Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair

John Stewart

Committee Co-Chair

Gay Stewart

Committee Member

Gay Stewart

Committee Member

Maura McLaughlin

Committee Member

Karen Rambo-Hernandez

Committee Member

Kathleen Koenig


Retention of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students is a serious problem as STEM graduation rates continue to lag the growing demand for the skills taught by these degree programs. Critical to fixing this “leaky pipeline” is investment in improving retention in the first two years of college study and increasing and maintaining the interest of K-12 students in STEM. This thesis will address this in three parts. The first is through evaluation of conceptual tests used to evaluate course improvements to determine the structure student knowledge measured by them. The second part uses machine learning to construct early warning models of student failure in introductory physics courses to aid instructors in better targeting of interventions. The final part assesses the effectiveness of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory, an authentic science experience for middle and high school students, at encouraging K-12 students to pursue STEM degrees.