Postdoctoral Research Associates

Marilyne Stains

Dr. Marilyne Stains was a postdoc in our group in Chemistry from 2008-2011. She earned her Ph.D. in chemical education from the University of Arizona in 2007. In her thesis work she explored how students' patterns of reasoning in chemistry evolve with increasing expertise in the field. Three publications of the results of these studies (linked following) were published in JRST, IJSE(+erratum), and JCE. While pursuing her Ph.D., she also taught general chemistry courses at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. Prior to her Ph.D. she completed her Master's degree in quantum chemistry at the Universite de Toulouse (France) in 2002. While at UMass Boston, she worked with the Boston Science Partnership articulation team study on understanding the development of students' conceptualizations of scientific models. She also worked on reliability tests on a survey designed to measure students' critical thinking abilities in science (on this project she collaborated with Prof. Brian White of the Biology department at UMass Boston). Dr. Stains is now an Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. <Prof. Stains research group website>

Gabriela Szteinberg

Dr. Gabriela (Gaby) Szteinberg was a postdoc in Dr. Sevian's group from 2012-2014. She received her BA from Lawrence University (Appleton, WI) where she majored in Chemistry and minored in Linguistics. After discovering her passion for education, Gaby attended Purdue University where she obtained a PhD in Chemistry Education in 2012 as a student in Gabriela Weaver's research group. Gaby's dissertation project was on the mixed-methods' longitudinal assessment of the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education ( In her postdoctoral research, Gaby helped to develop and validate a learning progression in chemical design, as well as other projects.  Gaby is interested in research that aids in closing cultural gaps that exist in science education, as well as disseminating chemical education research practices to other countries. Dr. Szteinberg is now working in the Chemistry Department at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Melissa Weinrich

Dr. Melissa Weinrich was a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Sevian in the Chemistry Department at UMass Boston from 2015 to 2017. In 2009, she graduated from Reed College with a bachelor of arts in chemistry. Her undergraduate and early graduate training focused on synthetic organic chemistry. In December 2014 she earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Arizona. In her graduate research she focused on characterizing students’ ways of conceptualizing and reasoning about chemical synthesis and understanding how this thinking evolves with training in the discipline. In the Sevian group, her research focused on characterizing the abstraction employed by students when solving problems in several courses in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum and identifying whether and where an abstraction threshold, or a gap between students’ abstraction capacity and the abstraction demanded by problems in the course, exists in the chemistry curriculum. Dr. Weinrich is now an assistant professor of chemistry at University of Northern Colorado. <curriculum vitae>

Shiqi Hao

Dr. Shiqi Hao was a postdoc at the Center of Science and Math in Context from 2006-9. He received his B.A. in English Language and Literature from Hebei University in China in 1982. He obtained an M.S.E degree in secondary education from the College of Staten Island, CUNY in 1988. He earned his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research from the University of South Carolina in 2005. While at UMass Boston, he worked on the STEM pipeline research project. He presented his research most recently atAERA. Dr. Hao is now a psychometrician and statistician at the Michigan State Department of Education.

Soma Chattopadhyay

Dr. Soma Chattopadhyay was a postdoc in our group in Chemistry from 2006-8. She taught physical chemistry at UMass Boston in Fall, 2006. She earned her PhD. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006. Her thesis research involved fabrication of porous light-emitting silicon, spectroscopy and surface analytical characterization, and application of the material in chemical sensing. Prior to that, she completed her undergraduate education in India, earning a B.Tech. in chemical technology and a B.Sc. in chemistry from Calcutta University. While at UMass Boston, she worked on ruthenium light emitting thin films projects. Dr. Chattopadhyay is now an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department at University of Wisconsin-Platteville. <Prof. Chattopadhyay's website at UW-Platteville>

Allison Skerrett

Dr. Allison Skerrett was a Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Center of Science and Math in Context from 2006-2007. Dr. Skerrett is now an Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction, University of Texas at Austin. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction from Boston College in 2007. Prior to that, she was an English teacher at Dorchester High School in Boston. She worked on the STEM-K12 outreach faculty motivation study. <Prof. Skerrett's website at UT Austin>

