My work broadly focuses on understanding culture, community, and identity toward the goal of improving equity and justice within undergraduate STEM Education.

Physics identities and practices within Undergraduate Research Experiences

How do physics contexts allow for students to develop identities as people who can do physics? This work studies how students’ identity development is intertwined with participation in physics practices as well as racialized and gendered notions of what is “normative” within physics. Understanding how students come to identify (or not) with physics can help us identify ways to make physics more inclusive.

  • Quan, G., Turpen, C., Elby,  A.,  (2018) Interactions between disciplinary practice and joint work in undergraduate physics research experiences. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14, 020124.
  • Quan, G., Elby,  A.,  (2016) Connecting  self-efficacy  and  views  about  nature  of  science in undergraduate research experiences. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 12 (2), 020140.
  • Quan, G.,Turpen,  C.,  Elby,  A.,  (2016) Attending  to  scientific  practices  within  undergraduate research experiences. In 2016 PERC Proceedings.  Sacramento, CA, July 20-21, 2016, edited by D. L. Jones, L. Ding, and Adrienne Traxler.
  • Quan, G., Elby, A., (2015) Connecting Self-Efficacy and Nature of Science Shifts in Undergraduate Research Experiences In 2015 PERC Proceedings. College Park, MD, July 29-30, 2015, edited by A. D. Churukian, D. L. Jones, and Lin Ding. Retrieved from.

Cultural Change/Departmental Action Teams

How can STEM departments can make sustainable curricular and cultural improvements? This project involves facilitating departmental change through Departmental Action Teams (DATs). DATs are facilitated groups of university faculty members, students, and staff collaborating toward some issue related to undergraduate education in their department. Our research studies how to implement complex change, as well as how change efforts are impacted by local context and culture.

  • Quan, G., Joel C. Corbo, Noah D. Finkelstein, Alanna Pawlak, Karen Falkenberg, Christopher Geanious, Courtney Ngai, Clara Smith, Sarah Wise, Mary E. Pilgrim, and Daniel L. Reinholz (2019). Designing for institutional transformation: Six principles for department-level interventions. Physical Review Physics Education Research.
  • Reinholz, D., Ngai, C., Quan, G., Pilgrim, M., Corbo, J., & Finkelstein, N. (2019). Fostering sustainable improvements in science education: An analysis through four frames. Science Education.
  • Quan, G., Corbo, J., Ngai, C., Reinholz, D., & Pilgrim, M. (2018). Research on University Facultys’ Reasoning about how Departments Change. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2018, Washington, DC.
  • Corbo, J., Quan, G., Falkenberg, K., Geanious, C., Ngai, C., Pilgrim, M., Reinholz, D., & Wise, S. (2018). Externalizing the Core Principles of the Departmental Action Team (DAT) model. Paper presented at Physics Education Research Conference 2018, Washington, DC.

The Access Network

As an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, I was a participant and student leader in The Berkeley Compass Project, where I learned the importance of community and student agency in undergraduate physics. Compass seeks to foster community building, participation in authentic STEM practices, and student leadership, all toward the goal of supporting equity and inclusiveness in STEM.

Compass has inspired and influenced similar programs at other institutions, including the S-STEM Scholars Program at the University of Maryland. Part of UMD’s S-STEM program is Physics 299B, a seminar that gets students started in undergraduate research experiences, which I co-designed.

I am a co-founder of the Access Network, a NSF-funded research-practice community of Compass-like programs. The Access Network supports sites through conference travel, fellowships to document and disseminate innovations, travel between member sites, and an Annual Assembly where we gather to share ideas.

Fine-Grained Analyses of Practices

As students engage in a variety of scientific and engineering design practices, how can we evaluate the productivity of that engagement? This work closely analyzes the the moment-to-moment dynamics of students engaging in scientific and engineering design practices.

  • Quan, G., Gupta, A., (2015) Tensions in the Productivity in Design Task Tinkering – Fundamental.  In 122th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Seattle: American Society of Engineering Education.  Seattle, WA: American Society of Engineering Education. Retrieved from
  • Quan, G., Gupta, A., & Elby, A. (2015) Problematizing Best Practices for Pairing in K-12 Student Design Teams In 122th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Seattle: American Society of Engineering Education. Seattle, WA: American Society of Enginering Education. Retrieved from
  • Quan, G., Gupta, A., (2014) Finding Productivity in Design Task Tinkering. In Polman, J. L., Kyza, E. A., O’Neill, D. K., Tabak, I., Penuel, W. R., Jurow, A. S., O’Connor, K., Lee, T., and D’Amico, L. (Eds.). (2014). Learning and becoming in practice: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2014, Volume 3 (1607-1608). Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences.