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Vashti Sawtelle, Ph.D.

Vashti  Sawtelle
  • Associate Professor
  • Physics
  • Department of Physics & Astronomy
  • Holmes Hall, E-191
  • 919 E. Shaw Lane
  • East Lansing, MI 48825
  • (517) 353-4861


LB 273: Physics I

LB 274: Physics II


Vashti Sawtelle is a physics education researcher who studies how learning environments support (or inhibit) students from diverse backgrounds in their learning physics. Co-director of the Physics Education Research Lab at MSU, she focuses her work on understanding the role active learning, modeling, and interdisciplinary classrooms (e.g., physics for biologists) have to play in creating supportive learning environments for all students. Originally, her work centered on the experiences of women in physics and bringing modern theories such as social-cognitive theory to understanding dynamics of gender and science. Currently, she has broadened this perspective to include understanding how students from diverse backgrounds (e.g., science, family, and school) experience physics and science and how these students come to identify as scientists. From the social context, her interests include understanding how students develop self-efficacy to do science, how that contributes to the development of science identities, and how those identities are related to issues of equity in the science community. She is particularly interested in supporting students who transition from two-year colleges to four-year universities to complete a bachelor's degree. In Lyman Briggs she teaches the introductory physics course which builds on her research in creating inclusive learning communities for students who are not necessarily physics majors.


2011: Ph.D., Physics Education, Florida International University


  • Little, A., Humphrey, B., Green, A., Nair, A., Sawtelle, V., “Exploring Mindset’s Applicability to Students’ Experiences with Challenge in Transformed College Physics Courses,” Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res., 15, 010127 (2019), https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.15.010127 (open access)
  • Gouvea, J., Sawtelle, V., Nair, A. “Epistemological progress in physics and its impact on biology,” Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res., 15, 010107 (2019). (open access)
  • Scott, E. E., Anderson, C. W., Mashood, K. K., Matz, R. L., Underwood, S. M., & Sawtelle, V. “Developing an Analytical Framework to Characterize Student Reasoning about Complex Processes.” CBE-Life Sciences Education, 17(3), 1–14 (2018), http://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.17-10-0225 (open access)
  • Daane, A.R., Decker, S.R., Sawtelle, V., “Teaching About Racial Equity in Introductory Physics Courses,” Phys. Teach., 55(6), 328–333 (2017), http://doi.org/10.1119/1.4999724
  • Sawtelle, V., Brewe, E., Goertzen, R.M., Kramer, L.H., “Identifying Opportunities to Influence Self-Efficacy in Real Time,” Phys. Rev. Special Topics – PER, 8, 020111 (2012). (open access)