To capture my research experience this summer I started this blog. Each weekly update gives a description of what I did, what I learned from it and a picture of the week. Enjoy!
Week 8: Aug 8th-Aug 14th
- Conference Call: 8am with APPLES team
- Meeting about the survey: Wednesday
- Made first and second draft of the Structural engineers instructions
- Played and Reworked delta design
- Made table of undergraduate engineering requirements
- Experimented more with creating a word version of the survey
- Found some good sources on Survey Design to look over if necessary
- Finished up loose ends on my portfolio
- Read over Michelle’s Portfolio
- Went to Sky HIGH!
- Went to San Francisco
- Went star gazing
A highlight of this week was going through my ePortfolio and getting ready to go public. I started by doing a whole edit of the entire thing in which I finished all the captions, essays and structure of the portfolio. This took a long time just because I realized that I have really put a lot of stuff up there, especially photos. After I finished this, Michelle G. went through my portfolio and I went through hers. It was actually quite informative and interesting. I learned a lot about her by reading her portfolio in addition to learning all the little things that she had done which make her portfolio so great. I also gave her some suggestions about how she might restructure her pages to make the important pages more prominent.
Another task I completed this week was to look into undergraduate engineering requirements at the four schools. When we first took on this task, I thought it would be pretty easy, but as we got to researching it was a bit more challenging than anticipated. For one thing, schools generally don’t like to advertise that they DON’T do something. So from the internet it was really hard to find what we needed. In the end, we called the schools and sent e-mails to figure out the answers to our questions. And it was a pleasant surprise to find how responsive the schools were to our questions.
Finally, work with the survey is picking up a lot and it is really cool to see how the research that I’ve done is incorporated into the survey instrument. Although sometimes I find research on survey design kind of tedious, in the end, it is extremely satisfying to see it all come together. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of our work next week and the first draft of the full survey.
As for fun stuff this week, Michelle G and I and 13 of our friends went to the trampoline place in Santa Clara called Sky High which was SUPER fun. After that we went watch the percious meteor shower star on a hill in Palo Alto. SO MUCH FUN!
Week 7: Aug 1st - Aug 7th
- Updated ePortfolio, especially in the Leadership, Employement and Course work sections
- Struggled a lot with trying to upload a video to my ePortfolio (I’m still trying to make this work)
- Figured out how to create a word version of the survey
- Figured out a better way to put the CSV files into the word version of the survey
- Researched progress bars and question design studies
- Looked for articles on Fitt’s law that were relevant to our purposes (and didn’t find anything)
- Survey Team Meetings: Aug 1st, Aug 4th
- ePortfolio Meeting: Aug 2nd
- Meeting with Sam about Papers: Aug 2nd
- Sent report about my opinion on how incentives should work
- Worked a little on Delta Design and sent Sheri a report about it
- Made Apple Crisp! YUM!
- Went Horseback riding
- Learned to Juggle
I think the most important thing that I accomplished this week was making significant progress on my ePortfolio. I thought and wrote a lot about myself, trying to distill the experiences that I have had in my life into some kind of coherent string of thoughts. It was extraordinarily difficult. I have a lot of thoughts about myself and my life and my experiences, but I found that I had a hard time turning these ideas into concise vignettes that are actually somewhat meaningful to other people. I found that either I have the tendency to talk about concrete experiences, but convey them in a very disorganized fashion or I can talk concisely without really getting into the specifics of a situation which is just bland and unconvincing. I think what I have up now is a good first attempt and hopefully I will get to do some more edits in the future to create really compelling stories to accompany my portfolio.
The other big thing that I have been working on is the survey. I feel like I have really become an integral part of this team in the past couple of weeks and I have been really enjoying sharing responsibilities on the project. Most of what I have been doing is looking into the survey design questions that the team comes up with during their meetings. For instance, there was a question about progress bars and whether or not they would increase or decrease response rates, so I researched that. There was also a question about Fitt’s Law and so I spent a lot of time looking for stuff about that. Fitt’s Law says that the closer a target and the larger the target, the more likely someone is to click with accuracy. I wanted to find a study that looked at the effects of Fitt’s Law in regards to survey question design. Overall though, I really couldn’t find anything relevant. I guess finding nothing sometimes is just part of doing research.
