Written by Carter Thweatt // Photo by Macy Cox
In spring 2021, Dr. James Huff, associate professor of engineering, received a $575,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to begin research on professional shame, an accomplishment that any researcher would be proud to receive even once.
A little over a year later, Huff has once again received a research grant from the NSF. This time, it’s a little over $456,000, and Huff received it for research he plans to undertake with Oregon State professor Dr. Shane Brown.
Huff’s research will be about engineering capstone courses and how they affect students’ futures in design. Huff explained in further detail the research he plans to do with Brown.
“In this study, we are looking for ways to understand how students’ identities as engineers are connected to how well they engage, or not, the learning opportunities in capstone design,” Huff said. “Our goal is to use these findings to support engineering capstone design instructors as they create engaging and authentic environments of learning.”
One thing Huff stressed was that the grant was not a trophy for research that has been finished — rather it was a gift provided to help kickstart research that has not yet taken place but that the NSF thinks has potential.
“The award is not for research that has already been completed but to fund the costs associated with the research that will be completed,” Huff said. “We are only at the start of this project.”
Those who know Huff said they weren’t all that surprised by his receiving a second grant. Senior Grant Countess, a student in Huff’s research lab, said the grant is well deserved.
“I can’t say that I’m surprised,” Countess said. “Dr. Huff works very hard and produces highly advanced research. It brings me a lot of happiness to see him rewarded for his hard work.”
Dr. Brad Miller, chair of the Engineering and Physics Department, said the grant is not only big for Huff, but for the engineering department as a whole.
“Any grant award from NSF is prestigious,” Miller said. “This award elevates his professional stature and provides recognition for our department.”
Countess said he was thrilled to hear Huff had been awarded this grant, because he enjoyed working with him.
“It’s always an honor to work with Dr. Huff,” Countess said. “He’s ultimately focused on the individual and asking questions that bring wellbeing for the whole person into the spotlight.”
Miller expressed a similar sentiment.
“I enjoy working with Dr. Huff,” Miller said. “He is a conscientious faculty member. He fulfills his work duties with enthusiasm. He volunteers to help me with small administrative tasks that make my job much easier. He is a good communicator.”
Now all that remains is for Huff and Brown to begin their research, and Huff is excited for the opportunity.
“I was and remain grateful for the opportunity to pursue this investigation at Harding,” Huff said. “I am enthusiastic about having a line of research that directly benefits engineering design education.”