Chun-Yen Chang

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Director of the Science Education Center, National Taiwan Normal University


Ph.D. in Science Education, 1996


Looking back on the days at UT Austin, I have to say that I truly had some of the best learning experiences of my life, with my professors, peer students, and people at Longhorn, especially with my advisor and mentor, Prof. James Barufaldi. Actually, I was pretty lucky to have met several mentors, both from Science Education Center and the Bureau of Economic Geology, where I had research assistantship. Once, one of my advisors told me that “everyone can get a Ph.D if they really want to”–this has become my motto and what I keep telling my students in Taiwan.

Another impressive thing about UT Austin is its friendly environment— friends or strangers, people all around always greet each other with hellos and smiles, even in elevators!
As mentioned above, my research experiences are a mix of both the Bureau of Economic Geology and Science Education Center. The two fields seem to be completely different and irrelevant; however, these research experiences indeed broadened my visions and horizons throughout my professional careers.

Such interdisciplinary researches helped me throughout my Ph.D. studies, and, today, likewise, enhance my current research works; for instance, researches on science education and genetic behaviors might be connected (integrated) to further study how genes affect students’ academic achievements in school. A latest study done by my research group published in Brain and Cognition, (Volume 71, Issue 3, December 2009, Pages 300-305) is exemplar of this type of interdisciplinary research. (See article in New Scientist, Gene for memory and IQ gives students low grades.)

Why UT?

There were multiple reason reasons for me to choose the science education program at UT Austin, but here are my top three. First of all, the SE program at UT Austin ranked in the top ten of the field. Second, and no less important for students’ consideration, studying in Texas is quite cost-effective. Finally, after comparing different locations and possibilities, I found that with my undergraduate major in Earth Sciences, my best chance of obtaining a future RA position was at UT Austin. My dreams were realized shortly after, and I had worked as a research assistant in the Bureau of Economic Geology for four incredible years.

“What starts here changes the world”

With the Ph.D. degree in science education, I obtained my entrance ticket to teaching, research, and even educational policies in Taiwan’s science education field. Through the study at UT Austin, I was able to leverage the western experiences to benefit my home country. I tapped into some of the foremost U.S. science education brains, and, based on Taiwan’s own cultures, I now help to develop a more unique and diversified science education curriculum and assessment tools in my home country.

Advice for Students

As for the advice for current and prospective students, I’d say that, instead of “study hard, work hard,” they should “study smart, work smart!”