Graduate Member Spotlight: Gurshagan Kandhola

Gurshagan Kandhola
PhD
Biological Engineering
Summer 2019
University of Arkansas

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Seeing the need for an organization that catered to the needs of the graduate students at her university, Gurshagan Kandhola, along with a fellow graduate student, established a GradSWE group at the University of Arkansas (UofA) just last year. Starting from a two-member team and a small event last summer, they now have a dedicated team of about ten officers who have successfully conducted various events over the year. Highlights of Gurshagan’s tenure leading the group include bringing in a female scientist who spoke about careers in science policy and a panel of highly accomplished female professors from UofA who spoke about their personal journeys. Both events were inspiring in different ways.

Their efforts have resulted in major expansion in terms of both membership and student involvement! They plan to continue conducting events and providing resources that the graduate students find useful, increase their visibility on campus by collaborating with faculty and other organizations (especially undergraduates in SWE and AWIS), have a website of their own and start a monthly newsletter.

Gurshagan’s work have been widely recognized across her campus. In 2018, she received the William Randolph Hearst Fellowship for outstanding contributions to SWE at the University of Arkansas. Throughout her academic career, she has given a number of oral and poster presentations at multiple conferences including ASABE, ACS, AACC and IFT; she was awarded first place in the graduate student poster presentation at the NSF EPSCoR annual meeting for Arkansas last year. She was one of three finalists selected from 28 National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) states to present her research in Pecha-Kucha style, a highly concise format of 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide, to a general audience at their annual conference in 2017. She also won the three-minute thesis competition at the University of Arkansas College of Engineering, when the competition was newly introduced at UofA in 2016. For the past couple of years, she has been actively involved in various volunteer opportunities on and off campus as she likes to devote time toward causes she believes in, such as education and sustainability. These include judging local high school science fairs, mentoring local elementary and middle school students through the Passionate About Learning (PAL) program and the annual Women in STEM camp, leading recovery of surplus food from campus dining halls through the Razorback Food Recovery program for redistribution to community partners in need, and working with the City of Fayetteville recycling department to increase adoption of recycling in apartment complexes.

Gurshagan co-founded a start-up company a few years ago. The company received awards and recognition at various business plan competitions, including the Arkansas Governor’s Cup and Louisville’s Brown Forman Cardinal Challenge, and received $50K seed funding from the Delta I-Fund accelerator. The team ended up closing the company due to lack of the right technology-market fit; however, the experience was invaluable. With two other team members, she is in the process of co-founding another start-up, with a focus on the application of nanocellulosic materials in the agricultural sector.

Research Topic: Optimizing the extraction process and evaluating the physicochemical properties of cellulose nanocrystals derived from wood biomass.

The overarching motivation behind Gurshagan’s research is to develop biologically derived nanoscale materials that have the potential to solve some of the biggest problems of our time, such as contaminated food and water, environmental and human health, plastic waste, etc., while reducing our dependence on petroleum derived materials. Nanomaterials derived from cellulose have been shown to have diverse applications in various fields, but bottlenecks preventing widespread commercialization include low process yields and limited raw materials. Gurshagan’s PhD research focuses on improving yields by optimizing the production process and evaluating different wood species for their effect on the yields and physicochemical properties of nanocellulose.

After graduating, Gurshagan wants to be an entrepreneur and would also like to continue pursuing research, communication, consulting and policy-making in the science and technology sector. Eventually, she wants to venture into the non-profit sector with a focus on sustainability.

Outside of academics, Gurshagan likes playing badminton, going for long walks, and reading inspirational books!

Fun Fact: Gurshagan has personally met former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, an iconic Indian scientist she looks up to.

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Graduate Member Spotlight: Armana Sabiha Huq

Armana Sabiha Huq
Ph.D.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Spring 2020
Florida International University

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Armana Huq has been a member of SWE since 2015. Currently, she serves as the Graduate Chair in the Florida International University SWE Section, where she actively helps the undergraduate students to run this chapter smoothly. She also introduces graduate programs to undergraduate students and serves as a mentor. As the Graduate Chair, her main goal is to enrich women empowerment in multidisciplinary professional and academic programs. She was honored to be a panelist in the “Women in STEM” and “Muslim Women in STEM” events at FIU where she shared her experiences and inspired others.

