Skip Navigation
Return to Layout View | Home | A-Z Directory | my UMaine | MaineStreet | Campus Map | Calendar
Follow UMaine on Twitter | Join UMaine on Facebook | Watch UMaine on YouTube | Admissions | Parents & Family | Emergency

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

Site Navigation:

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

Image Description:

Image Description: Learning Gene Sequencing with Legos

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description: Workshop led by Misty Conrath

Image Description:

Image Description:

Image Description:

Thesis Defense – April 9 – Shawn Firouzian


MST Candidate
Shahram Shawn Firouzian
Thesis Advisor: Natasha Speer

Thesis Committee:
Natasha M. Speer
Robert Franzosa
John Thompson

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

May, 2014

Correlations Between Students’ Multiple Ways of Thinking About the Derivative and Their Abilities to Solve Applied Derivative Problems

There is extensive research on students’ understanding, thinking and difficulties with the derivative and applied derivative problems, however there are very little works correlating the two fields. In this study, the correlations between students’ multiple ways of thinking about the derivative and their abilities in solving the applied derivative problems such as related rate and graphing problems are investigated. Fine-grained analysis of the students’ written surveys and clinical interviews revealed that students’ having two or more ways of thinking about the derivative correlate to their higher abilities in solving applied derivative problems.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014
4:30 p.m.
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, ESRB

RiSE Colloquium, April 7, 2014 – Eric Pandiscio

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education
(RiSE Center)
Colloquia & Seminar Series


Eric Pandiscio
Department of Exercise Science and STEM Education
Maine RiSE Center, University of Maine

 Differentiated student thinking while solving
a distance vs. time graph problem

 This study probes the thinking of students at different stages of mathematical experience: college students who have taken calculus; college students who have not taken calculus; current high school mathematics teachers; graduate students in a discipline-based mathematics education program.  The study asks:

Using a covariational framework (Carlson, Jacobs, Coe, Larsen & Hsu, 2002), preliminary data reveal many students have difficulty working with phenomena that display varying rates of change.  Data also indicate many students estimate answers, even when an exact answer is possible.  Data were collected via written surveys and semi-structured oral interviews.  This work builds on, yet diverges from, prior research in physics education (McDermott, Rosenquist & van Zee, 1987; Thornton & Sokoloff, 1990; Kim & Kim, 2005), and mathematics education (Chiu, Kessel, Moschkovich & Munch-Nunez, 2001; Moschkovich, 1996) that describes difficulties students have with graph interpretation.

  Monday,  April 7, 2014
3:00-4:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

RiSE Colloquium – March 17, 2014 – Lauren Barth-Cohen, Speaker

Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)
Colloquia & Seminar Series


Lauren Barth-Cohen, PhD
Post-Doctoral Research and Teaching Associate
Center for Research in STEM Education, University of Maine

Evidence Construction in a Field Geology Environment

 Abstract: Evidence is key to many scientific practices including argumentation, explanation, and modeling. For learners engaged in scientific practices, often we aim for them to construct scientific evidence from observations in the world, but the details of how learners go from observation to verbal accounts of evidence in support of a claim in a complicated environment has been overlooked.  In this talk we argue that much can be learned about scientific practices from examining how evidence is constructed from human sensory data. We present a case of one teacher who was involved in an evidence construction activity as part of a professional development workshop in a field geology environment. Using theoretical machinery from coordination class theory we model the evidence construction process, specifically how observations as connected with prior knowledge turn into evidence for a claim.  Use this model we illuminate the teacher constructing evidence to support a claim for the relative ages of two types of rocks in the field, and we also use the model to illustrate her constructing hypothetical evidence to support an alternative claim. This case illustrates the importance of a commonly overlooked dimension of scientific practices, and implications suggest that  evidence construction is applicable to both instruction and professional development.

Monday,  March 17, 2014
3:00 pm

 Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall

Image Description: Maine Center for Research in STEM Education

Natasha Speer – October 7 Colloquium

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


Natasha M. Speer, Department of Mathematics & Statistics and Maine RiSE Center,
The University of Maine
Brian Frank, Department of Physics & Astronomy,
Middle Tennessee State University

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm
Arthur St. John Hill, ESRB, Barrows Hall

Developing knowledge for teaching velocity and acceleration

Over the past two decades education researchers have demonstrated that various types of knowledge, including pedagogical content knowledge, influence teachers’ instructional practices and their students’ learning opportunities. Findings suggest that by engaging in the work of teaching, teachers acquire knowledge of how students think, but we have not yet captured this learning as it occurs. We examined whether novice instructors can develop such knowledge via the activities of attending to student work and we identified mechanisms by which such knowledge development occurs. Data come from interviews with physics graduate teaching assistants as they examined and discussed students’ written work on problems involving rates of change. During those discussions, some instructors appear to develop new knowledge–either about students’ thinking or about the content—and others did not. We compare and contrast three cases representing a range of outcomes and identify factors that enabled some instructors to build new knowledge.



Natasha Speer is faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UMaine and is also a member of the Maine Research in STEM Education Center. The focus of her work is on the teaching and learning of college level mathematics. She researches the knowledge teachers use when teaching calculus. In particular, she examines the kinds of knowledge needed by teachers to facilitate mathematically productive classroom discussions. She also conducts research into how graduate students learn to teach and is involved in a variety of projects to develop and provide teaching-related professional development for novice teachers of college mathematics.

Brian Frank is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Middle Tennessee State University, where he conducts physics education research and prepares future physics teachers. His research focuses on knowledge development in pre-service physics teachers and student engagement with physics outside of the classroom.

Oral Thesis Defense – Nitisha Mitchell

The University of Maine and the
Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center)


MST Candidate: Nitisha Mitchell
Thesis Advisor: Leonard Kass

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

August, 2013

Student Understanding of Cardiovascular Physiology:
The relationship between pressure, flow, and resistance

An Introductory course in Anatomy and Physiology is an essential body of knowledge for students ranging from nursing to pre-medical training. Although, there are a range of professional careers that require students to take anatomy and physiology, not much research has been done to examine content issues students may have.  An investigation of students enrolled in an introductory anatomy and physiology course and an advanced physiology course, at the University of Maine, will be used to determine if this population of students understands cardiovascular phenomena, such as pressure/flow/resistance, or do they simply memorize terms associated with the physiology of the system?  A previous study done by Michael’s and his colleagues, in 2002, found that students have difficulty understanding the relationship between cardiac output, mean arterial pressure, and peripheral resistance.  With this information I developed ten-question survey where each question altered one or more variables in the equation: Cardiac Output = Mean arterial Pressure / Peripheral Resistance.  The present study was conducted in order to examine whether the findings from that previous research could be applied to physiology coursework delivered at the University of Maine.  Recommendations are made based-upon these findings.

Monday, July 1, 2013
1 pm
Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium
165 Barrows Hall


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