Integrating the Teaching of Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering Courses to Improve Retention of Engineering Students at Penn State Abington

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will contribute to the national need for well-educated scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technicians by supporting the retention and graduation of high-achieving, low-income students with demonstrated financial need at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Abington, located near Philadelphia. The project will support students through a combination of financial assistance and curricular and co-curricular support. Over its six-year duration, this project will fund two-year scholarships to four unique cohorts of twelve (12) high-achieving, low-income undergraduate majors in engineering disciplines at the university to reduce their need to work outside of their regular academic pursuits. Additional support will include enrolling the cohorts in special block scheduling for STEM Freshman Interest Groups and creating pairs of integrated courses (mathematics with physics and physics with engineering) to catalyze transitioning of students from solely content-oriented courses to those emphasizing problem solving. An enhanced advising, career counseling, and peer tutoring/mentoring program will be in place. In line with this, the project will partner with industry to provide the students with opportunities for internships, professional mentors, networking, and a special speaker program. The project will incorporate a networking process with industry partners, high school counselors, and other colleges to disseminate outcomes and findings related to project challenges and successes, in particular to other institutions, including other PSU campuses, working to support low-income STEM students.

To increase retention and STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving engineering undergraduates with demonstrated financial need, the project will pursue several goals. First is to adapt and implement evidence-based curricular and co-curricular strategies for systematically supporting student academic and career pathways to success. Second is to implement, test, and study through project evaluation an innovative model for preparing highly-talented STEM students to transition from learning content to applying material and principles learned to problem solving scenarios, especially in the contexts of physics and engineering. Third is to contribute to the knowledge base to help guide other colleges to implement similar programs successfully. Fourth is to integrate the project with local industries to enhance and sustain student interest as well as to improve career preparation and job placement, directly supporting needs in the region. Insights and outcomes from qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods will generate new knowledge on which aspects of the project's support interventions, or combination of interventions, are most effective for retention, engagement, academic performance, and overall success of students. The lines of investigation will address gaps in the literature and inform other higher-education professionals seeking to support students with a combination of curricular and co-curricular interventions, especially from urban regions containing a significant population of students who are underrepresented in STEM. This project is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. It also aims to improve the education of future STEM workers, and to generate knowledge about academic success, retention, transfer, graduation, and academic/career pathways of low-income students.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date10/1/219/30/27


  • National Science Foundation: $750,000.00


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