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Seminar Speakers

Jess makes a point

The CASTLE Seminar Series is focused on continuous improvements in STEM education, teaching and learning. Speakers from a variety of institutions and internal experts from Drexel University are invited to lead conversations on local, regional and national trends in the transformation of STEM Education. 

2020 Seminar Speakers

Donna Riley, PhD, Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering, Professor of Engineering Education, Purdue University

Do Engineers have Principles? Public Values in Professional Practice

  • Recent public engineering scandals like the VW Diesel Cheat, Theranos’s biotech vaporware, and the Boeing 737-MAX call us to reflect on how engineers, management, and various publics prioritize, realize, override, or discard certain values in the design and deployment of technology purported to benefit people and the planet. As we look towards a future marked by increasingly complex wicked problems and social messes, what are the core competencies that will enable engineers to sustain the profession’s and the public’s core values, including (but not limited to) health, safety, well-being, trust, quality, equity, and integrity? How are these competencies best learned and taught? What role can engineers and non-engineers play in creating cultures of accountability and fidelity in support of these values?


  • Donna Riley is Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Riley joined Purdue in 2017 from Virginia Tech, where she was Professor and Interim Head in the Department of Engineering Education. From 2013-2015 she served as Program Director for Engineering Education at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Riley spent thirteen years as a founding faculty member of the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, the first engineering program at a U.S. women’s college. In 2005 she received a NSF CAREER award on implementing and assessing pedagogies of liberation in engineering classrooms. Riley is the author of two books, Engineering and Social Justice and Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems, both published by Morgan and Claypool. She is the recipient of the 2016 Alfred N. Goldsmith Award from the IEEE Professional Communications Society, the 2012 Sterling Olmsted Award from ASEE, the 2010 Educator of the Year award from the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), and the 2006 Benjamin Dasher Award from Frontiers in Education. Riley earned a B.S.E. in chemical engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in Engineering and Public Policy. She is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Eleanor Small, PhD, Principal Scientist, Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc.

An Industry Perspective on Partnerships for STEM Education

  • STEM initiatives exist across industry as companies have recognized that training their future workforce is a critical investment. Johnson & Johnson has expanded their focus beyond the traditional focus of secondary school age, to invest in STEM programs that cover and support women well into their careers. They have also extended the definition of STEM to include manufacturing and design. Efforts are being led at both enterprise and grassroots levels to create opportunities that range from hands-on science experiments to corporate partnerships and grants. Dr. Eleanor F. Small will highlight examples of industry in STEM education by sharing her insights and experience applying her passion for STEM, which developed as a doctoral student at Drexel and has extended beyond the classroom and cubicle.


  • Eleanor F. Small is a Principal Scientist at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Consumer Health and leads global cross functional teams responsible for product design/development, scale up, launch, and life cycle management of new and current products. Throughout her career, she has worked with both Oral Care and Wound Care Product Development supporting J&J’s iconic Listerine®, Band-Aid® and Neosporin® brands, as well as leading one of the a Wound Care early stage research platforms. Eleanor received her BSE in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2006. She received her PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Drexel University in June, 2012. Eleanor is passionate about S.T.E.M education, especially for young women. During her graduate studies she received an NSF GK-12 fellowship to work with Philadelphia public high school teachers to enhance STEM curriculum. Upon starting at J&J in 2013, she joined the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) employee group. Eleanor firmly believes education does not end at graduation, which is why she has been actively involved with the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers Delaware Valley Chapter (ISPE-DVC). Ellie joined ISPE-DVC in 2013 and was elected to the board in 2014, and currently serves as President for the 2019-2020 year. In February of 2019, Ellie was awarded the Delaware Valley Young Engineer of the Year by the DV Engineers’ Week committee.


2019 Seminar Speakers 

Sheila Jaswal, PhD, Director of Being Human in STEM (HSTEM), Amherst College

From Protest to Progress through Partnership: Being Human in STEM

  • When student protesters occupied the Amherst College library for four days in November of 2015, the campus community was transfixed by the painful testimonials shared by marginalized students about their experiences at Amherst as individuals identifying as Black, brown, female, queer, trans, disabled, international, among others. In response to letters from a Black neuroscience major and a non-binary biochemistry and biophysics major, every STEM department wrote a letter of support, pledging to work with students to address their concerns. The following semester, Chemistry professor Sheila Jaswal collaborated with students to develop a project-based course, titled “Being Human in STEM” (HSTEM), to actively engage STEM students and departments in learning about and enhancing inclusion in STEM settings. Professor Jaswal will describe how HSTEM course projects and activities have continued the conversation started by students during the Uprising, connected STEM inclusion efforts across the Amherst campus, and produced resources such a website sharing all of the resources ( and the “Inclusive Curricular Practices” handbook, that has been used by STEM educators from high schools, colleges, universities, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence institutions. She will present evidence on the impact of the HSTEM course and practices on students, faculty and staff at Amherst, and provide examples of how a growing network of institutions, including Yale, Brown, Williams and University of Utah, are adapting the HSTEM model to their own STEM community needs.


