Project Highlights

Breaking the Cycle: Preparing Future STEM Teachers for the Highest Need Urban Schools by Embracing Culturally-responsive Instruction

  1. Summary: The Track 1 Noyce project at Florida International University (FIU), "Breaking the cycle: Preparing future STEM teachers for the highest need urban schools by embracing culturally responsive instruction", will substantially increase the number of highly qualified teachers prepared to serve in high-need school districts. The project will recruit, prepare, administer two-year scholarships and facilitate induction for 33 Scholars over the five-year project. FIU, an urban public research university with over 54,000 students, is partnering with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the nation serving over 350,000 students, to establish the project testbed in highly diverse Miami, Florida. The project embraces the diversity of FIU's student body, over 78% of which are from historically underrepresented groups, and develops their culturally responsive instructional practices so they are prepared to break the cycle of persistent low achievement as future education leaders in the highest need schools. In parallel, the project will establish a dissemination model to enable adoption and adaptation across the nation
  2. Focus: Pre-service teachers, Undergraduate teacher preparation
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Vishodana Thamotharan (Principal Investigator), Zahra Hazari (Co-Principal Investigator), Laird Kramer (Co-Principal Investigator), Maria Fernandez (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1660776 - $1,007,089.00
  6. Contact: Vishodana Thamotharan (, STEM Transformation Institute

Collaborative Research: Beyond Active Learning: Learning Assistant (LA) Supported Pedagogies in Large Lecture Science Courses

  1. Summary: The University of Colorado at Denver, North Dakota State University Fargo, and Florida International University have received an NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Education and Human Resources Design and Development tier award to observe, characterize, and interpret the active learning methods employed in a large sample of Learning Assistant (LA) supported and non-LA supported science courses at the three universities. The research will investigate how active learning methods and undergraduate LA support contribute to the learning gains, achievement, retention, and persistence of over 10,600 Biology students, 8,800 Chemistry students, and 7,600 Physics students during each year of the four-year project. The Project will provide critical evidence on active learning as it 1) examines a large number of students and faculty in three STEM disciplines (Chemistry, Biology, and Physics) at three large public universities, 2) provides deep understanding of how active learning and LA support promotes student success, 3) examines student success through a variety of measures, 4) provides critical insight into the learning of underrepresented/minority (URM) students in STEM, and 5) directly informs the large International Learning Assistant Alliance, which currently consists of fifty-five (55) universities.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Laird Kramer (Principal Investigator), Hagit Kornreich-Leshem (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1525529 - $359,774.00
  6. Contact: Laird Kramer (, Department of Physics

Collaborative Research: Engaged Student Learning - Design and Development Level II: Using a Cyberlearning Environment to Improve Student Learning and Engagement in Software Courses

  1. Summary: Due to the ubiquitous nature of software in the 21st century there is a great and increasing demand for software developers and programmers in the US. Both Computer Science (CS) and Information Technology (IT) academicians and practitioners agree that a comprehensive strategy to improve the number and quality of 21st century CS/IT workforce is needed. This project will assist colleges and universities in producing more well-qualified software developers through the use of a cyberlearning environment that builds on and extends WReSTT-CyLE (Web-Based Repository of Software Testing Tutorials), a cyberlearning environment for software testing.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Peter Clarke (Principal Investigator), Geoffrey Potvin (Co-Principal Investigator), Mandayam Thirunarayanan (Co-Principal Investigator), Debra Davis (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1525112 - $821,954.00
  6. Contact: Geoff Potvin (, Department of Physics

Collaborative Research: Florida IT Pathways to Success (Flit-Path)

