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Jacob R. Grohs, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Jake Grohs
375 Goodwin Hall (MC 0218)
635 Prices Fork Rd
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Ph.D. Educational Psychology, Virginia Tech, 2015
M.A.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction, Virginia Tech, 2012
M.S. Engineering Mechanics, Virginia Tech, 2009
B.S. Engineering Science & Mechanics, Virginia Tech, 2008

Research Interests

  • Systems Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Multi-stakeholder Partnership (e.g., collaboration with K12, industry, government agencies)
  • Community Engagement & Collaboration
  • Educational Environments and Systems

Research Statement

Leveraging my background in learning sciences and past professional roles as an instructor of large mechanics courses and an administrator focused on community-engaged learning and research, I focus my research efforts in two primary areas: 

(1) Learning and Assessment of Complex Socio-Cognitive Reasoning Capacities                                              

Governmental bodies and industry increasingly demand that universities develop graduates capable of tackling broad complex problems and who can integrate ideas across multiple disciplines to invent new solutions. We need new theory about the processes through which individuals reason through these wicked problems and the ways such capacities develop over time.

(2) Community-Engaged Change to Improve Engineering Education Systems                                                            

Inequities and inefficiencies in the engineering education system are distressing. In some cases, research has identified problems but proposed solutions are difficult to implement or do not resolve issues in practice.  In other cases, there may be so many intervening factors that we do not even understand the problem, much less develop solutions. We need to advance collaborative research with diverse stakeholders and partners to drive positive change.


Dr. Jake Grohs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and an affiliate faculty member to both Learning Science and Technologies and Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. Grohs currently serves as PI of two and co-PI of two NSF-funded education focused grants which involve partnering with different stakeholder groups on continuous improvement or collaborative change (e.g., K12 teachers and administrators, university engineering faculty). His primary research interests focus on systems thinking, including how individuals reason through complex ill-structured problems, how educational environments develop systems thinking skills, and how collaborative groups might apply systems thinking to enact positive change.

In his personal life, Jake is a committed partner and proud father to family Courtney, Jude, Crosby, and Béla.

Awards & Honors

  • Charles "Butch" and Joan Nunnally for Outstanding Engineering Education Faculty Member Award (2017) 

  • VT Engage Faculty Fellow (2017-2019)

  • AAC&U: K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award (2015)

  • Global Perspectives Program Fellow 

  • University Student Leadership Awards - Hokie Community Award (faculty)

  • Resident Advisor of the Year, National Residence Hall Honorary

  • College of Engineering Dean's Scholar (2004-2007)

  • McAllister Leadership Scholarship

  • SEC Nathaniel Gebreyes Service Scholarship

Selected Publications

  • Grohs, J.R., Kirk, G.R., Soledad, M.M., & Knight, D.B. (2018). Assessing systems thinking: A tool to measure complex reasoning through ill-structured problems. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 28, 110-130. DOI: 10.1016/j.tsc.2018.03.003 
  • Grohs, J.R., Knight, D.B., Young, G.D., & Soledad, M.M. (2018). Exploring academic performance paths and student learning strategies in a foundational engineering course. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (IJEMST), 6(3), 241-253. DOI: 10.18404/ijemst.428175
  • Grohs, J.R., Young, G.D., Soledad, M.M., & Knight, D.B. (2018). Leveraging local data for reflective teaching in large classes. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Advance Online Publication. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2018.1433548=
  • Maczka, D.K., & Grohs, J.R. (2017). Leveraging Historical Ties Between Cognitive Science and Computer Science to Guide Programming Education. Computers in Education Journal, 8(2).
  • Grohs, J.R., Maczka., D.K., Soledad, M., & Bagalkotkar, K. (2016). Exploring the Feasibility of an Educational Computer Game as a Novel Means of Assessing Problem Solving Competencies. Computers in Education Journal, 7(4). 
  • Kirk, G.R. & Grohs, J.R. (2016). “Civic Attitudes and the College Experience” in Soria, K.M. & Mitchell, T.D., eds. Civic engagement and community service at research universities: engaging undergraduates for social justice, social change, and responsible citizenship. Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Adams, A.N., Brock, R.J., Gordon, K.A., Grohs, J.R., & Kirk, G.R. (2014). Service, dialogue, and reflection as foundational elements in a living learning community.  Journal of College and Character, 15(3), p 163-171. doi:10.1515/jcc-2014-0021
  • Grohs, J.R. (2012). Carefully, thoughtfully exploring the “I” in reciprocity: Practitioner reflections in striving for self-authoring student-citizens.  Journal of College and Character, 13(3), p 1-7. doi:10.1515/jcc-2012-1886
  • Grohs, J.R., Li, Y.Q., Dillard, D.A., Case, S.W., Ellis, M.W., Lai, Y-H., & Gittleman, C.S. (2010). Evaluating the time and temperature dependent biaxial strength of Gore-Select (R) series 57 proton exchange membrane using a pressure loaded blister test, Journal of Power Sources, 195(2), 527-531.
  • Dillard, D.A., Li, Y., Grohs, J.R., Case, S.W., Ellis, M.W., Lai, Y-H., Budinski, M.K., & Gittleman, C.S. (2009). On the use of pressure-loaded blister tests to characterize the strength and durability of proton exchange membranes, Journal of Fuel Cell Science and Technology, 6(3).

Recent Grants

  • Investing in Instructors: Creating Intelligent Feedback Loops in Large Foundational Courses for Undergraduate Engineering. Award Number:1712089; Principal Investigator:Jacob Grohs; Co-Principal Investigators:Scott Case, David Knight | Abstract

  • Community-Engaged Engineering Interventions with Appalachian Youth. Award Number:1657263; Principal Investigator:Jacob Grohs; Co-Principal Investigators:Holly Matusovich, Liesl Baum, Gary Kirk | Abstract

  • Community Cultures: Broadening Participation By Understanding How Rural Communities Support Engineering as College Major Choice. Award Number:1734834; Principal Investigator:Liesl Baum; Co-Principal Investigators:Marie Paretti, Jacob Grohs, Phyllis Newbill, Julee Farley | Abstract

  • Cognitive Barriers to Understanding Complexity in Human-Technical Systems: Evidence from Engineering Students and Practitioners. Award Number:1824594; Principal Investigator:Konstantinos Triantis; Co-Principal Investigators:David Knight, Jacob Grohs, Navid Ghaffarzadegan, Niyousha Hosseinichimeh | Abstract

  • Accelerated Learning and Assessment in Engineering Mechanics. Award Number:1841980; Principal Investigator:Nicole Pitterson; Co-Principal Investigators:David Dillard, Jacob Grohs | Abstract

  • Gatekeepers to Broadening Participation in Engineering: Investigating variation across high schools comparing who could go versus who does go into engineering. Award Number:1647928; Principal Investigator:David Knight; Co-Principal Investigators:Holly Matusovich, Isabel Bradburn, Jacob Grohs | Abstract