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September 2017

The Science Education program will hold information sessions for Prospective Students on October 10 & 12

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Information sessions for Prospective Students

Faculty in the doctoral program will hold information sessions for prospective students on October 10 & 12 from 4:30 - 5:30.  Please e-mail if you wish to attend either session.  

May 2017

Seven Science Education Ph.D. candidates participated in the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony in May 2017

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Seven Science Education Ph.D. candidates participated in the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony in May 2017

doctoral hooding

  Pictured (from left to right):  Jessica Mintz, Jennifer Gatz, Catherine Hantz, Angela Kelly, Hope Sasway, Ghada Nehmeh, Stephanie O’Brien, Stephanie Wortel. 

Seven doctoral   candidates from the Ph.D. Program in Science Education participated in the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony at Stony Brook on May 18, 2017. Jennifer Gatz and Hope Sasway successfully defended their dissertations on April 28, 2017. Catherine Hantz, Jessica Mintz, Ghada Nehmeh, Stephanie O’Brien, and Stephanie Wortel-London will defend their dissertations later this year. All students are advised by Dr. Angela Kelly.

Gregory Rushton & Keith Sheppard receive NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grant

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Gregory Rushton & Keith Sheppard receive NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship grant

  GR Keith Greg Rushton and Keith Sheppard, science education faculty in I-STEM, have recently been awarded $1.02M  by NSF to study early career teachers at five sites across the US.  Using social network theory and social network analysis techniques as experimental methods, they will answer critical questions about Noyce teacher programs and the links between communities of practice (CoP) and teacher retention. Specifically, they seek to determine (i) how different Noyce program types and support features have influenced the development of teacher communities of practice, (ii) the extent to which Noyce programs and teacher communities of practice impact teacher disposition toward remaining in the profession, and (iii) the effect of different Noyce programs and teacher communities of practice have on teacher identity. Congratulations Greg and Keith!

  Doctoral faculty and students attend the NARST Conference in San Antonio, TX

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Doctoral faculty and students attend the NARST Conference in San Antonio, TX


Pictured:   Kim Heal, Linda Padwa, Robyn Tornabene, Richard Gearns, Dawn Nachtigall, Keith Sheppard, Angela Kelly, Jennifer Gatz, Stephanie O'Brien and Hope Sasway attended the NARST conference.   In attendance, but not pictured:   Gregory Rushton, Stephanie Wortel, Kim Watson.

April 2017

  Ghada Nehmeh and Angela Kelly will present two papers at the upcoming European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Conference in Dublin, Ireland, August, 2017

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Ghada Nehmeh and Angela Kelly will present two papers at the upcoming European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Conference in Dublin, Ireland, August, 2017

Primary and University Academic Experiences of Career Women Physicists

Participation in physics has been persistently inequitable for traditionally underrepresented groups such as women and ethnic minorities. A diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is desirable for economic innovation and global competitiveness. Women constitute half the workforce in the U.S. yet they are a considerably untapped talent resource in physics related careers, earning fewer than 20% of physics bachelor’s degrees and 18% of doctoral degrees in the U.S. in 2015. Solutions are needed to prepare, recruit, and retain more women to contribute to a vibrant, inclusive physics community. This qualitative case study explored the academic pathways of eight women physicists through a sociocognitive theoretical lens. The phenomenological approach, intended to illuminate shared lived experiences, was employed. Elements of grounded theory were applied and hypotheses were generated from the raw data. The constructs identified were shared by a majority of participants, yet none was uniformly reported. The women spoke of beneficial experiences with mentors, their persistent lack of self-efficacy, and differential treatment.Future studies and reform efforts may build upon this work to identify essential supports and cultural realignments in the physics community that may attract more women to physics study and careers. 

