Susan Rundell Singer, Ph.D.

Founding Associate

Embracing the synergies between education and biological research, Susan Rundell Singer brings three decades of experience in education, education research, policy, and biology to the Tidemark Institute. She is inspired by the creative insights and unique solutions that emerge when teachers, scientists, scholars from a range of disciplines, academic administrators, corporate leaders, and policy makers collectively explore challenging issues. At both the national and local level she has been engaged in shaping and supporting these synthetic conversations. 

Dr. Singer, Laurence McKinley Gould Professor of Natural Sciences, joined the faculty  at Carleton College in 1986 and holds a joint appointment in the Departments of Biology and Cognitive Science. Her Ph.D. in Biology is from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and she completed a teacher certification program in New York State. She directed Carleton’s Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, a professional development center, and worked at the National Science Foundation as a program officer in the Biology Directorate. She studies the genetics, development, and evolution of flowering in legumes and does research on learning in genomics. Her laboratory has been continually funded by federal research grants supporting her integration of research and education for over a quarter of a century. She has mentored over 130 undergraduate research collaborators, as well as high school student researchers and postdoctoral associates. In addition to authoring numerous professional articles, she co-authors an introductory biology text and was an author of the AAAS Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education report. Currently Dr. Singer serves as series editor for the American Society of Plant Biology’s plant biology textbook series and as review editor for Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics.

Dr. Singer received the Excellence in Teaching award from the American Society of Plant Biology, as well as the Botanical Society of America's Charles Edwin Bessey Award,  and is a AAAS Fellow. She served on the Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources at NSF, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study Board, the Botanical Society of America's Board, iPlant cyberinfrastructure education working group, the American Society of Plant Biology Education Foundation Board, and is a member-at-large for Section Q for Education at AAAS. Dr. Singer also was a longstanding member of National Academies’ Board on Science Education. National Academies committee service has included contributions to committees that authored America’s Lab Report (chair), Taking Science to School (science consultant), Transforming Agricultural Education (committee member), and Challenges and Opportunities for Education About Dual Use Issues in the Life Sciences (committee member), and Promising Practices in STEM Undergraduate Education (chair), and the Discipline Based Education Research committee (chair). She enjoys coaching the Northfield High School Science Olympiad team along with a cadre of undergraduate assistant coaches. Currently she is at NSF directing the Division of Undergraduate Education.

Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering, National Research Council study chaired by Tidemark Institute Associate, Susan Rundell Singer

Sarah Michaels, Ph.D.


Sarah Michaels is Professor of Education and Senior Research Scholar at the Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education at Clark University.  A sociolinguist by training, she has been actively involved in teaching and research in the area of language, culture, “multiliteracies,” the discourses of math and science.  She works to bring together teacher education, practitioner research, university-based research on classroom discourse, and state and district-based efforts at educational reform.  She is currently involved in a variety of research projects which focus on academically productive talk in math, science, and English Language Arts, from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.  She recently co-authored (with Andy Shouse and Heidi Schweingruber) a book sponsored by the National Research Council, called Ready, Set, Science!: Putting Research to Work in the K-8 Science Classroom.  As co-PI of an NSF-funded grant on “Talk Science,” she is developing web-based tools to support teachers’ professional learning about science as well as the orchestration of academically productive classroom discussions.

Michaels has published widely in the area of classroom discourse analysis, has received numerous awards for both teaching and scholarship, and serves on a wide range of review boards for journals, book series, and educational foundations.  She has been the PI or Director of grants and programs (from foundations, state and federal agencies, and private donors) totaling over $12 million.  She has a B.A. from Barnard College and a Ph.D. in Education (Language and Literacy) from U.C., Berkeley.

Professor Michaels is a national resource on the critical role of making subject-based reasoning explicit through student-based discourse or “talk” as a major element of deep learning. Her work in teacher professional development is regarded highly as is her work on academically productive classroom discussions.

Brian J. Reiser, Ph.D.


Brian J. Reiser (PhD 1983, Cognitive Science, Yale) is Professor of Learning Sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. Reiser’s research examines how to make scientific practices such as argumentation, explanation, and modeling meaningful and effective for classroom teachers and students. This design research investigates the cognitive and social interaction elements of learning environments supporting scientific practices, and design principles for technology-infused curricula that embed science learning in investigations of contextualized data-rich problems.

Reiser leads the Scientific Practices project to develop an empirically based learning progression for scientific practices that specifies how learners can engage in constructing, applying, and refining scientific knowledge with increasing sophistication from elementary to middle school. Reiser is also on the leadership team for IQWST (Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology), a collaboration with the University of Michigan developing a middle school project-based science curriculum, and led the BGuILE (Biology Guided Inquiry Learning Environments), developing software tools for supporting students in analyzing biological data and constructing explanations.

Professor Reiser was a founding member of the first graduate program in Learning Sciences, created at Northwestern, and chaired the program from 1993, shortly after its inception, until 2001. He was co-principal investigator in the NSF Center for Curriculum Materials in Science, exploring the design and enactment of science curriculum materials, and served on the NRC panels authoring the reports Taking Science to School (2007) and Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards (2011).  Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the learning sciences Professor Reiser is a thought leader in the development of new models of science learning and teaching.