2024 Graduate Blog

Accomplished Engineering Student Reflects on Career-Building Opportunities

Over the past four years, senior Viannely Francisco has interned internationally, presented her research at a national conference, and started a STEM club for students of color at RWU

By Grace Boland
Francisco posing with a bulldozer in the Dominican Republic.
Senior Viannely Francisco posing with a bulldozer during her internship last summer with RWU-Grupo Puntacana in the Dominican Republic.

BRISTOL, R.I. – Under the warm sun of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Viannely Francisco collaborated with a team of skilled engineers to pioneer a sustainable energy solution for the Punta Cana International Airport as part of an RWU-Grupo Puntacana internship program last summer. The senior from Providence, R.I., said she never could have anticipated this journey when she began her first year at Roger Williams University.

Francisco, an Engineering major with Computer and Electrical specializations and a Mathematics minor, said she wasted no time getting involved in the RWU community and taking her academics to the next level. From her internship in the DR to working as a research assistant in RWU’s Lasers Lab and presenting her work at a national conference, she has accomplished plenty in her four years at RWU. 

“I’ve made some great connections at RWU that have helped me grow and find my sense of belonging, I have come out of my shell so much compared to my freshman year.” 

Over the summer of 2023 Francisco had the opportunity to apply what she learned at RWU as an electrical engineering intern with Grupo Puntacana in the Dominican Republic. She assisted professional electrical engineers with integrating solar panels at Punta Cana International Airport, working specifically on simulating electrical power distribution systems on power system analysis software to confirm that the equipment would be compatible with the new solar panels. Francisco said she learned a lot at her internship, adding that it was personally exciting because her family is from the DR. 

As a research assistant in Assistant Professor of Engineering Ahmet Akosman’s Lasers Lab, Francisco has researched and designed acoustic fibers, which are tiny tube-like structures meant to send sound from one end to the other, she said, explaining that her design has the potential to control sound wave behavior in engineering designs. An opportunity to present her research at the first-ever National Science Foundation (NSF) and AAAS S-STEM Scholar Meeting in Washington, D.C., last fall inspired her to apply to graduate schools. 

“The conference was great because you had access to so many resources,” she said. “I didn’t think I wanted to go to graduate school because I felt like it pigeonholed me, but once I saw what other people were doing with their Ph.D. I changed my mind. There are so many possibilities.” 

When Francisco enrolled as an Engineering major at RWU, she said she wanted to explore the Civil Engineering specialization. After meeting her advisor, Professor of Mathematics Koray Özer, he recommended that she try the Electrical Engineering specialization because she found math to be fun. “I’m so glad he made that connection for me,” she said. 

Özer noted how proud he is of Francisco's achievements and that he is looking forward to seeing her continue to excel. “From her early challenges as a first-year student to her current confidence and drive as a senior, it has been an honor to play a role in nurturing her growth,” he said.

Beyond the classroom, Francisco is involved in many clubs across campus, including the Multicultural Student Union, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Women of Color Club, Rhythm and Roots Dance Club, and is involved with the RWU Annual Cultural Fashion Show. 

During her sophomore year, she said she noticed the need for a safe space on campus dedicated to students of color studying STEM, so she co-founded the Multicultural STEM Alliance. The club hosts activities and professional development opportunities, ranging from hands-on science experiments to co-leading a résumé-building workshop for first-generation students alongside RWU’s Center for Career and Professional Development. Currently, the club is partnering with nonprofit ACE Mentor Program of Rhode Island to mentor high school students interested in Architecture, Construction Management, and Engineering. 

RWU’s Multicultural STEM Alliance’s executive board.

As her senior year winds down, Francisco is in the process of applying to graduate schools. She has emerged as a true changemaker and said she knows her time at RWU – both in the classroom and beyond – has equipped her to soar in whatever comes next. 

2024 Graduate Blog