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Career Trajectories of STEM Doctoral Students

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Studying STEM PhD students’ career trajectories using culturally responsive measures and methods
  • Client
    National Science Foundation
  • Dates
    2022 - 2024

NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (DGE #2226007) to conduct a culturally responsive, mixed-methods research project addressing critical gaps in research related to career trajectories of STEM PhD students and recent graduates. This effort will further the goal of building an elite, diverse STEM workforce committed to addressing and solving pressing social problems. This study will be conducted in partnership with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T), North Carolina State University (NC State) and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill).

The project proceeds in three stages:

  1. Design, administer, and analyze a survey for all current and recent doctoral students at three distinct partner institutions: NC A&T, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.
  2. Conduct a series of focus groups to further explore and explain the preliminary statistical findings.
  3. Integrate the quantitative survey data and qualitative focus group data to address the project’s research objectives.

The study has been organized to accomplish the following research-related objectives:

  1. Identify and describe distinct, but hidden, subgroups of STEM doctoral  students and graduates based on their career motivations and aspirations.
  2. Identify individual and environmental factors that influence and predict students’ career trajectories across each of these distinct subgroups.
  3. Expand the theoretical and analytic approaches that underlie this area of study by developing and integrating culturally responsive measures to investigate STEM PhD career pathways.
  4. Confirm the usefulness of our survey measures for groups historically    excluded from STEM fields and identify any refinements for subsequent, broadened inquiry.

Quantitative data collection begins in spring 2023 and qualitative data collections begins in late summer 2023. At the broadest level, the project promises to provide much needed guidance on ways to improve graduate STEM education to help generate the highly competitive workforce the United States and, increasingly, international communities require.

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