Graduate Member Spotlight: Shreya Dwarakanath

Graduate Member Spotlight

Shreya Dwarakanath


Materials Science and Engineering

Expected Graduation Date: 2019

Georgia Institute of Technology  


Shreya is very active in GradSWE and currently holds the role of International Graduate Team Leader on the Societal GradSWE Team. She hopes to expand the international team and create additional resources for the growing international graduate section.  She joined SWE in 2015 and has been to the WE15 conference.

At Georgia Tech, she held the role of Industry Relations in FY15, where she initiated and led several activities involving mentoring, leadership, technical guidance, and professional development. As part of the board of GradSWE at Georgia Tech, Shreya initiated and led activities involving professional development, technical guidance, and mentoring  by organizing panel discussions, networking events and social events. Shreya has also been a part of the Leadership education and development (LEAD) programs at Georgia Tech and helped frame the teams for tech initiative. She has been a teaching assistant for 4 courses including 2 laboratory courses where she led lab sessions and taught students clean room based fabrication procedures as well as trained students on materials characterization techniques and data analysis.


Thesis Topic: Electronics Packaging


Shreya’s research interests include inorganic-organic hybrid polymers and interfaces, automotive electronics, and  high-temperature reliability characterization. Her current research looks at improving the interfacial adhesion between polymer dielectrics and metal layers. She has given two oral presentations at IEEE Electronic Components and Technology Conference (IEEE ECTC- 2017 & 2018) and several poster presentations. Shreya’s work has been recognized with awards such as the Best Student Paper at International Microelectronics and Packaging Symposium (IMAPS), and the best session for advanced electronics in 2016. She also placed second in the poster competition for Future Car Electronics (FCE).

Shreya received the Jewell Fellowship for Fall 2018 based on her academic achievements and service to Georgia Tech. She was also awarded the Scheller School of Business Dean’s Fellowship on merit basis to pursue a fully funded joint MBA at Georgia Tech. As an undergraduate, Shreya received the Ministry of Steel scholarship, which funded three years of tuition.

After graduating, Shreya plans to leverage her skills in order to work on projects that connect science, technology, business, and people. She is passionate about technology improving lives and wants to influence how technology can help solve challenging social problems.

       Outside of work, Shreya loves new experiences and enjoys to travel, follow her on insta at @shreyad001. She recently went tandem skydiving from 13,000 feet! She likes going to concerts, and can also occasionally be heard strumming her guitar along with the latest pop singles. She also enjoys exercising, dancing, and spending time with friends.


Fun Fact from Shreya: Shreya has a pet bamboo plant named Freya!



Shreya Dwarakanath 2017 Full Time MBA Student Scheller College of Business Georgia Institute of Technology


Career decisions for Ph.D. students

Career decisions for graduate students can be challenging, especially for Ph.D. students. There is often a presupposition that a good Ph.D. student would stay in academia and they might have wasted their time getting a Ph.D. if they want to go into industry afterward!

This dim outlook has put pressure on many graduate students and led to stress and anxiety. There have been many studies on graduate students’ mental health under the pressure of finding their place in the job market, one of which is the great paper by T. M. Evans et al, “Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education”.

What I would like to emphasize is that we should not let the fear of anyone’s judgment or the perception of a lack of opportunities define our future. Moreover, we should remember that leaving academia is not a failure! More important than focusing on our research is to develop self-awareness, and there are multiple resources out there that I will share in my future posts. With greater self-awareness, we will choose the best path for our career and thus we will invest our time on what we are truly passionate about which is going to result only in better outcomes.

To gain better self-awareness, we should consciously observe our experience during our life in grad school, and note the aspects we enjoy more. We should also appreciate that after all our hard work, we deserve to follow a career that brings us joy and comfort, and this is likely going to be different for each of us.

