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A Program for Graduate Women in Engineering Pursuing Academic Careers (iFEAT: Illinois Female Engineers in Academia Training)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.88.1 - 26.88.10



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Paper Authors


Elizabeth Horstman University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Elizabeth Horstman is a third-year graduate student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Her research focuses on developing microfluidic platforms for applications in pharmaceutical drug discovery. Aside from her research, Horstman is the director of the graduate division of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) at Illinois. In this role, she hopes to encourage women to pursue graduate school, support them throughout their graduate education, and help prepare them for their future careers.

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Danielle Jamie Mai University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Danielle J. Mai is a Ph.D. candidate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mai earned her B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and an Illinois Mavis Future Faculty Fellow. Her dissertation research focuses on improving the understanding of branched polymer dynamics via single molecule experiments. Mai is an active member and current speaker coordinator of the Graduate Committee of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE).

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Yanfen Li University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Yanfen Li is a third-year Ph.D. student in the department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focus is on biomaterials and tissue engineering. At the U of I, she is the Academic Liaison for the graduate section of the Society of Women Engineers.

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Rohit Bhargava University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Rohit Bhargava is Bliss Faculty Scholar of Engineering and Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Bhargava received dual B.Tech. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1996. His doctoral thesis work in the Case Western Reserve University Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering was in the area of polymer spectroscopy. He then worked as a Research Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (2000-2005) in the area of biomedical vibrational spectroscopy. Bhargava has been at Illinois since as Assistant Professor (2005-2011), Associate Professor (2011-2012) and Professor (2012-Present). He founded and serves as the coordinator of the Cancer Community @ Illinois. Research in the Bhargava laboratories focuses on fundamental theory and simulation for vibrational spectroscopic imaging, developing new instrumentation and developing chemical imaging for molecular pathology.

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A Program for Graduate Women in Engineering Pursuing Academic Careers (iFEAT: Illinois Female Engineers in Academia Training) Elizabeth M. Horstman, Danielle J. Mai, Yanfen Li, Rohit Bhargava According to data collected by the National Science Foundation, women were conferredroughly 40% of doctoral degrees in STEM fields from 2002-2012, yet in 2010, womenaccounted for only 27% of tenure-track assistant professorships in engineering.1 While thegender gap in STEM fields remains an ongoing discussion,2-4 programs that provide resourcesand support for female engineering doctoral students interested in pursuing academic careersmay help to address this gap. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign regularly hostsseminars and afternoon-long workshops for doctoral students to learn about the academic jobapplication process. Although these seminars and workshops are effective at disseminatinginformation, they do little to encourage students to seriously consider, prepare for, and apply tofaculty positions. To address the aforementioned issue, the Graduate Committee of the Society ofWomen Engineers (GradSWE) at Illinois developed the Illinois Female Engineers in AcademiaTraining (iFEAT) program. iFEAT is a multi-month program with seminars and paneldiscussions, which are geared toward informing participants about the academic job applicationprocess, and independent peer review groups, which provide feedback on prepared applicationmaterials. Specific aims of iFEAT are for participants to demonstrate increased knowledge of thefaculty position application process, to prepare tangible application materials, and to increaseconfidence in their application packages. To ensure program development, iFEAT will be evaluated primarily based on program (i)content, (ii) format, (iii) pace, and (iv) climate. The program structure was designed to encouragecommunication and camaraderie among participants and faculty. Approximately every 3 weeks,students will attend a seminar or faculty panel discussion. Between each of these major events,student peer review groups will share and review application materials. Seminars will provideinformation about applying for a faculty position, tailoring cover letters to specific job postings,understanding (or developing) a teaching philosophy, applying for funding (transforming aresearch statement into a funding proposal), and determining ideal recommenders (learning tocultivate relationships with potential recommenders). Panel discussions will widen students’perspectives toward developing a unique research statement, understanding the interviewprocess, and negotiating a start-up package. Independent peer review groups will provide theprimary form of feedback on application materials. Near the end of the program, students will‘submit’ their application packages to a different peer group that will act as a ‘search committee.’All members of the ‘search committee’ will read other applicants’ packages and provideanonymous feedback to the applicants. This process will help students better understand howsearch committees operate, as well as broaden the scope of their teaching and researchstatements. At the end of iFEAT, students will have a peer-reviewed draft of applicationmaterials, as well as access to professors who support the development and advancement offemale faculty in engineering. Through iFEAT, we hope to increase the representation of womenin academia, as well as improve the competitiveness of Illinois graduates seeking academiccareers.References1. National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 2013. Women, Minorities,and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2013. Special Report NSF 13-304. Arlington, VA.Available at Rethink your gender attitudes. Nature Materials, 2014.3. Shen, H. Inequality quantified: Mind the gender gap. Nature, 2013.4. Moss-Racusin, C.A., et al., Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students. Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences, 2012.

Horstman, E., & Mai, D. J., & Li, Y., & Bhargava, R. (2015, June), A Program for Graduate Women in Engineering Pursuing Academic Careers (iFEAT: Illinois Female Engineers in Academia Training) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23429

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