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Faculty Research

Kurt Becker

Dr. Kurt Becker is a Professor in the Department of Engineering Education. He has a Ph.D. in Industrial Technology Education from Texas A&M University. He is the current director of the Center for Engineering Education Research (CEER), which examines innovative and effective engineering education practices as well as classroom technologies that advance learning and teaching in engineering. He has worked on National Science Foundation (NSF) funded projects exploring engineering design thinking and was Co-PI for the National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE), which was funded by NSF in 2004 as one of the Centers for Teaching and Learning (CLT). Over an eight-year span, the Center built a community of researchers, leaders, and PhD students to conduct research in emerging engineering and technology education areas.

Dr. Becker’s areas of research include engineering design thinking, adult learning cognition, engineering education professional development, and technical training. He has extensive international experience working on technical training and engineering projects funded by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and U.S. Department of Labor (USAID). Countries, where he has worked, include Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, and Thailand. In addition, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in engineering education for the Department.

Recently, he has been working on expertise in engineering and looking at Expert vs Novice. Understanding the difference between developing learners and an expert target performance is essential to the identification of appropriate learning experiences to move learners along the trajectory to becoming experts. To address this gap in knowledge and provide statistically significant evidence, teams of engineering students from various universities and teams of engineering design experts, are used to quantitatively measure their respective cognition while designing. The research utilizes the protocol analysis method where videos are transcribed, segmented, coded, and analyzed to produce the base data. The understanding of the relationship between design teaching and engineering expert behavior is inadequate. As a consequence, there is insufficient knowledge of the long-term target performance expected as a result of engineering design education. Understanding the differences between developing learners and an expert target performance is essential to the identification of appropriate learning experiences to reduce this performance gap.

For more information about this research, please contact Dr. Becker by email at or by phone at 435-797-2076.

Ning Fang

Welcome to the Engineering Education Department at Utah State University! My name is Ning Fang and I am a Professor in this department. I have a PhD, MS, and BS in Mechanical Engineering and have taught a variety of engineering and education courses at both the graduate and undergraduate levels over the past 15 years.

My research in engineering education involves several topics. One recent topic is to identify and study key factors that affect academic success of a group of engineering students who have received financial scholarships in their undergraduate study. Although important, financial aid alone does not guarantee a student's success in his/her academic study. Many other factors, such as teaching and learning in math and engineering courses as well as students' learning skills, play an important role. It is critical to identify which factors are the most important in order to develop effective educational interventions.

Starting Fall 2016, there is one position available for a graduate student interested in identifying and studying key factors that affect academic success of a group of engineering undergraduates who have received financial scholarships during their undergraduate study. This graduate student must have a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering or in Civil Engineering and must have excellent skills in advanced mathematics (such as Calculus). If you are interested in this research topic would like to find out more about the requirements for entry to my lab, please contact me by email at (preferred) or by phone at (435)-797-2948. I look forward to speaking with you.

Wade Goodridge

My name is Dr. Wade Goodridge and I developed an interest in the field of Engineering Education as I obtained my Civil Engineering B.S and graduate degrees. I became an assistant professor at Utah State University in the Engineering Education Department after spending five years teaching Engineering Courses as a Principal Lecturer on Utah State University's Brigham City Regional Campus. I have an interest in online engineering education and I am passionate about this field for the ability it has to improve the engineering educational experience of students at all levels.

My current research involves spatial thinking/cognition, an intelligence that encompasses the many constructs of spatial ability. My research bridges areas involving cognitive spatial strategies employed by students solving foundational engineering problems to measuring brainwave activity while working on spatial and engineering problems. Spatial ability is an aspect of human intelligence measured through traditional occupationally designed tests such as the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test of Rotations, (PSVT:R) and has been correlated to performance in STEM disciplines at both the undergraduate and even professional levels. Research into its impacts is now becoming a prominent area of interest. Thus, I am quantitatively and qualitatively investigating the details of spatial thinking as it pertains to the success of engineering undergraduate students.


I will have an upcoming opening for a graduate assistant at my lab. If you have an interest in quantitative or qualitative research looking towards spatial ability then I encourage you to contact me through email at (preferred) or call my office at 1-435-797-9051.

