Degree Type

Creative Component

Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020


Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Major Professor

Mani Mina


Master of Science (MS)


Electrical Engineering




The ability to empathize provides the basis to understand others, an often-overlooked professional skill in engineering curriculums. Studies have shown that engineering students have less empathy after completing their degree than when they had entered. Having low amounts of empathy in engineers can result in less concern for public welfare and social considerations during the engineering design process.


In this work, we consider when engineering students are entering an empathetic cycle. Most studies develop a model based on an educators’ perspective and how empathy is a teachable and learnable skill. This study examines how engineering students can enter, sustain, and improve their cycles of empathy.


A qualitative approach is taken to compare and contrast the end-of-semester reflections from

students in engineering and design. Coding, an ethnographic research method used to find thematic patterns and similarities throughout documents, is used to analyze end-of-semester reflections from students who have taken courses in electromagnetism for electrical engineers, electromagnetism for non-electrical engineers, and an industrial design course with a focus on engineering and technology literacy for designers.


We propose a multi-cycle model of empathy in engineering that identifies self-awareness as the first step to empathy through the cycle of inquiry. Our model incorporates existing models of empathy in design, and empathy in engineering that introduces mode switching.

Copyright Owner

Shannon, Rachel Ann

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