  1. Summary: The S-STEM Flit-Path (Florida IT Pathways) project will recruit, retain, and provide scholarships and curricular and co-curricular support to academically talented students with financial need in the IT related disciplines of Computer Science, Information Technology, and Computer Engineering. The goals of the project are to (1) increase retention, student success, and graduation of students who pursue a degree in the Computer Science, Information Technology, and Computer Engineering disciplines; (2) implement a model of student engagement that affects the recruitment, retention, student success, academic and career pathways, and degree attainment of students pursing a degree in these disciplines; and (3) contribute to the implementation and sustainability of effective evidence-based curricular/co-curricular activities for its students. Building on a grant from the Florida State Board of Governors, project activities include tutoring for foundation courses; intrusive academic advising; faculty, industry, and peer mentoring; and academic and career pathway support. Participation in project activities is expected to increase the graduation rate for Flit Path students by 20%. The project will recruit two cohorts of students. Cohort A will be comprised of 54 first time college students in each of Years 1 and 2 of the grant. Cohort B will be comprised of 69 first time in college senior students each year, who have the potential and interest in graduating within one year's time. Flit-Path will impact 453 students who are pursuing degrees in Computer Science, Information Technology, and Computer Engineering.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Mark Weiss (Principal Investigator), Zahra Hazari (Co-Principal Investigator), Monique Ross (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1643965 - $1,944,118.00
  6. Contact: Zahra Hazari (, Department of Teaching and Learning and affiliate faculty member in the Department of Physics

Collaborative Research: Intersectionality of Non-normative Identities in the Cultures of Engineering (InIce)

  1. Summary: This project is motivated by the need to increase and diversify the engineering workforce, which will help to increase economic growth and prosperity in the United States. The ultimate goal of this project is to understand more effectively the ways in which students can become interested in pursuing engineering majors in college and how to help them persist through to the end of an engineering degree, with particular attention on those students who may have different views of the role of engineering. This will be accomplished by a large quantitative assessment followed by a longitudinal study of students who are identified as holding various normative or non-normative attitudinal profiles, with a focus on understanding students' feelings of belonging in engineering and their developing engineering identities. The outcomes of this work will result in practical ways to increase diversity in engineering programs through research-based recruitment and teaching strategies focused on student identities within engineering. Specific course materials will be developed to target graduate students entering academia (who will be teaching future engineering students) to help begin to foster a more welcoming culture in engineering.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Geoffrey Potvin (Principal Investigator), Allison Godwin (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1428689 - $170,527.00
  6. Contact: Geoff Potvin (, Department of Physics

Collaborative Research: Mobilizing Teachers to Increase Capacity and Broaden Women's Participation in Physics

  1. Summary: The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs). Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects. This project assesses the impact of scaling-up the teaching of physics and engineering to women students in grade levels 11 and 12, particularly in reference to retention. The problem of low participation of women in physics and engineering has been a topic of concern for decades. The persistent under-representation of women in physics and engineering is not just an equity issue but also reflects an unrealized talent pool that can help respond to current and future challenges faced by society. The aim is to mobilize high school physics teachers to "attract and recruit" female students into science (physics) and engineering careers. The fundamental issues that the project seeks is to affect increases in the number of females in physics and engineering careers using research-informed and field-tested classroom practices that improve female students' physics identity. The project will advance science (physics) identity research by testing research-based approaches/interventions with larger groups of teachers and connecting research to practice in ways that are both widely deployable and practical for teachers to implement. The project will also affect female participation in engineering since developing a physics identity is strongly related to choosing engineering. The core area teachers will be trained in addressing student identity as a physicist or engineer.
  2. Focus: PreK-12 students and teachers
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Zahra Hazari (Principal Investigator), Geoffrey Potvin (Co-Principal Investigator), Laird Kramer (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1721021 - $884,884.00
  6. Contact: Zahra Hazari (, Department of Teaching and Learning and affiliate faculty member in the Department of Physics

CREST: Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment

  1. Summary:With National Science Foundation support, Florida International University will establish the Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment. Human-derived environmental contaminants consist of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, mercury, black carbon, and fossil fuels. These stressors are recognized as having significant effects on ecosystems and biota as well as on human wellbeing. It is critical to understand the biogeochemical processes that govern the fate of these compounds and their impacts on the ecosystem. Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment research will address the sources, transport, transformation and ecosystem responses to contaminants, pollutants and other natural stressors, under changing land-use and environmental conditions. The Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment will generate significant new knowledge regarding contaminants and pollutants in aquatic environments, as well as produce innovative methodologies for detecting and assessing contaminant quantities and impacts, including the use of molecular detection techniques. The proposed research will advance current efforts on the biological effects, transport, transformation and distribution of contaminants in the environment into new collaborative research areas that investigate the sources and transport of contaminants and pollutants in aquatic systems.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate and Graduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Todd Crowl (Principal Investigator), Rene Price (Co-Principal Investigator), Laird Kramer (Co-Principal Investigator), Shu-Ching Chen (Co-Principal Investigator), Piero Gardinali (Co-Principal Investigator), Rudolf Jaffe (Former Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1547798 - $2,099,985.00
  6. Contact: Laird Kramer (, Department of Physics
  7. Website:

