Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finals Advice - From students who have been there!

-Starting studying early - not 1 or 2 days before like in high school.

-Go to all review sessions and office hours during the last week of school and reading days.

-Make a schedule of when you're studying for which finals, and deadlines for what you need to go over for each final.  You don't have to stick to your schedule perfectly, but you want to ensure you have enough time to study what you need to.

-Focus on practice exams: Make sure you have all the practice tests you'll need at least a couple days before your final.  You don't want to realize you don't have any practice tests the night before a final, so you're scrambling to email friends.

-Don't forget that even though class is over, your Professors and/or TAs will most likely be willing to meet with you (outside of or after group review sessions) if you're struggling with any exam material.

-Download SelfControl to your computer to block your most distracting websites. You can set however long you want to block them for (from 15 minutes to as long as 24 hours). Its a miracle worker.

-If you don't understand things, study with people who are smarter than you, and don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask them questions. People like to help other people because it makes them feel good about themselves and also helps them study by teaching you. Everyone wins.

-Study in Houston Hall. During finals, its open 24/7, and from 9pm-7am, they have free coffee right outside the crepe place. Also, every night they walk around and give out little goodie bags of snacks and highlighters. They also have free food all night, like veggie platters, rice crispy treats, Einstein's bagels and shmear, and so much more!

-Even if your class doesn't allow you to make a cheat sheet - make a cheat sheet anyway to study off of! The simple act of thinking about what is important enough to write and understanding it enough to write something down that makes sense to you is very helpful.

-TAKE BREAKS! Don't try to study for 7 hours straight because you might get burned out and not be productive for your later finals. A good rule of thumb is to take a 10-minute breather every hour (walk around the hall, get a drink...) then take a longer break after several hours. If you find you are getting distracted sooner than 50 min, take two 5 min breaks every hour.

-There is such a thing as overstudying. If you feel like you're set for studying for a particular class, then you probably are. Use the time to either study for other exams or rest.

-Sleep the night before the exam, especially for exams like physics or math. Staying up all night and cramming, and not being able to think during the exam is more detrimental than maybe not being as prepared as you would like.

-Lastly, school might seem like everything when you're in the moment, but remember at the end of the day, life goes on, and after it’s all over YOU GET ALMOST THREE WHOLE WEEKS OFF!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Engineering Dual Degree

Hi! I'm Melissa, a junior majoring in Chemical Biomolecular Engineering in SEAS and Economics in the College. Engineering has some of the most intense curriculums at Penn. Most of my friends take at least five if not six or more classes every semester. With all of this work, a lot of people find the idea of a Dual Degree, or even the newly formed Dual Major option, to be a bit daunting.

My freshmen year, I took one Economics class each semester, just because I thought Economics was a subject worth getting my feet wet in. I enjoyed the classes and took more the next fall with the idea that I would get a minor in the subject, but the more classes I took, the more I became interested. Economics for me, I like to tell people, is like psychology with math -  you use models and equations to try and predict or reason out why people make the decisions they do.

When I first decided to pursue a degree in Economics, the Dual Major option was not yet available, so I began taking other Humanities and Social Science classes to fulfill the general education requirements in the College. As a result, I have taken quite a few classes that I otherwise would not have bothered to try and fit into my schedule, and I have enjoyed most of them a lot. But I know that learning about long readings and writing papers are some engineers worst nightmare, so if that's you, the Dual Major option would be the way to go.

With the new Dual Major option, there is a lot more possibility to just take classes in a major without the general requirements. There are a lot of students in Engineering who try to enroll in a dual degree in with Wharton, but quite a few of my friends and classmates are pursuing degrees with the College. I really enjoy my CBE classes, but my Economics and College classes are a nice break from the computational thinking we're required to do all the time in SEAS.

There are some amazing classes and professors outside of Engineering, so if you like a subject in Humanities or Social Science, I'd definitely suggest taking a few classes to see if you enjoy it enough to want to pursue a major.

Have questions about Dual Degree or Dual Major?  Contact

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sleeping Bag Weekend

Sunday, November 6th, was Sleeping Bag Weekend. AWE hosted around 30 visiting students to teach them what being an engineer is all about. The girls were juniors in high school and stayed overnight on Penn’s campus with Penn student hosts. After being given tours of engineering, the girls spent quality time with their hosts. During this time, hosts gave tours of the campus and showed them landmarks such as the Quad, Van Pelt, and Houston Hall. A highlight of the evening was when the visiting students got to ask questions about the different engineering majors at a panel while enjoying delicious ice cream. The visiting students also got to see a “day in the life of an engineer” by attending classes with their hosts and study sessions. By the end of the weekend, the girls had a better understanding of what it is like to be an engineer as well as the different career options open to them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Graduate Fellowships

Hello Ladies!

