Asee peer logo

The Benefits Of An Engineering Postdoctoral Position

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Transitioning to an Academic Career

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1261.1 - 10.1261.5



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Benefits of an Engineering Post-doctoral Position Matthew W. Ohland and Mark A. Palmer General Engineering, Clemson University / IMEB Department, Kettering University


Post-doctoral positions are not as common in engineering as they are in the sciences, so some may view as post-doctoral positions as “fallback” options for engineering PhD’s who are not immediately hired into tenure-track positions. While seeking one’s first position, it is easy to lose focus on the long-term goals of tenure and promotion. Engineering faculty are expected to teach effectively at the beginning undergraduate, advanced undergraduate, and graduate levels; develop and maintain a funded research program; and perform service both internal and external to the university. Assistant Professors must demonstrate these skills, particularly the first two, to receive tenure and be promoted. Increasingly, faculty searches are looking for candidates who have begun to meet these requirements. A post-doctoral position is one way to do this before the tenure clock starts. Two first-hand accounts illustrate how post-doctoral positions were used by the authors to develop a broad base of knowledge of the research conducted by others, establish contact with a broad network of researchers, acquire important research-management skills, and develop teaching expertise.

Prior Research on Post-doctoral Participation

As an early entrant in the cross-disciplinary engineering education research field, Ohland was a recipient of NSF’s Post-doctoral Fellowship for Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology Education.1 A previous study by Finkelstein and Libarkin investigated the benefits of this particular fellowship program. That work documented an increase in both the mentor’s and the post-doc’s level of interaction with the education community as a result of the program. Of particular interest is that the post-docs who participated in that program were recognized in their academic appointments for their educational expertise—at the time of the study, about half of the Fellows served on university or national level education committees in addition to teaching or conducting education research. Fellows were overwhelmingly positive about the program.2

Finkelstein and Libarkin summarize other research on the quantity and quality of post-doctoral experience in technical fields. There are a few messages that echo through the literature studying the post-doctoral experience: o post-doctoral scholars add significant value to critical research areas o supporting post-doctoral scholars is particularly important in developing areas of research in which they are not likely to find other mentors o the conditions of post-doctoral employment should improve to make such positions more attractive to doctoral graduates

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Palmer, M., & Ohland, M. (2005, June), The Benefits Of An Engineering Postdoctoral Position Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14945

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015