OIBR Newsletter – Spring 2020

From the Director''s Desk

Spring 2020

Hi Everyone:

I certainly hope that this e-newsletter finds you and your family safe and healthy. While COVID-19 has certainly changed how we live and work, it has put into sharp relief many things that I take for granted. It has also given me a new appreciation for fresh air, my (now virtual) friends, and the beauty of nature.

As we all settle into this “new normal”, please share any work that you are doing to help employees, families, communities, and government agencies cope with this devastating pandemic. As social and behavioral scientists we have a tremendous amount to offer; and we want to hear what you are doing to help. You can email me directly or send the information to Andrea. Also, don’t forget that OIBR is here to help during lockdown, so reach out to us if there is anything that we can do to help with your research.

Director's Signature

Spring 2020

SPOTLIGHT: Paula P. Lemons, Professor (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) & SEER Center Director
Interviewed by Andrea Horsman

Dr. Paula Lemons, PhD, is a Fellow of the Owens Institute and Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She received her B.S. at Southern Wesleyan University, her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Kentucky, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University.

She has a passion to help students develop a deep understanding of science and the ability to solve real-world problems. During her postdoc years she transitioned to social and behavioral sciences research and became interested in problem solving and assessment. Her career was launched in biology education research, a relatively young interdisciplinary field, in which researchers investigate basic questions about learning, teaching, and the sociocultural context of undergraduate education.

Dr. Lemons is working on several research projects to transform STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. We caught up with her and asked her to share some information about her STEM research and education at the University of Georgia.

How did you first get involved with STEM?

I received my PhD in biochemistry studying basic biology – how blood platelets secrete clotting factors. As a postdoc I transitioned to social and behavioral sciences research and I immediately became interested in problem solving and assessment. I had a passion to help students develop a deep understanding of science and the ability to solve real-world problems. I knew this focus had been lacking in my own education, and I wanted to make a difference.

During those postdoc years, I connected with colleagues with backgrounds in math and science education. They introduced me to research areas that required expert knowledge of science and social science methodologies, including classroom observations, clinical interviews, and qualitative data analysis. These collaborations launched my career in biology education research, a relatively young interdisciplinary field, in which researchers investigate basic questions about learning, teaching, and the sociocultural context of undergraduate education.

Tell me about your involvement in STEM research.

I teach biochemistry and I am conducting research in biochemistry learning. When I was a junior faculty member teaching biochemistry to sophomores and juniors here at UGA, I speculated that life science undergraduates’ early problem-solving skills may have long-term effects. That is, students who solve problems well as early undergrads experience success and that success feeds back to them in positive ways to propel persistence. In contrast, students who struggle to solve problems as early undergrads experience failures that feed back to discourage persistence. Part of my research is examining this idea – and a number of related ideas – in the context of biochemistry-specific problem solving.

Tell me about one of your research projects and why it is important.

In 2014 I was awarded a $900,000+ grant from National Science Foundation for a six year research project entitled, “Problem Solving Skills as Predictors of Success and Persistence in Biology.” This study aims to describe the biochemistry-specific problem-solving skills of life science students as they progress through their undergraduate course work at the University of Georgia. We have assessed the biochemistry problem-solving skills of hundreds of students in introductory biology, intermediate biochemistry, and advanced cell biology. This spring we will complete data collection for a cohort of 200 students who started their life science courses in fall 2016 or spring 2017. We collected cross-sectional data from hundreds of other students.

Through students’ written solutions and interview responses we have pinpointed challenging aspects of biochemistry problem solving. For example, the diagrams and models used for teaching often confuse students and contain implicit information that students miss. Also, students tend to describe biochemical phenomena superficially unless prompted to describe the underlying processes. Our research shows that explicit instruction can overcome these challenges.

This project also aims to identify the relationships among biochemistry problem-solving performance, affective and demographic variables. This summer, with our longitudinal data collection complete, we will use latent growth modeling to determine the changes in biochemistry-specific problem-solving performance over time for our sample of 200 students. Simultaneously, we will investigate the extent to which students’ self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation predict performance and the extent to which gender, URM status, and SES moderate these effects.

Conducting this research in biochemistry is important because biochemistry is one of the key courses taken by STEM majors, particularly pre-health professionals and biochemical or biomedical engineers. Biochemistry also offers an interesting context because students begin learning the basic concepts as early as high school through introductory biology and general chemistry courses, yet they typically do not deeply integrate their knowledge of biology and chemistry until college biochemistry.