Do you know that there are many government and private foundations that want bright students like yourself to continue your education?! If you are thinking about applying to graduate school, especially to Ph.D. programs, than you should also be thinking about applying to one of the many graduate fellowship programs! 

Having a graduate fellowship can really enhance your educational experience in several ways. The first, and most obvious, way that a graduate fellowship can improve your graduate years is that you get money! Many schools even give fellows a few thousand dollars of bonus spending money as an incentive to students to earn external fellowships. From a less commercial point of view, obtaining your own external funding, barring extenuating circumstances, will allow you to pursue the research you want with the advisor you want! Fellowships can also offer a big professional boost. Not only does having one look great on your resume, but many offer great networking opportunities. Have I convinced you to apply yet? 

Now, before you begin the process make sure you talk to a mentor about which fellowships would be a good fit for you. Fellowship applications require a decent amount of time and effort, so you should be sure that you and your research are good candidates for the fellowship program. Also, start as early as possible, since it takes a while to get transcripts, letter of recommendations, GRE scores, etc. to the fellowship organization. Starting early will also give you time to have you application reviewed by a friend, a lab mate, the writing center, and/or a professor. The more people you can get to read your essays, the better! 

To get you started about thinking about which fellowships to apply to, I’m including a short list of fellowships for engineering graduate students: NSF’s graduate research fellowship program (Deadline: November 14 for engineering, November 15 for CIS), National Defence Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (Dec 16), SMART scholarship (Dec 1), NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (spring), and Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship Environmental Study (Jan 10).  (Please verify these dates for yourself, sometimes the websites change!) You should be sure to talk to professors, graduate students, and administrators in your field to find the best fellowship opportunities for you!

NOTE TO UNDERCLASSMEN: Many of these fellowship programs don’t change or only slightly alter the requirements and review process from year to year. If you are an underclassman thinking about graduate school, I urge you to read over a few of the fellowship guidelines to see the qualities that these fellowship programs look for in applicants. 

Good luck!

Questions about graduate fellowships?  Contact us at

Monday, October 24, 2011

Penn SWE wins big!

At this year's Society of Women Engineers conference in Chicago, IL the Penn Chapter of SWE walked away with two awards! 
Silver Level - Outstanding Collegiate Award
The Society of Women Engineers awards outstanding collegiate sections based on programming in Educational Outreach, Professional Development, and Membership Activity. The overall programming of the section should be reflecting SWE's own tagline of "Aspire. Advance. Achieve." and shows the section's dedication to meet these goals. Penn SWE successfully exhibited these qualifications and was presented with the Silver Level award for its excellence in the 2010-2011 academic year. 

Outstanding Counselor Award - Alexis Wallen
This exceptional recognition is awarded to a section's professional counselor whose guidance has shown marked growth for the section. Alexis's award was based on her ability to connect Penn's section with the greater Philadelphia Region and give guidance to execute large scale events such as the Region E Conference.  Congrats to a well deserving group!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting Involved in Research: One Student's Path

In my experience, every department at Penn has a "go-to" person.  A person who knows all the ins and outs of the department,  ensures you graduate on time, and has seemingly magical scheduling abilities.  In the Materials Science & Engineering department (MSE), this person is Vicky Lee.  Along with being the my department's go-to, she acts like everyone's mom away from home: she is each student's biggest cheerleader and best source of candies and chocolates.  As a fledgling MSE student at the start of my sophomore year, it seemed only logical to go to her when I was considering getting involved in research; so one afternoon after my lectures ended, I walked upstairs to inquire about my options.  At the time, I hadn't met very many of the MSE professors, had no idea who was taking on undergraduates or if anyone would even be interested in a first semester sophomore.  Within a few seconds of hesitantly inquiring about potentially trying research, Vicky had already pulled up the list of courses I was taking on her computer and started scanning it for ideas.  She noticed I was registered in a robotics class in the mechanical engineering department and asked if I liked mechanical engineering in addition to materials science.  I still wasn't sure I did at the time, but said yes anyway.  She then excitedly told me to say no more, printed out my transcript, took my arm and marched me down the hall.  She stopped in front of an open door and said "Dan this is Dagny, she is a sophomore, likes mechanical engineering and wants to try research".  She then walked me inside, turned around on her heel and left me stunned and in the office of a professor I had never seen.  After a few minutes of chatting with Dan, I realized that Vicky couldn't have put me in a better office, and wound up being the first student he hired to work in his lab.  It has been over two years since Vicky walked me into Dan's office, and I still feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I was presented with.

