Outstanding Collegiate Member
Claudia E. Berdugo-Díaz
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
For being an outstanding scientist, leader, and mentor; for leadership style that advances women and Latinx students in STEM; and for leading others by example, hard work, and drive to excel.
Claudia E. Berdugo-Díaz completed her undergraduate studies with a B.S. in chemical engineering from Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL).
In just two years as an undergraduate researcher, her work resulted in two international presentations and two journal articles (lead author on one article). Based on her academic performance and research experience, she was selected to participate in the Internship in Global Engineering and Advanced Research program at Michigan State University.
Berdugo-Díaz brought her academic excellence to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where she is currently a fifth-year doctoral student in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering. As a graduate student researcher, she mentors junior graduate students and undergraduates who work with her and has been recognized as an “Excellent TA.” She aspires to a career in science focused on biomass catalytic upgrading for the sustainable production of chemicals and fuels.
Her affiliation with the Society of Women Engineers began in 2017 when she joined the UIUC campus, where she began to volunteer and serve as an advocate for women on campus. She joined the UIUC GradSWE team as a publicity subcommittee volunteer. She helped publicize GradSWE’s annual flagship conference, Women Empowered in STEM, drawing 140-plus graduate students and some 20 speakers from across the U.S. She collaborated with more than 30 committee members, volunteers, and speakers to ensure all schedules and media were handled. She later served as treasurer and evaluated programs and activities, providing clear recommendations for funding increases or cuts.
Even with these initial successes, as the only Latinx woman in the organization, Berdugo-Díaz often felt as if she didn’t belong because she lacked the SWE undergraduate experiences that connected her colleagues. She persevered, however, because she identified with SWE’s mission and eventually found her niche in the global women engineers affinity group (GWE-AG). She joined GWE-AG as a building community lead and then served as co-lead during FY20. The affinity group’s focus was increasing membership and volunteering. Berdugo-Díaz helped GWE-AG streamline operations, host quarterly meetings, create a succession planning strategy, and roll out a call for officer applications that resulted in a core team of 10 members, including SWE members from seven different countries. By the end of FY20, GWE-AG had increased by 167% in one year to 477 members, becoming the largest SWE affinity group. The team’s efforts earned the 2020 Motorola Foundation Multicultural Professional Award. She served as FY21 GWE-AG lead and currently serves as a leadership coach with the SWE leadership coaching committee, by coaching collegiate sections and global affiliates.
A founding member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) student chapter at UNAL, Berdugo-Díaz was also involved with the UIUC chemical and biomolecular engineering department graduate student advisory council. She has received several recognitions, including the SWE WE Local 2021 Rising Star Award, the A.T. Widiger Chemical Engineering Fellowship, and the 3M Corporate Fellowship.
In her free time, Berdugo-Díaz enjoys dancing, playing the ukulele, traveling, and reading.