International Institute for Engineering Education Assessment

Identifying Problems | Assessing Progress | Enhancing the World

IGERT MNM and IGERT Sustainable Electronics

“IGERT [Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship] is the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary training program, educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers by building on the foundations of their disciplinary knowledge with interdisciplinary training.” –

IGERT programs seek to develop leaders and creative agents for change by piloting innovative approaches to graduate education that will transform the graduate education experience at the student, faculty and institutional level. In addition to strong disciplinary backgrounds, graduate students are expected to develop their professional and personal skills in these programs which will in turn foster interdisciplinary collaborations.

Our research group currently works with two IGERT Programs with a Materials Science focus, an IGERT in Magnetic and Nanostructured Materials (IGERT-MNM) and an IGERT in Sustainable Electronics.

IGERT in Magnetic and Nanostructured Materials (IGERT-MNM)

Dr. Cox serves as a Co-PI in the IGERT-MNM, a collaboration between Norfolk State University, Cornell University, and Purdue University. As of 2013, IGERT-MNM (involving Material Science and Engineering Education) is the only IGERT led by a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). IGERT students, or Trainees, across partner institutions are pursuing Materials Science graduate degrees while Trainees at Purdue are pursuing Ph.D.s in Engineering Education. A unique aspect of IGERT-MNM is the student-driven development of and participation in four supplemental modules- (1) Interdisciplinary Research, (2) Writing, (3) Intellectual Property and Ethics, and (4) Pedagogy. The team is involved in the content and delivery of the Pedagogy Module with the primary objective of helping Trainees identify ways that their technical research can be transferred to other formal and informal learning environments guided by educational research and theories. Outcomes of this module have included lesson plans and videos communicating aspect of Trainees’ research to a variety of audiences. A sample video developed in 2013 from Pedagogy Module content is located here.

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This work was supported primarily by the National Science Foundation under grant #0966188.

IGERT Global Traineeship in Sustainable Electronics

Dr. Cox serves as Senior Personnel on the Purdue-led IGERT in Sustainable Electronics, a collaboration between Purdue University (lead institution) and Tuskegee University. The team aids with the development of curriculum and assessments for graduate education initiatives in both IGERT programs.

Related Sites

This work was supported primarily by the National Science Foundation under grant #1144843.

  1. How do IGERT Trainees engage with and apply pedagogical principles and frameworks?
  2. What elements of IGERT experiences are different or similar to the traditional model of engineering doctoral student preparation?

IGERT-MNM (in progress)

The Pedagogy Module was developed and delivered in Spring 2012 and 2013 to introduce IGERT-MNM Trainees to pedagogical theories and educational tools as well as provide guidance on how they may be applied to communicate aspects of their technical research. In order to explore how IGERT-MNM Trainees have engaged with and applied pedagogical principles and frameworks three data sources will be used: module deliverables, surveys, and interviews. Qualitative content analysis of Trainee deliverables will be conducted, taking into account factors such as perceptions, misconceptions, use of pedagogical language (extracted from readings), and the incorporation of pedagogical principles and frameworks in final module deliverables (i.e. a lesson plan from Spring 2012 or a video storyboard and video from Spring 2013). Semi-structured interviews (with an accompanying pre-survey) with Trainees will be conducted to gain deeper insights into the Trainees’ experience throughout the module. This includes how both past and module experiences influenced their final products as well as how participation in the module compares with experiences within their traditional Ph.D. curriculum. In addition, anonymous module evaluation surveys developed by the team for the Spring 2013 Module will be analyzed for supplemental information.

IGERT Sustainable Electronics (in progress)

The Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeship (IGERT) on Sustainable Electronics seeks to provide graduate students in the program with broad professional development skills to augment their depth of knowledge in sustainable electronics research. The traineeship has included an international component of learning, where the trainees and associated professors participated in a two-week trip to India to observe the international culture, attitudes, and viewpoints of electronics manufacturers on sustainability. Many photographs were taken through the trip, which can be used to further examine student perceptions on sustainability and engineering in a different culture. Through these images, surveys and interviews based on photoelicitation techniques can be used to gain insight on graduate student learning, ways to understand global engineering experiences, and to understand the importance of introducing multidisciplinary learning components to traditional graduate education.


Through engagement with the Pedagogy Module that was developed and delivered by our research team, Trainees have explored the application of pedagogical theories and tools to communicate their technical research to diverse audiences. Within the two iterations of the module these audiences have included high-school students/teachers, academic peers, and the general public. One example explored the development of a curricula activity for high-school teachers by Trainees at Norfolk State University (Dr. Mohammad May & Tanya David) and Purdue University (Tasha Zephirin). This work was presented at the 2011 National Educators Workshop: Converging Technologies and Disciplines in Greensboro, NC. Trainees were invited to compile the module for publication for the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEd).

David, T., Zephirin, T., Mayy, M., Matos, T., Cox, M.F., Black, S. (2013). Carbon Nanotubes in our Everyday Lives. Published by MatEd. Available here.

Another application included the development of 3 min videos to communicate aspects of Trainee’s research to an audience of their choosing. One example was submitted by a Cornell IGERT Trainee, Thomas Wallin, to the IGERT 2013 Video & Poster Competition on behalf of the IGERT-MNM group. Wallin, T. (2012). Nanoscale Organic Hybrid Materials for the 21st century [Video file]. Retrieved from here.

IGERT Sustainable Electronics

The photoelicitation research that is being accomplished as a result of the IGERT Sustainable Electronics international experience in India will result in a different way to understand global engineering learning and graduate education. It is expected that the results of this research endeavor will inform future international research though other IGERT partnerships.


David, T., Zephirin, T., Mayy, M., Matos, T., Cox, M.F., Black, S. (2013). Carbon Nanotubes in our Everyday Lives. Published by MatEd. Available here.

Zephirin, T., Mayy, M, Cox, M.F., David, T. (2012). The Development of an Outreach Activity Introducing Middle and High School Students to Nanotechnology and Carbon Nanotubes. ASEE Annual Conference and Exhibition, San Antonio, TX.


Cox, M.F., Zephirin, T. (2013). IGERT Assessment Overview. IGERT Sustainable Electronics Assessment Workshop. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Cox, M.F., Zephirin, T. (2013). Best Practices in Teaching and Learning. IGERT-MNM Pedagogy Module (8 weeks). Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY., Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA. (Video Conference)