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NSF Fellowship Winner Goes Back to Middle School

March 16, 2010

A University of Kansas doctoral student in computer science has been awarded a $30,000 National Science Foundation fellowship through its Graduate STEM in K-12 Education (GK-12) program. GK-12 supports partnerships between future scientists and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers to improve Fellows’ teaching and communication skills, advance STEM education in middle schools and provide role models for younger students. 

Megan Peck will bring innovative, cutting-edge ideas from computer science and math into area middle school classrooms. In collaboration with partner teachers, she will develop interactive demonstrations and other projects aimed at igniting student interest in scientific study and careers. 

“I’m very grateful for the fellowship and looking forward to the challenge of incorporating some basic computer science and math that I've learned into the middle school curriculum,” says Peck, who graduated with distinction in computer engineering from KU in 2006 and started work on her doctorate the following semester. “I believe opportunities to interact with and learn from different groups will make me a much more effective educator.”

“This is a perfect fellowship for Megan,” says her advisor, Perry Alexander, EECS Professor and Acting Director of KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC). “She is an excellent theoretical computer scientist and wants to be an educator.  After being a teaching assistant for several years, this is a logical next step in her preparation for an academic career."

Steven Case, Director of the KU Center for Science Education, says Peck will help close the gap between what scientists know and what the public understands about science. Science teaches students to observe, test and collect evidence before making conclusions. People can use science to become better critical thinkers and problem solvers. Science must be taught in a way that allows students to integrate this thought process into their daily lives. 

“Megan is an ideal candidate for helping us build this bridge between scientists and the public,” says Case, who is coordinator of KU GK-12. “A graduate of Lansing High School, Megan is someone whom students will identify with. She is smart and articulate and understands that we must find new ways to capture and challenge students’ natural curiosity about the world around them.”

Additionally, the fellowship supports Peck’s research in the Computer Systems Design Lab at ITTC. Different vocabulary and engineering processes hamper communication among functionality, power and other subsystems within complex electronics. Rosetta software allows designers to better understand how these components interact, enabling faster and more accurate production. Peck’s research focuses on mathematical applications to better define components’ interactions within Rosetta software.

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