The Team

Hannah Sevian

Principal Investigator

Hannah Sevian is a Professor in the Chemistry Department at UMass Boston. She is also a member of the Center of Science and Mathematics in Context. Under the direction of theoretical chemist Jim Skinner, who is now at University of Chicago, she earned a Ph.D. in 1992 in physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin Madison, as well as M.Phil. and M.S. degrees in chemical physics from Columbia University. Before that, she completed her B.S. in chemical engineering and B.A. in chemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her training also includes post-doctoral work in theoretical polymer chemistry at Dartmouth College, seven years of teaching chemistry and physics in English and Spanish in urban and rural public high schools, and experimental materials science research while working as a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 2009-11, she was on loan from UMass Boston to serve as a program officer in the Division of Undergraduate Education, and the Division of Research on Learning, at the National Science Foundation. She has been on the faculty at UMass Boston since 2001. <curriculum vitae>

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Vesal Dini

Dr. Vesal Dini is a postdoctoral researcher with Dr. Sevian in the Chemistry Department at UMass Boston. In December 2016, he successfully defended his PhD in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Tufts University. In his doctoral work, he studied the learning and teaching of science, mainly physics, and is particularly interested in how people approach their learning. He pursues two areas of research: the first involves his dissertation work about whether and how students seek coherence in their knowledge as they learn quantum mechanics; the second involves study of dynamics in responsive teaching (that is, instructor attention to, interpretation of and response to the substance of students’ thinking). Vesal is working with Dr. Sevian to better understand how teacher practices in formative assessment can support students approaching chemistry as the pursuit of coherent understanding. 

Visiting Scientists

Ira Caspari

Ira Caspari is a German PhD student from the Institute of Chemistry Education at Justus-Liebig-University in Gießen. She visited the Sevian Research Group in June and July, 2016, and returns occasionally for briefer visits to continue collaboration.

Before she started her doctoral project, she completed her first state examination in Biology and Chemistry Education at Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz and worked as a Pre-Service Teacher at Gymnasium Philippinum in Weilburg.

Supervised by Prof. Dr. Nicole Graulich from Justus-Liebig-University in Gießen, Ira's research is about mechanistic reasoning in organic chemistry. While visiting the Sevian Research Group she is working on developing an approach to analyzing students’ reasoning about organic chemical mechanisms together with Dr. Melissa Weinrich.

Graduate Students

Steven Couture

Steve Couture graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a B.S. in chemistry in 2003 and is now working towards an M.S. in chemistry under the guidance of Dr. Hannah Sevian at UMass Boston. He began the program in September 2015. Once Steve completed his undergraduate work, he went on to work for the pharmaceutical company, ArQule, performing early drug discovery research. After working in industry for two years, Steve transitioned to teaching high school chemistry. He has spent a total of eight years teaching chemistry in Massachusetts, Florida, and St. Croix, in both public and private schools. He is currently working on a project identifying cognition and metacognition within students’ chemical thinking.

Raúl Orduña Picón

Raúl Orduña Picón started in January 2016 as a doctoral student in the Chemistry Education Research track of the Chemistry Ph.D. program. In 2012, he graduated with a B. Sc. in Chemistry from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City. After graduation, Raúl started a graduate program in the Faculty of Chemistry, at UNAM, related to Chemistry Education. In 2015, he acquired with honors the degree of “Master in Chemistry Teaching for the High School Education”. His project was about applying the “Workshop of Learning and Teaching Elementary Science throughout Inquiry”. He monitored the possible change in learning and teaching elementary science throughout inquiry, based on scientific thinking skills, from a teacher through portraying his PCK during the Workshop. From 2014-15, he was a professor in the Inorganic Chemistry Department at UNAM, where Raúl taught both a General Chemistry lecture and laboratory course for undergraduate students.

Jessica Karch

Jessica Karch began as a graduate student in the Chemistry Education Research track of the Chemistry Ph.D. program in September 2016. In 2015, she graduated with Bachelor's degrees in Chemistry and German from Columbia University, where she worked under Prof. Xavier Roy researching cluster precursors to solid state materials and as a TA under Dr. Sarah Hansen developing and implementing teaching lab curriculum. After graduating, she spent a year in Germany as a fellow of the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange. As a member of the Sevian group, Jessica will focus on investigating abstraction thresholds in chemistry education. She was awarded an "Improving Graduate Student Preparedness for Entering the Workforce" fellowship from the NSF, which will involve working at the Flagship Clubhouse at the Museum of Science, Boston, as part of her research.

