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Nicole Pitterson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Nicole Pitterson
369 Goodwin Hall (MC0218)
635 Prices Fork Rd
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Ph.D. Engineering Education, Purdue University, 2015
M.S. Manufacturing Engineering, Western Illinois University, 2009
B.S. Electrical and Electronics Engineering, University of Technology, Jamaica, 2007

Teaching/Courses Taught

Foundations of Engineering Education (ENGE 5014)
Foundations in Engineering I (ENGE1215)
Foundations in Engineering II (ENGE 1216)
Qualitative Research Methods in Engineering Education (ENGE 5714)

Office Hours

Email for an appointment.

Research Interests

  • Difficult concepts in formal and informal learning environments
  • Increasing students’ conceptual understanding
  • Promoting collaboration and cognitive engagement
  • Classroom assessment and evaluation 
  • Transformative power of knowledge on students identity

Research Statement

Based on the theory of conceptual change and the use of instructional strategies aimed at eliciting conceptual understanding, I am most interested in how we can design engineering learning environments and experiences to cognitively engage students.

My main research focus is to optimize student learning by focusing on how to teach and assess students' mastery of core and difficult engineering concepts. Primarily, using multiple representations I aim to connect real world application with theoretical principles in the classroom. I also study how students' disciplinary and professional identities develop as they engage with discipline specific knowledge.


Nicole P. Pitterson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She holds a B.Sc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Technology, Jamaica, a M.Sc. in Manufacturing Engineering from Western Illinois University, and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Dr. Pitterson worked as a postdoctoral research scholar at Oregon State University.

Her research interests are exploring students' disciplinary identity through engagement with knowledge, curriculum design, assessment and evaluation and teaching for conceptual understanding. Dr. Pitterson is dedicated to bridging the gap between theoretical concepts with practical applications. She also aims to guide students to develop critical understanding of core engineering concepts that goes beyond rote memorization so that they can adapt to the changing demands of a global workforce.

Awards & Honors

  • Purdue Engineering Education Outstanding Student Service Award, 2015

  • Purdue Black Graduate Student Association Service Contribution Award, 2015

Selected Recent Publications

J. McArthur, M. Blackie, N. Pitterson, & K. Rosewell. (2021). Can and should assessment nurture an orientation to society and social justice? Centre for Global Higher Education.

A. Barlow, S. Brown, B. Lutz, N. Pitterson, N. Hunsu, & O. Adesope. (2020). Development of the student course cognitive engagement instrument (SCCEI) for college engineering courses. International Journal of STEM Education, 7, 1-20.

N. Pitterson, C. Allendoerfer, R. Streveler, J. Ortega-Alvarez, & K. Smith. (2020). The Importance of Community in Fostering Change: A Qualitative Case Study of the Rigorous Research in Engineering Education (RREE) Program. Studies in Engineering Education. 1(1).

J. Driscoll, S. Hoffenson, & N. Pitterson. (2020). An Initial Analysis of Undergraduate Student Mental Models of Product Design. American Society of Mechanical Engineers Digital Collection.

Recent Grants

Collaborative Research: Research Initiation: Market-driven design concept formation in undergraduate engineers. Award Number:1927114 | Abstract 

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

ICAT SEAD Grant Designing a Capstone Course to Foster Effective Collaboration in Multidisciplinary Environments PI (100% responsibility), Funded amount $30,000 Duration 07/01/2019 to 06/30/2021.

4VA Virginia Tech Evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) and their use in first-year introductory engineering courses PI (100%), Co-PIs Jill Nelson (University of Virginia) and Keith Williams (George Mason University) Funded amount $24,771 Duration 03/2019 – 06/2021.