Outstanding Collegiate Member

Vidhya Thiyagarajan

University of Pittsburgh

For embracing and advancing SWE’s mission at the collegiate and Society levels; for inspiring young students throughout their engineering journeys; and for making mentoring a focus of sustained student engagement.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, resident Vidhya Thiyagarajan, is a senior chemical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). She joined the Society of Women Engineers collegiate section (PittSWE), where she has taken on several leadership positions: elementary outreach co-chair, high school outreach chair, vice president of outreach, and vice president.

Thiyagarajan’s involvement in SWE began in high school when she founded and led the Lehigh Valley Academy SWENext club at her school, open to girls with an interest in STEM and SWE. Once she arrived at Pitt, she immediately continued her involvement in SWE and was elected co-chair of Elementary Outreach Day. Thiyagarajan coordinated registration, meals, and activities for two large-scale elementary outreach efforts, where she organized and led candy- and superhero-themed engineering outreach events for more than 300 students and parents. She served in a similar capacity as chair of High School Outreach Day, where she developed 12 virtual workshops for more than 200 high school students and their parents. This past year, she helped two Pittsburgh high schools start SWENext clubs.

To continue to have a positive impact on aspiring women engineers, Thiyagarajan co-chaired the annual Women in STEM conference, a professional development event for high schoolers where she managed more than 20 volunteers and reached 160 participants. In her current role as vice president, she works on initiatives to engage more than 300 members and develop leadership potential of 20-plus officers.

In addition to her involvement in PittSWE, Thiyagarajan has actively volunteered on the Society-level awards and recognition, membership, and bylaws committees as well as on several SWENext committee work groups. She has also developed how-to resources for new SWENext clubs and quarterly challenges to stimulate critical thinking and advanced teamwork skills of more than 2,000 SWENexters. She developed and launched three SWENext awards: Best Practices in Outreach, Best Practices in College Preparation, and Best Practices in Engineering Engagement. To recognize her various initiatives in SWE, Thiyagarajan received the WE Local Rising Star Award in 2021 and the WE Local Guiding Star Award in 2022.

At Pitt, Thiyagarajan serves her peers in the First-Year Engineering Program as a mentor, tutor, and teaching assistant for general chemistry. She has mentored more than 40 engineering students on transitioning to university and degree planning and has hosted events to keep them involved in the Pitt community. She also is an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Thiyagarajan is committed to her education through her involvement in process intensification research, attaining a quality engineering internship with B. Braun Medical Inc., and completing co-ops in process development, process improvement and process engineering with The Lubrizol Corporation. In recognition of her academic achievements, she has received The Lubrizol Foundation Scholarship and the Roquette Employee Dependent Scholarship.

She expects to complete a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2023 and continue her SWE outreach and membership activities. When she takes breaks from her studies, Thiyagarajan enjoys spending time with her family and friends, going on hikes, and trying new recipes.