AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

2016 National Board of Directors Election Candidate for Vice President

Mel Sabella - 2016 Board Election CandidateMel S. Sabella

Department of Chemistry
Physics, and Engineering Studies
Chicago State University
Chicago, IL 60628


B.S. Binghamton University - State University of NY, 1994, Physics
Ph.D University of Maryland - College Park, 1999, Physics

Professional Experience

University of Washington Physics Education Group, Post-doctoral fellow, 1999-2001
Chicago State University: Assistant Professor of Physics (2001-2004), Associate Professor of Physics (2004-2011), Professor of Physics (2011 - present), Chair - Department of Chemistry, Physics and Engineering Studies (2011 - 2014)


ISPP, Harald Jensen Award, 2009
AAPT, Homer L. Dodge Distinguished Service Award, 2016


American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT)
American Physical Society (APS)
Chicago Section of the AAPT

AAPT/APS Activities

Member of the following organizations and committees:
Chicago Section AAPT, (2001 - present), President (2009-2011)
AAPT Committee on Diversity (2016 - present)
AAPT Physics Education Research Leadership Organizing Council (2010, 2013 - present)
APS Forum on Education Executive Committee (2012 - 2015)
APS Committee on Minorities (2010 - 2013)
AAPT Research in Physics Education Committee (2009 - 2012), Committee Chair (2010)
Guest Editor: American Journal of Physics Theme Issue - The Intersection of Physics and Biology (May 2014)
Co-Editor: 2008, 2009, 2010 Physics Education Research Conference Proceedings
Co-organizer: Physics Education Research Conference on Diversity in Physics Education Research (2008) and Gordon Research Conference on Physics Research and Education at Mt. Holyoke College (2014)

Other Synergistic Activities 

Member of Learning Assistant Alliance Steering Committee (LAgent, 2014 - present)
Co-organizer and co-host of the Chicago Regional LA Workshop (2014, 2016)
Co-host of the Chicago Excellence in Mathematics and Science Symposia (2011, 2014)
Developed Physics Van Program at CSU to support HS Physics Teachers in the Chicago area
Implemented and led Science Fair Central - South Program to help K-12 students with Science Fair Projects (2003 -2006)
Member of planning team for Chicago Symposium on Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (2002 - present)
Member of NSF Access Network (2015 - present)

Grant Work

PI: APS/AAPT PhysTEC Grant (2010);NSF - CCLI/TUES Grants (2004, 2007);NSF - IUSE Collaborative Grant (2015, with University of Colorado, George Mason University, and Boston University.)
Co-PI: NSF S-STEM Grant (2014), NSF Conference Grant (2013), NSF-TUES Grant (2010), NSF-Noyce Grant (2008), Illinois Board of Higher Education Improving Teacher Quality Grant (2008)


The AAPT has been my professional home for over twenty years and it has played a major role in my career as a physics educator and education researcher. I would be honored to serve in the role of AAPT Vice President and would bring the following to this position: experience forging partnerships across high schools and two- and four-year colleges and universities, a strong commitment to equity and diversity, and leadership and coordination skills in both local and national physics education initiatives. This background and experience align with AAPT's stated mission of increasing physics student and teacher diversity and working with educators and education researchers to provide professional development and increase our understanding of effective teaching and learning. 

As a Professor of Physics at Chicago State University (CSU), who engages in Physics Education Research (PER), my work involves initiatives at the local and national level to improve physics instruction and promote equity in science education. My expertise spans physics teacher education, undergraduate physics education, and fostering partnerships across a wide range of stakeholders in science education. My experiences as Chair of CSU's Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering Studies and my committee work in the AAPT and APS have helped me develop effective leadership and collaboration skills.  

AAPT plays a national role in connecting across different academic communities such as K-12 schools, two year colleges, and four year institutions that share a common goal of improving physics education. It is crucial to listen to and continue to build and strengthen connections across these groups. I have learned, from my local experience on the Southside of Chicago, that positive changes are possible when a broad community is brought together to share ideas. The efforts I lead in Chicago, to develop community-based science instruction, have been supported by the PhysTEC Program (APS &AAPT), the National Science Foundation, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education. For instance, I partner with high school teachers to co-develop early teaching experiences designed for students who want to explore teaching and work on enhancing content knowledge and communication skills. I also partner with two- and four-year college faculty and students to create innovative research-based learning environments and have worked with the City Colleges of Chicago to co-create a multi-institution Learning Assistant (LA) Program.

While I have a diverse set of interests in the area of physics education, I am especially excited about supporting AAPT's important role in bringing together diverse voices in the hard work of creating inclusive learning environments at all levels. My experience at CSU, a predominately African American institution, has given me insight into cross-cultural partnerships to improve education. During my fifteen years at CSU I have worked with and co-thought with students in my classes, our local student groups, our peer mentors and our LAs. These students have supported me in improving my approaches to mentoring, listening, and teaching and have helped me understand the importance of creating space for underrepresented students in science, engineering and mathematics to take on leadership roles. If elected, I will take lessons learned locally to inform the AAPT Executive Board and support the broad impact of the AAPT.  

It is also crucial to leverage synergies across various national science organizations to create the largest impact and address the nation's need to train one million more STEM professionals by 2022. AAPT and other professional organizations are engaged in a number of initiatives to create effective and inclusive learning environments for their members. For example, AAPT has charged the Committee on Diversity (COD) to aid the organization in improving diversity and we have seen interest at AAPT sessions that focus on social justice, inclusion, and diversity increase in recent years. I am extremely proud of the organization's current activities, the activities it funds, and its strong statement about the role of diversity in our field.   APS has also done substantial work in this area, including the development of a National Mentoring Community (NMC) and an APS Bridge Program that can compliment AAPT's efforts. My experience working with the PhysTEC Program and the International Learning Assistant Alliance have also shaped my ideas regarding empowering students and creating supportive learning environments. In my role, I would seek to help connect common themes across these programs. 

I will rely on the energy, expertise, and advice of the AAPT general membership, its committee chairs and members, and the executive board to explore the best ways to bring a broad community into overarching conversations about supportive, successful, and equitable physics education. I am excited about the possibility to co-think, as part of AAPT, about new, exciting, and inclusive ways to foster effective learning environments for students at all levels.