One Step Closer to your First Job in the US

Written by Keke Chen, International Graduate Team Leader


As an international student myself, I know how hard it can be to land your first job after graduation. As there are many good articles talking about the tips of what we shall do, here I want to share one article from a career advisor at Cornell University. The article gives practical ways to identify the right companies for you in the very first step.

In addition to this, I would like to share some of my own experiences, in particular about what an international student should do when attending career fair or a professional conference.

  1. Always be ready for a conversation. Everyone goes to a professional event to socialize, so you do not want to hide yourself in a corner. Have an approachable attitude instead of a “push-away” face. You can prepare yourself by practicing the questions like “What’s new?” and “How are you?”. If you are attending a career fair, do your homework at least one day ahead by studying the background and technology of the companies. If you are attending a professional conference, you can start by looking into some of your interested speakers and topics. In this way, you will feel more comfortable talking to people.
  2. Do not be afraid to initiate a conversation. If no one comes to talk to you, do not feel isolated. Go to talk to the person you would like to talk to. Nothing can beat an in-person conversation, and you don’t want to waste the opportunity. You do not know when you will next encounter him or her.
  3. Prepare a 1-minute elevator pitch about yourself. This is simply to answer the question of “what do you do?”, and we all know the importance of introducing ourselves. This may be your first and last chance to leave a good impression. Be short and concise about what you want to say, and do not use complicated jargon that only the people in your field would know. Prepare a tailored pitch that is tailored to your audience.
  4. Last but not least, do not ever feel bad about yourself if you didn’t get a passionate feedback during the conversation. Be prepared, but take it easy -practice makes perfect!

After multiple experiences of exposing yourself at a professional event, you will get a hang of what to do and will be more comfortable talking to people. At that time, I am sure you will also be more confident of getting one step closer to land your job after graduation.


Questions about this article, or about the International Graduate Team, can be directed to Keke at


Graduate Member Spotlight: Allie Greaney

Allison Greaney

PhD Candidate

Biomedical Engineering

Yale University


            Allie is a very involved graduate member in SWE, and currently holds the positions of President and GradSWE Committee Co-Chair for Yale SWE. In her time in these leadership positions, the Yale section has been awarded the Outstanding Collegiate Section – Gold Award, Best Practices in Mentoring, SWE Resource Promotion, and the Region F Membership Programs Award. Allie was part of the Collegiate Leadership Institute in 2017 and 2018 and was named an FY18 SWE Future Leader.

Thesis: Developing a functional tracheal replacement graft

Allie’s research focuses on pulmonary tissue engineering. For her thesis project, she is working to address three of the biggest challenges to clinical adoption of engineered tracheal replacement grafts: (1) mechanical sufficiency (2) re-epithelialization and (3) host response. The overarching goal of this work is to develop a functional replacement graft for patients with long-segment tracheal damage, which can be caused by cancer, trauma, infection, or prolonged intubation. Additionally, she works on a team within her lab conducting research on whole lung tissue engineering, with the broader goal of developing bioengineered lung transplants. It takes a village to make a lung, so her focus within the group is specifically on airway epithelial cell sourcing and culture.

After completing her PhD, Allie plans to follow the research she loves, likely remaining in academia to someday run her own lab in lung or some other type of tissue engineering. She aspires to inspire the next generation of biomedical engineers, particularly those who have historically struggled to find their place in the field, through excellent research and strong mentorship.

Outside of lab, Allie enjoys hanging out with friends, doing yoga, biking, baking, and doing crossword puzzles.

Fun Fact from Allie: I am a member of the 2019 Cohort of Homeward Bound, an international program for women leaders in STEM to develop their skills around leadership development and strategic programming, culminating in an all-women expedition to Antarctica at the end of the year! (Applications for the next cohort just opened:


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Breaking through the Glass Ceiling


In a recent women’s forum I attended, several women mentioned how they encountered the glass ceiling and how they didn’t realize it until it was too late.  This glass ceiling commonly reflects a metaphor representing an invisible barrier that keeps women from rising beyond a certain level or hierarchy.  Perhaps, some of you may have experienced this while advancing in your careers and/or education pursuits.

