NSF grant funds RIT postdoctoral fellows in STEM education research

Professor Dina Newman and SMERC faculty secure $1.2 million NSF grant to Build Capacity in STEM Education Research

Debra Jacobson

Professor Dina Newman, right, led a team of faculty from the CASTLE Center for Advancing Scholarship to Transform Learning that secured a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the NSF Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (BCSER) Program to fund a cohort of four interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellows to conduct new discipline-based STEM education research.

The National Science Foundation has awarded Rochester Institute of Technology $1.2 million for a cohort of four postdoctoral fellows to conduct STEM discipline-based education research (DBER). Professor Dina Newman from the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences led a team of College of Science faculty that secured the three-year grant from the NSF Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (BCSER) Program.

The postdoctoral researchers will work in RIT’s Science and Mathematics Education Research Collaborative (SMERC), the research lab of the Center for Advancing Scholarship to Transform Learning that includes physics, biology, mathematics, chemistry, science communication, and engineering faculty. Each fellow will work with two mentors, encouraging cutting-edge research at the interface of traditional disciplines.

“This program is designed to help the postdoctoral fellows develop the knowledge and skills to conduct foundational research in STEM education,” said Newman. “The interdisciplinary focus of the program will also help to bring together researchers from different disciplines, breaking down traditional academic silos and thus better preparing the fellows to conduct interdisciplinary STEM education research.”

SMERC was founded in 2010 by physics, biology, and chemistry faculty conducting discipline-based education research that applies education research methods and theories to traditional STEM learning environments. The tight-knit group of faculty formed the nucleus of the Center for Advancing STEM Teaching, Learning and Evaluation (CASTLE), holding regular journal clubs, research group meetings and hosting external seminar and colloquium speakers. The group has launched numerous initiatives, including one of the first and largest NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program in DBER, established in 2014 and now on its third round of NSF funding.

Six RIT faculty members from three College of Science schools will co-mentor the postdoctoral fellows: Newman and Professor Kate Wright from the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Science; Professor Scott Franklin, Associate Professor Ben Zwickl, and Assistant Professor Yasemin Kalender from the School of Physics and Astronomy; and Assistant Professor Tony Wong from the School of Mathematical Sciences.

Newman said the group will begin recruiting postdoctoral fellows soon and has developed an innovative approach to recruit a diverse pool of applicants. The fellows will begin in the summer of 2023 by participating in another CASTLE BCSER program, the Professional development for Emerging Education Researchers (PEER). For more information, go to the STEM Education Research Postdoc Program at RIT website.

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