Understanding learning challenges is important because surprisingly little is known about what makes science difficult. For biochemistry, we know it is abstract and that students must learn things they cannot see, but the particular stumbling blocks have not all been studied. Uncovering these challenges in detail provides a road map for improving instruction.

Understanding the relationships among problem solving, affective variables, and demographic variables will reveal how the experiences of different types of students vary and suggest ways to intervene to create sociocultural environments that make success and persistence attainable by all students.

What do you find most challenging about this research project?

The most challenging aspects of this research project have been developing assessments and collecting longitudinal data. We cannot directly measure what students know about biochemistry or their ability to apply their knowledge. Instead we depend on indirect measures – students’ responses to problem sets. We spent years developing assessments that passed the scrutiny of experts and the pilot testing of students. Even though we settled on assessment items that have provided rich and meaningful data, we know different assessments would reveal different aspects of student knowledge.

We have relentlessly worked with the UGA Office of Institutional Research and life science instructors to track and collect data from the students in our longitudinal cohort. We attempted to anticipate all paths and scenarios and to create strong incentives for students to complete all the data collection activities. We are pleased with our success, but it has challenged our wits and our patience.

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met through your research.

This project has opened up exciting collaborations at UGA and beyond. At UGA, I collaborate with Allan Cohen, Hye-Jeong Choi, and Logan Fiorella all in the Department of Educational Psychology. Al, Hye-Jeong and I collaborate on the psychometric analyses of our problem-solving assessments. We also are using the biochemistry problem-solving data to test new methods like topic modeling. Topic modeling is a type of statistical modeling that allows for the discovery of “topics” in a collection of documents. We are looking for topics in student writing that may reveal new patterns in student thinking and problem-solving process.

Logan and I collaborate to understand the impact of evidence-based pedagogy on student learning in biochemistry. Logan brings expertise in investigating general learning mechanisms that may apply across educational contexts, and I bring expertise in the particular challenges of learning biochemistry. Together, we aim to test general learning mechanisms in disciplinary contexts that are persistently troublesome for students.

Outside of UGA, this work has led to an exciting collaboration with cognitive psychologist Mark McDaniel (Washington University) and chemistry education researcher Regina Frey (University of Utah) who are interested in individual differences in students learning tendencies that impact their performance in science courses. Specifically, they have shown that some students tend to learn by focusing on examples, while other students tend to learn by abstracting across examples. This tendency is distinct from intelligence or academic achievement. We will be using the biochemistry problem-solving assessments developed for this project to investigate the importance of individual learning tendencies in biochemistry.

Finally, this work has led to collaboration with Jennifer Loertscher at Seattle University. Jennifer specializes in biochemistry education and related research and led a national coalition to determine the most critical concepts in biochemistry education. Jennifer and I work to apply biochemistry education research to the classroom and assist faculty in using the research.

Tell me a little bit about the DeLTA research project.

I am the Principal Investigator for a $3 million NSF funded project called, “Transforming STEM Education at Research 1 University through Multi-Level Action Teams,” that was awarded in 2018.

This project involves over 100 faculty members in biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, physics and statistics working together to explore ways to better support, incentivize and reward effective, evidence-based STEM instruction and are creating, implementing and assessing active learning materials to help students better develop STEM knowledge and skills.

The project is formally known as DeLTA (Department and Leadership Teams for Action), and it is inherently a team effort. My co-principal investigators are Tessa Andrews (Genetics); Peggy Brickman (Plant Biology); and Erin Dolan (Biochemistry and Molecular biology). In addition, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs Sarah Covert is also a co-principal investigator. We will be working with UGA senior administrators as well as department heads and other collaborators over a five year period on this project.

What do you think/hope will change regarding STEM over the next five years?

In the next five years, I hope more equity will be achieved in STEM education. Currently the majority of students who enter college intending to pursue a degree in STEM leave STEM. This problem disproportionately impacts women, underrepresented minorities, and students from lower socioeconomic status. Discipline-based education research has revealed a number of ways to address this problem. For example, pedagogies that actively engage students in learning can reduce failure and withdraw rates and improve learning gains. We also know that helping students build self-efficacy and science identity can improve their science achievement.

Individual courses and faculty play dramatic roles in maximizing student learning and supporting students to develop the affective characteristics that facilitate their success and persistence in STEM. Yet college faculty do not have training in pedagogy, and research faculty are not typically even evaluated on their teaching. Thus, I also hope that in the next five years, university departments and institutions will act to take undergraduate education more seriously. This will involve a combination of increased support, professional development, and accountability. We need ways to honor the expertise of faculty and help them learn how to roll that expertise into modern teaching approaches that match what we know about student learning.

