Become a speaker at WE Local; Join us at Brainstorming Call soon!

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WE Local will be heading to the San Diego CA, Salt Lake City UT, Raleigh NC, Buffalo NY, and Des Moines IA in 2020. Do you want to share your insights and expertise on a bigger platform like WE Local conference next to you? The Call for Participation (CFP) is open!

CFP Deadlines are –

San Diego CA, Salt Lake City UT, and Raleigh NC: Friday, August 23, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. PT

Buffalo NY and Des Moines IA: Monday, September 23, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

You can read more about the WE Local Attendee Desired Content Topics and learn more about CFP guidelines and best practices here. Do you have session ideas or want to submit an abstract and don’t know how to get started? GradSWE invites you to attend the brainstorming call for the CFP on July 22 at 5:00 PM EST. Let us know here if you are interested in attending the call or submitting! During the call, you will get more insight on the criteria for evaluation and previous graduate speakers’ successful submission. The meeting agenda is also available here.

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Integrating GradSWE with Collegiate SWE Sections

Collegiate SWE sections are often made up of a majority of undergraduate members and a minority of graduate members. It is easy for GradSWE groups to feel isolated from the rest of the SWE section but there are so many benefits to uniting undergrads and grads in your section! This year my group (Georgia Tech GradSWE) made a point to try to make a more united section. Hopefully you can get some inspiration for your Grad Group from our actions!

Actions Taken 

  • Delegate one leader in the GradSWE group to attend the section executive board meetings every other week.
    • This helped increase communication between the two groups and have at least  one person with a close relationship to the executive board, traditionally comprised of undergraduates.
  • Volunteer at an outreach event.
    • Every year the undergrads in our section organize a middle school outreach event. We volunteered to host a Parent Program which educated parents on the college application process. By holding this program we helped supplement the section event without imposing on the existing plans.
  • Get a group of GradSWE members to attend an undergrad planned social event. For the past two years, GT Grad SWE has attended Engineers’ Ball, an undergrad run charity event. 
    • This helps grad members meet undergrad members in a social setting.
    • By buying tickets, we helped the section donate more money to charity!

Benefits

  • Make new friends!
  • We got invited to their awards dinner for the first time! (See some of us at the dinner below)
  • Increase the visibility of your Grad Group.
  • Fewer misunderstandings between the groups.
  • Access to more events for your members and increased attendance at your events.

Beating Your Workaholism…

I want to start off by emphasizing that this is not me doling out advice or wisdom. This is me compiling resources and information that I have found very helpful, and think it might be for you too!

I work a lot. And I don’t mean that as a “humble-brag” or anything, it’s just a fact. Evenings, weekends, holidays — you name it. Now, here’s where I think the real problem lies: I love what I do. This isn’t some Devil-Wears-Prada deal where I’m some lunatic’s personal servant, missing a Broadway show to try and fly my boss out of Miami during a hurricane. I think my research is fascinating, and I love seeing the results of my work! But I know that this pace isn’t sustainable, and I want avoid burnout at all cost.

A recent study found that workaholism leads to burnout, job stress, and diminished physical and mental health. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it’s also been shown that workaholism is not beneficial to the employer. Constantly working doesn’t necessarily improve the *quality* of your work, and it is likely that employers will soon take this behavior for granted.

But how do you differentiate between being a hard worker and being a workaholic? According to a study in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, the difference isn’t the total number of hours worked; it’s related to the problems that working causes in your life. The study reported that workaholics experience “social, psychological, and physical health problems as a result of their work addiction.” The drive to keep working leads to a “self-perpetuating downward spiral”: more work –> more negative consequences –> more stress –> decreased productivity ==> longer hours at work.

Workaholics also tend to feel frazzled, not really motivated or passionate. They experience guilt when they’re not working, and are irritable at others for commenting on the long hours they put in.

Thankfully, there are a variety of treatments available for workaholics. This article lists 7 steps for addressing workaholism, but I’ll list them here as well:

  1. Learn to shut it down
  2. Give yourself a break
  3. Change your mindset
  4. Treat it seriously
  5. Don’t bring it home
  6. Meditate on it
  7. Set healthy boundaries

For a more structured approach, there’s the classic 12-step program.

I hope this has been relevant. I know the pressure on graduate students is crazy, and it doesn’t help that we’re already predisposed to enjoy work anyway!

SWE is My Constant: Introducing the FY20 GMC-E

Hi, my name is Grace Pakeltis and I am the FY20 Graduate Member Coordinator Elect!  Over the course of the next year I look forward to working alongside the Grad Leadership Team to help provide resources, opportunities, and communities to graduate students in SWE. 

Why SWE?

Like WE16’s motto says, my life is variable, but SWE is my constant.  During my undergraduate career at the University of Illinois, SWE Illinois provided me with professional development, leadership opportunities, and a supportive engineering community.  I was able to pursue my desire to outreach to the next generation of engineers while simultaneously investing in my own future. The four years that I invested into SWE allowed me to grow into a successful engineer now pursuing her PhD.  Through every trial and every victory, SWE provided me with the resources and support I needed to continuously improve. I love being able to provide my fellow engineers with these same experiences. Knowing all that SWE has to offer to its members as well as the amazing community it provides drives my passion as I begin working with the Grad Leadership Team. 

