Vakil, Krist Receive NAEd/Spencer Fellowships

Vakil, Krist Receive NAEd/Spencer Fellowships

Spencer winnersChristina Krist (l), Sepehr Vakil

Sepehr Vakil of the University of Texas at Austin and alumna Christina Krist (PhD16) have received prestigious National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral fellowships to further their work in education research.

Vakil, who will join Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) faculty in September of 2018, investigates cultural and political issues related to STEM education, with a focus in computer science and engineering.

Krist, assistant professor of science education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, received her doctorate in Learning Sciences at SESP thanks in part to an NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. She’ll use her fellowship to look at how trust and other relational dynamics are integral to disciplinary learning, with a focus on science education.

The fellowship program, created by the National Academy of Education with support from the Spencer Foundation, provides $70,000 fellowships to 30 outstanding early career researchers at the postdoctoral level. Fellowship recipients also are mentored by members of the National Academy of Education.

Sepehr Vakil:

Vakil’s NAEd/Spencer project connects STEM learning to sociocultural and political identity development. His project will explore how the learning experiences of undergraduate students during their first-year shape how they understand the values and purposes of their disciplines, and in turn mediate their political identities.

Using a comparative case study method, Vakil will study first-year undergraduate engineering and computer science students at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Tehran, in Iran.

Both universities are internationally recognized for their science and engineering programs and their historical legacies of student activism and political engagement. But while engineering students at UC Berkeley – and generally in the U.S. -- are not known to be particularly engaged in social and political issues, engineering students at the University of Tehran have been at the forefront of freedom struggles in Iran.

Vakil hopes his research findings will “broaden how we understand identity processes in STEM contexts” and will spark efforts to “rethink the ethical, moral, and political dimensions of engineering and computer science education.”

Christina Krist

Krist’s project examines the role of trust, epistemic responsibility, and interpersonal relationships in science education. Current reforms in science education emphasize discussions and interaction. Krist takes a closer look at how teachers build classroom cultures that support students in taking intellectual ownership in the context of these reforms.

Drawing on research looking at children’s participation in disciplinary practices as well as feminist critiques of science and schooling, she’ll study how trust developed in an 8th-grade science class of two content-area units.

By exploring the nature of these interactions, she hopes to shed light on ways to build productive classroom cultures that support rich disciplinary learning.

Previous NAEd/Spencer postdoctoral fellowship winners with SESP ties include:

  • *Shirin Vossoughi, 2016 winner, assistant professor of learning sciences at SESP
  • Cassandra Hart (PhD11), 2016, assistant professor of education policy in the School of Education at the University of California
  • Megan Hopkins, 2016, assistant professor in the Department of Education Studies at the University of California, completed a postdoctoral fellowship at SESP
  • Mimi Engel (PhD08), 2014, assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College
  • Victor Lee (PhD09), 2014, associate professor of instructional technology and learning sciences at Utah State University
  • Rosemary S. Russ, 2010, professor of curriculum and instruction, University of Wisconsin, former SESP faculty member
  • *Eva Lam, 2006, associate professor of learning sciences, Asian American Studies at SESP
  • Dor Abrahamson (PhD04), 2005, associate professor, University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education
  • *Emma K. Adam, 2003, professor of human development and social policy at SESP, Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research
  • John B. Diamond, 2002, Hoefs-Bascom Professor of Education at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a former SESP post-doctoral fellow and faculty member
  • *Miriam Gamoran Sherin, 2001, professor of learning sciences, associate dean for teacher education at SESP
  • Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, (2000) professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, former SESP faculty member

*Current SESP faculty



By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/21/18