Graduate Member Spotlight: Chima Chukwuemeka

Graduate Member Spotlight

Chima Chukwuemeka


Chemical Engineering


Tennessee Technological University


Chima has been a committed member of SWE since 2014. His contributions have included undergraduate student mentorship, volunteering, and advocating for more youth minority women to engage in STEM education.  


Chima’s work has been recognized with the NSBE Golden Torch Award for Graduate Student of the Year for 2017-2018. This award recognizes excellence among graduate students and is an incredibly high honor. He also received the Graduate Minority Research Award and Graduate Teaching awards from Tennessee Technological University.


Thesis Topic: Comestible Herbs in Wound Management: Effects of Allium sativum, Asparagus officinalis, and Pinus strobus Extracts on Staphylococcus epidermidis.


Effective wound management is one of the key ways to minimize complications and infections in wounds. The rise in antimicrobial resistance, in addition to recent reports of nosocomial infections and the impacts of synthetic antibiotics on aquatic environments, present additional challenges to wound management. Generally, repairing any damaged tissue involves a series of complex, imbricating physiological processes that can be disrupted by many local and systemic factors, such as infection. Infections usually cause wound chronicity as well as prolonged inflammatory phase, and may contribute to other sequelae of events that would result to the formation of abnormal scars, such as keloids. Chima’s work evaluates the effects of crude aqueous and ethanolic extracts from garlic (Allium sativum) cloves, garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) stems, and white pine (Pinus strobus) on Staphylococcus epidermidis for inhibitory properties. Her results are expected to present a potential opportunity to explore herbal extracts for the development of antibiotics and/or antiseptics, thereby helping to address the burden of antibiotic resistance and the rising cost of wound management.


Chima’s career goals are to advance his contributions to the engineering field in both industry and academia with special focus in creating value that promote sustainable livelihood.


Outside of lab, Chima enjoys playing soccer, scrabble, and chess. He also enjoys cycling and traveling.


Fun Fact about Chima: Nigeria, Chima’s motherland, has over 500 spoken languages!





Graduate Student Mental Health

Have you been feeling severe anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, problems falling asleep or even trouble concentrating? With the end of the semester looming, not to mention the fall chill in the air for some of us, some of you may be finding it harder to part with the warmth of your bed and begin your day. While these symptoms may be common to you as you prepare for finals and term papers, it is important to take note if these symptoms become a part of your daily lifestyle—and how to seek help.

It is normal to experience times of anxiety and stress throughout your life, but daily symptoms such as those described above could be indicative of a mental illness. A mental illness can be any type of mental health disorder that affects a person’s mood, thoughts, and behavior. If you feel you have experienced any of these symptoms on a daily basis, you are not alone. In fact, a large number of college students (1 in 4 students) have a diagnosable mental illness. Mental illnesses that are most likely to affect college students include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Additionally, studies report that graduate students in particular are six times more likely to experience depression or anxiety over the course of their graduate studies. In these studies, approximately 40% of graduate students surveyed were categorized as having anxiety and/or moderate to severe depression, with higher rates for women in both categories. There are several reasons that may contribute to higher risks of anxiety and/or depression for graduate students, including the isolated nature of graduate level work, feelings of inadequacy or “impostor syndrome,” little to no support from advisers, or worries about post-graduation employment.

Many of you may be thinking, “Who hasn’t experienced these thoughts and feelings in graduate school? Isn’t this normal?” From personal experience, I’d agree and certainly relate to many of these feelings. However, it is important to realize when these symptoms begin to affect your daily life. Having problems falling asleep night after night can have long-term effects on your ability to complete daily tasks. Noticing patterns such as these is key to realizing there may be an underlying reason for these behaviors and motivating you to seek help.

Fortunately, there are several science-backed activities/treatments that can help alleviate mental illness symptoms and even reduce your risk of developing a mental illness. One of the most recommended treatments for depression is exercise. Aerobic exercise has been shown to treat mild depression through the release of endorphins that can improve your mood. Other treatments include cognitive and behavioral therapies that target thinking and behavioral patterns towards positive thoughts and more involvement in activities you enjoy. Treatments for anxiety (and depression as well) include stress and relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture. Treatments for these and other mental illnesses also include medications that can be prescribed by a doctor.

To conclude, it’s important to educate yourself and others about mental illness and its symptoms, and, even more important, to remember that mental illness is a real challenge that affects people and is nothing to be ashamed of. Do not be afraid to reach out to friends and loved ones or schedule an appointment with a doctor at any time to discuss mental health. Remember to keep an eye on your fellow graduate students during this stressful time as well, and extend a hand of kindness if you think someone may be going through a tough time.

I wish everyone happiness and peace as we approach the holidays, as well as a successful end to the semester!

Travel Grants to attend your WE Local!

WE Local Baltimore

WE Local is pleased to announce travel grants are available to attend WE Local Baltimore February 8-9, 2019. Applications for travel grants should be submitted by November 16, 2018. Travel grant benefits for FY19 include discounted registration and a WE Local awards banquet ticket. Professional or collegiate members are eligible to apply.