Visiting Scientists

Sascha Bernholt

Dr. Sascha Bernholt is a postdoctoral researcher in chemistry education at IPN-Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education, Christian Aubrechts University, in Kiel, Germany. He worked as a visiting scientist in Dr. Sevian's group for two months, February-March, 2014. Sascha received his PhD in chemistry education in 2010 from University of Oldenberg, Germany. His research interests include modeling competencies in chemistry, students' conceptual understanding, language, formulae and terminology in chemistry, development and characteristics of tasks, educational neuroscience, video-based research of teaching and learning processes, and eye tracking. While at UMass Boston, Dr. Bernholt worked with our group on the abstraction threshold project, and provided scientific advice on eye tracking studies of chemistry problem solving in our group.

Prajakt Pande

Prajakt Pande is currently a Ph.D. student at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India, and is interested in understanding the cognitive mechanisms that support learning, particularly learning with and through multiple representations in chemistry (such as equations, graphs, molecular diagrams, animations, simulations, phenomenological experiences, observations, etc.) He uses eye-tracking to characterize representational competence (the ability to simultaneously process and integrate multiple representations) in chemistry. Prajakt is also involved in the design, development and testing of fully manipulable new-media interfaces (e.g. gesture based Kinect sensors, leap motion) as pedagogical interventions to enhance science learning. The interface designs are based on findings and suggestions from the embodied and distributed cognition approaches to learning (see link). As a visiting scientist in our group during Summer 2015, he was involved in a mini-project aimed to identify chemistry graduate students' assumptions about reaction-mechanisms/chemical-processes (such as deterministic-probabilistic), and their relationship with participants' eye-gaze patterns. This project also attempts to understand how chemistry graduate students imagine/generate dynamics out of static molecular representations. Prajakt likes to travel, cook, sing and listen to music. He also delights in playing table tennis and badminton.

Deirdre Hugi-Cleary

Dr. Deirdre Hugi-Cleary spent a sabbatical in the Sevian Research Group, during March to May, 2016. She was on sabbatical leave from her high-school teaching position at Gymnase Français de Bienne, Switzerland. Her education includes a B.Sc.(hons) in chemistry from the National University of Ireland, Galway; a Ph.D. in 1984 in inorganic chemistry from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and an M.Sc. in 2003 in statistics from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Dr. Hugi-Cleary's research career also includes post-doctoral work in NMR at the University of California, Berkeley and at the University of Lausanne, followed by about twenty years of research and lecturing in inorganic and physical chemistry at the University of Neuchâtel. In 2007, Deirdre started high-school teaching and in 2010 obtained an MAS in secondary and higher education from the Haute Ecole Pédagogique of Western Switzerland. She currently teaches introductory and advanced chemistry. While with the Sevian Research Group, Dr. Hugi-Cleary worked with data collected using the SAMM survey.

Graduate Students

Kristen Cacciatore

Kristen Cacciatore began her Ph.D. work in Green Chemistry in 2005, and completed her Ph.D. in 2010. In September, 2007, she accepted a job as a chemistry teacher at East Boston High School in Boston while she continued her Ph.D. studies. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she taught chemistry at Dedham High School for five years. She earned her M.Ed. in teacher education at UMass Boston in 2004, and a B.S. in biology from UMass Boston in 1999. While at UMass Boston, Dr. Cacciatore studied chemistry laboratory learning and the development of green inquiry labs. She was also a contributing author to Active Chemistry. She authored several papers (see Publications) and presented about her research at the Gordon Research Conference on Chemistry Education Research & Practice, the American Chemical Society, the AP Equity Conference, the national conference of the National Science Teachers Association, and the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education. She continues to lead the Boston Science Partnership designed AP Chemistry Saturday labs for Boston Public Schools students during the year at UMass Boston. She was honored with the Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence in 2008.

