This May, we are recognizing incredible SWE members from the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and the other individuals who have inspired their own careers in STEM. Each of the featured women is a member of the Asian Connections Affinity Group (ACAG), one of many affinity groups within SWE.
Margaret Omori — ACAG Vice Lead
Margaret grew up in Evanston, Illinois just a block away from the house where her dad grew up. Margaret has a lot of family in the Chicago area and was lucky to have a strong support system nearby who encouraged her to pursue her love of STEM from a young age. Some of her earliest memories include building rockets in the park with her dad and creating LEGO cities with her older brother. As Margaret progressed through high school, her favorite classes were math, chemistry, and physics, which inspired her to study Chemical Engineering at Yale University. Today, Margaret is a Project Manager at ExxonMobil for environmental remediation projects based out of Brooklyn, New York. She loves being able to use her problem-solving and quantitative reasoning skills from her engineering degree in her day job. In her free time, Margaret still loves building LEGO creations—it’s a wonderful hobby that blends art with STEM. She is also an avid reader and a Peloton enthusiast.
As an Asian-American woman in a white male-dominated industry, having AAPI women role models has been crucial to her professional development. In particular, Margaret’s first Team Lead at ExxonMobil, Chui Mei Cheung, inspired her at a critical point in her career. Transitioning from school—where her success was based on grades and academic achievements—to the workplace—where success can be much more nebulous—was difficult. It seemed like there was a mysterious path to success that she didn’t understand. Having an Asian-American woman in a leadership position to look up to helped Margaret navigate this new uncharted territory. This leader mentored Margaret on how to communicate effectively, advocate for herself and her ideas, and influence without authority. Seeing the business accomplishments this leader had achieved helped Margaret believe that a position in leadership could be possible in her future, too. Margaret feels lucky to have found such a mentor, and she hopes that the ACAG can help connect more mentors and mentees going forward.
Kristine Loh — ACAG Community Lead
Kristine Loh (she/her) is a first-year Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a College of Science and Engineering Fellow. As a member of the Ferry and Kortshagen Lab Groups, her research focuses on luminescent nanoparticles for solar windows on greenhouses. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering and her M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Drexel University in 2020, where she was heavily involved in undergraduate research and the Drexel SWE section. She pursued chemical engineering in college because she took pre-engineering classes in high school, where she first learned about manufacturing and realized for the first time that she could actually see herself as an engineer. Kristine was born and raised in a town near Miami, Florida and in her free time, she enjoys experimenting with her air fryer, trying out new restaurants, and volunteering at K-12 STEM engagement events. Someone who inspires her is Dr. Jayshree Seth, who also studied chemical engineering and has made great strides in creating inclusive environments for women in STEM.
Kalyani Mallela—SWE Board of Directors Member
Kalyani Mallela was born in India, where she grew up surrounded by engineers. At a young age she developed a keen understanding of all the ways an engineer can impact the world, and it became obvious: she would be an engineer. Inspired and supported by her parents, she earned her B.S. in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Osmania University in India. She then moved to the Twin Cities where she received her M.S. in Management of Technology and Electrical Engineering, both from the University of Minnesota.
Kalyani is currently a Director of Research and Development (R&D) for Ethicon, part of the Johnson & Johnson Medical Device companies. As a leader in the Robotics and Digital Solutions group, she owns instrument development, providing solutions to improve outcomes across a broad range of disease states. She leads both internal and external design partnerships for instrument and accessory development. Kalyani is passionate about people and developing an inclusive culture focusing on talent development, mentorship, and coaching.
As a woman dedicated to outreach and developing future engineers, each year Kalyani connects with over 2000 children through classroom visits, hands-on activities, and mentoring. She shares her experiences as an engineering student and professional, hoping to inspire girls to pursue technical opportunities. Kalyani is an active SWE member and has served as a Section President, Senator, Awards & Recognition Committee Chair, and Society Nominating Committee member. She currently serves as a Director on the SWE Board of Directors.
Kalyani derives inspiration from Sudha Murty, known for her grassroots work serving the under-privileged across India. Sudha’s social work has covered healthcare, education, women empowerment, public hygiene, rural development, art and culture, and poverty alleviation. Sudha was the first female engineering student at her college and the first female engineer hired at India’s largest automotive manufacturer. Sudha is known for the quote, “Philanthropy has nothing to do with money. It’s a warm hug, a kind word…that can change lives. It’s about helping fellow human beings.” Through her life, Sudha has shown us that there is always help you can offer humankind, even without access to money. Kalyani believes that Sudha is a woman to admire, thank, and strive to be more like.
- Lost in Translation: Demystifying and Maximizing Asian Culture
- SWE Signs Onto Joint AAPI Statement With SASE
- SWE Condemns Violence Against the AAPI Community
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Asian-American Engineers
- Podcast: The Experience of Being an Asian American Female Engineer
- Demand Equal Pay for AAPI Women!
- Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: Highlighting Asian American Engineers