Program elements’ impact on chemistry doctoral students’ professional development: a longitudinal study
The goal of graduate education has consistently been to produce independent scientists who can advance the knowledge of their fields, which has led to a series of staple elements in graduate components (i.e. research, courses, seminars, etc.) However, criticisms of graduate education in chemistry have been raised, stating that the current structure no longer matches the needs of our changing world, that it fails to prepare students for present and future careers in academia, industry, and government work. Suggestions have been made for improvement, but there is a lack of research investigating how graduate students actually grow professionally given the current common programmatic elements. To that end, a longitudinal, qualitative case study was conducted. Four chemistry graduate students were interviewed about their professional growth every 6 months during their first two years of graduate school based on their personal experiences to determine the impact of programmatic elements on graduate students’ professional development. Socialization theory and cognitive apprenticeship theory provided the lens for the development of the semi-structured interviews. Through the use of iterative thematic coding, evidence of five main themes was found: Career preparation, environment, perceived value, scepticism or faith in the system, and support. These themes bring into question the extent to which chemistry programs (of similar characteristics to those studied) are meeting their ethical responsibility of preparing students for the changing dynamics of careers that chemists assume. It was found that, in certain circumstances, the current chemistry graduate education structure falls short of those goals.