Aditya Johri, an assistant professor with Virginia Tech's engineering education department, has won a $400,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award to study work practices of global engineering professionals.

It is Johri's hope that his research will advance understanding of how engineers work on teams spread across the world using information technology, and lead to insights that can help educators better prepare future engineers. Such international collaboration in the classroom can transform how engineering students are educated, Johri said.

"The ability to work in a global world has emerged as the foremost skill that needs to be developed among engineers," Johri wrote in his research proposal. "Policy makers, academics, and practitioners all acknowledge that global collaboration is essential for sustained economic progress and for solving critical social and environmental problems." The study is titled “Investigating Global Engineering Work Practices to Prepare 21st Century Engineers."

The CAREER grant is the National Science Foundation's (NSF) most prestigious award, given to creative junior faculty likely considered to become academic leaders of the future. The NSF award was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The five-year study builds on research already mapped out in Johri's master's thesis and dissertation. He was inspired to research how global information technology is used by engineering professionals after working for two companies in India, a Honda subsidiary and a company linked to General Electric. At both jobs, Johri said he was impressed with the collaboration and sharing of information among engineers from such countries as India, France, Japan, and the United States.

Johri since has focused on research on global workplace collaboration, recently creating a Virginia Tech engineering education department course titled "Global Engineering Work Practices” that will support the development and testing of pedagogical findings from the CAREER project. He already is completing field research with several international firms for the study.

The research is expected to increase global work perspectives for both undergraduate and graduate engineering students at Virginia Tech, but its outreach will extend beyond Blacksburg. A working guide on global teams will be distributed to students, faculty and study abroad offices of major universities, Johri said. Engineering corporations also will be provided with study feedback and findings.

Johri earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Delhi University in 1998, a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Georgia in 2000, a master's in information design and technology from Georgia Tech in 2002, and his Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and Technology Design from Stanford University in 2007.

He is a past winner of the New Faculty Fellow award at the Frontiers in Education conference and the winner of the best faculty paper proposal award at the "Cognition in the Rough" workshop at the Academy of Management.

During the past two years, Johri has secured roughly $1 million dollars in funding and support for his research and is currently the primary investigator on five National Science Foundation-sponsored projects. In addition to the CAREER project, Johri's current research initiatives include investigation of newcomer participation in open-source communities, understanding of knowledge networks through visualizations, and an examination of the role of information technology in facilitating creativity in engineering design.

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