My program of research uses qualitative methodological approaches to study the experiences of graduate students, and the institutional policies and practices that influence students’ educational and workforce pathways. His current research projects fall in two strands: 1) understanding the science of team science, and 2) exploring the experiences of underrepresented graduate students of color in engineering. Taking these two strands of research together, I seek to provide new understandings of the complexity of science participation; the aim is to better understand the experiences that promote or turn students away from science pathways. The implications of this work have the capacity to improve student-to-faculty (as well as student-to-student) interactions, and inform recommendations for the (re)design of supportive learning environments.

Strand 1: Exploring the Experiences of Underrepresented Graduate Students of Color in Engineering

(Principal Investigator) – Leveraging learning and engineering identity to broaden participation of Black males in colleges of engineering

Purpose: This CAREER project, will contribute to the field’s understanding of how African American males develop their perceptions of what it means to be an engineer (i.e., develop an engineering identity). It will also pinpoint key mechanisms that improve their academic retention and success in engineering, particularly at the graduate level. Further, the project proposes to contribute to the development of a new learning and identity theory on Black men in engineering. The findings from this work have immense implications for transformative change, such as equipping Colleges of Engineering with the needed knowledge and understanding to better serve Black male graduate students and help these students to persist in engineering. This CAREER project will also include a 5-year Broadening Participation workshop/webinar series.

Major Findings: Project begins Fall 2017

Funding Source: National Science Foundation ($569,702)

(Principal Investigator) – Exploring learning and theorizing engineering identity: The key to sustaining STEM participation for black men

Purpose: Extend EPSCoR project to include a larger sample, determine if there are commonalities and/or similarities across institutions (will study Black men in engineering graduate programs at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University).

Major Findings: Project begins Fall 2016

Funding Source: National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship ($70,000)

(Principal Investigator) – Black male engineers in Iowa: Identifying barriers and improving practices to broaden participation in colleges of engineering

Purpose: Test results from previous studies with a broader sample, determine if there are commonalities and/or similarities across institutions (will study Black men graduate students in the State of Iowa).

Major Findings: Ongoing through Summer 2016

Funding Source: National Science Foundation’s Iowa Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant total – $20,000,000; (Research Scientist awarded $18,184).

(Principal Investigator) – Black male doctoral students in engineering

Purpose: Explore the experiences of doctoral students in engineering (used narrow population – Black males at one large, “very high research activity” institution). Learn from persisters why they stayed in engineering.

Major Findings:

Funding Source: Pre-Candidate Student Research Grant, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan ($1,005)

Strand 2: Understanding the Science of Team Science

(Research Scientist) – Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems

Purpose: Explore and identify the mechanisms that led to the creation and successful execution of a 134-member, longitudinal (5-years), transdisciplinary research group.

More information about the larger, grant-funded study (now in it’s final year): This multi-state, transdisciplinary team focused on addressing complex social and biophysical challenges related to agricultural productivity and stewardship. The emphasis was on determining adaptive strategies integrating the diverse sciences while also building capacity within range of members to do the science. Training the next generation of scientists (graduate students and postdocs) was a focus of the team and funding agency.

Major Findings: Project begins Fall 2016

Funding Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) ($20M)

(Dissertation) – The influence of doctoral research experiences on the pursuit of the engineering professoriate  

Purpose: Gain a deeper understanding of team-based research experiences and students’ decisions to pursue post-graduate careers (studied one 20-member research group in chemical engineering for 13-months)

Major Findings

  • Students developed 11 research competencies (solving problems; troubleshooting problems; managing projects; consulting with peers; briefing research; presenting research; receiving and responding to feedback; contributing to lab operations; building equipment and taking inventory; maintaining the lab; and, supervising members)
  • Participation in research created perceptions of a faculty prototype and promoted certain kinds of social comparisons with peers
    • Students’ perceptions of alignment or misalignment between faculty work and personal values shape their (dis)identification with the academic profession
    • Concerns about gaps in engineering knowledge and skills negatively affect students who are undecided about faculty career directions
  • The design and execution of research practices, by the faculty advisor, in part shapes students’ understandings and intentions to pursue faculty careers

Funding Sources:

  • Rackham One Term Fellowship, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan ($9,300)
  • King-Chavez-Parks Preparing Future Faculty Fellowship, State of Michigan ($33,328)
  • Candidate Student Research Grant, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan ($3,000)
  • John W. Holmes Award, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan ($6,000)

Strand 3: Engineering (and STEM) Education

(Senior Personnel) – Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP): Iowa-Illinois-Nebraska LSAMP: A STEM Partnership for Innovation in Research and Education

Purpose: Implement, extend and sustain comprehensive, evidence-based, and innovative strategies resulting in the graduation of well-prepared, highly-qualified students from underrepresented groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM. Research studies guided by Social Cognitive Career Theory will be conducted to better understand both micro- and macro-level influences on how IINSPIRE students thrive and persist in STEM disciplines.

Major Findings: Project begins Fall 2016

Funding Source: National Science Foundation ($5 Million over 5 years)

(Research Scientist) – IUSE/PFE:RED: Reinventing the Instructional and Departmental Enterprise (RIDE) to Advance the Professional Formation of Electrical and Computer Engineers

Purpose: Through this project, the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department at Iowa State University is undergoing a transformation to a more agile, less traditional organization able to respond to industry and society needs and sustain innovations. This study will inform and improve departmental project activities, advance knowledge, and support adaptation by others.

Major Findings: Project begins Fall 2016

Funding Source: National Science Foundation ($1,999,869)

Future Collaborators

In addition to the projects described above, I am open to collaborative opportunities with scholars, administrators, and those in industry interested in the following topics:

  • STEM workforce pathways
  • P-20 STEM educational pathways
  • Black male (graduate and undergraduate) academic experiences and achievement
  • Educational experiences of underrepresented students of color (e.g., Black and Latino men and women)