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Liz Barnes, CBS PhD Student is Making Her Mark

Biology and Society graduate student Liz Barnes is making her mark in evolution education research.  Just having finished her second year in the Ph.D. program in Biology and Society, Liz is making great strides in her research and is accumulating accolades along the way!

Last year Liz was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, which is the most prestigious fellowship in STEM education.  This fellowship is giving her flexibility to explore her own research interests in evolution education in ASU’s Biology Education Research lab.  As a result, Liz and her advisor Sara Brownell have teamed up with educational psychologist Gale Sinatra at the University of Southern California to dig deeper into student definitions of acceptance of evolution.  Much of the current research in evolution education is focused on measuring student acceptance of evolution, but Liz wants to back up a step and ask what it means for students to accept evolution.  To foster this collaborative project, Liz has been a visiting student at the University of Southern California for part of this past semester.  Through this experience, she has been able to broaden her professional network, attend education and evolution classes at USC, and survey USC students. Photo by Sandra Leander

Additionally, Liz just published a research article, co-authored with her advisor Sara, in the June issue of CBE Life Sciences Education.  In this study, they dug deep into the instructional practices of professors teaching evolution at public colleges. Among many interesting findings, they discovered that college instructors were reluctant to use instructional practices, backed by research, to increase student acceptance of evolution. 

Liz looks forward to seeing another study in print next year! Liz, Sara, and Jim Elser will publish in the special evolution issue of the American Biology Teacher next February.  The study describes a two-week evolution curriculum in Bio151 that reduced students’ perceived conflict between religion and evolution by fifty percent. Liz hopes this will be the first of many steps outlining ways in which evolution can be taught inclusively for students of all religious backgrounds.

Liz is only beginning to scratch the surface of her interests in her second year of her PhD and hopes to have much more to share with everyone in her remaining years!

ASU Now recently featured Liz and Sara's research!

More Information: Liz Barnes (
Photo credits to Sandra Leander, School of Life Science