Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering and Science Education

Committee Member

Dr. Eliza Gallagher, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Lisa Benson

Committee Member

Dr. Cindy Lee

Committee Member

Dr. D. Matthew Boyer


While it is typical for doctoral students in the sciences to have a faculty advisor, not all students can name a mentor for their doctoral journey. Noted as the most important factor in determining a student's success and satisfaction in graduate school, the student-advisor relationship is an important area for expanded study and analysis to fill in the gaps in understanding of our doctoral education system. This study details the various ways in which underrepresented chemistry doctoral students view and perceive their relationships with their faculty advisor. I used purposeful sampling to select 16 underrepresented doctoral chemistry students at public, land grant institutions in the southeastern United States. I generated data through individual, one-on-one interviews using a structured interview protocol that I carefully developed through a pilot study. I analyzed these data using open-coding through several cycles and phases. Additionally, I worked with an analysis team through several cycles of coding, in line with principles for a thorough phenomenographic study. This phenomenographic investigation of African-American, Hispanic, and female Ph.D. students in the field of chemistry yields five major types of student-advisor relationships: autocracy, business relationship, absentee relationship, mentorship, and mentorship with advocacy. My participants' perceptions and experiences provided the basis for constructing a model that contributes to the body of knowledge on doctoral education and helps to fill gaps in the literature. My model provides powerful implications for change and guidance in PhD programs for students, advisors, and administration. The outcomes of this multi-institutional study expand our current understanding of student-faculty relationships in an effort to improve graduate education in the sciences, particularly for underrepresented students. In an effort to determine and document the qualitatively different ways that underrepresented doctoral chemistry students perceive their relationship with their faculty advisor, I shaped this study using the methodological guidelines and suggestions of phenomenography as described largely by John Bowden and Llewelyn Mann. Briefly, this involved many successive cycles of coding through all of the transcripts as a whole to find themes and categories of description among the participants' experiences and testimonies. The outcome of several passes and cycles through the data was a model of varying ways that underrepresented students experience their relationship with their faculty advisor.



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