Graduate Member Spotlight: Danielle Shaffer

Graduate Member Spotlight

Danielle Shaffer

Part-Time Non-Thesis Master of Science

Mechanical Engineering

December 2020

University of Akron


Danielle has recently joined the societal GradSWE team as the Professional Graduate Team Lead, and will be leading our efforts in providing part-time and non-traditional graduate students in the resources they need to excel! She has been an active member of the Society of Women Engineers since 2011 and is currently a member of the Northeastern Ohio Professional Section., Danielle attended her first annual conference at WE18, representing her company at the job fair, and attended her first local conference this year in Baltimore.


Danielle is currently employed at BWX Technologies as a Tooling Engineer. She works with the mechanical structural design of fixtures, jigs, tools, etc. to support the manufacture of the company’s products, heavy pressure vessels. Danielle is also extensively involved with below-the-hook rigging on the overhead cranes and one of the first fully automated 6-axis robot in the plant. After completing her ME Master’s degree and Structural Engineering certificate, Danielle plans to obtain her Professional Engineering license.  


Research Topic: Analysis of U-Shaped Lifting Lugs


Danielle’s manufacturing plant primarily uses a non-typical lifting lug made out of a bent rod, instead of only plate lugs. Plate lugs have been heavily studied, but limited analysis has been performed on U-shaped lifting lugs. The original design report was made by a former member of her department in the 1970s, prior to the widespread implementation of FEA software. Danielle’s Master’s report will focus on performing an FEA analysis of multiple rigging angles to better understand how the angles affect the overall capacity of each lug size. She will also determine the composite factor of safety, which was not solidly determined in the original design report.


Outside of her job and studying, Danielle enjoys sailing and volunteering on a tall ship, The Brig Niagara. She is also an active volunteer on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can find Danielle participating in triathlons and bike tours. She also enjoys sewing, reading and chasing her two cats, Bowline and Spur, around her house in an attempt to keep them out of trouble.


Fun Fact: Danielle has sailed on all five Great Lakes!

WE18 Headshot


What WE Local Attendees Say about WE Locals?

I am Kazi Tasneem, WE Local Liaison in GradSWE Leadership Team. Last month I attended WE Local Tampa as a Collegiate Member. During my graduate studies, I attended many conferences and presented my research several times. Yet, attending WE Local appeared interestingly one of the most effective ones for networking with knowledgeable professionals and other collegiate members. It was a great opportunity to meet people from academia and industries and to have one-on-one interaction. In a very intimate setting like the WE Local conferences, you will get enough time to get to know people. I was able to connect with people instantly via LinkedIn while sitting and chatting together!

Graduate Collegiate Competition:

The best part of my WE Local experience was the Graduate Collegiate Competition where I delivered a lightning talk and presented a poster. While preparing for the competition, I had to learn how to present concisely and at the same time interestingly to the broader audience. Getting feedback from the judges was very useful and helped me understand what I should focus more on next time I present. It was a detailed judging on posters and talks under different criteria – visual presentation and/or speaking style, technical content, supporting figures, results, and conclusions, contribution and applicability, and completeness. Mujan Seif, our Graduate Program Chair, attended WE Local in 2018 and 2019 and she shared the same feeling. She echoed that the judges’ feedbacks from the collegiate competition talks are really meant to get insight where you can make yourself better. In addition to that, participation in the collegiate competition facilitates partial funding as a finalist of a collegiate competition to attend your WE Local. You should not miss a chance to attend a WE Local conference! Our GradSWE Member Coordinator Carolyn Chlebek attended the WE Local Providence last year. She highly encourages local graduate students to attend WE Local. “If the cost to travel to the conference and potential to obtain lodging fits in your budget, you should absolutely attend!”, she said.

Career Fair:

Let me share my experience and thoughts about Career Fair. As a graduate student I was little concerned about that the career fair would be tailored more towards undergrads. So, I decided to visit the stands I was interested in and instead of simply uploading my resume to their system, I reached out to the company person at the stand and expressed my interest in particular area of the company. Later I connected with them in LinkedIn so I could follow up with them for forwarding the graduate resumes to relevant departments. This slow-paced one-on-one interaction won’t be possible in the SWE Annual meeting because of its pretty overwhelming crowd. I really found it a great way to utilize the small sized Career Fair at WE Local.

Breakout Sessions:

We had a wonderful experience of meeting past three Presidents and current President of SWE at WE Local Tampa! Breakout Sessions presented by them were very informative. “It’s so simple! Improve your e-communication with an easy mantra” by Virginia Count, “Be More Strategic: How to Make Networking Work for You” by Jessica Rannow, and “Creating a One Page Visual Resume” by Jonna Gerken- those were really beneficial and appropriate for graduate attendees. Carolyn Chlebek suggests graduate students to attend early breakout sessions: “Go to the early breakout sessions meant for networking! It was very friendly and allowed for easier one-on-one networking as many people were not early risers.”

