Research

Who we are

Besides managing and creating #SciComm content for The Engineering Professor website, Dr. Rivera-Jiménez is also the Principal investigator of the ECOPAR research lab which stands for Engineering Communities Organizing Participatory Action Research. Our research intends to drive positive social change in the education and practice of engineers.

Welcome to our research page!

What is our research?

We conduct engineering education research. Our research group focuses on studying how engineering communities organizing participatory action research can enact positive social change.

Our group is committed to adopting equitable teaching and social research practices in our work. Students belonging to our group will gain experiences in conducting systematic literature reviews, methods validation, and data collection (both qualitative and quantitative), data analysis (e.g., NVivo coding, intercoder agreement discussions), and dissemination of results (publications and presentations).

Before you continue, let’s define some important terms:

  • Engineering education research is the field of inquiry that creates knowledge which aims to define, inform, and improve the education of engineers. It achieves this through research on topics such as: epistemology, policy, assessment, pedagogy, diversity, amongst others, as they pertain to engineering.
  • Engineering communities include any group such as institutions, faculty, students, design teams, professional societies, and technical labs that wish to enact their agency for change.
  • Transformational change refers to a frame-breaking change that completely alters the current operating structure, such as processes, people, and technology.
  • Social implications in the engineering practice may involve concepts of peace/non-peace, gender equality, care for the environment, poverty, and public safety, and social justice.
  • Equitable practices means that the teaching and research conducted levels the playing field so that underrepresented voices are prioritized and centered.
  • Systematic review is defined as a review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant primary research and extract and analyze data from the studies included in the review
  • Qualitative methods seek an in-depth understanding of social phenomena within their natural setting. It focuses on the “why” rather than the “what” of social phenomena and relies on the direct experiences of human beings as meaning-making agents in their every day lives.
  • Quantitative methods emphasize objective measurements and the statistical, mathematical, or numerical analysis of data collected through polls, questionnaires, and surveys, or by manipulating pre-existing statistical data using computational techniques.

Why do we do social research in engineering?

  1. To support a wide array of students in their engineering formation. Academic institutions and professional organizations have increasingly called for engineering faculty to cover the social implications of techno-economic fundamentals in their undergraduate courses. However, little is known about the transfer of knowledge between academic institutions and professional organizations and its influence on undergraduate engineering formation. Our group sees this research gap as an opportunity to gather the knowledge needed to support a wide array of students in their engineering formation.
  2. To serve our engineering professional organizations. As a sophomore in 1999, PI Rivera-Jiménez became a member of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers (AIChE) to attend her first national conference representing the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). As a first-generation Latina engineer, she engaged in professional networking and technical opportunities at AIChE that helped develop her professional identity as an engineer. In combination with her networks in the education divisions in both AIChE and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), she finds herself in a unique position of trust to conduct the proposed work as an insider.
  3. To get expertise in rigorous and equitable social research methods. Social scientists and researchers use social methods to learn about people and societies to design products/services that cater to various needs of the people. As an engineer, I find that we could improve how we gather this crucial data to develop new solutions for society’s welfare. Imagine if the data collected from social media, interviews, surveys, observations f how people behave can be analyzed so that we can identify new opportunities and solutions. Having social research skills could have a significant impact on technologies such as machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. Our research group will use qualitative and quantitative methods using various theoretical approaches and cross-disciplinary boundaries. For more information, check out: Social Science Research: Principles, Methods, and Practices. 

What projects are currently active?

Project Overview. Our group is looking for master (MS) and undergraduate students that want to join our research efforts on the potential influence national professional societies have in shaping the values and norms towards the social implications of the engineering profession and education through faculty agency. The main project will be developed in phases, and the following are specific research goals for the upcoming academic year.

If interested to work on any of the following goals, scroll down for more information on how to apply.

National Science Foundation Funded Project
Award Abstract # 2106206Research
Initiation: Facilitating Professional Formation of Engineers through Strategic Agency of Engineering Faculty

(Updated on August 2021)

Goal 1: Complete a systematic Review for publication submission in February 2022 on the topic of social implication of the engineering practice. A systematic review is defined as a review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant primary research and extract and analyze data from the studies included in the review. Volunteers needed: 1 MS and 1-2 undergraduates (all levels). Work requirements: This opportunity will require the student to manage a research project by dedicating around 10-15 hours per week. The participant will also gain valuable experience that will make them a more qualified candidate upon graduation. The student will end this experience with a written research portfolio including but not limited to a research proposal, report, literature review, blog pieces, and summarizing findings in a report and assist in editorial elements of papers as needed. Research Format: virtual or in person. Students will report directly to the Principal investigator.