Clarissa Keen

Clarissa Keen started her PhD in Chemistry Education Research in September 2017 under the guidance of Dr. Sevian at UMass Boston. Clarissa graduated with a BA and MA in Chemistry from Boston University in 2012, and is returning to academia after over five years of industry experience. She has worked as both an instructor and curriculum advisor for a variety of science programs, conducted research in academic and product development settings, and has spent the past two years focusing on adult education and professional development. Her lab work has included modeling bio-inorganic enzymes and developing environmentally preferred salt solutions for road maintenance applications. Clarissa will continue to apply these experiences to her work in chemistry education in the Sevian Group.

Undergraduate Students

Klaudja Caushi


Florence Wanjiku


Klaudja Caushi is a senior majoring in biochemistry, anticipating graduation in May 2018. She is fluent in Albanian, Greek, and English. She was born in Albania, where she lived for the first five years of her life. Her family then moved to Greece, and Klaudja graduated from high school in Greece in 2014. She moved to Boston when she was 18 to pursue her bachelor's degree at UMass Boston. After this, she intends to go on to study for a PhD in chemistry education. Klaudja is very excited about teaching science, and her career goal is to teach. She would like to start with teaching high school, and then later on teach at the college level. Klaudja is working with postdoc Dr. Vesal Dini on studying middle and high school chemistry teachers' classroom formative assessment practices, using discourse analysis in examining classroom videos.
Florence is a senior majoring in chemistry. She is from Kenya, and currently lives in Lowell, MA. She plans on teaching middle and high school chemistry after she graduates, and she may also pursue a pharmacy degree. Florence worked on analyzing data collected using the SAMM survey, working on a collaboration with Dr. Hugi-Cleary, Courtney Ngai, and Dr. Sevian. She is currently completing her senior capstone thesis, extending the validity of the SAMM survey to 6th and 7th grades.

Shawn Rock



  Shawn Rock is a junior studying chemistry and participates in the UTeach program. His objective is to teach high school chemistry after he graduates. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Maryland where he focused on brain physiology and perception, and has over 25 years of experience in the information technology industry. Shawn is working on his senior capstone thesis with Jessica Karch and Dr. Sevian to apply eye tracking and pupillometry technology to study how students infer properties from 2D and 3D models of molecular structures. Shawn is a recent transplant to the Boston area. He grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs, then spent 20 years in the Philadelphia area. He is excited to share his background in Psychology and information technology with the team.     


Greg Banks


Michael Clinchot


Greg Banks teaches chemistry and AP chemistry at the Urban Science Academy in Boston Public Schools. He has been teaching in Boston since 2003. He received his B.A. in chemistry from Providence College and holds an M.S. in environmental science and an M.Ed. from UMass Boston. Greg is a National Board Certified teacher and has been an instructor for the Chemistry Contextualized Content Courses at UMass Boston as part of the Boston Science Partnership. He has also been a Boston Science Education Fellow and was in the Research Experience for Teachers program at Northeastern University. He has presented at the National Science Teachers Association and the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education conferences.
Michael Clinchot teaches 8th grade science in Boston Public Schools. He taught at the Edwards Middle School starting in 2005, and then moved to the O'Bryant School in 2015. Prior to teaching in Boston, he taught for 15 years in New York City, teaching science and social studies at the middle school level. In addition to his work in this group, Michael also works with a group of Boston Public Schools teachers looking at how best to help students learn science. Michael has attended and presented about his work in both groups at NARST, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Educational Research Association conferences.

