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: Heather Wiest

wiest_heatherHeather Wiest

PhD,  Aerospace Engineering

Purdue University

Heather has been a member of SWE since 2007. During her senior year at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, she was treasurer for her SWE section. Once she started graduate school at Purdue in 2011, she became a member of the Leadership Coaching Committee (LCC). In 2012, she was selected to be Team Lead for the Region H LCC coaches and remained in that position until she became the FY17 LCC Chair-Elect. As a professional member, she was involved in the chartering process for the Greater Lafayette Indiana (GLI) SWE section, which celebrated its one year anniversary as an official SWE section this January! Additionally,she is a member of the FY17 Governance Taskforce.

Heather received three fellowships in graduate school: Purdue Doctoral Fellowship (2011), National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2012), and Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship (2016). Locally, she was awarded a Purdue University’s College of Engineering Outstanding Graduate Student Service Award for her involvement as treasurer in three graduate student organizations. Congratulations, Heather, 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 successfully defended my PhD dissertation in December! I received my Masters from Purdue in August 2013. Both graduate degrees are in Aerospace Engineering.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
My area of study within Aerospace Engineering is Propulsion. My research focuses on experimental gas turbine combustion and fuel sprays. For my PhD, I studied a liquid jet in crossflow with increasingly elevated fuel temperatures. The liquid jet in crossflow is a method of fuel injection found in gas turbine combustors, turbojet afterburners, scramjet/ramjet engines, and rotating detonation engines, and higher temperature fuels can occur in advanced aircraft that use fuel as a heat sink for thermal management purposes. By studying this flow field with high speed imaging, variations in the breakup of the liquid jet due to increasing fuel temperatures can be analyzed.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I’m heading off to Cape Canaveral, FL to work for Blue Origin as a Test Facilities Design Engineer. Basically, I’m a plumber for rockets. I will help to design the fluid systems used in testing their engines and launching their rockets. Blue Origin is a private spaceflight company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the goal of creating greater human access to space at lower costs and with increased reliability.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love playing random sports. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I’m not at a university playing intramurals like wallyball, inner tube water polo, or dodgeball! I also really like board games. My current favorite is 7 Wonders.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I really enjoy visiting national parks! I have a National Park Passport where I collect cancellation stamps that serve as a record of all the parks I’ve visited. I currently have about 60 stamps, and I hope that finally being done with school will give me the opportunity to visit more national parks!

Grad Member Spotlight: Lisa Cervia


Lisa Cervia

PhD student, Biomedical Engineering

Duke University

Lisa first joined SWE as a freshman biomedical engineering major at Boston University. She is now a biomedical engineering PhD candidate at Duke University. Throughout the past 8 years, she has participated in many SWE outreach events and mentoring programs. She is now taking on more leadership roles in SWE and is working to help with the graduate mentoring program and graduate SWE planning for WE 17.

Lisa has received many awards for her research in biomedical engineering. As a graduate student, she received the BMES Innovation and Career Development award as well as Duke University’s Pharmacological Sciences Training Program award. She has also received numerous scholarships and research awards as an undergraduate student. Congratulations, Lisa, 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 in the PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. I expect to graduate within the next year and will be looking for postdoc positions.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
Currently, I design solutions to improve methods of gene delivery. Gene therapy has great potential to transform the treatment of many diseases, but there is a great need for more efficient and safe methods of gene delivery. I work at both uncovering the mechanisms by which non-viral methods of gene delivery introduce DNA to the cell and utilizing these mechanisms to develop strategies that improve efficiency, such that these methods of delivery can be more widely implemented for clinical applications.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
I aspire to contribute to the growing field of Biomedical Engineering as a professor at a major research university. My ultimate goal is not only to become a tenured professor, but to help to nurture and mold this field into one that is inclusive and reaches out to other disciplines for collaboration. I want to serve as a role model, educating young students about what biomedical engineering entails, showing them that they have the potential to contribute to such a field, and to set aside many of the stereotypes surrounding engineering.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I have danced ballet for 23 years.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I am the founder and president of the Biomedical Engineering Society Graduate Section at Duke University. This year, we hosted the first annual on-campus Duke BMES conference. The conference included a total of fourteen talks by esteemed BME Professors, a lunchtime poster session that included presentations by postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate students as well as a plenary session and reception with invited speaker. See picture of event below.
Grad Member Spotlight: Homa Fartash

