My research covers topics such as: 

Read about a few of my projects below:

This word cloud is generated from my dissertation!

Visual literacy in molecular biology

The DNA Landscape (Wright et al. 2022)

There are many different ways that we represent DNA in molecular biology. These representations are categorized on the DNA Landscape. I am using the DNA Landscape to study how students are using their visual literacy skills to interpret representations of DNA in ways that reveal  misunderstandings of DNA structure and function. 

Hear me talk about my work on visual literacy in biology in this short documentary about STEM Education Research at RIT. 

This documentary was created by the talented undergraduate student Jupiter Chen. 

Testing scientific practices in undergraduate biology courses

Scientific practices are the skills used to develop scientific knowledge and are essential for careers in science. We want biology students to use scientific practices in order to develop as scientists, yet we rarely assess scientific practices on biology exams! Read more about my new research in CBE-Life Sciences Education or watch the video below for a quick summary of this work.

Examining the effects of administration stakes and settings on concept assessment scores

Concept assessments are instruments developed by educational researchers to measure student understanding of core biology concepts. These assessments can be administered under graded high-stakes or ungraded low-stakes conditions and students can take the assessment during class time or in an out-of-class setting. The stakes and settings in which students complete the assessment may affect their motivation and may invalidate scores in different ways. This research sought to determine the effect of different stakes and settings on concept assessment scores and aimed to provide instructors with recommendations for how to administer concept assessments in their courses. 

Check out a short video summary of our findings! 

Understanding and addressing the effects of test-taking motivation in low-stakes program assessments

Ungraded, low-stakes administration conditions have the potential to elicit low test-taking motivation in students. Test-taking motivation can be measured through self-reported measures, the amount of time spent on the entire test, and the amount of rapid-selection behavior used. While most students provided adequate levels of motivated behavior on the General Biology–Measuring Achievement and Progression in Science (GenBio-MAPS) assessment, some students did not, and we provide recommendations for identifying and filtering out data from students with low test-taking motivation so that the filtered data set better represents student understanding. 

See this published work in CBE - Life Science Education

Hollywood science in the high school classroom

In this undergraduate senior thesis, I examined the benefits of using science fiction films as a context for teaching high school biology concepts. I provided an interdisciplinary analysis of the science fiction movies Gattaca, WALL-E, and The Day After Tomorrow and curated 5E-model lesson plans to engage students in higher-order cognitive skills related to ecological, societal, and ethical issues. This research was awarded Honors in the Discipline in Biology at Elizabethtown College. 

Crystal Uminski_Hollywood Science in the High School Classroom.pdf

My very helpful research partner.