About me

I am a data scientist: I like drawing inference from large data sets. Over the last 20+ years, I’ve put this sensibility to work in a variety of areas, all while working as a Professor of Physics, Astronomy, and Education at the University of Michigan.

In astrophysics, my main research tools have been the Chicago Air Shower Array, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Dark Energy Survey, and the simulations which support them all. We used these tools to probe the growth and nature of cosmic structure as well as the expansion history of the Universe, especially through studies of galaxy clusters. I have also studied gamma-ray bursts and other astrophysical transients as part of the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment.

In education research, I work to understand and improve postsecondary student outcomes using the rich, extensive, and complex digital data produced in the course of educating students in the 21st century. In 2011, I helped to launch a campus-wide learning analytics effort, chairing the Provost’s Learning Analytics Task Force. In 2014, we began the REBUILD project, a college-wide effort to increase the use of evidence-based methods in introductory STEM courses. In 2015, we launched the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, an education technology accelerator within the UM Office of Academic Innovation. I’m currently the DIG Faculty Director.

Since 2011, we have used our ECoach system to deliver computer-tailored feedback, encouragement, and advice. With support from the Next Generation Learning Challenge, the NSF, and the University of Michigan, we have delivered coaching to tens of thousands of students. In 2016 we began a major NSF funded project that is experimenting with ways to use ECoach to reduce gendered-performance differences in large introductory courses.

I have also been an academic administrator, leading the 1800 student Honors Program in the UM College of Literature Science and the Arts from 2008 – 2016. In this role I created the Honors Core Curriculum: a set of ~12 large courses specially designed to provide a collective experience to first year Honors students. I also established the Honors Summer Fellows program, which provides research support to 25-30 senior thesis researchers drawn from across all three divisions of our college each summer. I created this program in 2010, raised a $2.5 million endowment to ensure its permanent support, and led it for seven summers.