Physics Teacher Isolation in Urban Schools

High school physics teachers in the U.S. are often in a position of isolation within their schools. This is particularly true for physics teachers in urban schools, where physics access and participation are limited. Many urban schools have few sections of physics classes if physics is offered at all, so one physics teacher is typical. This may present challenges for reflection and professional growth. If a physics teacher is a sole practitioner within her school, she may have limited opportunities for meaningful disciplinary collaboration and pedagogical development. It may be difficult to establish a sustained, reliable network of peers experiencing similar challenges. This qualitative study explored the question of professional isolation and how it impacted six novice physics teachers during their induction years in urban schools. Data were collected over four years through a series of interviews and focus groups. Teachers reported pervasive feelings of isolation, minimal success, limited professional agency, and a desire for pedagogical collaboration. They also reported lack of administrative support for physics due the standardized testing culture and a lack of meaningful observation feedback and mentoring. They often formed their own networks for collegial planning and sometimes sought new schools for improved conditions. Physics teachers need to be involved with local professional communities where they might find support. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

March 2017

Science Education Students Receive Travel Awards to NARST

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NARST Travel Awards

Congratulations to Dawn Nachtigall (advised by Prof. Rushton), and Robin Tornabene (advised by Prof.  Nehm) who were selected to receive the 2017 NARST Classroom Teachers/Informal Educators Scholarship in the amount of $700 each!  Linda Padwa received the Provost’s Outstanding Lecturer Award which will fully fund her trip to NARST.

Science Education Faculty and Doctoral Students to attend the NARST Conference in San Antonio

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NARST Invited Presentations

The Publications Advisory Committee invited Ross H. Nehm to join other editors of science education journals in the Sponsored Symposium “How to Get Your Research Published in Science Education Journals.”


NARST 2017 Attendees and Titles

Congratulations to the following students  who have had their talks or posters accepted at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) in San Antonio, TX this April!

Jennifer Gatz , “Middle School Girls’ Science Achievement and Cognition: Effects of an Informal Science Program,” (Poster Presentation), advised by Prof. Kelly

Abstract: Middle school is a critical period in the cognitive and academic development of young women, and a time when their performance and interest in science may decline. This study was conducted to address how an informal science and physical activity intervention in previously sedentary middle school girls contributed to the improvement of executive functioning involved in science learning. Interdependent cognitive control processes may influence metacognition and exert a determinative influence on goal-directed pursuits. We applied this model to an after school program and measured its impact on students’ cognition and science achievement. A 20-week informal nutritional science and triathlon training program served as the intervention for at-risk female middle school students. The comparison group of females was randomly drawn from middle school students of a similar demographic. Wilcoxon signed-rank tests were conducted on the intervention group for comparison of pre- and post-intervention scores. ANCOVA was used to determine the effect of the intervention on standardized measures of cognitive processes and science achievement. The intervention contributed to a statistically significant improvement in cognition and science achievement. These results suggest that an informal science program with a fitness component may produce improvement in the cognitive processes involved in science learning.

Richard Gearns , “Impacts of an Electrical Engineering Outreach Program for High Needs Secondary Students,” (Poster Presentation), advised by Prof. Kelly

Abstract: There has been a chronic shortage of engineering talent in the U.S., and more diverse students must be attracted and retained to expand the technological workforce.  To address this challenge, university educators and researchers designed and implemented an electrical engineering program for high needs secondary students using a theoretical framework which synthesized elements of the expectancy-value model and the theory of planned behavior.  The goal of the six-week afterschool program was to expose sophomores and juniors to the challenge, passion, and opportunity of engineering by introducing students to core engineering concepts and guiding them to design and modify innovative projects in electrical engineering.  Students also met engineering professionals and discussed academic pathways for engineering careers. Research questions addressed students’ perceptions about participation and success in engineering. The study is descriptive-exploratory research that lays the groundwork for assessing the outcomes of an out-of-school-time electrical engineering program that may be later replicated and scaled.  Qualitative data from 24 focus group participants revealed improved student attitudes towards engineering study and careers.  Coded focus group transcripts revealed three themes among participants that included engineering related interests, engaging programmatic aspects, and positional academic and career advantage.  These themes will be further analyzed and implications discussed.