Admittedly, the route I took to get involved in research is a bit unconventional.  From what I have gathered, most students send out somewhere between a one and twenty emails to professors and hope that someone replies favorably.  While I can't deny that people have found that method successful, I think a lot of students underestimate the power of casually asking around in person.

Want to talk more about research with Dagny? Get in touch with all blog writers at, please reference the blog post title in your e-mail so we get you the right person!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thinking about a PhD? Five things to consider!

Hi there! I’m Melissa, a second year PhD student here at Penn in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering program. With the start of the new school year, I’ve had to say that a lot lately, and I can’t get over how it doesn’t stop being weird. “A second year PhD student” – When did that happen!? I feel like it was just yesterday that I was only beginning to decide what grad schools to just apply to. Somehow two entire years have gone by since then, and here I am at Penn, enjoying everything that the school and Philly have to offer. I realize now that I’m pretty lucky to have ended up in a program that I’m happy with. As a college senior, let’s just say I was very naïve in my approach to making life decisions. When it came down to picking grad schools, I went mostly by location. Now, that isn’t a bad thing to choose a school by – I just realize now that there’s so much more to the story that I should’ve considered more carefully. Here’s the list I feel I should’ve gone by:

1. Research If you’re applying to PhD programs, research should be the first thing on your checklist. Make sure the schools on your list have well-funded programs that specialize in research you’re passionate about. Once accepted to a school and assigned to a specific lab, you will literally (ok not literally but almost literally) sleep, eat, and breathe your research. With typical time to graduation being 5-6 years for most PhD programs, you want to be absolutely sure that whatever you’re signing up for is something you truly enjoy and believe in.  

2. Potential Advisors Once you’ve found a list of schools with relevant research programs, check to see that there’s more than one advisor/lab that you could potentially work for. In an ideal world, every grad student would have the opportunity to work for their first choice advisor. In reality, though, most advisors don’t have the funding or space to accept everyone that shows interest in working for them.
3. Program Requirements/Classes Whether you’re applying to PhD or MS/MSE programs, make sure the program requirements and classes are something you’ll enjoy (as much as you can of course). Don’t apply to a program just because it’s what you have been doing as an undergrad. If you were lucky enough to discover a passion for a specialty area, then seek out those specialty programs if they’re out there. That’s what higher education is all about. And you’ll be thanking yourself later when you’re actually enjoying the material in the midst of really advanced (i.e difficult) courses in your umpteenth year of school. There’s always that mid-semester low when you’re burnt out and ready to give up – but if you’ve picked a program with coursework that really inspires you, you’ll have a much easier time keeping motivated.  

4. Location I grew up in NYC and went to undergrad in Boston. Needless to say, I wouldn’t survive two seconds in a rural area, so I applied to schools that were either in a city or with easy access to one. Like I said earlier, PhD programs typically require a 5-6 year commitment – that doesn’t just mean commitment to the program that means commitment to city it’s in, as well. And it’s very possible that what started out as a 5-6 year commitment could turn into a more permanent situation, as graduates tend to find employment in the areas near or around their school.
5. Ranking Honestly, I hate the idea of choosing anything based on rankings. It feels like such an artificial thing to based decisions on, but they are a rough measure of the “quality” of a program. Schools that are higher ranked are likely to have more funding and more research opportunities than those lower on the list. But with that said, my undergrad research advisor once told me that beyond the top five engineering schools, the rest just become different shades of grey. Each one will have its individual strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to realize that you won’t be able to figure what they are by just looking at the ranking of the program. So why did I include it on my checklist at all? Well, it turns out that program ranking does matter quite a bit if you’re planning on going into academia. Something about having a degree from a top school really increases your wow factor as a potential professor. I think those all the main points I wish I had known about applying to grad school as a college senior. I hope this proves helpful to all of you in that position now. Best of luck!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Global Biomedical Service Program