Grad Member Spotlight: Homa Fartash

homaHoma Fartash

PhD student, Civil Engineering

Florida International University

Homa has been a member of SWE since fall 2014. Currently, she serves as the graduate representative for Florida International University’s SWE section. In this role, she plans workshops to introduce graduate programs to undergraduate students and also provides the sponsorship packet to advertise the chapter and provide financial support for chapter activities.

Homa has received many awards for her research in transportation including the Bill McGrath Transportation Studies Scholarship and the Henry P. Boggs Best Student Paper Award by the Florida Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. She has also received numerous scholarships. Congratulations, Homa, 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 Ph.D. Candidate in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Transportation Engineering at Florida International University (FIU) studying my third year of the program. I am expected to graduate in Fall 2017.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
My major focus is on Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Currently, I am working on my dissertation titled “Developing Guidelines for Ramp Signaling Deployments in Real-Time Operations”. Ramp metering is one of the traffic management strategies which regulates the entering flow to the freeway by installing signals at on-ramps. The goal of this research is to develop guidelines for installation and activation of ramp metering under recurrent and non-recurrent conditions so that the whole system can benefit from it. For this purpose, local traffic condition near the subject ramp as well as system-wide traffic conditions on the freeway are considered. Moreover, real-time activation of ramp metering for alleviating the congestion due to non-recurrent traffic conditions such as incident and/or adverse weather is also addressed in this research.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
After earning my Ph.D. degree, I hope to join transportation industry and have the opportunity to work on different aspects of transportation. I would not limit myself to the areas which I already studied. In fact, I enjoy being challenged and be a lifetime student.
Teaching is a hobby of mine which I hope to be a part of my future career. My goal is to be an effective professional and a successful leader.

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

Shopping, reading, web surfing, and spending time with my family and friends are my hobbies. In my free time, I truly enjoy spending time with my husband.

Other than SWE, I am the president of FIU Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student Chapter and Membership Chair of the South Florida Women’s Transportation Seminar (SFWTS). I truly enjoy being involved in these organizations and their activities.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I am a passionate soccer fan specially when it comes to our national team.

Grad Member Spotlight: Xueying Wang

gradmemberspotlight_xueyingwangXueying Wang

PhD student, Computer Science and Engineering Department

University of Notre Dame

Xueying has been involved in SWE since starting her Master’s program in 2014 at the University of the Pacific (UOP). Now, as a PhD student at Notre Dame, she is continuing to be involved in SWE. While at UOP, she participated in the Team Tech competition and spent 10 months working with Jose Hernandez, a previous NASA astronaut, to design a CubeSAT along with UPAEP, a university in Puebla Mexico. She also is a passionate outreach volunteer and has participated in numerous programs such as ones for the Girl Scouts and the Expand your Horizons program at UOP.

Xueying has been awarded the certificate of recognition by the UOP SWE Section. Also, she came in second place at the 2015 SWE annual conference Team Tech competition. Congratulations, Xueying, 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 pursuing my PhD in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. I anticipate graduating in 2020. I also have a masters degree in Computer Science from the University of the Pacific (May 2016).

Give a brief explanation of your research.
I am currently in computer vision research lab of University of Notre Dame. The field I focus on is biometric recognition, which includes fingerprint recognition, iris recognition, face recognition etc.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
Computer science is a tool. All computer scientists are using their knowledge to change this world, to make it better and better. This is what I want to do as well. I would like to become a professor because teaching makes me feel needed. When you teach, you are not only the person who transfers technology, you can also be an important influencer in students’ lives by encouraging and supporting them. I am very grateful to the teachers who have supported me. Therefore, I want to pass their kindness onto the next generation.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?Travel and Photograph are my top 2 hobbies. And, lucky me, they always come at the same time. The scenery of cities is beautiful and full of the wisdom of humanity. Meanwhile, nature is powerful and full of wonder. By taking photos, I can memorize amazing moments and find the beauty of life.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I have a nickname from my close friends: 386. The reason is, sometimes I can be too focused on my work to notice that people are talking to me, just like a i386 processor, which can only process one request at a time.