  • Sheila Jaswal is an Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department and Program in Biophysics and Biochemistry and Director of the “Being Human in STEM” (HSTEM) Initiative at Amherst College. With a team of undergraduate researchers, she studies the interplay between protein stability, dynamics and function using a combined biophysical and computational approach. As the HSTEM Director, she facilitates a HSTEM course in collaboration with students, staff and faculty colleagues, organizes campus and regional HSTEM events, gives talks and workshops at colleges, universities and conferences nationwide, oversees a growing HSTEM network and collaborates with HSTEM affiliates at other institutions, and shares curricular and other HSTEM resources at

Soren Wheeler, Managing Editor at Radiolab

Failure, Ignorance, and Creating Curiosity

  • After more than 20 years working in science education and public understanding of science, the thing that continues to astonish and trouble me is how many people shudder at the word “science,” or at any sniff of the words, cadences, or even attitudes associated with science. And yet those are the people we most desperately need to reach. We need to, in a sense, shout across a chasm of interest, knowledge, inclination, and language. I will talk about the ways that voice, structure, and emotional experience can help us shout across that chasm, and the ways in which audio storytelling, in particular, can shine a light on how to get people to listen to us when we talk about science.


  • Soren Wheeler is the Managing Editor at Radiolab, an award winning radio program and podcast, produced by WNYC, a public radio station in New York City, and broadcast on public radio stations in the United States. The show is nationally syndicated and is available as a podcast. where he plays a variety of roles, including producer, editor, and reporter. He also oversees the development of future content. Before coming to radio, Soren spent 10 years working with science teachers and writing about how kids learn science. He was a project coordinator at the Association for the Advancement of Science, where he co-authored the book Atlas of Science Literacy. He then went on to get a Master’s degree in science writing at Johns Hopkins University. Soren has won awards for production on radio pieces about coincidence and statistics, the periodic table, and the story of a woman waking up from a coma.

Sarah Eddy, PhD, Assistant Professor, Biology and the STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University

Does how we teach matter? The evidence behind evidence-based teaching

  • All of us are being told to change how we teach, but what is the evidence behind these calls? In this talk, Dr. Eddy will explore the types of data that guides teaching reform and describe two attempts at more rigorous methods: (1) a meta-analysis conducted on studies of teaching in hundreds of STEM classrooms and (2) a series of replication studies across institution types for one active learning strategy, increased structure. In both studies, student-centered teaching methods increase student exam performance and decrease failure rates over traditional lecture.


  • Dr. Eddy received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in Zoology at Oregon State University. She completed a postdoctoral scholarship in biology education at the University of Washington. Trained as a behavioral ecologist, Dr. Eddy has shifted from studying behavior in a field setting to behavior in college classrooms. Her research focuses on understanding how college instructors can contribute to the goal of equal participation of historically underrepresented groups in science careers, specifically by documenting current disparities in student experiences and working with faculty to deploy classroom interventions to address these. In addition to scholarly publications, Dr. Eddy's work has been featured in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Science, and Insight into Diversity.

Tessa Andrews, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Georgia

Teaching expertise for evidence-based instructional practices: What do instructors need to know and be able to do?

  • Evidence-based instruction can increase students' ability to learn fundamental concepts in STEM and is associated with increased retention of underrepresented minorities. However, the results faculty achieve vary substantially. Instructors in undergraduate science courses, while highly-trained research scientists, often have had few opportunities to be trained as educators, or to gain experience with evidence-based teaching. Yet knowledge regarding teaching and learning, not just knowledge of course content, influences how instructors implement evidence-based teaching, thereby affecting student outcomes. This seminar will present research investigating teaching knowledge that is important to effective evidence-based teaching in large undergraduate courses. How does the knowledge used by expert evidence-based instructors differ from that used by instructors new to these strategies? How is teaching knowledge enacted through specific instructional practices? And finally, how does the system in which college instructors train and work influence the development of critical knowledge?


