Research History

Since my first research experiences as an undergraduate, to my work in industry, and through my doctoral research, I have learned how to engage in the entire research process including defining questions, conducting literature reviews, planning the work, gathering and analyzing data, writing reports, and presenting.

This page provides abstracts from four key research efforts, including: NSF GRFP funded dissertation research exploring the experiences of young women in high school engineering, Texas Instruments Educational Technology funded qualitative market analysis project, Texas Instruments funded thesis research on the digital micromirror device, and a brief description of my role as a product engineer at Texas Instruments.

1) NSF GRFP Funded Dissertation Research

By examining the experiences of young women in high school engineering, we can learn ways to improve the curriculum, pedagogy, and environment for underrepresented groups to ensure they have equitable access and are motivated to persist in engineering.

Understanding the needs of marginalized groups is complex, and intersectional feminism seeks to understand gender in relation to other identities such as race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality. This theory asserts that gender alone is neither a total identity nor a universal experience, and it is thus advantageous to consider each of the intersecting layers of identity so as to not privilege a dominate group as representative of all women. Thus, to understand how female students engage with and experience engineering in grade school, it is useful to examine through the lens of gender, class, race, and sexuality, because this intersection frames much of the human experience.

The purpose of this study is to examine high school females’ experiences in engineering, with a goal to richly describe the diversity of experiences. A multiple case study analysis, this study answers the question: How do gender, class, race, and other components of intersectionality, influence high school females’ experiences in engineering? Nine young women taking a high school engineering course in a suburban high school in Central Texas during the school year 2011-2012 volunteered to participate. The students were observed in their engineering classes for half of the spring 2012 semester, with bi-weekly interviews with the students, monthly interviews with the teacher, and a single interview with a parent of each volunteer.

The nine rich case studies provide us with new stories that help prevent us from narrowing the experiences of women to a single incomplete stereotype, because these young women vary across race, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexual orientation. Although each story is unique, there are commonalities among their experiences, including family, influence, classroom environment, biases, and beliefs. By drawing from their collective experiences in high school engineering, the findings direct us toward recommendations for educators, parents, engineering curriculum developers, designers of teacher professional development, and future research to improve equity and access for every student in engineering.

2) Texas Instruments Educational Technology Funded Research

TI works with educators throughout the world in designing and developing classroom technology. As a result, their products, training and support materials are well-researched and tested, providing appropriate solutions for every classroom. K-12 engineering education is a growing market, and they were interested in developing a robust, systemic solution including both products and services, similar to what they provide for math and science classrooms. This research opportunity addressed the following three questions. First, what is the need and opportunity, from a market standpoint, for a K-12 engineering education portfolio of products and services? This portion required a literature review and market analysis. Second, from a teacher perspective, what is the current application of TI education technology products in an engineering classroom, and what are the gaps that TI can work to address? Finally, from an administrative perspective, how are schools aiming to address the E (engineering) in STEM, and what are the implementation needs (i.e. services) for this process?

The overarching goal for the study was to gather information that informs a robust engineering solution for TI Education Technology. The stakeholders in K-12 engineering education approached to contribute to this goal were (in no particular order): policy makers, academic researchers, teachers, administrators, and developers of curriculum and professional development. Volunteer participants were recruited in three different ways. They were either identified through the researcher’s (Meagan’s) network, were recruited at an event where the researcher was observing, or they completed an online survey distributed to contacts within the business’ database or engineering teachers listed in the Market Data Retrieval database. Thirty-eight interviews were conducted and averaged 28 minutes in length. Open ended responses from 128 online surveys are also included in the analysis.

The research questions that guided the study were:

  1. What are the overarching needs – both current and future, for K-12 engineering education?
  2. What do schools aim to accomplish by implementing engineering?
  3. How are schools implementing engineering, and what are the needs for this process?
  4. What are the current or potential applications of TI Education Technology products in an engineering classroom?

The results of the study were presented as 4 key findings, and 4 recommendations for an engineering solution for TI Education Technology. The full report illuminates the intersection of this study and the research literature, providing a more comprehensive account of the capacities and urgencies of K-12 Engineering Education as a market. TI has requested the results of the study remain as proprietary intellectual property until further notice.

3) Texas Instruments Funded Thesis Research, MSEE

My master’s thesis was a study of the permeation & diffusion of moisture through the window bondline adhesive for the digital micromirror device (DMD), the key component in the Digital Light Processing (DLP) system. The DLP projection system is comprised of a light source, optics, signal formatting processors and electronics, a color application (color wheel, LEDs, or lasers), and the DMD device. The DMD is fabricated of SRAM CMOS circuitry, DMD superstructure (i.e., the mechanical system built on top of the CMOS), and window and package component assembly. Innovations of the DMD have moved from individual hermetically sealed packaging of the window over the Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) array of mirrors, to a more cost effective approach of wafer level packaging, in which the windows are sealed to the wafer. The cross-sectional area of the bondline, between the interposer and window in wafer level packaging, is the principal physical characteristic that facilitates diffusion and permeation into the highly moisture sensitive headspace. This feature results in increased attention to the corresponding effects concerning reliability and the performance of the device.

The experimental research project I proposed was to alter the bondline between the interposer and window, examine the effects, and recommend design changes to the DMD. The thickness of the epoxy (permeation face) and the width of the interposer (diffusion plane) were varied from the baseline measurements, and test devices were subjected to a six week accelerated life-test at three different vapor pressures, but four distinct environmental conditions. The key figures of merit in the data analysis of this experiment were parametric observations of device performance, internal vapor analysis inside the headspace of the DMD, and failed devices. The findings and correlations (TI Intellectual Property) provided for recommendations for future design of the interposer to window bondline of the DMD. This study helped to enable new markets for DLP through design recommendations for an acceptable package of decreased dimension & cost, aiding the establishment of appropriate reliability standards & lifetime prediction capabilities for the new markets, and through reaching a basic understanding of the effect of moisture permeation on the DMD. This experience taught me how to define a problem, propose an innovative solution, design a cost efficient experiment, manage the manufacturing and testing of my experimental devices, collaborate with cross-disciplinary teams, critically analyze data, write a quality technical paper, and effectively present findings and conclusions.

4) Industry Experience, Engineer, Texas Instruments

Prior to returning to school to earn my Ph. D. in Engineering Education, I worked as a micro-opto-electromechanical systems (MOEMS) engineer for DLP of Texas Instruments (TI). In this capacity, I became an expert on the method of which moisture permeates the packaging of a wafer-level-packaged digital micromirror device (DMD), and the effects of this diffusion on the performance and lifetime of the device. More specifically, I worked as a Product Engineer, and my responsibilities included: qualify and ramp new products, achieve yield forecasts, control and reduce product costs, improve processes in assembly/test, and improve reliability. These activities required me to design and implement multiple research projects using experimental design procedures, collaborate with international and cross disciplinary teams, constantly analyze data and regularly present my projects and results in meetings and the occasional symposium. One of my research experiments led to an internally disclosed patent on a new method that would decrease the permeation of moisture into the headspace of the DMD.


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