AeroWomen Workshop prepares engineering graduate students for STEM careers

Chris Spallino
September 21, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Eighteen graduate students from aerospace engineering and other Penn State engineering programs took part in the first-ever Graduate AeroWomen Professional Development Workshop on Aug. 25 and 26 at the University Park campus.

The workshop, hosted by the aerospace engineering department, was created to help prepare female engineering graduate students for successful and sustainable STEM careers through the understanding and mastering of non-technical aspects.

"The AeroWomen Workshop was truly inspiring,” said Sema Erten, doctorate candidate in engineering science and mechanics. “It is crucial to have an open and evolving conversation about exciting, engaging, inspiring and empowering women in engineering fields and to have a platform to share ideas and experiences.”

The two-day event kicked off with keynote presentations by Amy Pritchett, aerospace engineering department head, and aerospace engineering alumna Pamela Gomez, NextGen Performance and Outreach, Federal Aviation Administration.

Additional sessions included the following:

  • Career panel discussion with Gomez; Swati Saxena, project and program manager at ESI Group R&D; Sunny Wicks, research engineer at Lockheed Martin; Peggy Johnson, dean of Penn State Schreyer Honors College and professor of civil engineering; and Julianna Simon, assistant professor of acoustics
  • Professional skills exercises on self-marketing, negotiation tactics and problem solving conducted by Namiko Yamamoto, co-organizer of the workshop and assistant professor of aerospace engineering, and Susan Stewart, co-organizer and senior research associate and associate professor of aerospace engineering and architectural engineering
  • Inclusivity seminar by Thomas Litzinger, assistant dean for educational innovation and accreditation and director of the Leonhard Center
  • Networking activities with fellow participants, engineering faculty and University personnel

“When I was a graduate student, I had this ‘unarticulated anxiety’ about my future career in engineering. It went away only after talking to senior professionals,” said Yamamoto. “From their stories and advice, I developed healthy expectations and felt supported in my career decisions. Our goal with the workshop was to pay it forward with the same type of advice and support from successful professionals across industry, government and academia.”

Feedback from the participants was positive. 

“The workshop was an enriching experience. It also reaffirmed my belief in the limitless possibilities for personal and professional development in the fields of science and engineering,” said Shreya Trivedi, graduate student in aerospace engineering.

Yamamoto and Stewart hope to build on the success of the event and conduct future workshops with expanded offerings. 

“We are engineers, so we are capable of scoping challenges and coming up with good solutions as a team,” said Stewart. “We hope to continue what we started with this workshop, and participation from the vast Penn State alumni network, including both women and men, would make a huge difference in its growth and continued success.”

The AeroWomen Workshop was sponsored by the University's Equal Opportunity Planning Committee. Michelle Vigeant, assistant professor of acoustics and architectural engineering, also was a co-organizer of the workshop.

To view photos from the workshop, please see the photo album.

For individuals who are interested in being involved with future AeroWomen workshops or activities, contact Namiko Yamamoto at

  • Namiko Yamamoto, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, Penn State, receives ONR grant.

    Namiko Yamamoto, assistant professor of aerospace engineering

    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Susan Stewart, senior research associate and associate professor of aerospace engineering

    Susan Stewart, senior research associate and associate professor of aerospace engineering

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated September 21, 2017