Year in Review 2020-21

year in review 2020-21

in the news
STEM CONNECT Scholars work in Nimbus lab
The 658 Scicomm 2020 participants hailed from 34 countries and 44 states in the U.S.

SciComm 2020 attracts global audience

More than 650 people from around the world registered for SciComm 2020, a three-day online conference on effective science communication hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in August. The 658 participants hailed from 34 countries and 44 states in the U.S. Four keynotes, six featured speakers, 23 oral presenters and six presenters of recorded talks, including a seventh featured speaker, gave presentations over two days. The annual SciComm conference brings together scientists, educators, professional communicators, artists and more to share strategies and insights for effective science communication, forge connections and receive critical feedback. The conference alternates between Nebraska and Kansas State University as its host. Keynote speakers for 2020 were Raven Baxter, better known as Raven the Science Maven; Uche Blackstock, founder of Advancing Health Equity; Andrew Revkin of the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability; and Christopher Volpe of ScienceCounts. Read more

A representation of faculty networks at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, University of South Florida and Boise State University

Study: Faculty networks not enough to spread evidence-based practices

Eager to learn the latest in instructional practices that research says will better engage and educate her students, an assistant professor of biochemistry attends a virtual workshop devoted to exactly that. A seminal theory proposed in the mid-20th century would suggest that she, as an early adopter of the innovations, might share them with fellow faculty in her department, maybe in her college, possibly even across her university. New research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that she will, too — but probably just with the choir of faculty who are already practicing what she’s preaching. The article's lead author, University of Minnesota’s Kelly Lane, was previously a postdoctoral faculty member advised by Brian Couch at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. The researchers received support from the National Science Foundation and NebraskaSCIENCE. Read more


Watch the monthly Math Teachers' Circles on YouTube

Starting with the annual kickoff event at NATM, Math Teachers Circles convened online once a month in academic year 2020-21. The Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education hosted the online Math Teachers’ Circles at Zoom. For a complete list of the presentations and to watch the recordings, visit

STEM CONNECT Scholar Brandon Ramos

14 UNL students join STEM CONNECT in Fall 2020

STEM CONNECT is pleased to announce the selection of the Fall 2020 Scholars at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to its scholarship program and STEM community partnership with Southeast Community College and Western Nebraska Community College. Fourteen UNL students were selected as new Scholars, as well as 11 new Scholars at SCC and four at WNCC. Read more in our October newsletter for a list of names and majors.

Research in computer engineering drives transfer student

Software engineering major rises to challenges

Exploring how computer science can improve society

Profiles of Scholars at UNL, SCC and WCC

Math in the Middle graduates Dianne Lee and her daughter Hannah Holguin were both among the 2021 recipients of the Alice Buffett award

Mother and daughter math teachers honored with Alice Buffett awards

After getting the unexpected phone calls, Hannah Holguin and Dianne Lee called each other and carefully danced around the news. “Did you get good news?” “I don’t know, did you get good news?” The Omaha Public Schools math teachers, and graduates of Math in the Middle, had just learned they both were recipients of a 2021 Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award — a fact that is supposed to remain a secret from everyone except immediate family until the official announcement. Lee and Holguin couldn’t believe it. After teaching through two school years disrupted by the pandemic, the mother and daughter won the award in the same year. Read more (Omaha World-Herald)

Morrill Hall Virtual Field Trip

Women in Science Conference utilizes virtual field trips

The 22nd Women in Science Conference, postponed from 2020, was rescheduled for April 9-10, 2021, as an online event. The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Laura Trouille of the Adler Planetarium and Northwestern University, and a total of 57 students from Nebraska and Kansas, representing 11 schools, attended. In case you missed it, you can watch a recording of Trouille’s presentation on citizen science with your students at: Trouille is the VP of Science Engagement and Visualization at the Adler and a research associate at the Northwestern University CIERA Center for Astrophysics. Morrill Hall presented a virtual field trip to the students, and engineers at Duncan Aviation gave a virtual tour of their facilities. Read more


Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics

The 2021 Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), the twenty-third such conference, was held virtually online on January 22-24, 2021. Broadly, this conference was similar to its predecessors: there were 267 undergraduate participants; the main program was 80 talks or posters by 99 undergraduate participants on their own research, and three panel discussions on graduate school, careers in mathematics and bits of advice. Noteworthy changes this year were the move to an all virtual, online conference, and the return to having three plenary speakers, as opposed to the two speakers last year; presentations were given by the plenary speakers, Cecilia Aragon, Ruth Haas and Talitha Washington. There were many informal opportunities, including the newly added morning coffee networking sessions, for the undergraduate participants to talk to plenary speakers, panelists, invited graduate students, and others about mathematics, graduate studies in mathematics, and careers. Learn more

BIOS 897: Evolution in Action

Nebraska Math and Science Summer Institutes

Learning in place continued in the summer of 2021, as the Nebraska Math and Science Summer Institutes offered 15 courses via web conferencing, as well as three grant-funded courses in computer science, three online courses for the Master of Arts for Teachers degree, and one in-person course on the UNL campus. NMSSI courses, grant courses and courses required for degrees welcomed 165 graduate students in NebraskaMATH and NebraskaSCIENCE for a total of 290 registrations in 23 courses. Fifteen educators from outside of Nebraska joined 135 distinct Cornhusker State teachers on this online journey. Science offerings included the highly popular GEOS 898: Weather, Climate and Climate Change and new courses ASTR 898: Phenomena of Planetary Satellites, BIOS 897: Evolution in Action, SOCI 898: Using Systems Thinking in Network Science, and TEAC 893: Engineering in the K-6 Classroom.

For more information: NMSSI

Math Day Logo

31st annual Nebraska Math Day held online for first time

Nearly 350 students from 41 Nebraska high schools participated in the 31st annual Nebraska Math Day on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, virtually on Zoom. Two classes of 68 teams participated in five rounds. Math Day 2.0 was the first-ever online bowl tournament, designed to spark high school students’ interest in math, encourage them to pursue a career in mathematics or the mathematical sciences, and recognize outstanding mathematical ability. Math Bowl Tournament 2.0 results: Competitive Class (38 teams): Lincoln East C1 - 1st place, Scottsbluff C1 - 2nd place, Scottsbluff C2 - 3rd place, Millard North C1 - 4th place. Recreational Class (30 teams): Omaha Brownell-Talbot R1 - 1st place, Lincoln East R1 - 2nd place, Lincoln Southwest R1 - 3rd place, Bellevue East R1 - 4th place. Read more

All Girls All Math welcomed students from across the country

AGAM invites students of all gender identities

This weeklong, historically residential, high school girls summer mathematics camp, welcomed campers in grades 10-12 of all gender identities, for the first time. The program is designed to provide a thought-provoking and supportive environment for participants to develop their mathematical ability and interest. This year, 20 campers from throughout the United States participated in the AGAM summer camp, July 11-17, 2021, which occurred for the second time ever remotely, via live/synchronous online meetings. Most of the basic programmatic elements of the camp were replicated from the virtual format in 2020. Participants learned about the mathematics of cryptography, they attended panel discussions and a mini-course, toured both national and local landmarks, and interacted with peers who share an interest in mathematics during networking activities. Learn more

Shutterstock photo

Astronomy Education Lectures and Workshop

The CSMCE and the Department of Physics and Astronomy provided two lecture events and a daylong workshop in astronomy education in October. Keynotes Britt Lundgren, University of North Carolina at Asheville ("Incorporating SDSS data into astronomy education at the high school and college level"); Gay Stewart, West Virginia University ("Sloppy Physics"); Andrew Duffy, Boston University ("HTML5 Simulations in Physics and Astronomy"); Gail Zasowski, University of Utah, and Lundgren (“Teaching with SDSS Data”) presented on Saturday to a secondary science audience. On Friday evening, the Ruckman Public Lecture featured Zasowski, assistant professor in physics and astronomy at the University of Utah and the spokeswoman for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has created the most detailed three-dimensional maps of the universe ever made, with deep multi-color images of one-third of the sky and spectra for more than 3 million astronomical objects.Watch the Saturday presentations