Some of us find the best place to satisfy our curiosity at university labs, while others prefer to experience a job that has a more immediate impact on society, or even a job with more family-friendly working hours. The only thing that we should be cautious about is that our choice is an informed decision based on self-awareness. Here are some steps to give ourselves the opportunity to explore more areas and make better decisions:

  • Throughout your Ph.D. you have the opportunity to complete various tasks. Tasks like collecting data, running experiments, data processing, programming, presentation, mentoring, and many more. Try to do them consciously, to figure out which category of activities are more enjoyable to you and try to focus on those.  Remember these tasks, and look for a career which allows you to perform these types of jobs, and will result in a more pleasant working environment for you.
  • Do research about the jobs out there in your field and try to gain some experience in them. There are many ways you can gain information about different professions related to your expertise aside from reading online articles and job offers. Try to maintain connections with people you meet at conferences, for example through Linkedin, so that they remember you when you need an advice. Talk to these connections, and ask them about their job experience.
  • Go out there and experience new career opportunities yourself. If possible, do an internship to see how you like the experience of an industry job. You can also volunteer or ask to shadow professionals in the industry, public policy, science communication, or other fields. Look for short programs and conferences that seek to expose graduate students to new areas of work.

This post was inspired by the article posted on the Nature website. If you enjoyed this post, please read the full article. Also feel free to leave comments below, or share your thoughts through email.


Graduate Student Spotlight: Dhanu Thiyag

Graduate Member Spotlight

Dhanu Thiyag


Expected Graduation Date: 2019

Temple University


        Dhanu Thiyag is a very active member of the SWE Graduate community. This year she is serving in several functions, most prevalently as a Special Senator. She is on the Bylaws Committee and PDG Committee, and also serves as the Awards Committee Coordinator, which she has been involved in since FY16. Before the dissolution of regions, Dhanu was very involved in Region E and served as Collegiate Senator in FY18, and Conference Research Chair in FY17. Dhanu is also active in the SWE outreach community, and served as a SWENext advisor for Lehigh Valley Academy in FY17 and FY18, as well as this year. They have done several hands-on activities ranging from newspaper towers challenge to egg drop, and activities for E-week with the local middle school. Dhanu has advised Temple University in the role of SWE Graduate Counselor for the last four years.

As an undergraduate student, Dhanu held the roles of Historian, Mentorship Chair, Secretary, and President in the University of Pittsburgh section. She began to attend SWE conferences as an undergrad, and has attended WE13, WE14, WE15, WE16, WE17, and several region conferences and leadership conferences. She support WE16 on the local host committee as Volunteer Coordinator.

      Dhanu’s hard work, both in and out of the hospital, has been recognized with numerous awards. She received the SWE Outstanding Collegiate Member Award. As an undergraduate student, she was awarded University of Pittsburgh Senior of the Year and Region G Advancing leader Award. Outside of SWE, she has received the Western Engineer’s Society George Washington Award, the University of Pittsburgh’s President’s Award, and the University of Pittsburgh Outstanding Sophomore Student leader award.

Dhanu researches topics ranging from obstetrics and gynecology to emergency medicine.  Within OBGYN, she researches various factors that affecting bleeding symptoms for patients who receive the depo shot postpartum. Additionally, she is researching how urinary protein to creatinine ratio differs in term pregnant women as this is a crucial determining factor for diagnosing preeclampsia. Some of her other projects look at end-tidal carbon dioxide to determine transfusion requirements, and various ultrasound methods to determine ejection fraction in an emergency setting.

Dhanu plans to pursue an obstetrics and gynecology residency. Her ultimate career goal would be to utilize her clinical experience in OBGYN to engineer a medical device that can improve women’s health in third world countries. Throughout her career, she plans to personally promote better OBGYN-related care in third world countries.

        Outside of work, Dhanu enjoys staying fit, mainly through playing tennis and performing Bharatanatyam and Bollywood dance. She also enjoys traveling and reading. She is currently in the process of planning a trip to Africa!

Fun Fact from Dhanu: Dhanu has performed a three-hour solo bharatanatyam performance in India!




Get recognized for your contribution to SWE. Apply for WE Local Awards!

Are you looking for ways for you or your collegiate/graduate group to be acknowledged for your contribution toward SWE? Do you consider yourself a remarkable individual who deserves recognition for your involvement with SWE community?

