The Ballen lab was delighted to host Dr. Sharday Ewell to discuss her work “Investigations into undergraduate biology syllabi: instructor omissions and recommendations” to the DBER groups across the college this week. Sharday is an Assistant Professor of Inclusive STEM Pedagogy at University of Mississippi and a former postdoc in the lab.

Congrats to postdoc Robin Costello, who will begin as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University at Buffalo in the fall! : )


Had a wonderful time presenting at University of Guelph’s COESP Day on the theme of “Exploring Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in our Classrooms”.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently awarded a $3.9 million, five-year grant to a team of researchers, including Ballen, to enhance honey bee health. Ballen is collaborating with Auburn University associate professor Geoff Williams from the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology to apply methods from teaching and learning in biology education to the question: how and why do beekeepers accept or reject evidence-based bee keeping strategies? For those of you who know me, I’m married to a honey bee biologist also known as the PI of ‘the other bee lab‘ at Auburn. We’ve never published on honey bees together, even though there are plenty of honey bees in my life (e.g., we have a bait box atop our house). I’m totally delighted to finally work on a honey bee project – even if it’s with another honey bee researcher!

Received official award notice from the National Science Foundation about our Improving Undergraduate STEM Education grant, entitled Sharing Scientist Role Model Stories to Improve Equity and Success in Undergraduate STEM Education. Starting in the spring, this will support 4 yrs of research about the impact of humanized role models in biology classrooms with the brilliant developers of Data Nuggets and Project Biodiversify, as well as AU postdoc Robin Costello & alongside students and bio instructors!

Thanks to the University of Texas-Austin’s Marine Science Institute for the invitation to share ideas and deliver a seminar!

Congrats to first-year graduate student Maria De Jesus for getting an award for their poster presentation at this year’s American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) conference in Boston!

Combined holiday lab dinner to bid farewell to Fall semester! There were hats, awards, and fajitas. What a crew!

Auburn University Undergraduate Research Fellow and Matthews Scholar Jordan Fluker is in Pheonix, AZ this week presenting his work on student help-seeking behavior at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS). Jordan is co-advised by the Ewell Lab at University of Mississippi.

Congrats to postdoc Paula Adams for receiving a National Science Foundation STEM Ed Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for the project “Understanding instructor and student concepts of race to measure the prevalence of race essentialism in biology education”. This funding will extend Paula’s time with the lab for another few years – we are lucky to have her!

Congrats to Maria De Jesus for being awarded a travel grant to attend the 2023 ASCB|EMBO Cell Bio Meeting in Boston, MA, from December 2 – 6, 2023! They will presenting research on students’ understanding of sex and gender in undergraduate biology.

Huge thanks to University of Georgia Assistant Professor Dax Ovid for visiting Auburn last week and delivering a dynamite, interactive seminar on Instructor Talk in Biology. Cissy and Robin also had the pleasure of co-hosting a meeting to develop an Essay about role models in Biology with Dax and UGA graduate student Selorm Sovi.

Congrats to postdoc Paula Adams who was selected for the 2023 cohort of SEC emerging scholars. This program’s aim is to increase diverse perspectives present among faculty on SEC campuses. So proud, congrats Paula!

Congrats to Emily Driessen, who was selected to received the 2023 Auburn University Graduate School Distinguished Dissertation Award for excellence in scholarship and research.  These awards go to students on the basis of their work’s significant contribution to the discipline. 🙂

Congrats to Rachel Youngblood for winning the 2023 Undergraduate Poster Award at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research Conference in Minneapolis, MN. Wonderful work!

Congrats to labbers, friends, and alums who presented at SABER this weekend!

Ballen delivered a seminar to the Canadian Consortium of Science Equity Scholars. I appreciate the invitation to discuss some of the lab’s recent work!

Several labbers (and one alum!) made it out to the 2023 Gordon Research Conference on Undergraduate Biology Education Research held at Bates College in Lewiston, ME. What a crew!

Dax Ovid and team from University of Georgia visited Auburn last week to lead a meeting on role models in biology. Looking forward to future collaborations with this group – stay tuned!

Postdoc Ryan Dunk presented a keynote presentation on ideological awareness at the PULSE network workshop at Indiana University last week.

Updates from University of Bergen! Incoming PhD student Maria De Jesus is in Bergen this month to collect data and collaborate with Sehoya Cotner and bioCEED on projects related to biology education research.

Thanks to the kind folks at Johns Hopkins University for the invitation to speak about biology education research as part of their series on pathways to science education and outreach.

BER swifties in Atlanta!

Yes, T-Swift was amazing, and yes, this totally counts as lab news!

Ballen visited the Biology Education Research Group and Dept of Plant Biology at the University of Georgia to share ideas about recent work. Thanks to Paola Barriga and Peggy Brickman for the invitation!

