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Graduate Studies

John W. Renner Science Education Center
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John. W. Renner Science Education Center

Ph.D. Students

Tiffany Neill


Tiffany Neill is the deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the past-president for the Council of State Science Supervisors, serving as president from 2017-2019.

In her role at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, she works to support districts and educators in aligning their curriculum and instruction to standards and supports curriculum directors and specialist in similar efforts with various disciplines. She oversees both Title II and Title IV state activity funds, implements various state and federal policies and serves as the project manager for several USDE grants. In her eight years of service at the Oklahoma State Department of Education she served as the director of science and engineering education for six years and oversaw two science standards review and revision processes.

She served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine consensus committee that authored the report, Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce: Policies, Preservice Education, Professional Development, and the Workplace (2020) and currently serves on a consensus committee report focused on enhancing science in prekindergarten through fifth grade. She also serves as a Co-Pi on the National Science Foundation grant, ACESSE which focuses on enhancing equity and coherence in science education.

Ms.Neill taught middle school and high school science in Vinita, Oklahoma and served as a graduate research assistant at the University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center for Education and Community Renewal. She also taught elementary science methods courses for the University of Oklahoma. She has completed the graduate courses required for a doctoral degree in science curriculum and instruction a and is currently completing a dissertation focused on STEM integration.

Heather Shaffery


Heather Shaffery is a science education doctoral student and teaches as an adjunct instructor in the ILAC program in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. Heather received her M.S. in ecology and evolution at the University of Pittsburgh, during which time she taught undergraduates in Department of Biological Sciences through a teaching fellowship. After completing her degree, Heather moved to Oklahoma to teach middle school science in Oklahoma City Public Schools.


Heather currently provides professional development and one-on-one instructional coaching with pre- and in-service teachers across the state of Oklahoma as a science curriculum specialist for the K20 Center at OU. In this capacity, Heather emphasizes the development of teacher efficacy for three-dimensional instruction and meaningful student discourse. Her doctoral research focuses on how teachers’ complex personal identities influence instructional decisions in their science classrooms.

Kristen K. Shelton


Kristen K. Shelton is a Ph.D. student in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum in Science Education in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. Kristen received both their B.S. and M.S. from OU, where they conducted research on enzyme activity and transcription regulation, respectively.

Kristen works as an instructor at OU teaching various courses in the biology department as well as the microbiology and plant biology departments. Kristen’s research interests involve equity, inclusion and accessibility in science curricula, academia andindustry. Their primary focus is examining the roles that representation and equitable support play in making space for and contributing to retention of historically underrepresented groups in the sciences.


Kristen believes that the advancement of science is promoted through collaboration, cooperation, and critical thinking that values the inclusion of all people, their unique perspectives, and diverse contributions.

Website: kristensheton.oucreate.com

Mariah Warren


Mariah Warren is a doctoral student in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum for science education in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. Mariah has worked in public education teaching science and math in grades 9-12. Mariah is now an instructional tech curriculum specialist at the K20 center working for the GEAR UP for the FUTURE grant. Mariah works with teachers to help integrate engaging and authentic technology in order to better prepare students for college and career. Her research focuses on school culture and the support teachers need in order to effectively engage students.

M.Ed. Students

Sofia Alvarez-Briglie


Sofia Alvarez-Briglie received her bachelor's in biomedical science with a minor in Spanish language from the University of Central Oklahoma in May 2019. After spending a semester in a veterinary medical program in Missouri, Sofia elected to come back to Norman to explore her passion for science education.

She is now working on a master's in science education with initial certification at the University of Oklahoma along with working as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Kelly Feille. Sofia aspires to be a secondary science educator but wants to keep her options open. Her hope is to help create a more scientifically literate society and continue advocating for diversification within our science communities.

Jessica Blunt

Claudia Colonnello


Claudia Colonnello is a student at the ILAC program of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. Claudia is working on obtaining a master's degree in science sducation and hopes to become a certified middle school science teacher in Oklahoma.

Originally from Venezuela, Claudia has a Ph.D. in physics. The main focus of her research has been the experimental study of the physics of granular materials and pattern formation in complex systems, although in the first years of her career she worked on problems in theoretical high energy physics.

Through her experience teaching undergraduate courses, Claudia discovered her love for teaching and a desire to share her passion and empower young people to engage with science and nature.

Nate DeAngelis

Lisa Ratliff


Lisa Ratliff started her first year at the College of Education in the fall of 2020 as a science education student. Her undergraduate degree is in biology and her focus was conducting research for the mammalogy department at Sam Noble in the Lanier Lab. Her research experience was exclusively on small mammals but has recently diverged into education with Dr. Savic. She hopes to gain more experience on how to create programs on both the formal and informal levels. She is currently employed with the Science Museum of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Museum Network. 

Through her experience teaching undergraduate courses, Claudia discovered her love for teaching and a desire to share her passion and empower young people to engage with science and nature.

Laura Sabatelli

Alonna Smith


Alonna Smith is beginning her second year in the ILAC secondary science master's degree program at the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. Alonna received her undergraduate degree in secondary science education at the University of Central Oklahoma.

After graduating, she began her teaching career at Oklahoma City Public schools where she taught life science in grades 9th-12th. She is currently working at the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma as a science curriculum specialist on a federal GEAR UP grant. Her research focuses on socially transformative secondary science curriculum using a justice-centered approach that also includes components of culturally responsive teaching.