IUP English Professor Wins Grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute for $1 Million

Posted on 1/23/2020 10:33:17 AM

Indiana University of Pennsylvania English professor David Hanauer has received a $1-million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the continuing development of measurement tools and educational models for course-based research experiences in the sciences. The funding will be released over the next five years.

The primary goal of the project is to develop assessments that can help to predict persistence of students, with an overarching goal of developing and refining courses that keep students involved in scientific study and research, especially students from traditionally underrepresented groups. 

In addition, the grant supports Hanauer’s continuing research into the educational variables and pedagogical models which facilitate student persistence in inquiry-based STEM courses. 

An applied linguist by training who teaches research methodology in the English doctoral program, Hanauer has expertise in a wide range of psychological and linguistic methodologies which he employs to construct psychosocial measurement tools for educational assessment purposes.

Hanauer has been involved in science education research since 2003, shortly after he arrived at IUP. Over the last 17 years, his research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Federal Department of Education. 

In 2005, he began work as an assessment coordinator with Graham Hatfull, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, who was directing a scientific inquiry program titled the PHIRE program, funded by the Professorship Program at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Hatfull is the head principal investigator on the SEA-PHAGES program, and Hanauer credits his collaboration with Hatfull for facilitating much of his ongoing work.

SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutions Science) is an undergraduate biology course focused on the isolation and identification of a particular form of virus (bacteriophages). The course is designed for students to do hands-on authentic research very early in the course to find viruses, and then learn and actively do a variety of microbiology techniques. IUP participated in the SEA-PHAGES program during the 2017–18 academic year.

The SEA-PHAGES program and the next level of the SEA-PHAGES courses, SEA-GENES (Science Education Alliance-Gene-function Exploration by a Network of Emerging Scientists)—both funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute—is the focus of Hanauer’s current assessment project and educational research. With this current funding, he will develop a high-level assessment tool for the SEA-GENES courses and other upper-level, laboratory-based authentic research courses. This work builds upon the development of an earlier assessment tool entitled the Persistence in the Sciences survey (PITS), which is currently widely used in the assessment of freshman research experiences courses.

Hanauer works with about 120 institutions to assess approximately 6,000 students a year, looking not just at the content of the course, but at a variety of psychological and social measurements developed in the PITS survey.  These measurements allow the evaluation of the quality of the educational research experience for students at a variety of institutions and provide formative feedback to 300 instructors involved in this teaching.

In addition to his scientific education research, Hanauer does qualitative and quantitative research on poetry and has developed ways in which poetry writing can be used as a research methodology. His research has looked at the psycholinguistics of reading and writing poetry and ways in which poetry can be used as a way of eliciting personal experiential data from participants. He is the author of seven academic books and has published over 50 articles and book chapters on scientific inquiry research experiences and the psycholinguistics of poetry.

Research at IUP