Huge congrats to Emily Driessen for successfully defending her PhD yesterday. Emily is the first PhD student to graduate from the lab, and she’s a rockstar! We are going to miss her dearly. She is heading to the Lane Lab in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Biology Teaching and Learning to begin a postdoctoral research position. (Photo cred: M. Driessen)

Postdoc Robin Costello is at the Southern Sociology Society meeting in Myrtle Beach, SC, to participate in research group iEMBER‘s workshop on Defining Inclusive Education.

Congrats to undergraduate researcher Jordan Fluker! He was awarded an Auburn University Undergraduate Research Fellowship to work in the Ballen lab as a part of the inaugural group of Matthews Scholars. This research fellowship will be supported by the College of Science and Mathematics and the Matthews Scholar Program, a collaboration between the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Honors College, and the Office of Inclusion and Diversity.

Thanks to the National Institute on Scientific Teaching for the invitation to chat about the lab’s work on Ideological Awareness. This is a great community of biology and STEM instructors who care deeply about evidence-based teaching. Had a great time chatting with and learning from them!

Ballen was awarded the 2022 Inclusive Excellence in STEM (IES) Award from the College of Science and Mathematics at Auburn University. Read more about it here!

Totally delighted for postdoctoral researcher Dr. Sharday Ewell for her upcoming position as an assistant professor at University of Mississippi, starting Fall 2023!

Congrats to Robin Costello for winning the iEMBER Lightning Talk Award in the graduate student/postdoc category from the summer in-person meeting. Great job!

Congrats to Sharday Ewell for receiving an award at the American Society for Cell Biology Conference for her presentation on help-seeking behavior among biology students!

Ballen lab alum Sara Odom stopped by Auburn to say hello with her two Axolotls. Sara works in science education at Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center.

Ballen and Postdoc Ryan Dunk presented work on ideological awareness at the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) conference in Indianapolis, IN. We co-presented with Dr. Jeremiah Henning and M.S. student Darrien Caudle from South Alabama through the support of the iEmber Research Coordination Network. Also – SNOW! We were happy to retreat back into the subtropics.

Postdoc Sharday Ewell presented her work today on self-regulated learning at University of Alabama at Birmingham through the ROSE seminar series in biology.

“The struggle is real” – PhD Candidate Emily Driessen gave a seminar this weekend on student struggle in undergraduate biology at the Association of the College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE) conference. Congrats EPD!

Ballen delivered her promotion & tenure seminar last week to biology faculty, DBER colleagues, friends, and family (including Miko, pictured). Post-seminar departmental celebrations included raspados – a favorite!

Ballen and postdoc Costello awarded an international mobility grant from the Research Council of Norway to collaborate with colleagues at the Centre for Excellence in Biology Education at the University of Bergen!

Amelia Radocha spent the summer at Auburn through an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. She led the qualitative coding for a project related to help-seeking behavior among undergraduate biology students. The lab will miss her positive energy!

Lots of labbers presented at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) Annual Conference last week in Minneapolis, MN!

Emily Driessen educated a different crop of students through Gross Out Camp last week, a science experience for campers entering first through fourth grade (ages 6-10). It’s taught by expert naturalists and instructors with advanced science degrees and the campers explore their world to discover zoology in the form of local critters!

Cissy attended the Evolution meeting in Cleveland, Ohio this week to participate on a panel focused on incorporating research into teaching (and got to catch up with some of her favorite evolutionary biologists!).

Summer REU student Amelia Radocha is co-hosting a Pride event to highlight the science and experiences of those who self-identify as LGBTQIA+ community and allies in Auburn. This event will include the voices of undergraduates, graduates, post-docs, and faculty.

Amelia and Sam host Pride even in Auburn!

Congrats to Sharday Ewell for being selected to participate in the SEC Emerging Scholars Program! The program is designed to encourage top scholars to pursue careers in higher education through professional development and networking opportunities.

Welcome to the lab, Ryan Dunk!! Ryan joins the lab as a postdoc after completing a BER PhD with the Wiles lab from Syracuse University. They just finished up a postdoc with Emily Holt from University of Northern Colorado.

The NSF DataVersify team in DC! We’ve been meeting fortnightly since 2018 over zoom, and are together for the first time to discuss next steps and big ideas.

Robin Costello presents a poster showing the impacts of diversified and humanized role models on student attitudes and interest in science careers.

We are at the NSF Summit for the Improvement of Undergraduate STEM Education in Washington DC this week – connecting with colleagues (IRL!) and presenting progress on our DataVersify project!

Todd Lamb delivered a stellar thesis defense presentation, and passed his final oral exam. Many congrats Todd!

^Several years ago in a massive lecture hall at UMN that seats 700 students!

Cissy visited the Department of Biology Teaching & Learning last week at the University of Minnesota to discuss recent research from the lab. It was so wonderful sharing ideas and catching up with the department!

Cissy delivered a virtual seminar on inclusive representation of scientists in biology to the Department of Botany at the University of Wyoming!

Undergraduate researchers Rachel Youngblood and William Grogan presented their work at this year’s undergraduate research symposium! 