Not only can you attend the WE Local, you can also get involved with the organizers too. I judged for the undergraduate collegiate competition. Keynote speakers were amazingly inspiring and thought-provoking. You will get enough delicious foods at these events! The social events were engaging and cordial enough that you will feel right at home. I am amazed at the organization and effort that goes into putting it all together. Although not many Graduate Talks in this year’s WE Locals are happening, the future WE Locals will certainly work on improving more active participations of graduate students.

Networking and Networking:

WE Local brings together participants in all stages of their collegiate and professional journeys. This is the smaller sized conference – they don’t feel as busy, allowing you to get a better connection to both the Society and the members. You just really get to know people and also reconnect with people that you don’t get to see very often. “Be ready to network’, as advised by our Collegiate Director Genevieve Kane.

I got to meet my friend Armana Sabiha Huq after 10 years at WE Local Tampa. She is a PhD Candidate at Florida International University. Although she has been heavily involved with multiple leadership roles in other professional societies, WE Local Tampa was her first conference of SWE. She was amazed to see the friendly setting of local conferences that helps her get connected with numbers of professionals from local areas and beyond. The enthusiasm and encouragement she received motivated her in getting more involved with SWE in the near future.

Get Involved!

Last but not least, WE Locals are still evolving and day by day they are reaching the height of expectation. We as Graduate Students can be actively involved with WE Local Host Committees in the future to facilitate the future WE Local events beneficially for graduate students. The WE Local program is now recruiting SWE Members to serve on the forthcoming WE Local Advisory Board. If you live near a 2020 host city (San Diego, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Raleigh, NC; Des Moines, IA; Buffalo, NY), apply to be a part of the WE Local Advisory Board. All SWE Membership levels (collegiate to retirement and everything in between) are encouraged to apply. View the online application form at here. Get involved and join WE Locals for an enriched conference experience!

WE19 abstract submission deadline is TONIGHT

WE19’s abstract submission window closes tonight at 11:59 PM EDT. Please consider submitting an abstract.

If you have ever attended a society conference, you know that it’s a genuinely incredible experience in which you get to learn and connect with lots of other female engineers. Elevate your participation by presenting a session. Let others learn from you! You do not have to be a professional with 30+ years of experience to have an impact. Honestly, my favorite sessions have been given by people closer to my age, speaking on topics very important to them.

If something is interesting to you, it is to others as well.

Please look back on some recent blog posts to see some possible ideas for abstracts. Visit this link for additional details and submission instructions.

Lastly, if you plan to submit an abstract, please reach out to the programming team ASAP at We would like to keep track of all submissions, and might be able to provide some feedback before you submit.


My First WeLocal

In the past two years I have attended WE17 and WE18 in Austin in Minneapolis respectively. This weekend I attended WeLocal St. Louis. I was fortunate enough to get funding to attend through my local SWE section (Georgia Tech) and through a stipend with the collegiate competition. Georgia Tech attended as a group with 15 undergrads and 4 graduate students. I came in with no expectations and loved my experience at WE Local. In contrast to the annual conference, We Local felt much more intimate. I met other students and professionals from across the country. Due to the small size of the conference (a couple hundred), I was able to remember names and faces and catch up with people throughout the conference. I also met with my partner and the current GPC, Mujan. Below you can see a picture of us. She gave a great talk entitled “Getting the Most Out of Your First Research Experience.”

The majority of my time at the conference was focused on the Collegiate Research Competition. I sent in an abstract in November that summarized my research. I found out in early December that I had been selected as a finalist for WeLocal St. Louis. I had to prepare a 15 minute lightning talk and a poster. I had never presented my research to an audience that was not in my field. The competition allowed me to practice explaining my research technically to a more general audience. I think that it was a great opportunity to advertise my research and get constructive feedback on my presentation skills. I would recommend this to any graduate student who has been doing research for at least a semester! Below you can see a picture of me and the other graduate students from Georgia Tech with my poster.

Also, if you are interested in submitting an abstract for a talk at WE19 the deadline is March 18th, 2019 at 11:59pm. The majority of submitted abstracts focus on professional development topics, but some can also be technical discussions. If you would like any feedback on your submission, feel free to email it to the graduate programming team at, and we’ll respond as soon as possible!

GT Grad SWE at WE Local with my poster!
Mujan (GPC) and Isabella (GPC-E)

52 Alternative Jobs for Engineers with Graduate Degrees and PhDs

74% of engineers who earn doctoral degrees are employed in non-academic positions (Turk-Bickaci 2014), yet many PhD candidates are unsure of career paths outside of research academia. Here are some examples of positions engineers with Master’s and PhDs have fulfilled outside research academia and industries they work in, from the mentors of the GradSWE Mentoring Program and network of the GradSWE Mentoring Team:


