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2021 - Virtual

REU Students:

Ella Bahr - Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Ella’s parents both graduated from Kansas State University, and she is following in their footsteps. She grew up going to the Kansas State football games, and feels like it is a second home. Her dad is a lawyer, her mom was a teacher and is now a counselor, and she has two younger sisters. Ella loves to read, go on long walks, and listen to podcasts. 
Her Anatomy and Physiology teacher in high school was extremely passionate about teaching, and that is what she remembers most that sparked her interest in science. The class went on an eight-week field trip to do stream studies, fauna exploration, and camping. Half of the time they were in Kansas, and the other half of the time in Colorado, visiting national parks. They drew species and held Q&A sessions. It was then that she became interested in research, as she was drawn to the open-ended questions. 
One of the listservs for her major sent out NSF research opportunities, and the RIT experience sounded perfect. Since she always loved education and the study of how people learn, the RIT REU fit both the science research and education aspects of her interests. 
Her project this summer with Drs. Dina Newman and Kate Wright is to create an activity to teach biology students about dominance in genetics. After examining student written responses to survey questions asking about dominance, she realized that many students have big gaps in their understanding. Thus, she set about developing a new activity that she hypothesizes will improve their understanding, by focusing on the processes (molecular details) rather than the outcomes (physical traits). To test this, Ella is creating two versions of a case study: one that will discuss simple outcomes in physical characteristics first and the underlying molecular details second. The second version will have the content in reverse order. By administering these through an online platform, she will gather accurate information, whereby the person taking the test won’t be able to go back and change anything.
Dr. Newman plans to use this activity in her Genetics class this fall, with the two recitation sections assigned the different versions. To determine learning gains after the two versions of the activity, students will take the Dominance Concept Inventory (DCI), a research instrument that focuses on common misconceptions about genetics.  Ella hopes to also use the activity in her classroom as a TA at Kansas State.


Derek Dang - University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL
Derek is originally from Mobile, Alabama. He is of Vietnamese decent, with both grandparents and parents born there. He enjoys cooking and baking Vietnamese dishes as a way to preserve his heritage and culture.
Derek grew up speaking both English and Vietnamese, but eventually developed a new passion, the Spanish language. Since then, his love for people and culture has grown into an interest in the humanities, which he hoped to pursue along with his path in STEM. 
“I have crafted my education around what I enjoy learning the most: what makes each of us unique and how our brains interact with the world around us,” Derek said. Early on, he volunteered at a summer camp for those with disabilities (mental and physical) where he first recognized the importance of inclusivity in different areas of life. “I’m interested in using science to better understand how the brain works, but I’ve come to realize that there are great disparities among different groups of people, especially in the classroom,” he concludes. 
During his STEM courses, and despite his A grades and successes, Derek found a disconnect between classroom instruction and the research field. It was then that he sought to diversify his research interests, venturing into STEM education to investigate how to improve the student experience in STEM.  
He was grateful to find the RIT REU research experience working with Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright, who are interested in student understanding of molecular biology and genetics concepts. 
Together, they developed a project to examine undergraduate responses on tests and surveys, as well as textbook materials to see whether the focus is on processes or outcomes. Preliminary results suggest that students focus on outcomes (“what” happens) rather than on the underlying processes (“how” and “why” it happens). This work can be applied to help instructors understand why their students often miss the mark during discussion and on exams and to design better lessons and assessments that encourage students to focus on the deeper concepts. 


Matthew Dunham - California State University, Monterey Bay, CA
Matthew is from Bakersfield, in the central valley of California. Unlike what most think of California to be like – it is desert-like with an average temperature of 105 Fahrenheit.  He comments that they experience 111 or higher degree temperatures frequently, it’s fortunately a dry heat. Matthew has a big family, with more than 60 people at his family home for this year’s 4th of July celebration. He has 15 cousins, 6 nephews, and a niece on the way – to name a few of his relatives. He is the youngest in his nuclear family at home. Matthew has an artistic side to him, as he plays electric guitar, and enjoys pencil sketches and realism in art. 
He became interested in science in the 6th grade, when he remembers watching YouTube videos on science experiments, buying kits and doing experiments at home. He was in an AP statistics course in high school that influenced his decision to major in statistics. He also has a brother with a master’s degree in mathematics, who influenced him as well.
“I’ve participated in two different REUs, and at home I’m in a 2-year research program that prepares students for graduate school, primarily for PhD degrees. This seemed to Matthew to be a good pre-requisite for the RIT REU research work this summer, as he is interested in educational skill sets for improved learning.
His research this summer at RIT (virtually) is in the development of framework for characterizing and assessing computational literacy in different scientific disciplines. He is using analyses of student work and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of how the course material is learned. “The best way to do that is to make a model (prediction of outcomes),” Matthew explained. This is an effective tool for solving problems, and assists in learning more about what it means to be literate in computation, what skills are needed, and what social aspects are helpful in communicating to others, etc.

From this framework, Matthew developed a survey to administer to students to see how to improve learning computational skills across disciplines.

Mark Flores - McDaniel College, Westminster, MD
Mark’s introduction to the sciences began early, as his mom is an environmental sciences high school teacher. He visited national parks, and did hands-on trial experiments at home to help her prepare for her class activities. His dad traveled frequently for his government job. Due to his dad’s job, Mark  grew up in Ecuador, attending elementary school there. During high school he became interested in studying chemistry and kinesiology. 
While attending McDaniel College he began looking at graduate schools, and it was then that he decided he wanted more research experience to learn more about laboratory work. In his search he came across educational research, which he wasn’t familiar with and wanted to try that out. His REU search found RIT’s program to be an opportunity.
Working with Dr. Zwickl, Mark’s long term goal for the summer REU experience is to develop an assessment tool to better examine factors contributing to why undergraduates remain within a department or major or why they chose to leave or switch to something else. Mark’s specific areas of interest are examining students’ help-seeking behaviors and self-efficacy, both of which are linked to retention and dropout rates.
Mark is using interviews of undergraduate STEM majors to obtain a deeper understanding of students’ experiences in order to develop measurement tools (surveys) that can be used by departments or colleges. The tools will help faculty and administrators understand aspects of the student experience that are typically hidden and help improve the culture, support, and programs to support student success. 
This is Mark’s first REU. He commented that he thrives on social interactions, and the REUs are all trying their best to interact virtually with each other. He says it’s interesting to learn about the other disciplines and perspectives from other REU students. “The common factor that binds us all is that we all love the sciences,” commented Mark. 


 Lydie Guercin - Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Lydie was born in Haiti and came to the US when she was 4 years old. She has two younger siblings. She is very interested in dance and the science of dance. “The two mix well together,” she commented. "Biology is like learning another language, because there are so many terms. In dance there also are many types of movement and ways you can move your body within a space.” She is extremely interested in the anatomy and physiology of how the body moves kinetically. 

Lydie had a high school chemistry teacher who reminded her of Miss Frizzle (from The Magic School Bus show). In that show the kids would go on adventures with their science teacher, Miss Frizzle. Lydie was a freshman at that time, but loved the parallels to the Miss Frizzle show, as she did many experiments in her class and found she loved to work with her hands. Her chemistry teacher always broke things down to make them easy and not scary! 

This is her first REU. In high school, during summers, she taught at a summer camp and became interested in education. This summer she gets to combine her love of education with research. 

