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  1. Abstract Background

    Engineering students encounter high levels of stress, which may negatively impact their mental health. Nevertheless, engineering students who experience mental health distress are less likely than their peers to seek professional help, even when controlling for gender and race/ethnicity.

    Purpose

    We examined beliefs that undergraduate engineering students have about barriers and facilitators to seeking professional help for their mental health. We also sought to identify cultural and systemic factors within and beyond engineering that might affect help‐seeking. Together, these beliefs influence students' sense of personal agency around seeking mental health care.

    Method

    We implemented a pragmatic qualitative design that incorporated the integrated behavioral model to investigate engineering students' (N = 33) professional mental health help‐seeking beliefs. We used thematic analysis to analyze help‐seeking beliefs and perceived barriers and facilitators that students described during interviews.

    Results

    We identified four themes: Navigating the system impacts personal agency; sacrifices associated with help‐seeking act as a barrier; engineering culture acts as a barrier to help‐seeking; and student confidence in help‐seeking varies significantly. These themes portray the effect of perceived barriers and facilitators on students' personal agency for accessing mental health care. Our findings have implications for engineering departments and university counseling centers that want to minimize barriers to help‐seeking.

    Conclusions

    Engineering stakeholders must improve access to professional help for engineering students. Implementing changes to normalize help‐seeking behaviors, enhance personal agency, and facilitate engagement with mental health resources will create better conditions for engineers. Further research is necessary to understand how other beliefs (e.g., attitudes, perceived norms) inform the relationships between student mental health, professional help seeking, and engineering culture.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Cellular aggregation in plant suspension cultures directly affects the accumulation of high value products, such as paclitaxel fromTaxus. Through application of mechanical shear by repeated, manual pipetting through a 10 ml pipet with a 1.6 mm aperture, the mean aggregate size of aTaxusculture can be reduced without affecting culture growth. When a constant level of mechanical shear was applied over eight generations, the sheared population was maintained at a mean aggregate diameter 194 μm lower than the unsheared control, but the mean aggregate size fluctuated by over 600 μm, indicating unpredictable culture variability. A population balance model was developed to interpret and predict disaggregation dynamics under mechanical shear. Adjustable parameters involved in the breakage frequency function of the population balance model were estimated by nonlinear optimization from experimentally measured size distributions. The optimized model predictions were in strong agreement with measured size distributions. The model was then used to determine the shear requirements to successfully reach a target aggregate size distribution. This model will be utilized in the future to maintain a culture with a constant size distribution with the goal of decreasing culture variability and increasing paclitaxel yields.

     
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