Graduate Member Spotlight: Jennifer DiStefano

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

JenniferDiStefano

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.

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Recap: SWE Annual Conference-WE18

Another annual conference is in the books for the Society of Women Engineers where more than 14,000 women engineers gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center last month.

Our graduate community participates in the conference in a variety of ways including hosting professional development sessions, competing in research presentations, exploring the career fair, and networking at the Graduate Member Meeting and Graduate Student Reception.

Graduate Poster & Rapid Fire Competition:

Twenty graduate students were selected from those that submitted abstracts for the Graduate Poster & Rapid Fire Competition. Ten students competed in each category (poster or rapid fire) where they were evaluated on their research and presentation skills. Congratulations to the following award recipients:

Graduate Poster Competition Results
(1st) Samantha Zellner
Corrosion Measurement of Silicon Carbide
University of North Texas

(2nd) Sarah Robb
Is faster FDA review time for cardiovascular devices correlated with adverse health outcomes, as evidenced by increased recalls?
Carnegie Mellon University

(3rd) Rachel Tenney
Production of Nitrogen- and Phosphorus-Rich Crystals from Municipal Wastewater for Sustainable Nutrient Recovery
University of Minnesota

Graduate Rapid Fire Competition Results
(1st) Jennifer DiStefano
Utilizing 2D Materials in Core-shell Nanocomposites
Northwestern University

(2nd) Caymen Novak
Compressive Stimulus Enhances Ovarian Cancer Proliferation, Invasion, and Mechanotransduction in a Novel 3D Compression Bioreactor
University of Michigan

(3rd) Kritika Iyer
Non-Invasive Diagnostics of Coronary Artery Disease Using Machine Learning and Computational Fluid Dynamics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Graduate Member Meeting:

Our member meeting is open to all graduates and serves to update our members on current GradSWE initiatives and what they can do to increase graduate student involvement in SWE at their university. The meeting slides contain pertinent links and tips for developing a GradSWE group.

Graduate Student Reception (Sponsored by Praxair and Autodesk):

With over 60 attendees, the Graduate Student Reception continues to grow and is an opportunity for networking and idea sharing among peers and the sponsors. We would like to once again thank Autodesk and Praxair for their support of the SWE graduate community! 20181019_172539

Join our team as Graduate Programming Coordinator-Elect (GPC-E):

Do you want to get involved in GradSWE at the Society level? The application is now open for the Graduate Programming Coordinator-Elect (GPC-Elect) position.

This position carries a two-year term (one year as coordinator-elect and one year as coordinator) filled by a SWE graduate student or recent Ph.D./M.S. graduate. The time commitment is usually 2-3 hours/week and is closer to 7-10 hours/week in the weeks before the annual conference. All meetings are through conference calls, except for the required annual conference attendance for both WE19 and WE20.

Deadline for applications is Monday, December 31, 2018 11:59 pm CDT (Midnight).
All applications will then be reviewed and applicants will be contacted in January.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at gradsweprogramming@gmail.com.

Practice your research talk and get feedback! Submit Abstract for the WE Local Collegiate Competition

Do you want to refine your ability to explain your research to other engineers? Want a chance to present your research at a SWE conference? Participate in WE Local Collegiate Competition. WE Local is now accepting online abstract submissions for the WE Local Collegiate Competition. Submit your abstract before the deadline of Friday, November 2, 2018. Questions about the WE Local Collegiate Competition can be directed to welocal@swe.org.

The WE Local Collegiate Competition is a great way to share your research with a broad technical audience who can offer support, insight, and constructive feedback. Finalists will be selected from the submitted abstracts for the collegiate competition and are required to compete onsite at a WE Local conference in all categories: poster, lightning talk, and face-to-face judging! Graduate students are highly encouraged to submit abstracts summarizing their graduate research, co-ops/internships or external research experience to the Graduate Collegiate Competition. This allows for students to learn and gain insight on their research, and to receive live responses and encouragement from judges. The judges will consist of professional members from academia, industry, and government within the STEM field.

As a Finalists of the WE Local Collegiate Competition, you will receive a $250 travel stipend and complimentary collegiate premier registration to compete in the technical poster competition at the conference site to which you applied.  You will also be recognized during the WE Achieve awards ceremony where three finalists from each category will be awarded first, second, and third place. Do you want to know more about what WE Local competition offers you as a Graduate Student? Read what one of the former WE Local Finalists had to say about it!