Lydie is working on understanding the different representations of proteins. Textbooks represent proteins in numerous ways. Again, similar to dance! For example, doing a plié, is very different depending upon whether you are taking a modern or jazz class. The research is looking at figures, categorizing them, and creating a map called the Protein Landscape. The Protein Landscape maps images according to scale (subunit and macromolecule) and realism (literal shape to abstract). Eventually she will use this data from the landscape to assess student understanding, such as whether or not students need more help linking the concepts shown by different drawings. By doing that, she can see how various concepts in biology and biochemistry are represented to students. 

“Every day we have at least one meeting, to assure you are seeing others and not going all day strictly online,” comments Lydie. “Students meet alone on Friday, when we chill, talk, discuss research, and check in on how we are doing. It has been an effective way of building a sense of community.” 


Emma Krofcheck - University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Emma grew up an hour south of Pittsburgh, PA, and has lived there all her life, currently attending college at the University of Pittsburgh. She enjoys art, paints in acrylics, and most recently has begun sewing projects in her free time. Emma’s younger sister is an architecture student who is extremely artistic. Perhaps their creativity can be credited to growing up around a grandmother who is an artists. The curious and inquisitive side of Emma comes out in her love for science, as she has as long as she can remember wanted to be a scientist. 
“I had a rock collection with my mom as a little girl,” Emma shared. “And in elementary school I wanted to be a scientist because I thought those were the “smart” people.” She discovered astronomy during that time after watching a television special that left a huge impact on her.
This is Emma’s first REU. When she started college she noticed that science courses felt disconnected from people. She has long been interested in science education and how people interact, learn, self-identify, and reflect. The RIT REU work with Dr. Scott Franklin was of interest to her as it explored ought self, the sense of one should (“ought to”) do. 
Emma noted that other physics REUs were focusing on astronomy or physics only, and she was interested in how physics students think they should be, or what they should be doing in coursework and teaching structures. To carry it a step further, she is interested in whether or not students are aware of the influencers that shape their way of thinking.
Her research this summer in large is spent reflecting on her own experiences, pressures around her, influences on decisions she’s made, and what she learns by talking with other physics students and peers both during this REU and with classmates at Pittsburgh.
Through interview transcripts, supplied by Kansas State University, Emma is identifying relevant phrases or quotes from students. She is pulling data together on what students think they should do in their career choices, college courses they should take and pertinent research based on ought self. She is also gathering data on the power of  comparison of one’s self to one’s physics peers. 


Téa Pusey - University of California, Merced
Téa, (with the accent over the e, "just like in Beyoncé,” she commented, has a deep love for music. In high school she loved theater and choir. Although neither are available at the UC Merced where she is now a rising senior, she would love to do theater again sometime in the near future. 
Téa remembers becoming interested in science in the seventh grade, and loved doing dissections, learning about heritage through family trees, and genetics. During her sophomore to senior years at Carlmont high school she was part of the biotechnology institute (BTI), where she learned advanced lab skills like PCR. Today, she plans to go to graduate school to earn a PhD in science education.
In 2020 she took part in UC Merced’s Summer Undergraduate Research Institute as a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow, where she was able to analyze the classroom observation data. She enjoyed working with STEM faculty and co-authored “Look who’s talking: teaching and discourse practices across discipline, position, experience, and class size in STEM college classrooms”, which is in preparation with Bioscience. 
This summer she is working on a couple of projects with Dr. Martin and Grace States; currently she is conducting and analyzing interview data on deaf and hard of hearing students’ experiences presenting in classroom consisting of mostly hearing students. The partner team works together conducting interviews and coding qualitative data. The interview results will hopefully reveal recommendations to provide faculty, interpreters, hearing students how to support deaf and hard of hearing students when giving presentations. 
Additionally, Dr. Martin, Téa, and Grace are working on a paper written on communication physics education alongside Dr. Zwickl. They are particularly focused on the skills that go beyond the technical skills—the way in which physics graduates are able to communicate to industry and not just academia. The goal is that Téa and her summer research partner will provide a paper to share, which will help future physics communication assignments become more applicable. 


Grace Staes - Cornell University, Cornell, NY
Grace was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She has two brothers, one younger, the other older. Both her parents are attorneys. 
Grace went to the same school from kindergarten through grade 12. She first became interested in science and medicine during middle school. Grace was especially Interested in sports, sports injuries, and sports medicine. “Being a doc would be super cool,” Grace stated. “And I also liked working with my hands at an early age, engaged in robotics and helping my dad with stuff around the house.”
In high school she continued to like science and realized she was pretty good at it. She was admitted to Cornell University majoring in anthropology. That experience grew to an interest in educational STEM equity, still leaning toward combining those skills with medical school. Her past year at Cornell afforded her the opportunity to work as an undergrad TA for an intro to bio course, with experience teaching STEM equity. The lead professor of the course recommended the RIT REU experience.
Grace is thrilled to be working with Dr. Kelly Martin, doing a study with deaf and hard-of-hearing students. She is looking at experiences students are encountering, particularly those taking courses where students are asked to give presentations. Through interviews Grace is gathering feedback from deaf and hard of hearing students, interpreters and professors who assign presentations in their courses to assess if there are gaps in RIT supporting and evaluating the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Typical questions address the resources both faculty and students would like to have which they currently don’t have.
Grace and her research partner Téa Pusey are looking at interview data from the REU 2020 session as well as implementing new interviews this summer. The goal will be to write a paper that will be submitted for publication.
Grace stated that this summer has been a great experience and she loves the student reflection sessions. 


Beck Tedeschi - New College of Florida (public honors college of Florida)
Beck’s major (Neurodiversity Studies) was developed together with their professor, a neuroscientist. They were most interested in disability rights of students with learning disabilities. Beck is gathering information on the effects these disabilities have on cognition and learning. Under the mentorship of Drs. Scott Franklin and Tony Wong, they are searching for data showing the socio-cultural lens being used to determine how people are viewed when discussing normality or neuro typical, as opposed to those within the range of neuro-diversity (outside what is considered the norm).
When asked how Beck first become interested in science, they answered that their grandparents on their dad’s side were both biologists. As early as age seven, they became interested in reading—especially looking at drawings and scientific concepts. Beck recalls liking the scholastic book fair at school, science classes, and experiential aspects of building things. Their mom is a medical doctor, so they grew up with a familiarity of scientific fields, specifically medicine, which Beck is now interested in and ultimately looking at medical school.
Beck has a strong concern for the way education is carried out in middle schools, disliking the focus on grades, requirements, and performance and less on the actual learning and exploration. They feel students don’t have the opportunity to grow. Although Beck sees the good in education, they do feel frustrated with some of the ways in which learning is measured. They were a peer tutor for math and writing in high school, and often felt pep talks were a huge part of their role.Beck’s interest in metacognition and understanding student perspectives on their learning experiences led to the research opportunity at RIT this summer. Their college advisor helped them look into options of combining science with education/education policy. When Beck met the mentors, they got the sense they would be people they would enjoy working alongside.
Their summer research focuses on quantitative data focusing on student success and persistence of RIT undergraduates over the years. Data such as GPAs, demographics, course enrollment, student retention, and graduation rates are all considered. Additional contributing factors are examined, such as pathways for taking courses required first, later, or a combo of those courses, and flexibility of courses outside one’s major. Beck is interested in assessing whether the order affects success rates. 

 “Working remotely has challenges in our social connection and understanding of the research each person is doing. However, Dr. Franklin does a good job at connecting us.”


