Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who wouldn't want to be an engineer?

Read more about women@SEAS in the DP

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Graduate Student Spotlight!

Hi I'm Alexis and I'm currently a PhD student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the annual SWE Conference in Orlando on behalf of Penn Engineering Graduate Studies. While I was there, I got a lot of questions about graduate school, both in terms of student life and academics. In this blog post, I'll discuss some of the topics that came up during those conversations with prospective graduate students at the conference.

1. What's special about being a grad student at Penn? Many things! I won't even go into the breadth of academic resources available to you - that will vary by individual department and can be very specific, but in general there's a high caliber of professors and students, and terrific research going on. For me, being in the city of Philadelphia is one of the most important things - the campus is located in the University City neighborhood of West Philadelphia, and most graduate students live either in West Philadelphia or Center City. Philadelphia is affordable enough that you can have a decent apartment and be able to pay for it with a graduate student stipend...with money left over to enjoy the restaurants, nightlife, and culture that the city has to offer. Additionally, Penn's different graduate student organizations help make the city even more accessible by offering discounted tickets to certain events or by hosting events in some great locations. For example, I recently got theater tickets to one of the hottest traveling Broadway musicals (Jersey Boys) for about 60% off, and last year I went to a dinner hosted by one of America's Iron Chefs (Jose Garces) at his West Philadelphia restaurant Distrito. On a more regular basis, these groups will organize parties, outings to Phillies games, and activities such as ice skating or

2. Master's degree vs PhD? A lot of people have this question. I actually did both - first I completed my master's degree part-time at Penn, then I subsequently left my job to pursue a PhD. A master's degree is great for cases where you feel like you didn't have enough time in undergrad to pursue a particular topic in more depth, or if you want to gain strength in a subject complementary to your undergraduate degree. It's similar to undergrad in that you mostly take classes, and depending on the program, you might have a thesis as well. It's a great opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject for a short period of time (typically 1-2 years), and can also help qualify you for certain jobs which might require a master's degree. However, a master's degree can be expensive and it typically does not come with financial aid, so money can be a big potential drawback. On the other hand, a PhD typically will be fully funded (full tuition scholarship plus a living stipend, but it is a long-term commitment (about 5 years in the case of my program). For a PhD, you have the opportunity to take some classes, but most of your time will be spent conducting your research, writing and presenting about your research, and teaching/TAing classes. A PhD is required if you want an academic career and very useful for industry research jobs. If you're considering a PhD, my biggest piece of advice is to become involved in undergraduate research - it gives you a chance to see how you like it, and it shows your commitment on graduate school and fellowship applications. Personally, I was interested in a master's degree but decided it wasn't really worth the cost in my case. I joined a great company which had tuition assistance as a benefit, so I was able to complete my master's degree with my company covering all of my tuition. Note this was difficult from a time management perspective, but it worked out. Then at work I ended up moving to a job in research that I loved from a scientific perspective, but I felt liked I needed a PhD to get the work opportunities that I wanted. I went back to graduate school for my PhD full-time so that I could gain that credential and ultimately attain a great research job after graduation.

3. Bioengineering or...(chemical, mechanical, electrical, materials science)? Bioengineering and the associated bio-related disciplines are really exciting, and I typically hear this question a lot! I'm in chemical engineering, and a lot of my friends are in labs that consist of a mix of chemical engineers and bioengineers (and sometimes other types of engineers and scientists too). My lab consists of mostly chemical engineers, with a couple of bioengineers and the occasional non-engineer mixed in, conducting research in areas such as gene therapy, blood flow and clotting, and drug discovery. In general, the primary considerations would be (a) what do you want to do afterwards, (b) what is the structure and the requirements of the programs you are considering, (c) what is your educational background, and (d) what are you most interested in? For evaluating (a), think about the career opportunities that you are hoping for and who those organizations would typically hire. Look at where students from that program have gone after graduation (this information is often, although not always, available on the professor's lab websites in an "alumni" section). For evaluating (b), look at such things as course requirements, the type of qualifying exam (for a PhD program), the adviser selection process, teaching/TAing requirements, and typical time to graduate. For evaluating (c), it's more of a question of meeting minimum requirements in that area, and the department will generally say what they require on the website. For evaluating (d), it's a matter of looking through the required and elective courses, and what research you can become involved in. Some professors might take only students from particular program, while others will have a more diverse set of students. This could have a significant role in your decision for what program to apply to, but in some cases (like mine) every professor I was interested in had both chemical engineers and bioengineers working for them, so you really need to do your research to figure out what is best for you.

Thanks for reading, and if you're currently applying to or considering graduate school in engineering, good luck!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Student Spotlight

Hi Everyone! My name is Michaela Flaherty; I’m a junior studying Mechanical Engineering at UPenn. I’m also the AWE intern, which means I play a big role in planning a lot of the events for women engineers. I’m also a co–chair in Educational Outreach for SWE, which is a frequent partner of AWE (SWE, for those of you who don’t know, stands for Society of Women Engineers—which Sheetal talked more about in her entry last month).

