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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


Project team members

Egla Ochoa-Madrid (Public Relations Lead)

Egla Ochoa-Madrid is currently a second year Masters student in the Department of Physics and a member of the Texas State Physics Education Research group. For this project, she has 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 be a part of this team. She is looking forward to working on this project as it considers the diverse background that STEM students like herself come from. 

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. Mavreen Rose Tuvilla (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Mavreen Rose S. Tuvilla is a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University. 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 is the postdoc tasked to enact and manage the programmatic aspects of the program and lead the expansion of the Learning Assistant Program. She looks forward to working with STEM faculty and students and learn more about enacting sustained institutional change through culturally relevant teaching. She is 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.

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 development of the Summer 2020 STEM Teaching workshop and may contribute at a similar level in the future.

Dr. Brianne Gutmann (Postdoctoral Researcher)

Dr. Brianne Gutmann is a postdoctoral researcher at Texas State University, doing physics education research. 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 has primarily worked to co-develop and co-facilitate the Summer 2020 STEM Teaching Workshop.

Venkata Sowjanya Koka (Graduate Research Assistant)

Venkata Sowjanya Koka is a second-year Masters student in Data Analytics and Information Systems program. Sowjanya applies 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 Research Associate Professor of Education at Texas State University and the director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research. Her research is focused on interest, motivation, identity and learning in engineering education and on instructional approaches that strive to engage students. She is the PI on a $15M NASA grant at Texas State to provide STEM professional development for K-12 teachers and STEM engagement programming for economically disadvantaged students.

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.