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RISE participants will join one of the following research teams for an exciting summer of research on STEM education!


Interdisciplinary research in the classroom: Does investigating community-based research questions enhance understanding of animal development?

Engaging undergraduate students in the process of authentic scientific discovery has been shown to promote multidimensional learning gains, science literacy skills, and excitement about scientific discovery. While many faculty engage individual or small groups of undergraduate students in their research, this learning model can be scaled up to entire laboratory sections or multiple-sectioned lab courses to have a greater impact on undergraduate science education. These experiences emphasize the interdisciplinarity of scientific investigation, and although less-studied, engaging in research that is motivated by questions emerging from local communities (community-based research) is thought to magnify curiosity, motivation and interest in scientific discovery for diverse groups of students. This project aims to assess the learning outcomes of authentic research experiences of students within the context of the Principles of Animal Development course from 2015-2020 at Washington State University. In this class, students conducted experiments to determine how early development was affected by exposure to chemicals commonly found in local neighborhoods and streams. This research had both conservation and biomedical implications, and students needed to synthesize information from environmental biology, physiology, and developmental biology. RISE researchers will conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis of pre- and post-course surveys, science literacy assessments and writing samples to determine how these experiences affected the understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of science, as well as the learning of disciplinary content, science literacy and critical thinking skills, and attitudes about science.

Faculty Research Mentors: Drs. Crespi, Arneson, Offerdahl

Just the facts? Integrating Data Interpretation into Introductory Biology

With issues like climate change, antibiotic resistance, and a global pandemic, scientific evidence is becoming increasingly important in public policy debates. Yet, many of these debates take place with little emphasis on scientific evidence or are based on misinformation portrayed as fact. Why do we struggle to engage with scientific data? Drs. Offerdahl, Arneson, and Cavagnetto research how students interpret and use biological data to make sense of contemporary issues facing our society.

RISE researchers will investigate how students work collaboratively to make sense of real biological data and then use that data to defend their ideas about complex biological problems. RISE researchers will analyze survey and student performance data from a re-designed large-lecture introductory biology course to understand how students in collaborative groups make sense of scientific data and how this effects student learning of core biological principles. Through this project, RISE researchers will develop skills in basic statistical analysis and qualitative analysis. RISE researchers will also learn more about advanced topics in biology as well as best practices for teaching in undergraduate biology.


Faculty Research Mentors:  Drs. Offerdahl, Arneson, and Cavagnetto

Mathematics in Museums: Explorations in Informal STEM Education

Dr. Kelton conducts research on how youth and families learn and engage with mathematics in museum exhibitions. This summer project will focus on how visitors engage in STEM learning through physical action, multi-sensory experiences, and social interaction by examining video footage of museum visitors as they engage with a wide variety of mathematics-related exhibitions in both science and art museums. Examples of exhibitions include:

  • Taping Shape, a 3000-foot immersive geometry exhibition made out of packing tape,
  • Math Moves!, a suite of hands-on exhibitions about ratio and proportion,
  • and 3D, an art exhibition about three-dimensional photography

Through this project, RISE researchers will develop skills in qualitative analysis, particularly in methods of interaction analysis that unpack how learning unfolds moment-to-moment based on detailed video records of learners’ activities. RISE participants will also learn about research and practice in informal and museum-based STEM learning.


Faculty mentors:  Drs. Kelton and Roth McDuffie

Health Education through Arts-Based Learning (HEAL): From STEM to STEAM

Dr. Kelton conducts research on integrating the arts into STEM learning environments, particularly in informal settings such as libraries and after-school programs. This is part of a broader STEM-to-STEAM movement that examines the potential for the arts to help broad audiences get interested in STEM. The Health Education through Arts-Based Learning (HEAL) project develops arts-based science programming for rural, predominantly Latinx agricultural communities, with a long-term goal of increasing representation of Latinx communities in STEM careers. HEAL programs are geared toward 3rd-5thgraders and focus on health sciences. For example, in a program called Buzzing for Blood, children learn about mosquito biology and ecology through hands-on science inquiry activities paired with arts-based activities using scientific illustration, collage, and photography. HEAL gathers data on student participation and learning in these programs, including pre-post surveys, interviews, and student artwork. Through this project, RISE researchers will develop skills related to measuring and conducting a quantitative analysis of science interest and learning, learn arts-based methodologies for analyzing children’s scientific artwork, and learn about research and practice in integrating the arts with STEM.


Faculty mentors:  Drs. Kelton and Roth McDuffie

Bridging the Gap: Innovative curricular design for increasing success in undergraduate chemistry

General chemistry is a required course for most STEM majors. As such, it is sometimes referred to as a “gateway course”; success in general chemistry is required for students to proceed in their major. Dr. Buckley is passionate about student success and has created a novel preparatory course for students who do not yet meet the prerequisites for general chemistry.   The course abandons the traditional chapter ordering of topics in general chemistry to develop students’ understanding of four principle concept areas:  1) Quantitative Relationships, 2) Atomic and Molecular Structure, 3) Energy and Energy Changes, and 4)  Chemical Reactivity. Through a “flipped classroom” approach, students read, watch videos, and work through practice problems before each class meeting to prepare them for higher-order problem-solving in class.  As each student cohort progresses from the preparatory chemistry course on to general chemistry, we are accumulating data to determine the effectiveness of the course in supporting students’ future success in general chemistry and beyond.

Through this project, RISE researchers will develop skills in basic statistical analysis as well as best practices for teaching in undergraduate classes.


Faculty mentors:  Drs. Buckley, Lessman, and Mixter

Photo of student research

Take two and call me in the morning: Exploring Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) in Introductory Biology

Undergraduates who participate in the research report a host of positive outcomes, such as learning to think like a scientist, getting excited about science, and viewing science as a future career. Research experiences are thought to be particularly beneficial for women and underrepresented students. But how do we make research accessible to all our students?  Dr. Rollwagen-Bollens’ answer was to convert her introductory biology laboratory class into a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) for her students. Join this summer project to help her team understand how this CURE has impacted students’ learning, attitudes toward science, and scientific literacy. RISE researchers will analyze a wide range of data including surveys, course assessments, and lab artifacts. Through this project, RISE researchers will learn qualitative and quantitative research methods, including descriptive and multivariate statistical analyses.


Faculty mentors:  Drs. Rollwagen-Bollens and Crespi

DIY Spectrometer
Students make their own DIY spectrometers to explore Physics in Your World

Physics and Your World

Physics and Your World is a college level conceptual physics course for education majors preparing to teach elementary and middle school science. Dr. Guy is developing new activities for the unit on waves to better align with the Next Generation Science Standards. In a recently developed activity, students construct a spectrometer out of a cereal box, diffraction grating, and smart phone camera and then use the spectrometer to explore the wave properties of light. In this project, the RISE researcher will analyze pre/post instruction multiple choice survey data on students’ concepts of wave properties and qualitatively analyze the students’ written responses to open ended assignment prompts. Results will be used to evaluate the curriculum effectiveness and direct further curriculum development and improvements.

Faculty mentors:  Drs. Guy, Buckley, and Offerdahl