This article was first published in the Spring 2016 issue of SWE Magazine.
Recognizing engineering students for their academic achievements and their commitment to the profession, SWE nominated the following collegians to the DiscoverE: Engineers Week competition. A round-robin of questions were posed to each candidate, with a sampling of the answers below.
Share with us how your participation in an engineering society’s student section has affected your college/university experience.
Haley Barnes: My time as vice president in UNT SWE and as SWEFL at the Society level has been highly effective within my engineering collegiate career. As vice president, I have helped prepare and run meetings, organize officer meetings, have a better understanding of the positions and progress of each of our officers, and represent our section in both College of Engineering events and professional SWE events. As SWEFL, I have experienced conference calls, led president presentations, and witnessed organization administration at the regional and Society levels. I am honored to witness and be a part of these events. They have molded me into the leader I am today, and they will continue to influence my growth and understanding as a professional.
Kirthana Bhat: I have gained most of my best friends from RPI’s section of the Society of Women Engineers. This is the best, most rewarding Society activity that I joined in RPI because I have gotten so much out of it! I have obtained professional development skills, gained two internships from the annual SWE career fair, and have networked and met some amazing and inspiring women all around the world. One of my weaknesses when I came to college was public speaking, but after joining RPI SWE, I have received so many opportunities to speak and host various events. I even presented twice at our annual conference this year! The Society of Women Engineers is an amazing society that has benefited me as an undergraduate and I look forward to seeing where else it takes me!
Alexandra Cerny: The Society of Women Engineers has been the source and summit of many of my best moments at Carnegie Mellon. In my time in the society, I have volunteered at over a dozen outreach events, built wheelchairs to be delivered to Third-World hospitals, planned a formal dance for 150 students, and experienced tremendous professional and personal growth. As the current section president, I have had the opportunity to work with all of the wonderful women on the collegiate and professional levels to bring women to equal ground in STEM fields. SWE has given me irreplaceable opportunities to look outside of myself and reach out to others in a unique way that I value in my collegiate career.
Alyssa Deardorff: Founding the SWE collegiate section at Oregon Tech and serving this year as the Region J collegiate representative have shaped who I am now and empowered me to grow as a team member and a leader. The women at Oregon Tech Wilsonville are now more united, we share resources and opportunities, and we have developed a support network for mentoring, study groups, and friends.
As a result of my involvement with SWE at the collegiate section, local, and now regional level, I have learned how to bring people together, pioneer new organizations, and establish new activities and governing guidelines. This organization has given me so many opportunities to grow, network, and gain leadership, professional development, and communication skills. As I move forward, SWE means to me lifting and supporting women in STEM, and inspiring the next generation of women leaders and engineers. I look forward to continuing and growing my outreach, community enrichment, and professional society involvement as I transition into further education and industry.
Rachel Kumar: My involvement in SWE has shaped my college experience in unimaginable ways. I had been involved in STEM outreach in high school, so it was a natural step for me to join the service committee and volunteer with SWE at outreach events. I found that my passion for outreach extended beyond occasional volunteering, and I decided to run for a position on the executive board. I ended up serving as the elementary and middle school outreach chair for two years, and these were the years that really shaped me. I had to organize events, manage my time wisely, interact professionally with parents and other people, and run a committee. I was honored to have the opportunity to serve as president my final year. With SWE, I have transformed into a confident leader.
What gets you excited about your future as an engineer?
Haley Barnes: I am most excited to be an engineer to make a difference. It sounds clich©, but the single most realistic moment I have experienced as a pre-engineer was in my materials introduction course. My professor told us, You are all engineers so that you can save lives. I had never heard anybody describe engineering like that, but it’s completely true. If a biomedical engineer or medical scientist completes a research design that was not accurately assessed, then people will suffer and die. It is a huge responsibility, but my main motivating factor is that I pursue medical engineering to improve quality of life in patients. I hear of many premeds with the passion to save lives, but I think there is a beauty in saving the quality of life.
Kirthana Bhat: I am excited to take the next step in my career as a process engineer, working for a pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry after graduation. I want to help change the world for patients, whether it be a few hundred people or a million people. To impact society that is what I am most excited about. Three things that I ultimately think add up to the backbone of a very successful company are the emphasis on teamwork, integrity, and service to patients. I cannot wait to put my knowledge into a company, grow, and better the company every single day!
Alexandra Cerny: For me, engineering is a way to express my desire to create, discover, and combine ideas from pure science and practical use in order to help solve real-world problems. I love the adventure that comes hand in hand with solving engineering problems. There isn’t always a set way to solve a problem, and while many basic concepts can lead us to a better understanding of the situation, sometimes we need to innovate and invent entirely unique processes and products that have never been seen before. From discovering the effects of removing structural proteins from the nucleus of a human cell to designing giant ovens to convert atmospheric nitrogen into fertilizers, engineering can tackle any kind of problem with a directed, open mind. This mode of thinking is exhilarating and allows setbacks to become opportunities since they do not halt the flow of ideas, criticisms, fixes, and leaps that are made in a project. I am dedicated to learning not only the material but also the passion and drive that engineers possess.
Alyssa Deardorff: Engineering enables innovation and the actualization of creative and realistic solutions to complex global challenges, including protecting our planet, reducing poverty, saving lives, and keeping people healthy. Being able to invent, design, and create things that matter is instrumental in working toward a more sustainable, equitable, and balanced future. Engineers are changing the world all the time, and I am ecstatic about joining this collective.
My fascination is in the intersection of technology and human impact. My fundamental question is: How do we provide reliable and sustainable energy for all? I want to make a positive difference through applied research in resilient user-centric local energy systems in the realms of aerospace and developing communities. Energy storage is critical to providing reliable, resilient, and sustainable energy for isolated systems such as decentralized energy networks, unmanned aerial systems, and electric vehicles. My focus is in the management and control of energy storage devices in extreme environments. I strive to push the envelope of what we consider possible by finding solutions to current and forecasted real-world energy issues. In addition to engineering research and development, I want to engage in the theoretical research and practical applications of complex design challenges and related policies.
Rachel Kumar: I went into college with the tentative plan to major in chemical engineering. Partway through my first year, I attended a talk by UVA alumni called What am I going to do with my chemical engineering degree? This opened my eyes to some of the possible career paths I could have as a chemical engineer, and I found myself calling my parents excitedly to let them know that I was very sure I wanted to do chemical engineering. There is no doubt that the past four years have been academically challenging, but what has always kept me going is knowing that once I go into industry, I will be able to make a tangible difference by working on a process where the end product will reach consumers. This is what excites me about my future career as an engineer being able to solve meaningful problems on a scale where the work I do every day makes a difference, and I can point at somethingand proudly say, I helped make that.