Meet the Catalyst Center Director
Michael Loverude Heads Research Efforts to Advance Learning, Teaching of Science and Math in New Role
Since Michael Loverude joined Cal State Fullerton’s physics faculty 12 years ago, he has conducted countless hours of research on physics education in efforts to help college students better grasp the science coursework.
Now, the professor of physics has stepped into a new role to advance the nationwide effort to improve science and mathematics education in the U.S. He has been appointed director of the university’s Catalyst Center for the Advancement of Research in Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Science Education.
Robert A. Koch, acting dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Claire Cavallaro, dean of the College of Education, made the appointment. The center is a collaboration between the two colleges.
“Based on Dr. Loverude’s long-term commitment to excellence in research of teaching and learning and his leadership in his department and elsewhere on campus, we are confident that he will provide excellent guidance to the center as it moves forward over the coming years,” the deans said in a memo announcing the new director.
To establish the center, in 2009 Cal State Fullerton received $238,000 in congressionally directed funding through the U.S. Department of Education, sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce. Last year, the university received $300,000 in second-year, congressionally directed funding to continue Catalyst efforts.
The center’s main focus is to promote science and mathematics education and boost research efforts in math and science.
“Our goal is to produce more K-12 science and math teachers and improve the learning of math and science for students at all levels,” Loverude said.
The math and science focus reflects Cal State Fullerton’s heightened emphasis on increasing student interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields — a universitywide initiative.
Due to the steady drop of math and science majors at universities and colleges across the country, there is a critical need in the U.S. to strengthen and improve ways of teaching and learning math and science and to generate more well-prepared and knowledgeable teachers, mathematicians and scientists, Loverude explained.
“If we want to do a better job in STEM learning and education, we need people doing research in a systematic way,” said Loverude, vice chair of the Physics Department and a past recipient of the university’s Carol Barnes Excellence in Teaching Award.
“Through the center, we hope to bring together experts from a variety of fields to study teaching methods and ways students can master complex math and science concepts.”
Loverude, who has generated nearly $350,000 in support for his own research efforts, plans to expand collaboration and involvement of faculty members from other campus colleges and departments.
“Since our work is interdisciplinary, we have that unique opportunity to bring together faculty experts across the entire spectrum of math and science education, as well as from related disciplines, who might not otherwise think that their research ties in with the center’s goals and projects,” he said.
Already, over the last two years, Cal State Fullerton education, mathematics and science professors across the two colleges and seven departments have been conducting research to contribute to the nationwide STEM effort, said Loverude, who has been involved in the center since its inception. For instance, through a number of externally funded grant projects, faculty members — whose teaching and research interests focus on mathematics and science pedagogy (or methods of teaching) — have been studying how to better teach preschool through college-level students these academic subjects. The goal: to improve student achievement in math and science.
As Catalyst’s new leader, Loverude is also working toward securing a permanent place on campus for the center and is seeking additional monies to fund research projects to further center goals.
Loverude succeeds Victoria B. Costa, founding center director, director of science education and professor of secondary education.
June 21, 2011