To celebrate Pride Month in June, a Utah State Today series is highlighting university employees and students who are conducting research, academic pursuits and other projects related to or that benefit the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
- Materials testing for extreme temperature in aerospace and nuclear applications
- Broadening participation of underrepresented groups in engineering.
Why is this work important?
Degrees in engineering are an established pathway to a stable, well-paying career. But LGBTQIA+ students face unique barriers and lack role models and support systems to complete engineering degrees at the same rates as their peers. Companies also stand to benefit from a diverse and well-prepared engineering workforce because diverse voices lead to more creativity and improved engineering outcomes.
Summary of research:
Berke is leading new research to better understand the professional development of LGBTQIA+ students who study engineering. In 2018, he and USU psychology professor Renee Galliher received a major grant from the National Science Foundation to examine the factors that affect the career trajectories of engineers in training at universities across the United States. In recent years, engineering education researchers have ramped up efforts to improve the educational outcomes for underrepresented students in engineering programs. Berke says the best way to address the problem is by understanding the root causes at the undergraduate level.
“Other researchers have shown that there’s a falsely-perceived spectrum of masculinity among engineering disciplines, with gay men perceived to be less masculine (and therefore less ‘technical’) than straight men, and lesbian women perceived as more masculine (and therefore more ‘technical’) than straight women,” Berke said. “We’re looking to challenge those misperceptions.”
Berke is an active participant in the USU Allies program and the faculty adviser for USU’s student chapter of Out in STEM (oSTEM) a professional organization for LGBTQIA+ people in the STEM community. The USU student chapter of oSTEM ratified its constitution in spring 2017 and registered with USUSA and the oSTEM national organization in fall 2017. The club is open to students across all STEM fields and has included officers from USU's colleges of Engineering, Science, Agriculture and Applied Sciences and S.J & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources.
Berke’s current projects include:
- Investigating the Career Development and Professional Trajectories of LGBTQ Students in Engineering
- National Science Foundation: Broadening Participation in Engineering
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