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David Knight, Ph.D.

  • Special Assistant to the Dean for Strategic Plan Implementation
David Knight
353 Goodwin Hall (MC 0218)
635 Prices Fork Rd.
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Ph.D. Higher Education, Pennsylvania State University, 2012
M.S. Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, 2009
B.S. Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, 2006

Teaching/Courses Taught

Issues in Engineering Education

Research Interests

My vision in establishing the Virginia Tech Data Enlightened Educational Practice (DEEP) Lab is to have it serve as one of the world’s leading research shops for promoting a systems view of engineering education with an explicit mission to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and inclusiveness of the field.

Our lab’s research tends to be at the macro-scale, leverages large-scale institutional, state, or national data sets, and considers the intersection between policy and organizational contexts.


David Knight is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech and affiliate faculty member with the Higher Education Program, Center for Coastal Studies, Center for Human-Computer Interaction, and Human-Centered Design Program. He leads several multi-institution, interdisciplinary project teams with funding from the National Science Foundation (over $8 million, with over $3.5 million personal share) and places a strong emphasis on partnerships, including working with a range of higher education institutions, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and the Virginia Department of Education. 

Adopting a macro-scale, systems perspective to inform organizational decision-making has enabled David to apply those themes as an active organizational change agent. He has experience with university administration activities, serving as Special Assistant to the Dean for Strategic Plan Implementation as well as Director of Research for the Academy of Global Engineering within Virginia Tech's College of Engineering. He previously served as the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs in Engineering Education and as the Director of International Engagement in Engineering Education through which he ran the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program. Prior to his time at Virginia Tech, David was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland (Australia) and a researcher at the University of Michigan in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education.

Beyond formal roles within higher education institutions, David has served in evaluation, advisory, or consulting capacities for the National Society of Black Engineers, International Society of Biometeorology, Association for Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and Virginia Department of Education. He is a Senior Associate Editor with the Journal of Engineering Education, serves on the Advisory Committee with the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, and has served as a Board Member of ASEE’s Educational Research Methods Division.

Awards & Honors

  • Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Excellence in International Education

  • Simon Spotlight Award. NAFSA: Association of International Educators, 2019. 

  • Dean’s Fellow. College of Engineering, Virginia Tech, May 2018.

  • Certificate of Teaching Excellence. College of Engineering, Virginia Tech, May 2018.

  • Outstanding New Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, Virginia Tech, May 2016.

  • Nunnally Award, Outstanding Engineering Education Faculty Member, Department of Engineering Education, Virginia Tech, May 2016.

Best Conference Papers

  • Best Paper: International Division, American Society for Engineering Education, 2018, Knight et al., Sustaining a study abroad program at scale: What motivates faculty members to engage in such programs?

  • Conference Best Paper: Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity (CoNECD) Conference, 2018, Edwards, Lee, Knight, Reid, Fletcher & Meeropol, Maximizing accessibility: Providing summer engineering experiences for racially, ethnically, and economically underrepresented youth. 

  • ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Benjamin Dasher Best Paper Finalist. Frontiers in Education Conference, 2017, Davis & Knight, Exploring the impacts of a first-year engineering study abroad program on subsequent college experiences. 

  • 2nd Place Poster, International Forum, 2017, American Society for Engineering Education, Davis, Kinoshita, & Knight, Rising Sophomore Abroad Program.

  • Best Paper: Military and Veterans Constituent Committee, American Society of Engineering Education, 2016, Novoselich & Knight, Shared leadership in mechanical engineering-centric capstone design teams: A comparison of military and civilian engineering programs.

  • Best Paper: Educational Research and Methods Division, American Society of Engineering Education, 2012, Knight, In search of the engineers of 2020: An outcomes-based typology of engineering undergraduates.

Active Grants (Serving in PI Role)

EAGER International Type II: Collaborative Research: Reimagining International Research for Students in a Virtual World. Knight, D.B. (PI, Virginia Tech), Sanderlin, N. (Co-PI). $110,000 over two years from National Science Foundation (OISE-2106100), awarded January 2021 | Abstract

Gatekeepers to Broadening Participation in Engineering: Investigating variation across high schools comparing who could go versus who does go into engineering. Knight, D.B. (PI), Grohs, J., Bradburn, I., Matusovich, H. (Co-PIs). $503,093 over three years from National Science Foundation (EEC-1647928), awarded August 2016 | Abstract

Collaborative research: Variation in the awarding and effectiveness of STEM graduate student funding across teaching and research assistantships, fellowships, and traineeships. Knight, D.B. (PI, Virginia Tech), $749,211 (VT portion) over five years from National Science Foundation (DGE-1535226). Co-Investigator: Borrego, M., $1,498,569 total project, awarded October 2015 | Abstract

