Principal Investigator

Cissy Ballen, Ph. D.

I am a discipline-based education researcher who studies biology education. My interests in this field largely center on identifying scalable strategies in higher education that improve learning for all, and reducing attrition of historically excluded groups in STEM fields. Prior to starting at Auburn, I completed postdoctoral research positions in the Zamudio Lab at Cornell University and in the (real) Cotner Lab at University of Minnesota, studying the effects of high stakes assessment, support programs, teaching methods, and classroom culture on student performance and persistence in undergraduate biology. I completed my doctoral degree in evolutionary biology in the Shine Lab and Olsson Lab at the University of Sydney, Australia. 

Post-doctoral Fellows

Paula Adams (starting Aug. 1, 2022)

I am a postdoctoral scholar in the Ballen lab transitioning to discipline-based education research from a background in evolutionary biology. I have a broad interest in researching evidence-based approaches that promote equity and inclusion to improve outcomes in introductory biology courses. Prior to joining the Ballen lab in fall 2022, I completed my doctoral degree in evolutionary genomics and bioinformatics with Janna Fierst at The University of Alabama in 2022 (now at FIU).

Sharday Ewell, M.Ed., Ph. D.

Hello! I am a postdoctoral associate working with Dr. Cissy Ballen in the Department of Biological Sciences at Auburn University. I currently conduct discipline-based education research on biology education and STEM equity. While my interests are broad, I am especially interested in self-regulated learning and identifying strategies that improve the development of these skills for all biology students. Prior to joining the Ballen lab, I was a Teach for America corps member and middle school science teacher in North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. I completed my doctoral degree in neurobiology in the Theibert Lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Robin Costello, Ph. D.

I am a postdoctoral researcher interested in identifying classroom interventions that promote equitable and inclusive learning in undergraduate biology education. Specifically, my postdoctoral work evaluates the impact of both discussing how biases shape scientific processes and incorporating diverse scientist role models into introductory biology courses on student attitudes towards biology. Before joining the Ballen lab, I completed my doctoral degree in evolutionary biology in the Brodie lab at the University of Virginia.

Chloe Josefson, Ph. D.

I am interested in understanding the impact of the COVID pandemic on the undergraduate student experience as well as the impact of perceived self-efficacy among marginalized undergraduates. I am also interested in the physiological costs of reproduction in lactating female mammals. I am currently a NSF-PRFB fellow located in the Skibiel lab at the University of Idaho where I am studying mechanisms underlying variation in maternal investment in lactation and the consequences on milk composition and offspring growth and immune development.

Ph.D. Students

Emily Driessen, M.S.

My name is Emily Driessen. It’s nice to make your acquaintance. I am currently a PhD student at Auburn University in the Ballen lab with a passion for equity and diversity in undergraduate biology education. I believe everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, should have the opportunity to achieve and succeed in the subject of biology, and my research focuses on how to best support this achievement and success, recognizing structural barriers and historical racism. My past educational experiences include earning a B.S. in microbiology with a minor in chemistry from North Dakota State University while contributing to research in the McClean Lab as well as earning a M.S. in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics from the University of Kentucky while researching in the Wilhelm lab.

Masters Students

Todd Lamb

I am a M.S. student who conducts biology education research in Dr. Cissy Ballen’s lab at Auburn University! My work focuses on instructor assessment practices and how they relate to equity and inclusion. I am interested in bettering myself as a future biology educator and working to understand biology education research along the way. Before joining the Ballen lab, I completed my B.S. degree in organismal biology here at Auburn university.


Rachel Youngblood

Auburn University Undergraduate Research Fellow, 2022

EDU STEM Scholar, Spring 2020

Previous Lab Members

Keyaira Singleton

Undergraduate researcher, 2019-2021
Co-advised with Sheritta Fagbodun, Tuskegee University

Sara Wood

Undergraduate researcher, 2018-2021