Postdoctoral Fellow Position Available October 1, 2019

The Biologically Inspired Design for Engineering Education (BIRDEE) program, a newly funded Discover Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) project, is seeking a postdoctoral fellow. The postdoctoral fellow will join a multidisciplinary team of academic and research faculty, teachers, and learning scientists to develop and assess Biologically Inspired Design (BID) units for high school engineering courses. 

The vision for this project is to create socially relevant, accessible, highly-contextualized biologically inspired design experiences that can be disseminated to high school audiences in Georgia and nationally. BIRDEE will create, implement, and evaluate its standards-based curriculum in high school engineering classes. BIRDEE, a collaboration between the GT School of Biology, School of Mechanical Engineering, and CEISMC, will situate challenges within socially relevant sustainability contexts and provide cutting edge biological scenarios to ignite creative and humanistic engineering experiences to 1) drive greater engagement in engineering, particularly among females, 2) improve student engineering skills, especially problem definition and ideation skills, and 3) increase students awareness of the connection and impacts between the engineered and living worlds. An abstract of the project is below.

The postdoc will be involved in many aspects of the project, including curriculum development, designing research instruments, data collection and analysis, classroom observations, and professional development of teachers.


Candidates should have background in engineering and education, and a Ph. D. in engineering education or another engineering or STEM/ STEM education discipline. The ideal applicant will have experience with engineering design, software and graphical programming languages, be familiar and comfortable working with prototyping equipment (particularly 3-D printers), and have experience with teaching, K-12 school setting experience preferred. Experience in the design and implementation of STEM curricula is an asset, as is an interest in biology and sustainability. Applicants should demonstrate ability to work on a team, skill in collaborating with practitioners, interest in working in partnerships to develop innovations, and ability to succeed in a K-12 school setting.

BIRDEE seeks a candidate who can start in Fall 2019 or early 2020, with a negotiable start date. Salary will be dependent on level of expertise and experience. Applicants should be prepared to make a two-year commitment; renewal for the second year will be contingent on performance in Year 1.

To Apply

BIRDEE is taking applications now; the position will remain open until filled. Send CV, statement of purpose, one or more papers, and names of three people we can contact for references to: Roxanne Moore at Subject: "BIRDEE Postdoc”. 

The Georgia Institute of Technology is an equal opportunity employer.

ABSTRACT: Biologically InspiRed Design for Engineering Education (BIRDEE)

Scientists and engineers often learn from nature to develop new products that benefit society, a process called biologically-inspired design. Aerospace engineers, for example, have studied the intricate folding patterns in ladybugs' wings to gain ideas for designing more compact satellites. In this project, high school engineering teachers will spend five weeks in a research lab devoted to biologically-inspired design, as they partner with cutting-edge engineers and scientists to study animal features and behavior and their applications to engineering designs. After this lab experience, the high school teachers will receive three six- to ten-week curricular units, tailored for tenth- through twelfth-grade students, which teach biologically-inspired design in the context of problems that are relevant to youth. The teachers will also participate in ongoing professional development sessions that demonstrate strategies for teaching these units. The research team will study whether and how the lab and professional development experiences influence the teachers' understandings of engineering and perspectives toward nature, among other outcomes. Additionally, the research team will study whether the curricular units are associated with positive learning outcomes for students. The curricula and professional development modules will be shared publicly through online resources and teacher workshops, and research findings will be widely disseminated through journals. Because previous research has suggested that biologically-inspired design is a promising approach for attracting and retaining women in engineering careers, this project is likely to result in products that foster high school girls' interest in engineering during a critical period when they are imagining their future career trajectories. Moreover, these products are likely to fuel national innovation by teaching students how to look to nature to find answers to pressing problems, and by generating knowledge about motivational educational approaches that encourage a wider range of high school students to pursue engineering careers. 

This project addresses the persistent underrepresentation of girls in engineering careers by developing and testing three sets of curricula that are expected to lead to positive outcomes among high school females. These curricula incorporate biologically-inspired engineering, humanistic engineering, a focus on sustainability and ideation, and authentic design contexts. Ten high school teachers will participate in extensive professional development experiences that prepare them to effectively teach the curricula. These experiences include a five-week lab experience with scientists who are applying biologically-inspired design; a one-week workshop demonstrating strategies for teaching the units; weekly implementation meetings; and web-based professional development modules. To study the effect of the professional development on teachers, researchers will collect curriculum design logs, teacher enactment surveys, and engineering teaching self-efficacy surveys; they will also conduct classroom observations and interviews. Qualitative analyses of these sources will indicate whether and how the professional development affected teachers' understanding of the engineering design process, engineering teaching self-efficacy, and perspective toward the natural and designed world. To study the effect of the curricula on over 1,100 high school students, researchers will use a pre-post design with validated measures to determine whether the curricula are associated with greater understanding and use of the engineering design process; ability to generate well-formulated engineering design problems; engineering self-efficacy; attitudes toward the natural and designed world; sustainability awareness; and intent to persist in engineering. Subsequently, a quasi-experimental design with a matched comparison group will enable the researchers to determine whether the treatment group outperformed the comparison group on pre-post measures. Qualitative analysis of focus groups and interviews with a sub-set of high school girls will indicate whether and how the curricula supported their sense of belonging in engineering. This project is designed to advance knowledge and practice in engineering education for high school students, especially among girls, ultimately resulting in broadening participation in engineering pathways.