IRES: Multidisciplinary water engineering research and education to protect and enhance ecosystems in complex environments. Knight, D.B. (PI), Lohani, V. (Co-PI). $299,743 over three years from National Science Foundation (OISE-1658604), awarded March 2017 | Abstract


Active Grants (Serving in Co-PI Role)

IRES Track I: Energy, Environment, and Future Electric Transportation Systems (E-FETS). Sanderlin, N. (PI), Lesko, J., Knight, D.B. (co-PIs). $299,951 over three years from National Science Foundation (OISE-1854185), awarded March 2019 | Abstract

Cognitive understanding of complexity-evidence from engineering students and practitioners. Triantis, K. (PI), Knight, D.B., Ghaffarzadegan, N., Grohs, J., Hosseinichimeh, N. (co-PIs). $403,178 over three years from National Science Foundation (EEC-1824594), awarded September 2018 | Abstract

The Virginia Tech Network for Engineering Transfer Students (VT-NETS). Watford, B. (PI), Lee, W., Knight, D.B. (co-PIs). $4,999,970 over five years from National Science Foundation (DUE-1644138), awarded June 2017 | Abstract

Investing in Instructors: Creating intelligent feedback loops in large foundational courses for undergraduate engineering. Grohs, J.R. (PI), Knight, D.B., Case, S. (Co-PIs). $298,599 over two and a half years from National Science Foundation (DUE-1712089), awarded May 2017 | Abstract

EAGER: Student support in STEM: Developing and validating a tool to assess the magnitude of college-level support provided to undergraduate students. Lee, W. (PI), Knight, D.B. (Co-PI). $257,372 over two years from National Science Foundation (HRD-1704350), awarded April 2017 | Abstract

Selected Recent Publications from 2020

* indicates graduate student co-author

Grote, D.M.*, Knight, D.B., Lee, W.C., & Watford, B. (2020). Exploring influences of policy collisions on transfer student access: Perspectives from street-level bureaucrats. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 42(4), 576-602.

Knight, D.B., Grohs, J.R., Bradburn, I., Kinoshita, T.J.*, Vaziria, S.*, Matusovich, H., & Carrico, C. (2020). Illuminating inequality in access: Variation in enrollment in undergraduate engineering programs across Virginia’s high schools. Journal of Engineering Education, 109(4), 665-684.

Reeping, D., Grote, D.* & Knight, D.B. (2020). Effects of large-scale programmatic change on electrical and computer engineering transfer student pathways. IEEE Transactions on Education.

Matusovich, H.M., Gillen, A.*, Carrico, C.A., Knight, D.B., & Grohs, J.R. (2020). Outcome Expectations and Environmental Factors Associated with Engineering College-Going: A Case Study. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 10(1).

Ozkan, D.S.*, Davis, K.A.*, Davis, J.C.*, James, M., Murzi, H. & Knight, D.B. (2020). Expectations and experiences of short-term study abroad leadership teams. Journal of International Engineering Education, 2(1), Article 1. 

Davis, K.*, Ghaffarzadegan, N., Grohs, J., Grote, D.*, Hosseinichmeh, N., Knight, D.B., Mahmoudi, H.*, & Triantis, K. (2020). The Lake Urmia Vignette: A Tool to Assess Understanding Complexity in Socio-Environmental Systems. System Dynamics Review, 36(2), 191-222.

Kinoshita, T. J.*, Knight, D. B., Borrego, M., & Wall Bortz, W. E. (2020). Illuminating systematic differences in no job offers for STEM doctoral recipients. PloS One, 15(4), e0231567.

Wall Bortz, W. E., Knight, D. B., Lyles, C. H.*, Kinoshita, T.*, Choe, N. H.*, Denton, M.*, & Borrego, M. (2020). A competitive system: graduate student recruitment in STEM and why money may not be the answer. The Journal of Higher Education, 91(6), 927-952. 

Knight, D.B., Davis, K.A.*, Kinoshita, T.J.*, Ogilvie, A.M.*, Twyman, C.* (2020). The Rising Sophomore Abroad Program: Early experiential learning in global engineering. Advances in Engineering Education, 7(3).

Ogilvie, A.M.*, & Knight, D.B. (2020). Transfer students’ recommendations for enhancing success and easing the transition into the middle years of engineering at receiving institutions. Advances in Engineering Education, 7(3).

Ogilvie, A. M.*, & Knight, D. B. (2020). Engineering transfer students’ reasons for starting at another institution and variation across subpopulations. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 19(1), 69-83.