Our Research Team

Chandra round Dr. Chandra Orrill, Principal Investigator

Dr. Orrill holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University. She joined the faculty at UMass Dartmouth in 2010 after serving as a Research Scientist at the University of Georgia for nearly a decade. She served as the Chair of the Department of STEM Education & Teacher Development from 2013-2017. Then, she served as the Director of the Kaput Center for Research & Innovation in STEM Education from 2017-2020. Dr. Orrill’s has two major strands of research. The first focuses on how teachers understand the mathematics they teach, how to help support teachers in better understanding that content, and assessing teachers’ understanding. Her work has focused on proportional reasoning for over a decade. The second focuses on supporting elementary and middle school teachers to integrate computational thinking into their mathematics classrooms. Dr. Orrill has published more than 80 journal articles, chapters, and published proceedings in venues that include Journal of Research for Mathematics Education, Mathematical Thinking and Learning, Educational Researcher, and Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education. She has also presented over 100 papers at national and international conferences. Dr. Orrill has also been awarded more than 25 grants with a net value in excess of $8 million, served as Chair on 10 dissertation committees, and mentored over 60 graduate students in research projects.


Dr. Shakhnoza Kayumova, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Kayumova is an Associate Professor in the Department of STEM Education and Teacher Development as well as a Research Scientist at the Kaput Center for STEM Education Research and Innovation. Shakhnoza is the founder of the STEAM Language, Learning, and Identity Research lab. Shakhnoza also direct Community Research and Partnership Initiative (CoRPI) at the University of Massachusetts- Dartmouth. Shakhnoza is the NSF Early CAREER awardee and recognized for her work that bridges university research and community engagement with schools, teachers, families and children/youth from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Ram headshot Dr. Ramprasad Balasubramanian, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Balasubramanian is a professor of Computer and Information Science and Vice Provost. His research interests include Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Robotics, Computer Vision, Decision Support Systems, and Computing Education. His current focus of research in mobile robotics is in the area of Multi-vehicle autonomy, SLAM, and navigation-related issues of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles and Computational Thinking in elementary education. Specifically, he has focused on multi-vehicle coordination on long-term undersea missions, strategies for consensus in communication constrained environments, and autonomy. His work in decision support systems has involved the integration of real-time data from Internet-of-things (IoT) sensors to measure subsurface temperature and moisture for imposition of Seasonal Load Restriction in cold-weather regions. His research has been supported by Seaport Economic Council, US Department of Transportation, National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research in excess of $5 million. In 2019 he established the Marine and UnderSea Technology (MUST) Research Program to support the development of research of naval relevance and workforce development in the marine technology areas. Working with NUWC and the government relations office he secured $8.8M through the Office of Naval Research to support MUST.


Lukas headshot Dr. Zhichun Liu, Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Zhichun “Lukas” Liu is a postdoctoral fellow on the Computational Thinking Counts project. His current work aims at promoting the development and learning transfer of computational thinking among K-12 students and teachers. Dr. Liu’s research focuses on designing and developing active game-based learning experiences to facilitate learners’ knowledge acquisition and transferrable skill development through problem-solving. His research interests also include using quantitative analytics methods (e.g., Hidden Markov Model, Bayesian Network, sequential analysis, and social network analysis) to understand learners’ behavior, competence, discourse, and interactions. Dr. Liu earned his Ph.D. in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies from Florida State University in 2020.

Zarina headshot Zarina Gearty, Research Assistant

Zarina is a PhD student studying mathematics education. Her research interests are teacher knowledge, specifically in the topic of operations with positive and negative numbers, and teacher professional development. She is a former middle school math teacher and has her Master’s in math education from Framingham State University. She enjoys reading and learning about innovative teaching practices and methods that make math learning more about conceptual understanding, sense-making and engaging.

Eleanor headshot Eleanor Richard, Research Assistant

Eleanor Richard is a STEM Education Ph.D. student at UMass Dartmouth with a background in elementary/early childhood science and engineering. Eleanor’s research interests include elementary computer science and science educational policy.


Kym headshot Kimberly Welty, Grant Support Specialist

Ms. Welty has been working at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth since 2008 as a grant/project manager, responsible for administrative and management aspects on various grants totaling over $8 million.


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