Race in the Biology Classroom

There are many sources of racial bias in society, and many boil down to variations of "essentialism," or the belief that people have natural and unchanging core essences. One harmful type is genetic essentialism, the idea that genes determine all human traits and make different races distinct.

Traditional genetics curricula taught in biology classrooms have been found to exacerbate these scientifically incorrect biases in students rather than correct them; however we have limited understanding of how. My qualitative work seeks to fill this gap in order to design better classroom strategies.

My research is building instruments to assess students' knowledge and biases to enable teachers to identify problems and improve curricula to correct racial biases. I enjoy working in teams and have collaborators across many institution types.

Sex & Gender in Science Education

Another flavor of essentialism--that people have natural and unchanging core essences--is gender essentialism. The idea that genes determine all human traits, that sex and gender are binaries, that they are baked into DNA, and that heterosexual reproduction is the universal norm are inaccurate as well as harmful to students of marginalized genders and sexual orientations.

Sex and gender are often not addressed in STEM education at all, or are presented in a way that perpetuates these damaging dominant narratives. However, affirming and scientifically accurate counternarratives also exist, and they are often cultivated by students of marginalized identities. My work explores how these narratives are used in biology classrooms, why educators tell these stories, how they develop these narratives, what barriers they face in making their classrooms more inclusive, and what institutional systems reinforce oppressive power dynamics. It is both meaningful and helpful to be able to draw on my own personal experiences and identities as we engage in this research!

Surface Science and Renewable Energy

As we continue further into the 21st century, many large scientific challenges facing society today involve increasingly small-scale solutions. From renewable energy materials to medical devices, to flexible electronics, water purification, and more, nanotechnology and thin films have enabled powerful technological advances. 

Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a potent tool for building materials on the atomic scale, enabling complex device design. However, its high precision relies on surface chemical reactions behaving in specific and self-limiting ways, so understanding and controlling how these reactions work is critical. 

My research studies how a variety of surface chemistries work together to enable ALD in new ways, expanding its chemical toolbox and allowing for design and synthesis of a greater range of new materials. Through my work, I have produced new technologies enabling more energy efficient manufacturing tools and environmentally friendly ways of creating biorenewable fuels.

My interdisciplinary research connects experiment and theory, inorganic and organic chemistry, and nanotechnology. I value working extensively with collaborators. 

Reflexivity and Positionality

In both qualitative and quantitative work, researchers are not some disembodied, removed force making absolute observations on systems they do not interact with. Objectivity is a myth. Positionality is understanding our own connections to the work and the roles and identities we hold that situate us in the research. Reflexivity goes further to reflect on how our positionality interacts with every part of the research process. From the questions we ask to what we're able to observe, to methodological decisions and more, researchers' positions matter and interact with the research.

I am a fierce advocate of the scientific community engaging in reflexivity. Reflexivity is an ongoing process throughout the research, not a one-and-done item or a listing of identities in publications. I seek to be a part of bringing reflexivity to the forefront of how we reflect on our work and provide transparency to our processes. I work to practice this in community and build on the excellent work of others who have developed powerful frameworks for reflexivity!


S.T. Oyakhire, W. Zhang, A. Shin, R. Xu, D.T. Boyle, Z. Yu, Y. Ye, Y. Yang, J.A. Raiford, W. Huang, J.R. Schneider, Y. Cui, S.F. Bent, “Electrical Resistance of the Current Collector Controls Lithium Morphology,” Nature Comm., 2022. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-31507-w

J.R. Schneider, C. de Paula, N.E. Richey, S.T. Oyakhire, J.G. Baker, S.F. Bent, “Understanding and Utilizing Reactive Oxygen Reservoirs, in Atomic Layer Deposition of Metal Oxides with Ozone,” Chem. Mater., 2022. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.2c00753 

J.R. Schneider* & C. de Paula*, J. Lewis, J. Woodruff, J.A. Raiford, S.F. Bent, “The Importance of Decarbonylation Mechanisms in the Atomic Layer Deposition of High-Quality Ru Films by Zero-Oxidation State Ru(DMBD)(CO)3,” Small, 2022. doi: 10.1002/smll.202105513
*authors contributed equally to this work

J.G. Baker, J.R. Schneider, C. de Paula, A.J.M. Mackus, S.F. Bent, “Identification of Highly Active Surface Iron Sites on Ni(OOH) for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction by Atomic Layer Deposition,” J. Catal., 2021.

S.T. Oyakhire, W. Huang, H. Wang, D.T. Boyle, J.R. Schneider, C. de Paula, Y. Wu, Y. Cui, S.F. Bent, “Revealing and Elucidating ALD-Derived Control of Lithium Plating Microstructure,” Adv. Energy Mater., 2020.

J.R. Schneider, J.G. Baker, S.F. Bent, “The Influence of Ozone: Atomic Layer Deposition Growth Mechanisms of Fe2O3 Using tert-butylferrocene and O3,” Adv. Mater. Interfaces, 2020.

J.G. Baker, J.R. Schneider, S.F. Bent, “Nucleation Effects in the Atomic Layer Deposition of Nickel-Aluminum Oxide Thin Films,” Chem. Mater., 2020.

J.G. Baker, J.R. Schneider, J.A. Garrido Torres, J.A. Singh, A.J.M. Mackus, M. Bajdich, S.F. Bent, “The Role of Aluminum in Promoting Ni-Fe-OOH Electrocatalysts for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction,” ACS Appl. Energy Mater., 2019.

A.J.M. Mackus* & J.R. Schneider*, C. MacIsaac, J.G. Baker, S.F. Bent, “Synthesis of Doped, Ternary, and Quaternary Materials by Atomic Layer Deposition: A Review,” Chem. Mater., 2019.
*authors contributed equally to this work

C. MacIsaac, J.R. Schneider, R.G. Closser, T.R. Hellstern, D.S. Bergsman, J. Park, Y. Liu, R. Sinclair, S.F. Bent, “Atomic and Molecular Layer Deposition of Hybrid Mo-Thiolate Thin Films with Enhanced Catalytic Activity,” Adv. Func. Mat., 2018.