About Me

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Introduction

I was born and raised in Connecticut and, as the daughter of an engineer and a nurse, I have an analytic mind but a keen desire to help people.  My PhD advisor observed once that of all his graduate students, he thought I’d be the one most likely to change the world.  Through hard work and a little bit of luck, I’ve been blessed with interesting opportunities and I always try to give back, inspire others and leave a positive impact.

Growing up, I was always a bit of a bookworm with blond hair that had occasional Einstein tendencies.  Even at a young age, I was interested in other countries and cultures.  One of my friends in elementary school was Chinese and I’d love to go over her house to practice calligraphy or help her mom make dumplings.

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Childhood Katie with brother Jimmy

Undergraduate

I earned my undergraduate degree through the liberal arts honors program at Providence College in Rhode Island with a double major in Applied Physics and Physics Secondary Education, a minor in Mathematics and a concentration in Asian Studies. As a member of the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, I served as the Vice President of the Asian American Association. In addition to promoting diversity by facilitating cultural awareness events, I spent much of my time at the Office of Academic Services as a executive board member of the Tutoring Center. I tutored math and physics to high school, undergraduate and continuing education students, including college athletes and students with learning disabilities. I helped run orientation and workshops on campus in addition to presenting at a regional tutoring conference.  I excelled academically, graduating Summa Cum Laude with the top GPA in physics and recieved acknowledgement from the Sigma Pi Physics Honor Society, Sigma Xi Science Research Honor Society, Dirigio Leadership Honor Society, Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Society and Mu Pi Epsilon Math Honor Society.

Tutoring and student teaching in a high school re-affirmed my love for teaching but after completing my undergraduate degree, I wanted to learn more physics while gaining research-based insight on how students learn the subject, leading me to pursue a PhD in Physics Education Research.

Graduate School

I attended North Carolina State University to work with Dr. Robert Beichner, one of the important pioneers of the field, the developer of the SCALE-UP reform and the founding editor of the APS journal Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education Research.  Beyond my research and coursework (listed below), I embraced professional development opportunities, taking advantage of many workshops, retreats and seminars on both teaching and leadership.  I was the vice president of the Physics Graduate Student Association for two years and helped revitalize our Women in Physics organization to include a journal club.

In addition to the academic and professional development opportunities provided during graduate school, these years were full of personal self discovery.  I ran a marathon.  I loved the diversity of the Research Triangle and could often be found salsa dancing and practicing my Spanish on Friday nights, drinking milk tea and planning trips with my favorite owner of a Tibetan handicraft store and enjoying brunch at the Turkish Center on Sunday mornings.  Research fellowships and teaching opportunities abroad caused me to fall in love with traveling and finish my final years of graduate school from a distance.  I visited universities all over the world and realized that while each culture has distinctive qualities, we are all human and share more similiarities than differences.

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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of my favorite hikes in New Zealand

 Position at the University of Auckland

At the University of Auckland, I enjoyed leading radical instructional reform and providing input as the whole department reviews all of its course offerings and pedagogical strageties as part of the Century Two committee.  I started monthly pedagogy workshops for teaching assistants and instructors covering topics such as formative feedback, facilitating groupwork and versatile active learning techniques.  Since I was the only one in New Zealand with a degree in Physics Education Research (that I knew of, anyway), this lead to interesting collaborations.  I attended weekly meetings with math educators, participated in various science-wide initiatives (especially around diversity and inclusion) and even had multiple extended conversations with colleagues from dance in the performing arts who approached me with, “you’re building a Physics Studio? We dance in studios! Let’s talk!”

Position at the University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia had been on my radar ever since I heard of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, one of the biggest efforts to systematically reform science teaching at a large research institution.  I have carried an interest in learning space design into this position, experimenting introducing whiteboard problems and structured collaboration in a new Active Learning Theater in an Advanced Electricity and Magnetism (third year course).  The department is renovating their lab space so using this to create a sense of urgency around upper-division lab reform, creating and aligning that curriculum with degree outcomes.  In addition to my work at the university, I wrote a textbook chapter on Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods for 10th grade Chinese students; someone else gets the pleasure of translating it!  I also have done some consulting work for PhysTEC: Physics Teacher Education Coalition which encourages physics departments to boost secondary teacher production.  They’ve recently started a “PhysTEC Fellows” program where people interested in this cause apply for funding to attend two PhysTEC conferences and participate in on-line monthly meetings with a community of practice.  I developed lesson plans with reading and discussion questions based around Kotter’s 8-step model for Leading Change.  With this, I hope these insights from the business world will help empower participants to be agents of change at their local institutions.

Travel and learning about different cultures still is a passion but living in Vancouver, I have enjoyed taking advantage of local hiking, backpacking and shoe snowing adventures.  In my travels to approximately 80 countries, I picked up travel writing as a hobby.  I write primarily for Epicure & Culture online magazine which specializes in food, wine and ethical travel.  In the process, I learned a lot about creating websites, search engine optimization and using social media, not to mention all the fascinating people, projects and places I connected with.

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Hiking Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand