Is ‘Taste for Science Enough’? Exploring factors that influence career aspirations of engineering students
Principal investigatorJeongeun Kim
Award start date05/01/2018
Award end date09/30/2019
Originating sponsorMary Lou Fulton Teachers College
PhD students and graduates produce many of the patent applications and patents that make the U.S. a global leader in technological innovation. This is particularly true of engineering PhDs, who are responsible for the highest number of patents in that field. In recent years, the number of engineering PhDs entering industry careers has increased, while those pursuing academic careers decreased. This trend has been attributed to shifts in workplace environments or individual personality traits — individual traits that can be distinguished according to the individual’s “taste” for science or business; the appeal of peer recognition versus financial compensation. Recognizing the shifting research interests and skills of the emerging engineering workforce, non-academic workplaces are adapting their environments to support basic research, while academic scientists are engaging with industry for applied research opportunities. If academia and industry are indeed becoming more alike, what role does the workplace environment play in shaping career choices?
Findings and impact
Kim expects the study will have implications for government science policy, guide institutional policy in creating career development programs and offer long-term hiring strategy guidance for industry. The theoretical and empirical approach of the study could also be used to examine other applied fields such as medicine or teacher education. Kim plans to present their findings at conferences such as the American Society for Engineering Education and the Association for the Study of Higher Education; and through peer-reviewed journals such as Science Policy and the Journal of Higher Education. In addition, the researchers will use preliminary data to draft proposals for the National Science Foundation Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, and Broadening Participation in Engineering programs.