Developing a Research Engineer Identity

By Bala Ram, PI

The project aimed to enhance the research culture and broaden the participation in research of underrepresented groups within graduate engineering programs at a mid-sized historically black college or university. The project included four initiatives that sought to assist in the development of a “research engineer identity” among the graduate students pursuing research-based degrees in the college. One of the four initiatives of the project, and focus of this paper, involves the development of a survey-based Research Engineer Identity Scale (REIS). A two-stage sequential mixed-method research design was used to develop the scale. This paper focused on the first stage in the design which involved conducting focus groups with research engineers to gain insight into the content, character, and complications associated with internalizing a Research Engineer Identity (REI) in general and among people from underrepresented groups in particular.

This paper reported on the themes that emerged within the focus group discussions regarding what it means to “be a research engineer.” The findings described similarities and differences across demographic characteristics in regard to the content, character, and complications associated with efforts to develop Research Engineer Identity. This paper was concluded by describing the process for using the emergent themes to develop a web-based questionnaire that contains a pool of items to measure Research Engineer Identity.


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