Looking Back and Looking Forward: My First Year as a PhD Student in Engineering Education

One year ago next month will be a full year since I first began my journey to earn my PhD in engineering education here at Ohio State. I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and a number of new skills I didn’t previously have, and it’s changed me so much already. I’ve become more reflective, aware, and think deeply about what I would like to accomplish and how to go about doing that. Throughout this past year, I was able to take numerous classes both directly related to engineering education and to the skills needed to conduct my own engineering education research. These classes helped me to begin framing the research I plan to do for my dissertation and to think critically about how I will go about executing it. It’s been very exciting to see my ideas on paper and slowly come to life, especially from all the groundwork my classes laid down for me.

As I became more introspective and thought about how to use my PhD journey to prepare me for a faculty position, I realized I would like to use it in a way that makes me a strong candidate to become clinical faculty. This has led me to begin working on a graduate certificate in College & University Teaching which not only is helping me understand how students learn, but also how to lead my classes in a way that’s student-centered, engaging, and memorable for them. With a culminating mentored-teaching experience I will complete this next academic year, I am excited to put all the knowledge and skills I’ve gained from these classes to use and to receive feedback to improve my teaching practice.

With my research design, dissertation, and future career plans slowly coming to life, I’m excited to see how the next year of my journey unfolds and where I am a year from now!

The Beginning of a Journey: My First Month as a PhD Student in the EED

This semester, I began working on my PhD in Engineering Education here with RIME. I finished my M.S. in Mechanical Engineering this past spring, and couldn’t wait to get away from the calculus and technical work of my last two years of school. It was interesting and made me think critically, but I was eager to take on more of a human-centered approach to engineering.

When this new semester began, I was determined to dive deeply into this new world, learn more about the research being conducted, and begin searching for a research topic that I am passionate about. Even though this is something I am excited to do, it can be a little daunting when you think about how much literature in this field exists and how many facets engineering education touches on. Luckily, the courses I’m taking this semester are encouraging me to reflect on my engineering experiences in and out of the classroom, teaching me about myself and my values, and helping me develop some fundamental skills needed to be successful in this field.

All three of my courses (Foundations of Engineering Education, Learning Pedagogy & Assessment, and Qualitative Research), are full of reading, reflecting, writing, and discussions which juxtapose the typical education setting of technical engineering fields. It’s been a nice change of pace from all the technical work that went into my Masters. Because there is so much reading and writing in this field, I’ve found myself having lots of thoughts and ideas. To keep track of all these thoughts, it’s been handy to have a notebook with me at all times to jot them down so I can free up that headspace again for more thoughts. From things related to possible dissertation topics, to journal articles that have encouraged me to think differently, this notebook has quickly become a valuable tool for me in this first month of my PhD. My goal is to have a large whiteboard and write all these ideas on there too so I can take a step back, see my thoughts, make connections and use them to weave a larger narrative of what’s going on in my mind.

Like I said earlier, there’s been plenty of reading to do in this past month. Another PhD student of my cohort tallied up the total number of readings we’ve done in our Foundations and Learning Pedagogy class over this past month and we’re already at 30 articles! I didn’t realize how much ground we’ve already covered, but it’s been a good reminder for me to keep writing thoughtful summaries of each article and to keep my Literature Trace up to date so I can recall and refer back to all of these readings with ease when it’s time to study for my Qualifying Exam next summer.

With all the reading, writing, reflecting, and discussions I’ve had in this first month of my PhD, I’ve been able to refine the lens I want to conduct my work through and even added aspects to it that I hadn’t thought of before. It’s certainly a work in progress right now, but I’m confident I’ll be able to tailor it to suit my needs and desires and I’m excited to see what I discover in this field over the course of this year!