Susan McKay

Director and Faculty Member of the RiSE Center
Professor of Physics

Estabrooke Hall 111 (Bennett Hall 104)
207.581.4678 (207.581.1019)
Email Susan McKay

Recent Publications


Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1987
M.S., University of Maine, 1979
A.B., Princeton University, 1975


Dr. McKay is PI on multiple education research and education improvement grants, including the Maine Physical Sciences Curriculum Partnership (DRL 0962805), a Model NSF Teaching Fellowship Program (DUE 1557320), and the Maine Elementary Sciences Partnership (Maine Department of Education). Her recent research investigates implementation of place-based education in high school science classrooms and accountable talk in middle and high school classrooms.

Dr. McKay’s physics 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 her main research foci have been:

  • 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.


Dr. McKay has recently advised the following MST thesis projects:

Discussion in Middle and High School Earth Science Classrooms and Its Impact on Students’ Abilities to Construct Evidence-Based Arguments in Their Written Work, Rachel Martin, Summer 2016

Evaluation of the Collaborative Design Process and Classroom Implementation of a Place-Relevant Lesson in Ninth Grade Earth Science Classrooms, Marina Van der Eb, Summer 2016