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David Knight, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
  • 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

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 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 f 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 as a university administrator, serving as the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where he is responsible for managing all aspects of the graduate program and serves as a member of the department’s strategic executive committee. He also previously served as the Director of International Engagement in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, through which he led the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program, which grew from 24 students participating in one international track to 180 students participating in seven tracks under the five years of his leadership. 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 as an external evaluator or advisory board member for the National Society of Black Engineers, International Society of Biometeorology, and Association for Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). He is an Associate Editor with the Journal of Engineering Education, has served as a Board Member of ASEE’s Educational Research Methods Division, and regularly serves as a reviewer for the National Science Foundation and a variety of academic journals.

Awards & Honors

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

  • 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?

  • 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

    • 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)

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: Strengthening the STEM pipeline for elementary school African Americans, Hispanics, and girls by scaling up summer engineering experiences. Knight, D.B. (PI, Virginia Tech), Lee, W. (Co-PI). $645,775 over three years from National Science Foundation (DRL-1614710), continuing grant awarded August 2016 for Project Year 1 to VT ($150,582, total for three-year grant $645,775) | 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 Journal Articles

* denotes graduate student co-author

Examples of Pathways to and Experiences through STEM

Ogilvie, A.M.* & Knight, D.B. (in press). Post-Transfer Transition Experiences for Engineering Transfer Students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice.

Reeping, D.*, Knight, D.B., Grohs, J.R., Case, S.W. (2019). The visualization and analysis of course-taking patterns in foundational engineering science and mechanics courses. International Journal of Engineering Education, 35(1), 142-155.

Knight, D.B. (2014). Reversing the logic: An outcomes-based student typology for determining ‘what works’ in promoting an array of student learning outcomes. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 36(2), 145-169.

Knight, D.B., & Novoselich, B.J.* (2017). Curricular and co-curricular influences on undergraduate engineering student leadership. Journal of Engineering Education, 106(1), 44-70.

Knight, D.B., Callaghan, D., Baldock, T., & Meyer, J.H.F. (2013). Identifying threshold concepts: Case study of an open catchment hydraulics course. European Journal of Engineering Education, 39(2), 125-142.

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

Examples of Papers Focused on Organizational Contexts and Policies

Knight, D.B., Kinoshita, T.J.*, Choe, N.*, & Borrego, M. (2018). Doctoral funding portfolios across and within engineering, life sciences, and physical sciences. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, 9(1), 75-90.

Knight, D.B., Cameron, I.T., Hadgraft, R.G., & Reidsema, C. (2016). The influence of external forces, institutional forces, and academics’ characteristics on the adoption of positive teaching practices across Australian undergraduate engineering International Journal of Engineering Education, 32(2), 695-711.

Knight, D.B., Brozina, C.*, & Novoselich, B.J.* (2016). An investigation of first-year engineering student and instructor perspectives of learning analytics approaches. Journal of Learning Analytics, 3(3), 215-238.

Cheslock, J.J., & Knight, D.B. (2015). Diverging revenues, cascading expenditures, and ensuing subsidies: The unbalanced and growing financial strain of intercollegiate athletics on universities and their students. Journal of Higher Education, 86(3), 417-447.

Lattuca, L.R., Bergom, I., & Knight, D.B. (2014). Professional development, departmental contexts, and use of instructional strategies. Journal of Engineering Education, 103(4), 549-572.

Knight, D.B., Lattuca, L.R., Yin, A.C., Kremer, G., York, T. & Ro, H.K. (2012). An exploration of gender diversity in engineering programs: A curriculum and instruction-based perspective. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 18(1), 55-78.

Knight, D.B., Lattuca, L.R., Kimball, E.W. & Reason, R.D. (2013). Understanding interdisciplinarity: Curricular and organizational features of undergraduate interdisciplinary programs. Innovative Higher Education, 38(2), 143–158.

Reeping, D.*, Taylor, A.R.*, Knight, D.B., & Edwards, C. (2019). Mixed Methods Analysis Strategies in Program Evaluation beyond “A Little Quant Here, A Little Qual There. Journal of Engineering Education, 108(2), 178-196.