Jessica Mintz , “Science Teacher and Administrator Perspectives of Teacher Evaluation Systems,” (Poster Presentation), advised by Prof. Kelly

Abstract: The goal of this study is to investigate the current Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) system for science teachers in New York from the perspective of science teachers and administrators. Science teachers are unique among high school educators in that they specialize in sub-disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, or Earth science), and in the case of New York State, their students must take high stakes science exams at the culmination of each course. Thus, student performance has consequential validity in the rating system, despite the fact that there are no adjustments for variations in student preparation and other characteristics. In order to make policy recommendations regarding evaluation practices, science teachers and administrators were interviewed to examine their perceptions of the current process. The researchers interviewed five science teacher/administrator pairs from select school districts with varied ranges of experience and content area certification. The study investigated the unintended consequences the teachers and administrators experienced using the performance rating system . Insights from the initial evaluation of these data are encouraging for making recommendations for revamping science teacher evaluation policy. With science teacher and administrator input and support, designing a comprehensive system of evaluation is achievable and desirable to maximize buy-in among key stakeholders.

Dawn Nachtigall , Realizing the Vision: Evidence for STEM Teacher Leadership Identity Development, (Oral Presentation), advised by Prof. Rushton

Abstract: Since 2010, our NSF-funded STEM Master Teacher project has had the mission of supporting sixteen physics and chemistry teachers from high-needs schools in becoming teacher leaders. STEM teachers with no prior leadership experience, participated in ~100 hours of professional development designed around a framework previously described by the authors (Authors, 2015, 2016). In this study, we analyzed coded transcriptions of professional development sessions and focus group materials to determine the extent by which Master Teaching Fellows (MTFs) have internalized our conceptual framework.  To further demonstrate the internalization of the framework, we endeavored to connect the MTFs discourse with leadership roles they pursue within the program and in the educational community. The analysis indicated that the leadership identities and roles of the MTFs have changed throughout the five years of this project. The MTFs not only internalized the key constructs of the model, they have begun to externalize this leadership identity as teacher leaders in their schools, counties and at professional conferences. By showing how the MTF’s leadership identity has evolved allowing them to actively pursue leadership opportunities, we provide insight on how to develop a professional development program to create STEM teacher leaders.

Stephanie O’Brien , “Master Teachers’ Topic-Specific Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TSPCK) of Electrochemistry,” (Oral Presentation), advised by Prof. Kelly

Abstract: This study evaluated the means by which eight chemistry master teachers demonstrated their PCK to transform chemistry content within the topics of oxidation, reduction and electrochemistry, thus this examination establishes a framework for topic specific pedagogical content knowledge (TSPCK) in redox and electrochemistry. The first phase of the study called for teachers to complete a validated TSPCK instrument in redox and electrochemistry. The exam responses were coded to align with particular components of TSPCK they assessed. The second phase consisted of interviews with each of the research participants to gain an understanding of how their TSPCK in redox and electrochemistry guided their decision-making. The chemistry master teachers displayed varying levels of TSPCK in redox and electrochemistry, as evidenced by their knowledge of student misconceptions, curricular saliency, and knowledge of what makes the topic difficult to teach. There was evidence of master teachers lacking in certain areas of TSPCK, such as inability to identify student misconceptions, suggesting the need for programmatic improvements in pre-service and in-service training to address the needs of current and future chemistry teachers. To facilitate TSPCK development, new strategies need to be developed to connect research to practice.

