Katharine Popejoy

Having a PhD in Science Education (and a prior masters degree in chemistry) gives me a broad foundation to work with a broad range of university STEM faculty.
Lehigh University
Research Program Development Officer
Madison, United States of America
Bethlehem, United States of America
The Impact of Technology on Teaching and Learning in the Elementary Science Classroom
Dr. Gaalen Erickson

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

I work with Lehigh STEM faculty to find research funding, to match their research to potential funding, to find collaborators here and abroad, and to manage the internal review process for limited submission grants.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

Having a PhD in Science Education (and a prior masters degree in chemistry) gives me a broad foundation to work with a broad range of university STEM faculty. I also was a science education professor at UNC Charlotte and then a science educator at the Da Vinci Science Center in Allentown, PA before I took this position. So my degree has allowed me to do a wide variety of things.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

I very much enjoy working with our broad range of STEM faculty. This allows me to learn about cutting edge research, and also to play my part by helping it to get funded. I enjoy Lehigh University, which is a smaller campus (~7500 students) and which graduates about 125 doctoral students each year (the majority in the sciences and engineering).

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

Well, not quite. I suppose I imagined I would just get on the tenure track at a university I liked and then work my way up the ladder. However, it turned out that my first institution (UNC Charlotte) was not a good fit for me. Then, I fell in love with my now husband, who lived in Pennsylvania. So I moved here. I then found the two jobs I've had here. I actually think my current position is a great match for me, so it worked out in the end!

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

I liked the faculty at UBC and in the Department of Curriculum Studies. I also liked that I could work on my degree while also working full time and raising my son. I liked the way that I could customize my classes in conjunction with my advisor.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

I very much enjoyed working with the international students on campus. Though I lived only about 65 miles away in Bellingham, WA, I felt like I got an international experience.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

I'm smart, I like learning about everything, I'm a good communicator, I write well, and I am flexible.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Be flexible! Don't always assume you'll follow the path you think you've chosen. When you interview for positions, ask LOTS of questions about the institution, the local area, students, other faculty, life/work balance, collaboration opportunities. I should have been more choosy in my first position.

Did you have any breaks in your education?

Yes, I took a year-long break so that I could focus on work and family. I didn't plan it, but it was needed. I had already finished courses and had gathered data. So this really just slowed down my writing process.

What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?

Some of this, I have addressed earlier. One challenge I had when working on my degree was that my advisor was pretty laid back...he didn't like to set deadlines for me. This made me struggle, but it also helped me to police myself and keep going.


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