Don’t forget to enter the WE Local Collegiate Competition! Submit your abstract before the deadline of Friday, November 2, 2018.

Best Practices: GradSWE events

In this blog post, I will cover some of the best practices GradSWE sections or groups can follow and implement to have successful events. I will categorize this into two sections – type of events, and best practices or ideas or tips for engaging more graduate students.

Type of events

  • Industry-sponsored Lunch and Learn sessions with companies – Networking, Interview Skills, and Resume Review.
  • Professional sessions from Career Center – LinkedIn workshop, Life after grad school, Elevator pitches training.
  • Biweekly discussions about topics facing grad women in STEM such as presentation skills, communication, writing manuscripts/thesis/dissertation.
  • Mentorship Program/Panel – Undergraduate students learning from graduate students about conducting research, applying to graduate school, academic or research internships.
  • Panel discussion – some topics could be Women engineers in academia/industry, how to be assertive in the workplace.
  • Research poster competition – encouraging graduate students to showcase their research.
  • Social events – mixers, painting/other arts, Halloween party.

Best Practices

  • Take support from nearest SWE Professional section.
  • Strategic advertisement and marketing – sending a bulk email about GradSWE events through College of Engineering or graduate advisors of various engineering departments or International Student Services or similar offices.
  • Collaboration with other student organizations on campus and organizing joint events.
  • Work with larger SWE section at the university to include GradSWE section into a corporate sponsorship packet.
  • Work with Women in Engineering (WE) program at your school to collaborate for events.

Grad Group Spotlight: Yale

yaleWhen did your group start?

GradSWE at Yale has existed since the summer of 2014 and led the push to get Yale SWE recognized as an official collegiate SWE section. Yale SWE’s current president, Bridget Hegarty, held an initial meeting at that time to determine if there was interest in starting a graduate SWE group. Nearly 15 people showed up, and a group of five of us formed the first eboard.

How is the group organized? i.e. how many core people are typically involved, do you have officers, how do you fit within the collegiate section, where do you get your budget (if you have one)?

Our section structure consists of an eboard of both graduate and undergraduate students that oversees two relatively independent committees–one grad and one undergrad. The grad and undergrad committees perform most of the day-to-day operations of Yale SWE. Our gradSWE committee has eight core members, including two co-directors and a number of chair positions (e.g. outreach chair, professional development chair, diversity chair, etc.). We find that this structure enables each committee member to take ownership of one or two events in their area of focus each semester, minimizing the number of group meetings required (important for busy grad students). For grad-specific events, we typically request funding on an event-by-event basis from the Graduate Student Life office and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate. For events geared towards both grads and undergrads, we allocate money in the Yale SWE budget, which is provided by the School of Engineering and Applied Science each year.

What type of events do you host? How often do you host them? How many people tend to come to these events?

We hold events across four broad categories: community building, diversity awareness, professional development, and outreach/mentoring. Through our events we seek to support female graduate students in engineering, both personally and professionally. Our events are open to the entire Yale community, but are tailored to the needs of graduate students. Our events draw anywhere from 10-20 people for our informal study breaks to 30-50 people for our larger events, such as our annual Gender Bias Workshop and Etiquette Dinner. We have an event every month during the fall, every two weeks during the spring semester, and once over the summer.

What is the one event or program of which you are most proud?

We are very proud of our yearly Gender Bias Workshop. It was one of the first major events hosted by gradSWE and is widely attended by both male and female graduate students from a variety of departments. During its first year, we invited Eva Pietri, a postdoctoral researcher in social psychology at Yale, to discuss her work combatting gender bias in STEM fields. She developed a series of entertaining situational videos designed to increase the viewer’s awareness of implicit bias. Although she has now moved on from Yale, we still show the videos each year and ask a student from her lab to moderate a discussion about implicit bias and the ways we can address it in our own lives.

What tips do you have for a newly-started grad group?