Our latest event was High School Shadowing Day, which took place this past Wednesday. We hosted over 30 high school girls from local high schools, who were each paired up with a Penn woman engineer. Then, each student got to follow their engineer match to 3 different classes throughout the morning. At our closing luncheon, Dr. Katherine Kuchenbecker—one of our professors in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics--spoke about her experience as an Engineer and her role at UPenn. Overall, it was a great day, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s High School Shadowing Day!

Our events are not only educational; they’re also great for fostering relationships and making new friends! We have a bunch of social events throughout the semester, scattered among our professional/academic development ones. Planning a successful event can be a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s very rewarding! My favorite parts of being involved with SWE and AWE (besides making a difference for women in engineering, of course) are the opportunities to become a part of Penn Engineering and to meet a lot of the students and faculty that make the school what it is.

Fortunately, at Penn, it’s very easy to get involved—especially in the Engineering school. I definitely encourage everyone to pursue something you are passionate about; with enough hard work and persistence, virtually anyone who wants a leadership role can find one that is the right fit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Student Spotlight


My name is Sheetal Rajagopal, the first student blogger in hopefully what will be a long series of posts about Penn Engineering student life! I’m on AWE Advisory Board, the President of Penn SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and a junior in CBE (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering). This weekend, I was invited to speak in student panels for a Prospective Student Info Session and Family Weekend. Talking about what I’m involved in within the Penn Engineering community really made me think about how lucky I am to be in such an incredible place! Here at Penn, we’re surrounded by so many ambitious and down-to-earth students. It sounds cheesy, but I’m telling the truth!

A large proportion of these high-achieving Penn Engineering students are women like myself, thanks to programs like AWE Pre-Orientation. I did AWE Pre-Orientation myself as a pre-frosh, which not only helped me make friends in my class, but also introduced me to upperclassmen on SWE Board who encouraged me to get involved with SWE. One thing led to another, and somehow I wound up as SWE President this year! It’s really been a great year for SWE (again, that’s Society of Women Engineers). Since hosting the incredibly successful 2010 SWE Region E Conference on Penn’s campus this past spring for 56 collegiate sections and 13 professional sections within our region, we’ve been on an upward spiral! One of our proudest moments this year was winning $5300 in a Schlumberger Essay Contest for our section thanks to a very intense publicity campaign by SWE Board members and our incredible Faculty Advisor, Dr. Katherine Kuchenbecker (who, FYI, was chosen by Popular Science as one of the Ten Brilliant Young Scientists to Watch Out For)!

What are we planning on doing with the money? Well, we’re still deciding how to thank the dedicated SWE members who submitted essays! SWE Board is also looking forward to going to the SWE National Conference in Orlando this November 4-6 using a portion of our award. This is going to be a great opportunity to understand the scope of SWE as an influential national organization and meet other female engineers from colleges across the nation. I can’t wait!

*If you want to hear more about SWE, check out the Penn Engineering Alumni Magazine issue coming out later this year.

That’s just a taste of what one female engineer at Penn is involved in! Outside of Engineering, I also sing in Counterparts Co-ed Jazz & Pop A Cappella, which was a great way for me to form long-lasting friendships with non-engineers, too. Stay tuned to hear more from other students!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dot Divas!

Are you a Dot Diva? Click here to find out what the Dot Divas are all about!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Register for Pre-Orientation 2010!

Class of 2014, don't forget to register for Pre-orientation 2010! Registration ends June 28th. E-mail with any questions. Register here

Join our facebook event page here

Monday, April 26, 2010

Importance of Role Models

Read about the Importance of Role Models and mentors here

Monday, April 12, 2010

Announcing Pre-Orientation 2010!

Congrats and welcome to the Penn Engineering Class of 2014! We are excited to once again offer Pre-Orientation this summer from August 30-Sept 2. Check out the details here!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Colleges, Professors Discourage Women from Pursuing STEM

Interesting Campus Technology article available here

Monday, March 1, 2010

Computer Science Barbie

Some thoughts from the DP about Computer Engineer Barbie. Read the article here!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Girls are equal to boys at math

Girls ARE equal to boys in maths but lack confidence in ability, study shows

Read all about it here

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Come to the SWE Region E conference!

Early bird registration ends Feb 19th so sign up now and get a discount! See details here

Women prefer the non-geeky room!

Stereotypes steer women away from computer science. Read more about a new study here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The importance of stupidity in scientific research

Great article by Martin Schwartz at UVA on the importance of stupidity in scientific research. Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SWE Awards

Apply for a SWE Award! Applications are due Feb 28. Details and information are available here