To recognize your efforts, WE Locals will offer a number of awards with much of the flavor of the Society-level awards program. The application period for WE Local Awards will run until September 30. Recipients will have the ability to choose at which WE Local they accept their award. Download the new WE Local Awards packet explaining the nomination process. Questions can be directed to

Check out some of the awards you might be interested in here:

SWE Collegiate Member Awards

The Guiding Star Award recognizes exceptional collegiate leaders with at least two (2) years of SWE membership at the end of the previous fiscal year who have made outstanding contributions to SWE, the engineering community, their campus, and the community. A maximum of fifteen (15) awards will be presented annually.

The Rising Star Award recognizes SWE collegiate members with less than 2 years of SWE membership at the end of the previous fiscal year who have made outstanding contributions to SWE, the engineering community, their campus, and the community. A maximum of fifteen (15) awards will be presented annually.

Group Awards

GradSWE Groups can apply as an independent group or as part of their school’s section too! Any group of Collegiate or Professional SWE members that support the SWE mission are eligible for these awards. This can include a SWE Section, SWE Affiliate (including community college affiliate groups and sections), Members At Large, Affinity Group, Corporate Employee Resource Group (ERG), or other group of SWE members.

The Outstanding Outreach Event Award recognizes a group or groups who plan and carry out a high-quality outreach event to inspire future engineers. A maximum of twelve (12) awards will be presented annually, two each to small, medium, and large professional sections or groups and two each to small, medium, and large collegiate sections or groups.

The Outstanding Professional Development Event Award recognizes a group or groups who plan and carry out a high-quality professional development event to help women achieve their professional goals. A maximum of twelve (12) awards will be presented annually, two each to small, medium, and large professional sections or groups and two each to small, medium, and large collegiate sections or groups.

The Joint Professional/Collegiate Event Award is jointly bestowed upon a professional SWE Group and a Collegiate SWE group who have planned and implemented a joint SWE event between the two groups. A maximum of five (5) awards may be presented annually.

Please NOTE that, if you win a WE Local award, you are still eligible to apply for a SWE individual award in the same fiscal year (including a SWE award that corresponds to the same WE Local award). If you have previously won an individual SWE award, you are then ineligible to win the corresponding WE Local Award.

Get the recognition for your individual and group efforts! Let the WE Local conferences help celebrate your success and accomplishments. Apply for the WE Local Awards by September 30.

Graduate Member Spotlight: Amy Zheng

Graduate Member Spotlight

Amy Zheng


Chemical Engineering

Expected Graduation Date: 2021

Vanderbilt University

        This year, we are excited to have Amy Zheng serve as our Development Mentoring Coordinator, where she will provide content for our mentoring teams so they remain engaged throughout the year. Amy has held several leadership positions in SWE prior to joining the GradSWE team. As an undergraduate student, she was President of the University of Kansas section. For three years, she served as the Graduate Student Coordinator at University of Kansas, building the bridge between undergraduate and graduate students at her campus. As Graduate Student Coordinator, Amy established an annual seminar where faculty and graduate students could advertise their research opportunities to undergrads. She attended the SWE Region I conference in 2013 and the annual SWE conferences in 2015 and 2016.


Outside of SWE, Amy is the social chair of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association. In this position, Amy plans monthly departmental happy hours and organizes the recruitment weekend activities for prospective Ph.D. students. Amy is also passionate about spreading her love of science. She has volunteered at several organizations around the Vanderbilt campus to teach public school students about engineering and science.


Thesis Title: Genome-Scale Optimization of Energy Flux through Compartmentalized Metabolic Networks in a Model Photosynthetic Eukaryotic Microbe


The goal of Amy’s work is to optimize the production of biofuel in diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum (Pt) by using metabolic flux analysis. Metabolic flux analysis is a tool that combines experimental and computational methods to understand the metabolism of an organism. By applying this tool to Pt, Amy is able to identify enzymes that can be deleted or overexpressed to increase biofuel production. This year, Amy’s work was recognized and she won a travel award for the International Society of Photosynthetic Research (ISPR) meeting. After graduating, Amy plans to pursue a job in research, and is open to both academia and industry.