Hello! I am Logan, a Penn Bioengineering undergrad. For this blog publication, I would like to introduce you to one of Penn Engineering's many summer programs that are open to undergraduate students. In May 2011, I participated in the Global Biomedical Service Program (GBS) through the Penn Bioengineering department, led by Dr. Daniel Bogen. The program combines a cultural immersion experience with an opportunity to put bioengineering into practice. Each spring, a dozen or so Penn bioengineering students travel to China to join forces with Hong Kong Polytechnic University students to help children with cerebral palsy conditions achieve increased mobility. During the 2011 program, we designed orthotics over 50 young patients in Zhaoqing, mainland China. The program consists of an 8-week class program in which participants learn about angle-foot orthoses, discuss Chinese culture, and participate in team building exercises to prepare for our journey. In mid-May, the GBS group heads to Hong Kong for a two week immersion to work with Hong Kong student counterparts and travel to a local clinic in mainland China to meet patients, and develop orthotics appropriate for their varying conditions. I personally enjoyed this program immensely. The trip was a wonderful cultural experience in which we built lifelong friendships with engineers and scientists on the other side of the globe and applied our studies to a hands-on, practical biomedical application that makes a difference in children's quality of life. And of course, everyone indulged on delicious food throughout the excursion. I highly recommend the program and encourage other Penn students to take advantage of this opportunity. Please pummel me with questions! I'm delighted to discuss every aspect of the program. ***Contact to get in touch with Logan and ask her questions about GBS!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Psych-Out Sexism

The innocent, unconscious bias that discourages girls from math and science. Read about one experiment here

Friday, June 3, 2011

Professor Profile

Check out one of our fabulous professors, Dr Jennifer Lukes, here

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A winner!

Congrats to Karlin Bark from Dr Katherine Kuchenbecker's lab on her win of a L'Oréal USA Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women in Science. Read more about Karlin here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A must see...

Phenomenal graduation speech by Sheryl Sandberg "You are awesome!" See it here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Congrats to our 2011 Graduates!

AWE wishes all of our 2011 graduates congratulations! We will miss you, please keep in touch!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

8 ways women can get ahead in the workplace

According to CNN, here are 8 ways women can get ahead in the workplace. Read about it here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hey Class of 2015 Women Engineers, Sign up for Pre-Orientation!

I was, admittedly, quite nervous before coming to Penn. I mean, engineering in general is quite the undertaking. Engineering at Penn? Scary. Engineering at Penn, as a woman? Terrifying.

The anxiety felt inexplicable—I had always been confident in my math and science abilities—and yet, I think it’s something many women experience. In fact, the women you would least expect are even affected by gender stereotypes and societal pressures. The deeper I get into the field of computer science, the clearer this becomes. My brother, a junior in CS at Rochester Institute of Technology, has never had a girl in a CS class. An even greater shock came to me when I visited the Google offices in New York last week, and went to a talk with Kaleigh Smith, a woman working in Google Maps. Rates of female engineers even at Google can be as low as 1%, and never higher than 15%. Kaleigh’s obviously talented—she’s working at GOOGLE—but even she admitted feeling inferior to the men. She said that she only very recently had a moment of clarity, realizing that she was on par, or even better than her male peers.

So, it appears that intimidation and insecurity is quite common among female engineers. Luckily for us at Penn, Advancing Women in Engineering helps to create a supportive community. Out of the variety of programs they host, the pre-orientation is a favorite. I was unsure when I signed up for the pre-orientation, and ended up being incredibly grateful that I had.

AWE’s pre-orientation allows you to move in a few days early, and basically, learn and have fun. Activities range from informative, such as faculty lectures, and unabashed fun, like trolley rides and center city outings. Overall, the program helped me feel more confident and comfortable in all areas—social and academic. Having an idea of what to expect helped to quell my nerves. The greatest benefit, I think, was that it eased the transition into college. I’m from Cleveland, have never lived away from home, and didn’t know a single person in Philadelphia… so I was uneasy. Add shyness into the mix, and the idea of coming to school and meeting hundreds of new people became incredibly daunting. With AWE, I got to know a smaller group before entering NSO, which can be a little overwhelming. It helped me go into NSO with confidence because I had already made friends with whom I could go to activities with. Even now, I find myself occasionally recognizing a girl from AWE—even one I only met briefly—and can strike up a conversation about it. Pre-orientation gave me a network of peers with whom I have many things in common, and can get support from.

