Impact Award, Spring 2023
Swetha Manickavasagam’s natural curiosity about how things work attracted her to the engineering field. During her undergraduate studies at India’s Anna University, one of her professors got her interested in semiconductor devices through their lectures.
This newfound love of semiconductor devices led Manickavasagam to major in electrical engineering. She decided to specialize in very large-scale integration, or VLSI, circuits, which feature large amounts of semiconductor devices combined to form one system on a single computer chip.
“It’s exciting to see how these different fields come together in VLSI design and how innovations in one area can lead to breakthroughs in another,” Manickavasagam says. “I feel privileged to be at the forefront of this exciting field, and I’m excited to see where it takes us in the years to come.”
For her graduate degree in electrical engineering, Manickavasagam looked for a school that offered opportunities in student organization leadership, meaningful research and rigorous academic programs. With these factors in mind, she chose to attend Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
“At ASU, I was able to fulfill those needs beyond my expectations,” Manickavasagam says.
She sought to get involved in extracurricular activities while at ASU. Manickavasagam took on a variety of duties in the ASU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, or SWE, as the organization’s industry relations officer. Through SWE, she participated in the Leadership Development Program, the Global Ambassador Program, mentored high school students in STEM education and became the Early Career Professionals Affinity Group community development co-chair.
Outside of SWE, Manickavasagam embraced her passion for encouraging diversity in science, technology, engineering and math education. She volunteered with educational nonprofit organizations encouraging girls to get involved in the field, including Million Girls Moonshot and Pink Space Theory.
“I strongly believe that attending a university is about so much more than getting good grades and filling up a resume,” she says. “It’s about learning new cultures, making good friends and exploring your independence.”
While Manickavasagam has had many mentors during her education, she names Nikita Tiwari, a senior customer experience engineer at Intel who she met through SWE, as the most influential.
“Throughout these years, she has always pushed me forward and gave me honest feedback,” Manickavasagam says. “Her mentorship in my life has not gone unnoticed, and I thank her that I have found my voice as a leader and engineer.”
In the longer term, she hopes to continue finding new ways to use her skills.
“I love to thrive and enjoy being bold, taking up roles that demand some level of risk and push me out of my comfort zone,” Manickavasagam says. “But at the end of the day, diversity and inclusion in education are values I strive for. I hope to use my time and skills to do what I can to further those efforts.”