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As a growing number of our nation’s current scientific minds edge closer to retirement, workforce studies and labor trends show a critical need to replace these workers with those who are able to compete in the global science, technical and research fields. To address these needs, ORAU has long partnered with government agencies and private industry to connect the best and most diverse students, recent graduates, faculty and professionals with world-class fellowships, internships and jobs in national laboratories, research institutions, federal government offices and private sector R&D departments.

Research partnerships exist in the areas of STEM workforce assessment and labor trends. Our experts conduct evaluations of programs, including longitudinal studies, to assess the long-term impact of these programs to validate workforce development investment. ORAU’s economists, evaluators, and education specialists analyze many factors influencing labor trends, including employment rates and forecasts, participation of women and other minority groups, stay rates attributed to foreign program participants, competitive salary ranges, and the rate of degree production.

Research focus areas

  • Estimating future hiring needs and adequacy of supply of new graduates in STEM occupations
  • Applied research on specialized STEM labor markets
  • Measuring national and regional impacts of workforce development programs by establishing comparison groups from large national surveys of the U.S. STEM workforce
  • Program/project survey instrument development and validation
  • Undergraduate research experiences
  • Stay rates of foreign nationals
  • Economic impact of science enterprise
  • Human capital and workforce modeling
  • Research on the use of classroom technologies and technology training for teachers
Gender gaps in engineering: Are women’s workplace experiences a key factor

Gender gaps in engineering: Are women’s workplace experiences a key factor

If women earn 1/5 of all engineering degrees; why are only 11 percent of engineers in the workplace women?Funded by the ORAU-Directed Research and Development program, ORAU and Univ. of Mississippi researchers have partnered to try to explain why this gap exists, using the framework of Self-Determination Theory (SDT). 

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Our Experts

Erin Burr

Erin Burr, Ph.D.

Expertise: STEM workforce development and education evaluation in K-20 settings, strategic needs assessment in national laboratories and laboratory systems, impact evaluations/long-term follow-up studies, measurement of evaluation use and influence, applied experimental psychology

Burr has more than 15 years of experience designing, managing, and directing research and evaluation studies in STEM education and workforce development. She specializes in evaluating portfolios of STEM workforce development programs (research participation programs) at national laboratories, the experience and needs of supercomputer users and interdisciplinary programs in higher education. She has experience evaluating national and international, single- and multi-site STEM-focused programs and works with multiple federal agencies, universities and private organizations.

Don Johnson

Don Johnson, Ph.D.

Expertise: Economics of specialized labor markets, regional economic growth and development

Tiffani Conner, Ph.D.

Tiffani Conner, Ph.D.

Expertise: Peer review, project management, science and technical writing, behavioral and social science research, qualitative methods, educational psychology, information sciences, educational technology, academic libraries, digitization

Dr. Conner leverages her diverse background to enrich the research environment at ORAU. She is an experienced research proposal developer and scientific/technical writer, and has a demonstrated history of working in the government and academic administration industries. Furthermore, Dr. Conner has used her information science skills and broad knowledge base to recruit the best fit experts for proposals for the past 5+ years.

Dissertation: The Relationship between Self-Directed Learning and Information Literacy among Adult Learners in Higher Education

Certifications: Association of Health Information Professionals (AHIP), Certified Project Management Professional (PMP), Disaster Information Specialist (DIS), Consumer Health Information Specialist (CHIS)

Kimberle Kelly

Kimberle Kelly, Ph.D.

Expertise: STEM education and workforce development evaluation from cradle to career, mixed methods research and evaluation, clinical and cognitive neuroscience, underrepresented groups in STEM

Kelly has more than 25 years of experience managing and directing research and evaluation outcome studies in education and mental health. As an expert in STEM education initiatives from cradle to career, she has worked in strategic partnerships to develop, fund, execute, advise and evaluate programs designed to promote a diverse and highly skilled national STEM workforce. Kelly’s academic background is in clinical and cognitive neuroscience, and she has presented her research at multiple national and international conferences. She is a founding member of the American Evaluation Association’s STEM Education and Workforce Development group and is currently the chair of the executive board.

Ann Martin

Ann M. Martin, Ph.D.

Expertise: STEM education evaluation in K-16 and informal settings, social network analysis, collaboration and partnership evaluation, mixed-methods evaluation, meta-evaluation, and community and repository development

Martin has over 10 years of experience in the design, coordination, and evaluation of STEM education, outreach, and workforce development programs, and has an academic research background in astronomy and space sciences. She has evaluated programs as an internal and an external evaluator for multiple federal agencies. She has served in various roles on the executive board of the American Evaluation Association’s STEM Education and Workforce Development interest group since 2013, and is currently the incoming chair.

Jim Malone

Jim Malone, Ph.D.

Expertise: Science communication and data sharing practices among scientists, information science, communication research

  • Dissertation: “Data Sharing Practices and Attitudes of Scientists in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries,” 2019, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
  • More than 20 years of library and information science experience
  • More than six years of subject matter expert identification and recruitment
  • International scientific support as University Librarian (Director), American University of Afghanistan, Kabul and the Weill Cornell Medical Library - Qatar
  • Adjunct faculty at Roane State Community College
  • Instructor, College of Communication and Information, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • Co-author: “Data Management in Astrobiology: Challenges and Opportunities for an Interdisciplinary Community
Leigh Ann Pennington, M.A.

Leigh Ann Pennington, M.A.

Expertise: Economic analysis related to STEM education and work force issues, program evaluation and STEM Education Program management

Focus on using data to improve program strategy and efficiency, improving the quality of data collected and ensuring appropriate interpretation of data analyses. Research interests include: understanding critical characteristics of specific cohorts within the STEM education pipeline and workforce, such as underrepresented groups and foreign nationals; determining key indicators for quality hands-on research experiences across the education pipeline.

Certifications: Project Management Professional

Contact us

If you have questions about ORAU's Research partnerships, contact 865.576.1717 or .