National Traffic Safety Scholar

Armana being recognized as a National Lifesavers Traffic Safety Scholar

Armana has received several prestigious awards for her expertise in transportation engineering and for her leadership skills in the United States and Bangladesh. She has been recognized as an Outstanding Graduate Scholar and as the Most Valuable Academy of Leader at FIU. Because of her contributions to traffic safety, she has been recognized as the National Lifesavers Traffic Safety Scholar in 2019. She has published numerous articles in her research areas and is playing a role model for advancing women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

SWE panel

Armana on a SWE panel

Her other significant leadership experience was being part of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) at FIU. As the former President of those clubs, she organized about forty graduate seminars and six technical field trips. She values collaboration, having partnered with several organizations (ASCE, ACI, EWB, FES, GAB, NSBE, etc.) to organize three conferences, seven workshops, and four career networking and social events within the FIU community.

Outside academia, she is also committed to K-12 programs, visiting schools and introducing transportation engineering with hands-on projects for students. She also encourages undergraduate and graduate students to pursue their career in transportation engineering through a Career Orientation event at FIU and other public community services. She works with Engineering On Wheels (EOW) and STEM projects to inspire elementary, middle and high school students. Armana is also involved in cultural organizations at FIU. As the President of the Bangladeshi Student Organization (BSO) at FIU, she received written greetings from Dr. Mark B. Rosenberg (President of FIU) for organizing “International Mother Language Day” in 2018. She was also recognized as the Best President of BSO at FIU. In the community, she has organized Hurricane Irma clean-up activities at the Miami Zoo and raised funds to help Hurricane Maria victims. As an engaged member of her community, she has stood against the killing of innocent students at Stoneman Douglas High School and participated in a vigil to mourn victims of the FIU pedestrian bridge tragedy.

Research Topic: Identification of Secondary Crashes and Recommended Countermeasures  

Armana’s first experience with the field of transportation engineering was during the third year of her undergraduate studies. While doing research on the transport planning of Dhaka City, she found the poor status of the transportation system of Bangladesh a key motivator for entering this field. She completed her Masters degree in civil and transportation engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) in 2009. Later, understanding frequent crashes and high fatality rates motivated the assessment of the impact of road geometric elements on the safety aspects of her research area. Hence, she continued her higher studies on transportation safety.

Her major focus is on transportation safety incorporating Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Currently, Armana works on “Identification and Mitigation of Secondary Crashes on Freeways”. Secondary crashes (SCs) could result from primary incidents for their complex interaction between roadways, vehicles, traffic and environmental conditions. However, several researchers doubt whether the principal cause of SCs are from the primary incident or recurring congestion. Methods for identifying SCs is another challenge in the road safety area of the transportation industry. The specific objective of Armana’s research is to develop an improved method to identity SCs and to mitigate them with advanced technology.

Armana’s father’s wish was to see her become a doctor because it is a noble profession, but she has wanted to be an engineer since childhood. To fulfill her dad’s wish too, she chose a career in transportation safety engineering, as it is also a noble profession because of the potential to save lives. Her hard work and optimism was rewarded when she was appointed as Faculty in the Accident Research Institute (ARI) at BUET in 2007. Because of her active role, she was elected as the President of Accident Research Monitoring and Committee at ARI. Notably, she was an organizer and keynote speaker for the national workshop on “Promoting Road Safety for Children in Bangladesh”. Currently, she is on leave to pursue her doctorate at FIU and after graduation she will continue her job with new found enthusiasm to mitigate crashes and prevent injuries.

Armana loves singing, reciting, cooking and hanging out with her husband, friends and family.    

Fun Fact: Other than SWE, Armana is the Membership Chair of Gold Coast ITE professional organization. Besides those responsibilities, she enjoys spending her free time volunteering or participating in cultural activities in and outside the FIU community because she believes that “only achieving degree cannot make people a good human being.” One of her favorite quotes is “Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service” -Martin Luther King, Jr.  

Congrats Graduates!

The SWE Graduate Student Community exists to provide graduate students with the resources and community they need to excel and graduate with their degrees and successfully transition into their desired career.

This year we celebrate with the new graduates within this community! We wish them the best in their next endeavors and thank them for joining with us during their academic programs.