As for fun stuff, I went horse-back riding with some friends in Half Moon bay this weekend and it was really fun. We had to get up SUPER early (6:30am) to make it in time to get the sale price but it was totally worth it. We rode horses for a couple of hours on a trail and then along the beach and then went to get some clam chowder. Overall, delicious and fun!
Week 6: July 25th - July 31st
- Pears pear survey (and learned more of the basics of qualtrics from the other Michelle)
- Took a personality test from some of the other SURIS in CDR
- Started rewriting text for the pears website
- MEETINGS: with Shannon, Sherri and Sam
- Started coding interviews for preliminary investigation of the relationship between social personality and persistence in engineering.
- Finished reading and taking notes on Duetskens and Perkins articles (incentive and survey research)
- Conducted first meeting using Adobe Connect!
- Worked on Delta Design and sent a report to Sheri about it
- Learned to Juggle (3 balls)
- Went to the beach
With this week came the realization that there isn’t that much time left and a lot left to do. One of the more pressing things to consider is what I want to do for my independent paper. This week I started doing a little bit of preliminary investigation of how social interactions, specifically, friend groups in both high school and college, effect persistence in different types of engineering. My hypothesis is that those individuals who have larger friend groups, or multiple friend groups and who seem to place importance on interpersonal reactions are more likely to persist in the types of engineering which Holland’s personality theory identifies to have a strong ‘S’component. The Lattuca article was the one that identified different types of engineering and those who study and teach them as having certain personality types. What I’m still struggling with is how to identify people as “social” or not. Right now I’m looking at friend groups but I’m having difficulty quantifying that because there are so many permutations and combinations of friend group arrangements and that makes it almost impossible to make a quantifiable evaluation. Some of the measures I’ve tried have been: size of friend group, number of friend groups, number of times they use the words friend or friends, in the interview. I’ve also though about using measures such as number of large group extra-curricular activities.
Another thing that I feel like I’m still struggling with is Delta Design. It’s simultaneously extremely easy and hard. I find it easy because, it doesn’t seem to matter what Michelle and I put down for our initial design, it seems to work. This makes it difficult because then Michelle and I have to come up with ways to make the game harder and it’s difficult to find the balance between too hard and too easy. I’m worried that with each adjustment we make, we will find a combination of restrictions that is nearly impossible. Also, our next task on Delta Design is to find people who are willing to play the game for us and I’m worried about finding people willing to do this.
Finally, I thought that is was kind of cool to take a personality test from the other SURIS and learn about myself in this way, especially when I have spent so much time researching the topic myself. From this task I discovered that I’m very high in all modes of ‘E’ thinking which are those relating to other people. As it was summarized by my fellow SURI I’m the kind of people who enjoys organizing, meeting and managing other people, which I think is fairly true.
Week 5: July 18th-July 24th
- Finished the Delta Design Game board
- Finished my research on survey design and incentives: sent e-mail report of this research
- Rewrote Pears invitation e-mail based on the survey design research
- Investigated Adobe Connect
- Reflect and Write on Personal Project
- Experiment with Qualitrics to figure out how to share files, data etc.
- MEETINGS: with Helen and Sam
- Go to the Family Reunion
- Lunch with the former CEO of Lockheed
One of the most important things that I did this week was to finish my research on survey design and incentives and to send my opinion out to the group. Overall, this marks the end of my first bout with investigating background research and if my experiences are at all indicative of what background research is like in general, then I think I finally understand why people find this so frustrating. The reality is that there are many different opinions on a topic like survey incentives and they are all backed up with some kind of data from a fairly reliable study. For instance, with survey incentives you can find lots of sources that say that raffles do work and lots that say that they don’t work both sides with data to prove it. So then you have to go through the papers about these studies and critcally examine them. Did they interview similar populations, how similar was their survey to ours and what kind of raffle was offered? But of course you never find another study that exactly matches the kind of work you want to do, which is frustrating. Although this whole process can be time consuming, if you do enough research you can come out with an educated guess. Now I just have to hope my guess is right!