Linda Padwa , Keith Sheppard.  “ All Alone - A Study of Isolation of Chemistry Teachers in New York State,” (Oral Presentation), advised by Prof. Sheppard

Abstract: Prior research has focused on teacher isolation as a common yet undesirable characteristic of teaching. The isolation of teachers limits opportunities for professional engagement and hampers efforts at educational reform. Isolation is often cited as being prevalent in rural locations, though rarely is any quantitative data used to support such claims. This study investigates the isolation of chemistry teachers in New York State, i.e. teachers who are the only teachers of chemistry in their school. Using data from the New York State Education Department, isolated chemistry teachers were identified throughout the state in rural, urban and suburban locations, in schools of different sizes and in schools with varying socio-economic backgrounds. Findings indicate that more than 20% of all New York chemistry teachers are isolated and while these teachers are commonly found in rural schools, they are also widely found in urban schools. Similarly, the isolated teachers are more prevalent in small and high needs schools. The data show that isolated chemistry teachers are often novice teachers and those who teach out-of-field. Recommendations are made for potential changes in teacher preparation and teaching assignments. Further study is called for to explore the impact of teacher isolation on chemistry instruction.

Hope Sasway , “Factors that Influence Community College Students’ Interest in Science Coursework,” (Oral Presentation), advised by Prof. Kelly

Abstract: There is a need for science education research that explores student, instructor and course characteristics that influence student interest and motivation to study science at the community college level. How to increase student enrollment in and persistence in STEM is a national concern. Nearly half of all college graduates have passed through a community college at some point in their higher education, therefore, studying this unique population of adults is relevant. This study at a large, ethnically diverse, suburban community college showed that student interest tends to change over the course of a semester, and these changes are related to student, instructor, and course variables. Student characteristics that were significant included age, full/part-time status, parental status, and whether the student already held a post-secondary degree. Significant instructor characteristics included whether the instructor taught full or part-time, and whether the instructor taught high school. The type of biology course and if that course had a required library assignment were significant course-level characteristics that affected student interest. These data suggest that interventions may be beneficial for increasing interest and motivation, ultimately leading to more community college students persisting in the pipeline to join in the STEM workforce or transfer to four-year colleges.

Robin Tornabene , Philipp Schmiemann, Ross H. Nehm. “Testing the Impact of Situational Features on Measures of Biology Students' Genetics Understanding.” (Oral Presentation), Advised by Prof. Nehm.

A substantial literature in cognitive psychology has produced strong evidence that assessment task features--the framing, context, or situation in which problems are posed--can impact the retrieval of knowledge and resulting measures of understanding. The overarching goal of our study was to explore the potential role that situational features play in the measurement of students’ understandings of Mendelian genetics. 77 items differing in situational features were administered to 444 undergraduate students using a multi-matrix test packet design. Rasch analysis of scores produced good item fit. ANOVA and Pearson correlation tests found no significant differences in performance between genders (F(1,416)=0.009, p=0.926) or between ethnic groups (F(5,412)=0.412, p=0.834). There were no significant correlations between students’ performances and ages (r=-0.02, p=0.747) or the number of biology courses taken (r=-0.030. p=0.533). Surprisingly, we found no significant differences among animal, plant, and human item contexts (H(2)=0.805, p=0.668) or between fictitious and real item contexts (U=624, p=0.398). Our findings are an important first step for better understanding which situational features play significant roles in the measurement of students’ genetics reasoning.

Stephanie Wortel , “‘I like STEM, but am I a STEM person?’ Effects of Informal Learning and Mentors on STEM Identity,” (Oral Presentation), advised by Prof. Kelly

Abstract: An afterschool STEM mentoring program was launched as a public-private partnership in a large city in the U.S. with two goals: 1) to provide no-cost, informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) enrichment to underserved middle school students; and 2) to build the teaching and communication skills of a large number of STEM undergraduate students through a clinical service learning opportunity. The qualitative portion of the study evaluated the efficacy of local undergraduates as role models, and how the experience of the year-long program influenced the STEM identity of traditionally underserved middle school participants. As defined by the theoretical framework, STEM Identity is comprised of the sub-constructs of STEM interest, academic self-concept, and the influence of relatable STEM mentors. This paper presents the initial findings of the qualitative portion of the study with respect to outcomes for a sample of eight middle school students participating in the program taught by undergraduate STEM majors from underrepresented backgrounds in the afterschool classroom. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze semi-structured interview transcripts. Preliminary findings from middle school interviews indicate a stronger reported sense of interest, a more engaged STEM academic self-concept, and an appreciation for having access to consistent, relatable mentors.



