Current research funding in the Centre for Research in Engineering and Materials Education

Centre for Research in Engineering and Materials Education

Funded Research Projects

The following are current funded research projects taking place within the research centre:

Empowering students by making STEM curricula more inclusive

Principal Investigator: Rehan SHAH
Co-investigator(s): Dr. Brigitte Stenhouse (OU)
Funding source: Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA)
Start: 11-04-2024  /  End: 31-12-2024
Amount: £600

STEM disciplines have traditionally been taught as an exercise in memorisation and repetitive application of formulae, with the historical aspects often confined to the contributions made by white male European mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. As a result of this, very few students can relate to these mathematical figures, which consequently contributes to the stigma that studying STEM subjects is esoteric, inaccessible, and extremely difficult for them. To rectify this, there is a strong need for increasing students’ awareness of diverse representation within STEM disciplines; not just through exposure to mathematicians, scientists, and engineers from diverse and under-represented backgrounds (including those identifying as female, disabled, and queer), but also those applying their skills within academia and industry through non-traditional pathways. This project aims to co-design (with students) teaching toolkit materials featuring short biographies of past and present mathematicians, scientists and engineers from under-represented minority groups to embed within undergraduate STEM courses. It also seeks to provide opportunities for students to gain exposure to diverse STEM role models by inviting currently active, diverse STEM professionals, compile links to multimedia resources to highlight their contributions and produce a diversity and inclusion agenda to inform future EDI initiatives in STEM curriculum design.

Promoting equity in education for sustainable development through community-based learning and teaching

Principal Investigator: Rehan SHAH
Co-investigator(s): Dr. Anne Preston (UCL) and Dr. Stephanie Fuller (QMUL)
Funding source: Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE)
Start: 09-10-2023  /  End: 31-10-2024
Amount: £1,000

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) plays a crucial role in equipping learners with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to create a sustainable future. Community-based learning and teaching provides a platform for learners to engage directly with local communities, enabling them to develop a holistic understanding of ESD through firsthand knowledge of local challenges, cultural practices, and sustainable solutions. However, achieving equitable learning outcomes in ESD remains a persistent challenge. This research project aims to investigate the integration of ESD and community-based education within the curricula of two collaborating universities in East London. Through co-creation with student partners, we will assess the extent of integration and identify gaps and challenges in achieving equitable learning outcomes in ESD. Working with Learning Development (LD) communities across both universities, we aim to develop recommendations for integrating effective community-based learning approaches into ESD practices.

Identifying and recognising threshold concepts in mathematics education

Principal Investigator: Rehan SHAH
Co-investigator(s): Dr. Manish Malik (Canterbury Christ Church University), Ann O'Shea (Maynooth University) and Sinead Breen (Dublin City University)
Funding source: London Mathematical Society (LMS) and SEMS
Start: 08-01-2024  /  End: 30-09-2024
Amount: £750

This scoping study project aims at identifying and recognising key threshold concepts inherent within undergraduate mathematics-based courses at university. Following this, it seeks to examine the pedagogical implications that knowledge and awareness of these concepts can lead to for teachers and educators, both with regard to curriculum development and assessment design. This will also be supported through findings obtained from a one-day workshop organised featuring discussions and interactions between internal and external academics and colleagues from various UK universities on identifying and recognising the implications of threshold concepts in the teaching of undergraduate mathematics . The discussions will enable lecturers to understand what key threshold concepts exist in mathematics-based modules and to identify/recognise such concepts in order to facilitate the development of students’ understanding within their own modules.

Queen Mary Centre for Undergraduate Research

Principal Investigator: Giuseppe VIOLA
Co-investigator(s): Maria ROMERO-GONZáLEZ, Henri HUIJBERTS and Julia SHELTON
Funding source: President and Principal’s Fund for Educational Excellence
Start: 24-09-2023  /  End: 23-09-2024
Amount: £20,000

The central aim of this project is to establish a centre to support undergraduate research activities.

Empowering local community groups in university-community partnerships

Principal Investigator: Rehan SHAH
Co-investigator(s): Dr. David Geiringer (QMUL)
Funding source: QMUL Centre for Public Engagement
Start: 08-11-2023  /  End: 12-08-2024
Amount: £1,000

This project involves organisation of a workshop at QMUL featuring 20 existing local community partners involved in community-based learning and teaching (CBLT) in current undergraduate modules at QMUL to explore how they experience such community-university collaborations. The intention of this will be to develop and extend CBLT by foregrounding the voices of community leaders/representatives and build more mutually beneficial practice, while also extending the networks of the partners beyond the humanities and social sciences, thereby enabling them to work with the wider university, particularly within science and engineering disciplines.

Community-based placements in higher education (follow-on project)

Principal Investigator: Rehan SHAH
Co-investigator(s): Dr. Irina Lazar (UCL), Dr. Anne Preston (UCL) and Dr. Stephanie Fuller (QMUL)
Funding source: UCL Centre for Engineering Education
Start: 18-09-2023  /  End: 31-07-2024
Amount: £10,000

This follow-on project on community-based placements in engineering education will complement and build on the findings of its scoping study project carried out across UK universities such as UCL and QMUL. While the scoping study focused on community-based placements occurring as credit-bearing activities within the curriculum, the follow-on project will expand this definition to include summer internships, mentoring, volunteering and other types of relevant activities. The research agenda co-created with student interns in the scoping study will inform future priority research areas. The study may also be expanded to international settings to investigate best practice methods to compare and contrast them with the UK context.

A comparative study looking at underrepresented engineering students in different institutional contexts: Investigating what contributes towards a holistic engineering student experience of international and home students (Follow on project)

Principal Investigator: Folashade AKINMOLAYAN TAIWO
Co-investigator(s): Sanaa HAFEEZ
Funding source: UCL Centre for Engineering Education
Start: 01-08-2023  /  End: 31-07-2024
Amount: £7,000

Continuation from previous project to analyse the current student experience as reported by the student themselves. This includes the learning experience and performance but at the same time places great emphasis on aspects of inclusion, wellbeing and the relevant support mechanisms.