The Passion Project \\ Student Interest Study

A multi-site study, the Passion Project characterizes the roles of disciplinary interest and career goal development among undergraduate biology students. The Student Interest Study is one part of the project, and is a longitudinal study that follows first-year students’ access to critical disciplinary experiences, most current career goals and biology interest. Our findings will help identify the factors that contribute most to students’ persistence in biology, and ultimately, STEM-related careers. To learn more about this project, please  visit our Student Interest Study Home Page or email Krista to . This work is supported by NSF (DUE 1711082)

Talking Science Project

Talking Science is a mixed methods study that investigates the role of a critical science agency, where students may advocate for the perspectives of scientists on science related topics with people outside of their university. Through interviews, we hope to capture the extent to which undergraduate biology majors are conversing about scientific topics, individual experiences in the conversations, and any barriers and affordances to these conversations. The goal of the study is to develop the critical science agency for biology majors and advocate for science in diverse communities

Social Supports Project

The Learning Assistant (LA) Program is an evidence-based instructional strategy designed to stimulate student success in undergraduate classrooms across multiple disciplines. The LA Model has been successful in closing catalyzing student engagement, increasing content knowledge and preparing students for careers in teaching and education. The goal of the Social Supports Project is to identify the emotional and motivational mechanisms by which LAs encourage their peers to  succeed in Chemistry classrooms at FIU. To learn more about the Social Supports Project, please email

Characterizing practices of STEM instructors who have reduced performance differences in their classes (Collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington)

Whether or not a person completes a 4-year undergraduate degree is the single biggest driver of income inequality and is, thus, a significant obstacle to socio-economic mobility in the United States.  This problem is worse in STEM disciplines where historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups start STEM majors at the same rate as their majority peers but leave them at much higher rates. Poor performance in introductory courses and the psychological impact of this performance is a major reason students describe leaving STEM. Yet, this poor performance is not necessarily reflective of a student’s actual ability and may say more about how we teach science than about them.  In this project we will study the classrooms of instructors using active learning who have and have not reduced performance differences among students from different racial and ethnic groups in their classrooms. The goal is to identify elements of course design and classroom culture that effectively narrow performance differences.

Making a more gender inclusive biology curricula  (a multi-institution collaboration)

Gender inequities are pervasive in biology education and may be reinforced through representations of sex and gender in the biology curriculum. At the root of these inequities is the concept of gender essentialism, the belief that genders, and gender roles, are natural, biologically derived categories: that there is a “natural essence” of femaleness or maleness influencing behaviors and proficiencies. These essentialist beliefs impact biology majors in multiple ways: (1) they are the basis of gender stereotypes, which research reveals undermine the performance and career persistence of women, trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people; (2) they erases the experiences of gender diverse students; and (3) these beliefs can inhibit student understanding of biological concepts. Biology is unique among STEM disciplines in that examples and concepts taught in core classes inform students’ personal beliefs about of sex and gender. Thus, considering how sex, gender, and gender diversity are represented in the curriculum is critical for dismantling the detrimental belief in gender essentialism.