In its description, the glass ceiling, is referred as something so transparent yet constraintive in passing through, particularly for women. As a result from this forum and other sources, I have highlighted several general strategies for women to combat this effect throughout their careers.

*Gain and maintain a supportive network

It is imperative for women to gain support from peers and other women who have perhaps tapped on the glass ceiling.  If you are able to become a part of managerial network, that would also be recommend.  Both women and men can be great allies and a part of your support network.

*Support and/or initiate workplace zero tolerance policies

Ensure awareness of bias or discrimination occurrences in the workplace and support zero tolerance for your companies whether it includes trainings and/or disciplinary actions.  In this regard, you can also be apart of recruitment policies as well as fair/equal salary negotiations whether on your own behalf or your peers.

*Do not be afraid to start your own companies

You can effectively promote fair environments and diversity driven initiatives by creating your own business and companies.  Also, women owned business could be another option when considering employers to work for and with for innovative collaborations.

Fellow GradSWEsters know change may be happening whether it may feel at a glacial pace, but it is happening. Be fierce in reaching your career goals and know you too can bring about real change in the workplace.  Efforts further advocating this shattering ceilings and other boundaries spirit can be continued with your attendance at we18.   This year’s conference in Minneapolis, MN USA carries the theme of Let’s Break Boundaries and you can be sure more topics similar to breaking the glass ceiling will be highlighted for women engineers breaking boundaries in their careers and beyond.



Graduate Member Spotlight: Molly Baker

Graduate Member Spotlight

Molly Baker

PhD Candidate

Biomedical Engineering

Yale University


            Molly is an active graduate member in our Society, and currently holds the position of Treasurer and GradSWE Committee Co-Chair for Yale SWE. During her tenure in these leadership positions, the Yale section has been awarded the Outstanding Collegiate Section – Gold Award, Best Practices in Mentoring, and SWE Resource Promotion.

In addition to leading her SWE section to success, Molly is pushing boundaries in genital herpes research. Her PhD work focuses on a polymer nanoparticle drug delivery system for the treatment of genital herpes, which is an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection. Herpes affects 17% of U.S. adults and 417 million people worldwide—yet there is currently no effective vaccine or treatment. Genital herpes is incidentally the top reason why potential contenders are turned away from The Bachelor. Molly’s research project focuses on developing polymer nanoparticles that will provide improved delivery and extended retention of herpes prophylaxis drugs. Her favorite part about nanoparticle research is how cross-disciplinary the field is; she works with lab members from a variety of STEM backgrounds, including inorganic chemistry, polymer chemistry, physics, biology, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine, and more.

After completing her PhD, Molly would like to work in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. Her dream is to work for an organization like the Population Council, which is a non-profit that conducts research in biomedicine and public health.

Outside of lab, Molly’s current obsession is growing plants and baking bread. She has been perfecting a Bavarian sourdough rye bread that her brother taught her (she brought his sourdough culture all the way from Portland, OR to New Haven, CT on the plane!). She is also working on whole wheat sandwich bread. You can usually find her reading, baking cookies, or cooking extravagant vegetarian meals.

Fun Fact from Molly: My favorite color is purple because my alma mater is Northwestern University. I will always believe that purple is the best school color—go ‘Cats!

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Voting Opportunities in the Society!

Calling all graduate students! This year has been especially exciting, as we have gained significant rights as collegiate members. A change in the bylaws now allows you to vote for the FY19 Board of Directors, Trustees, and Senate Leadership. FY19 will be the first year that collegiate members can participate in this vote, so exercise your right!

Positions up for vote include:

  • Board of Directors Positions: President-Elect, Treasurer, and three Directors. These leaders help guide the direction of our society: they are very involved in creating the strategic plan of the Society.
  • Trustees: The trustees are responsible for managing the assets in the SWE Endowment Fund and in the SWE Reserve Fund.
  • Senate Leadership & your last Region Senator: You will each get the chance to elect a senator to represent your region, and therefore to represent you and your interests. The Senate leadership will help facilitate the issues discussed in the senate. This is the last year we will ever elect region senators! As we move away from regions, all senate members will be key to our transition.

