Taking PER into the workplace: A study of math, physics, and communication in physics-intensive careers
Ben Zwickl, Rochester Institute of Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org
STEM education and DBER enjoy broad support because STEM skills are seen as a gateway to economic prosperity for individuals, communities, and the nation. However, DBER rarely studies the STEM knowledge and scientific practices used as students transition into careers, while many workforce reports lack the theoretical and methodological depth of DBER. I will discuss an on-going interdisciplinary study involving in-depth interviews with entry-level employees, academic researchers, and their supervisors within optics and photonics. We are documenting the context, tools, and representations that accompany the use of mathematics, physics, and communication in the workplace. Early results focus on characteristics of problems, problem-solving strategies, and mathematics use within PhD-level research and industry. Our findings suggest ways to expand the scope of the curriculum, for example, by introducing more ill-structured problems, opportunities for data analysis and interpretation, and construction of mathematical models. I will also highlight methodological challenges and research opportunities that await those who extend DBER to better understand the careers of students we endeavor to impact in the classroom.