Last month, Anita Schuchardt, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning (BTL), received the National Association for Research in Science Teaching Outstanding Doctoral Research Award for her dissertation “Learning Biology Through Connecting Mathematics to Scientific Mechanisms: Student Outcomes and Teacher Supports.”
“This is a wonderful recognition of the excellent work Anita has done and will continue to build upon as a faculty member in BTL,” says David Kirkpatrick, interim head of the the department.
Schuchardt joined the college’s faculty this fall after completing her Ph.D. in learning sciences and policy at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on how using mathematical modeling helps students better grasp biology-based concepts and apply them in their work.
Schuchardt’s interest in the intersection of math and biology education was sparked as a high school science teacher. She observed that students did better when mathematical modeling was part of the mix. “Math increased the students’ understanding and their ability to assess more complex problems, to connect the dots,” she says.
The insight provided the foundation for her award-winning dissertation. In her research, she saw a dramatic increase in scientific understanding when students used math equations to help explain how a biological process worked. As a member of the BTL faculty she is putting her findings into practice and developing new research questions to further illuminate the connection between using math in science courses and better student outcomes.
“BTL is the perfect marriage of biology and education science,” she says. “Here I get to put both parts of myself—researcher and educator—back together.”