MAE Seminar: Mixed-methods Approaches to Studying Doctoral Engineering Attrition, Persistence and Cognition

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium (MDEA)
Catherine Berdanier

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering 
Pennsylvania State University 

Abstract: My research, as a tenure-track assistant professor in mechanical engineering at Penn State, embeds human subjects and rigorous engineering education research within a disciplinary context, with a focus on graduate-level engineering education. Though the education of graduate students is under-studied compared with that of undergraduates, the intersection of sociological and psychological factors predicting attrition in graduate students is particularly unexplored. The lack of “socialization” is generally noted as a main reason for graduate attrition; however, few researchers seek to understand and characterize the socialization process or competency development for graduate engineering students. This seminar will introduce attendees to engineering education research through a sampling of findings from several of my ongoing studies focusing on graduate engineering students, including an NSF RFE grant exploring how various “invisible” competencies such as academic writing can impact persistence and career trajectories, and the most current findings from my recently awarded NSF CAREER grant, characterizing master’s-level departure from the engineering PhD. I will also introduce my most recent ‘experimental’ research employing eyetracking methods and machine learning to study engineering competencies. 

Bio:  Catherine G.P. Berdanier is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Pennsylvania State University and is the director of the online MSME program at Penn State. She earned her B.S. in chemistry from The University of South Dakota, her M.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education from Purdue University. Her research interests include graduate-level engineering education, including doctoral student attrition and persistence; engineering writing; and engineering communication. Her research has been published in Journal of Engineering Education, International Journal of Engineering Education, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, and many other journal and conference venues. She is the recent winner of an NSF CAREER grant studying master’s-level departure from engineering doctorate programs.