Research Projects

Here's what I've been up.

Using big data to understand educational outcomes

With nearly everything aspect of a student's time at a university documented in a database, there is an excited opportunity to study educational outcomes for college students. Yet, how to work with such data and obtain useful insights from it is an ongoing area of inquiry. As a postdoc at the University of Michigan, my research focuses developing tools for researchers and instructors to understand the data generated by their students and how to apply the results.

Currently, I am part of the Assessment Toolkit team. Using the university's student data warehouse, we are creating automated analyses to analyze grade equity in courses in departments as well as outcomes like time to graduation.

I'm also conducting work on complex-multiple choice questions to see if those might unfairly penalize students. These questions are claimed to be harder, but harder for who? I'm trying to figure that out in the context of introductory physics using data from CAI's Problem Roulette software.

Understanding the graduate admissions process in physics

As physics has remained one of the least diverse STEM fields, increasing attention is directed toward the admission practices of graduate programs. There are many components to a quality graduate application and I am interested in how those components of the application influence whether the admission committee will accept or reject the student.

As part of this research, I've investigated how rubric-based holistic admissions might provide a route to make admissions more equitable. Using machine learning methods to compare how our program admitted applicants before and after the implementation of the rubric, I found that rubrics-based admissions does appear to be a promising path forward.

As part of this work, I've also investigated whether the physics GRE helps applicants who might be missed in the admissions process stand out as it is often claimed to do. The results suggest the opposite! For many of the applicants who might be able to benefit from a high score, they didn't actually benefit. Further, some otherwise competitive applicants had lower chances of admission due to their scores.

Science Communication and PERbites

PERbites is a site devoted to making the results of physics education accessible to those outside of the PER community. The site is one of about a dozen in the ScienceBites community, which consists of graduate students and postdocs from around the world working to present their research fields in understandable ways to those outside of the field.