Jeanna Wieselmann, a doctoral candidate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship based on her “demonstrated potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.”
Wieselmann’s research is focused on gender equity in STEM education at the elementary school level. She wants to find ways to get girls more interested in the STEM fields while examining their identities related to science and math and how those are affected by immersive STEM educational experiences.
Before entering the Ph.D. program in STEM Education, Wieselmann received her teaching license and master’s of education in elementary education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction then moved onto a position with STARBASE, an educational non-profit that provides hands-on, interactive experiences in STEM education for students as a complement to their classroom education. Wieselmann’s work at STARBASE spurred her interested in the STEM fields, especially when she saw that girls were just as engaged as boys in the Mars exploration storyline and robotics and rocketry activities. The five-day immersive experience that involved the entire class really “levelled the playing field,” Wieselmann noted. “Interest was high across the board.”
Wieselmann’s research will examine the activities at STARBASE to understand their impact on female students’ interest in science and technology. She hopes to tease out activities that can be translated into the classroom and continue to engage students. She will also conduct interviews with 4th-and 5th-grade girls to find out if the immersive experience is helping them identify more as scientists and mathematicians. She believes that exposure to STEM fields and women in STEM may help girls see themselves as future scientists.
“I’m fortunate be at institution where women are well represented in the STEM fields, in my department in particular,” Wieselmann says of Department of Curriculum & Instruction where both of her advisors, Gillian Roehrig and Julie Brown, are female STEM faculty. “I would like to be a professor at a research institution, so seeing women in that role has definitely inspired me.”