Another thing that I finished up this week was my personal project reflection. This reflection is what I wrote to try to figure out what aspects of personality and persistence in engineering I wanted to try to investigate. As I went through this exercise I realized how hard it is to figure out how to measure a very qualitative variable like personality types. Yeah, there are personality tests that supposedly give some indication of this but ultimately, it’s hard to know if these tests are really measuring what they claim to measure. Hopefully the more grappling with these issues the more I can figure out about how to solve these issues. For more, here is a copy of my reflection: Personal Project Reflection.docx
The other big thing that happened this week was going to Santa Rosa for my mom’s family reunion. It was fun and a little bit awkward. One of the highlights of the trip was driving back to Stanford with my family and visiting a customer of theirs in wine country. Before going we had no idea what this visit was going to be like. All we knew was the address of the house and that it was on a vineyard. Well, after driving down a 3 mile long driveway through acres of grapes, we arrived on top of a hill at the most gorgeous house I have ever seen. We were then treated to a 3 course homemade Italian meal by the retired CEO of Lockheed-Martin, who was quite a character. It was very interesting talking to him and getting his perspective on engineering education and being a manager in an engineering company. He had lots of stories to share and I learned a lot from him.
Week 4: July 11th - July 17th
Week 4 is finished already?! The summer is just flying by. Here is a list of what I did this week:
- Update ePortfolio and review comments
- Talk with Sam about potential individual project and Holland article
- Finish coding EPS interviews and rework the coding system
- First attempt at redoing Delta Design
- Redesign the Delta Design game board
- Draft an initial invitation for PEARS
- Start the pros and cons list of incentives
- Incentives and survey design reading and research
- Go thrift store shopping in the San Francisco Mission district
- Go to the Harry Potter premier
One of the largest accomplishments was reworking my coding system so that it was more logical and did a better job of capturing the essence of the interviews and the questions I was looking at. I took the approach of first tagging the sections that pertained to each individual question and then identifying themes within each section. Overall, I think that it was a fairly effective categorization system.
Another major task was our work on Delta Design. This started with reading all the instructions for all the players in addition to the generic instructions and becoming a specialist in one the fields (I was the structural engineer). Then Michelle and I sat down to try to play the game and ran into major problems. First, one of the keys to Delta Design as we discovered is the player doesn’t know all the constraints and restrictions when they start to play. Michelle and I however did. Additionally, the old board game was ruined because the Deltas were permanently stuck to the board game. So we spent a significant amount of time remaking the game. We ended up making a serious overhaul of the board game, making it colored and adding new lines. Another idea that we had during our reworking of Delta Design was to allow the use of excel sheets to do some of the basic calculations instead of forcing students to do a lot of complicated calculations by hand. This could be beneficial in multiple ways because it would make the game easier and less time consuming and also to teach students more about using excel for engineering calculations.
On the ePortfolio front I filled in my goals and plans section in addition to adding to my classes section, mostly adding explanations and captions to the many photos I had already posted on my profile from the various projects that I have done. Although I made progress, I think I need to be contributing more time to it. In the coming week, my goals for my ePortfolio are: Finish locating and uploading pictures to the courses section and giving those sections captions and explanations. Additionally, I want to add some explanations to my sewing section.
As for other goals this week, they include the following:
- Work more on the incentives pros and cons list
- Finish reading about non-monetary survey incentives and send in a report on that
- Have a project proposal by the end of the week for my independent project
- Get my blog post in on time!
- Work more on Delta Design
Finally, another thing I have been thinking about a lot this week is my final project. Part of what prompted my thinking was, I have been taking a lot of personality tests because of this project, and I never seem to get a personality type that is suited to engineering according to the test. This is quite troublesome to me because, I'm an engineering major and I've always thought that I would be a good engineer. One of the patterns I noticed in the personality tests too, is the fact that they all indicate that I'm a pretty social person. I like to be around people, I like interacting with people, I like working with people and overall a great deal of my life rests on interpersonal relations. So, I'm wondering if the two are connected. Maybe being a social type person really does make you less likely to enjoy engineering. Or alternatively, maybe these personality tests are structured in such a way that they view engineering as an inherently isolating job when it's not. This is definitely something I hope to explore this week.
Week 3: July 5th - July10th
This week has been devoted to delving further into the realms of engineering research, getting acquainted with the data, the process, the equipment, the people and how the whole system works together:
- MAXQDA tutorials and my first attempts at coding with the software
- Going through the EPS interviews and coding for the portions discussing the definitions of engineering jobs and what engineering jobs entail
- Tuesday Morning Conference Call: Interview team
- DesignX meeting
- Reading articles: Should I stay or should I go, An engineering major does not an engineer make
- Investigating Lottery Incentives: Dillman book (2009), Laguilles article (2010)
- Investigating Personality types and how they affect people’s decisions to stay in engineering: Felder’s Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education.
- Taking personality tests!
