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The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)

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Poster Presentation at the PhysTEC Conference Summarizing Beginning Work of the Physical Sciences Partnership

Poster Presentation at the PhysTEC Conference Summarizing Current Work of the Partnership

2013 SBE Video Contest Winner – Zachary Batz

2013 SBE Video Contest Winner – Zachary Batz – Share the Excitement: Inquiry based Intro Labs
One of the SBE Video Contest Winners for 2014 is our own Zachary Batz. To view his video, click on the link (above) and click on the video by Zach Batz.

2015 Jackson Laboratory Teaching Sabbaticals

The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and The University of Maine would like to announce the final Teacher Research Sabbatical program: a paid academic-year research experience open to all STEM teachers in Maine and other rural New England states.  This will be the LAST year for the sabbatical program as JAX shifts resources to a more broadly-disseminated model for teacher professional development in genomics.

Teacher Research Interns will work full-time for the spring semester with a biomedical scientist at The Jackson Laboratory, an internationally recognized genetics research institute in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The goals of the program are to give teachers a deeper understanding of the process of science and to help teachers develop curricula that emphasize guided inquiry and a culture of science in the classroom.  There are no prerequisites and expertise in genetics is not necessary.

Stipend and Housing.  Teachers receive a $28,000 salary for the semester internship, which runs from mid-January to mid-May. Housing is available for a low cost in lab-owned homes within walking distance of the JAX campus in Bar Harbor, Maine, and each teacher receives a $1,500 housing stipend. Course tuition (see below) is included in this sabbatical program; however, UMaine fees are the responsibility of the teacher.

Course credit. In addition to research, the program includes a 3-credit UMaine course “Research-related Curriculum Development in Science and Mathematics”, taught by Dr. Michelle Smith (

. Mid-January through mid-May 2015.

Applications are due September 22nd, 2014.

For complete information and an online application, please see the following website:


Travis Hall wins Volunteer Leadership Award

The EqualityMaine Awards 30th Anniversary Celebration Banquet was held in Portland on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Our Elementary Science Partnership Project Coordinator, Travis Hall, won the “Out Front Volunteer Leadership Award”. To read more about Travis, please click on the link above. Way to go, Travis!!

Duke Alum Michael Wittmann Specializes in Physics Education Research

Like many physicists, Michael Wittmann (’93) was drawn to the subject because it’s a way of understanding how the world works. But Wittmann is also interested in understanding how teaching and learning work. “I come from a line of teachers and physicists and engineers,” he says. “So I grew up with dinner table conversation about both of those topics.”
To satisfy both of his interests, Wittmann specializes in physics education research (PER) at the University of Maine, where he was recently promoted to full professor. He is a member of the research group at the Physics Education Research Laboratory there, as well as the Center for Research in STEM Education, which he co-founded in 2001. He also co-chairs the biennial Foundations and Frontiers of Physics Education Research conference in Bar Harbor, Maine.
To Wittmann, there’s a little bit of physicist in everyone—or there ought to be. “It irritates me when I’m at a party and someone says, ‘What do you do?’ and I say, ‘I’m a physicist,’ and their response is, ‘Oooh, that’s hard.’ They are forgetting that they are scientists by nature—they have questions about the world, and we can answer them. As a teaching community, we’re missing the boat if people have that reaction.”
For more information, please click here.

Smith Leads a Science Transformation

     A University of Maine researcher is participating in five projects aimed at improving nationwide science instruction and assessments.
Michelle Smith, assistant professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology, is the principal investigator on four projects and co-principal investigator on another granted $6.8 million in total funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF); UMaine’s portion is $1,012,269.
The projects, three of which are collaborative with other universities, involve UMaine administrators, faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students, undergraduates and area K-12 teachers. “All of these stakeholders … will contribute to national initiatives to improve science education,” says Smith, a member of the Maine Center for Research in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education (Maine RiSE Center).
For more information, please click here.