Where can people go if they want to learn more about your other research?

I lead an interdisciplinary center on campus known as Scientists Engaged in Education Research, or SEER. The SEER Center includes faculty, postdocs, and graduate students across the University of Georgia who perform research in collegiate STEM education. As science and technology continue to expand their relevance for life in the 21st century, and as a scientifically educated workforce is under increasingly short supply, there is a pressing need for solutions to improving science education in the United States, and specifically to transform how science is taught and learned in colleges and universities. Research areas include basic and applied research grounded within STEM disciplines and informed by evidence-based theory in educational and social sciences. Research generated by participants in the Center catalyzes the transformation of STEM teaching and learning locally and nationally.


Interdisciplinary Research – Paula Lemons

Fellows, Affiliates and GDP’s

We would like to welcome the following new faculty Affiliates of the Institute:

Dr. Michael Cotterell, (Computer Science), Lecturer
Research Interests: Computer Science Education, Open Science, Functional Data Analysis

Dr.Sycarah Fisher, (Educational Psychology), Assistant Professor
Research Interests-Minority Health, Implementation Science, Substance Use, School-based Interventions

Dr. Caleb Seung-hyun Han, (Lifelong Learning, Administration & Policy), Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Knowledge Sharing, Organization Learning, Quantitative Research, Social Capital, Social Network Analysis

Dr. Hannah Krimm, (Communication Sciences & Special Education), Assistant Professor
Research Interests: Dyslexia, Reading Disability, Language Impairment, Educator Preparation

Dr. Glen Nowak, (Health & Risk Communication), Professor
Research Interests: Vaccination, Infectious Diseases, Health Communication, Risk Communication, News Media, Advertising

Dr. Bradley Phillips, (Clinical & Administrative Pharmacy), Professor Research Interests: Translational Sciences, Sleep Apnea, Cardiovascular, Obesity

Dr. Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor, (Language & Literacy Education), Professor Research Interests: TESOL, Bilingual Education, Foreign Language Education, Poetry, Theatre

Let’s celebrate the accomplishments of these Fellows and Affiliates of the institute:

Dr.Tessa Andrews, (Genetics) was awarded the2020 Richard B. Russell Undergraduate Teaching Award

Dr.Kristina Jaskyte-Bahr, (Social Work) was awarded the2020 Service-Learning Teaching Excellence Award

Dr.Dorothy Carter, (Psychology) was awarded theCharles B. Knapp Early Career Scholar Award 2020

Dr. Jamie Cooper, (Foods & Nutrition) was named to the 2019-2020 class of UGA’s Women’s Leadership Fellows program

Dr. Lillian Eby, (Psychology) was named the incoming editor of the Journal of Applied Psychology

Dr.Lillian Eby, (Psychology) was awarded the2020 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award

Dr. Steven M. Kogan, (HDFS) was awarded theWilliam A. Owens Creative Research Award 2020

Dr. Lisa Limeri, (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology) was awarded the 2020 Postdoctoral Research Award

Dr. Julie A. Luft, (Mathematics & Science Education) was awarded theDistinguished Research Professor Award 2020

Dr. Jane McPherson, (Social Work) was awarded the 2020 First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award

Dr. Andrew Owsiak, (International Affairs) was awarded the 2020 Josiah Meigs Teaching Professor Award

Dr. Ron Simons, (Sociology) was named Regents’ Professor for research that is recognized both nationally and internationally as innovative and pace-setting

Dr. Jerry Shannon, (Geography) was awarded the 2020 Richard B. Russell Undergraduate Teaching Award

Dr. Sarah Shannon, (Sociology) was awarded the 2020 Service-Learning Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Leslie Gordon-Simons, (Sociology) was awarded the 2020 First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award

More congratulations to OIBR Fellows & Affiliates on their recent faculty Promotions:

Faculty NameSpring 2020 PromotionDepartment
Dr. Andrew CarswellProfessorFinancial Planning, Housing & Consumer Economics
Dr. Jamie CooperProfessorFoods & Nutrition
Dr. Paula LemonsProfessorBiochemisty & Molecular Biology
Dr. Jessica MuilenbergProfessorHealth Promotion & Behavior
Dr. Grace Bagwell AdamsAssociate Professor Health Policy & Management
Dr. Geoffrey BrownAssociate Professor HDFS
Dr. Nathaniel EvansAssociate Professor Advertising & Public Relations
Dr. Ivanka Pjesivac Associate Professor Journalism
Dr. Desiree Seponski Associate Professor HDFS
Dr. Jerry Shannon Associate Professor Geography
Dr. Julie Stanton Associate Professor Cellular Biology
Dr. Sami Piipari YliAssociate Professor Kinesiology
Dr. Catherine W. O'NealAssociate Research Scientist HDFS
Theresa Wright Senior Public Service AssociateCarl Vinson Institute of Government

