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 realized 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 learned important skills like becoming a global champion of using charades to communicate and learning how to type quickly with one hand (when I broke my forearm hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru three weeks before my dissertation was due).

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A photo I took on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of my favorite hikes in New Zealand

Current Position at the University of Auckland

Currently, I am enjoying being involved in a 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.  I have collaborated with colleagues in Mathematics to formalize and grow a women in science club for undergraduates.  The School of Engineering has plans to build 39 Studio classrooms in the next couple of years and I hope to influence their implementation.

Moving to New Zealand was more of a culture shock than I expected but I have enjoyed experiencing trips to the “bach” (holiday home or cabin), hokey pokey ice cream, “fush n chups” on the beach, learning about rugby, decoding Kiwispeak (which feels like a foreign language!) and more.

Places I’ve been

Travel and learning about different cultures still is one of my primary passions.  I have traveled to approximately 70 countries and picked up travel writing as a hobby.  I share my global adventures on my personal travel blog and by writing 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 andusing social media, not to mention all the fascinating people, projects and places was about to I connect to.  In addition to traveling and writing, I love exploring New Zealand, hiking, swimming, doing yoga and learning new things.

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Hiking Roy’s Peak in Wanaka, New Zealand

Graduate Coursework

Fall 2010: PY781 Quantum Mechanics, PY785 Advanced Electricity & Magnetism, PY801 First Year Seminar, PY506 Nuclear Subatomic Physics

Spring 2011: PY782 Quantum Mechanics II, PY721 Statistical Physics, PY801 First Year Seminar, PY810: Special Topics- Physics Education Research Seminar

Fall 2011: PY783 Advanced Classical Mechanics, ENG798: Discourse Analysis, STAT507 Statistics for Behavioral Scientists I

Spring 2012: PY786 Advanced Electricity & Magnetism II, EMS832: Research in Applied Science Education, PY816: Research Ethics, PY895: Supervised Doctoral Dissertation Research

Fall 2012: PSY525: Tests and Measurement, PY895: Supervised Doctoral Dissertation Research