  • Dr. Tessa Andrews specializes in college biology education research, with particular emphasis on factors influencing the adoption and effective implementation of evidence-based teaching strategies in undergraduate STEM education. She investigates knowledge and professional identity among college instructors and departmental and institutional climate and culture as they relate to undergraduate teaching. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation. Tessa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics, a core member of the Scientists Engaged in Education Research center at the University of Georgia, and member of the Steering Committee for the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research.


2018 Seminar Speakers 

Nancy Peter, EdD, Director of the McKinney Center for STEM Education, Philadelphia Education Fund


  • Like many of my colleagues, I was doing STEM education back when it was called science! Since then, the field of STEM education has grown exponentially on a local, regional, and national level. What exactly is STEM education? What are some of its short-term and long term goals – and how are these measured? Who is offering cutting-edge STEM programing in the area, and how do we find out more about these activities? What is the role of colleges, universities, businesses, and corporations in enhancing STEM teaching and learning? Are there easily-available resources to help design, implement, and assess quality STEM education? And lastly, how can we ensure that robust STEM activities are accessible to the youth, families, and communities that we serve? In this interactive and fact-filled session, Dr. Peter will review overarching trends in STEM education, review resources for facilitating STEM education, and discuss both the opportunities and challnges inherent in the field.


  • Nancy Peter is The Director of the McKinney Center for STEM Education, at the Philadelphia Education Fund. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, a Master’s degree in Instructional Leadership, and a Doctoral degree in Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum. Dr. Peter is also is a certified elementary and secondary science teacher; and a certified professional development instructor for the Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System. Nancy Peter has published several papers, articles, and research studies on out-of-school time program design, promising practices in professional development, informal science education, and sports-based youth development. Dr. Peter worked as Director of Education at the Academy of Natural Sciences; as Curriculum Manager for the Fairmount Park Commission; as Senior Policy Specialist for Youth and Afterschool in Philadelphia’s Office of Children’s Policy; as Children and Youth Project Manager for Philadelphia’s Best Practices Institute; as Co-Director of the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative; and as the Director of the Out-of-School Time Resource Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to her position at the Philadelphia Education Fund, Dr. Peter is an adjunct at The University of Pennsylvania.

Adrienne Traxler, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wright State University

Equity in physics education: A snapshot of a complex system

  • The percentage of women in STEM fields has risen in recent decades, but physics continues to lag in gender and racial representation. It is reasonable to ask: What factors drive talented women out of the field, and what can physicists or other scientists do about it? I will summarize some of the evidence about bias that women face in physics and other STEM fields, from large-scale statistical trends to emerging specifics. I also will review what scientists can do to help, in how we structure our courses, how we talk with our students, and how we mentor them. In physics education research, decades of quantitative studies have explored gender differences in introductory physics courses. This work, which typically charts gaps on standardized tests, is now being supplemented by a growing number of qualitative and critical perspectives. I will end by highlighting some of this recent work that questions binary deficit-based models of gender, explores complexities of identity such as the intersection of race and gender, or takes up under-studied areas such as disability in physics. As conversations in education shift from promoting diversity to equity, our research agendas and our classroom spaces must keep up.


  • Dr. Traxler's primary research interests are network analysis and diversity and equity issues in physics education. Her network projects are usually (but not exclusively) social network analyses of student interactions in physics courses. On the diversity and equity side, my focus is gender in physics, and other facets of identity that intersect with those issues. She has done past work in student attitudes and problem-solving.

Mark Graham, PhD, Research Scientist and STEM-PERL Director, Yale University

Student Commitment to STEM Evidence-based Teaching Practices: Results from Evaluation of the Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching

  • Mark Graham, a research scientist at Yale University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the STEM Program Evaluation and Research Laboratory (STEM-PERL), will present results from the NSF-sponsored evaluation of the Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching. The Summer Institutes were founded in 2004 by scientists Jo Handelsman and William Wood to improve undergraduate teaching and learning in the STEM disciplines through evidence-based pedagogies, including active learning, formative assessment, and inclusive teaching. Since 2011, Mark Graham’s program evaluation research team has closely monitored programmatic, faculty, and student outcomes of the Summer Institutes. He will describe the team’s evaluation approach, current themes, and implications for practice. Activities will focus on identifying strategies and resources for supporting student trust, STEM faculty development, department-level change, and institutional support.


