Drs. Cross, Cargile Cook, and Beruvides receive National Science Foundation grant to study doctoral student identity formation.
Three faculty at Texas Tech University recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the process through which engineering doctoral students form their identity as researchers. Dr. Jennifer Cross, associate professor of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering (IMSE) in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, is the principal investigator, and the co-investigators are Dr. Kelli Cargile Cook, professor and chair of professional communication, and Dr. Mario Beruvides, AT&T professor of IMSE. In addition, the investigators will be hiring graduate students to assist on the project..
The goal of the project is to address current research gaps in the process of engineering doctoral student identity development by implementing a longitudinal study at a large state university. It will explore the application of user experience (UX) methods as a novel research approach to generate new insights on the process/processes through which engineering doctoral students develop (or fail to develop) their identities, specifically as researchers. It uses phenomenological data analysis as its analytical framework. .
Understanding researcher identity, the personal identification with the critical knowledge and responsibilities associated with the role of being a successful researcher, is an important focal point in both the education and management of engineering doctoral students. Yet, knowledge of the process by which doctoral students develop their professional identity is limited. This study addresses, evaluates, categorizes, and systematizes several critical areas of concern regarding professional identity formation, including professional experiences, gender, ethnoracial background, identity formation process, and critical “self-referential” identifiers. The findings can assist educators in the development of researcher identity of individuals who are new to the engineering research endeavor, and may help improve student mental health, decrease attrition rates, and bridge the gender and ethnoracial gaps in graduation rates. .
Of particular interest are three key gaps: 1) the limited existing longitudinal research on the topic of researcher identity development; 2) the limited existing research on researcher identity development in doctoral students, and 3) the limited existing research on the process of researcher identity development. Further, no previous research has addressed potential differences in identity development between on-campus and online doctoral students. With the growing popularity of online graduate engineering education, and opportunities to further expand access through additional online engineering doctoral programs, examination of researcher identity in online doctoral students is of particular interest. In pursuing these aims, this research will create great benefit for students, educators, and researchers.