Mackenzie Arnold
BS, Building Construction Management
UW-Platteville, Spring 2019

Stephany Basney
MS, Engineering Management
Central Michigan University, Spring 2019

Jill Foster
MS, Chemistry
Villanova University, Winter 2018

Anna Hagstorm
Ph.D., Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Yale University, Spring 2019

Bridget Hegarty
Ph.D., Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Yale University, Spring 2019

Monica Hwang
Ph.D., Chemical Engineering
Texas A&M University, Spring 2019

Gurshagan Kandhola
Ph.D., Biological Engineering
University of Arkansas, Summer 2019

Emily Ludwig
MS, Bioengineering; MBA (dual degree)
University of Pittsburgh, Spring 2019

Camila Mancia
MBA, STEM Concentration
Texas Tech University, Summer 2019

Julia Eve Napolitano
MS, Biomedical Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University, Spring 2019

Bhuvi Swarna Lalitha Nirudhoddi
Ph.D., Materials Science and Engineering
The Ohio State University, Summer 2019

Olivia Palmer
Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan, Spring 2019

Ying Shi
MS, Civil Engineering
Texas A&M University, Fall 2018

Karis Tang-Quan
Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences
Texas A&M University, Summer 2019

Kathy Wang
MPS (Master of Professional Studies), Information Science
Cornell University, Spring 2019

Ruth Williams
MS, Aerospace Engineering
University of Cincinnati, Spring 2019

If you have any questions or would like to be added to the list, please contact Cecilia Klauber (grad-coordinator-elect@swe.org) or fill out this form.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Ehdieh Khaledian

Ehdieh Khaledian
PhD
Computer Science
December 2019
Washington State University (WSU)

Ehdieh is currently a member of the GradSWE International Team, serving as an External Graduate Affiliate Coordinator. You may see her this week at WE Local Bellevue, where she is a finalist in the Collegiate Competition!

She is a Senator of the Graduate and Professional Student Association at WSU and a member of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. Additional awards Ehdieh has won include project funding through the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program and a travel grant to attend StringBio in Orlando, Florida, also from the NSF. For NSF I-Corps, her proposed project was “Using active learning to predict the best medication for autoimmune disease patient.” She has also been awarded a Grace Hopper Conference Student Scholarship to attend the 2018 Grace Hopper Conference in Houston, Texas, and was selected to attend the CRA-Women Grad Cohort Workshop in San Francisco, California. She also received an Element 8 Fellowship from WSU, which enables students to participate in efforts to fund clean tech innovation.

Research Topic: Computational Biology

The increase in antibiotic resistance (AR) has created a global health threat. Predicting bacterial resistance genotypes and phenotypes provides valuable information that can assist in clinical decisions. The first part of Ehdieh’s research focuses of prediction of resistant bacteria and decision-making models for helping physicians to prescribe the best medications for a certain patient. The second part focuses on using network science approaches to create a network of bacterial organisms, and extracting horizontal gene transfer (HGT). HGT is the main reasons of antibiotic resistance.

After graduation, Ehdieh wants to work on data science in healthcare. This include informatics, disease modeling and biotechnology.

Beyond the lab, Ehdieh likes to read books and play raquet ball.

Fun Fact: Ehdieh knows 4 languages and uses them all everyday!

 

Ehdieh

Graduate Member Spotlight: Isabella Sanders

Isabella Sanders
PhD
Industrial Engineering
2021
Georgia Tech

Isabella was recently selected as the new Graduate Programming Coordinator Elect for the GradSWE Leadership Team, where she will work on facilitating graduate programming at WE19 and WE20. For the past two years she has served as the Graduate SWE Leader in the Georgia Tech SWE Section. She led the effort in rebuilding a strong Grad SWE leadership team at Georgia Tech. They hosted 10 industry, academic and social events in the last semester alone. She attended WE17 and was selected to attend the ALWE program at WE18. She really enjoyed those experiences and is looking forward to contributing to the conference experience in her new role! She recently won 1st place at the 2019 WE Local St. Louis Graduate Research Competition. The same weekend, Georgia Tech selected her as the 2019 Outstanding Graduate Student at the Women of Distinction Awards. Congratulations Isabella!

Research Topic: Fresh Supply Chains

Isabella’s research on fresh supply chains focuses on hyper connectivity and physical internet applications. She is currently working on projects concerning Fresh-Cut Flower Supply Chains and Market Deployment models for farm-to-table platforms.

She will be presenting her research at the IISE (Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers) annual conference in May, EURO (European Operations Research) Annual Conference in Dublin in June where she is an invited speaker, and IPIC (International Physical Internet Conference) in London in July. She is also on the planning committee for the Doctoral Colloquium for IPIC.