Liliana Tinoco - Lewis University, Romeoville, IL
Liliana will graduate from Lewis University in December with a degree in Biology. She is a first generation college student, both parents immigrating from Mexico. After her parents immigrated, her dad began working as a landscaper and her mom as a janitor in Chicago public schools. Her mom as just recently gone back to school to get her associate’s degree and is now a respiratory therapist.  For Liliana, it was the hardships her parents endured that motivated her from a young age to want to pursue medicine and become a doctor.
She remembers having a book about doctors when she was five years old, and ever since then she has wanted to be a doctor. In seventh grade when her teacher introduced a chapter about the earth, the earth’s layers, and the sun, she developed an interest in all areas of science after that. At an early age she thought Einstein was “ a cool dude”.
Liliana says she loves to socialize as an extrovert, and loves getting to know people on a personal level. While she wants to attend medical school, Liliana’s passions lie in mending the gaps in racial and social justice through developing methods to reach equity. While she is looking forward to becoming part of a research project centered around policing at her home institution, she likes to integrate social justice into her everyday hobbies. Besides racial justice, Liliana loves being outdoors and working out at the gym. She looks forward to getting more into yoga and Pilates. She also would like to start playing the piano again as a hobby, her favorite composer being Beethoven. Liliana is fluent in Spanish, and has tutored kids ranging from preschool (teaching Spanish) to 6th graders.
During the REU summer program at RIT, Liliana is working with Drs. Kate Wright and Dina Newman on exploring how biologists and biology students conceptualize race versus ancestry.  Liliana is interviewing experts and students from a variety of institutions and is gathering information on how experts and students discuss topics of race and ancestry. Liliana admits that before doing research on the topic she was unaware that race was a social construct and not a biological variable. She wants more individuals to realize this, as she feels it will change biases and the quality of medical care and educational instruction. 
Unlike race, “ancestry is a biological variable and it is dictated by lineage, roots, and therefore you can link it to genetics with biological merit,” stated Liliana. “I hope people reading this excerpt (especially future REU students) will be inspired to do more research around diversity and inclusion for biology. Race is a book cover, ancestry is the contents within the book,” an analogy she says came to her during this interview.


Rebecca Verchimak - Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA
Rebecca grew up in a household of music, as her mother is a violinist, and often played gigs at churches and weddings. Rebecca learned to play the violin as a toddler, and later went on to play the cello in elementary school. She currently plays the cello in her school’s symphony orchestra. Rebecca also can play the guitar, ukulele, and viola. As an only child, Rebecca spent quality alone time with her mom on visits to the local library, starting when she was an infant. Her first recollection of being interested in science dates back to when she was in first grade. She would frequently take out the same book on astronomy, checking it out of the library almost weekly! She loved to learn about the planets. 
In high school she had a phenomenal physics teacher and gravitated toward astrophysics at that time. As of recently, she has become interested in exploring psychology and its intersection with physics. She was encouraged to find an REU program with research opportunities addressing that. RIT was the best choice for education research in STEM.
Rebecca’s research, under the mentorship of Dr. Ben Zwickl, Associate Professor, School of Physics and Astronomy, is looking at key factors (aside from academic factors) that may influence the retention of undergraduates within the STEM disciplines. These factors include students’ help- seeking behaviors, their perception of career support from their department or college, their confidence in their ability to succeed and their sense of belonging within their program or college. She is helping to develop a survey to be administered to undergrad STEM majors at a variety of colleges and universities. The hope is the responses will, as she put it, “touch the invisible factors” that cause students to think about  leaving their STEM major. This will help faculty and administrators better understand and support students’ success and career goals. 
Rebecca enjoys social activities via Zoom with the other REU student, and learning all of the different academic backgrounds each bring to this REU experience. 



2020 - Virtual

REU Students:

Jesús A. Botello-Esquivel – University of Texas, Austin, TX
Jesús Botello, a rising 4th year student, attends the University of Texas located in Austin, Texas. Jesús' parents are from Michoacan, Mexico and immigrated to Georgia, where he was born, and relocated to Houston when Jesús was young. With two Spanish speaking parents, Jesús is fluent in Spanish—primarily speaking Spanish while at home. He and his siblings were the first in the family to go to college. His siblings are psychology and music education majors, and he feels he rounds out the disciplines focusing on the sciences – specifically physics.
Jesús’ high school teachers encouraged him to go into the sciences, beginning when he took chemistry, but his interest in physics came to the forefront. During his senior year in high school he took calculus and saw the connection between math and physics, which led to a goal of studying experimental physics to ultimately help his community in any way possible. He would like to pursue a teaching career and convey his passion to others.
Working with Dr. Ben Zwickl during the REU summer research program, Jesú​s is, along with another REU, Molly Griston, interviewing theoretical physicists from different universities to understand their skill levels and cognitive processes in relation to how they perceive themselves. In the eyes of a physicist, one might say that "this is why I do it, how I do it," etc. and in the eyes of a student one would ask what it means to be a physicist. Theoretical physicists, in comparison with computational or experimental physicists extends the research beyond what is done in the lab.
Jesús plans to teach after graduation, as along with a BS in Physics he will have a high school teaching certificate through the University of Texas UTeach program. He is considering going on to graduate school for education research as he has grown fond of the pedagogical aspect of teaching.​

Ryleigh Fleming - University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL
Ryleigh attends the University of Alabama as a third-year biology major with a minor in chemistry. Growing up, her grandfather was a professor of engineering at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Along with being influenced by him, Ryleigh has aunts and cousins who are also engineers. She has always been interested in science, yet for her biology was a better fit, as she knew early she wanted to go to medical school and be the change she wants to see in that field—a black female doctor.  

Ryleigh’s mom is Hispanic, and for Ryleigh a perfect opportunity to learn Spanish. She hopes to be able to speak to her Spanish speaking patients some day in their native language, assuring them and creating the most relaxed doctor’s visit as possible. She feels it is important to be well-rounded as a physician, acknowledging the patient as a whole, including their culture. She explains she feels culture and communication go hand-in-hand.

Her summer REU research is with mentor, Dr. Kelly Norris Martin. Her research first involves finalizing a paper for the American Journal of Physics about how in physics there has been a focus on writing for lab reports and communicating to the public, yet there has been much less of a focus on every day communication in the workforce. The article makes recommendations on how communication education could be incorporated into the physics curriculum in higher education.

Secondly, Ryleigh is working with data from previous interviews with STEM field employers from four distinct career areas in the United States (health care, petroleum engineering, advanced manufacturing and information technology. The interview questions inquired about what they value in new employees, how they identify those qualities when hiring,  as well as what kind of training they give new employees. In this data, communication abilities, cultural “fit,” socialization into the company, and its relationship to diversity, are common themes that Ryleigh is exploring. 

After graduation Ryleigh plans to attend medical school and wants to be an infectious disease doctor. She understands how poverty and inequalities can be perpetuated by an individual’s distinct disadvantage, not having access to good health care.


Molly Griston – University of Rochester, Rochester, NY

Molly Griston is from Pleasanton, California. She is attending the University of Rochester as a rising third-year student with a major in physics. Molly remembers as a kid her love for math. Instead of reading books in bed with her mom at night, she asked her mom to talk about math. They would talk math each night and there she received her introduction to how math is involved in so much of her daily life and world around her. Her interest in physics grew from realizing she could do a lot of math with applications in life.
Molly is working this summer with Dr. Ben Zwickl. The first part of the research will gather interviews from approximately 10 faculty members who conduct research in varying subfields of theoretical physics, as well as some of their postdocs and graduate students. The interviews will be analyzed to understand how theoretical physicists make decisions, how they use math, and their various cognitive processes. Their expert processes will be compared with what undergraduates are learning in the classroom in order to make theoretical physics more accessible and less thought of as requiring “genius.”
Molly’s future plans involve many considerations. However, the frontrunner is to earn a PhD in physics and work in physics education research.
Her REU virtual experience has still allowed her to get to know others and discuss research while bonding over social activities via Zoom such as sharing favorite food recipes or having a pet show and tell.


