STEM Learning Center Staff
Bruce Johnson, Co-Director
Dr. Johnson is Professor of Environmental Learning and Science Education and department head of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies in the College of Education. He was previously an elementary and middle school teacher in Arizona and New Mexico and director of outdoor schools in New Mexico and Australia. Dr. Johnson’s research includes the teaching and learning of ecological concepts, development of environmental perceptions and actions, curriculum development, and teacher preparation. He also serves as Director of the Earth Education Research and Evaluation (EERE) Team, which conducts research on children’s ecological understandings, environmental perceptions, and environmental actions and provides evaluation services to centers and schools offering educational programs related to the environment. As International Program Coordinator for The Institute for Earth Education (IEE), a non-profit education organization, Dr. Johnson oversees the development and implementation of these programs and leads sessions on earth education around the world.
Chris Impey, Co-Director
Dr. Impey is a University Distinguished Professor and Deputy Head of the Astronomy Department and is currently in charge of all academic programs in Astronomy at the University. As a professor, he has won eleven teaching awards, and he has been heavily involved in curriculum and instructional technology development. Dr. Impey is a past Vice President of the AAS, has been an NSF Distinguished Teaching Scholar and the Carnegie Council's Arizona Professor of the Year. He was Co-Chair of the Study Group that summarized Astronomy Education and Public Outreach for the upcoming Decadal Survey of the National Academy of Sciences. His research interests are observational cosmology, gravitational lensing, and the evolution and structure of galaxies. He has 160 refereed publications and 60 conference proceedings, and his work has been supported by $18 million in grants from NASA and the NSF.
Michelle Higgins, Associate Director
Ms. Higgins earned an M.S. degree in Physics focusing on submillimeter laser systems and modeling 3-D radar scattering of tactical vehicles, and is currently a doctoral student with interests in identity development in STEM learning. Before joining the STEM Learning Center, she spent 10 years in informal STEM education working towards providing spaces for all learners to explore their world, to discover their own leadership potential, and to determine for themselves who can be a scientist or engineer. Within that time she received several national grant awards such as SciGirls en Espanol, Design & Discovery Fair Play, and NASA 21st Century Explorers. Michelle currently serves on the national STEM Task Force for the American Association of University Women, as a member of the National Advisory Board for Latina SciGirls, and as a board member for the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation.
Sara Chavarria, Assistant Director for PK-20 Education Pathways
Dr. Chavarria is currently the Director of Education Outreach at the UA College of Education. Her outreach efforts have included coordinating multifaceted projects, including the development of curriculum units for PULSE (Promoting Understanding and Learning for Society and Environmental Health), the development of Summer Institutes for High School Students and for Secondary School teachers, the design of mentor hosting handbooks for K-12 schools, the design and coordination of internship programming for the College of Education, the assistance to other UA partners to design outreach projects, and the spearheading of the creation of a grassroots university-wide outreach organization - the UA Collaborative for Community Outreach and Extension. Of special interest to her is to understand how to best attract and prepare underrepresented students for higher education success and as such her outreach interests focus on developing a pathway of university experiences for children of poverty that would illustrate the myriad number of career possibilities that exist.
Martha Ostheimer, Assistant Director for STEM Workforce Development
Ms. Ostheimer is currently the Director of Business Development for the College of Education’s Teachers in Industry program. She previously directed and taught in the College of Engineering’s Interdisciplinary Design Program and for 18 years directed the capstone design program for the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. In each of these positions she has created and sustained meaningful partnerships between the University and businesses and industry across the state.