Gena Sbeglia, “Does evolution acceptance differ across biological scales? A Rasch analysis of the I-SEA.” (Oral Presentation), Advised by Prof. Nehm.

Evolutionary theory is central to biological literacy but has been shown to be widely misunderstood. One reason that has been advanced for this challenging situation is that acceptance of evolution may play a significant role in learning about evolution. Consequently, biology educators have attempted to define the construct of evolution acceptance and empirically measure it using survey instruments such as the MATE (Rutledge and Warden 1999). The MATE was criticized by Nadelson and Southerland (2012) for not carefully separating the measurement of student acceptance of microevolution, macroevolution, and human evolution. Consequently, they developed a 24-item, likert-scale instrument know as the Inventory of Student Evolution Acceptance (I-SEA), which assesses acceptance of evolution on three subscales: microevolution, macroevolution, and human evolution. Although a large body of psychometric evidence was used to support the validity of the I-SEA, all of the evidence relied on parametric tests of raw data; no tests confirmed that the Likert items were linear or were expressed on an equal-interval scale prior to the psychometric analyses. Our study performs a Rasch analysis of a large sample of I-SEA scores in order reexamine psychometric validity and test whether scores support prior claims that student acceptance differs across biological scales.

Xiaoying Yang, Jesse Colton, Gena Sbeglia, Steve Finch, and Ross H. Nehm. “Longitudinal Learning Dynamics and the Conceptual Restructuring of Evolutionary Understanding.” (Oral Presentation). Advised by Prof. Nehm.

Although a large body of work in undergraduate biology education has revealed important insights into student learning difficulties about natural selection using pre-post multiple-choice tests, much less work has explored longitudinal learning patterns using rich measures of conceptual understanding (such as those derived from constructed response assessments). Our study explores longitudinal learning patterns about natural selection in a large introductory biology course. We used two approaches to characterize students’ longitudinal performance patterns: (1) Sankey plots and (2) Trajectory analyses. We collected students’ written responses to two ACORNS assessment items at five timepoints throughout the semester and scored their key concepts, naive ideas, and reasoning model types for different evolutionary contexts (animal and plant, trait gain and loss). Classes from 2015 (n = 360) and 2016 (n = 440) were studied. We found that (1) student performance patterns were not uniform within classes or throughout semesters, (2) performance gains achieved early in the course in some cases declined later (and, in some cases, rebounded), and (3) significant performance gains continued to occur long after targeted instruction. Our results suggest that pre-post testing can obscure important learning dynamics central to understanding how instruction impacts student learning.

December 2016

Caren Gough presents at NSTA Portland Conference on Science Education

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  Caren Gough presented at the NSTA Portland Conference on Science Education (co-authored by Ross Nehm ) in November 2016.  The title of the presentation was "The Efficacy of Multi-Level Professional Development for Elementary, Middle School and High School Teachers" which discussed how multi-group professional development might help to prepare elementary, middle and high school teachers to successfully connect the  NGSS learning progressions across grade levels.

October 2016

Students Present at the Regional ASTE Conference

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Four Science Education doctoral students and one graduate presented their research at the Northeast Regional Conference of the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) held on October 13 & 14, 2016.  The conference was held at Teachers College of Columbia University and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Hope Sasway presented a poster entitled "Student Interest in Community College Biology".

Judith Gouraige presented a poster entitled "Urban Science Education Successes: Moving Away".

Linda Padwa (with Science Education Director  Keith Sheppard) gave a talk entitled "The Lonely Chemistry Teacher".

Caren Gough presented "High School, Community College and University Faculty Perspectives on the Efficacy of Multi-Level Professional Development" (co-authored by  Ross Nehm).

Dr. Luisa McHugh did an oral presentation entitled "Integrating Mathematics and Science in a Middle School Science Class".   Dr. McHugh also received a Travel Scholarship to the International ASTE Conference to be held in Des Moines, IA, in January 2017.

