Chemistry Education Research (or CER) is concerned with teaching and learning in chemistry, investigated through a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods. Researchers in chemistry education explore a broad range of areas, including mechanisms by which students construct understanding of chemistry principles and barriers that impede that construction; the development of instruments that measure understanding, attitudes, identity, and other affective constructs; how evidence about student learning can be incorporated into curriculum design; and how to measure the impact of curricular transformations. Graduate students in chemistry education may specialize in a variety of chemistry subdisciplines as appropriate for their project. For example, a student intent on characterizing organic chemistry learning environments may benefit from enrolling in a graduate-level physical organic chemistry course. In addition to chemistry coursework, it is expected that graduate students in chemistry education will enroll in appropriate methods courses in the Department of Educational Psychology and/or the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at UW. Training in CER is useful for a whole host of careers including science policy advisor, CER-focused R1 professor, high school teacher, professor at primarily undergraduate institution, curriculum developer, science education consultant and program officer. Students who specialize in CER may also choose to conduct research with faculty from other paths.

Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry Education Research should apply to the graduate program in chemistry.


The requirements for a Ph.D. in chemistry at UW Madison are now unified. Accordingly, the requirements for a CER-focused degree mirror those of the other paths. The chemistry department’s guildelines for completing a Ph.D. can be accessed here.


Graduate students whose focus is chemistry education research will be expected to enroll in graduate coursework in both the department of chemistry and the school of education.

Core Courses

  • CHEM 758 – Chemistry Education Research (fall of 1st year)
  • CURRIC/ED PSYCH 719 – Introduction to Qualitative Research
  • ED PSYCH 822 – Introduction to Quantitative Inquiry in Education

Recommended Courses

  • 2x CHEM courses relevant to research project (e.g., CHEM 641 if studying organic chem learning environments, CHEM 608 if studying inorganic chem learning environments)
  • 1x Advanced Methods course selected from the list below:
    • Statistical Methods Applied to Education I (ED PSYCH 760)
    • Statistical Methods Applied to Education II (ED PSYCH 761)
    • Regression Models in Education (ED PSYCH 763)
    • Statistical Analyses and Design in Educational Research (ED PSYCH 861)
    • Hierarchical Linear Modeling (ED PSYCH 964)
    • Qualitative Research Methods in Education: Field Methods 1 (ED PSYCH 788)
    • Qualitative Research Methods in Education: Field Methods II (ED PSYCH 789)

Chemistry education graduate students may take additional coursework from CHEM, ED PSYCH, or CURRIC as appropriate for their project with approval from their advisor.


Ryan Stowe: Characterizing meaningful active learning, Supporting molecular-level sensemaking, Model-based reasoning in organic chemistry

Sam Pazicni: Mechanisms of Language and Learning Chemistry, Cognitive Equity, Inorganic Chemistry Education