The Community

I truly believe that having a community is vital, especially in graduate school.  As graduate students, it is easy to feel isolated and bogged down with the stresses of our day-to-day work.  That’s why one of the greatest assets of SWE as a society is the supportive community it provides. SWE provides a group of people who want the best for each other and can help you grow wherever you are at.  Whether it is a GradSWE group on campus or the larger GradSWE community, you can find your place in SWE. SWE has personally given me a group of amazing women who encourage me to soar to new heights. I am incredibly excited to help expand the GradSWE community and create new ways for graduate members to find the support they need!

How can the Grad Leadership Team help you grow? What do you look for in a graduate community? Let us know in the comments!

Grace Pakeltis is a PhD student at University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN and the FY20 SWE Graduate Member Coordinator Elect.

More than an Identity Crisis

“Are you a student?”

This question always makes me pause. As a “part-time” graduate student, I don’t hold my main identity in being a student. I am first and foremost a “full-time” engineer, and school is something to tackle in my free-time. 

It leaves me with a major identity crisis of who I am in academia. As I explain my educational status, I’m quick to point out, “Oh, but I’m a non-thesis student!”, lest someone thinks too highly of my academic standing. 

“I’m only there for classes.”

“I don’t do research.” 

“I only do one or two classes a semester. It’s not like I’m a full-time student.”

I’m always quick to point out to my fellow students how I’m the poser, the faker, the imposter. I ride their coat-tails, and my degree will never be equal to a research-based Master’s. I’m 70% through a combined Master’s degree and certificate, and I fail to even see myself as a “Graduate Student.”


Do you see a trend here? If you’ve been involved with SWE for any amount of time, you may have heard of Imposter Syndrom. Previous GradSWE Blogs have covered the topic, and you can find a course on it in SWE Advance (linked here). I’ll leave it to my SWE colleagues to explain the issue in-depth, but it comes down to believing you are an imposter who will eventually be discovered as a fraud.

Like a Ph.D. student believing her research is not worthy of her peers, my own experience as a part-time Master’s student makes me believe I’m not as deserving of a degree as my fellow students.

I know that isn’t true. 

And I hope all students out there understand that graduate school is always something to be proud of doing.  These are some techniques I’ve used to fight off my own Imposter Syndrom traits.

Plugging into Campus Life

I’ll admit it: this is the hardest thing for a part-time student to do, and it’s often impossible for online students.  However, I’ve found that just by hanging around campus, I feel like more of a “student” again. Many larger schools have recreation centers that can be visited after work, even replacing a part-timer’s usual gym. Schools may offer evening activities, low-cost health clinics, counseling services, or other resources to all students. 

My first few years on campus, I rarely strayed from the path between my car and my class. It took me 3.5 years to learn my way around campus; it’s only about a 15-minute walk square! Now I’m much prouder to say I’m a student there.

At least I can finally find my way to the library.

Built a Support Network

John Donne published one of my favorite poems in 1624, “No Man is an Island”:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

My favorite line is not that classic “No man is an island”, but rather “if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” On our darkest days, any student can feel like a clod of dirt, insignificant on a continent-worth of much finer ground. No matter who we are in academia, leaving before our time (like dying in the poem) makes the system that much less whole. 

Since “No man is an island,” no one can accomplish any goal alone. We all need people in our lives to support us, and we benefit from supporting others. When I connect with my classmates, I feel more like I belong. It can be hard for full-time and part-time students to meet, but we usually figured out a mutual time. Everyone is busy in their own way, so don’t shy away from trying to connect with someone with a different schedule.

Don’t Compare. Contrast. 

When I make the negative comments from the opening of this post, it’s because I’m comparing myself to people with different goals than myself. I’m not in a career track that requires a research background. 

Research-heavy students often end up in academia or research jobs, or they at least may aspire for that path.  While it is generalizing, the average engineer in a fabrication shop, automotive plant, factory, etc. doesn’t necessarily need to have a research background. And that is okay. 

Rather than compare, contrast. What can a non-thesis student learn from a thesis student? A non-researcher from someone in love with their lab? Share your story and learn the stories of others. 

Parting Words

When I started writing this post, I was writing about what I thought was an “identity crisis.” I felt I was just disconnected in a system that assumes a full-time commitment. I didn’t realize my “identity crisis” was actually hidden imposter syndrome.

If you start hearing your mind tell you the same things, you aren’t alone. No matter where we may be on our journey, from certificate seeker to post-doc, we are all worthy of being “Graduate Students.”

May your learnings be infinite, your research plentiful, and your degrees someday be complete!

Get Involved in WE Local 2020!

WE Local conferences in the U.S. this year attracted 2,767 attendees for professional development, networking and fun in Baltimore, Maryland; Tampa, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; and Bellevue, Washington. If you enjoyed a WE Local this year, check out the opportunities below for speaking at or joining a committee for a WE Locals 2020 near you!