  • Mark Graham directs STEM program evaluation and research initiatives as part of a national effort to transform undergraduate science teaching and student learning. He is principal investigator for a National Science Foundation supported investigation of the Summer Institutes’ on Scientific Teaching impact on faculty teaching and student achievement. In addition, Dr. Graham provides program evaluation expertise to other NSF and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) principal investigators on how to evaluate the success of a program or initiative. He received a B.A. in economics with honors (magna cum laude) from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. His prior experience includes a National Institutes of Health (NIH) supported post-doctoral traineeship in biomedical informatics, and then director of education research at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons. At Yale since 2011, Mark Graham has published a number of peer-reviewed articles on evaluation, assessment, and student persistence.

David A. Delaine, PhD, Assistant Professor, Engineering Education, Ohio State University

Research at Intersections – an engineering education research agenda in community engagement

  • As a result of its recent emergence, multiple pathways into the field of engineering education exist. This access has led to strong interdisciplinarity and a variety of profiles within the community. It has also created several challenges such as consistent research methodology and rigor, and a limited identity for its professionals. This seminar will present the career development of Dr. Delaine and how he navigated the transition from technical to engineering education research. Examples of ongoing research efforts will highlight challenges and opportunities while illustrating how it led to a research agenda within community engagement, experiential learning, and the needs of those underrepresented in higher education.


  • Dr. David A. Delaine is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University Department of Engineering Education. He strives to creatively impact Diversity and Inclusion through investigating the intersections of engineering, education, and society. He is currently serving his second term as an executive member of the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) as a Vice President, representing Diversity and Inclusion. He has obtained a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Drexel University, in Philadelphia, USA He has served as a Fulbright Scholar at the Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo. Dr. Delaine is a co-founder and past president of the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED). His research laboratory, The Collaborative to Change Engineering Education, aims to significantly broaden the global pipeline of STEM talent and to unify the needs of the engineering education stakeholders in order for engineering education to more accurately reflect societal needs. Diversity and inclusion, university/community engagement, educational research methods, action research, and student-led initiatives fall within the scope of his academic endeavors.

Catherine Paolucci, PhD, Associate Professor, SUNY New Paltz

Re-Conceptualizing Mathematics Education to Build a More Inclusive STEM Community

  • Social, political, and cultural factors play an important role in mathematics education and shape students’ beliefs about their own potential for further studies and careers in STEM fields. This presentation will address some of the challenges created by these factors in a range of educational contexts, with a particular focus on the barriers they can create for students from diverse backgrounds. During this interactive discussion, we will also explore concrete examples of how mathematics teachers and teacher educators can turn these challenges into opportunities to engage their students and colleagues in new ways to promote rich, integrated STEM learning.


  • Catherine Paolucci is a 2017-2018 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation and an Associate Professor at SUNY New Paltz, where she holds a joint appointment between the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Teaching and Learning. Prior to joining SUNY New Paltz, she led development of Ireland’s first undergraduate degree program in mathematics education at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she also helped to create a national professional development program for mathematics teachers throughout Ireland. She has become increasingly involved with education policy at the local, state, and national levels, including serving as an education policy advisor in the US Senate during her year as the 2016-2017 American Mathematical Society Congressional Fellow. Catherine’s research interests are driven by a commitment to exploring innovative ways to both increase engagement in STEM education and prepare teachers to educate and empower students in underserved communities. This is highlighted in recent work exploring ways to enhance mathematical learning in a New York City public school with 3-D design and 3-D printing, and her development of the International Mathematics Enrichment Project (IMEP), which engages future teachers in the collaborative design and delivery of a mathematics enrichment program for children in South Africa.

Noah Salzman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Boise State University

Connecting Pre-College and University Engineering

  • Recent developments such as the inclusion of engineering in the Next Generation Science Standards have greatly expanded opportunities for K-12 students to explore engineering. As a result, many more students are matriculating into university engineering programs with significant prior engineering experience. This presents numerous challenges to both the K-12 education system and undergraduate engineering programs, including identifying appropriate learning outcomes and activities for K-12 engineering, building capacity to teach engineering at the K-12 level, and understanding how pre-college engineering participation influences students’ experiences in university engineering programs. In this talk, I will discuss these challenges, and how to build alignment between pre-college and university engineering programs by identifying effective practices in K-12 engineering, reshaping university engineering programs to leverage students’ pre-college engineering experiences, and the important role that undergraduate engineering students can play in transforming pre-college engineering education by pursuing teaching licensure and careers in secondary school STEM education.


  • Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Boise State University, and a faculty member in IDoTeach, Boise State’s Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Teacher Education Program. Noah’s research focuses on engineering education, and he has served as a PI or Co-PI on a wide range of projects in this field. These include exploring how pre-college engineering experiences influence students’ transitions into first-year engineering programs, how research experiences influence the development and practices of undergraduate STEM majors and in-service teachers, incorporating sustainability and resiliency in civil engineering, and transforming undergraduate computer science education as part of a $2 million NSF-funded RED Grant. He is also exploring how to create streamlined pathways to encourage undergraduate engineering students to pursue certification as secondary math, science, and engineering teachers, which has led to the development of the new Engineering Plus degree program at Boise State University, launching in the Spring of 2018. Noah earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Degree from Swarthmore College, his Master of Education from the University of Massachusetts, and Ph.D. in Engineering Education and Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University.


2017 Seminar Speakers 

Marybeth Gasman, PhD, Judy & Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education, University of Pennsylvania.

Making Black Scientists


  • Dr. Gasman’s areas of expertise include the history of American higher education, Minority Serving Institutions (with an emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities), racism and diversity, fundraising and philanthropy, and higher education leadership. Marybeth is the founding director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), which works to amplify the contributions, strengthen, and support MSIs and those scholars interested in them. She holds secondary appointments in history, Africana Studies, and the School of Social Policy and Practice. Marybeth is the author or editor of 23 books, including Educating a Diverse Nation (Harvard University Press, 2015 with Clif Conrad), Envisioning Black Colleges (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), and Academics Going Public (Routledge Press, 2016). She has written over 200 peer-reviewed articles, scholarly essays, and book chapters. Marybeth has penned 350 opinion articles for the nation’s newspapers and magazines and is ranked by Education Week as one of the most influential education scholars. She has raised $22 million in grant funding to support her research and that of her students, mentees, and MSI partners. Marybeth serves on the board of trustees of The College Board as well as Paul Quinn College, a small, urban, historically Black College in Dallas, Texas. She considers her proudest accomplishment to be receiving the University of Pennsylvania’s Provost Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring, serving as the dissertation chair for nearly 70 doctoral students since 2003.

Simon Hauger, Principal at the Workshop School and Director of Project Based Learning Inc.

Winning Big: Cool cars, urban students, and public education.

  • The innovative approach to education that powered the Hybrid X Team to success is the basis for a new school that Simon and his colleagues have begun. The Workshop School challenges students to solve the world’s most pressing problems and organizes teaching and learning in service of doing so. Now in its fourth year, the Workshop School provides a model of what rigorous project-based education can be in a public school.


  • Simon Hauger is an engineer turned high school math and science teacher and more recently, principal. He began the Hybrid X Team at West Philadelphia High School 20 years ago to engage his students in math, science and engineering. The students in the after-school program have won multiple national competition with the hybrid vehicles they designed and built. Their vehicles have outperformed top Universities and corporations. In 2010 and 2014, Simon’s students were honored at the White House.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, PhD, Director of the Science Education Department with the Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Science Literacy in the Present Day


  • Andrew Zwicker is a physicist and science educator. A fellow of the American Physical Society, The American Association of Physics Teachers has named him to its list of 75 leading contributors to physics education. He is the Editor of the APS Forum on Physics and Society’s newsletter and a past chair of that Forum. Additionally, he is a past member of the APS Committee on Education. At Princeton University he is a lecturer in the Writing Program and a faculty advisor for freshmen and sophomores.

Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue, PhD, Associate Professor, Science Education, Physics, Astronomy & Geosciences, Towson University

  • Pamela Lottero-Perdue, PhD is a 2014 recipient of the Northeastern Maryland Technology Council Innovator Award and has won multiple “Best Paper” awards from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for her research on elementary teachers’ perspectives on teaching engineering and student and teacher responses to design failure. She is chair elect of the K12 & Precollege Division for ASEE, and is the director of a new post-baccalaureate certificate program at Towson University in Integrated STEM Instructional Leadership (PreK-6).


2016 Seminar Speakers 

Frederic Bertley, PhD, Director of Science and Educational Programs, The Franklin Institute

  • Dr. Bertley directs both science and educational programs for The Franklin Institute (TFI) including overseeing TFI's partnerships with its magnet high school, Science Leadership Academy. Additionally, he directs the prestigious Franklin Awards Program, the long-running Journal of the Franklin Institute and the Institute's international efforts including shepherding a USAID supported effort to build 5 STEM platform high schools in Egypt.

M. Brian Blake, PhD, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • M. Brian Blake, Ph.D., Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs was the first speaker in the CASTLE Seminar Series. Provost Blake spoke about his teaching and research in computer science.