- Meeting with Sam about the overall program experience and looking into options of a personal project
- Going dancing!
- Visiting the San Jose Japanese Obon Festival
I will expand on a few of these. One experience that deserves extra attention is my introduction to MAXQDA and my attempted application of my new skills to the specific portions of the EPS interviews. As soon as I started using MAXQDA, the potential power of this software quickly became evident. It is so much faster to code things and your codes can be much more descriptive and precise. I was very quickly impressed and sold. However, as I have started to work more with the software, I’ve realized that there is so much more room for confusion and meaningless coding. I found that I’ve been making my codes so precise that they don’t really reveal much about the data because each code only applies to one section of the data. This week I would like to get the chance to go through my coding system and make some serious changes. After talking to Michelle G. she is having similar troubles navigating MAXQDA, so by working together we hope to help each other make sense of this complicated program.
Another part of my week that merits elaboration is my investigations into personality types and the potential effects this kind of research should have on engineering curriculum. I found one article on this topic called “Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education” by Richard Felder which talked a lot about how most engineering students have personalities that naturally engender learning in this specific way and how engineering professors might alter their curriculum and teaching accordingly. I see this article as justification for further investigation of this topic. On that vein, after talking with Sam, it seems like there is a possibility of adding some kind of section to the survey which discusses this topic and I’m looking into using Holland’s ideas with this. Also, I re-took the Meyers-Briggs personality test and found that my personality had indeed changed. One test I took put me as ESFJ but I honestly don’t think that fits my personality so I took a different test and got ESTJ which I think is more accurate. Next I hope to investigate more about Holland’s theories and perhaps take his test.
Finally, I spent a lot of time this week looking into Lottery incentives and different ways to increase survey response rates. Before investigating into this topic, I didn’t realize that there was so much research done on this topic. From comparing the Laguilles article and Dillman’s research at this point I would say that lottery incentives are in general not effective in increasing response rates. However, this was concluded despite the fact that Laguilles says that lottery incentives are in fact effective ways to increase response rates. Clearly, more investigation needs to be done on the issue of study design to maximize response rates. This will be a goal for this week, specifically creating a list of survey design techniques that I can present to the survey team to consider.
Week 2: June 27th - July 4th
This was my week of vacation that I spent frolicing through England. Highlights of the trip were going to see the tennis championships at Wimbledon, going to a little town called Lands End at the coast and flying back home first class, to name a few. In this case though, instead of including a long blog entry of everything I did, I included a photo gallery, since pictures are worth one thousand words:
Week 1: June 20th- June 26th
This week marks my orientation to the world of engineering research. From the complexities of finding a research question to an introduction to what coding entails to looking at the intricacies of survey software, I feel that I have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Here is a list of what I’ve worked on and done this week:
- SURI Orientation
- IRB training
- Learning to code and the first coding assignment
- Introduction to MAXQDA
- Starting my ePortfolio
- Investigating and creating a chart on different survey software
- Design X meeting
- Two Thesis Defenses
- Pears meeting
- A little bit of investigation about how personality types relate to career paths
- Late-night Bowling
In addition to these accomplishments, I have also refined and expanded my goals for the summer. In addition to the goals listed on Monday:
- Getting to know Sheri (and other Professors) well and also for her to get to know me
- Learning more about the process of research and exploring the possibility of graduate school
- Understanding the findings from the Academic Pathways Study research (and the possible implications for my own life!)
- Getting to know other SURI students
- Doing fun things during my time off
I have also added the following:
- Making a concrete contribution to the team which I can feel proud of
- Doing some of my own research on related topics that I find interesting, and presenting what I find to the group to enhance the cumulative knowledge
- Creating a really stellar ePortfolio that I can present to potential employers as a complete way for them to understand me and my strengths
Wow, this seems like a lot to do in 10 weeks but I’m hoping I can get it done. To start working on goal number 7, I would like to share with you a study that I found which I thought was pretty interesting about Computer Scientists and Meyers-Briggs personality types. The purpose of the research was to investigate whether or not there was a certain personality type (of the 16 types that comprise the Meyers-Briggs test) correlated with the profession of “software engineering”. And they found that there was. After testing 100 software engineers they found that 24% were of the ISTJ personality. This is compared with 11.6% in the general population. How interesting, especially for me because, when I took the Meyers-Briggs Personality test in highs school, I was also ISTJ! Hopefully, I will have time investigate this further next week, looking at different types of engineers.