Sara Brownell

Principal Investigator

Ph.D. in Biology, Stanford University

M.A. in Education, Stanford University

M.S. in Biology, The Scripps Research Institute

B.S. in Biology, Cornell University

As an Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, I am one of a small, but growing, number of Science Faculty with Education Specialties (SFES).  I am a neuroscientist turned full-time education researcher, teaching undergraduate biology while focusing my research on education. 


I first discovered my interest in neuroscience while pursuing my Bachelors degree in Biology at Cornell University, concentrating in neurobiology and behavior.  I went on to study the central control of temperature regulation and the role of inflammatory molecules in obesity as part of my Masters in Biology at The Scripps Research Institute.  I received my Ph.D. in Biology from Stanford University where I studied the therapeutic potential of small heat shock proteins in multiple sclerosis and stroke in the Steinman Lab.  While in graduate school, I also discovered my love of teaching and subsequently, biology education research.  I started taking education classes, became involved in the development of course-based undergraduate research experiences , and earned a Masters in Education concurrently with my Ph.D. in Biology.


I have expanded my biology education research interests as a postdoc working with Kimberly Tanner in the SEPAL lab at San Francisco State University and working with Scott Freeman and Alison Crowe as part of the Biology Education Research Group (BERG) at the University of Washington.  


In the lab, our research interests are broad and ever-changing.  Currently, our work is focused on investigating issues related to equity and access in undergraduate biology education.  Our research has attracted national and international attention, including being featured in numerous news outlets, Scientific American, and the New York Times.  I have been awarded the National Association for Biology Teachers (NABT) Biology Education Research Award, the LGBTQ+ Educator of the Year award, and multiple teaching awards from my institutions.