Expanding the Use of Online Remote Electron Microscopy in the Classroom to Transform Undergraduate Education

  1. Summary: In this NSF funded project, we seek to expand the field-testing of promising instructional strategies focused on the in-class usage of remotely operable electron microprobe (EMP) and scanning electron microscope (SEM) available in the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy (FCAEM) at Florida International University. This project focuses on the application of new strategies for integrating education in research practices into introductory and upper-level geoscience courses facilitating the transition of undergraduate students from passive, directed learners to engaged, self-directing investigators, a key developmental stage in the education of undergraduate science majors. We also seek professional development activities that will engage geoscience faculty with these technologies and their instructional potential. Some specific objectives of this project is to determine whether providing students with remotely operable instrumentation experience would improve their success in science courses and whether this can aid in the development of an investigative mind-set and the associated behaviors of researchers in students. The participating institutions and faculty include Jeff Ryan of University of South Florida (USF), Rosemary Hickey-Vargas of Florida International University (FIU), Jamie MacDonald of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and Mary Beck of Valencia Community (VC) College. All of these PI's are committed to institutionalizing the approaches implemented in this project on their campuses.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Rosemary Hickey-Vargas (Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1323242 - $332,451.00
  6. Contact: Rosemary Hickey-Vargas (, Department of Physics
  7. Website:


  1. Summary: FIUteach is a secondary STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher preparation initiative that is helping to produce qualified math and science teachers. Core elements of the program include recruitment and retention incentives, a compact degree program, a strong focus on research-based strategies for teaching and learning math and science, intensive field teaching experience, and personal guidance from master teachers and faculty. Each year FIU will offer free, immersive teaching experiences to students in the program, producing well-prepared mathematics and science teachers upon graduation. The UTeach model program was created in response to national concerns about the quality of K-12 education in mathematics and science fields. The program is supported by the National Math and Science Initiative and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students, pre-service teachers
  3. Funder: UTeach, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and National Math and Science Initiative
  4. Contact: Vishodana Thamotharan (, STEM Transformation Institute
  5. Website:

GEO Opportunities for Leadership in Diversity (GOLD): Hearts of GOLD

  1. Summary: Geosciences currently trails other STEM fields in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups such as women, people of color, and people with disabilities. In 2012, of 737 doctoral degrees awarded in the earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences, 319 were awarded to women, and only 35 were awarded to Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska-native students, combined. Substantial evidence exists to demonstrate the vital role that diversity plays in increasing innovation and creativity and increasing the quality of science, as measured by publication in high-impact journals and citation rates. By failing to recruit and retain diverse students, staff, and faculty in our field, we are losing the potential to create our best, most innovative science. Much of the shortcomings in recruiting and retaining minorities in geosciences seem to be related to the difficult social environments that these groups face in our disciplines classrooms and workplaces. We propose to develop and test a new professional development training for established scientific leaders in the geosciences, the GOLD Institute, designed to spark cognitive dissonance, and begin the process of personal reflection and change needed to transform existing leaders into champions for diversity. By targeting senior scientists who are already well-respected in the field, our project capitalizes on their reputations, networks, and social capital to build them into diversity champions with the power to make significant and swift cultural change in their institutions and the wider field. This proposal provides them with the training necessary to institute equitable recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices, and tackle ?chilly? and hostile climates. Nominations will be solicited throughout the geosciences several months prior to the GOLD Institute. Participants will be selected on the basis of scientific and/or educational expertise, potential to broaden participation in the geosciences, and other characteristics that exemplify effective leadership skills and behaviors. Selection for one of the GOLD Institutes is an acknowledgment that these individuals have established greater purpose and value in their work and are committed to a legacy of diversity and inclusion for the entire geosciences community.
  2. Focus: Faculty
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: P. Grady Dixon (Principal Investigator), Kathleen Quardokus Fisher (Co-Principal Investigator), LaToya Myles (Co-Principal Investigator), Denise Simmons (Co-Principal Investigator), Eric Kaufman (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award Number - Amount: 1645430 - $399,826.00
  6. Contact: Kathleen Quardokus Fisher (, Department of Earth and Environment

