Bio and career

For full information about my career, see my Curriculum Vitae.

For a briefer description about who I am, see the “About” page.

Articles about me

Because my career path has been somewhat unusual, there have been several articles about my transition from science, to science writing, to science education.

My career

I have an undergraduate degree in social psychology, a PhD in physics, extensive experience in science journalism, podcasting, and multimedia production, and I took a stint in the Peace Corps.  I’m a polymath, and curious, and this is my strength.

I entered Bard College as a physics major, but felt discouraged by my perception that the classes were easier for others than for me.  I later found out that I was one of the best students in the class.  (This is a classic case of imposter syndrome).  I switched to social psychology, which I loved, and gave me a solid grounding in the social sciences. I kept studying science and math and realized that I wanted to learn more physics.

stephlabAfter spending two years in the Peace Corps in Guinea, West Africa (and founding the nonprofit Friends of Guinea upon my return), I was accepted for graduate studies in physics at University of California Santa Cruz.  My doctorate was in condensed matter physics, and focused on making cheaper solar energy using semiconducting plastics.

While in graduate school, I fiddled around a lot in science education, through science fairs, tutoring and teaching, coursework, rehashing of undergrad lab manuals, and other such delights. I also worked as a freelance science journalist, amassing a little list of publications in the popular press on a variety of topics such as evolutionary biology, light propagation, and AIDS. I spent the summer of 2003 as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at National Pnpr3ublic Radio in Washington DC. This was a transformative experience, as I learned how to write short, and accurately, and got to shadow amazing reporters on the job. I also became an audio addict, and later used these skills to create audio podcasts and other multimedia.

postdocs_smAfter graduate school, I took a postdoctoral position at the Exploratorium Museum of Science in San Francisco, as part of a new NSF program to teach scientists to do public education. To the left is a photo of me with the other postdocs at the museum.  While at the Exploratorium, I worked with my mentor and friend Paul Doherty, created and taught hands-on science workshops for teachers, and wrote and produced several podcasts.  The Exploratorium was a deeply inspiring place to be, and I decided that I wanted to leave science journalism, and dedicate my life to reforming science education to be more inspiring.

I then moved to Boulder, Colorado, to learn more about science education and research-based teaching methods (to become an “informed activist” in the word of a colleague).  I joined the Science Education Initiative (SEI) at the University of Colorado Boulder as a postdoc in physics, and my research is best-known on the impact of the SEI model, and student learning in upper division physics.  See peer-reviewed publications.  I have also created a wide variety of multimedia products for the PhET Interactive Simulations as their multimedia director.

I am now the PI of the TRESTLE (Transforming Education, Stimulating Teaching and Learning Excellence) project at CU Boulder, helping to leverage the existing expertise built through the SEI to support further change at the institution.  Through my consulting business, I am connected to a wide variety of national STEM reform projects in physics and beyond.  I have strategically avoided a faculty track, and consider myself a change agent and academic “at large,” providing expertise and woman-power to support broad change in STEM education.  See my full list of clients.  I am also a mom, hiker, climber, and dancer.