Dr. David Delaine NSF CAREER Award

Posted: May 10, 2022

Dr. David Delaine is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education (EED) and has recently been awarded the NSF CAREER Award. The CAREER award is one of the highest honors bestowed upon junior faculty for outstanding research and excellent education. The process is extremely competitive, as the funding rate is only 14-24%. The CAREER award is special because it is a career development award, not just a research award. To even be considered, the research and education must be integrated or synergistic. Dr. Delaine has established himself as an expert in his research field and the CAREER Award provides an opportunity for further development and growth as a researcher.

Dr. David Delaine’s research focus is community-based learning, and he created the Inclusive Community-Based Learning Lab (iCBL). Within this lab, Dr. Delaine already has two NSF-funded projects entitled “Community-Based Learning for the Development of Empathy in Engineering” and “Analyzing inequities in undergraduate workforce opportunities between biomedical and other engineering disciplines”. These projects have provided Dr. Delaine with insights that he will bring over to this new project. In the Empathy project, Dr. Delaine worked closely with Dr. Chris Ratcliff, a lecturer in the EED, and studied his courses. Throughout this project, Dr. Delaine noticed that Dr. Ratcliff’s classes were always different from the other data he was collecting. Dr. Ratcliff embraces a very open positionality; his assumptions are very well thought out, neutral, and empowering of others. Dr. Ratcliff’s ability to lead his courses in a way that is more likely to empower the community was inspirational to Dr. Delaine’s research for not only the empathy project but for all his research to come.

Dr. Delaine’s CAREER project is entitled “Enabling Transformational Service-Learning in Engineering through Critically Reflexive Practice”. The goal of this project is to help improve the education of future engineers by preparing them to address societal changes in meaningful ways. The bulk of undergraduate engineering curriculum is focused on technical preparation, and students leave college without understanding and addressing the needs of the people who will be impacted by their technical solutions. By focusing on service-learning, this project will help students learn to be socially responsible engineering professionals while positively impacting local communities. This project will investigate the instructors of service-learning courses where students work with communities outside of their university to help resolve a local challenge. However, when not performed carefully, these courses can teach students to dismiss community perspectives and treat communities as laboratories. In order for this project to avoid those harmful effects, the researchers will investigate how instructors develop the skills, attitudes, and knowledge they need to design and implement transformational service-learning.

This project was proposed for a CAREER award last year and received great feedback but needed a bit of improvement. Dr. Delaine was disappointed as he had worked tirelessly on the proposal, but he did not let that ruin his momentum. He dove back in for a few months making the proposal airtight with help from amazing colleagues in the Engineering Education Department. Even though Dr. Delaine is the Principal Investigator on this project, his EED colleagues provided motivation, support, mentoring, guidance, and feedback. In the EED, Monica Cox, Julie Martin, and Emily Dringenberg have all won CAREER awards in the past. Dr. Delaine expressed how the department’s goal is to build a community and culture where people work hard and awards like the CAREER award can continue being given to faculty in this department.