Kathy Chen joined The STEM Education Center at WPI after 15+ years as a professor in Materials Engineering at California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) State University, San Luis Obispo where she served as Department Chair and lead many K-12 and community STEM outreach activities. In her current role to support PreK-12 STEM educators, she works to broaden the participation of students in STEM (especially those from underrepresented and excluded groups) by advancing equity in education through holistic and innovative approaches. She also currently leads the Central MA STEM Network.
At Cal Poly, she helped create a successful engineering summer camp to inspire young students to consider engineering in college, directed a scholarship program for low-income, first generation engineering students, brought engineering into pre-service and in-service science and math teacher professional development, and was involved with several diversity and inclusivity initiatives to catalyze systemic change. She has also worked on research and education projects with collaborators at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Northwestern University, and Michigan State University.
Her current research interests revolve around how to support STEM educators in the many aspects and stages of an educator’s career (e.g., formation of identity as a teacher, developing inclusive pedagogy and curriculum in STEM, becoming a resilient leader in low-resourced schools, engaging STEM education ecosystems in communities).
The Telegram & Gazette reported on the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarding WPI a $1 million grant to help low-income, high-achieving students earn a STEM degree from the university. WPI Director of Multicultural Affairs and Biomedical Engineering Professor Tiffiny Butler is principal investigator, while Katherine Chen, executive director of the STEM Education Center, is co-principal investigator.