I formed some strong, lasting relationships during pre-orientation. One girl I met the very first day is one my best friends now. I really think that going to the pre-orientation was one of the best choices I made during my college transition. It’s great to know that the female engineers have each others’ backs!

Blog written by Elissa Wolf, freshman. Sign up for pre-orientation at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Engineers and Study Abroad!

Myth: Engineers Can't go abroad and Graduate on Time
Truth: YES they Can!

Hey! My name is Megan and I'm a third year undergrad studying mechanical engineering at Penn. Since the time I was in high school, I couldn't wait to spend one of my college semesters abroad. I loved to travel and had been very lucky to visit Europe and South America during high school. When the time came three years later to apply to a study abroad program, I realized that the list of options for engineering students was sadly very short. However, I did have several options, and after much consideration, I decided to go to an English speaking country. At the beginning of my fall semester junior year, I landed in Glasgow, Scotland- a city that was entirely foreign to me in a country that I had visited only once before.

Starting from international student orientation week and continuing through the rest of the semester, I built myself a network of friends and peers from all over Europe and the world. Glasgow University has a huge population of European exchange students, so about half of my friends were European and the rest were Americans, New Zealanders, and Canadians. With an incredibly light work load and fewer class hours, I had more free time than I had had during my previous four semesters at Penn combined! Although the UK university system emphasized self-study compared to class hours, Penn had totally prepared me for all the academic challenges that I faced during my time there. With all of our new free time, my friends and I traveled all over Scotland, Barcelona, Ireland, London, Amsterdam and Munich. We cooked dinners every week, the Scots aren't known for their food (rightfully so!), and explored the different neighborhoods and the city center of Glasgow. The city was formerly an old industrial ship-building city that is in the midst of an economic and cultural revival. As such, it is home to some of the most popular dance clubs and theaters in the UK. The Glaswegian people I met were so friendly too. Every bus driver and professor was willing to help, but the accent definitely took some time to get used to!

Taking a semester off from Penn to study abroad was one of the best experiences of my four years of college. I learned invaluable insight about myself and about the world--and I'm right on track with courses to graduate on time. If you get the chance to study abroad, it's well worth the effort, believe me.

Photo credit: Author in front of University Tower of Glasgow University

Friday, April 8, 2011

Congrats to Penn SWE!

Congratulations to Penn SWE for being named Region E Outstanding Collegiate Section!

Penn SWE was named Region E Outstanding Collegiate Section at the Region E Conference held March 25 – 27, 2010 in Charlottesville, VA. Penn SWE was selected from 57 collegiate sections within Region E by a committee of regional leaders. Along with receiving the title of Outstanding Collegiate Section, they were awarded a plaque and cash prize, which will be used to continue to support SWE events and members.

Penn SWE was awarded specifically for its successful hosting of last year’s Region E Conference in March 2010, High School Shadowing Day held in October, and the 14th Annual Corporate Dinner held this February. Last year’s Region E Conference saw over 300 attendees (the largest attendance in recent history) and hosted influential National SWE leaders, professionals, and collegiates. High School Shadowing Day, which is Penn SWE’s largest outreach event, brought 30 high school girls to Penn Engineering to shadow SWE members. The high school attendees learned about different engineering majors, what it’s like to study engineering in college, and the types of careers available in the future. The 14th Annual Corporate Dinner was a big success again this year as it brought together engineering students in many fields and levels of study with industry recruiters from such sponsoring companies as Barclays Capital, Merck, Micros Systems, and Accenture.

Along with being awarded Outstanding Collegiate Section at the Region E Conference, Penn SWE earned third place in Region E’s Membership Drive for a 92% increase in national SWE membership this year. The 10 Penn SWE members in attendance at the conference also met and spoke with SWE Society President Siddika Demir, Region E Governor Colleen Layman, and many other national and regional leaders. Three Penn SWE members were also elected to this year’s Region E Collegiate Leadership Team: congratulations to Region Collegiate Representative Anita Sapre, Region Collegiate Senator Melissa Cedarholm, and Region Collegiate Alternate Senator Sheetal Rajagopal! All three will be attending the Collegiate Leadership Forum this summer with the SWE Board of Directors along with regional leaders from across the country.

Penn SWE has had a terrific year at the regional and local level, and they appreciate the continued support and dedication of all SWE members as well as the support of Penn Engineering staff and faculty. Penn SWE recently elected its incoming board for next year and is looking forward to another great year!

