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Winikus receives SWE’s Distinguished New Engineer Award

 Jennifer Winikus.

Jennifer Winikus was recognized by the Society of Women Engineers with its Distinguished New Engineer Award in recognition of her outstanding technical performance and leadership in professional organizations. Photo: Sarah D'Iorio.

By NICOLE CAPOZZIELLO

Published October 5, 2021

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“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. ”
Jennifer Winikus, assistant professor of teaching
Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Since getting involved in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in 2014, UB faculty member Jennifer Winikus’s contributions have included committee work, various leadership roles and presenting research, all part of a journey that she says, “has been filled with amazing mentors and encouragement.”

Now, SWE, an advocacy group for women in engineering and technology, has recognized Winikus for her many contributions to the organization by awarding her the 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, assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will accept the award at SWE’s annual conference, WE21, being held in Indianapolis, as well as virtually, later this month.

“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 (CSE). “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,” Xu says. “This award is a nice recognition for Jenn’s achievements, and our whole department is extremely happy for her.”

Winikus says the award “provides validation of my identity as an engineer, and recognition that I am making a meaningful impact with my work.”

“It also means a lot to see engineering education be recognized within the definition of outstanding technical performance,” she says. “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.”

Rachel Morford, president of SWE, notes that the men and women recognized by SWE “have lived and learned through significant contributions to the engineering community, and they continue to lead in their careers and personal lives. 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 says she was fortunate to meet the group’s faculty adviser who would become an impactful mentor and great friend and colleague after graduation.

When Winikus joined the UB faculty, she became a member of two SWE society-level committees as a way to connect with more engineers and contribute to the society. She went on to join the WE (Women Engineers) 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 of 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 this month.

Winikus is also involved locally as vice president of the SWE WNY professional section and a leader on campus. “Inspired by my previous faculty adviser, I became the faculty adviser 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 diversity and K-12 outreach coordinator, as well as co-chair of the diversity subcommittee. Since 2017, she has been director of CSE-xplorea 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 BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Alfred University, and an MS and PhD in computer engineering from MTU. 

Her other honors include the Outstanding Service Award from UB CSE in 2019, and Outstanding Teaching Award from MTU in 2014. She is also a member of the American Society of Engineering Education and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which recently elevated her to senior membership.