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Lindsey Petersen, Pharmacy, Women in Science

Welcome to the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Education, which supports STEM outreach and grant programs. If you would like to partner with us, please contact Mike Bergland-Riese, events and outreach specialist. Partnerships produce more efficient uses of resources, help create dynamic new programs, and overall enhance outreach efforts between faculty researchers, schools, and local and statewide organizations. Request our services


Current NSF Grants and Projects

Achieving Critical Transformations in Undergraduate Programs in Mathematics (ACT UP Math): ACT UP Math is leveraging the data and data collection techniques developed through our past collaborations to develop foundational theories for increasing the engagement of stakeholders in making data-informed decisions for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in introductory mathematics programs at multiple institutions. Contact Wendy Smith for more information.

Astronomy Education: A large number of collegiate astronomy instructors nationwide use online laboratories created by the Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project for use in introductory astronomy classes for undergraduates. Two current projects are: i) NSF-funded development of videos centered on physical demonstrations for use in introductory astronomy classes that are available on YouTube, and ii) a contract to develop interactive moon phase simulations for NASA and WGBH in Boston. Contact Kevin Lee for more information.

Cell Collective: Supported by a $2.2 million NSF grant in 2014 and a recent $1.9 million NSF grant, UNL faculty have developed Cell Collective, software that makes computational modeling in the life sciences accessible to any student and instructor regardless of setting or prior modeling experience. Cell Collective is used annually by over 1,500 UNL students, with the greatest use in Life 120/121. The software has the potential to transform the way biology students learn about complex living systems by enabling them to leverage computational modeling to acquire and apply scientific knowledge. The new grant will enable the dissemination of the software to institutions across the U.S. Contact Tomas Helikar for more information.

CSforALL: Adapt, Implement, and Research (AIR@NE): This $2 million NSF-funded grant is examining the adaptation and implementation of a validated K-8 Computer Science curriculum in diverse Nebraska school districts. The grant provides professional development in computer science to K-8 teachers; builds a statewide professional community of K-8 computer science teachers; and studies how districts facing different contextual challenges, including rural schools, majority-minority schools, and Native American reservation schools, adapt the curriculum to fit local needs and strengths to broaden participation in computer science.


Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTE-Partnership): Starting in 2012, APLU developed the MTE-Partnership that now comprises 40 teams across 31 states, including the Nebraska partnership organized by UNL faculty. MTE-Partnership provides a coordinated research, development, and implementation effort to transform secondary mathematics teacher preparation programs, and is supported by a collaborative NSF grant between Auburn University and UNL. Sub-groups within the MTE-Partnership have four additional NSF awards, including two of which UNL is a lead or sub-award institution (SEMINAL and MODULE(S2). In 2022, an IUSE Community Transformations grant scaled-up the this collaborative NIC-Transform grant awarded to UNL and Auburn, establishing MTEP 2.0. Contact Wendy Smith for more information.

MTEP 2.0

Meeting the Needs of Diverse Students through a Next Generation of Science Teacher Leaders in Nebraska (Noyce MTF Science): Elizabeth Lewis, professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education and faculty advisor in the CSMCE, leads this Noyce Track 3 (Master Teaching Fellowships) Project to (1) recruit 26 exceptional secondary science teachers to become science education leaders in Nebraska through rigorous PD in science education, equity, and teacher leadership; (2) improve science teacher leadership and science education in Nebraska by developing and supporting Noyce Master Teacher Fellows' (MTFs') capacity to provide new and experienced science teachers with professional development to promote inquiry-based, equitable science teaching practices in diverse, high-need school settings; (3) design a new platform to improve the sustainability of the state-wide network of science teachers to facilitate regular and improved access to professional peer support and PD resources; and (4) investigate the activities and emergence of effective teacher leaders through rigorous research.

Research on Integrated STEM Self-efficacy (RISE): This Noyce Track 4 research project will explore links between teachers’ self-efficacy in teaching STEM, teacher preparation and development opportunities, teaching effectiveness, and teacher retention in high-need school districts. Under the leadership of Nebraska's Deepika Menon, the project will work with three other institutions through a $481,065 grant from the NSF. The total grant amount funded between UNL, Southern Methodist University, Indiana University and Towson University is approximately $1.3 million. Menon, assistant professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education and the CSMCE, is spearheading a multidisciplinary team of researchers with an aim to improve STEM teacher preparation. The project will include participants from prior Noyce projects and current pre-service teachers at the four institutions.

STEM Career Opportunities in Nebraska: Networks, Experiential-learning, & Computational Thinking (STEM CONNECT): UNL has partnered with Southeast Community College and Western Nebraska Community College on a $3.6 million NSF grant to fund 124 scholarships for low income students majoring in a STEM field, with emphasis on math and computer science. The project will recruit, educate, and mentor cohorts of academically talented, low-income students in ways that enable them to graduate with expertise in mathematics and computer science and contribute to the STEM workforce or pursue graduate education in a STEM field. The project will place special emphasis on identifying and recruiting women, underrepresented minorities, first-generation students, and rural students. Contact Jim Lewis for more information.