Be sure to check out the election site to get more info on the candidates so you can make an informed decision!



How to Vote

To vote, log-on to and enter the control code you received in a recent e-mail. Note: only SWE members are eligible to vote. If you have questions about voting, feel free to e-mail Carolyn at and I can help you figure things out!

Graduate Member Spotlight: Claire Wemp

Claire Wemp
PhD Student, Mechanical Engineering
UC Berkeley
Claire is a very accomplished graduate student expecting to finish her PhD in May 2018. As an undergraduate student, she served as Vice President of the Santa Clara University SWE section. As a graduate student, she spread the support of SWE to graduate students at her institution and helped to start the GradSWE group at UC Berkeley. Claire has been recognized by the National Science Foundation through the Graduate Fellowship Research Program.
At UC Berkeley, Claire studies enhanced heat transfer with zinc oxide nanostructured surfaces. In this research field, Claire makes hydrophilic surfaces by coating metal with Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles. She then studies the heat transfer benefits of water evaporation on these nano-structured surfaces — as it turns out, she can get over two times better heat transfer during evaporation and boiling with the coating!
Claire is graduating soon, and currently plans to spend time in industry to develop  stronger real-world applications for her engineering toolbox. Eventually, she hopes to go back into academia at a teaching university and be an awesome engineering professor! We know that she will succeed at whatever she sets her mind to!
Outside of lab, Claire loves to cook and bake new things. She uses YouTube to learn new recipes and techniques and shes is currently exploring Japanese cuisine.
Fun Fact: “I’ve been singing in choirs and voice lessons since I was little. More recently, I’ve been in two operas with a semi-pro opera troupe in the Bay Area!” 
Keep up the good work Claire, and best of luck on your defense!

Embracing A New Season!

Spring is in the air, well for some of us.

This month kicked off the March Equinox and in the Earth’s northern hemisphere this marks a new season, Spring.  Similarly, this commemorates the opposite season in the southern hemisphere, Autumn. With the new seasons in bloom, this can commonly bring along shifts or new trajectories.  Hopefully this season brings trajectories toward setting new goals or completing remaining tasks over the next few months.

To stay inspired and fully bloom this Spring or to have a great Autumn harvest, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

*Set and maintain your deadlines
Keep a tab on things with deadlines. Many of your assignments or projects already have due date, but you can incorporate an internal deadline or schedule for yourself to ensure you complete them on time. Also, you can stay accountable with a peer on your progress and on your timetable for completing goals.

*Keep an eye on the big picture
Stay encouraged that you are making progress and congratulate progress whether it is in big leaps or small steps.   Take a recollection of where you are in working toward your project tasks and stay aligned in the grand scheme of things.  Keep a tab on the small steps that are adding toward the big picture. You are moving forward!!

*Use available resources/support
Make sure you use the resources around you to help propel you this season. If you are working on tasks as a group, make sure all parties are actively doing there part.  Most universities contain departments or centers, whether its a writing center or tutoring lab, that serve as sources of assistance to help students complete assignments or projects.  Be sure to make use of these resources as they are there to serve you.  You can also have a friend review something or provide you with candid feedback on your ideas, if needed. You can even make use of your GradSWE community to get insight on your efforts.

And last, but not least…

*Reward yourself
Work Hard. Play Hard. Make sure you reward yourself for progress you are making toward your project tasks and career goals.   Several of you may have the delegated traditions of “spring break” at your institutions.  Take advantage of this if you can in some way whether you select one day to sleep in, take a road trip or try that new sport
activity. Or you can officially schedule a few days off to have a spring vacation and just relax. This time “off” can assist in rejuvenating you to complete the remaining goals at hand. You can even use this time to check out the latest podcasts and gain other SWEetful insight to help propel you forward.

Go ahead and spring forward or fall into action this season!