Policy Regulations & Compliance

  1. NIH released a policy for late applications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All applications submitted late for due dates between March 9, 2020 and May 1, 2020 will be accepted through May 1, 2020. Full notice here.
  2. NIH Forms-F applications will be used for proposals due on or after May 25, 2020. Full notice here. Forms-F application guide is posted here.
  3. The Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance for institutions and investigators conducting research in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance covers the following topics: (1) Public Health and Clinical Activities; (2) Excluded Public Health Surveillance Activities; (3) Legally Required Reporting; (4) Research Changes to Eliminate Apparent Immediate Hazards; (5) Proposing and Reviewing Study Changes; and, (6) Whether Suspensions of Research Must be Reported. Full guidance here.
  4. As of June 1, 2020, NSF will only accept their PDF templates or SciENcv-generated documents for biographical sketches and current and pending forms. More information found here.

SciENcv also generates these documents for NIHproposals.

Contact OIBR grants staff Mysti Scheuer, Grants Coordinator III, or Kim Cherewick, Assistant Director, with any questions you may have.

COSSA News & Notes

According to Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA), in FY2018 (most updated data released at this time), Georgia colleges and universities received $41.1 million in annual federal investment in Social & Behavioral Science Research (a decrease of 1.9% over FY2017). These funds include grants from Dept. of Health & Human Services (incl. NIH) ($23.58M), NSF ($4.75M), Dept. of Agriculture ($3.97M), DoD ($2.95M) and Other Federal Departments & Agencies ($5.14M). University of Georgia was nationally ranked 25th overall and was the highest supported institution supported by these funds ($17.8M – a 9.2% increase from FY17), followed by GSU ($11.3M), Georgia Tech ($6.4M), Emory ($4.9M), Spelman College ($215K) and University of North Georgia ($105K).

COSSA is compiling a list of resources for social scientists and stakeholders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The list includes guidance from federal science agencies, collections of publicly available peer-reviewed research related to the crisis, resources from COSSA member associations, and more.

COSSA is an advocate for the research community, educating policy makers on the need for federal funding for research in the social and behavioral sciences. Sign up for the COSSA Washington Update here.

Georgia CTSA Corner (New)

The Georgia Clinical & Translational Science Alliance (Georgia CTSA) is an inter-institutional magnet that concentrates basic, translational, and clinical research investigators, community clinicians, professional societies, and industry collaborators in dynamic clinical and translational research projects. Emory, Morehouse, Georgia Tech, and UGA form the Georgia CTSA. This partnership, a strategic multi- institutional alliance, offers compelling, unique, and synergistic advantages to researchers and community members statewide. The Georgia CTSA leverages their complementary strengths to accelerate clinical and translational education, research, and community engagement to impact health in Georgia and beyond.


OIBR’s very own Dr. Lillian Eby is the Director of the TEAMS (Translational Education and Mentoring in Science) program. This program provides faculty, postdocs and clinical fellows from the member institutions the opportunity to develop professional skills in the areas of translational and clinical research, with special emphasis on multidisciplinary teams. This innovative, cohort-based model takes a three pillared approach to mentoring and includes learning communities, 1:1 mentoring, as well as training and resources.

The program just completed its very successful inaugural mentoring program. A HUGE thanks goes out to our own Amanda Abraham, Zhuo “Adam” Chen, Steve Kogan, Bradley Phillips, and Larry Sweet for serving as mentors for the first cohort of the Georgia CTSA TEAMS Program. Inaugural Fellows (mentees) from UGA that are affiliated with OIBR include Adrienne Baldwin-White (Social Work).

Also, OIBR Fellow Dr. Assaf Oshri helped with the Georgia CTSA program called Grant Wise – serving as a one-time mentor for a faculty member from Emory working on a K-Award. Thank you Dr. Oshri!


The Georgia CTSA TEAMS is now recruiting for the second cohort to start in the fall of 2020 and needs your help. It’s important that UGA be well-represented and there are a lot offered by this program. Don’t be scared off by the “clinical and translational” focus here – if your work touches on human or animal physical, mental and/or cognitive health in any way (basic or applied; lab, field or intervention/prevention research) you can help with this program!

