Alumna Dr. Morgan Howe (Ph.D. ’19, Garcia-Garibay group) has joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry as a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education Research Fellow.
In her new position, Howe will leverage her expertise in chemistry education research to provide insight for division leadership into reasons why Black and Latinx students leave the Physical Sciences. Alongside Dean of Physical Sciences Miguel García-Garibay and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Professor Albert Courey, she has established an interdisciplinary collaboration with Professor Cecilia Rios-Aguilar from the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies in order to bring the most current methods and perspectives in asset-based education research to the physical sciences community.
The core of Howe’s work will be organizing a series of discussions with students who have chosen to leave the physical sciences led by current undergraduate students who share their identities. Her guiding philosophy is to identify the values and goals that diverse groups of students bring to higher education and find ways to expand our understanding of STEM education to honor those values.
“I am particularly excited to bring together two parts of the UCLA community that don’t typically have much contact: the division of physical sciences and the school of education,” Howe said. “There are so many resources and so much expertise right here on our own campus that we don’t often turn to, and I want to help translate some of the advances from the school of education to the sciences in a way that benefits our students.” She will also be working closely with the Center for Education, Innovation, and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS).
After graduating from UCLA in December 2019, Howe turned her postdoctoral focus to chemistry education research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the supervision of Professor Sam Pazicni. During this time, she discovered her passion for equity research while studying women’s careers in chemistry.
Howe’s most recent publication, titled “Graduate Student Women’s Perceptions of Faculty Careers: The Critical Role of Departmental Values and Support in Career Choice”, was published in JACS Au in June 2022.
“By studying graduate student women’s career choices in chemistry, I developed a deep interest in the choices that institutions of higher education make about what “counts” and is valued towards admissions, progress to degree, hiring, and promotion,” Howe said. Her goal is to work with departments and institutions to assess equity-related concerns and provide evidence-informed recommendations to improve those outcomes.
Howe’s background is in physical organic chemistry, giving her a unique insight in to STEM education from an inside perspective. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Vassar in 2014 and her Ph.D. in chemistry from UCLA in 2019, working with Professor Miguel García-Garibay. While at UCLA, Howe volunteered with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA (CNSI) outreach programs.
Howe then transitioned into her postdoctoral position in chemistry education at UW-Madison. “It was during my time at UW-Madison that I discovered my passion for equity in education through both my research and service activities,” Howe said. “As a member of the Community, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (CDEI) Committee at UW-Madison, I was able to use some of my education research skills to gather community input about CDEI-related goals and share them with department leadership”. She also worked with the Graduate Admissions Committee to assess the effectiveness of equity-centered initiatives. Howe’s postdoctoral research focused on what causes women to apply to research faculty positions in chemistry at a drastically lower rate than men. Her research included both interviews and surveys exploring what women value and how this compares to what departments value.
Howe’s office is located in Young Hall but she will be primarily working remotely.
Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, email@example.com.