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Project leaders

Dr. Heather Galloway (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Heather Galloway is Dean of the Honors College, Professor in Physics and the Principal Investigator for this project. She is involved in designing all project activities, and helps to coordinate the various aspects of the project. She also acts as a primary project contact for faculty in all of the departments in the College of Science and Engineering and other campus administrators.

Faculty profile 


Dr. Eleanor Close (Co-Principal Investigator)

Dr. Eleanor Close is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and the Director of the Physics Learning Assistant (LA) Program. She has a lead role in designing programmatic activities for this project, including structuring and facilitating activities that promote the development of instructional partnerships between STEM faculty and undergraduate students. She is also collaborating with Dr. Alice Olmstead to research the development of faculty-student communities. She has extensive experience in course redesign using the LA model and developed the pedagogy course that is currently required of all Physics LAs at Texas State. Her research focuses on physics identity development, particularly for LAs and future physics teachers. 

Research page


Dr. Li Feng (Co-Principal Investigator)

Dr. Li Feng is an Associate Professor in the Department of Finance & Economics. For this project, she will use longitudinal data from Hispanic Serving and non-Hispanic Serving Institutions with and without Learning Assistant (LA) programs to examine how participation in these programs may improve workforce outcomes for students. She will also contribute to programmatic activities that involve quantitative statistics. Her research applies quantitative econometrics tools to quantitative education data and employs rigorous research design to inform education policy.

Faculty profile

Research page


Dr. Cynthia Luxford (Co-Principal Investigator)

Dr. Cynthia (Cindy) Luxford is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Within this project, she has a lead role in gathering and analyzing STEM student data at Texas State and looking for patterns in student retention. Much of this data collection will be conducted in collaboration with groups of faculty in specific STEM departments. Her methodological expertise includes survey development, validating survey data through interviews, exam writing, validity and reliability measures, and development and analysis of concept inventories. Her research has included measuring chemistry student attitudes, problem solving skills, and study habits, and the role these habits have on their success in future chemistry courses. 

Faculty profile

Research page


Dr. Alice Olmstead (Co-Principal Investigator)

Dr. Olmstead

Dr. Alice Olmstead is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and the Co-Director of the Physics Learning Assistant Program. Within this project, she has a lead role in designing programmatic activities for faculty, including overseeing the formation of teams and planning activities to engage both faculty and students in improving instruction. She and Dr. Close are also co-leading research on the formation of faculty-student communities. Her research expertise is on change strategies for undergraduate STEM and includes modeling instructional change teams and analyzing professional development workshop design. She has also led collaborative redesign/design of introductory astronomy courses for STEM majors.

Research page


Current project team members

Dr. Jiwoo An Pierson (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Jiwoo An Pierson is a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University. She earned her doctorate degree in Chemistry with specialization in chemistry education from Iowa State University in July 2020, and M.S. in Analytical Chemistry in March 2018. Her doctoral research focused on measuring students’ attitude and motivation in chemistry classrooms, specifically related to the use of technology in laboratory and the incorporation of systems thinking instructional approach. A big part of her doctoral work involved developing and analyzing survey instruments to study the affective learning domain of general chemistry students. As a postdoctoral researcher, she will be working to collect and analyze data concerning departmental instructional assessments and student outcomes through the STEM communities project, and supporting the faculty in transforming their classrooms to be more inclusive and equitable for all students at Texas State University.

Dr. Charles Ramey II (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Charles Ramey II is a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University. Charles received his B.S. in Physics Engineering from Virginia State University and for several years taught high school physics.  He then moved to Texas and attended Texas Tech University where he received his M.S. in Physics (2018), and his M.Ed. (2020) and Ph.D. (2021) in Educational Psychology. His dissertation implemented social cognitive theory’s reciprocal determinism as a framework to understand the triadic influence of psychological and environmental factors for Black high school students that pursued STEM for higher education. As a postdoctoral researcher, he is working on the programmatic components of the STEM Communities project, such as professional development, Learning Assistant preparation, and programmatic research. Charles has taught primary to higher education with a purpose of student-centered transformative practices that empower students and faculty.

Babitha Govindaiah (Graduate Research Assistant)

Babitha Govindaiah is a second-year Masters student in the Texas State Data Analytics and Information Systems program. She has worked in computer manufacturing industry for 3 years as a data warehouse developer. Babitha has has various skills with a focus on data, such as data visualization, data science, and data analysis. And she will be helping and contributing to data analysis and visualization with the data team.

