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Preparing Female Engineering Doctoral Students for the Academic Job Market Through a Training Program Inspired by Peer Review

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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

Supporting Diversity through Co-curricular Programming

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1247.1 - 26.1247.11



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Paper Authors


Yanfen Li University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Yanfen Li is currently a third year Ph.D student in Dr. Kilian's lab 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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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. Danielle 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. Danielle is an active member and current speaker coordinator of the Graduate Committee of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE).

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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 the pharmaceutical drug discovery. Aside from her research, Elizabeth 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 after they complete their degree.

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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. He is a faculty member with affiliations in several departments across campus (Primary – Bioengineering: Affiliated - Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry) as well as the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Rohit received dual B.Tech. degrees (in Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science and Engineering) from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi in 1996 and his doctoral thesis work at 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. Rohit has been at Illinois since as Assistant Professor (2005-2011), Associate Professor (2011-2012) and Professor (2012-). Rohit was the first assistant professor hired into the new Bioengineering department and played a key role in the development of its curriculum and activities. He later founded and serves as the coordinator of the Cancer Community@Illinois, a group dedicated to advancing cancer-related research and scholarship on campus. 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. Using 3D printing and engineered tumor models, recent research seeks to elucidate hetero-cellular interactions in cancer progression. Rohit’s work has been recognized with several research awards nationally. Among recent honors are the Meggers Award (Society for applied spectroscopy, 2014), Craver Award (Coblentz Society, 2013) and the FACSS Innovation Award (2012). Rohit has also been recognized for his dedication to teaching in the College of Engineering (Rose and Everitt awards) and he is routinely nominated to the list of teachers ranked excellent at Illinois.

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Preparing Female Engineering Doctoral Students for the Academic Job Market through a Training Program Inspired by Peer Review Yanfen Li, Danielle J. Mai, Elizabeth M. Horstman, 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 The ‘leakypipeline’ of women in STEM fields remains an ongoing discussion, with potential causesincluding student impressions of work-life balance in academia, a lack of role models inengineering, and decreased self-confidence following a doctoral degree. The GraduateCommittee of the Society of Women Engineers (GradSWE) at the University of Illinois atUrbana-Champaign has launched a program to specifically target the gender gap in engineeringby improving the strength of faculty position applications from female doctoral students. TheIllinois Female Engineers in Academic Training (iFEAT) is a multi-month program designed tostrengthen the applications of female faculty candidates. Specifically, iFEAT providesinformational resources for prospective faculty candidates through seminars and paneldiscussions, followed by peer review groups for students to share and review applicationmaterials. iFEAT aims to address several causes of the ‘leaky pipeline’ by increasing candidateconfidence, introducing students to role models, and changing student perceptions of academiclife. The program also aims to foster a supportive community through increased traineeinteractions with faculty and peers. The peer review groups also provide opportunities fortrainees to learn from each other, find mentors, and establish future relationships. Twelve female doctoral students were selected as iFEAT trainees based on theiracademic record, standing in their graduate program, and demonstrated commitment toacademia. Surveys administered at the beginning, mid-point, and end of the program requesttrainees to self-report their aspirations and intentions for the academic job search, the progress oftheir application materials, and their confidence level in the application process. We seek toquantify any changes in the trainees’ goals, perceived preparation levels, and confidence levelsthroughout the program. As trainees progress through iFEAT and gain information about theapplication process, we will note shifts in perception of the most challenging and most importantcomponents of the application process. We will also monitor any changes in trainee careeraspirations, including candidates’ preferred type(s) of institutions and academic positions, plansto conduct postdoctoral research, and anticipated application timeline. Trainees are also given theoption to participate in a post-program interview, which is intended to uncover the reasoningbehind any confirmations of or major changes in career plans and perceptions. Ultimately, weseek to track student outcomes from the program and uncover factors that may contribute to orprevent the ‘leaky pipeline’ of female engineers in academia.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

Li, Y., & Mai, D. J., & Horstman, E., & Bhargava, R. (2015, June), Preparing Female Engineering Doctoral Students for the Academic Job Market Through a Training Program Inspired by Peer Review Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24584

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