This project proposes a pilot educational research study to examine the career
perspectives and goals of Duke engineering graduate students at various points of their
doctoral or master#s degree programs. This study will also identify the variables or
experiences that inform Duke engineering student perspectives on their anticipated career
selection. This understanding is critical to crafting a Ph.D. program that contains the
necessary elements in motivating graduate students toward degree completion, and
preparing them for effective and impactful employment in academic, industrial or
government settings. The findings from this pilot study at Duke will be used to develop
specific follow-on activities which will partner with a small set of engineering schools
across the nation to test the methodology and findings in broader, diverse settings. The
follow-on study (not proposed herein) is expected to last two to three years. The findings
of the pilot study will be used to craft experimental modifications to the PhD program
that can be scaled appropriately at Duke and can be assessed in the short term. The pilot
findings will be disseminated appropriately through follow-on activities and in the
engineering education literature and conferences.
Intellectual Merit. This project will expose critical motivating factors for student
decision making to enable higher education faculty to design modern and effective
curriculum while maintaining the integrity of the academy, the needs of the global
economy, and the interests of the students.
Broader Impacts. Society is increasingly dependent on universities to provide the key
innovations that will address society#s grand challenges and help the country maintain its
standard of living. New knowledge disseminates from the academy to society through the
interrelated processes of industrial interaction, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship.
Enhancing the nation#s ability to attract, train, and retain the very best students to
engineering is critical to our continued economic vitality and to maintaining educational
excellence. Advanced degrees provide in-depth training to create the talent generating
and translating innovative engineering systems and discoveries into new products and
services: the technology engine for our global economy. Within the academy, many
engineering degree programs have not changed significantly since their inception. While
the academic integrity of core research training must be maintained, engineering schools
must also design programs that prepare graduate students to address the rapidly changing
realities of modern societies and emerging issues related to national security,
environmental concerns, information enterprises and public health needs.