Chemical engineering graduate student Naseeha Cardwell is one in 1,000—recently chosen among 1,100 applicants for a Society of Women Engineers (SWE) 2022 Intel Graduate Diversity Scholarship.
It’s a place she didn’t expect to be and one that was made possible by support she has received along the way.
“Being the first woman in my family to be college educated and first in my family on the path to pursuing a Ph.D., there are many things I never even realized I would have to know or were even possible, so there are definitely times of self-doubt and uncertainty in this journey,” she said. “Receiving scholarships is a prideful experience but having the support and recognition is the main part—Just knowing that there are people and organizations out there that are dedicated to supporting and uplifting me is a huge relief as I continue in this journey.”
Originally from Des Moines, Washington, Cardwell came to WSU after receiving her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Montana State University. She has an interest in developing sustainable fuels and began her career with internships at the Department of Energy and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where she studied corrosion of nuclear waste glass.
Her current research is in the area of biofuel development and using computational efforts for catalytic upgrading of biofuels. She is working to improve the efficiency of catalytic processes to make biofuels more competitive with petroleum-based fuels. She is also collaborating with experimentalists at Pacific National Lab on using electric fields to mitigate the oxidation of iron-based catalysts. Eventually, she hopes to work at a national lab, conducting research on renewable energy within the field of computational catalysis.
“I hope to continue research on biofuel upgrading, as that is where I believe the focus of sustainability should be,” she said. “My experience and research have shown me that biofuels are a necessary part of our future. The drop-in nature of these fuels allows us to keep our already existing infrastructure while using a more sustainable feedstock, enabling us to make long-lasting modifications to the systems we rely on.”
Cardwell first became involved in SWE in college, and her advisor and friends in the group were influential in her decision to attend graduate school. At WSU, she has served as professional development coordinator for the group. The group puts together workshops and panels specifically targeted for women graduate students in engineering fields.
“GradSWE is a great organization for students to join because we support graduate women in engineering through various events,” she said. “I am happy to be a part of this organization and this chapter not just because of its success, but because all the women that make up this club are so wonderful and supportive.”
In fact, one of her colleagues in SWE recommended she apply for the Intel scholarship, which will provide Cardwell with $10,000 as well as mentorship and job opportunities.
“SWE is a great organization in that as much as it gives back to us, it also encourages us to give back to others, which is very important to me,” she said.
Cardwell is thankful for the support that she has received along her education journey, including from her family, advisors, co-workers, friends, and SWE colleagues.
“I really encourage others to join organizations, even if SWE is not a good fit for you—having a community that supports you and that you can support is important to everyone’s success and well-being,” she said.