No Question Left Behind Teacher Conference, 2013


Image Description: The Summit

Image Description: Outside Erickson Hall, Point Lookout

Image Description: View from cabin road at Point Lookout, 2013

Image Description: Welcome to the 2013 Center for Research in STEM Education No Question Left Behind Conference

Image Description: Susan McKay, Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, Opening Remarks

Image Description: Steve Kaback, a Maine Center for Reserach in STEM Education original

Image Description: Don't sneer at engineers

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Image Description: Learning Gene Sequencing with Legos

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Image Description: Workshop led by Misty Conrath

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Thesis Defense – Zachary Batz


MST Candidate
Zachary Batz

Thesis Advisor: Michelle K. Smith

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science in Teaching

August, 2014

 Reaching Struggling Introductory Biology Students with a
Targeted Peer Tutoring Program

Low persistence in STEM majors has long been an area of concern for institutions and educational researchers. The transition from introductory to advanced courses has been identified as a particularly “leaky” point along the STEM pipeline. Students who struggle early in an introductory STEM course rarely show significant improvement over the remainder of the semester. This poor early performance can damage self-efficacy and result in disengagement in the course, negative perceptions of the field, and reduced persistence in the course. This study examined the wide impact of an optional peer tutoring specifically targeted at these students who experience early difficulties in a large-enrollment, introductory biology course. Outcomes were measured using a combination of course performance, course management system data, and self-report surveys. Students who regularly attended peer tutoring were found to have increased engagement in the course, more expert-like perceptions of biology, better exam performance, and increased persistence relative to their peers who were not attending the peer tutoring sessions. Implications of these findings for universities looking to offer targeted academic assistance are discussed within.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014
12:00-1:00 pm
113 Estabrooke Hall



Commencement Speaker 2014 – Justin D. Lewin

Justin D. Lewin
College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture
Bachelor of Science in Biology

Justin D. Lewin of Castle Hill, Maine, majored in biology. He also began graduate work toward a Master of Science in Teaching. His numerous academic honors include an Armed Forces Communication & Electronics Association STEM Teachers for America’s Future Scholarship and Maine PSP Summer Undergraduate Research Assistant Fellowship, both in 2012, and a UMaine Center for Undergraduate Research Fellowship in spring 2013. This spring, with a grant from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Mr. Lewin interned at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. His work in a reproductive biology lab there focused on better understanding spermatogenesis that may lead to potential targets for infertility treatment and/or male contraception. On campus, Mr. Lewin’s research in the School of Biology and Ecology included collaboration with Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Michelle Smith, analyzing the effectiveness of clickers — personal response systems — in middle school science education classes. He also was a teaching partner at Leonard Middle School and a tutor at Stillwater Montessori School, both in Old Town, Maine. Mr. Lewin was active in UMaine’s Peer Tutor Program, served as president of the Community Governing Board and as a UMaine resident assistant. He also was an active community volunteer. He expects to complete his master’s degree in 2016 and hopes to be a public school teacher of life science or physical science.

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RiSE Colloquium – Monday, April 28 – Speaker, Vicki Sealey, Dept of Mathematics, WVA University

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
University of Maine, Orono, Maine


Vicki Sealey

Department of Mathematics
West Virginia University

Lessons Learned from Research on Student Understanding of the Definite Integral


Abstract:  The Riemann sum and definite integral have numerous applications in the sciences and certainly are important to the mathematical community, in their own right.  Over the years, my goal has been to develop research-based curriculum materials for first-semester calculus courses that support students’ conceptual development of the definite integral, promote mathematical sophistication, and encourage students to see the connections in applications in the sciences.  In this talk, I will highlight several of the lessons learned over the past ten years of studying the teaching and learning of the Riemann sum and definite integral among first-semester calculus students.  Specifically, we will discuss several of the obstacles students have when developing an initial understanding of Riemann sums, definite integrals, and the connection to area under a curve.

Bio:  Dr. Vicki Sealey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at West Virginia University, where she coordinates the calculus sequence and conducts research in mathematics education.  She completed a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at West Virginia University, a master’s degree in applied mathematics at the University of Washington, and a PhD at Arizona State University where she studied undergraduate mathematics education.


Monday, April 28, 2014

3:00-4:00 pm

Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium

Room 165, Engineering and Science Research Building


Past Center News

Additional Links

Contact Information

The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
5727 Estabrooke Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5727
Phone: (207) 581-4672 | Fax: (207) 581-9555E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469