In the US, there is great loss of academically talented college-level science and technology students as many decide not to follow through with their initial career choices. Following research that has implicated personal relationships in career decision-making, we study the effects of college course experiences, relationships with professors, and individual characteristics on career plans of 58 talented university students by analyzing interview data gathered in 1999. Among other things, we find that students who dropped out have few positive science course experiences and no relationships with faculty. Life sciences students report that they do not like science courses, but they have relationships with faculty, but others have mixed experiences with courses and faculty. Our findings suggest that subject-matter attracts quantitative students while people attract medical and life sciences students. Finally, we find that gender and race are predictive of students' experiences. Women and minorities are less likely to like their science-related classes or form relationships with faculty and are thus more likely to leave science and technology. Women are more drawn to life sciences, perhaps because of the relationships with faculty.
James Lee and Christina Stow. "Like Your Classes, Know Your Professors? Predictors of Talented College Students’ Science and Technology Careers" American Sociological Association Annual Meeting (2004).