UMaine education professor named NSF program director

Asli Sezen-Barrie
Asli Sezen-Barrie

Asli Sezen-Barrie, an associate professor of curriculum, assessment and instruction in the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development, has been named rotating program director of the National Science Foundation’s Division for Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL).

Sezen-Barrie, who joined UMaine’s faculty in 2017, will be in the role for two years during which time she will be based at NSF headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The position is designed to ease cooperation between government, higher education and other stakeholders. Sezen-Barrie will make recommendations about funding proposals, influence new directions and collaborations in research, and mentor junior colleagues.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with researchers and programs across the country to improve STEM teaching and learning for people of all ages,” says Sezen-Barrie.

The DRL’s mission includes promoting innovative research, development, and evaluation of learning and teaching across STEM fields by advancing cutting-edge knowledge and practices in both formal and informal learning settings. In addition, the division seeks to advance capacity and impact in the educational sciences by encouraging the participation of scientists, engineers and educators from the range of disciplines within NSF.

Sezen-Barrie’s research focuses on providing theoretical and empirical contributions to the design of meaningful and equitable science and engineering learning environments for all students, with an emphasis on promoting teacher and student agency. While working to integrate climate change and engineering into science classrooms, Sezen-Barrie explores versatile aspects of science and engineering practices and ways for underrepresented students to succeed in science classrooms.  

She earned her Ph.D. in science education at Pennsylvania State University in 2011, where she worked with local middle school teachers to improve formative assessments practices for rigorous and responsive science classrooms.

Prior to UMaine, she was a faculty member at Towson University, where she led a middle school science major and a two-state NSF project on climate change education. She also has been a middle-grades science teacher in Istanbul, Turkey, and a coordinator for educational activities for botanical gardens in Istanbul and Oxford, England.

She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, chairs the research committee of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST), and serves as program chair of the American Education Research Association’s Environmental Education Special Interest Group. Sezen-Barrie has worked with teachers on classroom implementation of Next Generation Science Standards in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Maine. Her work was nominated for early career research awards at NARST and the International Society of Learning Sciences. Sezen-Barrie is a successful grant writer, securing funding as principal investigator or co-PI from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security and the Maine Space Grant Consortium.

A Q&A with Sezen-Barrie about her appointment as rotating program director at NSF is on the College of Education and Human Development website.

Contact: Casey Kelly,