Graduate Member Spotlight: Isabella Sanders

Isabella Sanders
Industrial Engineering
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!


Isabella at the Georgia Aquarium!


Graduate Student Spotlight: Anna Oldani

Anna Oldani
Mechanical Science and Engineering
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.


Graduate Member Spotlight: Andrea Haverkamp

Andrea Haverkamp


Environmental Engineering


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!



Grad Student Spotlight: Caymen Novak

Caymen Novak
Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan

Caymen Novak has been a committed member of SWE since her undergraduate studies at Oakland University, where she contributed as the Outreach Chair and President. Since beginning graduate school at the University of Michigan, she has gotten involved with their Graduate SWE group, again serving as the Outreach Chair from 2014-2018.

Caymen’s accolades also include the Marian Sarah Parker Prize for academic excellence, leadership qualities and outstanding contributions to the University and/or community and the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement. In addition to being a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, she has also received recognition through SWE, receiving scholarships in 2011 and 2015 and participating in the Rapid Fire Competition at WE18.

Caymen Novak

Caymen Novak, University of Michigan

Thesis Topic: The Effects of Mechanical Stimulation and ECM Stiffness on Ovarian Cancer Cell Phenotypes

Caymen investigates how different mechanical stimuli innate to the ovarian cancer micro-environment affect cancer progression and drug treatment response. The goal is to identify critical pathways that can be targeted in the future for better clinical outcomes.

After graduation, she would like to become a professor in biomedical engineering. Caymen has always loved teaching and is especially drawn to the opportunity it provides to connect with people.

Caymen enjoys running and artistic activities. She also teaches workout classes!

Fun Fact about Caymen: She can juggle but not well!

Graduate Student Spotlight: Kamalika Poddar

Kamalika Poddar
Computer Engineering
University of California, RiversideKamalikaPoddar

Kamalika has only been involved with SWE for about a year, but she has contributed to the SWE community as a mentor, scholarship recipient and volunteer. As a GradSWE mentor she is mentoring six undergraduate students by providing them information regarding grad school research and requirements in industry standards. She received a scholarship to attend the WE18 Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota and helped in the process of registering the over 14,000 attendees and exhibitors. As a Graduate Student Mentor for UCR International Affairs, she helps six international graduate students with graduate life. Apart from these, she volunteers for events like Bourns Engineering Day 2018 (one of the biggest events at UC-Riverside) and Citrus Hack 2018. She served as the Core Values Judge for First Lego League 2018 and is a scholarship holder for the Step-Con Educator Conference 2018, organized by MESA, at UCR.

Research Topic: Automatic #Hashtag Generation from Text and Images using CNN

In her research, Kamalika collects tweets and images from Twitter based on hashtags, and trains a model using convolutional neural networks to predict image categories. She aims to increase the accuracy of the model by training images with different sub-categories. She wants to design an efficient model where with every image post on Twitter, automatically the hashtags associated with the images will appear in the text box and there won’t be any need for the user to type and search for a particular hashtag. After graduation, she plans to join the software industry and also wants to help in providing solutions to combat social and environmental issues.

Apart from her research she likes to talk about one of her projects, where she collected negative and positive tweets over the week from Monday-Friday and after analyzing, she found a pattern where she could relate the effects of the high temperature of a day to the generation of negative tweets. If this behavior is analyzed over a period of time maybe it can help in understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder.

To Kamalika, the best experience so far has been as a graduate student, where she can not only conduct research and learn new technologies but also gets the chance to contribute to society. In her free time, Kamalika likes to follow tutorials and courses to learn new concepts and software. She also likes to invite friends over and cook for them. She enjoys travelling, which makes her feel peaceful.

Kamalika admires Serena Williams because though she has struggled much in her life to reach the heights of success, she never gave up. Moreover, we can learn from Serena that success is not just a one time thing, but that continuous effort and determination make an individual successful.

Fun Fact: Kamalika is the first women engineer in her family and she can speak four different languages- English, Bengali, Hindi and Kannada.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Jennifer DiStefano

Jennifer DiStefano
Ph.D. Candidate
Materials Science and Engineering
Northwestern University
Expected Graduation: 2020


Jennifer began her SWE career as an officer on the inaugural GradSWE board at Northwestern University three years ago. In her first position as Professional Development Chair, Jennifer introduced programming that has continued to this day, such as luncheons with women professors at Northwestern. Jennifer has been on the officer board since then; in fact, she now leads the GradSWE at Northwestern group. She is passionate about introducing STEM fields to girls at a young age, but also believes it is critical to nurture their interest in STEM while they look towards higher education and future careers. To that end, she is focusing on expanding the outreach and mentoring initiatives of GradSWE by making women graduate students visible and accessible to K-12 girls and undergraduate STEM students alike. Her SWE conference engagement includes presenting a workshop on elevator pitches at WE Local Milwaukee in 2017 and placing first at the Rapid Fire research presentation competition at WE18.

Jennifer is recognized as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow as well as a Northwestern International Institute of Nanotechnology Ryan Fellow.

Thesis Topic: 2D Material Nanocomposites

Since the discovery of graphene in 2004, 2D materials have drawn considerable interest for their potential in future electronics. These materials are ultra-thin – only a few atoms thick – and this reduced dimensionality leads to a host of properties not found in traditional electronic materials, including flexibility and transparency. Some of these atomically-thin materials are semiconductors, making them promising candidates for future electronic and optical applications, including solar cells and LED lighting. If these 2D semiconductors could be combined with other functional nanomaterials in nanocomposites, an even broader array of properties – and with that, future applications – would result.  Jennifer’s research focuses on exploring the formation and properties of new structures that combine 2D materials with other useful nanomaterials such as gold and silver.

After graduation, Jennifer is interested in a career in science policy or scientific consulting. Outside of work, she enjoys bird-watching (which Chicago is surprisingly good for!) in addition to reading and hiking.

Fun Fact: Jennifer is from a beautiful, but quite rural, part of Pennsylvania. So rural, in fact, that her high school had an annual “Drive Your Tractor to School Day,” in which several students inevitably participated.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Kritika Iyer

Kritika Iyer
Biomedical Engineering
University of Michigan


Kritika Iyer has been a member of SWE since her undergrad at UCLA, where she held various officer positions, including Publicity Chair, Outreach Chair, and Internal Vice President. Her proudest achievement during that time was initiating the Women in Engineering Stayover Program (WESP) for potential incoming freshmen. The goal of WESP is to show incoming women engineers that they can have a safe, supportive, and fun community in UCLA engineering. The program has continued to grow and has led to an increased percentage of women enrolling in UCLA engineering! Since starting grad school at the University of Michigan she has continued to be an active member. She is a member of the Outreach Planning Committee, mainly participating in elementary school outreach, and she is also involved in mentoring undergraduate SWE students.

She has been recognized as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Rackham Merit Fellow, and a Michigan Institute of Computational Discovery and Engineering Fellow. If you were at WE18, maybe you saw her presentation as a SWE Rapid Fire Finalist, where she ended up winning 3rd place! Congratulations Kritika!


Kritika at the WE18 Rapid Fire Competition

Thesis Topic: Non-invasive Diagnostics of Coronary Artery Disease using Computational Fluid Dynamics and Machine Learning

After graduation she plans to work in industry, using machine learning and computational modeling to improve healthcare.

Kritika enjoys dance/choreography and reading. She also enjoys crocheting winter gear to get through the frigid Michigan winters!

Fun Fact about Kritika: She is trilingual when she mumbles in her sleep!