        Outside of work, Amy enjoys cooking and traveling. She is currently trying to master eggs benedict.  Amy also enjoys doing zumba!

Fun Fact from Amy: Amy can do a split!


Mentoring program is now open!

Enroll today:

Enrollment closes on September 22nd

Graduate school is a great time to hone your critical thinking skills and to build your resume. However, between teaching, research and classes, it can be difficult to build your network. Let GradSWE get you connected! The goal of our program is to match graduate students with professionals in industry, government and academia to prepare them for success in their future careers. Mentors are a vital part of a strong network. They can give you advice on many aspects of your career on everything from work life balance to how to deal with conflicts in the workplace. In addition, they will allow you to build your network and connect you with other professionals in your field of study.

When you join the GradSWE mentoring program, you will also receive bi-weekly emails with helpful tips on how to strengthen your relationship with your mentor.

We are also rolling out a new mentoring program for undergrads! Undergraduates that are interested in graduate school will be matched with a current graduate student. The goal of this program is to help demystify the graduate school experience and ease the transition to graduate school.

Whether you are planning to transition from grad school to the work force or from undergrad to graduate school, new challenges will arise. Having a mentor can prepare you for your future steps and support you in your current endeavors. Sign up and tell your friends today!

Graduate Member Spotlight: Behnoosh Parsa

Graduate Member Spotlight

Behnoosh Parsa


Mechanical Engineering

Expected Graduation Date: Summer 2020

University of Washington

        This year, we are excited to have Behnoosh Parsa serve as our Professional Graduate Team Lead, where she will provide resources for our members who are in professional degree programs, and she will provide professional development resources for all our members. Behnoosh worked with other graduate students to begin the GradSWE group at the University of Washington. They work together to provide the graduate students with events that allow for community engagement and stress management. Behnoosh and her colleagues have provided their members with several happy hour events and free yoga sessions during exam times. At the Women in Science and Engineering conference this year, Behnoosh organized a panel on how to create an outstanding CV, and how to translate your research. As an advocate for STEM outreach, Behnoosh has volunteered as a project judge for the FIRST LEGO League Semi-final Competition.  


In addition to being a superstar in SWE, Behnoosh is technically well accomplished in her field. Behnoosh has served as a mentor for interns. She ranked 1st in her Ph.D qualifying exam, and won several awards for her research. At the Penn State Graduate Exhibition, she won Best Engineering Research Award. Additionally, she has been recognized with the Kinesiology Research Award. At her institution, she has also been nominated for the Best Teaching Assistant Award.

Research Topic: Machine Learning • Bayesian Learning • Probabilistic Graphical Models • Deep Learning • Reinforcement Learning


Behnoosh is working on two main projects for my Ph.D. The first project is concurrent manipulation of optically actuated micro-robots: Optical tweezers are a device used for manipulating micro-level objects, like cells. The goal of the project is to form a pattern with many microspheres using the optical tweezers. The multi-agent pattern formation is a very involved problem to solve. On the other hand, the environment Behnoosh is dealing with is stochastic due to the Brownian motion, so fast decision making is desirable. Hence, she is using machine learning methods and motion planning and control techniques to design a faster and more reliable solution for this stochastic multi-agent control problem. As a part of this project, Behnoosh developed an algorithm to learn the stochastic dynamics of an optically actuated micro-robot, using a Hierarchical Bayesian Linear Regression model with convergence guarantees which can be found on arxiv.

Behnoosh’s second project involves Amazon Robotics. The goal of the project is to develop an intelligent system able to recognize human actions during object manipulation, and assess the corresponding ergonomic risks. This can be a very important step toward human-robot collaboration, especially if we want the robots to be able to help when they perceive the need.

After graduation, Behnoosh sees herself working as a researcher in a tech company. Outside of work, Behnoosh stays very active! She actively participates in yoga, swimming, weight training, and hiking. She also enjoys baking, and reading positive psychology.