manufacturing of Magnetocaloric Ni-Mn-Based Alloys

Magnetocaloric materials change temperature in an applied or removed magnetic field. This effect is reversible and so can be used in a heat pump. One of the primary applications goals of these materials is to create more efficient commercial refrigerators. This is not an impossible goal, and some initial prototypes have already been introduced. However, efficient production and optimized materials are areas that still require improvement. Erica’s research focuses on using additive manufacturing (3D printing) as an effective production method so that design is not limited to machining capabilities. Furthermore she uses a material that is less expensive and does not pose the potential health concerns that the current materials in use do.

Erica absolutely loves microscopy, and her future career will likely include significant microscope use! Besides that, she also enjoys being a leader, problem solver, and teacher. She is aiming for a career in facilities management, where she can do all of the above!

Outside of lab, Erica enjoys gardening, photography, biking, running, and bread-making.

Fun Fact about EricaErica did research for 5 weeks in Spain over the summer, though she couldn’t speak any Spanish!


Becoming a Pro at Self-Promotion

“Look at the tower I built!”  “Wanna hear me count to 50?”  “Watch me ride my bike!”


If you’ve spent time around kids, you know that they are often uninhibited in sharing about their recent accomplishments and abilities. Maybe you’ve babysat or have nieces, nephews or kids of your own, but you know about the persistent and passionate pleas of a child to pay attention to them!

But somewhere along the way, many of us were told, overtly or subliminally, that bragging and being ostentatious is not ladylike. This culture that encourages female modesty fosters a workplace where women are less likely to talk about their achievements than men.

Advocating for oneself in the academy and industry is key for demonstrating leadership skills and therefore achieving upward advancement, but for many of us, it is also risky. When we go against the norm of humility and brag about our accomplishments, we may be perceived as too strong, pushy, and less likeable, even by other women. For introverts and anxious types it can be especially uncomfortable to bring attention to oneself. It’s not always easy, but tasteful self-promotion is something we should all practice.

Here are some tips to become a pro at self-promotion!

  1. Be proud of your successes! You worked hard for them and the world deserves to celebrate with you.
  2. Reclassify the task. Terms like “bragging” can carry a negative connotation. Consider your self-promotion “networking” or “increasing visibility.” It’s just like any other leadership skill!
  3. Be yourself. Find ways to authentically promote yourself in ways that make sense for your personality and your industry.
  4. If not your own, then promote the work of others. Women are generally more comfortable with advocating for others than for themselves and maybe with some practice you’ll feel empowered to promote yourself. Alternatively, create safe spaces for self-promotion in your lab or community!

Ready to give it a shot? Check out Carolyn’s post about developing a personal website, nominate yourself to be considered for a GradSWE Spotlight or WE Local award and be sure to share with us how you are promoting your amazing accomplishments in the comments or on social media (@SWE_grad)!


Get a mentor, be a mentor – enrollment opening soon!

New semester, new challenges. Don’t face them alone! Mentors can be great sounding boards, helpful guides, and lifelong friends as you navigate grad school and your career. But how do you find a mentor?

There are several ways to find mentors. They can be peers, family members, colleagues, friends, or people further down your career path than you are. You can meet them by chance, be introduced by a common friend, or network your way to the conversation.

GradSWE offers a mentoring program where graduate students can be matched with mentors or guided to reach out to their perfect match. GradSWE members can enroll to get a mentor through the protege enrollment survey, available soon in the GradSWE newsletter. Mentors in graduate school, academia, industry, and government who have graduate degrees and engineering backgrounds can enroll to mentor graduate students through the mentor enrollment survey, also available soon in the GradSWE newsletter.

New this year, GradSWE is adding an undergraduate component to the mentoring program. Undergraduates interested in graduate school can sign up for a mentor as well, and graduate students can enlist to mentor their younger selves.

Keep an eye out in the newsletter for your opportunity to become a mentor and inspire and guide undergraduates and graduates interested in your career, or to find a new mentor!

Not yet receiving GradSWE news? Join the listserv here: