Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair

John Stewart

Committee Co-Chair

Edgar Fuller

Committee Member

Paul Miller


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) student success is important to universities across the nation. Existing studies have examined standardized exams and high school GPA as predictors of student success; fewer studies have examined the role of personality. The present study examined whether STEM students have different personalities than the general population, whether population-level gender differences in personality were evident among STEM students, and if personality predicts academic success. The Big Five Inventory (BFI) measuring personality was given to a diverse population of students in introductory physics and calculus classes, as well as developmental mathematics (non-science track) classes, at a large eastern university. Science and engineering students showed similar personality characteristics to the general population; these characteristics were also similar to the developmental mathematics students. The difference in personality between genders was also similar to the general population. In the physics classes, the BFI facets' power to explain students' test averages and the course grades were moderated by gender. Personality facets, when combined with high school grade point average, had substantially different power to explain variance in course grades for male and female physics students.