Marissa Tsugawa-Nieves, Materials Science & Engineering; Engineering Education Doctoral Student
"Over the past two decades, multiple research and government reports call for universities to increase the retention of STEM students by improving teaching practices. Particularly, the current academic cultures in STEM fields overemphasize doing research and provide few incentives for faculty to improve their teaching. Science and mathematics fields have begun to address this research-and-teaching gap by investigating the beneficial relationship between teaching and doing research. This type of research is scant in the field of engineering even though its culture serves as an additional barrier to improving teaching practices. To continue this investigation in science and mathematics fields and initiate this research in engineering, we can conceptualize how engineering professors develop as both researchers and educators during their doctoral programs. My research focuses on the development of doctoral engineering teaching assistants (DETAs) as they engage as both researchers and educators. Particularly, the purpose of my dissertation is to explore how DETAs integrate their roles as educators and researchers to pursue their goals in academia. I plan to use a two-phase, exploratory sequential mixed-methods approach to answer my overarching research question: How do doctoral engineering teaching assistants manage their multiple roles, specifically educator and researcher, to attain a future in academia?
I conducted an in-depth, qualitative study to explore how engineering graduate students balanced being an educator and a researcher to pursue their future goals. I interviewed four engineering graduate students who participated in a rigorous teaching fellowship alongside their graduate research. Each participant expressed passion for teaching engineering and doing research, yet three of the four participants described a difficult and unsupportive environment to be both an educator and researcher. Further, two of those three participants dropped out of their doctoral programs and abandoned their long-term goal to become a professor in academia. In the end, their preconception of what a professor is (both an educator and research) did not align with the reality these three participants experienced in academia. In contrast, the fourth participant described a supportive environment for both teaching and research and now works as a professor who embraces both roles. To further my findings on the integration and development of both educator and researcher roles, I am currently conducting a second study on the doctoral engineering teaching assistants (DETAs). In this study, I will investigate how developmental past events and future goals in academia help DETAs develop as researchers and educators in their graduate programs.
Thus far in my Ph.D. program, I have 1 journal paper, co-authorship on 1 book chapter, 8 conference publications, and led 8 conference presentations. I also won second place two times in the GSA annual poster competition. I am currently working on two journal papers submissions."