Daisy Haas - Chapman Universary, Orange, CA
Daisy is a rising senior, majoring in chemistry at Chapman University. Both of her parents are teachers (kindergarten and sixth grade), so she says she has grown up surrounded by the love of fostering education and instilling the importance of academia. In high school she fell in love with chemistry and now in college her interest in STEM education has grown. She has worked in a cancer research center, something she became interested in, as her father is a cancer survivor. Although she loved the research, she missed the social aspect on human interaction. Given that, one of her professors helped her find an education research program and she became part of the RIT REU program this summer.

Working with Tina Goudreau as a faculty STEM education research mentor, Daisy is studying the results of a re-designed lab, which Goudreau has designed to increase engagement between students with each other and students with their instructor. Utilizing the Meaningful Learning in the Laboratory Instrument (MLLI), Daisy is looking at survey results from 600 valid data points dating back to 2016 given to students in their first semester of organic chemistry from various universities before and after delivery of this new lab style to assess the benefits.

She says she has learned much from working with Dr. Goudreau, who demonstrates her commitment to caring about how her students learn. Goudreau’s lab workbook provides inquiry-learning exercises that replace traditional pre-lab instructor lectures. The method encourages problem solving with peers, and  “stop signs” throughout the workbook signaling when to engage with their instructor before going forward. This is an alternative to a lab delivery utilizing  solely the experimental procedure.

Upon graduating, Daisy would love to be a college chemistry professor, own her own business providing professional development for K-12 teachers, specifically in STEM education. She wants to give teachers a resource to help improve their students’ confidence and critical thinking skills. 


Deondre Henry - Hendrix College, Conway, AK
Deondre is a rising junior from Blytheville, Arkansas. He currently lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas with his mom. His love for science led to a NSF S-STEM scholarship at Hendrix College, where he is majoring in Biology.  

Deondre says he didn’t see himself doing research during his undergraduate years, yet his academic advisor encouraged him to look into it for the experience. He said he is glad he found the RIT REU program. He is interested in teaching and is grateful for this research education program as he is gaining insight and alternate opportunities to assure he makes good future choices. He also hopes to share these pathways with his students if his career post-college is as an educator.

Working this summer with Dr. Scott Franklin as his mentor, Deondre is interviewing undergrads about their personal identity (how they identify themselves in race, gender, etc.), the community culture where they are doing their research, and how those play into their research experience. The students interviewed are undergraduates from RIT and other colleges or universities. The recruitment process was done by Dr. Franklin by reaching out to professors and researchers in the STEM field asking for suggested students to take part in this. A letter to the participants then follows describing the project and their involvement.  

Once the interviews have taken place, and the data has been collected, the data will go through a coding process pulling out commonalities and themes. 

Deondre says although the virtual aspect presents the difficulty of looking at a computer screen all day; all students and faculty have done a great job adapting. He feels the program leaders have especially done a good job of making it a comfortable space which has been easy to adjust to, including the ability to get to know each other and collaborate.

Deondre’s future plans include applying to a program in Arkansas to obtain an alternative license to teach at the high school level, which for him will hopefully include coaching football.


Sophia Jeon - Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Sophia is a rising senior at Cornell University. She is majoring in physics with a minor in education and Spanish. Born in South Korea, Sophia moved to New Jersey when she was 11 years old. She has always wanted to be a teacher—any subject—as she admired her teachers throughout high school and saw herself teaching someday. During her junior year in high school she developed a passion for physics, as it challenged her to think in ways she never has before. Not only did she have a fondness for the subject, but additionally she grew more interested in the actual learning environment in the classroom and said she was drawn to the “very meta” aspects involving metacognition.

When asked “Why Spanish?”, she explained how she had spent a summer in Mexico teaching art to students and used her high school Spanish there, enjoying the connection with others from other countries. She is applying to graduate schools and hopes to continue conducting education research with other passionate researchers.

Sophia is working virtually alongside her mentor, Dr. Scott Franklin, during the RIT summer REU program. Her research is looking at classroom interactions through video analysis. The videos were provided by Dr. Franklin’s associate from Kansas State University, Dr. Eleanor Sayre, and Sophia has enjoyed working with others from across the country, discussing various research experiences. Additionally, non-REU upper-class RIT students are working with Dr. Franklin and Sophia, which has enriched the program for her.

By watching videos and analyzing undergrad students in the classroom setting, Sophia is observing how they interact with each other and navigate their roles. She is expanding the understanding of those traditional roles (i.e. data collector) by looking at how students position themselves with others, observing how they problem-solve together, and assessing if it is done in an equitable role negotiation manner. Closely observing body language, tone, discourse and whether they stick to structure or innovate outside of the structure provided is key. Going beyond the task-oriented role provides a more holistic picture of underlying negotiations of the roles.

Sophia is enthusiastic about education research, as it also aligns with her interest in social psychology. She commented that one day, she aspires to write a book on her research that everyone, not only scientists, could comprehend and learn from.


Aidan Link - University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Aidan is a senior Chemistry major and Biology minor at the University of Arkansas. Since none of his parents or grandparents attended college, Aidan and his sister are first-generation college students. Aidan developed his love and talent for science in high school, where he graduated as the class salutatorian. Upon leaving high school he realized he wanted to be in the pre-med program and was also interested in teaching, so he entered a Secondary Education Certificate Program for STEM majors at his university.

His RIT summer education research project aims to understand mental models of biology experts and biology students.  Through semi-structured interviews Aidan asks his research participants to describe and draw various concepts and process in molecular biology and genetics.  Through the analysis of expert and student-generated drawings he is uncovering important findings about how experts and novices communicate their ideas.   Through this work Aidan is also helping to refine and test out a new framework for thinking about and teaching concepts related to DNA. He is very interested in how experts in the field (professors) represent materials to students, often using long, complex analogies, whereas students take an entirely different approach. Aidan is collaborating with one of last year’s REU students on a virtual poster to be presented at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research in July 2020.

Anna Miller - College of St. Benedicts, St. Joseph, MN
From Pine City, Minnesota, Anna is a rising fourth-year student co-majoring in Biology and Secondary Education. She attends the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Inspired by her dad who was a science teacher and her high school science courses, Anna knew she wanted to pursue a career in science education. Her high school biology and life sciences classes were among her favorites. She liked to explore the outdoors which led to a strong interest in the sciences, realizing the broad range of opportunities career-wise the sciences afforded her. Anna ultimately plans to teach, yet also has an interest in becoming a chiropractor.

Working with Drs. Dina Newman and Kate Wright, Anna’s summer research project focuses on how expert scientists and students interpret images depicting processes of Molecular Biology. Using virtual interviews, she asks research participants to sort images into groups and asks questions about their rationales.  By listening to their explanations and hearing them describe connections between the images, Anna is discovering the differences in how experts and novices think. In the future, this work will be applied to the design of research-based activities to improve learning.

