Connecting Women in Geotechnical Engineering

 Shoba Bhatia and Sucheta Soundarajan

July 8, 2016

Professor Shobha K. Bhatia and Assistant Professor Sucheta Soundarajan have been awarded a $258,870 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to better connect women faculty in geotechnical engineering. The project, a national collaborative effort with the University of Michigan and Drexel University, focuses on professional networking to improve retention, advancement, and scientific collaboration among this largely disconnected scientific community.

Bhatia and Soundarajan will partner with Sharon Alestalo, program director of Women in Science and Engineering and SU Advance, to create more robust connections within the geotechnical engineering community that provides women faculty with greater access to mentoring, resources, and opportunities to collaborate. Faculty will participate in network-building interventions as well as pre- and post-intervention surveys to understand their current networking needs, ways to improve their networking skills over time, and enhance their understanding of how network ties can impact their academic collaboration and career success.

The project will apply social network analysis and professional development activities to bridge the geographical distance and connectivity gaps currently faced by geotechnical engineering women faculty. Building on past efforts of NSF and others, it will create a network that fosters new ties and provides access to collaboration opportunities in the U.S.

It will combine face-to-face networking meetings and virtual networking practices to increase collaboration opportunities. The team’s final evaluation, including a before and after social network analysis, will evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts and recommend promising practices for use in other disciplines where women face similar challenges.