Current Projects

Science capital is a measure of an individual’s engagement or relationship with science:

  • how much do you value science?
  • is science a part of your life?
  • is science ‘for you’?

All of the projects in our lab, in one way or another, center on increasing or disseminating science capital among undergraduate students, graduate students, teachers, scientists, and the general public.


Novice meets expert: what happens when students interview a scientist about their research?  We have developed a novel method for student engagement in research where students deconstruct a research paper published by a FIU faculty member. Next, students meet with the authors of the research paper to have conversations within the traditional scientific discourse, a practice that further develops students’ understanding of the scientific community.  Each group of students visited the author on campus and engaged in an ~1-hour long interview. There was no set of questions that students were required to ask: questions vary from content-based to career-based to personal interest.

Over the course of two semesters, we recorded 24 student-author interviews and are currently conducting inductive thematic analysis on these data. We are examining interview transcripts and are uncovering common themes that take place across each interview, including authors giving advice to young scientists, both author-led and student-led critical thinking, and explanations of experimental design.  We are measuring both the frequency of these events as well as when they occur during the interview.  Our data set will provide insight into how expert and novice scientists can better communicate.


How Are Tours of Botanical Gardens Enhancing the Student Experience in General Bio II?  Undergraduate STEM students are usually not attuned to the intricacies of plant life histories, nor the dynamic role plants play in ecosystem function and human society, a phenomenon termed “plant blindness.”  Plant blindness has real world consequences which include impediment of effective plant conservation measures due to lack of attention, resource allocations, or ill-advised policies.

Botany education, especially field botany, has been on the decline in the past decades, both in terms of number of faculty members and universities offering these courses. In parallel, career paths that need and benefit from a workforce with botanical knowledge has increased. Consequently, there is a dire need to energize botanical topics to accelerate engagement of university students in botany, regardless of their career trajectories.

FIU has partnered with Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden to provide Gen Bio students with a short but intensive tour as part of their course.  Our data is showing positive shifts in attitudes towards botany as well as students being able to relate botany to their future career plans.


How are STEM graduate students defining science communication?   STEM graduate students are the future of science communication. Increasingly, communicating science to the public is recognized as the responsibility of professional scientists; however, these skills are not always included in graduate training. Our lab is working to provide a comprehensive analysis of what science communication training is like from the point of view of today’s STEM graduate students.

A survey asking STEM graduate students about their experiences with science communication was distributed in 2018.  Preliminary analysis of the quantitative data indicates that 74% of respondents stated that they received no formal training in science communication from their graduate institutions.  We collected data relating to specific communication skills STEM graduate students are, or are not, learning in graduate school. We also explore, using qualitative data, how today’s graduate students define science communication, which we have found to be very different from how established scientists are defining science communication.


Annotated Research Papers in the Classroom: How can annotated papers be used in the classroom, and what learning gains are taking place?  This project investigates what science processes skills students can learn using annotated literature, including expert-like thinking and experimental design skills. Learn more about this project here.


“Sense of Belonging” to the Biology Department among undergraduate biology students. We are finalizing a “Sense of Belonging” survey designed to measure student engagement within the Biology Department. Once this survey is validated, we can determine the “baseline” measurement of how FIU biology students interact with their home department.

We can also use this survey to measure changes in engagement that may take place as a result of a specific intervention, such as:

  • Using Annotated Primary Literature to increase student engagement: Can we promote student engagement with their department by having students read annotated faculty research papers in intro level courses? In other words, if students learn more about the research taking place in their home department, will they become more connected to the department?


  • Novice students interview expert professors about their research projects. Not many undergraduate students have had a non-course related conversation with a faculty member. What kinds of science capital transfer take place when undergraduate students read a faculty research paper and then interview the faculty member about the findings? Does this change student’s sense of belonging within their home department?


Teacher Training using Annotated Primary Literature:STEM education is changing. Education standards and frameworks are moving away from memorizing scientific content and toward engaging students with the nature & practices of science. Primary literature can be powerful tool for teaching with emphasis on real science.  How can teachers best leverage annotated papers in their classrooms? Learn more about this project here.


Bringing Annotated Research Papers to the Public: Is the general public interested in reading annotated research papers?  If so, what kinds of annotations will the general public need that are the same/different from what an undergraduate student needs?


Annotator Training as a Professional Development Experience: Graduate students in STEM fields represent an untapped pool of talent to improve both STEM education and STEM communication.  How can annotating a scientific research paper provide STEM graduate students with skills to make them knowledgeable educators and communicators?  How does the annotation training change participants attitudes regarding STEM education and STEM communication? Learn more about this project here.
















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