• As a discipline-based education researcher, I conduct research in undergraduate biology education, which as a field aims to understand the teaching and learning of biology. Recent research in education and cognitive psychology has led to a better understanding of how students learn, and this has instigated national calls to reform the way biology is taught at the undergraduate level. My research focuses on understanding how self-beliefs and values related to motivation influence achievement and persistence in undergraduate biology students.

    I am particularly interested in biology majors' motivation to learn quantitative skills, such as statistics and mathematical modeling. Mathematics can induce disinterest and anxiety in students, which can lead to disengagement on quantitative tasks. Therefore, it is critical to understand pedagogical strategies that can increase students' motivation on quantitative tasks. Drawing from educational theory, I ultimately seek to understand how students' educational experiences in quantitative biology affect their self-efficacy and personal values towards quantitative biology tasks, their performance on quantitative biology tasks, and their choices to take additional quantitative biology courses. I am also interested in questions related to faculty motivation to teach quantitative skills in their biology courses.

    Additionally, as part of my postdoctoral work, I have examined mentoring in undergraduate research experiences. Graduate students and postdocs often serve as mentors at research universities, increasing the number of undergraduates who can participate in research. My research, in collaboration with colleagues at UGA, seeks to understand how mentoring by a graduate student or postdoc and a faculty member contribute to undergraduate researcher outcomes.
  • Publications

    Academic Article

    Year Title
    2018 Life Science Majors' Math-Biology Task Values Relate to Student Characteristics and Predict the Likelihood of Taking Quantitative Biology Courses.Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.  19. 2018
    2017 The Math-Biology Values Instrument: Development of a Tool to Measure Life Science Majors' Task Values of Using Math in the Context of BiologyCell Biology Education CBE Life Sciences Education.  16:ar44-ar44. 2017
    2017 A Guide for Graduate Students Interested in Postdoctoral Positions in Biology Education Research.Cell Biology Education CBE Life Sciences Education.  15:es10-es10. 2017
    2017 Race and Gender Differences in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Structures and Research Outcomes.Cell Biology Education CBE Life Sciences Education.  16:ar34-ar34. 2017
    2016 A Social Capital Perspective on the Mentoring of Undergraduate Life Science Researchers: An Empirical Study of Undergraduate-Postgraduate-Faculty Triads.Cell Biology Education CBE Life Sciences Education.  15:ar16-ar16. 2016
    2015 Potential impacts of tolerance to herbivory on population dynamics of a monocarpic herb.American Journal of Botany.  102:1901-1911. 2015
    2014 Teaching quantitative biology: goals, assessments, and resources.Molecular Biology of the Cell Cell Regulation.  25:3478-3481. 2014
    2014 Population dynamics in central and edge populations of a narrowly endemic plantEcology.  95:1850-1860. 2014
    2007 The effects of disturbance intensity on temporal and spatial patterns of herb colonization in a southern New England mixed-oak forestForest Ecology and Management.  252:144-158. 2007

    Teaching Activities

  • Biology Teaching Practices Taught course 2018
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research Taught course 2018
  • Intro Biol: Evol Biodiv & Ecol Taught course 2018
  • Advanced Research Experience Taught course 2018
  • Plant-Animal Interactions Taught course 2018
  • Plant-Animal Interactions Taught course 2018
  • Biology Teaching Practices Taught course 2017
  • Intro Biol: Evol Biodiv & Ecol Taught course 2017
  • Rsrch Exp/Biological Sciences Taught course 2017
  • Intro Biol: Evol Biodiv & Ecol Taught course 2016
  • Education And Training

  • A.B. Biology, Bowdoin College
  • M.F.S. Forest Science, Yale University
  • Ph.D. Biology, University of Virginia
  • Full Name

  • Melissa Aikens