Chancellor's Graduate and Faculty/Staff Awards for Excellence in STEM Education


Current Faculty Chancellor's Awardees:

Amy Palmer and Allie Hunter (not shown), Chemistry and Biochemistry

Transforming Chemistry through Collaboration and Community.

The goal of this project is to transform the culture and learning environment in an introductory general chemistry course in order to create a sense of community, help students develop an identity as a science major (and in particular as a chemistry and/or biochemistry major), and foster a sense of personal connection to the subject.  To accomplish these goals, we propose to do the following: 1) generate a series of student-centered collaborative activities that will be implemented in the classroom, 2) develop a semester-long research project that culminates in student poster presentations, 3) explicitly emphasize diverse career paths of chemistry and biochemistry majors throughout the semester, and 4) create opportunities for building vertical relationships (e.g. first-year students with LAs, graduate students, Chem Club, postdocs and Professors).

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Bilge Birsoy and Michael Klymkowsky, MCDB

Development of a New Discovery-based Research Course together with a Scientific and Experimental Literacy Assessment Instrument (SELA).

Discovery-based research courses are one of the five recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to improve retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and careers. It has also been suggested that such “authentic scientific experiences” can engage students and increase their understanding of the process of science. The goals of this Chancellor’s award project are to impact students’ research experiences in MCDB through: i) the development and testing of an upper division discovery-based research course (MCDB 4100: Experimental Design and Gene Manipulation in the vertebrate Xenopus), ii) to develop and begin the validation process for a scientific and experimental literacy assessment (SELA), iii) to gather data on MCDB 4100’s effectiveness and impact in terms of students’ understanding of the scientific and experimental process; and iv) to begin a discussion with other faculty (in particular Professors Ding Xue and Min Han – MCDB) on the feasibility of developing a freshman version of MCDB 4100, using as a model metazoan the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans and bacterially-delivered siRNAs to manipulate gene expression.  

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Seth Hornstein and Doug Duncan, APS

Developing a Research Base for Effective Teaching Using Fiske Planetarium.

We propose to investigate the effectiveness of different teaching methods on student learning gains, engagement, and attitudes in the digital planetarium environment. We have significant faculty support for doing these trials through a series of controlled experiments that gathers rigorous assessment data. If, as we hypothesize, more active and student-centered approaches produce higher learning when used in the planetarium, we will leverage those results to support increasing faculty involvement in active-engagement learning methods in both the planetarium and regular classrooms. Our goals with this study are as follows:

  1. To determine the effectiveness of different methods of teaching in the planetarium environment (including a method new to APS classes: case studies) in contrast with a classroom environment.
  2. To deepen expertise and promote the use of interactive teaching and effective teaching environments amongst APS faculty.

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Katharine Semsar and Jennifer Knight, MCDB

Student thinking about core physiology concepts across a physiology major.

With this proposal, I am seeking continuation funding to analyze and extend data collected during the construction and validation of Phys-MAPS, a programmatic physiology assessment. The Phys-MAPS was developed as an assessment to align with nationally recognized core concepts in biology and physiology. Having these programmatic learning goals and assessment now in place, we can follow the principles of backward design to identify and develop instructional materials to help student meet these programmatic conceptual learning goals. Understanding both the prior knowledge students have coming into physiology programs and the misconceptions students continue to hold when graduating from physiology programs is essential to designing effective instructional approaches. Using data on student thinking from our national pilot of the Phys-MAPS assessment and previously-conducted student interviews, the goal of this proposal is to summarize student thinking on core physiology concepts across a physiology curriculum and provide suggestions for instruction to address persistent student misconceptions. Having these data on student thinking available will benefit physiology curricula development both nationally and here in CU’s Integrative Physiology department.

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Lon Abbott and Jennifer Stempien, Geological Sciences

Creating a collaborative undergraduate geoscience research community.

We propose to pilot a unique ARO design within the Department of Geological Sciences that combines the benefits of the faculty-student mentoring and apprenticeship characteristics of an URE with the peer mentoring and guided literature discussion of a CURE. This project will create a collaborative multi-semester undergraduate research community. Undergraduate students participating in the ARO will: 1) conduct independent but interrelated research projects, each exploring one facet of the geologically recent evolution of the American Southwest; 2) participate in a 1-credit research seminar that will place each student’s project into a broader scientific context by exploring the scientific literature and that will promote each student’s role as a peer mentor and collaborator in answering a larger research question.

