Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Associates

Penn Engineering’s graduate enrollment of women and underrepresented students is in line with peer institutions, and is complemented by the multifaceted efforts outlined below to further improve our cohort and be a leader in this area. The School has also established new programs to develop and support postdoctoral associates as they transition to faculty positions or positions in industry. Many of the development programs open to graduate students are also open to postdoctoral associates as well.

Strategic Actions


Penn Engineering’s Graduate Diversity Recruitment Initiative includes working with organizations within the University of Pennsylvania and those at other universities to attract diverse students. Internal organizations include Advancing Women in Engineering and the Dean’s Doctoral Diversity Advisory Board, who help to host recruiting events that attract a diverse graduate student cohort. External organizations include Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) and other diversity focused programs, such as the Meyerhoff Scholars at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. Many enrollees are awarded Fontaine Fellowships. Penn Engineering is also a long-term member of the National GEM Consortium and currently has GEM Fellows who are actively completing their doctoral degrees.

Faculty Engagement

With an increased emphasis on recruitment efforts from both the School and University, our faculty are also engaged in the recruitment of women and underrepresented students via connections with colleagues at peer and regional institutions to attract promising students to our graduate programs. Penn Engineering hosts an annual doctoral open house event for prospective students to visit and meet with faculty and administrators.

Retention and Mentoring

Acculturation and support during the first six weeks of a graduate program play a major role in student success. Furthermore, access to mentors and advisors as students pass key milestones, including graduate mentor selection and qualifying exams, help students to successfully navigate these processes. We have restructured first-year doctoral student advising across the School to provide this support to all incoming doctoral students, including the growing cohort of women and students from diverse backgrounds. Advising and professional development training are continued throughout the graduate student tenure to provide guidance in terms of success at each stage, including managing the advisor/advisee relationship, preparing a dissertation proposal, conducting research and writing and defending a doctoral thesis.  This execution of this mentoring plan draws on the talents of the broad community that interacts with doctoral students, including graduate group chairs, graduate group coordinators, Dean’s Office staff, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, student programs and the external community.

Professional Development Workshops

Workshops to support Penn Engineering graduate students and postdoctoral associates are offered throughout the academic year, with themes such as, The Joy of Being Faculty I; How I Developed my Research Program; The Joy of Being Faculty II; The Faculty Application Process; and Entrepreneurship Outside of Academic Settings. These workshops are jointly sponsored by Penn Engineering’s Advancing Women in Engineering (AWE) office and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Dean’s Doctoral Diversity Advisory Board

This board, with representation from two doctoral students from each academic department, serves as the student voice to the administration. Students share strategies for navigating hurdles encountered in their doctoral studies and for creating an inclusive climate in the school.

AWE Graduate Resources

Advancing Women in Engineering (AWE) facilitates several programs that target and support women graduate students in Penn Engineering. These programs are summarized on the AWE website.

Eckert Fellowship

Penn Engineering has launched the J.P.Eckert Fellowship, which will provide six outstanding master’s students who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents with partial tuition assistance. Underrepresented minorities and female students are strongly encouraged to apply.

Student Voices

An Eye on Advanced Robotics

Kendall Queen has a clear vision of the future, and it includes giving sight to robots. “If we can create the technology that allows machines to understand the world around them, we can harness the power of robotics to effectively take on the difficult, dangerous or mundane tasks humans do.

When Curiosity Meets Nano Device Fabrication

Experiencing the democratization of media through third-party applications like LimeWire, YouTube and MySpace may have influenced the perspective and career trajectory of a woman who wants to impact the process of nanofabrication. “I lived through the CD-to-iPod-to-iPhone progression and felt that computers and technology could be a means by which to increase expression and understanding.

Impacting Human Health

A chance opportunity to work with a young girl with a genetic neuromuscular disease inspired a woman to study fluid mechanics as a way to help others overcome physical challenges. “I want my efforts in fluid mechanics research to have a positive impact on others’ quality of life,” says Juliette Sardin, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at Penn Engineering.

Robotics for the Greater Good

A sci-fi dream has yet to materialize: Despite living in an age of quasi-self-driving cars and ubiquitous smartphones, robots in the home are more or less limited to autonomous vacuum cleaners. Monroe Kennedy, a 2019 graduate of the doctoral program in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM), wants to change all that.