In her free time, Isabella enjoys swimming, running, baking and exploring Atlanta. Her favorite spots include the Georgia Aquarium and the beltline!

Fun Fact: Isabella was a D1 rower in college!

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Isabella at the Georgia Aquarium!

Graduate Student Spotlight: Anna Oldani

Anna Oldani
Ph.D.
Mechanical Science and Engineering
2019
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Anna Oldani has been an integral part of the GradSWE at Illinois community since its beginnings, overseeing Fundraising from 2013-2015 and the weSTEM Conference from 2014-2015. In these roles, she established a strong base from which GradSWE at Illinois continues to grow and evolve. She led the GradSWE at Illinois group in FY16, enjoying the chance to build a closer relationship between undergraduate and graduate SWE members. Within SWE, she was recognized as a Region H Emerging Leader and Outstanding Collegiate Member for her contributions.

Outside of SWE, she has been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, Illinois Distinguished Fellowship, Department of Transportation Student of the Year, and the MechSE Teaching Fellowship.

Research Topic: Evaluation of Physicochemical Characteristics of Alternative Jet Fuels and Integration into Aerospace Systems

Anna is examining unique features of alternative jet fuels with regards to their physical and chemical properties and resulting combustion performance to better integrate them with conventional fuels and expand our energy portfolio while meeting performance and environmental goals.

After graduation, Anna aims to facilitate fundamental research through strategic partnerships at the government and industry levels, enhancing the ability of academic groups to advance their research while supporting student achievement in STEM fields.

Outside of lab, Anna enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, reading and journaling.

Fun Fact: Anna doesn’t have her wisdom teeth in yet, but they are there.

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Graduate Member Spotlight: Andrea Haverkamp

Andrea Haverkamp

Ph.D.

Environmental Engineering

2020

Oregon State University

 

Andrea Haverkamp currently serves as the Diversity & Inclusion Liaison for the GradSWE community. Working with a team of committed graduate students, she works to bring more content and trainings highlighting the underrepresented minorities within the GradSWE community, such as the LGBTQ+ community. These projects aim to educate the entire organization, and create a sense of belonging across all participants. Current work includes reaching out to SWE Affinity Groups and their leadership to build connections, forming a diverse D&I team, and developing a monthly virtual GradSWE D&I reading group. She was a member of SWE during her undergraduate program at the University of Kansas and is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace. At Oregon State University, she is a part of the student-led effort Grads 4 Social Justice advocating for difference, power, and discrimination educational coursework to be a part of every students program of study within engineering.

 

Thesis Topic: Invisiblized Gender Experiences in Engineering Education

 

Engineering is a highly gendered field. A lot has been written and studied regarding gender dynamics between men and women in the profession. However, almost all research on gender in engineering relies on antiquated binary categories of men and women which groups people into two universal experiences. Intersectional feminist theory and modern gender theory break apart the notion that bodies and their experiences neatly fit into two gender categories, or that these categories are fixed and cisgender. Andrea’s dissertation research seeks to address this by exploring what has not been explored. Andrea seeks to lift up and highlight the stories, experiences, and support structures of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) undergraduate students in engineering education through phenomenological and feminist research methods.Through multiple phases, she and her research team will collaborate with undergraduate TGNC engineering students to find themes of support, resiliency, and community. Since students are the foremost experts on their own lived experiences, the students are in a central role in the research process and analysis at every phase. The research products will inform our understanding of gender dynamics in engineering education and identify gaps in institutional support structures for this student population. Andrea is motivated to do this research out of a strong commitment to social justice and a liberatory future for all LGBTQ+ people.  

 

Andrea plans to become an engineering teacher and to teach environmental engineering courses, such as water/wastewater treatment, alongside topics of engineering ethics, social justice, and peace studies. She wants to create classroom spaces that are equitable and where we can critically engage in our role as engineers in a morally complex world. Through her research, Andrea aims to help push our engineering community towards a daily practice of social justice.

 

Outside of work, Andrea’s life mostly revolves around her dog Spaghetti, who is a 2 year old pug-chihuahua mix. She also goes to a lot of concerts and is a DJ on the local college radio station. Andrea used to play a lot of music on the banjo, electric guitar, trumpet, and through singing, and that’s a hobby she keeps close to her.
Fun Fact about Andrea: Andrea grew up raising cattle and pigs in rural Kansas, and her first pig was named Floppy!

 

Andrea