Written by Samantha Wang, Past SWE President, Senior, Bioengineering

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wondering What's Going on with AWE?

Logan Troppito is a Sophomore in Bioengineering and an AWE Student Advisory Board member. In this post Logan gives an update on some recent AWE events.

Penn has jolted into to a busy start following the University’s Spring break! AWE has had several events since being back with more in the works! This post is meant as a quick update for our followers to get to know what AWE is involved in on a weekly basis! In the most recent event, undergraduates were invited to a meet and great with graduate students to gain graduate school advice and career guidance. The graduate section of AWE recently held a board game night meant as a mixer and networking event for Penn graduate students. The graduate student section is also continuing its book club, which reads a different women-in-science-and-engineering related literary work each semester. The current title under discussion is Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers.

AWE’s Student-Professor communication division is exploring regular luncheons with different Engineering faculty as a casual setting for students to get to know professors outside the lecture hall. Last week’s luncheon featured Dr. Tom Cassel, director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship program and Professor of Practice in Mechanical Engineering.

AWE’s mentoring division is continuing strongly with this semester’s mentoring program co-hosted with UPenn’s SWE (Society of Women Engineers) chapter! The mentoring program meets twice a month and consists of 3 or 4 students of different years within similar majors. These monthly meetings usually include a combination of mentoring advice topics and fun engineering challenge problems, such as gum drop structure building competitions!

Lastly, AWE is now finalizing plans for its GEMS (Girls in Engineering Math and Science Camp program) program that takes place every summer on UPenn’s campus. GEMS is open to middle school girls who are interested in exploring the different engineering science fields. For more information about the application, please read more on the AWE website at

Keep an eye out for more updates on our events! As always, you can find more information about AWE at Please check us out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Student Spotlight:Engineers Without Borders

Engineering is often looked at as a daunting and unapproachable discipline filled with introverts and geeks. It is, however, quite the opposite. Engineering is a practical and exciting field loaded with out going people looking to tackle the problems facing our world. I admit, I did not always feel this way, but after having the opportunity to travel with Engineers Without Borders to Cameroon this past winter break, the sentiment manifested itself.

My name is Sophia Stylianos, and I am a sophomore at Penn studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics. I have lots of interests and just recently diagnosed myself as ‘addicted to extra curricular activities’– I play on the club soccer team, I take part in Greek Life at Penn, I work in the machine shop, and I’m on the Board for AWE. Though, if I had to choose one organization for which I am the most passionate, it would have to be Penn’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Engineers Without Borders is a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life through sustainable projects. Penn’s chapter has completed implementation projects in Terreritos, Honduras; Kob, Cameroon; and Gundom, Cameroon. Our chapter has also worked with organizations and conducted research in West Bengal, India; Ghana; Guatemala; and Pearlington, MS. Locally, we teach high school students about Biodiesel and Alternative Energy at Saul High School and Science Leadership Academy, both located right here in Philly.

Penn EWB’s most recent undertaking was a sanitation project on Mbengwi, Cameroon. I was lucky enough to be apart of the implementation team for this project in which we partneded with a local NGO, MQLIF, and built latrines at two primary schools, GPS Mbengwi and GS Njinenong. These latrines were built to stop contamination of ground water and give the children and faculty a clean and safe place to use the bathroom while at school. Before the latrines, often times when children needed to relieve themselves, they were told to simply hold it, or just go on the side of the mountain in which the school was located. Some children, especially young women, would have to skip school for this reason. We also had a chance to organize a community health day where Health Club representatives from dozens of local primary and high schools came together the discuss pertinent health issues facing their region.

I cannot begin to describe everything I learned and felt on my trip with EWB. If I did, you would be reading for days. What I can fit into the space of this blog is that traveling with EWB over winter break was easily the coolest and most rewarding thing I've ever done. And I'm not saying "rewarding" in the whole "look at us, we're helping people" kind of way. I mean it in that I probably learned more about the world, development, engineering, foreign culture, and myself during those 10-12 days on the ground in Cameroon than I have during my 14+ years of formal education.