The 2022 Auburn Speedy Weenie Run! A Swabian Tradition, where people run a 3-5km race while carrying 1kg of wieners (or sides), to a BBQ finish line.

Undergraduate award! BIG CONGRATS to undergraduate researcher Rachel Youngblood who was awarded an Auburn University Undergraduate Research Fellowship to work with me, Robin Costello, and the Dataversify team. The fellowship supports her independent research over the upcoming Summer, Fall and Spring semesters.

PhD Candidate Emily Driessen interviewed for Auburn’s College of Science and Mathematics graduate program

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KziTXDjcTZM&ab_channel=AuburnUniversityCollegeofSciencesandMathematics

Welcome to the lab, Robin Costello!! Robin joins the Ballen lab as a postdoctoral associate after completing a disciplinary biology PhD with the Brodie lab from UVA. We’re excited to have her join the group!

Todd Lamb was selected to receive the 2021 Carlock Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research in Biology Education from the Association of the College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE). Congrats Todd!!

Emily Driessen and Abby Beatty were selected as EDU-STEM Scholar Mentors over the Fall 2021 semester. In addition to receiving funding for research, they will participate in a professional development mentorship program. Congrats to both! Sept 2021.

Received official award notice from the NSF about our Improving Undergraduate STEM Education grant! This kicks off 3 yrs of research exploring ideological awareness in bio classrooms with soon-to-be postdoc Abby Beatty, Jeremiah Henning, & alongside students and bio instructors!

SABER 2021 is underway and we have some great presentations from the lab (and friends) happening over the next few weeks.

Friday, July 9: Emily Driessen (talk – check out recording!), Todd Lamb (poster)

Friday, July 16: Claire Tracy & Jenna Pruett (poster), Abby Esco (poster)

Friday, July 23: Sara Odom (talk), Shima Salehi (talk), Taylor Gusler (poster), Madison Nelson (poster), Sharday Ewell & Chloe Josefson (poster)

Friday, July 30: Lina Arcila Hernandez (talk)

Our annual Equity & Diversity in Undergraduate STEM (EDU-STEM) Research Coordination Network meeting took place June 29-30, 2021! Biology ed researchers and instructors from across the United States caught up and discussed projects, ideas, and future directions. It was great to see everyone and strike up some new collaborations! 

We were awarded a “Supported Preliminary Awards for Research Collaboration” (SPARC) Grant through the NSF-funded iEMBER network, led by postdoc Abby Beatty. This funding will bring together folks from institutions across Alabama to conduct research.

Our “Fostering Ideological Awareness In Postsecondary Biology” collaborative earned an iEMBER Inclusive Teaching and Research Project Idea Award. This project is led by Abby Beatty and in collaboration with Jeremiah Henning (South Alabama), Sheritta Fagbodun (Tuskegee University), Randy Klabacka (AU), and Kimberly Mulligan (AU). Way to go team!

Big showing at the inaugural X-DBER conference hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Nice going Claire Tracy & Jenna Pruett, Abby Beatty, Emily Driessen, Tashitso Anamza, & Todd Lamb!

How students relate to scientists impacts student retention: A $1 million NSF funds a study to examine data literacy instruction with direct connection to STEM. Lab members Emily Driessen and Cissy Ballen in COSAM News! See the full story here. 

Many labbers are presenting research at this year’s virtual July SABER conference! Check us out (all central time)!

>Jul 10, 3pm, Sara Berk, Context matters: variation in psychosocial factors across three institution types

>Jul 17, 12pm, Cissy & Ash Zemenick, A scientist like me: demographic analysis of biology textbooks reveals both progress and long-term lags

>Jul 24, 12pm, Emily Driessen, Demystifying the Meaning of Active Learning in Undergraduate Biology Education

>Jul 31, 12:20pm, Jeremiah HenningHidden identities shape student perceptions of active learning environments

Jeremiah Henning and Ballen invited to co-present a plenary talk at the annual EDU-STEM meeting on July 22nd, 2020, entitled Addressing intersectionality in Biology Education Research: the power of collaborative networks. 

Jul 8, 2020 Sara Odom delivered an excellent thesis defense presentation, and passed her final oral exam. Congrats Sara!

Undergraduate awards! Undergraduate researcher Taylor Gusler is AU’s 2021 nominee for the Be The Creed Award, an award that “was created to recognize Auburn students who exemplify the values of the Auburn Creed: hard work, honesty, sympathy, respect, helpfulness, obedience and good sportsmanship.” Additionally, undergraduate researcher Abby Esco was selected as a War Eagle Girl for 2021-2022 to represent Auburn University as a student ambassador. Congrats Taylor and Abby!

Ballen receives NSF-funded Equity & Diversity in Undergraduate STEM (EDU-STEM) Research Coordination Network grant to coordinate and conduct research on STEM equity!

EDU-STEM launches in Las Vegas! The network coordinates and researches evidence-based classroom experiences across biology curricula. For more information, check out the website for our network here

Emily Driessen selected to receive the Carlock Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research in Biology Education from the Association of the College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE). Congrats Emily!