Programming in CSCE 805T with Alan Holdorf

Adapt, Implement and Research (AIR@NE)
welcomes third cohort

Eighteen teachers were chosen for the third cohort of CSForAll: Adapt, Implement, and Research at Nebraska (AIR@NE), a $2 million NSF-funded grant that examines the adaptation and implementation of a validated K-8 Computer Science curriculum in diverse school districts. Selected teachers receive tuition and fees for two graduate courses in the summer (CSCE 805T: Introduction to Computer Science I for Teachers and TEAC 851L: CS Pedagogy); $1,500 worth of computer science hardware and software; funding to travel to one conference; and $100 stipends per academic-year meeting. Twenty-four teachers recently completed the second cohort, composed of teachers from Central Nebraska, and those courses were held online. They join 29 teachers from the Lincoln area who completed the first cohort of AIR@NE.

Dr. Martin Massengale and President Eric Drumheller presented the 2021 Miller Math Award to Yvonne Lai

Lai wins Don Miller Math Award from Lincoln Rotary Club #14

Associate Professor Yvonne Lai of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Mathematics is the 2021 recipient of the Don Miller Math Award from the Lincoln Rotary Club #14. "The Rotary Club is known for its service to the community. I am especially honored to receive the Don Miller award because I view teaching and learning as about developing mathematical communities," Lai said. "I am grateful for the consistent, enthusiastic support from the mathematics department. And I am grateful to teachers in Lincoln Public Schools for welcoming me into their classrooms and into the Lincoln Math Teachers' Circle, so that I can learn from them what it means to nurture mathematical communities." Each year since 1992, Lincoln Rotary Club #14 proudly presents the Donald W. Miller Math Recognition Award, recognizing outstanding mathematics educators in the Lincoln area. The club endowed this award in honor of former member, past club president (1986–87) and Rotary leader, Donald W. Miller.Read more

Nebraska Academy of Sciences logo

CSMCE supports Nebraska Academy of Sciences's virtual meeting

The Nebraska Academy of Sciences hosted its 131st Annual Meeting on the mornings of April 23-24, 2021, providing a "virtual" venue for students, faculty, and other scientists to share their research with peers and colleagues across Nebraska. Concurrent sessions showcased themes across a range of scientific disciplines. NAS President Sally Harms presented the State of the Academy address, followed by the 2021 Maiben Lecture: Reflections of a Nebraska Herpetologist, presented by Dennis Ferraro. There was also the annual presentation of the Friend of Science award. Event support was provided by the CSMCE. Read the abstracts

Inaugural X-DBER conference hosts more than 550 people from 11 countries

Kathy Perkins, Joanne Lobato, Alex Mejia, Nicole Becker, and Beth Schussler were presenters at X-DBER 2021

The discipline-based education research (DBER) community at UNL hosted an online conference to discuss how theories, methods, and application of education research cross disciplinary boundaries. The X-DBER 2021 conference was held March 1-3, 2021. More than 550 people registered to attend the X-DBER 2021 conference; participants came from 11 countries and 41 states in the U.S. The goal of this conference was to bring together DBER researchers from across disciplines (e.g., biology, chemistry, engineering, geoscience, math, physics) to learn about ongoing research and develop future directions. The conference opened with a welcome address from Chancellor Ronnie Green, followed by five themed sessions led by keynote speakers:

  • Integrating disciplinary practices (Dr. Nicole Becker, University of Iowa, chemistry);
  • Learning and cognitive research (Dr. Joanne Lobato, San Diego State University, math);
  • Diversity, inclusion, and equity (Dr. Alex Mejia, University of San Diego, engineering);
  • Student experiences and affect (Dr. Beth Schussler, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, biology); and
  • Educational tools and interventions (Dr. Kathy Perkins, University of Colorado-Boulder, physics).

