Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 219-235

First online:

Academic Integrity in a Mandatory Physics Lab: The Influence of Post-Graduate Aspirations and Grade Point Averages

  • Tricia Bertram GallantAffiliated withAcademic Integrity Office, University of California, San Diego Email author 
  • , Michael G. AndersonAffiliated withPhysics Department, University of California, San Diego
  • , Christine KilloranAffiliated withUndergraduate Admissions, University of San Diego

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Research on academic cheating by high school students and undergraduates suggests that many students will do whatever it takes, including violating ethical classroom standards, to not be left behind or to race to the top. This behavior may be exacerbated among pre-med and pre-health professional school students enrolled in laboratory classes because of the typical disconnect between these students, their instructors and the perceived legitimacy of the laboratory work. There is little research, however, that has investigated the relationship between high aspirations and academic conduct. This study fills this research gap by investigating the beliefs, perceptions and self-reported academic conduct of highly aspirational students and their peers in mandatory physics labs. The findings suggest that physics laboratory classes may face particular challenges with highly aspirational students and cheating, but the paper offers practical solutions for addressing them.


Academic integrity Cheating Physics labs Pre-medical students