Anna says the virtual program this summer has been difficult in terms of her not being together in person with resources close at hand. Yet it has been a positive experience to learn how to work online with people from all over the country. Meeting for an hour with faculty and/or peers and taking from that input toward her next steps in independent work alone has been a strengthening experience.  


Korinne Mills - Florida Southern College, Lakeland FL
Korinne is from Buffalo, NY. She will be a senior this fall at Florida Southern College, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Korinne became interested in science and medicine through various internships.  Last summer she worked in a lab and realized she liked education research because of the interaction with others. After tutoring several students, she realized she may want to pursue a career in academics, which brought her to look for additional opportunities in the science education field. After meeting a woman who re-designed a medical school curriculum, she also began thinking about pursuing teaching at that level.

This summer, her REU education research is being mentored by Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright, with a focus on assessment of both the understanding and misconceptions in biology education. Knowing that students have a hard time understanding and explaining the connection between DNA and physical traits, she is examining how high school and college textbooks present the information to learners.  For example, Korinne noted that textbook images often show the beginning and end of a complex molecular process but not what happens in between—which could cause confusion or misunderstanding.  Informed by her textbook observations and interview data, she is designing an online survey to better understand how experts and novices conceptualize the important link between gene expression and traits.

Her virtual summer REU experience has been a good one. She is happily surprised that even though they are online, there is community and the ability to receive help with her project from her student peers. People have really been able to contribute to projects during weekly reflections together or group meetings.

Hannah Spector - Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
Hannah, a third-year Biotech and Biomedical Sciences major at the Rochester Institute of Technology, plans to follow in her father’s footsteps by going to medical school.   Her original plans to work in a hospital this summer fell through due to the pandemic, but fortunately there was a great opportunity for her in the REU Program.

Hannah had already been working in the MBER lab with Drs. Dina Newman and Kate Wright for nearly two years.  Through the summer REU program she is able to continue to work on her research project investigating student thinking about molecular biology. She is part of a team that designed and tested a novel card-sorting task to compare expert and novice thinking about visual representations. In general, novices focus on surface features of drawings, but with more experience, they try to group cards based on conceptual similarities. Hannah is currently exploring unexpected pairings made by both students and faculty. Her work will be included in a presentation this summer at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research’s virtual conference. 

Hannah is enjoying the REU program. She is pleased at the connections made between REU students, allowing for reflective times and bonding, even during this virtual time.

Pujan Thaker - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL
Pujan is a 4th-year student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University majoring in mechanical engineering. His interest in engineering started early on while he was in elementary school. There he was introduced to rockets and planes—and he became especially interested in the way they were built to function properly. When it was time to think about college, he was drawn to Embry-Riddle, as it is well known in the aviation and aerospace industry.

Pujan studied abroad in England at the University of Leeds, a public research university, where he was a part of the international student community. When he was researching education REU programs for the summer, he was drawn to the DBER (Discipline-Based Education Research) REU at RIT, as this corresponded with his engineering education research career goals.

Working with Dr. Jennifer Bailey this summer, he is looking at spatial visualization skills by means of scores on pre- and post- Spatial Visualization (SP) tests (Purdue Spatial Visualization Tests: Rotation PSVT:R), commonly given to college freshman. The tests (assessing how one is able to mentally rotate 2D and 3D objects in their mind) were given to students during the years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 classes, as the official way to assess one’s special visualization skills. The SV topics were not introduced into coursework until 2017, so comparisons between the years produce informative data showing that introducing SV coursework early on is key. Comparisons between male and female test results were also tracked.

After graduating Pujan plans to go on to graduate school for engineering education. He hopes to pursue a career in academia as a professor and focus on engineering education research. 

Other Summer Researchers

Pedro Cardona
Micah Campbell
Jonathan Lutzer
Micaela Nelson
Eugene Ham
Paige Daly
Julia Biehler


Carmen Carusone - College of New Jersey

Carmen, a first generation student, is a senior at The College of New Jersey and is part of the school’s Honors Program. He is on a full tuition scholarship funded by the Robert Noyce Foundation preparing to teach high school physics in a high needs district. He first became interested in physics his junior year of high school realizing the elegance and power of physics with so many questions answered and predictions made mathematically. During his research time at RIT, Carmen is utilizing the EMPOWER data set of instructor interviews to discover exemplary pedagogical techniques STEM instructors use to teach students 21st century skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem solving and self-directed learning. He is coding through the data and pulling pertinent information for a paper to be presented at the Physics Education Research Conference. Carmen plans to teach after graduation and encourage students to be challenged by the powerful and very rewarding field of physics.


Aeowynn Coakley - San Jose State University

Aeowynn is a senior at San Jose State University. This summer she is investigating student and professor understandings of illustrations and diagrams in molecular biology courses. Because molecular biology deals with the minutely small, it is important to use visual representations to portray the concepts. The research involves interviewing novices and experts across the country (undergrads and graduating students, post-doctoral fellows and professors) to identify areas where students are getting stuck, looking at how these concepts are being communicated through visuals that assist in the process. Aeowynn hopes to work on this remotely beyond this summer and potentially present her findings at a conference. She plans to go to graduate school to earn her PhD in a biology-related field of research. 


Paulina Cortez - San Diego State University

Paulina, a rising senior at San Diego State University in California, is double majoring in Biology and Spanish. She is excited about her research project that involves incorporating 3-D models into activities in the classroom to enhance the learning experience. Her work in developing these activities for the 3-D models seek to better engage students in understanding fundamental steps in meiosis, a historically difficult concept for students to comprehend. Her advisers on this project are Drs. Dina Newman and Kate Wright. A first-generation college student, Paulina wants to contribute to others, hoping to inspire students to pursue science. She plans to serve in the Peace Corps before pursuing her doctoral degree in Biology and STEM Education.


Grace Heath - Loyola University New Orleans

Grace is a junior at Loyola University New Orleans. Her research is looking at four frames (categories or sections) of the stages in undergraduate classes studying electricity and magnetism. She is looking at what causes students to switch between frames while problem-solving. By collecting video data she is viewing students problem solving in groups and individually as they switch to different frames. During the academic year, Grace works as a tutor in the Student Success Center. Grace is a member of Theta Phi Alpha and a board member for the Society of Physics Students. Upon graduation Grace wants to get her Ph.D. in Physics and work at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in their Science
Education Center.


Aimeé Hernandex - University of Texas, El Paso

Aimeé is a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in Forensic Biology. Her interest in forensic science dates back to when she took Introduction to Criminal Justice in 8th grade and sparked her interested in pursuing a career in forensic science. This summer at RIT, she is following up with high school science instructors who took a workshop on meiosis presented by Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright. Her research shows how the teachers used the workshop information and resources to improve their lesson plans centering around meiosis. In addition, the research demonstrates how the instructors’ confidence has changed when teaching meiosis as well as how the students’ attitudes changed when learning. Upon graduation, Aimeé wants to pursue a Ph.D. in Forensic Science to become a Forensic DNA Analyst, providing analysis in cases that have DNA evidence. She would also like to teach forensics in an informal and formal setting to inspire kids to pursue careers in STEM.


