Spotlight Articles Archive

STUDENT ENGAGEMENT: ABBY GRACE DRAKE

A College education is a wonderful gift that, if you are lucky enough to get it, should be a time for your mind --and your future prospect--to bloom like the buds in Spring. But it doesn’t always feel like that for everyone. For a first-generation student, the college atmosphere can be terrifying.

Abby Grace Drake was a first-generation college student and often felt like she wasn’t meant to be at college--like she didn’t belong. Being from a rural area, Abby found the college environment unfamiliar and she just didn’t know what to expect. She attended Hampshire College in Massachusetts, which was unique in its wide adoption of active learning, and did not use grades or credits. With this background, Abby found adapting to the traditional forms of teaching and learning a challenge. Read more.

Celebrating Community College with Catherine Creech

Research and theory are an important part of advancing education—but they’re useless unless someone puts them into action. Catherine Creech is an instructor who does just that, working hard every day to improve her students’ experiences and education as a whole.

Catherine is a professor at Mt. Hood Community College, an institution based in Gresham Oregon. She teaches biology classes and labs, and is currently on year 3 of 4 in a tenure track. When not in the classroom, Catherine can be found attending the local Mushroom society meetings. As a mycologist, Catherine searched for the perfect mushroom hunting location when relocating after her education. She and her wife chose Oregon because it captured both their interests. “We needed somewhere with lots of mushrooms and lots of beer—cause [my wife] works in beer.” Read more.

Advancing Analytics: Jordan Harshman and Buddie

Advancing a field of research isn’t always about gathering new data—sometimes progress is rooted in the systems that support analysis. Jordan Harshman is a member of EDU-STEM who is using his background in coding to push education research forward in exciting and innovative ways.


Jordan is an assistant professor at Auburn University wrapping up his third year on the job. In that short time he’s already established his own lab that focuses on doctoral level chemistry education. His specialization in chemistry gives him a unique view among other EDU-STEM partners, helping to broaden the network’s reach across STEM disciplines. Read more.

Every change counts: encouraging inclusivity with Jeremiah Henning

The first step to improving a system is understanding its shortcomings. Jeremiah Henning, though still a relatively new instructor, already understands the importance of pushing for healthier environments—both within higher education and in the natural world.

Jeremiah is an assistant professor at the University of South Alabama, where he teaches a variety of biology courses. Outside of his work with EDU-STEM, Jeremiah’s main focus is ecology, and most recently, how climate change affects the intricate relationships between plants and the microbes that live in them. Read more.

Breaking down barriers in biology: Cissy Ballen

Cissy Ballen has a history with the study of teaching and learning that stretches back to her time as a student. Today she works as an assistant professor of discipline-based education research in the department of biological sciences at Auburn University—where she also leads her own lab. Cissy’s research uses collaboration with undergraduate students and other professionals to investigate the causes and consequences of performance gaps in education.


Cissy attended the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate, eventually graduating with a degree in fisheries, wildlife, & conservation biology and minor in biology. During her time as a student she worked with Sehoya Cotner, researching the impacts of educators’ gender on their students. Read more.

James Hewlett: A Veteran of teaching and learning

When James Hewlett started work as a Biology professor at Finger Lakes Community College in New York, he was fresh out of graduate school and had to learn as he taught. 22 years later, he’s become a champion of education and has dedicated himself to countless projects — all aiding in the development of the Biology courses that he loves.


Hewlett’s passion for Biology was kickstarted by an educator in his past. “Like a lot of people I took a class in highschool, and I had a teacher - my biology teacher - who was inspirational, and I fell in love with biology.” After graduating, he knew he wanted to pursue the subject further, but being a first generation college student, he didn’t know what kind of options he had within the field of biology. Read more.

A Unique perspective on teaching and learning

Rachael Robnett, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has been fascinated by the complexities of identity and interaction since she was a child. It didn’t take long for her to realize the ways in which girls were treated differently, and today Rachael studies the relationship between women and the STEM field as well as general issues of equity in science.


Rachael’s interest in human interaction was a constant, but it wasn’t always her intended career path. She began as an education major, planning to teach English or Spanish as a second language. However, Rachael soon discovered that K-12 education wasn’t her match. While exploring her options, her interest in gender led her to study psychology, and eventually join a research lab that she would work in during her undergraduate education. This was when she realized that she could make a career out of investigating the phenomenon that were inherently interesting to her — she was immediately sold. Read more.

Marcos García-Ojeda: Expanding Teaching and Learning

Innovation takes creativity, an open mind, and more than a bit of determination. Lucky for us, Marcos García-Ojeda excels in all categories. Marcos is a professor and researcher at the University of California Merced with passion and dedication for improving teaching and creating inclusive and effective environments.


Marcos’ work in education began when his spouse was diagnosed with cancer and had to pursue treatment hours away from the small-town Merced. When faced with the decision to either maintain his lab work or support his spouse, the choice was clear for Marcos. He exchanged his research for a teaching position and embarked into new territory. Read more.

Research in the Classroom: Sheritta Fagbodun's Mission

Effective teaching isn’t always easy to define, and the invisible factors that affect the success of a curriculum can be even harder to recognize. Luckily, the EDU-STEM network has researchers like Sheritta Fagbodun, who are used to searching beyond what the human eye can see.


Sheritta is employed at Tuskegee University, where she carries out research on nematodes in her newly opened C. elegans research lab. The current goal she is working towards involves the use of inhibitors to identify genes that could have potential uses in antihelminthic drug development. Her work also involves students in the investigative process, allowing them to learn through hands-on experiences with maintaining organisms, culturing bacteria, and more. Read more.

An Interview With Carrie Hall

From boot camps to bugs to bioacoustics, Carrie Hall has a wide range of experience. Carrie works at the crossroads of environmental health and animal behavior, often drawing on her other work as a behavioral ecologist. Her research focuses on insect systems, covering a wide range of topics including bioacoustics, conservation, and the impact of environmental changes on behavior. Her lab, however, serves a dual purpose - she studies teaching and learning, largely because of her previous experiences. Read more.