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Jennifer Case, Ph.D.

  • Department Head
Jenni Case
349 Goodwin Hall (MC 0218)
635 Prices Fork Rd
Blacksburg, VA 24061


Ph.D. Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, 2001
M.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, 2009
Higher Diploma of Education, University of Cape Town, 1991
M.Ed. Science Education, University of Leeds, UK, 1994
B.S. (Hons.) Chemistry, Stellenbosch University, 1990
B.S. Physics & Chemistry, Stellenbosch University, 1989

Research Interests

  • How can teaching in engineering be improved to support student learning?
  • What engineering curricula are best suited to producing the kinds of engineering graduates that society needs?
  • What can we learn from engineering education systems in other parts of the world?
  • What questions should we be researching in education and how should we do this?

Research Statement

I have been researching student learning in higher education for over two decades, and much of my empirical work is with students studying engineering. This can be a challenging degree program, and I am interested to research teaching approaches that foster good learning outcomes. I am also interested in engineering curriculum structures; how these build the knowledge and dispositions that engineers will need in the workplace.

I have a particular interest in education research methodologies. Student learning research tends to use theories and methodologies informed by cognitive psychology, but in my work, I have also explored the use of sociological perspectives to obtain different insights as to what is going on. 


Jennifer Case is Professor and Head of the Department of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.  Prior to this appointment in 2017 she was a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where she retains an honorary appointment.  

Case was a pioneer in the nascent field of Engineering Education Research (EER), commencing her scholarship in the mid 1990s in the context of post-apartheid transformations in the system of engineering education in South Africa.  With a unique synthesis of practically-grounded curriculum reform, drawing on research in higher education studies and focused clearly on advancing learning outcomes in engineering programs, she developed a strong international reputation in Engineering Education heading to the leadership role that she now occupies at a leading US Department in this field.  

Her work has been widely published and well cited, with over 50 journal publications and two monographs.  She is a joint editor-in-chief for the top international journal Higher Education.

She spent 21 years at the University of Cape Town (UCT), teaching in its undergraduate program in Chemical Engineering, as well as leading in program administration and curriculum reform. She was a founder member and then Director for the Centre for Research in Engineering Education at the University of Cape Town.  She was the founding president of the South African Society for Engineering Education (SASEE).  In 2011 she was a Mandela Mellon fellow at Harvard University.

At Virginia Tech she leads a vibrant Department that has a prominent and still expanding national and international reputation in Engineering Education.  She continues to teach at both undergraduate and graduate levels and advises Ph.D. students in the context of a lively research group.  She is a sought after speaker and advisor in both Engineering Education and Higher Education both in the USA and abroad.

Selected Awards & Honors

  • President’s Award from the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa, 2006

  • Distinguished Teachers’ Award, UCT, 2007

  • Elected Member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa (ASSAf), 2009

  • Excellence in Teaching & Learning Award, Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South African (HELTASA), 2013 

  • Meritorious Book Award, UCT, 2015

Recent Publications

  • Case, J. M. (2019). A third approach beyond the false dichotomy between teacher- and student-centred approaches in the engineering classroom. European Journal of Engineering Education, 44(5), 644-649.

  • Case, J. M., Marshall, D., McKenna, S., & Mogashana, D. (2018). Going to university: The influence of higher education on the lives of young South Africans. Cape Town: African Minds.

  • Ashwin, P., & Case, J. M. (Eds.). (2018). Higher education pathways: South African undergraduate education and the public good. Cape Town: African Minds

  • Case, J. M. (2017). The historical evolution of engineering degrees: Competing stakeholders, contestation over ideas, and coherence across national borders. European Journal for Engineering Education, 42(6), 974-986.

  • Case, J. M. (2016). Journeys to meaning-making: A longitudinal study of self-authorship amongst young South African engineering graduates. Journal of College Student Development, 57(7), 863-879.