 

  • If you are considering starting a grad group, we suggest beginning by holding an information session to see how much interest there is in SWE at the grad level. We found that many grad students were interested in attending and helping to plan SWE events that were tailored to our specific needs.
  • Surveys can be very useful in learning what types of events grad students are looking for. This can vary over time depending on the goals and interests of your members, so make sure to send these surveys at the beginning and end of each year.
  • Initially, finding funding was challenging for us. Oftentimes, there are more funding sources available to undergraduates than to grad students. If your school allows it, we’ve found it very useful to submit a combined budget that can be used for both undergrad and grad events.

 

  • Collaborating with other grad student groups is helpful to increase event attendance as well as awareness of your gradSWE group. When we have events with a large number of non-engineers, we give a brief overview of our mission at the beginning of the event.
  • Getting first year students involved in the planning of events has been very useful in ensuring continuity from year to year. We have a first-year liaison on our gradSWE committee to allow first years to get involved from the beginning.

What type of outreach activities does your group organize?

K-12 STEM outreach is a large part of our grad group’s mission. Each semester we host at least one event with our largest event, a day-long Engineering Day for middle schoolers, happening each spring. Last year, this event brought 33 New Haven students to Yale’s campus, where they performed hands-on activities and built their own light-tracking robots. This year, we are expanding our outreach endeavors to high schoolers and will be hosting another engineering day, focusing on building a self-watering garden, in December. We host our outreach events in collaboration with the Yale Pathways to Science program, an initiative for students in grades 6-12 designed to promote the sciences, particularly among underrepresented groups. Pathways provides us with the resources and student population for our events, which allows us to focus on crafting innovative and challenging activities for the students. Through these events, we seek to expose students, particularly girls, to engineering and inspire them to pursue STEM further.

How can someone contact your group if they’re interested in participating?

To learn more about gradSWE at Yale and to join our group, people can visit our website or Facebook page or email us at gradswe.yale@gmail.com.

Graduate Community Events at WE16!

Mark your calendars for these events hosted by the SWE Graduate Community! We have grad student sessions each day. Also monitor our social media pages for real-time updates about the sessions and other social events! See the image below for links to our various social media pages, and talk up these sessions at the conference!

sessions-and-social-media-flyer

 

Welcome to FY17: GradSWE Edition

Welcome to FY17: GradSWE Edition

Welcome to a new fiscal year of SWE! Last year brought about many changes to the Society and the SWE Grad Community. I am confident that this year will bring about even more.

As we begin a new year for the SWE Grad Community, I’d like to introduce the rest of the Grad Community Leadership team. Our team for FY17 is:

  • Graduate Member Coordinator (GMC): Liz Dreyer – University of Michigan
  • GMC-Elect: Genevieve Kane – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Graduate Programming Coordinator (GPC): Rachel Unruh – Texas A&M
  • GPC-Elect: Emily Hoffman – Northwestern University
  • Social Media Coordinator (SMC): Allie Anderson – Colorado School of Mines
  • Webinar Coordinator (WC): Celine Liong – Stanford University

You can read a short bio about each person here: https://swegrad.wordpress.com/grad-leadership/.

Goals for FY17

This year, I have many goals for our community. I’d also love to hear from all of you on what you’d like to see the grad community do as well. Feel free to email me at grad-coordinator@swe.org (or comment below or on any of our social media) with any and all ideas on how the grad community can better serve your needs.

Some of the plans include:

  • Continued use of social media to reach out and connect SWE grad student members.
  • Increase awareness of graduate student members within Professional sections or with Professional grade memberships. Did you know? Approximately half of SWE grad members are within Professional sections.
  • Improve resources and knowledge sharing for grad students and SWE grad groups.

How to get involved

This upcoming year is full of ways to increase your involvement with the SWE Grad Community. Below are a few examples.

  1. Become a Region Grad Rep. Some Regions still need RGRs for FY17. Contact your RGR to see if the position will is available.
  2. Participate in your local SWE Grad Group or start one within your SWE section. Current SWE Grad Groups are listed here.
  3. Attend We16 in Philadelphia, PA: http://we16.swe.org/. Members of the SWE Grad Community will be attending and active again this year!
  4. Write a guest blog post for the SWE blog. Contact Liz at grad-coordinator@swe.org.
  5. Ask the SWE Grad Community a question and start up a conversation about important issues. Submit them here.
  6. Engage with us on social media:
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWE_grad
    Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SWEGrad
    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=8412361

Again, I look forward to serving you this year and seeing the SWE Grad Community continue to grow.

Sincerely,
Liz Dreyer