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.


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.

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!

Grad Member Spotlight: Genevieve Kane

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to our new Graduate Leadership Team.  We’ll start with our new GMC, Genevieve!
Kane_GenevieveGenevieve Kane
Graduate Student in Materials Science and Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Genevieve Kane has been a member of SWE since 2007. She is very happy to serve as Graduate Member Coordinator of the society in her 10th year of SWE membership.  Genevieve became a member while an undergraduate at SUNY New Paltz,  and brought SWE programming to her undergraduate campus.  Upon entering graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Genevieve became the Region Graduate Representative, aiding in GradSWE group start-up and in Region Conference Planning for graduate sessions.  She continues to be involved in her region and locally, acting as the Region Collegiate Senator for FY18, as well as continuing her outreach efforts and being part of the Local Host Committee for WELocal Providence.  Genevieve is also a member of the Women in Academia committee, and the Bylaws committee.


What degrees do you hold, and what are you currently studying?

I took a very unique path through school – I completed three bachelor’s degrees in five years, where I studied Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Music (Performance, Violin) at two separate institutions that were 2 hours away from each other (SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Albany)!  After that, I received a Master’s degree from the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Albany (SUNY Polytechnic) in Nanoscale Engineering.  I’m now a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and am studying Materials Science and Engineering.  It seems like I’ve been studying a lot of different things, but one thing that I have always believed is that many aspects of science and technology are related.  I try to remind students of that whenever I do outreach!

Give a brief explanation of your research experience

Previously, my research focused on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (for my MS) and solving problems that photoresist manufacturers face with out-of-band wavelength lights.  Now, my research focuses on creating novel microscopy techniques to help understand, predict, and actively control grain growth in metals.  

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

That’s a great question and one that I think many people struggle with.  I spend some time teaching at a community college prior to starting my studies at RPI and I loved it, so I would definitely be interested in a professorship.  At the same time, I am also really enthusiastic and love my research, so I would love to explore the options that government labs and industry have available to me as well, because I think that my research experience could really be beneficial in that setting.  As my time in grad school closes, I think that I’m narrowing my options down, and looking for something that offers me the freedom of controlling my research interests, while still allowing me to be an educator!  We shall see.

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

When I’m not in lab, you can usually find me at the gym for Zumba, or hiking and wandering the wilderness!  These are things that I really love and I hadn’t been prioritizing much in the beginning of grad school – so I’m happy to have more time to do them now.   I also love to sing and play music and do so through concerts, musical theater, etc. I am also a language enthusiast, and love to travel.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I received a black belt in karate when I was 10 years old!  On occasion, I teach self defense classes to women, because I believe that it is important to be able to defend yourself if the need arises.

Do you have any advice for our GradSWE members?

If there are three things I can share with  you in my experiences from grad school, they would be:

  1. Do something that you are passionate about, and surround yourself with the right people to help you achieve what you hope to.
    I personally had a lot of trouble in the beginning of grad school because of my choices in research and advisor.   I am now a very fortunate graduate student with an advisor that I work well with, and research that I am passionate about.
  2. Take time to enjoy grad school, and have a healthy work/life balance!
    This is something I will undoubtedly emphasize over the course of the year in blog posts – taking a break and going home for the day to sleep, do the things you enjoy, etc, is as important as your research.  Grad school has a physical, and emotional impact on all – it is a stressful time in your life and many students need that rest and relaxation to avoid burnout.  I didn’t realize this for a long time – but I find I am much more productive now because I do take breaks.
  3. Utilizes all of the resources you are given in grad school and that you have available through SWE.
    A lot of students come out of school and say things like “I wish I had gone to more professional development seminars.”   I can’t personally say that – because I take the time to go to as many seminars about research and professional development that I can!  I also utilize my career center if I have questions about my resume, and my SWE contacts as well.  Your school, company, and professional organizations have a ton of resources available to you to help you grow as a professional, and to obtain jobs.   Use them!