Our next project is going to take place in San Juan de la Laguna, Guatemala located on the shores of Lake Atitlán. We hope to implement an irrigation system to help farmers decontaminate and transport the water supply for their crops. One other student leader and I are about to head out on the assessment trip with our mentors on Friday, so I hope to write back soon with updates on our next trip!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Student Spotlight: Undergraduate Research

Hi everyone! My name is Michelle Calabrese and I’m a junior in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. While everyone talks about how it’s so easy to get involved with undergraduate research, I feel that few people are actually interested in pursuing careers in research. Well if you ARE one of those interested in research, I guess you’re lucky to be reading this blog! Recently, I’ve been in pursuit of finding a research position at a school other than Penn. Last year, I was guaranteed a research position and my own project as part of the Rachleff Scholars program. This year, I wanted to branch out and apply to REU programs and research jobs at the national labs. For those of you that don’t know, REU stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates, which are summer research projects at different major universities funded by the National Science Foundation.

I began my quest for a research job starting in the fall. I went on the NSF website and located virtually every REU in relation to chemical engineering, energy research, and environmental sustainability. After compiling my list, I also researched all of the National Labs so I could choose two to apply to through the Department of Energy. I met with an advisor and narrowed my search down to 15 REU sites (which my advisor thought was a ridiculously high number, but I wanted to be sure I’d get in!). I started writing all of my research statements, essays, etc. and telling each place why their specific REU program would be a great fit for me.

Ten applications into my process (some applications aren’t due until mid March, so I hadn’t finished those), I received an offer from one of my top five REU sites. My problem was that I had to respond within two weeks of my offer, and wouldn’t hear from all of my other sites before that. After going into panic mode (you would think I would be less stressed, rather than more stressed, about having a job) and calling my mother on speed dial about every five minutes, I began contacting my top sites and seeing if they could release their decisions early (sadly most of them couldn’t). I checked the Department of Energy website, as working at one of the National Labs was my top choice, and to my dismay I saw that I might not hear about my decision until April 1st.

Luckily, I didn’t give up and went specifically to my top choice lab’s website. This lab specifically allowed students to contact a mentor directly. If the mentor agreed, you would be accepted into the program. Naturally, I started compiling a list of researchers that I might want to work with. While it was a long shot, I figured sending out emails wouldn’t hurt. Even if someone did respond, I thought that I might be too late to meet my other deadline.

I found one scientist in fuel cell research that I particularly wanted to work with. I composed an email trying to sell myself, had my parents proofread it, and sent it off to my potential mentor. I meant to do the same for the others mentors as well, but did not have time to do enough background research that day.

While I assumed I would not receive a response, I came back home one morning from a Relay for Life conference to see an email from my potential mentor. While I assumed he would say he could not host a student, I opened my email to a two-sentence response that he would be happy to host me for the summer. I was overjoyed at the response and glad that all of my hard work had paid off. So now here I sit with a great job for the summer and hopefully, a great experience to prepare me more before applying to grad school.

Moral of the story: 1) while many Penn engineers love industry, a career in research can be great too! 2) don’t be afraid to go after the job you want, and 3) persistence is key!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Student Spotlight: Engineering Sorority and Scholarships

Hi everyone! My name is Stephanie Pasquesi and I am a PhD student in Bioengineering here at Penn. As an undergraduate, I majored in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). During my time at UIUC, I had the great fortune of being involved in Alpha Omega Epsilon, a social and professional sorority for women in engineering and technical sciences. I can honestly say that joining A.O.E. is one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Many of you may be thinking “… sorority? …engineering?” and to be honest, that’s what a lot of our members think when they initially discover A.O.E. but let me explain: A.O.E. is not your typical sorority. Our Ideals and Objectives state that we promote friendship, leadership, and professionalism in all that we do, but what we embody is so much more than those three words. During my years as an undergraduate member, I always found comfort in having a group of girls who shared many of my same interests and classes at a big university in a curriculum where females are often a rarity. I always had someone to confide in, study with, or go out and have fun with. Needless to say, A.O.E. was a huge part of my life as a college undergraduate.

As previously mentioned, Alpha Omega Epsilon is both social and professional, meaning we hold events to help in our professional development as well as others that allow us to relax and have fun. It is truly the best of both worlds! Some professional events I participated in included resume building workshops, lunches with university professors, informational nights with large engineering corporations, business etiquette dinners, and panel discussions with career women on topics such as balancing work and family life. On the other hand, social events included activities with campus fraternities such as dinner and salsa or swing dancing, Halloween pumpkin carving, bowling, Super Bowl parties, and much more.

