2020 Speaker at the UTeach STEM Educators Virtual Summit

David A. Laude

Professor of Chemistry, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of Chemistry, The University of Texas at Austin

Professor Laude has been a member of the faculty in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin since 1987. During the first ten years of his tenure at UT Austin, he ran a large research program in mass spectrometry. From 1996 to 2012, he held various administrative positions in the Dean’s Office of the College of Natural Sciences and also served as interim dean. Professor Laude has an established reputation for teaching excellence and curriculum innovation at The University of Texas at Austin and has received many awards for his teaching. He continues to teach large section general chemistry courses.

Professor Laude has been a leader in program reform at the undergraduate level at UT Austin for the past 25 years. In 1996, he chaired the original committee that proposed the teacher preparation program known today as UTeach. In 1999, he created the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan as a way to provide a small college-learning environment for students with adversity indicators. Professor Laude was also instrumental in the creation of the Freshman Research Initiative.

From 2012 to 2017 Professor Laude joined the Provost’s Office to champion improvements in UT Austin four-year graduation rates. He expanded on the ideas behind TIP to create freshman year success and incentive-based scholarship programs that coupled a sense of belonging with targeted academic support.  Among these programs was the University Leadership Network that was featured in a New York Times magazine.

The four-year graduation rate initiative significantly improved four-year graduation rates at UT Austin.  Overall rates increased from 52% to 66% during his time in the Provost’s Office and are now at 70%. The greatest improvements were for Pell-grant eligible and first generation students who saw their four-year graduation rates improve from about 40% to 60%.

Previous Conferences

Before 2020, we held two separate conferences. The UTeach Conference was for university and UTeach educators; the UTeach STEM Educators Conference was for K-12 educators, including UTeach alumni. In 2020, we combined the two. 


UTeach Conference 

Keynote: Spencer Wells

Spencer Wells is a geneticist, anthropologist, author, and entrepreneur. For more than a decade, he was an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and Director of the Genographic Project, which collected and analyzed DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of people around the world in order to decipher how our ancestors populated the planet, in the process launching the consumer genomics industry.

UTeach STEM Educators Conference

Keynote: Dr. Ariel Taylor

Dr. Taylor spoke about authentic student engagement, differentiation, and effective student accountability, topics that she explores in her 2018 book: Party of Four Please!: Differentiation at Its Best


UTeach Conference 

Keynote: Bernard A. Harris, Jr.

As Chief Executive Officer of the National Math and Science Initiative, Dr. Harris leads the organization’s efforts to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement in STEM education across the country. A former NASA astronaut, Dr. Harris was the first African-American to walk in space.

Opening Plenary: Kate Biberdorf

Kate "Dr. B" Biberdorf is a chemistry Lecturer and the Director of Demonstrations and Outreach for The University of Texas at Austin.

UTeach STEM Educators Conference

Keynote; Brianna Rapini

The One Creating Is the One Who Is Learning: Brianna believes that we must allow our students to be creators—when they are creating, they are learning. She discussed obstacles she has faced when encouraging creativity in the classroom and described her work with her sister on the popular Amoeba Sisters YouTube series.


UTeach Conference

Keynote: Thomas Kalil

Mr. Kalil is a Senior Advisor to the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Group and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UC Berkeley.

Opening Plenary: UTeach Nation: We Change the World

  • Briana Rapini is a UTeach Austin alumna, biology educator, and co-creator of the hit YouTube channel The Amoeba Sisters.
  • Amber Rodriguez was the first science graduate of UTeach Brownsville (now UTeach RGV) and teaches biology at Hanna Early College High School in Brownsville, Texas.
  • William Chan graduated from UTeach Austin with a degree in chemistry, and now operates Fort Bend Learning Commons, a private math and science tutoring academy.

Closing Plenary: Beyond the Classroom

  • Lindsay Patterson, Marshall Escamilla, and Sara Robberson Lentz of Tumble, a science podcast for kids.
  • Tyler DeWitt of Science with Tyler DeWitt, a YouTube channel with tutorials in chemistry, physics, and math.
  • Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart, an educational science show from PBS Digital Studios that celebrates curiosity and the pleasure of finding things out.
  • Moderator: Briana Rapini

UTeach STEM Educators Conference

Panel: Katey Arrington, Daniel FitzPatrick, Andrew Lowry, Janice Trinidad, Dr. Ariel Taylor

Four UTeach Austin alumni discussed their perspectives and experiences with leadership in STEM education. Dr. Paige Evans, teachHouston clinical associate professor, moderated the panel.

  • Katey Arrington (UTeach Austin, 2001) is manager of the K-12 System Services team at the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. 
  • Daniel FitzPatrick (UTeach Austin, 2006) is clinical assistant professor and mathematics master teacher at UTeach Austin.
  • Andrew Lowry (UTeach Austin, 2006) is an assistant principal at Obra D. Tompkins High School in Katy ISD. 
  • Janice Trinidad (UTeach Austin, 2007) is was a founding staff member at Manor New Technology High School and now works at Cedars International High School in Austin, where faculty are committed to using PBL with a high needs student population. 
  • Ariel J. Taylor (UTeach Austin, 2011) is the math specialist at Bush High School in Fort Bend ISD. Outside of her educational leadership work, she engages in youth empowerment through the nonprofit organization, The RISE Project, which she founded as an undergraduate student.


