3rd Global Grand Challenges Summit

Do you want to connect with international colleagues and tackle the world’s biggest engineering challenges? The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is hosting a 2-day summit in Washington DC on the Grand Challenges in Engineering. Check it out!

Registration is now open for the 3rd Global Grand Challenges Summit, to be held July 18-20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the UK Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), the Summit will focus on the four themes of the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering: Sustainability, Health, Security, and Joy of Living, as well as Education and Public Engagement related to the Grand Challenges.

We are expecting about 800 participants, evenly split between students and professionals. Free lodging is available for student attendees, and a travel allowance is available for students from US academic institutions (max 5 per institution). Based on past experience, US registration may close fairly early in order to preserve slots for overseas partners, so we urge you to register at your earliest convenience. For more information and to register please visit www.ggcs2017.org .


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

Upcoming webinar: Title IX

This month’s webinar is focused on SWE’s Public policy on the application of Title IX. It is a recorded webinar presented by Cathy Pieronek who is an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Women’s Engineering Program at the University of Notre Dame College of Engineering.

The webinar is about Title IX:  The Good, The Bad, The Unfinished: SWE’s Public Policy efforts focus on the application of Title IX, the law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, to engineering programs specifically and all STEM programs generally.  This webinar will provide participants with a background in Title IX to understand how the law works, what it has accomplished since its enactment in 1972 (both good and not so good), and what remains to be done in terms of bringing women into full participation with men in STEM educational opportunities.

Follow this link to view this recorded webinar.

SWE Magazine must-reads

How many of us actually read the SWE magazine? In full disclosure, I used to skim through it and then toss it on my pile of magazines.  Recently though, because my husband and I are about to move across the country and we’re going through all our stuff to determine what gets tossed in the garbage/recycling and what comes with us, I have been going through my SWE magazines and actually reading the articles. I can’t believe I’ve missed out all these years! So, whether you’re looking for something to read while on the treadmill or elliptical, or looking for some light before-bed reading (the two ways I’ve been reading the magazine), there are several articles in the 3 most recent SWE magazines that I think the Grad Community would appreciate. If you’ve already recycled your magazines, never fear, you can access the archives here:



Spring 2015 issue:

  • Page 10 – “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” – inspirational short descriptions of women you’ve probably never heard of.
  • Page 18 – Policy Aims and the Federal Budget – as all grad students know, funding dictates everything. This article talks about STEM funding from a National perspective, and how SWE and its members may be affected.
  • Page 20 – Compelling Encouragement for Women Engineers – another inspirational story of a woman who accomplished so much throughout her life, Mildred Dresselhaus, PhD.
  • Page 29 – SWE at 65 Women Engineers You Should Know – more inspirational stories!
  • Page 36 – Bullying at Work – learning how to identify and deal with bullies in the workplace.
  • Page 40 – Women in Engineering: A Review of 2014 Literature – I found this very interesting in terms of what the experts are saying about women and their role in engineering, including statistical analysis of degrees and faculty positions.
  • Pages 60-63 – Career Toolbox and Life & Work – tips on how to succeed at work and find balance in your life.


Winter 2015 issue:

  • Page 12 – Behind the Headlines: How Women Candidates Did in the 2014 Elections – interesting assessment on how many female representatives we have in the legislature.
  • Page 14 – Women Engineers Share Their Stories on a New Wiki – SOOOO COOL! There is a new wiki that is a joint effort between many different professional organizations to share lessons and stories of life from many different disciplines. You can find the specific engineering one here: http://ethw.org/Category:Engineering_and_society
  • Page 26 – Wanted: Diverse Cybersecuirty Work Force – the importance of cybersecurity and of attracting and retaining women in this field.
  • Page 38 – 2014 Achievement Award Address – Frances Mazze Hurwitz, PhD gives a memorable and inspirational address when receiving the 2014 Achievement Award at WE14.
  • Page 50 – On-Ramping and Off-Ramping – the challenges women face as they start a family and the decision to stay at work or not.


Fall 2014 issue:

  • Page 12 – Bridging the Gap for Girls in STEM – the story of the Girls Scouts Troop 2612 who participated in The 2014 White House Science Fair.
  • Page 22 – A Pioneer in Equal Rights and Earthquake Safety – the inspirational story of Ruth Gordon Schnapp, P.E. and her battle with equal rights in society and in the work place.
  • Page 44 – Women Engineering Leaders in Academe 2014 – a discussion on women succeeding in academia.
  • Page 80 – Should I Do a Postdoc? – a question many in the Grad Community face!



