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Engineering and Science Student Preparedness for Research: Exploring the Connections Between Student Identity and Readiness for Research

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Preparing Minority Students for Undergraduate and Graduate Research

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.492.1 - 24.492.15



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Paper Authors


Erin J. McCave Clemson University

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Erin McCave is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson University and completed a certificate in Engineering and Science Education from the Department of Engineering and Science Education in 2012. She completed her B.S in Biomedical Engineering from Michigan Technological University in 2003.

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Jordon Gilmore Clemson University

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Karen Burg Clemson University

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Engineering and Science Student Preparedness for Research: Exploring the Connections Between Student Identity and Readiness for Research    It has been suggested that engineering research is advanced by an increasingly diversepopulation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics researchers withinterdisciplinary research objectives. There is a significant need to train and develop this diversepopulation to answer evolving research questions. To develop researchers, it is imperative tounderstand how a student’s identity, i.e. interest, as well as self-perception of his/herperformance, competence, and recognition by others, influences his/her feelings of preparednessfor research experiences. It is our assertion that students who have a positive research identity aremore likely to participate in future research experiences. The purpose of this study was tounderstand how a student’s perception of preparedness is influenced by the student’s science andengineering identity, before and after participation in interdisciplinary research.    Underrepresented minority undergraduate students majoring in a science or engineeringdiscipline participated in a National Science Foundation: Emerging Frontiers in Research andInnovation – Research Experience and Mentoring (REM) program for one semester. At the endof this research experience, students (n=10) were given an identity “pre-survey”. Admission to aResearch Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program was offered to four of the REMstudents following a competitive application process. Other REM participants were encouragedto pursue research experiences during the summer. A follow-up identity, “post-survey”, wasgiven the first week of the fall semester following the various summer activities in which thestudents participated. The identity survey questions were adapted from the Sustainability andGender in Engineering survey. Statistical analysis of the data was conducted using an analysis ofvariance (p<0.05) to determine statistical differences between majors and within majors (pre- topost-response).    Results indicate that science and engineering identity plays a part in student-perceivedpreparedness for future research experiences. Engineering students and science students hadstatistically different perceptions regarding mentor views of student identity. Specifically,science students were more confident than engineering students, pre-survey, that their mentorsrecognized their science identities; whereas, engineering students were more confident thanscience students, pre- and post- survey, that their mentors recognized their engineering identities.Pre-survey statistical differences were also seen in student performance and competence items;specifically, science students reported less confidence in their abilities to overcome limitationsand setbacks/obstacles in engineering when compared to engineering students. Engineeringstudents reported a more positive engineering identity compared to science students overall.While there are no significant differences, the data suggests that science students generally feelmore prepared for research experiences compared to engineering students at both time points.    The results suggest that engineering students identify less with research compared to sciencestudents, and therefore feel less prepared to conduct research; however, participation in aninterdisciplinary experience improves self-perception of their academic research preparedness.The results show, for the population studied, that participation in an REM or REU promotespositive research identity, which may help increase diversity of the research population.  

McCave, E. J., & Gilmore, J., & Burg, K. (2014, June), Engineering and Science Student Preparedness for Research: Exploring the Connections Between Student Identity and Readiness for Research Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20383

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