Rebecca Ross - North Carolina State University

Rebecca is a junior at North Carolina State University majoring in STEM Education: Graphic Communications with a minor in Sociology. She is working on multiple projects related to communication education in physics higher education and in the larger STEM workforce. One project lays out a framework for enlarging physics faculty conceptions of teaching communication for American Journal of Physics. Related to this article, she is also working to contribute to a section on communication to the American Physical Society Best Practices in Undergraduate Physics Program report. Another project for Science argues that funding and attention should be devoted to communication practices beyond communication for the general public. She also investigates current practices and recommendations for teaching students about teamwork in STEM higher education based on data gathered from faculty interviews and student focus group data from STEM programs in 4 different regions of the country. Rebecca is considering graduate school however she is excited to go into the workforce
upon graduation.​


Ronald Quintero - Florida International University

Ronald is a senior at Florida International University. His research at RIT this summer in protocol development uses 2D and 3D drawings. This is a necessary skill for engineering students to grasp the concept of spatial visualization. His research is targeting specifically on Freshman student understanding. As Florida International University is primarily a commuter school (with the exception of international student housing) this RIT summer experience is the first time Ronald has lived away from his family at home in Miami. He is a first generation student with Cuban parents. He immigrated to the United States with his mother when he was 5 years old. Ronald is interested in continuing on with an engineering degree and career and at some point pursue teaching.


Kelli Shar - University of Tampa

Kelli is a senior at the University of Tampa. She is a first-generation student who has a goal this summer of looking beyond the cognitive (GPA and GRE) to non-cognitive skills. She is using an assessment that was designed to measure students non-cognitive abilities in such areas as team work, professionalism, and perseverance, to name a few. She is interviewing undergraduate students applying to be graduate students. The process is such that she and her mentors build questions, continually re-writing them to obtain the best data. After graduation she hopes to continue in Physics Education, hopefully passing on her enthusiasm for the discipline to others.


Krystina Williamson - Barnard College

Krystina is a senior at Barnard College in New York City. She is from Hayward, California and now is equally as comfortable with the east coast. Upon graduation she hopes to teach Physics high school courses in the urban New York City schools. Krystina’s research at RIT this summer with Dr. Zwickl is looking at data from the American Physical Society determining how Physics undergraduates perceive the Physics disciplines. She examines areas such as the social impact, the importance of creativity, and how business and leadership skills are involved. The data is a result of interviews with freshman through seniors in the Physics major focusing on problem solving skills. She is passionate about giving back to her community in a way that helps students understand how Physics relates to their everyday life. 






Nicole Aledo - University of West Alabama
Nicole was proud to share her Cuban background and heritage, and was honored to receive this summer internship. She has a masters in mathematics and wants to influence the lives of others through teaching general science education. She wants to be a mentor to students who feel they may not be college material, and encourage them to both apply and stay enrolled. Her research interests are in looking at open-ended questions, looking at researching ways to utilize them in chemistry in a positive way.  Working with Dr. Scott Franklin on what types of things shape one's identity and whether individuals see themselves as a physics student or professional, she learned the importance of this in terms of retention of physics students. She had felt racism toward Hispanics throughout her life, which kept her, as she put it "in a shell" until 7th grade. She wants to make sure other students don't experience those negative limitations in STEM education.

Ben Archibeque - Kansas State University
An incoming senior, Ben has a double major in physics and psychology. His work with Dr. Scott Franklin is aligned with his interests—focusing on problem solving physical problems. By watching videos of students in IMPRESS doing tree walk-about and estimating how much carbon is stored on RIT's campus int he trees, he was able to glean their views on the nature of science, looking at how people think of science as a way of knowing, and how it guides them toward expert or accurate science concepts. Ben is also a member of PEER, which Rochester started as the IMPRESS Education Research Squad for undergraduates. Working with both Dr. Franklin and Dr. Ely Sayre, Ben the collaborative students meet bi-weekly on research through ZOOM or Skype. This past summer Ben worked on measuring equity of small groups by quantitatively speaking time as a metric and qualitatively by content and effects they have on the group.

Alexandria Cervantes -  California State University Monterray Bay

An incoming junior, Alexandria is a math major witha computer science minor. She wants to be a math educator. Working with Dr. Kelly Martin, she is working on 2 projects: a design project - model to help undergrad math students communicate effective visual communication and analogies of different design principles (for example, editing and going back and checking one's work; repetition, etc.) Once she returns to CA, she will present her research in a fall showcase. Alexandria will publish a paper on the work she has done with Dr. Martin. 

Felicia Davenport - Chicago State University 
Felicia is majoring in Physics, with an option of Biology. Her work with coding schemes looked at different types and usages of arrows. She enjoyed her experience at RIT. Working with Dr. Scott Franklin, she appreciated his approach, as she shared that she had been gently pushed in a different direction in research which shifted her to understanding new concepts.

Grace Dy - University of Washington, Seattle
A rising junior, majoring in biology with a minor in education, Grace has done research back at her home institution. Her work has been in helping transition students from their high school sciences into college level and preparing them for doing research—surviving Intro to Biology course seminar and navigating the department. Working this summer with Dr. Kate Wright and Dr. Dina Newman, her research was in the framework of the DN Triangle, obtaining a full understanding of meiosis, and then applying this framework to textbook figures. The research looked at whether students see the textbook figures reflecting all components, including the sides and corners. Part of the research involved speaking with high school teachers to see what knowledge incoming undergrads are obtaining—and which components are missing to see if the two are aligned. This was Grace's first time ont he East coast  and enjoyed experiencing RIT and the social aspects of getting to know the other REUs.

Kaitlyn Elliott - University of Colorado, Denver

Kaitlyn is a rising senior  majoring in biology and interested in teaching higih school. Working with Dr. Kate Wright and Dr. Dina Newman, she was engaged in two projects during this summer. The first was coding data collected the previous semester to look at understanding and misconceptions in conventional common teaching practices. Secondly, Kaitlyn, working with another REU student, looked at how students interpret diagrams. Taking biology and design principles (good images, fonts) to see what how they were interpreted, how they may need to be changed to make them most impactful. She looked at DNA, captions under 150 words, etc. She appreciated developing the coding scheme, getting direction from her mentors, yet not the answers. She strongly feels it is better to have someone teach you how to get to the answer, rather than feeding you the answer. She says she likes asking questions and that will not stop when she leaves RIT. She now has tools to do so effectively.

Jessica Hathaway - Elizabeth City State University
An incoming senior, Jessica is majoring in Mathematics. Her RIT research work with Dr. Benjamin Zwickl as her mentor, was working with perceptions and attitudes of individuals working in the optics field. She looked at how they interpret the use of m ath in their job, and whether they find it easy or difficult, useful or not. This was her first time flying, and she says it was well worth it, as the RIT REU experience has been great.

Muhammad Jan - University of Alabama
Having spent half of his life in Pakistan, and the other half in the United States, he is focused on understanding people, the way they think, learn and interpret. Working with both Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright, Muhammad worked on the DNA triangle, looking to see if there are missing representations in each corner of the textbook meiosis images. He shared that he learned so much while at RIT and loved spending time in Global Vilage. In his senior year he is majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a secondary degree in Education.

Danny Mendoza - University of Alabama at Birmingham

An incoming senior, Danny is a biology major with four minors: chemistry, Spanish, international studies, and STEM education. He will have a Class B high school teaching certification. As a first generation American and first generation college student, he is interested in becoming a high school science teacher. At home he did preventitive cancer research and psychology research with social skills intervention for autistic high school kids. He commented that we all have alot to learn from them. Working this summer with Dr. Kate Wright and Dr. Dina Newman, his focus was on molecular biology research with a concentration on the use of arrows in diagrams and whether there was clarity. Color schemes, stylistic arrow depictions, font combinations, captions and encorporated design principles affect the ease or complexity of understanding.  Danny thoroughly enjoyed his fist REU experience at RIT and loved the Red Barn climbing!