Goal 2: Complete a systematic Review for publication submission in February 2022 on the topic of transformational change in engineering education.systematic review is defined as a review of the evidence on a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant primary research and extract and analyze data from the studies included in the review. Volunteers needed: 1 MS and 1-2 undergraduates (all levels). Work requirements: This opportunity will require the student to manage a research project by dedicating around 10-15 hours per week. The participant will also gain valuable experience that will make them a more qualified candidate upon graduation. The student will end this experience with a written research portfolio including but not limited to a research proposal, report, literature review, blog pieces, and summarizing findings in a report and assist in editorial elements of papers as needed. Research Format: virtual or in person. Students will report directly to the Principal investigator.

Goal 3: Study of the influence national professional societies in facilitating chemical engineering faculty agency. This project will conduct a qualitative study to explore the strategic agency of chemical engineering faculty involved in professional societies (e.g., AIChE) as they transform their teaching practices to address social implications in their classrooms. Volunteers needed: 1 MS and 1-2 undergraduates (all levels). Work requirements: This opportunity will require the student to manage a research project by dedicating around 10-15 hours per week. The student will directly assist the principal investigator in the literature review, ethically validate data collection methods, recruit the study faculty participants through AIChE, facilitate a workshop with the PI during AIChE national, and meet with the project advisory board. Research Format: virtual or in person. Students will report directly to the Principal investigator.

Before applying, read our group expectations

  • Dedicate 8-12 hours/week working independently, with group members, and weekly meetings with the research group.
  • Assist the principal investigator in the inductive and deductive analysis of transcripts, observations, field notes, and other relevant materials in the project. 
  • Participate in the necessary training for quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis (e.g., NVivo).
  • Coordinate the data collection for ancillary projects requiring qualitative research methodologies. 
  • Summarize findings in a report and assist in editorial elements of papers as needed.
  • Willing to sharpen their communications skills for various forms of dissemination efforts such as publications, workshops, oral presentations, and magazine blog posts. 
  • Work diligently to gain the necessary background by reading the literature, textbooks, or other documentation about human subject experiments in social research. 
  • Abide by the Rivera-Jiménez lab code of conduct and be respectful, courteous, and kind to all lab members regardless of their ancestry, religion, gender identity, cultural background, prior experiences, and disabilities (apparent and non-apparent). 

How to apply to our research group?

Benefits of working in our group: Our research will include an in-depth literature review using commonly known databases (e.g., Web of Science, Academic Search Premier, Scopus), the use of analysis software (e.g., Endnote, MAXQDA, Covidence), and dissemination (i.e., journal publication and presentation).

Stipend: None for now. Undergraduates can apply for funding from the University Scholars (Deadline on February of each year). Both undergrad and graduate students can enroll in credit courses.

Send an email to Dr. Rivera at rivera.jimenez@eng.ufl.edu with the following:

  1. Your resume
  2. A cover letter or statement (2 pages max) describing your qualifications and motivation for the job. Indicate also in which project you would like to work.
  3. UF unofficial transcripts.

Interviews via Zoom are expected to start as soon as applications are received. Positions will be open until filled.

Publications

  • Saleem, A., & Rivera-Jimenez, S. M., & Villanueva, I. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Early Exploration of Engineering Students’ Perspectives about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in an Introductory Materials Science and Engineering Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. Access here
  • Joshi, S., & Rhoads, B., & Jaeger-Helton, K., & Rivera-Jiménez, S. M. (2021, July), Making it Work in the Virtual Capstone Climate and Beyond: Project-based Perspectives Across a Variety of Programs and Universities Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. Access here
  • Rivera-Jiménez, S., & Alford, D., & Virguez, L. (2019, June), Fostering a Chemical Engineering Mind-set: Chemical Process Design Professional Development Workshops for Early Undergraduate Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2–32855 Access here