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)!


Graduate Member Spotlight: Rasika Bhalerao

Graduate Member Spotlight

Rasika Bhalerao


Computer Science

Expected Graduation Date: 2021

New York University

Rasika has been involved in SWE since her freshman year of undergrad at the University of Washington, when she joined the section of about 30 students. During her second year, she served as a Director of Evening With Industry, an annual 1000-student career fair and 200-member banquet. During her junior and senior years, she served as the treasurer of UW’s section. By the time she graduated, the section had over 400 students, and she greatly enjoyed watching it grow. This year, she is the Social Media Coordinator for the SWE Grad Leadership Team, and continues to work on her graduate degree at NYU. She has been to several SWE conferences, and you may see her at one soon!

Rasika’s hard work and dedication go further than SWE alone. She has been involved in acapella, and her most cherished award is the one that her acapella group named after her, the Rasika Bhalerao Award, in 2017. It is awarded to the most helpful and caring member. She also works as a teaching assistant in the Computer Science department.

Rasika’s research is focused on applying machine learning and natural language processing tools to cybersecurity. She is currently working on a project analyzing cybercriminal underground forums.

Rasika is keeping her options open for her future career opportunities. Her love of teaching (and research interests) inspire her to pursue a career in academia. She is also, however, currently making strong industry connections in her field.

Outside of computer science, Rasika enjoys playing the piano and rock climbing.

Fun Fact about Rasika: Despite being allergic to cats, Rasika participates in a cat fostering program.


Graduate Member Spotlight: Megan Beck

Graduate Member Spotlight: Megan Beck

Graduate Member Spotlight

Megan E. Beck


Materials Science and Engineering

Expected Graduation Date: Summer 2019

Northwestern University

This year, we are excited to have Megan Beck serve as our Graduate Programming Coordinator, where she has been instrumental in ensuring there is a graduate student presence at WE18. She has organized abstract submissions by graduate students and is organizing the graduate student meeting at WE18. Her hard work has ensured the graduate presence at annual conference so if you are planning to attend conference, be sure to meet Megan! Before she joined the societal GradSWE team, Megan gained substantial SWE experience at the section-level. She has worked diligently over the last two years to establish and grow a GradSWE group at Northwestern University. Her work has paid off, as the group is officially recognized by NU, and they have secured a $3000 grant to fund a suite of professional development, outreach, and social programming.

Megan has also been involved in her graduate community outside of SWE. She has worked over the last year and a half to co-found a new group in her department (Material Science and Engineering). This new group, Materials Science Alliance for an Inclusive Community (MatSAIC), advocates for inclusion and diversity in STEM fields. The group works to promote interactions between graduate students and professors from a variety of backgrounds by inviting Materials Science and Engineering Department colloquium speakers who demonstrate outstanding efforts in promoting inclusion in STEM to take part in the quarterly MatSAIC seminar series on their own experiences and how they promote diversity and inclusion. She also serves on the NU Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Student Leadership Team.

Megan has proved her technical merit and has been recognized with a long list of awards. Most significantly, she was awarded fellowships though both the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduation Research Fellowship program. Megan has demonstrated great interest and skill in teaching and has received a Teaching Certificate from Northwestern SEARLE Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching. This summer, she was selected by the Kellogg School of Management at NU and received a Management for Scientist and Engineers Certificate.


Research Topic: Self-Aligned van der Waals Heterojunction Diodes and Transistors

Because numerous novel and attractive properties have been revealed in atomically thin, low-dimensional materials, it is possible to envision a future comprised of low-power, tunable, flexible, ultra thin devices. Toward this goal, it is necessary to develop fabrication methods specifically for these atomically thin materials instead of relying on the conventional silicon based methods.  Megan’s Ph.D. research at Northwestern University has focused on developing device fabrication processes that allow us to fully leverage the properties of low-dimensional materials and make more complicated electronic device geometries. Specifically she and her team developed a processing platform that has (1) minimized short-channel effects (channel lengths < 200nm) and improve current saturation in MoS2 transistors, (2) enabled dual-gate control of antiambipolar behavior in MoS2-black phosphorus thin-film junctions via e-beam lithography and (3) been adapted to wafer-scale processing via photolithography for dual-gated self-aligned MoS2-CNT heterojunctions. Overall, this self-aligned fabrication method represents an important step toward the scalable integration of van der Waals heterojunction devices into more sophisticated circuits and systems.

After graduation, Megan sees herself working in scientific consulting or R&D in the semiconductor industry. Outside of her technical endeavors, Megan is very involved in her church community and spends her free time cooking, crocheting, and playing with her rat terrier, Una.

Fun fact about Megan: Megan grew up in a small town (pop. 2400) in rural northern Idaho. She is one of a handful of people from her town who moved more than an hour away for their undergraduate degree and one of an even smaller number that left the state after undergrad.



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.