Another, and perhaps the most important aspect of my experience in Alpha Omega Epsilon is our sisterhood. In my undergraduate chapter, we would go out to dinner or hold our own potlucks, visit apple orchards in the fall, participate in various philanthropic and community service events, and study for exams together, among other activities. In addition, we have 25 active chapters and 2 colonies across the U.S. and Canada, and our annual convention each summer has allowed me to make friendships and network with other Alpha Omega Epsilon sisters –all of who are women in engineering and technical professions – outside of my undergraduate and graduate school experience. We also have a very active alumnae network, and I am fortunate enough to be serving as the chair for this summer’s convention in Philly!

Finally, one other really cool thing about A.O.E. is our National Foundation, a non-profit organization associated with the Sorority which primarily focuses on academic development programs, professional and leadership development programs, volunteer development programs, and organizational grants. The Alpha Omega Epsilon National Foundation provides grants and scholarships to women in engineering and technical sciences (you do not need to be a member of the Sorority to apply for or receive a scholarship/grant).

As a TA this fall, some of my students expressed some interest in forming a chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon here at Penn. To help get the word out, I will be holding a few Alpha Omega Epsilon information sessions for any interested women in the next few weeks here on campus. The first will be Monday, February 7th, 6-7pm, 307 Levine, and the second will be Tuesday, February 15th, 6:30-7:30pm, 307 Levine. Light refreshments will be served! I hope to see many of you there!

If you can’t make these times, but are still interested in hearing more, please don’t hesitate to contact me at I also encourage you all to view our website at Our National Foundation’s website is located at if you would like more information on grant and scholarship opportunities we provide to the general public.

With so much going on, the beauty of Alpha Omega Epsilon is that it provides many opportunities for growth in different areas. Whether you are looking for professional development, new friendships, service opportunities, or someone to study with, A.O.E. offers it all and so much more. I look forward to meeting you all!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Student Spotlight: Internships!

Hey guys! My name is Sarah Clark and I’m a junior at Penn majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Everyone knows one of the best things about Penn is the ease in getting involved in undergraduate research. I preach it in every tour that I give and the resources to get involved are everywhere you turn. I, however, quickly realized research is not for everyone, and especially not for me. What I am more interested in is working in industry and just as the best way to prepare for your PhD or a future in research is to do undergraduate research, the best way to boost your resume for a career in industry is summer internships. This blog post just has a couple of tips that I have about the whole process.

I was able to get an internship the summer after my sophomore year, which is sometimes more difficult because you’re not as experienced, so I recommend not being too picky. I was grateful to just have one and now I am lined up for a great one this summer I’m really excited about. First, what surprised me was how early I needed to get my applications, resumes, cover letters, and recommendations into these companies! Many large companies have structured programs for interns and the deadlines are early (typically January-March, but some as early as October). Almost 100% of applications for internships take place online, which doesn’t always work to your advantage as convenient as it is. Your info just goes into a huge database full of applicants and there’s no easy answer to how to get selected. This means that applying to just one company and crossing your fingers probably won’t work. You will actually not hear back from most that they even read your application. The trick: look EVERYWHERE. OCR (On Campus Recruiting) is nice because it is offered through Penn so you have a smaller applicant pool. I have applied to a few OCR positions, interviewed for two, and had an out of town interview and offer from one. I actually turned this offer down but going through the interview process was an excellent experience. It’s great to practice interviewing for positions that aren’t necessarily your dream job, because you’re more comfortable when your dream job actually comes along. Aside from OCR, it’s up to you to google names of companies you’re interested in, find their career websites, and check out their internships. Dig deep. For instance, I was interested in aerospace and it’s easy to think of the big names (Boeing, NASA, Lockheed Martin), but it helps to search for smaller companies in this industry as well. Their internships will have smaller applicant pools and you’ll probably even get a more intimate experience working there. I actually got both of my internships from applying online: the one for next summer being my dream internship at Boeing, whose phone interview I was able to ace thanks to the practice I had gotten from other interviews! So as far as summer internships go, don’t just count on applying to once place, it’s up to you to explore all your options, take the interview process as far as you can go if only for the practice, and start early!

For those readers that are Penn students, SWE is offering a speed mentoring event next month, so look out for notices on an event that’s sure to give more great tips! AWE is also planning an interview prep workshop and Career Services always has tons of info sessions and resume building workshops. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of all your resources and good luck!