The meeting allowed researchers and practitioners to identify synergies in theoretical and research approaches across disciplines to help the diverse communities solve novel problems and translate research into classroom practices. This virtual setting allowed researchers across all ranks (e.g., graduate students, postdocs) to present their work to a national audience and helped connect these researchers to broader communities and research projects. Each session keynote was followed by concurrent talks and small group discussions, which allowed participants to further engage with the session themes. The concurrent talks gave brief but often powerful insights into other work being done in the field, and the subsequent discussions provided a venue for participants to consider cross-cutting findings and future directions. The conference culminated with a virtual poster session featuring more than 150 posters. Altogether, the conference provided a timely venue for the DBER community to consider how cross-disciplinary research can address critical questions in STEM education. Conference website

More Impacts

Wendy Smith co-edits AMS book on SEMINAL

"Transformational Change Efforts: Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning" was published in 20201 and co-edited by Dr. Wendy Smith of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education.

  • A book co-edited by Wendy Smith of the CSMCE has been published by the American Mathematical Society. "Transformational Change Efforts: Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning" describes how the grant helps launch institutional transformations in mathematics departments to improve student success. The book reports findings from the Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning (SEMINAL) study. SEMINAL's purpose is to help change agents, those looking to (or currently attempting to) enact change within mathematics departments and beyond—trying to reform the instruction of their lower division mathematics courses in order to promote high achievement for all students. The book was copy edited by CSMCE Assistant Director Lindsay Augustyn.
  • On August 3, 2020, the White House announced the most recent recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This year's teachers represent 7-12th grade educators from across the United States. The mathematics teacher awarded from Nebraska was Deb Bulin of Thayer Central, a participant in NebraskaMATH. She was also a regional teacher leader for our TEAMS (Teaching to Enhance Achievement in Mathematics and Science) Math Science Partnership from the state of Nebraska in 2017. Bulin has been an educator for 27 years and has spent the last 24 years teaching mathematics at Thayer Central Community School. She currently teaches College Algebra and Trigonometry as dual-credit classes, as well as Algebra 1, Geometry, Applied Math, and a coding class to 8th-12th grade students. Read more
  • Fifteen University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty members have been selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Office of Research and Economic Development’s Research Leaders Program, including Wendy Smith, the associate director of the Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, and Tomas Helikar of NebraskaSCIENCE. Among the first of its kind in the nation, this initiative to identify and develop Nebraska’s next generation of research leaders is in partnership with the Center for Professional and Executive Development in the College of Business. Participants were selected through a competitive application process.
  • Keting Chen, human sciences doctoral student in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, is exploring how home and child care environments are associated with preschoolers’ numeracy skills — the ability to understand and work with numbers — and how parents and teachers can ensure those skills are where they need to be once the children enter school. Chen is also one of the research assistants for the AIR@NE grant.
  • Congratulations to Paul Timm, a science teacher in grades 7-12 at Lyons-Decatur Northeast Secondary School in Lyons, who was named the Nebraska 2021 Teacher of the Year during a surprise award presentation on Oct. 7. Timm was a leader in the TEAMS grant, a partnership between the Nebraska Department of Education and NebraskaSCIENCE from 2017 to 2018. Timm began his teaching career in Laurel, Nebraska, where he taught agriculture education. He currently teaches seventh-12th grade science at Lyons-Decatur Northeast Secondary School, where he has been since 2008.
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha assistant professor Kelly Gomez-Johnson is one of nine recipients of the UNO Alumni Association's Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award. Gomez-Johnson, who teaches in the Department of Teacher Education in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, is a past NebraskaMATH participant.
  • NebraskaMATH outstanding teacher leaders Amber Vlasnik and Susie Katt graduated from UNL Dec. 19, 2020, with their doctorates in Educational Studies, both with a Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning specialization. Learn more about their journeys.
  • Patriot Elementary Allie Elsasser was recognized as “PLCS Staff is PLCS Great” by Papillion La Vista Community Schools on Dec. 11, 2020. Elsasser, a graduate of the Primarily Math program, has been nominated for her patience and kindness with students. Allie was nominated by a parent who said, "Her passion for teaching shows with every email and SeeSaw post to her students’ families."
  • Congratulations to Jason Vitosh of Falls City High School, the 2020 winner of the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association's Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year Award! Vitosh is a Noyce Master Teacher and has taught several MAT courses.
  • Congratulations to Lincoln Southeast mathematics teacher and department chair Sherry West, a Noyce Master Teacher, who was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America as the recipient of the 2021 Elbert K. Fretwell Outstanding Educator Award.