Steven Cullipher

Steven Cullipher
Steven Cullipher graduated from the UMass Boston Green Chemistry Ph.D. program in May 2015, where he was a student of Dr. Sevian. Steven's PhD thesis can be found here: <Cullipher PhD thesis>. He  previously completed a B.A. in chemistry at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2007, and an M.S. in environmental science at the same university in 2009. In September 2015, Dr. Cullipher began a position as an assistant professor of chemistry at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. <curriculum vitae, publications>

Courtney Ngai

Courtney Ngai began her Ph.D. studies in 2012 in the Biological Chemistry track of the Ph.D. program in the Chemistry Department, and she completed her doctorate in May 2017. She completed her B.S. in biochemistry at University of Delaware in 2011, and interned at Agilent Technologies in Delaware during 2011-12. Courtney was awarded UMass Boston's Distinguished Doctoral Fellowship for 2012-17. Courtney is now a postdoctoral research associate at Colorado State University. <curriculum vitae

Tirzah Deering

Tirzah Deering was an M.Ed. student who earned licensure in middle school science & math teacher education. She earned a B.A. in psychology, with a minor in educational studies, from Haverford College in 2004 and also spent considerable time assisting and teaching in the Philadelphia Public Schools. While at UMass Boston, she worked on a study of science teacher content knowledge retention post-professional development. She has taught middle school science in Boston Public Schools and mathematics a middle school in Malden. She presented about her research in January 2008 at the Knowledge Management and Dissemination Conference as part of the NSF Math Science Partnership Learning Network Conference.

Melani Suarez-Contreras

Melani Suarez-Contreras began her Ph.D studies in 2014 in the Organic Chemistry track of the Ph.D. program in the Chemistry Department. She received her B.S. in chemistry from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey and her M.S. in Organic Chemistry from Brandeis University. She has also done research on the synthesis of C-glycosides at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. Before joining the Sevian Research Group, Melani worked for Pfizer (Research and Development), as well as teaching chemistry courses at Three Rivers Community College and Mount Ida College.

Sally Rosen

Sally Rosen completed her M.Ed. with licensure in high school biology in 2004. She was Dr. Sevian's first graduate student. She is now a biology teacher at Newton North High School.

Undergraduate Students

Jose Amado

Jose Amado has nearly completed a B.S. in electrical engineering from UMass Lowell. He is originally from Cape Verde. From 2004-7, Jose completed pre-engineering undergraduate studies at UMass Boston while working on undergraduate green chemistry inquiry-based lab development. He co-authored a paper published in the Journal of Chemical Education, and presented a poster about his research at the American Chemical Society meeting in 2009. 

Sarah Auguste

Sarah Auguste graduated with a degree in chemistry and psychology from UMass Boston in 2014. While in the Sevian Research group, she worked on the abstraction threshold project which was the focus of her senior capstone thesis in chemistry. She grew up in Stoughton, MA. Sarah intends to work in chemistry or medical research. Sarah is currently studying in the chemistry Ph.D. program at Boston College.

Marta Escriu-Suñé

Marta Escriu-Suñé graduated with honors in biology from UMass Boston in 2011. She is originally from Spain. She carried out her honors thesis work within the development of conceptualization of scientific models project with Dr. Stains, co-authored a paper that is published in the Journal of Chemical Education, and presented a poster about her research at the American Chemical Society meeting in 2011. The title of her senior thesis was: "Did you smell that?": Exploring students' explanations of the diffusion of a scented gas in air. Marta intends to go to medical school.

Taraneh Farhangmehr

Taraneh graduated with a degree in chemistry from UMass Boston in 2013. She is originally from Iran. Her capstone project studied how undergraduate students develop science identity, and particularly identity as chemists, during their freshman year. The title of her senior capstone thesis in chemistry was: A case study on how a student's relationship with chemistry affects the development of his identity as a chemist.

Laura Kibuuka

Laura Kibuuka graduated with honors in biology from UMass Boston in 2009. She was originally from Uganda. She carried out her honors thesis work in our group on the ruthenium light emitting diode project, which she worked on for three years. Laura was a student in medical school at Brown University. Tragically, she was killed when hit by a train in 2013. We express our condolences to the family and friends of Laura. The world has lost an amazing person.
Shown in photo, Laura presented a poster about her research at the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia in 2008. <Link to abstract>

Raineiro Javier Reinoso

Javier is a sophomore majoring in chemistry. He is originally from Ecuador, and also has lived in Spain. While in the Sevian group, he worked on developing a greener equilibrium constant experiment to replace the traditional version used in UMass Boston's general chemistry course.

