NYU Steinhardt News

NYU Faculty Receive $1.1 Million Grant to Improve Chemistry Education

NYU's Steinhardt School and College of Arts and Science (CAS) will collaborate on “Molecules and Minds: Optimizing Simulations for Chemistry Education,” a $1.1 million, three-year grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop effective chemistry simulations for a broad range of high school students, including underserved and underachieving learners.

The grant blends expertise from three Steinhardt departments and from CAS. Principal investigator Jan Plass, associate professor in the Department of Administration, Leadership and Technology, will work with Steinhardt's assistant professors Bruce Homer of Applied Psychology and Catherine Milne of Teaching and Learning, along with Trace Jordan, assistant director of the core curriculum in CAS. Under the grant, the group will enhance the computer simulations used in chemistry education to make them more interactive and exploratory, as compared to current models which are often fairly abstract and hard to manipulate.

“We have a real problem attracting people to degrees in the sciences nationwide,” says Jan Plass. “We want to design educational tools for a broader audience, so that more students can benefit from them and even learn to enjoy the sciences.”

Homer, whose work focuses on cognitive development and the symbolic understandings of children, says, “I see our work on this grant as an intersection between basic and applied research.” The team, along with NYU students, will take their enhanced models into the classrooms of New York City public high schools.

“In this study, we'll take a theory of learning and use it in representations that we think will be educationally useful and then take them to the schools,” says Milne. “Then we'll see if what we think is useful actually works in school settings. That's what is so exciting to me.”