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ERIC Number: ED556076
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 248
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3035-4447-7
Resiliency in Physics: The Lived Experiences of African-American Women Who Completed Doctoral Physics Programs
Burnette, Samara Fleming
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, North Carolina State University
Currently, little is known about African-American women with doctoral degrees in physics. This study examined the lived experiences of African-American women who completed doctoral programs in physics. Due to factors of race and gender, African-American women automatically enter a double-bind in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields (Malcom, Hall, & Brown, 1976; Ong, Wright, Espinsoa, & Orfield, 2011) and therefore, they automatically assume risk for attrition when entering into an androcentric and White graduate program in physics. However, literature on educational resilience has never examined how these women make it through to completion in doctoral physics programs. Using an interpretive phenomenological approach, this study is designed to further investigate the lived experiences of African-American women who graduated from doctoral physics programs. The selected participants included a purposeful sample of five African-American women who had completed a doctorate degree in physics since the 1980s from American doctoral institutions. Data collection consisted of a nine-question background survey, documentation, and semi-structured interviews conducted throughout a one month period. Interviews, lasting no less than 90 minutes, were digitally recorded and transcribed. To ensure validity of findings, triangulation and member checking were utilized. Within this study, the findings answered four overarching questions. These questions surrounded the lived experiences of the participants and how they initially became interested in physics as well as experiences from their undergraduate years. Also, six doctoral obstacles became apparent. These obstacles included gender, race, autonomy, assertiveness, forming study-groups, and passing qualifying and defense exams. How participants overcame these obstacles were revealed through four emergent themes surrounding the social and literal meanings of pluralism. These themes emerged from the data that linked the doctoral resiliency of at least three of the five participants and were categorized as: 1) Forming pluralistic peer connections; 2) Acquiring pluralistic laboratory skills; 3) Utilizing pluralistic problem-solving; and 4) Forming pluralistic support connections. Based on the results of the study, a process paradigm became evident along with three salient conclusions. First, African-American women who want to pursue a doctorate degree must interact with a diverse group of peers and faculty to overcome programmatic challenges, such as the ones previously mentioned. Second, these women must be creative when facing foreseen challenges and utilize strategic problem-solving, even a multi-layered strategy, such as acquiring multiple laboratory skill sets to overcome bias outside of the confines of their doctoral physics programs. Lastly, protective factors have limitation based upon situation and setting. These same protective factors may be unprotecting, or produce negative consequences, if utilized improperly. Suggestions for future research included more in-depth studies of African-American women in physics. First, researchers may want to explore graduate program resiliency utilizing a larger population of African-American women in physics. Next, research on understanding the role of the NSBP in the retention of African-American women in graduate programs in physics may be insightful. Also, studies may be conducted to explore how African-American women in doctoral physics programs partner with foreign nationals, especially the Chinese, to be successful. Lastly, researchers may want to examine life after acquiring the doctoral degree for African-American women in physics. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A