Opinion: Fareed Zakaria’s “In Defense of a Liberal Education”

I don’t know about you, but I watch a lot of news, including what my husband and I fondly call the “Talking Heads” shows on Sundays. That is, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, etc. One of these shows is hosted by Fareed Zakaria, and it’s called GPS – Global Public Square. It airs on CNN Sunday mornings at 10am ET. In the past few months, he has been on all the talk shows promoting his book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. What I had been hearing him say kept making me angrier and angrier, so I decided to look into his book and his argument. While I didn’t read the entire book, the Huffington Post article linked below does a great job outlining his main arguments, with quotes from Zakaria himself. This blog post serves as my reaction to some of the article/Zakaria comments.

In short, he was making me angry because all I ever heard him say in interviews was that STEM education has had its 15 minutes of fame, and the world should focus more on liberal arts education. Of course, as someone who just completed a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, this made me incredibly mad. I do a lot of STEM outreach and I constantly tell kids that a STEM career opens a lot of doors, and that you can always take Liberal Arts classes, if that is something which interests you. Plus, I disagree with his premise that the world does not need more scientists and engineers. I believe that we are in desperate need for these people more than ever, as there are world crises that require, or at least prefer, a STEM degree or experience to solve. However, after reading the Huffington Post article, I see now that he is not denying the benefit of a STEM education, but rather advocating for incorporating Liberal Arts and STEM together to allow for a broader and more comprehensive education. I completely agree with this conclusion, but I wish he would explain it better on his interviews.

Link to Huffington Post Article:

Find the book on Amazon: http://amzn.com/0393247686


And so here begins some quotes from the article and my thoughts:

A liberal arts education is the best preparation for many careers, especially in the U.S., given today’s global technology-driven economy

Actually, no, a STEM education is much better preparation for a technology-driven career. By understanding how to use and program computers, one is much better equipped to move forward in a career which is dependent upon these technological advancements. Furthermore, understanding the scientific and engineering processes is imperative for many careers. For example, the primary thing engineers are taught is problem solving – regardless of the problem. With a liberal arts education, many students do not even learn how to think through technical problems or get practice with the engineering and scientific methods. They may learn how to analyze and think critically, but they are not taught the advanced math, science, or engineering skills which are obtained through a STEM education. It is these advanced skills that are necessary to succeed in many careers.

“The future of a country like the U.S. rests on our ability to master how technology interacts with how humans live, work and play,” Zakaria said to The WorldPost. “And that depends on skills fostered by the liberal arts, such as creativity, aesthetic sensibility and social, political and psychological insight.”

STEM education fosters creativity. Insight into the world’s problems is a must for many STEM majors, since they’re the ones who are going to create (ah, there’s creativity!) methods by which to solve these problems. Engineers are also key designers for electronics, which must be aesthetic by necessity in order to be financially successful.

Because of tough economic times, the rising cost of higher education and an increasingly competitive job market, too many Americans — and American politicians — are turning away from the liberal arts under a false perception that they are a poor career option, Zakaria says.

And yet, many of the highest paid career options are STEM careers. While salary does not make the best indicator of  a career option, it indicates the value of the college degree to the employer. And when looking for a job immediately out of college, rates have shown that it is much easier to get a STEM-related job than a non-STEM job, which is incredibly useful if you have student debt. Zakaria mentions that non-STEM salaries and career prospects may reach the same salary and unemployment rate as STEM majors later in life. But as I mentioned, this does not help a soon-to-be college graduate when faced with trying to pay bills, including student debt.



Liberal arts subjects — such as English, philosophy and political science — teach people how to think, write and communicate; those skills remain useful through the many twists and turns of a career in today’s ever-changing digital economy, he argues. And, he says, it is dangerous to overemphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education as separate from or more important than the liberal arts.

STEM disciplines also teach one how to think. I will admit that I wish my engineering studies would have emphasized writing and communicating more, but these were things I could get elsewhere. In fact, my skills were strengthened through my involvement in other activities, such as giving campus tours, attending and presenting at conferences, and writing technical papers – not to mention my Master’s thesis and Doctoral dissertation. I will also admit that I think STEM outreach does sometimes focus on the technical skills, and should perhaps include more arts, reading, and communication skills. With that said, I know many STEM outreach programs which are trying to encompass all these skills, with an emphasis on the engineering and scientific methods. Zakaria mentions this technique as “cross-pollination” and suggests that creativity and innovation excel when liberal arts and STEM fields are mixed during the education process.


And so, I came to the conclusion I mentioned in the second paragraph. I agree with Zakaria’s conclusion – that STEM and liberal arts need to be integrated to develop the next generation of thinkers. But I disagree with how he has been going around advertising this bottom line.


What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, I’m eager to hear other opinions on this topic!