  1.      Senior Research Scientist, pharmaceutical company
  2.      Teaching professor, small university
  3.      Technical Specialist, automotive company
  4.      Product Engineering Manager, automotive company
  5.      Optical Engineer, Research and Development, start-up company
  6.      Lead Manager, chemical company
  7.      Systems Engineering Lead, Aerospace – Government
  8.      Mechanical Engineer, aerospace company
  9.      Rocket Trajectory Analyst, NASA
  10.   Scientific Affairs Manager, medical device company
  11.   Quality Systems Engineer, medical device company
  12.   Vice President of Research and Development, orthopaedic company
  13.   Senior Manager, manufacturing company
  14.   Manager of Research and Collaboration, renewable energy company
  15.   Senior Researcher, cybersecurity
  16.   Senior Data Scientist, industry
  17.   Compliance Engineer, product test company
  18.   Project Engineer, structural engineering company
  19.   Project Engineer, medical device company
  20.   Senior Research and Development Engineer, bioengineering company
  21.   Chief Architect, information technology
  22.   Engineering Manager, aerospace company
  23.   Engineering Manager, imaging company
  24.   Program Manager, supply chain
  25.   Principle Engineer, aerospace company
  26.   Department head, national lab
  27.   Design Assurance Engineer, semiconductor industry and medical device industry
  28.   Consultant
  29.   Sustainable Chemicals Management Manager, consumer products
  30.   Systems Engineer, nuclear security, national lab
  31.   Systems Engineer, aerospace
  32.   Chief Engineer, aerospace
  33.   Program Quality Engineering Manager, aerospace
  34.   Tunnel Engineer, civil engineering firm
  35.   Technical Resources Engineer, civil engineering firm
  36.   Medical Science Liaison
  37.   Grant Administrator, university
  38.   Senior Engineer, imaging company
  39.   Senior Engineer, medical device company
  40.   Chief Technology Officer, start-up company
  41.   Research Applications Manager, medical device company
  42.   Senior Clinical Systems Engineer, health care company
  43.   Senior Process Engineer, energy company
  44.   Biomedical Engineering Tech, hospital
  45.   System Test Engineer, medical device company
  46.   Chief Technology Officer, start-up company
  47.   Co-founder, start-up company
  48.   Research Scientist, imaging company
  49.   Senior Process Engineer, biotech company
  50.   Signal and Imaging Process Engineer, medical device company
  51.   Biomedical Engineer, medical center
  52.   Biomedical Engineer, start-up company

Do you know other engineers with graduate degrees working outside research academia? Add to the list by posting their position and industry below!


Turk-Bicakci, Laurie, et al. The Nonacademic Careers of STEM PhD Holders. 2014.


It’s not too late!

For many graduate students, summer internships are a great way to get experience in our fields before actually entering them. If you don’t already have a summer internship lined up, but you are definitely looking, don’t fret! It is not too late, despite the impression you get from that one peer who already accepted an internship at the big-name company last summer, while they were interning at the other big-name company.

Yes, it is probably on the late side for an internship at the big companies this year, but the vast majority of internships are still open! Companies that don’t have a yearly official structured internship program are going to continue hiring for the next few months. Many smaller companies didn’t even know if they would be hiring interns until recently. Do a search for these positions online, and apply. There are also companies who don’t even advertise all their internship positions online, so using your network and making connections (LinkedIn is a great tool!) will help get your foot in the door. Keep track of whom you contact, and be persistent; they are just busy, and they aren’t intentionally ignoring you!
Moral of the story: it’s not too late to get a summer internship! Keep applying, ask around for unadvertised positions, and use your network.

Summary of Abstract Planning Meeting

Yesterday, we met to discuss possible abstract submissions to WE19. Some wonderful ideas were shared, and I’d like to make sure that people who didn’t have the opportunity to attend can see the minutes!

Before I move to the summary, here are some links: the agenda, the abstract ideas spreadsheet, the official submission guidelines, and some other tips.

After discussing the submission statistics for the last few annual conferences, we moved into outlining the abstract evaluation process. Proposals are scored based on the following: title (7 points), description (7 points), learning outcomes (14 points), and speaker qualifications (7 points) → 35 total points. The most heavily weighted component is the learning outcomes. In these outcomes, the submission should describe how learners will apply the information to their jobs or planning their careers, be clearly linked to the topic in the description, utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs, be clearly stated an achievable with instruction. It would be helpful to complete the sentence: “By the end of the session, participants should be able to …” Selection of the tracks, specialized focus areas, target career levels, and session formats are required, but not graded. Considerable thought should be placed on these designations, even if they don’t contribute to the gross grade. For example, if a personal experience is the subject of the session, a lightning talk would be appropriate. If the goal is to convey the experiences and viewpoints of different people, a panel would be best. Think about what would best engage your audience. 

We then moved onto discussing potential abstract ideas. We saw some great opportunities to collaborate with Women in Academia and the Mentoring team! Some new ideas put forth were:

  • maintaining mental and physical health during college/grad school (and supporting others)
  • career paths for PhD’s outside of academia
  • panel for applying to academic positions
  • collaboration between undergrads and grads
  • science education for adults
  • learning resiliency with difficult advisors

Many more are listed in the spreadsheet cited above! Feel free to check them out.

Remember, the deadline to submit is March 18, 2019. If you would like any feedback on your submission, feel free to email it to the graduate programming team at, and we’ll respond as soon as possible!