Research

Commitment to research, scholarship and creativity at all levels—undergraduate, graduate and faculty—is a core component of UMBC’s mission. The intensity of this support is deep in the STEM fields. It crosses colleges, departments and disciplines and is reflected in our national rankings and reputation.

Our faculty members are committed to developing future educators by sharing their extensive backgrounds and experiences in the field of education policy and practice and in major content disciplines. UMBC seeks to advance teaching and learning through our integration of research and collaboration with others for the benefit of our diverse society.

Selected Research Highlights

Taryn Bayles, Ph.D. — Engineering Education and Outreach
The goal of Dr. Bayle’s research is to increase awareness and interest in pursuing engineering as a career, as well as to understand what factors help students be successful once they have chosen engineering as a major. Along with colleagues, she is developing the INSPIRES (INcreasing Student Participation, Interest and Recruitment in Engineering and Science) curriculum for high school students, which incorporates hands-on activities, online interactive animations, mathematical design simulation and inquiry based learning with ‘real-world’ engineering design exercises. She is also involved with Northrop Grumman’s TEAACH program and provides teacher workshops with hands-on activities and demonstrations to increase student understanding in math and science while providing an interest in engineering.

Susan Blunck, PhD — Science Education
Dr. Blunck's research and professional efforts have been focused on promoting excellence in science teaching by working with emerging and practicing teachers. Her primary area of research is centered on the professional development of science teachers. Believing that the professional development continuum spans the time a teacher enters a preparation program until the day the teacher leaves the profession, Dr. Blunck strives to create professional development experiences that are ongoing, teacher centered, and standards-based.

Lili Cui, Ph.D. — Physics
Dr. Cui’s area of interest is Physics Education Research (PER). As a result of the research of Cui and her colleagues, UMBC has adopted several research-based proven reforms in the introductory physics courses, such as peer instruction, interactive lecture demonstrations and use of undergraduate students as learning assistants in labs and discussion sections. She is also interested in assessing student learning, developing training programs for teaching assistants and learning assistants and looking at transfer of learning from one subject to another, such as from mathematics to physics, and from physics to biology.

Freeman Hrabowski, Ph.D. and Kenneth Maton, Ph.D.
Since 1995, President Hrabowski and Professor Maton have been studying the experiences of UMBC’s Meyerhoff Scholars, resulting in numerous publications and two books, Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Odds (Oxford University Press). The books focus on parenting and high-achieving African American males and females in science and are used by universities, school systems and community groups around the country.
Dr. Hrabowski
Dr. Maton

Tracy Irish, MA — STEM Academy Measurement Tool and Rubric
As the Director of Research and Evaluation for the UMBC BCPS STEM Project, Tracy Irish builds upon an array of experiences as a scientist, science educator and program approval specialist at the Maryland State Department of Education. The STEM Project began over four years ago with both a pre-service teacher program and professional development for in-service teachers. Ms. Irish worked on the evaluation of both aspects and also taught in the Master of Arts in Education program as a special appointment to the Graduate School at UMBC.  In her position in research and evaluation, Ms. Irish developed a tool to assist in the development of STEM Academies K-12 used in the UMBC-BCPS selected schools. Currently she is acting as a consultant to other schools in Maryland and North Carolina as they utilize the STEM Academy Measurement Tool and Rubric to begin to develop as professional learning communities in STEM education.  Ms. Irish is also pursuing her PhD in the UMBC Language, Literacy, and Culture Program, where she is analyzing the development of STEM Academies through the STEM Measurement Tool. She is currently ABD and expects to finish her doctoral degree in Fall 2009.

Ralph Pollack, Ph.D. and William LaCourse, Ph.D. — Chemistry
Although Professors Pollack and LaCourse’s research interests do not lie in science education, they share a deep commitment to ensuring that their students are receiving and processing the information they will need to succeed. A recent concern focused on student performance in Chemistry 101. The large lecture classes left little room for more than a handful of students to participate, and additional weekly recitation classes did not make a difference in student grades. The Department of Chemistry, the Office of Undergraduate Education and The Shriver Center worked together to create the Chemistry Discovery Center, a problem-based, high-tech learning lab focused on cooperative learning. Two years later, pass rates in Chemistry 101 are increasing and faculty have seen additional improvement at all grade levels.

Mary Rivkin, PhD — Early Childhood Education
Dr. Rivkin’s research interests include outdoor play, environmental education, and community organization. Books include Toward Curriculum for Beings: Voices of Educators (with Louise Berman, Francine Hultgren, Diane Lee, and Jessie Roderick), Science Experience for the Early Childhood Years: An Integrated Approach (7th ed.) (with Jean Harlan), and The Great Outdoors: Restoring Children's Right to Play Outside.

Jonathan Singer, Ph.D. — Science Education
Dr. Jonathan Singer’s research is focused on science education and revolves around supporting current teachers in integrating inquiry-based instructional strategies and technologies. Dr. Singer directs the NSF-funded Noyce Scholars Program at UMBC, which is designed to recruit students into STEM education fields.  He is involved in several collaborative grant-funded programs, such as UMBC’s Teacher Quality programs in Chemistry and Biology, and the NSF-funded INSPIRES program. His role in these programs is to support STEM faculty to adapt their professional development activities in ways that allow the teacher participants to apply their newly gained content knowledge and pedagogical skills to their classrooms.

Shirley Zongker, M.ED. — Stem Education Internship Model
Shirley Zongker’s professional activities are focused on recruitment, training and retention of high quality STEM teachers for high needs schools. As the coordinator of the NSF funded UMBC/BCPS STEM Project at UMBC, she has worked extensively with the project’s intensive yearlong internship model of teacher pre-service.  Mrs. Zongker is examining which components of the STEM intern model contribute to the development of high quality STEM teachers. As the field experience is considered the most powerful element of teacher preparation, the studies from this project may provide future implications for school/university STEM teacher development programs. Mrs. Zongker received her undergraduate degree with certification from Towson University and a master’s degree in Urban Studies from Hopkins.  She is a former principal and curriculum specialist for the Baltimore City Public Schools.