Siedeh Rezaei-Kalamabad

Siedeh Rezaei-Kalamabad graduated with a BS in Biology from UMass Boston in 2012. She grew up in Cambridge, MA. She studied how middle school students question, hypothesize, and construct experiments, and how scientific identity develops through the process of learning to do this. She currently runs her own business called The Alternative Horticulturalist.

Ashley Roti

Ashley Roti is a junior majoring in biology with a minor in cognitive science. She grew up in South Florida and moved to Boston, MA, in 2013. In the future, Ashley intends to pursue a career in medicine, with an emphasis in clinical research. Ashley worked on a collaboration with local high school chemistry teacher and UMass Boston chemistry M.S. graduate, Chris Koutros, and Dr. Sevian on studying how kinesthetic activities modeling the behavior of matter impact students' thinking about structure-property relationships in chemistry.

Zineb Mastouri

Zineb Mastouri is a sophomore majoring in biology. She is Moroccan-American and grew up in Malden, MA. Her interests include biology, chemistry, and psychology. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in oncology research.

Yasamin Nail

Yasamin Nail is a sophomore majoring in chemistry on a pre-med track. She is originally from Afghanistan and currently lives in Revere, MA. Her interests include chemistry and neurology. Her future goal is to use the knowledge of chemistry and medicine to further improve human health.

Felix Nampanya

Felix Nampanya is a senior majoring in biochemistry. He is from Japan and currently lives in Quincy, MA. His interests include biology and chemistry. He intends to study medicine or chemistry after graduating college. Felix worked on developing a greener kinetics experiment to replace the traditional iodine clock experiment in general chemistry. The greener experiment uses inexpensive materials that can be easily found in a supermarket, and produces no toxic wastes. 

Veneta Slavova

Veneta Slavova graduated with honors in biochemistry from UMass Boston in 2010. She is originally from Bulgaria. She worked on the ruthenium thin films projects with Dr. Chattopadhyay for two years. Veneta intends to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at some point. In the summer of 2009, she did a Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently a Research Associate at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Mitzi Sweeney

Mitzi Sweeney graduated with a joint major in biology and psychology in May 2014. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in neuroscience next. Mitzi was an NIH Bridges Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) intern in the summer of 2007, while she was a sophomore majoring in pre-nursing at Roxbury Community College. She transferred to UMass Boston in January, 2008, originally with a plan to complete her B.S. in nursing, but then changed to biology. Mitzi is originally from Guyana. While in our research group, she worked on green inquiry labs development.

Autumn Tobin

Autumn Tobin (née McEuen) graduated with honors in biology from UMass Boston in 2006. The title of her senior thesis was: A comparative analysis of active-inquiry vs. traditional laboratory activities and effects on learning mitosis and meiosis. She grew up in Ohio. She completed the Teach Next Year program, a partnership between UMass Boston and Boston Public Schools, and is now a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Boston Public Schools.

Trenton Woodham

Trenton Woodham is a senior majoring in biochemistry. He grew up in Texas. His work in this research group was on developing a greener and more economical alternative for students to study kinetics phenomena in high school and lower-level undergraduate chemistry laboratory learning, with the hope that a suite of elegant and simple experiments on kinetics could be done inexpensively in schools in the US as well as in places in the world where there are few resources for laboratory experiments. After Trenton graduated in May 2014, he has continued his studies toward a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology at Brown University, beginning in Fall 2014.

Jialei Xu

Jialei Xu is a junior majoring in chemistry. She is originally from China. During 2012-13, she explored options for a research project to combine her love for organic synthesis with chemical education research. 

Mulbah Zaza

Mulbah Zaza graduated in 2007 with a B.S. in chemistry from UMass Boston. He is originally from Liberia. He did his undergraduate capstone thesis research on a study of differences in how general chemistry students understand entropy questions when solving problems presented with words only, words with static drawings, and words with animations.