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  • National Institute on Scientific Teaching

Illinois State University


We are currently seeking 3 graduate students to begin in Fall 2020. Broadly, our lab seeks to identify strategies that improve the scientific literacy of nonscientist members of the public and pre-service teachers. We investigate how understanding of natural phenomena can inform everyday life, how citizens become motivated to make science-informed decisions, and how future teachers learn to think scientifically and extend scientific thinking into their classrooms. Graduate students under our mentorship can earn a master’s or doctoral degree in biology, or a doctoral degree in teaching and learning, depending on his/her intended career trajectory. Interested students should peruse the linked admissions and degree requirements for each, as well as consult with me, when deciding which program is the best fit. Regardless of program, students in our lab are expected to have a master’s degree in a life science if they are pursuing a doctoral degree and take graduate-level coursework in education, biological sciences, and both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Specifically, we are seeking students to work on the following projects:

  1. Fostering science acceptance (i.e., contending with science denial) – This student will be supported on a teaching assistantship in the School of Biological Sciences (tuition waiver, $1224 monthly stipend for master’s, $1800 for doctoral). Students interested in this position should be enthusiastic about learning motivation theory (theory of motivated reasoning and self-determination theory) and developing a deep familiarity with the scientific argumentation literature. This student will need to develop a graduate-level understanding of the natural phenomena that are often subject to science denial (e.g., immunology and vaccinations, climate change and biodiversity conservation, biotechnology and GMOs). Funding is pending for this project, so this student may have the option of being supported on a research assistantship.

  2. Scientific communication – This student will be supported as a graduate assistant at Illinois State University’s Center for Mathematics, Science, & Technology (tuition waiver, $1500 monthly stipend for master’s, $1800 for doctoral). The assistantship involves the production of a newly created podcast that focuses on interpretation of peer-reviewed STEM literature for public understanding. Students interested in this position should be comfortable with their voice being broadcasted, interviewing authors about their publications, and developing podcast production skills. This student will be expected to develop research questions that seek to understand how the podcast fosters scientific literacy among its listeners. Plausibly, this student could pursue a master’s degree through our School of Communication.

  3. Development of the Equitable Engineering in Science (EES) framework – This student will be supported on research assistantship (funding pending, tuition waiver and $1500 monthly stipend) and will contribute to the iterative development of the EES framework, which unites the tenets of culturally relevant science education (Aronson & Laughter, 2016; Kolonich et al., 2018) with effective engineering instruction. This project is best suited for students who are interested in becoming a science teacher educator (i.e., a faculty member in an education department, focused on preparing future science teachers).


Students who are interested to please contact me ( to discuss their interests and application to the appropriate graduate program. We also encourage prospective students to contact Rachel Sparks (, a doctoral candidate in our lab, who can arrange conversations with current lab members so they can decide if our lab is a good fit. Applications are due February 1, 2020.

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