WE Local Baltimore will be an energetic conference rich with opportunities for networking, professional development, career advancement, comradery and recognition. We hope to see you at this exciting event! For consideration of assistance by means of a travel grant, click here.

WE Local Tampa

WE Local is pleased to announce travel grants are available to attend WE Local Tampa February 15-16, 2019. Applications for travel grants should be submitted by November 16, 2018. Travel grant benefits for FY19 include discounted registration and a WE Local awards banquet ticket. Professional or collegiate members are eligible to apply.

WE Local Tampa will be an energetic conference rich with opportunities for networking, professional development, career advancement, comradery and recognition. We hope to see you at this exciting event! For consideration of assistance by means of a travel grant, click here.

Increase networking in your organizations & colleges easy coffee hours!

Increase networking in your organizations & colleges with easy coffee hours!


As graduate students, we are confined mainly to our departments, interacting primarily with those students in our labs and cohorts. While this allows us to build deep bonds with our current and future colleagues, our network can easily remain small. For part time and professional students, the network can be even smaller. Unlike the undergraduate culture, our work styles are not conducive  to frequent opportunities to meet and interact with other students. Club participation and student group activities often don’t feel relevant to graduate students.

But you don’t need to stay in your lab bubble! One particularly interesting talk at WE18, given by Marlo Abramowitz of HDR, introduced a new model for easy networking. Marlo created a randomized coffee hour to encourage employees at her company to create more internal connections. All employees interested in participating in this networking program signed up through a link. Marlo then randomly assigned the participants in pairs. The pair was emailed and asked to set up their coffee meeting. This coffee hour is an easy way to network and build connections with both people you already know as well as those in other departments. In companies and organizations, the pairs could be lateral matches as well as matches containing people at different levels which could lead to potential mentor pairs. Marlo decided to set up these meetings approximately once a month, for a total of 8 months a year (no meetings during holiday and summer months).

Interested in meeting more graduate students at your university? Try setting up a similar program and let us know how it goes!

Conferences: Why Bother?

I attended the SWE annual conference last week and wanted to share a few insights about the benefits of attending conferences.

Conferences are great ways to connect with others in your field. As a graduate student, you most likely have attended a conference and made a poster presentation or an oral presentation of your research. If you haven’t, I definitely recommend talking with your research advisor about submitting abstracts in an effort to be selected to present at a conference. This gives you an opportunity to not only build your CV but to practice concisely communicating your research to others, to network with others in your field which may open up future research collaboration opportunities or employment, and to learn current, in-progress research that may be relevant to your research.

SWE offers two types of conferences: the annual international “WE” conference held each year in early fall (over 14,000 attendees this year!)  and the “WE Local” conferences held throughout the year around the United States, India and Europe. One of the main advantages of these conferences is the variety of events and sessions offered.  Since SWE includes all engineering and science disciplines, the conferences are technically neutral, or should I say “all-inclusive”. Most of the sessions apply to all attendees and center around career success, professional development and work-life balance. There are presentations grouped under eleven different tracks (below) as well as a career fair with over 350 exhibitors (including universities and organizations)

Other elements of Conference include:

*keynote speakers*hospitality suites*K-12 outreach*local tours*poster competition*tech talks*

Pictures from WE18 Conference can be seen here.

As a member of leadership, conference was a great opportunity to meet in-person other members of leadership with whom I collaborate. I also connected with speakers after their talk, providing a way to get advice or more information in the future on a topic that is of interest and relevant to me.

You have a near-term opportunity to participate in an upcoming WE Local Conference and earning a $250 stipend if you make it as a finalist in the WE Local Collegiate Competition. Submit your abstract before the deadline of Friday, November 2, 2018


Beyond the Horizon


Credits: www

The International Graduate Team is looking to feature students with interesting cultural experiences, as it is becoming increasingly important to be able to work in multicultural, global teams where members come from different parts of the world and have diverse work styles. We want to develop a series of blog posts which will help our members appreciate the diversity in today’s global world.


If you like to travel and would like to talk about your recent trips, or if you would like to share your experience moving to a new city or anything related to being an international student we’re interested in hearing about it. Three ideas you can write about are:

  • Travel-related experience: Did you do a study-abroad in school? Do you enjoy traveling and exploring different parts of the world? Are you learning a new language? These sort of skills and experiences often open your mind and enable you to think from a different perspective more easily. We’re excited to feature your travel experiences and learning!
  • Cultural experience: If you’ve noticed and have a better understanding of a different culture, of their customs, traditions, clothing and social atmospheres and can compare it with your own, it would be interesting to hear about. Traveling to a different country isn’t required. For example, if you’re a coffee lover and you appreciate how coffee is grown and roasted across the world, we’d love for you to share your experience.
  • Reflection: Can you speak to the benefits of global mobility? Can you share your tips about negotiating across cultures when there is dissent? We’d like to feature opinions and insights on your unique cultural experience.


Please fill this form –  and we’ll reach out to you to share your experiences!


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

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.