Outstanding Collegiate Member

Courtney Keiser, Ph.D.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

For steadfast advocacy for women in STEM by establishing a graduate SWE group; for creating opportunities to develop SWE collegiate leaders; and for outreach to the next generation of engineers.

Women seeking a degree in an engineering field often find themselves the only woman in their course of study. It proved true for Courtney Keiser, Ph.D., who, while an undergraduate physics major at the University of Northern Iowa, founded the Women in Physics Club to assist other women seeking a degree in a male-dominated STEM field. Upon entering graduate school at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) in 2017, she joined the Society of Women Engineers collegiate section because she recognized SWE’s value to aspiring women engineers.

Dr. Keiser was the section’s only graduate student. After a year, she was elected the section’s graduate student advisor and sought to recruit other students. She channeled her enthusiasm for SWE and founded the UNL GradSWE group in 2021 with 35 graduate students.

She structured UNL GradSWE within eight months during the global pandemic and worked to build a nurturing, creative, and inclusive environment. The fledgling group met over Zoom to maintain engagement as virtual learning and research took place and in-person gatherings were limited. Dr. Keiser produced email newsletters to share personal and professional development content and provide updates and volunteer opportunities within SWE.

To become a more effective and inclusive leader and to grow UNL GradSWE and its members, Dr. Keiser participated in the SWE Leadership Development Program and the Collegiate Leadership Institute. She extended similar growth opportunities to graduate members by securing an estimated $8,000 in university funds to send 30 members to the virtual WE20 and weSTEM conferences and in person to the WE21 conference.

Dr. Keiser’s advocacy extends to youth. She has participated in and coordinated such outreach events as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, Women in STEM Day, and “Wow! That’s Engineering!®

She has received many academic and SWE awards that recognize her exemplary academic scholarship, leadership skills, and unyielding advocacy for women engineers, including: the UNL Chancellor’s Outstanding Contribution to the Status of Women Award; the UNL GradSWE Individual Award; and the WE Local Guiding Star Award. Her academic achievements were recognized with a UNL College of Engineering Professional Development Fellowship; UNL Graduate Complete Engineer Award; and the First Honors Award in Engineering, UNL Student Research Days competition, among others.

Dr. Keiser is an advanced materials engineer whose graduate research was focused on developing, characterizing, and testing cardiovascular repair devices for improved patient treatment outcomes. She has authored and co-authored several undergraduate and graduate research publications in materials science and has participated in invited poster and oral presentations. Today, Dr. Keiser is a research and development engineer at Abbott Laboratories in Plymouth, Minnesota, working on developing cardiac ablation catheters.

Dr. Keiser holds a Ph.D. in mechanical and materials engineering from UNL and a B.S. in physics with minors in mathematics and nanoscience/nanotechnology from the University of Northern Iowa.

In her free time, she enjoys hiking, foraging for mushrooms, lifting weights, and reading.