Become a speaker for WE Local

Do you want to share your insights and expertise on a bigger platform? The Call for Participation (CFP) is open for WE Local conferences in North America in 2020. WE Local is looking for speakers to contribute content related to a variety of topics including academia, entrepreneurship, finance management, career paths and strategies, social issues, re-entering the workforce, retirement, and more. Hundreds of attendees, including other graduate students and SWE members with advanced degrees, want to hear your visions about a variety of professional and personal development topics. Read more about WE Local Attendee Desired Content topics. More details are available here: 2020 WE Local Call for Participation Guidelines & Best Practices. Still not sure what topic you want to choose? GradSWE will announce a brainstorming call for the CFP soon. During the call, you will get more insight on the previous graduate speakers’ successful submission. Keep an eye out for it!

CFP deadlines are provided here. Click on the conference city below to apply to speak at WE Local.

Become a part of Local Host Committee (LHC)

Looking for ways to get more involved in WE Local? Consider volunteering on an LHC in one of the upcoming WE Locals 2020. You do not have to live in that city to be involved. You can serve on the LHC from anywhere in the world by attending virtual meetings. As a graduate volunteer on LHC, you can be the voice of the graduate community at WE Locals and at the same time you can create an amazing local experience that represents the unique style and flavor of your local area.

Each WE Local host city in the U.S. has an LHC comprised of 10-15 SWE members who support HQ with the execution of the WE Local conference by providing the “voice” of the local member. The LHC offer tactical support and local insight by serving on one of nine subcommittees. Click here to “meet” the current WE Local Host Committee.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Suchandra Das

Graduate Member Spotlight

Suchandra Das

PhD

Mechanical Engineering

2020

New Jersey Institute of Technology

 

Suchandra currently serves as the leader of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s GradSWE. In this role, she coordinates the group’s activities and has improved visibility of the club both on- and off-campus. Some of these events include a Women in Research Showcase, Gear up for Grad School, and a panel on Landing your First Job. The Women in Research Showcase was a poster presentation competition which encouraged women participants to demonstrate their ability to effectively communicate the significance of their research to a general audience in an engaging manner. Gear up for grad school was an informational session which aimed at providing a clear and concise distinction between the steps involved in the PhD journey-qualifier, proposal and defense. Landing your first job highlighted various tips and tricks to follow during the job search process and how to utilize linkedin effectively. Some of the recent events and activities at NJIT include hosting the “Wikipedia Project: Women in STEM” where we shared the information on how to become a Wikipedia editor to help improve the number of women being recognized for their contribution to the STEM field and participation in the Student Involvement Fair. Suchandra’s hard work within SWE has been recognized with the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Graduate Student Association Certificate of Excellence. Recently, she was presented with the Presidential Leadership Award at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Highlander Awards Ceremony for her contributions to campus leadership, community service and research.

 

Research Topic: Formation of Cohesive Smart Fluids

 

Suchandra’s intellectual curiosity and propensity for unravelling the numerous enigmatic phenomena surrounding her was instrumental in her decision to pursue a Ph.D. in Fluid Dynamics. Her passion for research, the quest to know the answers to the unknown, and the global recognition of research in the form of conference proceedings and publications are the driving forces which motivate Suchandra to create innovation in her research area.

Throughout the PhD journey, Suchandra has been learning to overcome real-life challenges while dealing with the initial set-up and implementation of new experimental methods for building up a research lab. At this point in her career, Suchandra’s primary interests lie in the experimental studies of Non-Newtonian fluids. Suchandra’s doctoral dissertation is entitled “Formation of Cohesive Smart Fluids”. From recent studies, her research team has shown that the rheological properties of a smart fluid called Electrorheological Fluid can be altered by varying the electric field intensity. In presence of an electric field, particles become polarized and as a result chains and columns are formed along the electric field direction. Consequently, the effective viscosity of the fluid increases that resists the deformation and shear of the fluid. The changes in the rheological properties are completely reversible because as soon as the electric field is removed, the fluid goes back to its original state. Hence, ER fluids are called smart fluids. This reversible nature of ER fluids makes it advantageous in a wide range of applications where liquids with variable properties are needed to improve the performance, e.g., dampers, antilock braking systems, valves, earthquake monitors, etc. Suchandra’s research has been recognized at the Dana Knox Poster session, where their posted entitled “Synthesis and Rheology of Ferrofluids” was awarded 2nd place.

 

In the immediate future, Suchandra would like to go further with experiments related to smart fluids and investigate the behavior of what is called the “Giant Electrorheological Fluid” where the viscosity increase would be ten times that of the standard Electrorheological Fluids.

In the long term she seeks to expand her expertise in these areas by a mixture of experimental and direct numerical simulation methods. After completion of her PhD program, Suchandra plans to obtain a teaching and research position in a research or an academic institution where she can effectively share her knowledge and experience with others interested in this field.

 

Beyond the lab, Suchandra loves dancing, listening to music, and exploring new places.

 

Fun Fact: Suchandra has taken singing lessons!

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