STEM Education Institute Seminars

Seminars are usually held at 4PM on the first and third Tuesdays of each month during the academic year.

Everyone is welcome; no reservations are needed, and there is no charge.

Parking is available in the Campus Center Garage.


September 21 John Stoffolano, Department of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences, University of Massachusetts. “Once Your Course is Online, What Do You Do?”

Let me begin by telling you that after 35 years of teaching at Umass, I can confidently say “I prefer teaching online.” I firmly believe that there isn’t anything I can’t do online that I could do in a regular classroom. I will share with you how my course is organized and the types of instructional tools or materials that I use to deliver Ent. 671 – Using Insects in the Classroom to teachers and graduate students planning to teach. Finally, I will enter into the area of what one does once their course has been taught online for a few years. This is the exciting part and an area I believe few faculty take advantage of once their course is online.


October 5 Richard Yuretich, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts .

“Davis Mine in Rowe, Massachusetts: An Opportunity for Environmental Education”

Davis Mine in Rowe, MA operated from 1882 until 1911, producing pyrite from a mineralized zone in the bedrock of this part of the Berkshire Mountains.  Since the time of the mine collapse in 1911, the shafts have filled with water and produced very acidic (pH =2 to 3) effluent that contains very high concentrations of sulfate, iron, and trace metals from the exposed tailings piles in surface runoff and groundwater. This effluent flows into Davis Mine Brook, which is a subwatershed of the Deerfield River basin. Fish are absent from the entire length of Davis Mine Brook, more than 2 km downstream from the mine. In areas peripheral to the site of acid mine-drainage generation, there is evidence of an active microbial community that reduces the dissolved sulfate, and possibly iron, to remediate the acidic drainage. The project is exploring ways to enhance the activity of these organisms to help mitigate the effect of the mine drainage.

            As part of this research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, we have included K12 teachers in the research team. These teachers have undertaken summer research projects in the laboratory and at the field site, and they have produced results that are fundamental to the progress of the research. Each teacher is developing a plan to integrate aspects of his or her research into their curriculum. In addition, the Davis Mine site is proving to be an excellent locus for environmental education of undergraduates and the general public.


October 19   James W. Walker, Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts.  

“Cosmos to Humanity: From the Big Bang to the Space Age: The Use of PowerPoint Presentations and Online Material in a Course Specially Designed for the Commonwealth Honors College”


Biology 270H: Cosmos to Humanity­ From the Big Bang to the Space Age is a course specially designed for students in the Commonwealth Honors College that provides the prerequisite background in the natural sciences that all well-educated persons of the 21st century should possess. The course, which is jointly taught by faculty from the Departments of Physics, Astronomy, Geosciences, Microbiology, Biology, and Anthropology, covers the grandest panorama of all - beginning with the origin of the universe and ending with the rise of humanity. Emphasis is on the greatest questions posed by the human mind. Major topics include the ultimate nature of nature: space-time and matter-energy, origin and ultimate fate of the universe, evolution of galaxies, stars and the elements, origin of the solar system and the Earth, origin of life on Earth, the microbial world, plant and animal evolution, primates and the origin and evolution of humans, and Charles Darwin and the process of biological evolution. Students read articles by leading scientists and science writers at an online course website in preparation for discussion sections. The course website is:  


November 9  Avi Hofstein, Department of Science Teaching, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. The Development of Leadership Among Science Teachers for the Implementation of New Content and Pedagogical Standards”

New standards in science education are being advocated which reflect the current vision of the content, classroom environment, teaching methods, and support necessary to provide a high quality education in the sciences for all students. One of the ways to attain these goals is to treat teachers as equal partners in the attempt to attain these goals. In other words, teachers have to play a greater role in providing key leadership at all levels of the educational system. I will describe a program that was used to develop leadership among chemistry teachers; similar models were also used to develop leadership among physics, biology and general science teachers).



November 23   Krishna Vedula,  College of Engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell. “Working Together to Improve the STEM Pipeline”

The presentation will focus on successful collaborations between K-12, higher education and business to improve the STEM Pipeline. In particular, Dr. Vedula will describe his efforts to build such collaborations over the past 7 years in MA. Such efforts have multiple goals and need to emphasize the importance of STEM education for future of the economy and jobs for youth; demonstrate real world engineering and technology examples for improving MCAS math and science scores; engage business leaders and higher education faculty; assist STEM teachers to enhance student performance in STEM disciplines; help recruit women and minorities and help recruit and retain high quality STEM teachers. The recently formed Regional PreK-16 Networks are focusing on these goals. Dr. Vedula will describe progress of these Networks which were formed with support from State in the form of a Pipeline Fund.



December 7  Chris Emery,  Physics and Electronics, Amherst Regional High School; Mary Mawn, Teacher Education & Curriculum Studies, University of Massachusetts.  “Science Education Online:  Inquiry and Electricity and Magnetism Course - What We Learned”

This past summer the graduate course Inquiry and the Teaching of Electricity and Magnetism was offered online for the first time.  One of the goals for this course was to have students “learn by doing” by participating in a variety of guided and open-ended inquiries.  Throughout the course, students were able to answer existing questions and to ask deeper questions as a result of doing lab work in the home, thinking about the results, and interacting with others via online discussions. This talk will provide an overview of the structure of this course and describe lessons learned while teaching online.  Data about the effectiveness of the course consists of anecdotal comments, student performance on weekly quizzes and major assignments, and pre-/post-confidence survey results.