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Sarah Banchefsky and Tiffany Ito, Psychology and Neuroscience

#iLookLikeAnEngineer: Improving Student Outcomes by Reducing STEM Stereotypes.

Although women obtain the majority of U.S. undergraduate degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), they earn less than 20% of undergraduate degrees in computer science and engineering (National Science Foundation, 2013). Stereotypes about these specific fields that uniquely conflict with stereotypes about women are one reason for this gap (Cheryan, Master, & Meltzoff, 2015): computer scientists and engineers are stereotyped as socially-awkward, isolated, geeky men with masculine interests (e.g., videogames; Mercier, Barron & O’Connor, 2006; Rommes, Overbeek, Scholte, Engals, & De Kemp, 2007). Additionally, the work itself is perceived as requiring innate brilliance (Leslie, Cimpian, Meyer & Freeland, 2015) and removed from communal values such as helping society and working with others, goals women endorse more than men (Diekman, Brown, Johnston, & Clark, 2010). Many of these stereotypes are formed from media depictions of scientists (Cheryan, Plaut, Handron, & Hudson, 2013; Steinke et al., 2007). The proposed research tests the efficacy of a popular, ongoing movement - the #iLookLikeAnEngineer campaign - to alter these harmful stereotypes. Specifically, we will use an intervention paradigm to examine the efficacy of the #iLookLikeAnEngineer campaign to minimize students’ stereotypes of engineers and thereby bolster their sense of belonging and intentions to persist in engineering. This project will also provide necessary data for a larger grant focusing on dissem ination of the intervention, and bring psychological perspectives to bear on STEM education, recruitment, and retention at CU-Boulder.

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Current Graduate Chancellor's Awardees:

Abigale Stangl (not shown), ATLAS

3D Printed Tactile Picture Books as a Pathway into STEM.

As advisor, I am writing to you to express my full commitment to mentoring and supporting Abigale Stangl‘s proposed STEM research activities as outlined in her proposal for STEM Chancellor’s Fellowship. Abigale is proposing to design and develop the Tactile Picture Book (TPB) Intervention that aims to support students’ STEM competencies and dispositions.

Over the past three years, Abigale has been making significant contributions to our lab’s research on the question of how we can more effectively create 3D tactile picture books for children with visual impairments. This research question is rooted in a subfield of computer science called Human-centered Computing. We have been investigating how a range of computational tools can or can not adequately support the task of designing and printing 3D pictures. Abigale has published five papers on this topic and has traveled internationally to present her work.

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Anna C. Curtis (not shown), Chemistry and Biochemistry

Implementation and Assessment of In-class Activities Designed to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in a First Semester General Chemistry.

It is my pleasure to provide this letter of support for Anna Curtis who is submitting a Chancellor's Graduate Award in STEM Education on "Implementation and Assessment of In-class Activities Designed to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in a First Semester General Chemistry Course for Majors". Anna is proposing to develop and investigate the impact of well-designed in-class group activities explicitly created to train students in essential elements of analysis, evaluation, synthesis and predication. Anna will test whether such activities improve overall critical thinking skills, as assessed by a validated content-independent instrument (the Critical thinking Assessment Test).

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Rebecca Swanson, School of Education

Virtual Professional Development for Informal STEM Educators.

Typically, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educators teaching in informal, out of school environments are provided with one time trainings largely designed only to address logistical matters around the safety and basic needs of the children enrolled in their programs, without significant time spent addressing how to support learning through research based science teaching practices. The purpose of the proposed study is to code sign and implement professional development for the summer instructors working for CU Science Discovery, and to examine the ways in which instructor participation in these camps in forms their workin helping children learn science. The proposed work builds on a pilot project currently funded through CU Out reach in collaboration with Brian Jernigan and Anjali Maus at CU Science Discovery. By building on an established professional development model and prior studies of how individuals learn and collaborate in virtual spaces, this project will examine how readily available Web 2.0 tools can help instructors separated by space and time. Workingin partnership with CU Science Discovery staff, I propose to co-design professional development to supportin formal educators in developing higher quality science teaching practices.

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View Past Chancellor's Awardees