By Nicole Capozziello
Published September 20, 2021
Since getting involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in 2014, Jennifer Winikus’s contributions have included collaboration on committees, various leadership roles and presenting research, all part of a journey that she says, “has been filled with amazing mentors and encouragement.”
Winikus, an assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo, was recognized for her many contributions to SWE with their Distinguished New Engineer Award.
The award honors an individual in the first 10 years of their career for outstanding technical performance and leadership in professional organizations, including SWE. Winikus will accept the award at SWE’s annual conference, WE21, held in Indianapolis, Ind., as well as virtually, from Oct. 21-23.
“Since joining UB in 2016, Jenn has shown an outstanding performance in both teaching and service,” says Jinhui Xu, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. “Jenn is a strong advocate for improving the diversity of our student population and promoting women and other underrepresented people in engineering education. She has also provided exemplary outreach to local middle and high school students by organizing the annual CSE-xplore summer camp. This award is a nice recognition for Jenn’s achievements and our whole department is extremely happy for her.”
“This award provides validation of my identity as an engineer, and recognition that I am making a meaningful impact with my work,” says Winikus. “It also means a lot to see engineering education be recognized within the definition of outstanding technical performance. I really like that this award allows me to contribute to the redefinition of what an engineer is, possible engineering career paths, and even what an engineer looks like.”
“The men and women recognized have lived and learned through significant contributions to the engineering community, and they continue to lead in their careers and personal lives,” said Rachel Morford, president of SWE. “They are leaders paving the way to empower and inspire future women engineers across the globe.”
Winikus became involved in SWE in 2014, when a fellow graduate student at Michigan Technological University (MTU) encouraged her to give a technical presentation at the regional conference. In SWE, she found a supportive and inspiring community, locally and beyond, and has been a dedicated SWE member ever since.
During her graduate work at MTU she became co-director of GradSWE, where she was lucky to meet the group’s faculty advisor, who would become an impactful mentor and great friend and colleague after graduating.
When she came to UB, Winikus joined two Society-level committees as a way to connect with more engineers and to contribute to the Society. She went on to join the WE Local Advisory Board, then moved into the Chair-Elect position and is now serving as Chair for the 2021-2022 academic year. She also recently became Chair-Elect for the Women in Academia committee. At recent SWE conferences, she has given one individual talk and three collaborative ones, with two collaborative ones scheduled for the SWE conference in October.
Winikus is also involved locally as the vice president of the SWE WNY Professional section and a leader on campus. “Inspired by my previous faculty advisor, I became the faculty advisor to the UB Student Section,” says Winikus. “Right before the pandemic forced us online I was able to support the graduate students with the launch of the GradSWE part of the UB Section, and they have become extremely successful in creating an environment that supports their professional development and social needs.”
In CSE, Winikus serves as the diversity and K-12 outreach coordinator, as well as co-chair of the diversity subcommittee. Since 2017, she has been the director of CSE-xplore, a camp aimed at broadening diversity in STEM that brings local K-12 students to campus for the chance to learn firsthand about a diverse collection of topics and applications in computer science and engineering.
Winikus received her BS in 2008 and MS in 2010, both in electrical engineering from Alfred University. She earned an MS and PhD in computer engineering from Michigan Technological University in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
Her other honors include the Outstanding Service Award from the UB Department of Computer Science and Engineering (2019) and Outstanding Teaching Award from MTU in 2014. She is also a member of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), in which she was recently elevated to Senior Member.
Founded in 1950, the Society of Women Engineers is the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. SWE’s mission is to empower women to achieve their full potential in careers as engineers and leaders; expand the image of the engineering and technology professions as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and demonstrate the value of diversity and inclusion. To ensure SWE members reach their full potential as engineers and leaders, the Society offers unique opportunities to network, provides professional development, shapes public policy and provides recognition for the life-changing contributions and achievements of women engineers.