Transforming science education through research-driven innovation

Ashley Whitaker

Ashley Whitaker serves as a Project Manager and Staff Advocate at BSCS Science Learning. Her work focuses primarily on teacher professional learning. Ashley received her bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In her spare time, she is an avid reader and enjoys playing trivia.

Dennis Lee is a Research Scientist and joined the BSCS Science Learning team in 2020. He is interested in how biology students know what they know and why they believe it. He is also interested in how students use this scientific knowledge to reason about race, sex, and gender in society. He is currently engaged in research to study how genetics education affects how students use biological concepts to reason about complex social phenomena. By sharing this research, Dennis hopes to transform education for a new generation of students so that they can contribute to shaping a more just and equitable society. Dennis holds a B.A.s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Zoology and Bacteriology, a M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Bacteriology, and a Ph. D. from Clemson University in Engineering and Science Education.

In his free time, he likes to unwind by playing a round of disc golf, playing violin with his family, and pushing wargame miniatures around a table while rolling dice and making pew-pew noises.

Humane Genetics/HGL2 Summary

Racial inequities continue to be a persistent problem in the United States. Genetics knowledge has historically been used to justify policies that contribute to racial inequity. Additionally, research has shown that genetics education can affect how students think about race. For example, some forms of genetics education can lead students to believe that 1) people of the same race are genetically uniform, 2) people from different races are categorically different, and 3) genes are the most powerful and important cause for complex human traits. Individuals with these beliefs often argue incorrectly that it is futile to address racial inequality because inequality is in our genes and is therefore natural and unchangeable.

The Humane Genetics project aims to refute these beliefs by teaching students about human genetic diversity and complex multifactorial causes (i.e., interactions between genetic and environmental factors) for human traits. Our research is beginning to show that teaching students about these complex genetics concepts reduces, on average, racial bias among students, as well as increases genetics knowledge among students relative to traditional genetics instruction.

Currently, we are working on improving the Humane Genetics Curriculum by testing if the addition of a reasoning with evidence framework improves student learning. While teaching students how to reason with evidence could help them to refute racially biased arguments, it could also strengthen some students’ ability to argue for these same biased ideas. Therefore, we are interested in determining if our revised curriculum results in greater reductions in racial bias among students, or if racial bias increases after exposure to the newly developed Humane Genetics intervention.

Dr. Sherry Hsi is a principal scientist at BSCS Science Learning. Hsi leads R&D projects that involve creative design and study of K-12 learners with an emphasis on equity, technology, and hands-on making in science and engineering. She has developed award winning mobile apps, hands-on exhibits, craft-based STEM kits, and technology-enhanced curricula in close design partnership with K-12 teachers, science centers, afterschool programs, and museums. Her design-based research explores how learning environments, facilitation, and materials can be purposefully designed to support science engagement, interest, and deeper learning for a diversity of learners across settings.

Hsi serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Science Education, and reviews for the Journal of the Learning Sciences. Sherry received her PhD in Science Education (SESAME) from the University of California at Berkeley, her MS in Mechanical Engineering, and BS in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley.

She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys papercrafting, chamber music and baking in her free time.

Cari Herrmann Abell joined BSCS as a research scientist in December 2018. Before joining BSCS, she was a senior research associate at AAAS Project 2061. Her work focuses on the research and development of curriculum and assessment resources aligned to K-12 science learning goals. Cari has served as the principal investigator on two measurement grants funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences that focused on developing instruments to assess students’ progress on the energy concept (ASPECt). She also contributed to the development of two curriculum units now available through NSTA press, Toward High School Biology and Matter and Energy for Growth and Activity.

Cari received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her B.S. in chemistry and mathematics from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. She currently lives in the DC metro area and spends her spare time teaching fitness classes and leading her daughters’ Girl Scout troops.

Becca Greer joined BSCS in 2019 as a Project Coordinator. She received a BA in Communication Studies from the University of Puget Sound while on a music scholarship for harp. Her professional background spans from directing youth programs for refugees and at-risk youth, to music and arts events production, to retail management in the outdoor industry. Apart from BSCS, she is currently working toward her dream of being a death doula.

She loves exploring the outdoors with her family as an avid trail runner and backpacker. Whenever Becca has a free moment from doting on her Felis catus, Canis familiaris, and Homo sapien children, she is planning their next overseas adventure.

Dr. Susan Gomez Zwiep joined BSCS in 2020 as a Senior Science Educator. She began her career in science education as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles, where she spent over 12 years working with English learners in urban schools. From 2005-2020, Susan served as faculty in the Science Education Department at California State University, Long Beach where she taught courses in the undergraduate STEM pathway, teacher preparation and the graduate program in Science Education. Susan was also a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance@WestEd, where she contributed to high-quality professional development programs that supported K12 educators in the areas of science and mathematics, including the CA NGSS Early Implementer Initiative.

Dr. Gomez Zwiep consistently works toward establishing equitable access for all students to rigorous, inquiry-based science instruction and supporting teachers in their journey to become advocates for students, science education, and their own professional development. Her research has focused on effective models for professional development programs for both K-12 teachers and university faculty, the integrated content designs and teaching models that meet the needs of diverse learners.

She has been published in both research and practitioner journals such as Science and Children, Science Scope, the Journal of Science Teacher Education and the International Journal of Mathematics and Science Education. In 2011, Susan shared the Innovations in Teaching Science Teachers award from the Association of Science Teacher Education for her joint conference presentation “What about those left behind? A template for developing quality science lessons for English language learners”.

Susan holds a B.A. in Integrated Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA in Education from Whittier College, and a PhD in Science Education from the University of Southern California.

When Susan is not working, she enjoys walking her two dogs, spending time with her husband and three daughters, and enjoying the pairing of an excellent meal with a fine wine.

Molly Stuhlsatz is the Associate Director for People and Culture, Chair of the Advocate Council, and a Senior Research Scientist at BSCS Science Learning. 

As someone who has dedicated more than 20 years to BSCS, Molly is deeply committed to nurturing organizational culture. Her goal is to make BSCS the best workplace it can be–where people can collaborate, learn, and grow. She appreciates the leadership of her fellow advocates on the Advocate Council, who share her passion for BSCS’s people and culture. 

Molly has led countless research and evaluation projects throughout her career. She loves to think up new ways to investigate how science education interventions impact student and teacher outcomes. Molly enjoys working on problems of measurement and how we better assess student cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes in our research studies. She also loves to mentor and coach new researchers in finding their research identity. Currently, she serves as co-PI on multiple National Science Foundation studies, as well as an Education Innovation and Research project funded by the Department of Education.

Through her connections to the people and the work at BSCS, Molly is motivated to continue to lead the way in transforming science education and ultimately science, to include voices that have traditionally been excluded, and to inspire all teachers and students to consider how science intersects with their lives outside of school.   

Molly holds a BA in Sociology and an MA in Sociology from the University of Colorado. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, knitting, and riding vintage Vespa and Lambretta motor scooters.