Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Major: Physics BS
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.