Impact Award, Fall 2022
Nicole Swatton says the personal challenges she faced throughout her childhood pushed her to reach for new heights.
“I was determined to overcome my struggles and provide for myself,” Swatton says. “I moved out of my house when I was 18 years old and put myself through college.”
Swatton found her passion in the seventh grade. It was then she made a small-scale experiment in a simulated environment made from a fish tank to prove that carbon dioxide causes climate change — a test she says was successful.
“Growing up, I had this undying love for the Earth and the animals on it,” Swatton says. “I knew that I wanted to revolutionize technologies and fight climate change.”
This led her to electrical engineering, specifically focusing on power grid and energy systems. Swatton believes by engineering technology to generate electricity in a sustainable way, she can reduce climate change’s impact more than through any other profession.
During her time at ASU, Swatton conducted research at NASA as a photovoltaics research intern in Ohio’s Glenn Research Center. She stayed for two semesters, first in device testing and later in device modeling.
In addition to her research internships with NASA, Swatton got heavily involved with ASU student organizations. She was an undergraduate chair of the IEEE student chapter at ASU, a Young Engineers Shape the World mentor, a teacher’s assistant and a member of Engineering Projects in Community Service and Engineers Without Borders.
As a woman in the electrical and electronics engineering field, which Society of Women Engineers data show consists of 91% men, Swatton found a mentor in electrical engineering Associate Professor Mariana Bertoni.
“Dr. Bertoni showed me what it means to be an amazing scientist and a strong woman,” Swatton says. “She has taught me to strive for perfection, understand things deeply and to really believe in myself. Dr. Bertoni truly helped make me the person I am today and for that I am so grateful.”
After graduation, Swatton will start her job at Blue Origin, an aerospace company that specializes in rockets and spaceflight technology. This connects her to yet another dream: conducting research in space.
“Within ten years, I can see myself applying to be an astronaut to work at NASA’s Artemis lunar base as a scientist,” Swatton says.