Dr. Amreen Nasim Thompson (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Amreen Nasim Thompson is a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University. Amreen received her B.S (Hons) in Biological Sciences from the University of Brighton, her British teaching license (Secondary Science) and her MEd from the University of Sussex. Amreen worked as a secondary science teacher in the UK before moving to Colorado to pursue her PhD in Science Education, which she completed in May 2019. Her research group was awarded an NSF IUSE in 2015 to characterize active learning in introductory courses. It is from this research that Amreen’s dissertation and research interest in undergraduate STEM education reform emerged.  She recently joined Dr. Olmstead’s research group to work on the NSF IUSE Furthering the Work of STEM Undergraduate Transformation: Modeling Instructional Change Teams project. For this project, Amreen has supported the planning and facilitation of the Summer 2020 STEM Teaching workshop and the 2021 Summer Institute for course redesign teams.

Project team alumni

Egla Ochoa-Madrid (Public Relations Lead)

Egla Ochoa-Madrid graduated from the Masters program in the Department of Physics and was a member of the Texas State Physics Education Research group. For this project, she had a lead role in making sure that project resources and information are easily accessible to faculty and students at Texas State, as well as to researchers and stakeholders outside of Texas State. Her thesis focuses on understanding how to support students' reasoning about large-scale ethical issues in physics. She is very happy to have been a part of this team, and appreciates how this project considers the diverse background that STEM students like herself come from. 

Dr. Mavreen Rose Tuvilla (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Mavreen Rose S. Tuvilla was a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University from Summer 2020--2021. She finished her Ph.D. in Chemistry (Chemistry Education) at Purdue University and obtained her M.S. Chemistry at Texas A&M University. She has worked on two NSF-funded projects – one focused on developing and implementing an after school program to advance resettled Burmese refugee youths’ STEM literacy; and, the other focused on developing a professional development program to assist teachers in their science teaching in linguistically super diverse classrooms. For this project, Mavreen was the postdoc tasked to enact and manage the programmatic aspects of the program and lead the expansion of the Learning Assistant Program. She enjoyed working with STEM faculty and students and learning more about enacting sustained institutional change through culturally relevant teaching. She was also especially excited to be part of a collaborative project of this scale in preparation for her future goal of working towards school change to improve the educational circumstances of minoritized learners. She left this project to accept a Careers Scientist position in the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutions of Health.

Dr. Brianne Gutmann (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Brianne Gutmann was a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University, doing physics education research, from Summer 2019--2021. She finished her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she developed and tested adaptive online homework exercises based on mastery learning principles, which were implemented in a preparatory physics course for aspiring engineers. She is also invested in equity-oriented community building and mentoring networks, and is an organizer for The Access Network. At Texas State University, her research focuses on supporting students’ conversations around the intersections of science, society, and ethics in STEM classrooms. Within the STEM Communities project, she primarily worked to co-develop and co-facilitate the Summer 2020 STEM Teaching Workshop. She is currently a Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has accepted a tenure-track faculty position in the Physics department at San Jose State University.

Venkata Sowjanya Koka (Graduate Research Assistant)

Venkata Sowjanya Koka graduated from the Texas State Masters' Program in Data Analytics and Information Systems. Sowjanya applied her data analysis and visualization skills in support of the data team. She graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering. Sowjanya enjoys working with data for strategic planning in different stages such as pre-processing of raw data, data visualization and application of state-of-the-art machine learning techniques. In her spare time, she volunteers as a Social Co-Chair for NAWMBA. She also enjoys playing throwball, badminton and indoor games.

Project evaluators and advisors

Tessa Andrews (Advisory Board member)

Dr. Tessa Andrews is an Assistant Professor of Genetics at the University of Georgia. She conducts research to better understand how college STEM faculty can be supported to effectively implement evidence-based instructional practices in their instructional contexts. She is a co-PI of an NSF Institutional Transformation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education grant that engages faculty from across STEM, and she brings expertise in education research and the management of large-scale change efforts.

Research page

Araceli Martinez Ortiz (Advisory Board member)

Dr. Araceli Martinez Ortiz is a NASA Minority Serving Institution Faculty Fellow. She is a professor of Engineering Education in the Department of Biomedical Engineering & Chemical Engineering/Interdisciplinary Learning & Teaching and holds the Microsoft President’s Endowed Professorship at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Dr. Ortiz has a passion for motivating and extending STEM education access to students and teachers in underserved and underrepresented communities.

Faculty profile

Daniel Reinholz (Advisory Board member)

Dr. Daniel Reinholz is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education and also one of the inaugural Provost's Professors of Equity in Education at San Diego State University. He focuses on creating tools for educational transformation to improve equity and mitigate systemic oppression. He is a co-PI on the NSF-funded Departmental Action Team project for STEM departmental change, and also a co-developer of the EQUIP tool, which is a free web-based classroom observational tool for tracking patterns of implicit bias in teaching.

Research page

Mel Sabella (Advisory Board member)

Mel Sabella is a Professor of Physics at Chicago State, co-director of the university’s LA program, and a member of the LA Alliance Leadership Council. Dr. Sabella has developed a nuanced understanding of the implementation and sustainability of the LA Model in diverse institutional settings. His current research focus is on the types of professional partnerships that LAs and faculty develop as they co-think about the best way to support students in STEM classes.