RUSTON, La. - The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Dr. Marisa Orr, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Louisiana Tech University, a five-year, $500,000 Early Career Development (CAREER) grant to support her research in engineering education.
This award is the first NSF CAREER grant for engineering education at Louisiana Tech and the seventh CAREER grant awarded to a professor from Louisiana Tech's College of Engineering and Science. The NSF CAREER grant will provide Orr, who is also the associate director of the Integrated STEM Education Research Center at Louisiana Tech, with the funds to expand the scope of her research into empowering engineering students to make decisions that lead to academic success.
Orr's funded program, "Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers," will impact the way that policy decisions are made in engineering programs across the United States. The research, which will be available to students as well as other researchers in the field, will develop an online "Academic Dashboard" to help students leverage the research results and self-regulate their decision making. The dashboard will help students choose paths that are most likely to lead to success and make adaptive daily choices that help them achieve their goals.
"I am excited to study the ways that students make academic decisions and equip them to do so more effectively," Orr said of the award. "What I love about this project is the connection between research and practice. The purpose of the Academic Dashboard is to put the student in the driver's seat of his or her education and provide some driving lessons based on what we learn in the research."
Orr expects the work to lead to a more diverse group of engineering graduates by expanding the opportunities for students who have difficulty navigating the engineering curriculum.
"I am excited to hear of Dr. Orr's NSF CAREER award," said Dr. Hisham Hegab, dean of the College of Engineering and Science. "These awards are very competitive and it's fantastic to see her work recognized by the NSF. Her research will have a direct impact on our students by helping them to make better decisions about their education. She is an excellent example of the value of investing in higher education in the State of Louisiana."
Dr. David Hall, director of civil engineering, construction engineering technology and mechanical engineering at Louisiana Tech, says that Orr's research can help students find the right major earlier in their academic careers.
"Beginning college students often struggle with selecting a major that matches their interests and unique abilities," Hall said. "Students commonly switch majors several times as they find their way. Dr. Orr has extensive experience in predicting student success using statistical analysis of large data sets from engineering schools around the country. Her CAREER project will use a data-focused approach to help students make informed decisions about their path through college, reducing the time to graduation while improving student satisfaction with their major and eventual career."
Early Career Development or "CAREER" grants are among the most prestigious grants awarded by the National Science Foundation to support the careers of young academic researchers and help them become national leaders in research and education.
Orr received a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, a doctoral degree and a certificate of Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University. She then spent two years as a postdoc in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University before joining Louisiana Tech in the fall of 2012.