UTeach Conference 

Keynote: Michael Marder

Dr. Marder is is a professor of physics in the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as the co-founder and co-director of UTeach.

Opening Plenary: Computer Science for All panel

  • Quincy Brown, Ph.D., is a Senior Director for Innovation Research at AnitaB.org.  
  • Gail Chapman is Director of Outreach for Exploring Computer Science.
  • Deborah Kariuki is a computer science education faculty at University of Maryland Baltimore County. 
  • Moderator: Carol Fletcher, Deputy Director of the Center for STEM Education at UT Austin.

Closing Plenary: Chris Lehmann

Mr. Lehmann is the founding principal of Science Leadership Academy, an inquiry-driven, project-based modern high school in Philadelphia. 

UTeach STEM Educators Conference

Keynote: Mariam Manuel

Mariam shared her UTeach journey from classroom teaching into leadership roles that ultimately took her back to her stomping grounds at teachHOUSTON. She discussed the challenges and obstacles she's faced, offering UTeach alumni inspiration as well as practical insights about navigating the education system and taking on leadership in a range of settings.

Mariam is a Science Master Teacher for teachHOUSTON and is an alumna of that program. She also serves as the alumni member on the board of the UTeach STEM Educator's Association, which has inquiry-based education for students at the heart of its mission.


UTeach Conference 

Keynote: Robert Krulwich

Robert Krulwich is co-host of NPR’s Radiolab.

Opening Plenary: Engaging Women and Girls in STEM

  • Tricia Berry, Director of Women in Engineering, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Jeanne Goka-Dubose, (former) Principal, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.
  • Tamara Hudgins, Executive Director, Girlstart. 
  • Sabara Raja, Co-Founder and CEO, Nepris

Closing Plenary: Leah Buechley

Dr. Buechley is an associate professor of computer science at the University of New Mexico and the developer of the LilyPad Arduino, a construction kit for sew-able electronics.

UTeach STEM Educators Conference

Keynote: Michael Ralph

A growing community of educators across the nation is endeavoring to build more engaging and effective classrooms centered on fostering student success. UTeach alumni are joining this community in ever-increasing numbers, and they can affect this exciting movement in dramatic and sometimes unexpected ways. Michael’s story of becoming a contributing education professional yielded lessons that can help other alumni as they become dynamic collaborators themselves.

Michael teaches freshman biology, AP biology, and genetics and biotechnology. He also serves on his district’s curriculum development committee, as his department’s technology support contact, on the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers board as the treasurer, as a College Board AP Insight consultant, and as a master teacher for Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry through the Concord Consortium.


UTeach Conference 

Keynote: James Gates

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr., is a retired theoretical physicist. 

Opening Plenary: Arthur Levine

Mr. Levine served as the president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for 13 years.

Closing Plenary: Ray Almgren

Ray Almgren is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at SwiftSensors, Inc. Prior to this position, he served as the Vice President of Marketing at National Instruments. 

UTeach STEM Educators Conference

Keynote: Katey Arrington

Katey asked conference attendees to consider how teacher leaders might affect the forces shaping our daily work through leadership roles and participation in professional organizations. She is manager of the Charles A. Dana Center’s K–12 Systems Services and oversees the delivery of the center’s services for educators and administrators across the United States.


UTeach Conference 

Keynote: Sarah Martinez Tucker

Sara Martinez Tucker On March 1, Sara Martinez Tucker joined the National Math and Science Initiative as CEO. She previously served as Under Secretary of Education in the U.S. Department of Education from 2006–2008. Prior to that leadership role, she was CEO and President for nine years of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), where she raised $280 million for scholarship and community outreach programs to increase Hispanic college participation. She also previously enjoyed a 16-year career with AT&T, last serving as regional vice president for AT&T’s Global Business Communications Systems.

Opening Plenary—UTeachers as Leaders: Stories from the Field

What makes a UTeach graduate unique? What inspires them to do what they do? UTeach graduates share their stories and reflect on the challenges they face and the successes they have achieved.

  • Jeffrey Higginbotham graduated in 2011 from Florida State University with a B.S. in biological sciences and teaching through the FSU-Teach program. He currently teaches the high school–level Cambridge IGCSE Biology and the college-level Cambridge A-Level Marine Science at Rockledge High School in Rockledge, Florida.
  • Heather Hoffpauir earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a concentration in secondary education through Louisiana State University in 2012. She teaches Algebra I and Math Intervention at Port Allen High School in Port Allen, Louisiana.
  • Katye Howell graduated in May 2012 with a degree in biology through the University of Texas at Austin’s UTeach program. She began teaching Biology and Pre-AP Biology at William B. Travis High School in the heart of Austin.
  • Kristin Wilson became involved in FSU-Teach at Florida State University by becoming an intern. She graduated with a double major in mathematics and secondary education in 2011. She currently teaches Coordinate Algebra at Salem High School in Conyers, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.

Michael Starbird

Michael Starbird is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics at The University of Texas at Austin. He has been at UT his whole career except for leaves, including as a Visiting Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and a member of the technical staff of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.