Robert Huie


Jennifer Lambertz


Rob Huie teaches all levels of chemistry up to AP chemistry at Boston Latin Academy in Boston Public Schools, and has been teaching chemistry in Boston Public Schools since 1994. He is a native of Boston, having attended the Boston Public Schools and graduated from Boston Latin School, and with close ties to the community. He earned both his bachelor's degrees, in chemistry and materials science and engineering, from Brown University. After graduating, he worked for nine years as a Senior Materials Research Engineer for the US Army Materials Technology Laboratory in Watertown, MA, specializing in the corrosion of high temperature nickel super alloys, aluminum alloys, and coatings systems during Desert Storm. After leaving the Materials Technology Laboratory, he took on a teaching position in Boston, earned an M.Ed. from UMass Boston, and has enjoyed working with his students ever since.
jen lambertz
Jennifer Doyle Lambertz taught 7th and 8th grade math and science for six years at the Mary Lyon School in Boston Public Schools, where she has been working since 2007, and now is teaching 4th grade. Jennifer graduated from Boston College with a degree in elementary education and human development. She also earned a master's degree in moderate special education from Boston College. In 2011, Jennifer was named one of Boston's Best Educators of the Year. Jennifer has presented about our work at the National Science Teachers Association conference.

Rebecca Lewis


Scott Balicki

becca lewis

Dr. Rebecca Lewis teaches chemistry and AP chemistry at the John D. O'Bryant School for Math and Science in Boston Public Schools. She began at The English HIgh School in BPS, and has taught chemistry in Boston since 2007. Prior to teaching in Boston, she taught in Swansea Public Schools. Rebecca attended New York University, where she majored in psychology. Following this, she completed her M.D. at UMass Medical School. Rebecca is a National Board Certified teacher, and has presented about our work at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education.

Scott Balicki is a chemistry and AP chemistry teacher in the Boston Public School district, where he has taught biology, chemistry, and physics since 2001. He earned his BS in Biology from Bates College in 2001, and his MEd from Boston University in 2006. He has been an instructor for Earth Science 1 Contextualized Content Courses at UMass Boston and Northeastern University.  He has served as a Boston Science Education Fellow, and has presented about teaching, peer leadership, and chemical demonstrations at the National Science Teachers Association Conference.

Collaborating Principal Investigators

Pamela Pelletier (Boston Public Schools)

Pam Pelletier is the Director of K-12 Science and Technology/Engineering in Boston Public Schools, where she has worked since 2004. Formerly, Pam was a high school classroom teacher and department chair, professional development specialist, curriculum developer and implementation advisor, and district administrator. Pam was inducted into the Massachusetts Hall of Fame for Science Educators in 2012 and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 1991. 

Orlando Aguiar (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Orlando Aguiar is an associate professor of physics education in the School of Education at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brasil. He has worked extensively with physics teachers in Brazil, studying discursive dynamics in science classrooms and questions from teachers and students. He has developed a conceptual profile of energy across science domains. During 2017-18, he was a senior visiting professor in our group in Boston, where he advised graduate students and postdocs, and contributed to professional development in Boston Public Schools alongside our teacher-researcher team. He also taught a graduate course on classroom discourse analysis methods. 

Heilen Arce (University of Costa Rica)

Heilen Arce received her B.S. and her M.Sc. at the University of Costa Rica, her master's dissertation project was on biomaterials. After working in the Chemistry Industry for about 2 years she went back to the University of Costa Rica to work there as a General Chemistry professor, where she found her true passion: teaching chemistry. In 2010, Heilen joined the Cognitive Science Master's Program at the University of Costa Rica and her current interest is in developing strategies for her students to improve their learning process and techniques for professors to help with that process.

Eduardo F. Mortimer (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Eduardo Mortimer is a professor in the School of Education at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brasil. He has developed the Conceptual Profile theory over the past 20 years, including a recent book on Conceptual Profiles: A Theory of Teaching and Learning Scientific Concepts, co-edited with Charbel El-Hani. In collaboration with Phil Scott, he published Meaning Making in Secondary Science Classrooms. He has also collaborated with many other researchers in science education over several decades, including Rosalind Driver (Leeds University, England) and Andrée Tiberghien (CNRS, France).

Lance C. Pérez (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Lance C. Pérez is a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where his research includes wireless communications, sensor networks, image processing and engineering education. He is also currently the Dean of Engineering at UNL.

Vicente Talanquer (University of Arizona)

Vicente Talanquer is a distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of Arizona, where his research focuses on the study, reflection, and improvement of chemistry education and teacher preparation. His research interests include commonsense reasoning in chemistry, learning progressions and trajectories of expertise in chemistry, and development of teacher assessment reasoning.