Abby Rocha - Western Illinois University

Majoring in Mathematics/Secondary Education, Abby is a rising senior. She is interested in STEM education, DBER research, math education and student learning, attititudes adn perceptions toward K-12 or higher ed. Working with Dr. Ben Zwickl, and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Anne Leak, her focus was on informing educators as to how well we are preparing students for the workforce. She felt the research she was doing would be helpful to share, as up until this summer she had only been aware of quantitative research and not qualitative research. Aside from the research this summer, she pointed out that the REU program has been tremendous at exposing them to professional development, pathways and future careers. This summer experience has interested her in obtaining a doctorate degree. 

Fidel Amezcua - Chicago State University 
Fidel worked with mentor, Dr. Christina Goudreau Collison (Chemistry) while an REU at RIT. The work involved reinventing organic chemistry lab instruction by developint a new delivery method for labs to enhance student engagement and more effectively inform the instructors on student cognitive progress. Data is currently being collected at several institutions with varying characteristics (large/small, public/private, 2-year/4-year) in order to evaluate efficacy and transferability. Dr. Goudreau Collison and team are investigating how students learn from these reformed REActivities. 












Jordan Cardenas - Rochester Institute of Technology

Jordan Cardenas, a third year Rochester Institute of Technology student majoring in Biotechnology, continued research he started during the academic year with Dr. Kate Wright and Dr. Dina Newman. Over the summer, as a student in the DBER REU cohort, Jordan investigated how biology textbook authors/illustrators convey scientific concepts through visual representations. More specifically he analyzed all of the different meanings conveyed by arrow representations throughout biology textbooks and determining their effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, in communicating correct ideas to student learners. His mixed-methods approach allowed him to master the qualitative analysis software, NVivo, as well as code visual representations and conduct think-aloud interviews with research subjects. Jordan, from Denver, Colorado, traveled to Minneapolis in July to present his research at the SABER (Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research) National Conference. His REU experience was very beneficial, and he enjoyed the extra time to work on his project and connect with the other students and mentors.

Brandon Clark - University of Maine

University of Maine senior Brandon Clark worked on two different projects over the summer. The first project was with Dr. Benjamin Zwickl and Dr. Kelly Martin as part of the Photonics and Optics Workforce Education Research (POWER) group. Using a qualitative framework, he coded interviews to better understand entry-level employee, supervisor and hiring manger perceptions of communication. The second project, with Dr. Kelly Martin, involved graphic design principles and visual communication theory. Together they looked at how to improve the visual communication within physics students’ research posters and presentations. Brandon developed guidelines to help students plan and organize the layout of their posters and slides for their presentations so they could effectively communicate research findings. He and Kelly lead one of the REU Professional Development Workshops where they discussed his research on best visual communication practices for STEM students in preparation for the Rochester Institute of Technology Undergraduate Research Symposium in August. When Brandon wasn’t working on his two research projects he was able to explore the Rochester area, traveling to Niagara Falls with the rest of the REU students. He had a great experience over the summer, finding the January Jump-Start essential in preparing for his research projects.

Catherine Clasen – Drake University

This past summer Catherine "Rin" Clasen worked with Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright, as well as fellow DBER REU student Megan Stefovich. Together they looked at the use of 3D models to improve understanding of processes related to the flow of genetic information. Data collection was done through student interviews and analysis of open ended questions. Interview subjects worked through the models and attempted to answer a series of guiding questions that are meant to help students scaffold and apply new knowledge. Video and audio data helped the researchers capture important data on how students are interacting with the models and what gains in understanding are made. Rin, from Chicago, is currently studying Secondary Education at Drake University. After college she hopes to teach biology at the highschool or middle school level. The REU was a great experience for Rin, bringing her to the East Coast for the first time, and she found the weekly workshops to be very valuable.

Amanda Matheson – Colorado School of Mines, Laura Wood – Seattle Pacific University

DBER REU student Amanda Matheson, a junior studying Physics at Colorado School of Mines, and Laura Wood, a senior studying Physics and Applied Math at Seattle Pacific University, worked together with Dr. Scott Franklin this summer on student responses to guided reflection forms (GRFs). They used a coding scheme to classify statements and language used in the GRFs and saw how student reflections changed from week to week. They also developed a separate coding scheme for the feedback given by the professor, and analyzed those responses for emergent themes. They also worked with RIT computational linguistic researchers to conduct sentiment analysis on both student and instructor texts, including word counts and affective intent. During their time at RIT Amanda and Laura appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with other research students and receive faculty support through weekly workshops. On the weekends they enjoyed participating in various REU social activities like the trip to Niagara Falls and game nights.

Katie Miller - University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Katie Miller, a senior majoring in Chemistry at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spent the past year conducting research with Dr. Marilyne Stains. They used an observation protocol instrument called COPUS (the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM) to look at instructor and student learning patterns in the classroom. This past summer, as part of the 2016 DBER REU cohort, Katie worked with Dr. Thomas Kim and they looked at misconceptions students have with visual representations of hydrogen bonding. Katie developed a coding scheme to code student responses in order to determine shortcuts they are using to get to their answers when asked about hydrogen bonding. Another project Katie worked on was using perceptual learning as a framework to understand student misconceptions of chemical resonance when presented with a representation of benzene's two resonance forms. Katie, who also minors in education, physics and mathematics, has plans to get her Masters in Science Education to eventually teach at the high school level. During her time at RIT Katie enjoyed being able to solely focus on research and meeting new people.

Katie Palmer – California State University, Monterey Bay

DBER REU student Katie Palmer currently studies liberal arts education at California State University, Monterey Bay. She got out of her comfort zone over the summer to travel across the country for her first research experience. Katie worked with Dr. Corey Ptak and they looked at the use of debate of complex topics in classrooms to see if it helped students’ progress intellectually and ethically. Using Perry’s Scheme of Development, Katie analyzed words from pre and post-debates of the topic of climate change. She categorized words obtained from data in both non-major biology and majors biology classes to see if there was a shift. Aside from research Katie was able to take advantage of her time in Rochester and went to Niagara Falls, the Rochester Public Market and Marketplace Mall. What she enjoyed most about the experience was the bond she created with her cohort, especially during their weekly Friday night game nights.

Brianna Santangelo – The College of New Jersey

DBER REU student Brianna Santangelo, from New Jersey, worked with Dr. Ben Zwickl and Dr. Anne Leak this summer. Brianna looked at how math is used in the optics workforce, specifically how it is learned on the job and how it is communicated to peers and customers. With her research she hoped to gain a better understanding of the hidden math skills, which will inform the teaching of mathematics within the physics curriculum so it is more applicable to students’ future careers. Brianna, a senior double majoring in Physics and Secondary Education at The College of New Jersey, has plans to attend Graduate school for Physics Education and teach in the high school or college level. She had a great time with everyone in the DBER REU group and found the workshops held each week very helpful.

Megan Stefovich - University of Wisconsin-Madison

DBER REU student Megan Stefovich, from the Rochester area, worked with Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright this summer. They looked at the use of 3D models to improve understanding of processes related to the flow of genetic information. Data collection was done through student interviews and analysis of open ended questions. Interview subjects worked through the models and attempted to answer a series of guiding questions that are meant to help students scaffold and apply new knowledge. Video and audio data helped the researchers capture important data on how students interacted with the models and what gains in understanding are made. Megan, a junior double majoring in Biology and Life Sciences Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison, was excited about a possible side project with RIT-NTID ASL interpreters. The interpreters expressed interest in working with her and Catherine Clasen, another DBER REU student, in developing a workshop for science interpreters to help them better understand and communicate concepts about genetic information flow to Deaf/Hard of Hearing students. Megan has really enjoyed working with her cohort and all the mentors. She appreciated how invested they all are in the research projects.

