Principal Investigator

Jessica Karch

Program/Areas of Interest

  • Undergraduate STEM education
  • Discipline-based education research
  • Interdisciplinary reasoning
  • Qualitative and mixed-methods research
  • Data science education
  • Social justice in STEM


Jessica Karch, Ph.D., is a Principal Investigator at TERC. Dr. Karch has a range of research experiences and interests, including interdisciplinary reasoning and collaboration, learning and problem solving in chemistry and physics classrooms, developing eye tracking methods and novel conceptual frameworks, and high-resolution analyses of activity systems. In general, they are interested in novel methodological approaches that are sensitive to context and that center the lived experiences of students through an asset-based and anti-deficit lens. She specializes in qualitative and mixed-method approaches.

Dr. Karch is currently PI for “Exploring Students’ Data Science Learning and Participation through Engagement with Authentic, Messy Data at DataFest,” funded by the National Science Foundation — Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (NSF 2216023). This study examines students’ experiences at Datafest, an intense 2-day data science experience at several sites throughout the United States, where undergraduates are tasked with making sense of authentic, messy datasets. This study explores: How do students use interdisciplinary resources when working with these messy, authentic datasets, and what influences students’ decisions on whether or not to participate in Datafest?

In addition to this work, Dr. Karch has worked in informal education spaces and with community organizers. She is also keenly interested in asset-based and equitable pedagogies.


  • Ph.D. (Chemistry) University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, 2021
  • B.A. (Chemistry) Columbia University, New York, NY, 2015
  • B.A. (German Literature and Cultural History) Columbia University, New York, NY, 2015


  • National Association for Research in Science Teaching
  • Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science
  • American Chemical Society

Honors & Awards

  • NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Highlighted Publications

  • Karch, J.M. & Sevian, H. (2022) Development of a framework to capture abstraction in physical chemistry problem solving. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 23, 55-77.
  • Karch, J.M., García Valles, J, Sevian, H. (2019) Looking into the Black Box: Using Gaze and Pupillometric Data to Probe How Cognitive Load Changes with Mental Tasks, Journal of Chemical Education, 96(5), 830-840. https://doi-org./10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b00014