Community-Based Research

Susan McKay

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

Current Research

My research revolves around theoretical condensed matter physics; phase transitions and critical phenomena; spin glasses, amorphous magnetism, quenched disorder; nonlinear systems and chaos; pattern formation; phase transitions in non-equilibrium systems; models of lateral organization in biological membranes; science education; student learning in science.

Some of my main research foci are:

  • Renormalization-group mappings of systems with competing interactions;
  • Non-linear systems and transitions to chaos;
  • Improving science education by providing research internships for pre- and in-service teachers;
  • Development of realistic models for biological membranes (in collaboration with Professor Sam Hess);
  • Developer and graduate coordinator of the Master of Science in Teaching Program; and
  • Founding director of the University’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research.


Mitchell R. Bruce










Current Projects

  • I am co-originator and present Director of the InterChemNet project ( Funded by U.S. Department of Education and instrument manufacturers, the project involves making chemical instrumentation accessible to students (UV-vis and FTIR), permitting experimental choice, developing unique student assignments, and integrating assessment in large introductory chemistry courses. Six high schools and another college will participate in the project next year.
  • In the area of Peer Led Team Learning, I have been responsible (with F. Amar) for introducing PLTL to the University of Maine’s chemistry department and have helped develop a highly successful PLTL leader-training program. Over the course of two semesters, 6 faculty and 60 PLTL leaders have helped 1,000 general chemistry students learn chemistry.
  • I was also instrumental in the formation of the UMaine Center for Science and Mathematics Educational Research; FIE #R125K010106 (
  • During the last three years, over twenty-five national presentations have resulted from these chemical education projects.


Michael Wittmann

MWittmann doing his thing

Current Projects

  • Student knowledge: student reasoning in physics, including studying student use of mathematics in advanced physics
  • Teacher knowledge: teacher reasoning in the physical sciences, including the interactions between content knowledge, knowledge of student ideas, assessment, and teaching
  • Learning sciences: building models that account for student performance in answering physics questions
  • Qualitative research methods in PER: discourse analysis and gesture analysis

Recent Publications

  • BARTH-COHEN, L. A. and WITTMANN, M. C. (2017), Aligning Coordination Class Theory With a New Context: Applying a Theory of Individual Learning to Group Learning. Sci. Ed.. doi:10.1002/sce.21264
  • Alvarado, C., Wittmann, M., Rogers, A., & Millay, L. (2016, July 20-21). Problematizing “cold” with K12 Science Teachers. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2016, Sacramento, CA. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
  • Wittmann, M., Alvarado, C., & Millay, L. (2016, July 20-21). Teachers’ explanations of student difficulties with gravitational potential energy. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2016, Sacramento, CA. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from

Sarah J. Nelson

Sarah Nelson, Assistant Research Professor, Senator George J. Mitchell Center

Current Projects/Interests

  • Formal Science Education
  • Citizen Science
  • Local Community Outreach
  • Science Data Literacy