Our research characterizes front-end design practices across the student to practitioner continuum, developing tools to support design best practices, and studying the impact of front-end design tools on design success. Specifically, we focus on divergent and convergent thinking processes in design innovations, including investigations of concept generation and development of individuals and teams, exploring problem spaces to identify real needs and innovation opportunities, and the role of creativity in engineering and how to foster innovative thinking. Our work also focuses on the contexts in which front-end design occurs and the processes students use to understand social and cultural elements of these contexts and translate them to design decisions. Our studies often involve multiple disciplines, professional and educational contexts, and collaborations across disciplines with scholars in engineering, education, industrial design, and psychology.

What We Are About

Our work aims to change the way engineering conceptualizes, teaches, and shows value for skills that have been considered “additional,” but are vital skills for engineers to innovate for complex socio-technical challenges. We work to regularize these skills by creating empirically-based tools and active teaching and training approaches, and by partnering with instructors and practitioners on integration into the regular curricula and industry training. We strive to support inclusion for students who feel like they are not “typical” engineers, because they want to be creative, identify problems that directly impact people, and explore in spaces that have no one single right answer.