HHMI Collaborative: Community for Faculty Development

  1. Summary: In collaboration with 5 HHMI Science Education institutions (i.e. Drexel University, Emory University, University of Maryland – College Park, and University of Kentucky), this grant aims to establish continued research and scholarship partnerships between HHMI Science Education institutions, with the aim of identifying promising practices and common barriers in faculty implementation of evidence-based strategies. We conducted a large-scale survey study of STEM faculty in over 60 research-intensive institutions (with and without HHMI Science Education grants), to increase our understanding of STEM instructional practices and faculty support structures. We have used these data for developing collaborative research projects between HHMI institutions and advancing our understanding of the barriers and opportunities of faculty adoption of evidence-based strategies.
  2. Focus: HHMI Science Education Universities and STEM faculty at research-intensive institutions
  3. Funder: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  4. Team: Laird Kramer (Principal Investigator), Florida International University; Donna Murasko, Drexel University; Pat Marsteller, Emory University; Kaci Thompson, University of Maryland – College Park; Vince Cassone, University of Kentucky.
  5. Co-Directors: Marcy Kravec, Department of Biological Sciences; Kelly Rein, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Geoff Potvin, Department of Physics; Julian Edward, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  6. Contact: Rocio Benabentos (, STEM Transformation Institute
  7. Website:

HHMI Collaborative for Institutionalizing Scientific Learning

  1. Summary: The Collaborative for Institutionalizing Scientific Learning is a $1.5M grant with the goal to establish an institutional culture to support the use of evidence-based teaching practices across science and mathematics courses, thus improving STEM student retention and success. To achieve this goal, this project focuses on four interacting objectives: (1) Create a support structure to expand the number of science and mathematics faculty utilizing evidence-based strategies; (2) integrate effective measures of classroom learning into all science and mathematics courses; (3) solidify a culture of evidence-based instructional strategies across the institution; and (4) develop and deploy a research framework for analyzing institutional change in STEM education.
  2. Focus: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math faculty members and Departments
  3. Funder: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  4. Team: Laird Kramer (Principal Investigator), Florida International University; Donna Murasko, Drexel University; Pat Marsteller, Emory University; Kaci Thompson, University of Maryland – College Park; Vince Cassone, University of Kentucky.
  5. Co-Directors: Marcy Kravec, Department of Biological Sciences; Kelly Rein, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Geoff Potvin, Department of Physics; Julian Edward, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  6. Amount: $1.5M
  7. Contact: Rocio Benabentos (, STEM Transformation Institute
  8. Website:

LA Program: Learning Assistant Program

  1. Summary: To recruit top science/math majors to become certified high school and middle school teachers; support future teachers with faculty and teacher-in-residence expertise; provide opportunities for non-education majors; and, create an innovative educational landscape at a Hispanic-Serving Institution that serves as a model for other institutions. Fosters faculty development and institutional change through reforming courses to support LAs in the classroom. FIU is the nations largest LA program, supporting 143 LAs across 6 STEM disciplines in Spring 2013
  2. Focus: Undergraduate course reform / pre-service teacher preparation / faculty professional development / institutional change
  3. Contact: Hagit Kornreich Leshem (, STEM Transformation Institute
  4. Website:

Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure: Experimental Facility with Twelve-Fan Wall of Wind

  1. Summary: The Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) will be supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a distributed, multi-user national facility that will provide the natural hazards research community with access to research infrastructure that will include earthquake and wind engineering experimental facilities, cyberinfrastructure, computational modeling and simulation tools, and research data, as well as education and community outreach activities. NHERI will be comprised of separate awards for a Network Coordination Office, Cyberinfrastructure, Computational Modeling and Simulation Center, and Experimental Facilities, including a post-disaster, rapid response research facility. Awards made for NHERI will contribute to NSF's role in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program. NHERI continues NSF's emphasis on earthquake engineering research infrastructure previously supported under the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation as part of NEHRP, but now broadens that support to include wind engineering research infrastructure. NHERI has the broad goal of supporting research that will improve the resilience and sustainability of civil infrastructure, such as buildings and other structures, underground structures, levees, and critical lifelines, against the natural hazards of earthquakes and windstorms, in order to reduce loss of life, damage, and economic loss. Information about NHERI resources will be available on the web portal.
  2. Focus: Research, Undergraduate and Graduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Arindam Chowdhury (Principal Investigator), Peter Irwin (Co-Principal Investigator), Ioannis Zisis (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award number - Amount: 1520853 - $1,639,835.00
  6. Contact: Laird Kramer (, Department of Physics

Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL)

  1. Summary: To increase the number of biology and other science majors graduating within STEM fields. PLTL recruits motivated biology students to act as group mentors. They are trained in pedagogical techniques, group dynamics and biological concepts. These mentors then meet with groups of students to guide them through prepared problems associated with the material introduced in lecture each week.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Contact: Thomas Pitzer (, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences
  4. Website:

Science in the Classroom (SitC)

  1. Summary: This project will significantly expand the Science in the Classroom (SitC) initiative (http://, into tools for learning. The annotated papers and related resources that are produced will allow students to engage with primary data sets and gain a deep understanding of how scientists design experiments, gather and analyze data, and present their conclusions. This approach enables students to assume the persona of a scientist; it guides them through the scientific process of posing questions, designing experiments to pursue those questions, analyzing the data that returns from the experiments, and working toward new conclusions in response to the analysis. The students also come to understand, first-hand, the process of scientific communication, through which scientists explain their progression from questions to experiments to data to conclusions, while also generating the next set of intriguing questions.
  2. Focus: Undergraduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Shirley Malcom (Principal Investigator), Pamela Hines (Co-Principal Investigator), Jeremy Berg (Co-Principal Investigator), Elizabeth Ruedi (Co-Principal Investigator), Marcia McNutt (Former Co-Principal Investigator), Melissa McCartney (Former Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award number - Amount: 1525596 - $1,274,487.00
  6. Contact: Melissa McCartney (, Department of Biological Sciences

Science and Technology Center on Real-Time Functional Imaging (STROBE)

  1. Summary: Understanding the structure and evolution of matter at the nanometer and atomic scales is central for discovery and innovation in science and technology, accelerating advances in materials science, condensed matter physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, geology, and medicine. This Science and Technology Center (STC) aims to advance and integrate different imaging modalities using electron, X-ray, optical, and nano-probe microscopy to collectively tackle major scientific challenges. It brings together an interdisciplinary team from University of Colorado at Boulder; Universities of California at Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Irvine; Florida International University; and Fort Lewis College, in partnership with national laboratories, US industries, and international collaborators.
  2. Focus: K12, Undergraduate and Graduate students
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Margaret Murnane (Principal Investigator), Naomi Ginsberg (Co-Principal Investigator), Jianwei Miao (Co-Principal Investigator), Markus Raschke (Co-Principal Investigator), Rafael Piestun (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award number - Amount: 1548924 - $6,250,000.00
  6. Contact: Laird Kramer (, Department of Physics
  7. Website:

Verizon Innovative Learning for Minority Males Program: FIU Pathways to STEM

  1. Summary: This program aims to encourage minority males in middle schools to pursue studies in STEM disciplines, specifically Engineering and Computer Science. Over three weeks in the Summer, minority males in middle schools will be recruited to participate in a camp to expand their knowledge of the varying science, technology, engineering, and math fields by engaging in mobile app development, 3D design, and building flying drones.
  2. Focus: Middle school students; K12 Teacher professional development
  3. Funder: Verizon Foundation
  4. Team:
  5. Amount: $604,250
  6. Contact: Monique Ross (, School of Computing and Information Sciences

Women in Science ADVANCE Grant: Awareness of, Commitment to, and Empowerment of Women Scientists at FIU

  1. Summary: To facilitate the hiring, retention and promotion of women scientists by educating faculty in best practices and promoting improvements in current departmental practices, and to increase the number of women graduate students in science and math seeking academic positions.
    Workshops will be held to teach faculty serving on search committees about best practices for hiring for excellence and diversity. Workshops will include skills training for assistant professors such as preparing for the tenure review, grant writing tips, etc.
  2. Focus: Faculty professional development
  3. Funder: National Science Foundation
  4. Team: Kenneth Furton (Principal Investigator), Suzanna Rose (Co-Principal Investigator), Ranu Jung (Co-Principal Investigator), Yesim Darici (Co-Principal Investigator), Michael Heithaus (Co-Principal Investigator)
  5. Award number - Amount: 1629889 - $3,202,167.00
  6. Contact: Suzanna Rose (, College of Arts & Sciences