Congratulations to all the students!

July 2016

Stephanie O'Brien Awarded Empire State Excellence in Teaching Award

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  Steph award

Stephanie O'Brien is a recipient of an Empire State Excellence in Teaching award.  These awards honor outstanding individuals who exemplify the highest standards of teaching and work to foster creativity, instill a love of learning and inspire independent thinking and student initiative.

Recipients receive funds for professional development activities and will be invited to share insights and knowledge with university, workforce and policy leaders around the state.

Congratulations, Stephanie!

May 2016

Luisa McHugh receives first Ph.D. in Science Education degree at Stony Brook

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Congratulations to  Dr. Luisa McHugh!  Luisa received her doctorate in Science E ducation on May 19.  She is the first graduate of Stony Brook's  Ph.D. in Science Education Program.  

Luisa is pictured here with her research advisor,  Dr. Angela Kelly and the Science Education Program Director,  Dr. Keith Sheppard.

March 2016

Thea Charles selected by NARST for the Jhumki Basu Scholars Program

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  Thea Thea Charles has been selected by the  National Association for Research in Science Teaching   for the Jhumki Basu Scholars Program.   The program is designed to support and nurture promising young scholars from underrepresented groups. It is more than a financial stipend — it is intended to intellectually support the development of these emergent scholars' programs of research. To help scholars craft questions, strengthen their theoretical frameworks, and improve their research skills, Scholars are required to participate in the NARST Pre-Conference Workshop. Scholars are also invited to participate in other NARST events and to contribute to science education research, scholarship, and leadership more broadly.

Stephanie Wortel chosen to represent Stony Brook University at the "Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering" workshop

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Stephanie Wortel, a Ph.D. student in Science Education, will represent Stony Brook at the " Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE)" workshop at the American Association for the Advancement of Science headquarters in Washington D.C. in April.  Stephanie was chosen for demonstrating strong communication and leadership skills.

Congratulations, Stephanie!

Luisa McHugh defends her Doctoral Thesis on March 18, 2016

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Lisa defense

The Doctoral Program in Science Education is pleased to announce that Luisa McHugh willl defend her thesis on Friday, March 18, at 11:30.  The defense wil take place in 038 Life Sciences.  Ms. McHugh's thesis topic is "The Integration of Mathematics in Middle School Science: Student and Teacher Impacts Related to Science Achievement and Attitudes Towards Integration".  

Please see  here for the full announcement.

December 2015

Graduate Academic Honesty and Scholarly Conduct Policy

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  The Graduate program has officially adopted a Graduate Academic Honesty and Scholarly Conduct Policy which can be found here .  

March 2015

Ross Nehm joins editorial team of the journal Science & Education

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  Ross Nehm joins science education scholars Dr. Kostas Kampourakis (University of Geneva) and Dr. Alice Wong (University of Hong Kong) as the new editors of Science & Education , a major research journal in the field of science education. Published by Springer, Science & Education is the official journal of the IHPST (International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group) . The journal publishes science education research using historical, philosophical, and sociological approaches in order to improve teaching, learning, and curricula in science and mathematics. The new editorial team succeeds founding editor Dr. Michael Matthews.

January 2015

Dr. Angela Kelly featured in Columbia Teachers College alumni spotlight

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  The Columbia Teachers College Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology Newsletter features Dr. Angela Kelly in their alumni spotlight.  Click here for article. 

August 2014

Science Education doctoral student looks to show that exercise improves problem-solving abilities

July 2014

Faculty present research at national SABER conference

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  Postdoc Minsu Ha and Prof. Ross Nehm present research at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research in Minneapolis.

Program faculty host Summer Institute on STEM education

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  Nearly 25 faculty participated, including 20 from Stony Brook and five others from Suffolk County Community College and SUNY Old Westbury. 

April 2014

National Science Education Award for Minsu Ha

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  Minsu Ha, the post-doctoral student in CESAME has been awarded the National Science Education.

  MInsu Ha


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