Please consider volunteering to participate in some capacity as a mentor. The application deadline is June 1, 2020. The time commitment is not large and it’s a great networking opportunity and a chance to give back. For more information and to sign-up go here. If you have questions, please reach out to Lillian.

Funding News

The institute has several new Research Proposals that have been funded since last fall.

Dr. Sarah Shannon (Sociology), an OIBR Affiliate, received an award from the Vera Institute of Justice in the amount of $235,000 for her project “Rural Jails Research and Policy Network.” Project period: 11/1/2019-1/31/2021. Co-investigator includes OIBR Affiliate and GDP Alumnus, Dr. Orion Mowbray (Social Work).

Dr. Gregory Strauss (Psychology), an OIBR Fellow, received an NIH RF1 in the amount of $441,455 for his project “Computationally modeling the failure of effort to become a secondary reinforcer in schizophrenia.” Project period: 4/1/2020-3/31/2022.

Dr. Gregory Strauss (Psychology), an OIBR Fellow, received an NIH R01 in the amount of $2,004,618 for his project “4/5 CAPER: Computerized assessment of psychosis risk.” Project period: 4/1/2020- 2/28/2025.

Dr. Gregory Strauss (Psychology), an OIBR Fellow, received an NIH R61 in the amount of $1,231,430 for his project “Cognitive training for emotion regulation in psychotic disorders.” Project period: 2/1/2020- 12/31/2021. Co-Investigators include OIBR Fellows Dr. Dean Sabatinelli (Psychology) and Dr. Lawrence Sweet (Psychology).

Funding opportunities:

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation call for proposals (no deadline): Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health “seeks proposals that are primed to influence health equity in the future. We are interested in ideas that address any of these four areas of focus: Future of Evidence; Future of Social Interaction; Future of Food; Future of Work. Additionally, we welcome ideas that might fall outside of these four focus areas, but which offer unique approaches to advancing health equity and our progress toward a Culture of Health.”

More information here.

UGA’s Office of Research is regularly updating COVID-19-related funding opportunities at this link.

Institute News


As a reminder, OIBR is open for business during this pandemic and ready to serve you. The staff is currently working remotely but can be reached by email during regular business hours.

In late April, Dr. Geoffrey Brown (HDFS) and Dr. Dawn Robinson (Sociology) participated in the Social Science Advocacy Day on behalf of the Institute. This event was originally designed for advocates to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but was changed to a “phone-in.” “I learned a few things about messaging, and the concerns of our congressional delegation. I think the offices were receptive to the idea that we (social science in general, and UGA in particular) can be a resource for them,” said Dr. Brown. We hope that next year, we will be able to send in-person advocates again.

OIBR staff member Paula McIntyre has been given the new title of Post Awards Operations Manager to more accurately represent her role in OIBR and across campus. Her contact information remains the same.

Taylor Stevens, current OIBR student worker, has been selected as one of the top 100 students for the Student Employee of the Year! Taylor has been a huge help to our post-award team and is well deserving of this award. We are really going to miss her when she graduates in May.

OIBR Events:

The 2019 Owens Institute for Behavioral Research Annual Meeting was held at the beginning of December. We welcomed many fellows and affiliates for our FY19 highlights and we were honored to have Provost Jack Hu join us to say a few words. There was time for some speed networking, mingling with old and new friends and good food and drink. We always enjoy this time to share everyone’s successes and see everyone.

In early February, the Stress, Trauma, Adversity & Resilience (STAR) Work Group (formerly ELSA) hosted Dr. Kathleen Baggett, PhD, of Georgia State University as she presented her lecture “Improving Mood and Strengthening Parenting Practices Among Depressed Mothers of Non-Dominant Cultures: Mobile Technologies for Increasing Intervention Access.” Guests enjoyed lunch and open Q & A after the talk.

As you may already know, the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research 50th Anniversary celebration that was scheduled for October 23, 2020 has been postponed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to delay this event until 2021 and will share more details when they become available.

As part of the mission for OIBR, we strive to provide beneficial networking opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration and we hope that we can bring you our regularly scheduled events this fall. If you have any networking/event ideas, please feel free to share them with Andrea Horsman, OIBR Outreach and Communications Manager.

Have something to share?

Are you doing any research around COVID-19? Do you have an interesting project that you are working on? Did you recently publish your work? Did you receive an award? Let us help promote you and your research. We love sharing the accomplishments and successes of our faculty! Please contact Andrea Horsman with anything that you would like to share.