Sonia UnderwoodSonia Underwood

Current job/institution: Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, STEM Transformation Institute, Florida International University

Degrees and Institutions: Post-Doc Clemson University, PhD Chemistry Clemson University, and BS Chemistry University of Central Florida

Title of dissertation: Bridging the gap between structures and properties: An investigation and evaluation of students' representational competence

Hometown: Plant City, FL

Research summary: My research primarily focuses on assessing the effects of curricular reform initiatives in chemistry, biology, and physics courses. I have conducted and analyzed numerous interviews on how students connect the molecular structure of a compound to its macroscopic properties. To further explore how populations of students understanding structure-property relationships, I have developed an instrument called Implicit Information from Lewis Structure Instrument (IILSI). In addition to testing the validity and reliability of the instrument, I have used nonparametric statistical analyses methods and a more unique framework, often used in medical research, called survival analyses to analyze immediate and long-term effects of an alternative general chemistry curriculum called Chemistry, Life, the Universe and Everything (CLUE). More recently, I have helped develop protocols to measure curriculum reform initiatives for introductory chemistry, biology, and physics courses as part of the Michigan State University’s AAU project. The two protocols being developed focus on classroom teaching practices (Three-Dimensional Learning Observation Protocol – 3D-LOP) and assessments (Three-Dimensional Assessment Protocol – 3D-LAP). In addition, I have recently conducted pilot interviews to explore student understanding of how ideas can be connected between introductory chemistry and biology courses. 

Ask me about: What is Chemistry Education? What is a post-doc? How to balance work and family life? What are options for future career paths?

Why did you choose Chem Ed: I originally was not aware that chemistry education existed when I committed to attend Clemson University. I knew that I wanted to teach and was interested in student learning. When I discovered this field, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to research student understanding and effects of curricula reform.

Things you are looking forward to being part of this committee: Help undergraduate students become aware of the field and provide ideas of how this committee can further serve the community.