Grad Group Spotlight: Yale

yaleWhen did your group start?

GradSWE at Yale has existed since the summer of 2014 and led the push to get Yale SWE recognized as an official collegiate SWE section. Yale SWE’s current president, Bridget Hegarty, held an initial meeting at that time to determine if there was interest in starting a graduate SWE group. Nearly 15 people showed up, and a group of five of us formed the first eboard.

How is the group organized? i.e. how many core people are typically involved, do you have officers, how do you fit within the collegiate section, where do you get your budget (if you have one)?

Our section structure consists of an eboard of both graduate and undergraduate students that oversees two relatively independent committees–one grad and one undergrad. The grad and undergrad committees perform most of the day-to-day operations of Yale SWE. Our gradSWE committee has eight core members, including two co-directors and a number of chair positions (e.g. outreach chair, professional development chair, diversity chair, etc.). We find that this structure enables each committee member to take ownership of one or two events in their area of focus each semester, minimizing the number of group meetings required (important for busy grad students). For grad-specific events, we typically request funding on an event-by-event basis from the Graduate Student Life office and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate. For events geared towards both grads and undergrads, we allocate money in the Yale SWE budget, which is provided by the School of Engineering and Applied Science each year.

What type of events do you host? How often do you host them? How many people tend to come to these events?

We hold events across four broad categories: community building, diversity awareness, professional development, and outreach/mentoring. Through our events we seek to support female graduate students in engineering, both personally and professionally. Our events are open to the entire Yale community, but are tailored to the needs of graduate students. Our events draw anywhere from 10-20 people for our informal study breaks to 30-50 people for our larger events, such as our annual Gender Bias Workshop and Etiquette Dinner. We have an event every month during the fall, every two weeks during the spring semester, and once over the summer.

What is the one event or program of which you are most proud?

We are very proud of our yearly Gender Bias Workshop. It was one of the first major events hosted by gradSWE and is widely attended by both male and female graduate students from a variety of departments. During its first year, we invited Eva Pietri, a postdoctoral researcher in social psychology at Yale, to discuss her work combatting gender bias in STEM fields. She developed a series of entertaining situational videos designed to increase the viewer’s awareness of implicit bias. Although she has now moved on from Yale, we still show the videos each year and ask a student from her lab to moderate a discussion about implicit bias and the ways we can address it in our own lives.

What tips do you have for a newly-started grad group?


  • If you are considering starting a grad group, we suggest beginning by holding an information session to see how much interest there is in SWE at the grad level. We found that many grad students were interested in attending and helping to plan SWE events that were tailored to our specific needs.
  • Surveys can be very useful in learning what types of events grad students are looking for. This can vary over time depending on the goals and interests of your members, so make sure to send these surveys at the beginning and end of each year.
  • Initially, finding funding was challenging for us. Oftentimes, there are more funding sources available to undergraduates than to grad students. If your school allows it, we’ve found it very useful to submit a combined budget that can be used for both undergrad and grad events.


  • Collaborating with other grad student groups is helpful to increase event attendance as well as awareness of your gradSWE group. When we have events with a large number of non-engineers, we give a brief overview of our mission at the beginning of the event.
  • Getting first year students involved in the planning of events has been very useful in ensuring continuity from year to year. We have a first-year liaison on our gradSWE committee to allow first years to get involved from the beginning.

What type of outreach activities does your group organize?

K-12 STEM outreach is a large part of our grad group’s mission. Each semester we host at least one event with our largest event, a day-long Engineering Day for middle schoolers, happening each spring. Last year, this event brought 33 New Haven students to Yale’s campus, where they performed hands-on activities and built their own light-tracking robots. This year, we are expanding our outreach endeavors to high schoolers and will be hosting another engineering day, focusing on building a self-watering garden, in December. We host our outreach events in collaboration with the Yale Pathways to Science program, an initiative for students in grades 6-12 designed to promote the sciences, particularly among underrepresented groups. Pathways provides us with the resources and student population for our events, which allows us to focus on crafting innovative and challenging activities for the students. Through these events, we seek to expose students, particularly girls, to engineering and inspire them to pursue STEM further.