Conferences and Events

AGAM: Nebraska Cryptography Camp (since 1997): This summer camp for high school students provides a stimulating and supportive environment for students to develop their mathematical ability and interest. Participants learn about the exciting mathematics of codes, interact with peers who share an interest in mathematics, and work with mathematics graduate students and professors.


Eight-Legged Encounters: Led by Eileen Hebets in the School of Biological Sciences, Eight-Legged Encounters and all of its associated resources were developed for you – formal and informal science educators, caregivers, interested youth, and even arachnophobes! It was developed with the goal of educating the public about the wonders of biology and the possibility of scientific discovery using a charismatic and engaging group of animals – Arachnids.


Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics (NCUWM) (since 1999): The NCUWM began as a celebration of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math, Science and Engineering Mentoring that was awarded to the Department of Mathematics in 1998. More than 4,000 students from every state and a few foreign countries have attended NCUWM.


Nebraska Math Day (since 1990): Math Day is a one-day high school math contest that attracts over 1,400 of Nebraska’s top students annually to UNL to participate in one individual and two team mathematics competitions. The top 25 high school students are awarded a total of $41,500 in scholarships to UNL.


Physics and Astronomy Summit: This annual event, held in October, is for high school and college physics and astronomy instructors. A recurrent theme is the use of instructional technology to improve the teaching of astronomy and physics.


PRISMATIC: Human Subjects Research Ethics for Marginalized Communities: The overall goal of this conference and virtual workshops is to provide guidance for ethical and responsible research with LGBTQIA+ individuals in STEM higher education contexts. We will identify best practices and considerations for conceptualizing, designing, conducting, and disseminating higher education research involving LGBTQIA+ participants, as well as identify the major ethical issues, and use these issues to create a prioritized research agenda in this domain.


Women in Science Conference (since 1999): This two-day event brings high school students from across Nebraska to explore their interests in science careers. Participants get to interact with career and academic professional women in science, and discover countless professions as diverse as biologists, geologists, engineers, food scientists, computer scientists, and those in the medical fields.


Past NSF Grants and Projects

Building a Comprehensive Geoscience Learning Experience: NSF-funded “GeoPaths” seeks to engage more students in applied geology, through field courses and other experiential learning. This project includes summer field courses for high school students and undergraduates who are potential secondary science teachers. Contact Mindi Searls for more information.

Change in Departments and Institutions via Active Learning (Change DIAL): This hybrid conference was held virtually and in-person in Lincoln. The conference has three central goals: 1) connect conference participants to an existing community of mathematics faculty, researchers, and administrators dedicated to educational innovation in Precalculus through Calculus 2 courses; (2) leverage these connections to share and generate knowledge of strategies for initiating, implementing, and sustaining cultural change that supports the improvement of courses in the calculus sequence; and (3) foster instructor development by encouraging participants to share highly effective instructional practices and tasks for an active learning classroom.

Math Early On: The success of the Primarily Math program and the NebraskaMATH OPS Teacher Leader Academy led to a follow-on project, Math Early On. This project focuses on professional development for preschool educators and received $1.2 million in funding from the Buffett Early Childhood Fund.

Noyce NebraskaSTEM Master Teaching Fellows: Funded by NSF’s Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, elementary teachers from 14 rural Nebraska high-need schools are participating in a program designed to help Nebraska teachers facilitate high-quality STEM learning opportunities for K-6 students in rural Nebraska. The teachers first completed a STEM teacher leadership master's degree (August 2019), and then have worked locally on leadership projects related to improving student outcomes in elementary STEM.

Noyce Teacher Leadership: Investigating Trajectories and Persistence (T-Lead): This collaborative research grant collected data from eight Noyce projects that fund Master Teaching Fellowships, including two at UNL. We explored the relative influences of a variety of contextual factors on teachers' leadership trajectories and persistence as teachers in high-need schools. This project also worked to validate a measure of teacher leadership activities and efficacy with experienced teachers.

Persistence, Effectiveness and Retention Studies In STEM Teaching (PERSIST): This collaborative grant funded workshops for current and potential future Noyce Track 4 PIs, to help foster collaborative research related to STEM teacher preparation, effectiveness and retention. In 2020, after one of the 3 spring conferences was shifted online, we used the saved funds to offer an additional set of online workshops in summer 2020. During fall 2020, we converted those recordings into a usable format and have set up an OpenCanvas "course" that people can access for free to view our webinars and access related materials.

Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning (SEMINAL): Supported by a $3 million grant from NSF, UNL is partnering with the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities, the University of Colorado, and San Diego State to provide national leadership for institutions interested in transforming the culture of mathematics departments and adopting an active learning approach in precalculus and calculus classrooms. A shift by the UNL Department of Mathematics to active learning in freshman courses has led to a significant increase in student success.