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February 3, 2021

For senior Jemimah Mawande, materials science combines creativity and diversity

Written By: Jason Daley

Jemimah Mawande
Jemimah Mawande. Photo credit: Sodie Yang.

As a high school student in Woodbury, Minnesota, Jemimah Mawande wasn’t sure which direction her life was headed. She loved STEM subjects, but also had a creative side that she wanted to express. “Then I discovered engineering,” says the University of Wisconsin-Madison senior. “It’s a field where you basically integrate STEM skills and creativity, which was really interesting to me. You can change people’s lives, essentially.”

Almost four years after entering the UW-Madison College of Engineering as a materials science and engineering major, Mawande is still enthusiastic about her field. In fact, she says, her education and her experiences have made her even more passionate about engineering.

One important part of Mawande’s journey at UW-Madison is the Leaders in Engineering Excellence and Diversity (LEED) Scholars Program, which supports academically talented women and students from historically underrepresented groups in engineering. The program includes scholarships, monthly meetings and speakers, academic advising, mentoring and social opportunities. “The LEED program has been a phenomenal experience,” Mawande says.

In particular, she says, LEED study groups during her freshman year helped her through difficult courses like calculus and chemistry. “There’s just so much that I’ve gained from that community that I’m really grateful for,” she says.

As she prepares to graduate in spring 2021, Mawande is also very happy with her major, which satisfies both her analytical and creative side. “MS&E is like an undiscovered gem. It has so many different fields that I could go into; it integrates physics, chemistry and very cool, groundbreaking research into novel fields such as nanomaterials. That’s exciting to me,” she says.

Mawande hopes to work in the consumer packaged goods industry after she graduates, an interest she developed during an eight-month co-op at Kimberly-Clark in Neenah, Wisconsin, in 2019.

Mawande also expresses her creativity through her involvement in the student-run publication The Wisconsin Engineer. She joined the quarterly magazine as a writer her freshman year, which allowed her to engage with faculty, researchers and other students she may not have met otherwise. “I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s just my best form of expressing myself,” she says.

In the 2020-21 academic year, she is serving as co-editor of the magazine, which has required some important adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mawande and her team have had to figure out how to run the typically hands-on publication remotely. “We’ve had to do a lot of adjusting, finding out what works and thinking about how to transform into a remote organization. It’s been a great learning experience,” she says.

While her studies are extremely important to her, Mawande says she has also had fun at UW-Madison, spending plenty of afternoons on State Street and the Union Terrace and performing with the university’s Rootz: Afro-Caribbean Dance Team. While the pandemic has put a damper on much of that during her senior year, she says she’s not too upset. “I did enjoy myself a lot,” she says. “But right now, I’m learning a ton of skills and focusing on success.”