How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?

To learn more about gradSWE at Yale and to join our group, people can visit our website or Facebook page or email us at

Grad Member Spotlight: Forough Ghahramani

forough_ghahramaniForough Ghahramani

PhD student, Higher Education Management

University of Pennsylvania

Forough is passionate about SWE at the local, regional, and national level. As a collegiate, she was a member of the Villanova University section where she had a leadership role. As a professional, she held regional leadership positions in Region F (New England), led SWE partnership with AT&T to develop a women in engineering documentary while in Chicago, and has served on the SWE Public Policy Committee. In addition, she has served as a Faculty Advisor for the DeVry Philadelphia section. Forough also championed partnership with SWE NJ and Verizon for women in Engineering college events and Introduce a Girl to Engineering high school event, and led the creation of a multimedia Women in Technology Leadership tool working with Verizon women leaders around the globe and NJ women College students. Her involvement in SWE shows that SWE Grad Community members are at all stages of their professional careers.

Forough has received many awards during her SWE career. Most recently, she was selected for SWE’s Inaugural Academic Leadership for Women in Engineering Institute in 2015. Past awards include, HP Software Excellence, DeVry University PRIDE, and the Verizon Foundation Women in Engineering. For her work in public policy, she has also been named as one of the Women Impacting Public Policy Woman to Watch and received the Euro-American Women’s Council Artemis Award for contributions and advocacy for the future generation of women leaders in STEM fields. Congratulations, Forough, on all you’ve accomplished! Keep up the great work!

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

My education includes a doctorate in Higher Education Management from University of Pennsylvania  (Officially completed degree August 2016), an MBA in Marketing from DePaul University, MS in Computer Science from Villanova University, and BS in Mathematics with a minor in Biology from Pennsylvania State University.

Give a brief explanation of your research.
My research interests include “bioinformatics, the challenges and opportunities associated with the convergence of biotechnology and information technology in accelerating biological research”, and “institutional factors for promoting pathways for women innovators in science, engineering and technology fields”.

My dissertation focused on the qualitative exploration of the ways in which the various degrees of entrepreneurialism and commercialization shape female graduate student training and socialization across science technology and engineering fields.  This study explores institutional conditions at three selective and private U.S. research universities that cultivate innovation and entrepreneurship in graduate students to introduce patents, start companies, and/or work in leadership roles in start-ups and corporations.  A focus of the study is on institutional factors important to women with doctorate degrees in the STEM fields – science, engineering, technology and mathematics.  Critical factors in each institution’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem are explored, including the institution’s role in building innovation and entrepreneurial pathways, their commitment and resources for innovation and entrepreneurship, their culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and their commitment to diversity and inclusion for increasing participation of women in innovation.

What do you hope to do with your degree? What are your career goals?
My short term goal includes an Executive Leadership position in Academia, preferably to apply my doctoral research findings in an innovation ecosystem of a research institution. My long-term career goals include Chancellor, Provost level, and college president.  I hope to be able to make an impact on students and increase the number of women in STEM.

I have recently joined the Rutgers Discovery Informatics Institute as Associate Director. In this role, I provide leadership for the operation of RDI2, internal and external partnerships, as well as in collaboration with the RDI2 Director and AVP of Economic Development, continue to develop the strategy for the Institute.

What are some of your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
My hobbies include combining my dedication to training of young women leaders in STEM fields with a passion for innovation and entrepreneurship and advocacy. I have concentrated volunteer efforts on developing programs to mentor women in STEM and advocating for support from leading policy makers for women in business and STEM education initiatives.

During my free time, I enjoy bicycling and hiking with my husband and spending time with family, including my two children.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I love bicycling. My memorable experiences include bicycling through Vermont and the Coast of Oregon, and most recently my husband and I hiked through  the Alps through Austria and Northern Italy August 2016