Melissa L. Aikens

Assistant Professor
Phone: (603) 862-0840
Office: Biological Sciences, Spaulding Hall Rm G68, Durham, NH 03824
Melissa Aikens

As a discipline-based education researcher, I conduct research in undergraduate biology education, which as a field aims to understand the teaching and learning of biology. Recent research in education and cognitive psychology has led to a better understanding of how students learn, and this has instigated national calls to reform the way biology is taught at the undergraduate level. My research focuses on understanding how self-beliefs and values related to motivation influence achievement and persistence in undergraduate biology students.

I am particularly interested in biology majors' motivation to learn quantitative skills, such as statistics and mathematical modeling. Mathematics can induce disinterest and anxiety in students, which can lead to disengagement on quantitative tasks. Therefore, it is critical to understand pedagogical strategies that can increase students' motivation on quantitative tasks. Drawing from educational theory, I ultimately seek to understand how students' educational experiences in quantitative biology affect their self-efficacy and personal values towards quantitative biology tasks, their performance on quantitative biology tasks, and their choices to take additional quantitative biology courses. I am also interested in questions related to faculty motivation to teach quantitative skills in their biology courses.

Additionally, as part of my postdoctoral work, I have examined mentoring in undergraduate research experiences. Graduate students and postdocs often serve as mentors at research universities, increasing the number of undergraduates who can participate in research. My research, in collaboration with colleagues at UGA, seeks to understand how mentoring by a graduate student or postdoc and a faculty member contribute to undergraduate researcher outcomes.

Education

  • Ph.D., Biology, University of Virginia
  • M.F.S., Forest Science, Yale University
  • A.B., Biology, Bowdoin College

Courses Taught

  • BIOL 412: Intro Biol: Evol Biodiv & Ecol
  • BIOL 695: Biology Teaching Practices
  • BIOL 720: Plant-Animal Interactions
  • BIOL 795: Independent Investigations
  • BIOL 999: Doctoral Dissertation Research
  • INCO 590: Rsrch Exp/Biological Sciences
  • INCO 790: Advanced Research Experience

Selected Publications

Andrews, S. E., & Aikens, M. L. (2018). Life Science Majors' Math-Biology Task Values Relate to Student Characteristics and Predict the Likelihood of Taking Quantitative Biology Courses. JOURNAL OF MICROBIOLOGY & BIOLOGY EDUCATION, 19(2). doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1589

Lewis, V., Martina, C. A., McDermott, M. P., Chaudron, L., Trief, P. M., LaGuardia, J. G., . . . Ryan, R. M. (2017). Mentoring Interventions for Underrepresented Scholars in Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences: Effects on Quality of Mentoring Interactions and Discussions. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 16(3), ar44. doi:10.1187/cbe.16-07-0215

Aikens, M. L., Robertson, M. M., Sadselia, S., Watkins, K., Evans, M., Runyon, C. R., . . . Dolan, E. L. (2017). Race and Gender Differences in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Structures and Research Outcomes. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 16(2), ar34. doi:10.1187/cbe.16-07-0211

Aikens, M. L., Corwin, L. A., Andrews, T. C., Couch, B. A., Eddy, S. L., McDonnell, L., & Trujillo, G. (2016). A Guide for Graduate Students Interested in Postdoctoral Positions in Biology Education Research. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(4), es10. doi:10.1187/cbe.16-03-0130

Aikens, M. L., Sadselia, S., Watkins, K., Evans, M., Eby, L. T., & Dolan, E. L. (2016). A Social Capital Perspective on the Mentoring of Undergraduate Life Science Researchers: An Empirical Study of Undergraduate–Postgraduate–Faculty Triads. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 15(2), ar16. doi:10.1187/cbe.15-10-0208

Aikens, M. L., & Roach, D. A. (2015). Potential impacts of tolerance to herbivory on population dynamics of a monocarpic herb. American Journal of Botany, 102(11), 1901-1911. doi:10.3732/ajb.1500198

Aikens, M. L., & Dolan, E. L. (2014). Teaching quantitative biology: goals, assessments, and resources. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 25(22), 3478-3481. doi:10.1091/mbc.e14-06-1045

Aikens, M. L., & Roach, D. A. (2014). Population dynamics in central and edge populations of a narrowly endemic plant. Ecology, 95(7), 1850-1860. doi:10.1890/13-1478.1

Aikens, M. L., Ellum, D., McKenna, J. J., Kelty, M. J., & Ashton, M. S. (2007). The effects of disturbance intensity on temporal and spatial patterns of herb colonization in a southern New England mixed-oak forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 252(1-3), 144-158. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2007.06.031

Most Cited Publications