Nicholas Young - Ohio State University

Nicholas Young, from Cleveland, Ohio, worked with Dr. Benjamin Zwickl as part of the Photonics and Optics Workforce Education Research (POWER) group this summer doing optics and photonics workforce research. Nicholas analyzed data about key job skills based on interviews with local employers, employees and graduate students. He specifically looked at the use of math in the workplace in terms of what topics are most important, what math tools are used, and how that varies between technicians, engineers, and graduate students. Nicholas, a senior at Ohio State University majoring in Physics and Astronomy, plans to enroll in Graduate school for Physics Education Research. He appreciated working with the REU group this summer as they shared the same interest in DBER (discipline-based education research).






Charles Bertram – University of Central Arkansas

Charles Bertram, a 5th year Physics major studying at University of Central Arkansas, has been conducting physics education research for the past two years. This past summer, as a student in the DBER REU cohort, he was working with Dr. Scott Franklin to study how deaf/hard-of-hearing and first-generation students can use metacognition to assist in the transition of going from a novice to an expert. Charles, who grew up in West Palm Beach and wants to teach post-college, has loved the opportunity to travel access the country to gain research experience. In addition, the DBER REU workshops he participated in while at RIT proved to be very beneficial.

Eli Church – UMass Amherst

DBER REU student Eli Church, an Amherst, Massachusetts native, worked on physics education research this past summer with Dr. Scott Franklin. She looked at how Physics professors present math in the contexts of physics classrooms – for example, when a professor writes an equation, how do they embed physical meaning or make explicit problem solving strategies. Eli has previously studied physics education research at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Other research interests include gravitational wave and optics.

Kayla DeOca – Jacksonville University

DBER REU student Kayla DeOca, from Port Tobacco, Maryland, worked on a biology educational project this past summer with Dr. Dina Newman and Dr. Kate Wright. She conducted faculty interviews, reviewed textbooks and looked at student artifacts to gather data about expert and novice conceptions of meiosis. With this data Kayla categorized all the misunderstandings that occur in student learning in order to find a better way to teach the complex subject. Kayla, who attends college at Jacksonville University, has a strong interest in immunology and plans to go to grad school. Teaching at college-level is another interest of hers, one that she hopes to pursue after grad school. Kayla enjoyed spending her weekend’s on-campus as well as exploring the city of Rochester.

Joshua Deslongchamps – Texas State University

Joshua Deslongchamps, a 5th year Texas State University student double majoring in mathematics and physics, has previously conducted research on material science and semiconductors. This past summer, as a student in the DBER REU cohort, he worked with Dr. Benjamin Zwickl and Dr. Kelly Martin. His research project was studying how computational and analytical mathematics skills are developed during undergraduate studies and how those skills are used in entry-level STEM jobs and in PhD research projects. Joshua, who grew up in El Paso, is looking at multiple post-college options which include grad school for radiation therapy and the full-time job market.

Zachary Farley – Kennesaw State University

DBER REU student Zachary Farley, a Chemistry major studying at Kennesaw State University, has been conducting chemistry education research under Dr. Kimberly Linenberger for the past two years. This past summer Zachary and his mentor Dr. Paul Craig worked with software that stimulated protein separation by two dimensional electrophoresis, followed by protein sequencing by tandem mass spectrometery. They focused on designing an assessment tool for teachers to use in the classroom when they use the simulation as a teaching tool. This project allowed him to further explore the technology side of teaching. Zachary, who is from Powder Springs, Georgia, enjoyed his time at RIT. He was able to explore the Rochester area, travel to Niagara Falls and went on a trip to New York City.

Chloe House – Kennesaw State University

Chloe House, a senior majoring in Chemistry Education at Kennesaw State University, has spent the past two years conducting biochemistry education research with Dr. Kimberly Linenberger. This past summer, as part of the 2015 DBER REU cohort, Chloe investigated how students interact with an online learning tool, called the Interactive Video Vignette (IVV) for biology. Chloe evaluated the impact of IVVs on learning and helped the research team identify ways in which IVVs fail to be effective tools for biology learning. Chloe truly believes that IVVs are an effective learning tool and can’t wait to see them implemented in universities all over the country During her time at RIT Chloe enjoyed working with all the RIT mentors and students in the program. On the weekends she was able to experience many local activities include the Xerox International Jazz Festival.

Phyllis Liang – California State University, Fullerton

Orange County native Phyllis Liang worked with Dr. Newman and Dr. Kate Wright this past summer on a Biology Education Research project investing how scientific concepts and processes are depicted in biology textbooks. Phyllis was especially interested in how arrow symbols are used throughout textbook images and how they are interpreted, or misinterpreted, by students. Her work is important because it will help inform an improved scheme for arrow representation. Phyllis, a Cal State Fullerton senior majoring in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, enjoyed her experience with the DBER REU. She was able to make wonderful connections with other students and faculty mentors. When Phyllis wasn't working on her research project she was able to explore the Rochester area, as well as Niagara Falls with the DBER REU cohort and took a trip to New York City.

Alexander Rhoades – St. Mary’s College of Maryland

DBER REU student Alex Rhoades, from Carroll County, Maryland, worked with Dr. Tom Kim and Dr. Kelly Martin this past summer. He applied cognitive load theory to pictures in general chemistry textbooks to find common and consistent areas in which they create extraneous cognitive load. This “makes it difficult for students to learn because more of their brain’s active processing power is being used up by design flaws”. The goal was to create criteria that can be used to revise images, leading to enhanced student performance. Alex, who majors in Chemistry and English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, will be pursuing a career as a Chemistry Professor. He enjoyed rock climbing at the Red Barn and trying out local restaurants, including Sticky Lips, while at RIT.

Ivy Todd – St. Mary’s College of Maryland

DBER REU student Ivy Todd, a Bowie, Maryland native, worked with Dr. Tom Kim this summer. Together they developed a rubric to assess figures used in chemistry textbooks on the basis of the extraneous cognitive load imposed on students. Ivy determined which features of the images make interpretation complicated for students. The goal of her research was to create criteria that can be used to revise images, leading to enhanced student performance. As a student at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Ivy’s research interests include chemistry education and organic synthesis. She wants to continue undergraduate research at St. Mary’s and expressed interest in continuing on in that field after graduation. While at RIT Ivy had fun exploring the Rochester area.

Jarrett Vosburg – SUNY Geneseo

Centerville, NY native Jarrett Vosburg worked with Dr. Benjamin Zwickl and the Photonics and Optics Workforce Education Research (POWER) group this past summer doing optics and photonics workforce research. Jarrett studied problem solving skills used by graduate students in the physical sciences and engineering. He interviewed graduate students, categorizing the types of problems they encounter while conducting PhD-level research and looked at how it matches up with the undergraduate curriculum. By understanding the types and ways graduate students solve problems, his hopes were to to influence the undergraduate curriculum in order to better prepare students for the workforce or graduate research. Jarrett, a SUNY Geneseo senior Physics major, with certification in Physics Education and General Science, has interest in teaching at the high-school level after graduation. He appreciated working with the DBER REU group this past summer as he’s was able to gain insight into the teaching field.