Oenardi Lawanto

I have a passion for researching issues related to engineering education, particularly learning issues associated with cognitive and metacognitive processes that individuals engage in while conducting problem-solving activities including engineering design. Questions concerning how people can learn faster, perform better, engage in, or solve problems with high cognitive control have always intrigued me. When confronted with a problem, a learner usually begins generating thoughts, feelings, and actions to attain the best solution to that problem. Those self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions are called self-regulated learning (SRL).

SRL is necessary for the context of complex and ill-structured problem-solving activity such as engineering design. Self-regulated learners are often said to be those who are metacognitively, motivationally, and behaviorally active participants in their own learning process; therefore, self­regulated learners are skilled in goal setting, self-monitoring, self-instruction, and self-reinforcement.

They build "habits of mind" and commitment to the ideals of reflective thinking, assessment, and learning as an ongoing, lifelong process. The mastery of SRL skills also plays a crucial role in online learning as learners are given more autonomy and responsibility in their learning.

To support my research in SRL, I have developed a survey instrument called Engineering Design Metacognitive Questionnaire (EDMQ), as well as an electronic journal (eJ), to evaluate students' design records. The eJ also simultaneously captures students' understanding about the design tasks, planning, and monitoring strategies used, as well as the management of their team during the design activity.

If you are interested in this line of research and would like to find out more about the requirements for entry to my research group, please contact me by email at or by phone at (435)-797-8699.

Angela Minichiello

Strongly influenced by my personal experiences as a military veteran, nontraditional engineering student, and practicing mechanical engineer, I have developed a deep desire to work towards expanding access, broadening participation, and cultivating a culture of inclusivity within engineering education. As we face the unprecedented economic, environmental, societal, and technological challenges of the 21st century, our nation’s engineers are called to rise to new levels of expertise, ingenuity, collaboration, and collective vision in order to develop enduring, sustainable solutions on a global scale. Against this contemporary backdrop, I am motivated to explore topics related to the recruitment, retention, and preparation of engineers who will take the lead in tackling 21st century challenges.
Specifically, my current research is focused on understanding how traversable engineering pathways may be realized for nontraditional, low-income, first-generation, and veteran undergraduates. Additionally, I am involved in curricular innovation projects aimed at implementing and assessing the use of e-learning technologies to engage diverse undergraduates in engineering. I use qualitative and mixed methods research approaches to challenge the status quo for the purposes of expanding engineering opportunities for people of all backgrounds. The following questions are representative of the ideas important to my work: How can emerging technology and understanding of contemporary engineering practice be leveraged to transform traditional approaches to engineering education? How can deterrents to the access of engineering education along alternative or nontraditional pathways be reduced or eliminated? How can a culture that considers diversity of thought and experience as natural and essential to ethical engineering practice both emerge and thrive?
If you are interested in exploring issues of access, participation, and inclusivity in engineering education and would like to learn more about my research, please contact me via email at or by phone at (435) 797-6370.

Idalis Villanueva

Welcome to the Engineering Education Department at Utah State University! My name is Dr. Idalis Villanueva and currently, I am an Assistant Professor in this department. I have a PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering and a Post-doctoral degree in Neurobiology. As a graduate student, I always had a passion for education and outreach where I continually sought ways to improve retention of underrepresented and underserved groups. That is where my passion for Engineering Education began ...

For the past year, I have been researching ways to study stress and assess its impact on academic performance and professional identity development in engineering students. Stress is a multifactorial phenomenon that is revealed through psychological, biological and physiological responses to a challenging event. I believe that a stressed out student is unable to perform to their full potential and in tum, affects how they view their professional roles in the future. Similar to the plant diagram below, at the root of the problem, stress manifests itself in different ways that can lead to the deterioration of one's ability to perform, succeed, and persist academically. Thus, it is important to tackle at its core, the issue of stress in order to develop potential solutions and strategies to this persisting problem.

Starting Fall 2016, there is one available graduate student position in my lab. If you are interested in this topic and/or would like to find out more about the requirements for entry to my lab, please contact me by email at (preferred) or by phone at (435)-797-0773. If you are unable to reach me, please contact our Staff Assistant at or at (435)-797-2758. I look forward to speaking with you!