Postdoctoral Research Associate Position in Science Education Research with the PhET Interactive

University of Colorado Boulder
California, United States
Salary Not Specified
Jun 02, 2021
Employment Type
Full Time

Job Summary

The PhET Interactive Simulations project at CU Boulder has an opening for a Research Associate (postdoctoral researcher) position focusing on studying interactive simulations (sims) for learning science. The research project, funded by the Yidan Prize Foundation, is led by Carl Wieman, Professor at Stanford University and Founder of and Senior Advisor to PhET. The successful candidate will work with Professor Wieman in Palo Alto, CA. The PhET Team develops interactive sims for teaching and learning science and math, builds activities that couple with the sims, and makes all of these resources freely available worldwide to educators and students on the web.

More information on PhET can be found at:
More information on the Wieman group can be found at:
The University of Colorado Boulder is committed to building a culturally diverse community of faculty, staff, and students dedicated to contributing to an inclusive campus environment. We are an Equal Opportunity employer, including veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Who We Are

Founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at CU Boulder is a world leader in the design and use of interactive math and science simulations for advancing STEM education. The PhET team is dedicated to high-quality STEM education for all students, disseminating PhET simulations as open (free) education resources globally and groundbreaking approaches for making interactive content accessible to all learners. Today, PhET simulations are used more than 225 million times per year globally and translated into more than 90 languages.

The PhET team is a hardworking, creative, and productive group, including STEM education, simulation, and inclusive design specialists, education researchers, software engineers, quality assurance specialists, and more. Our project is a blend of an academic research project, an outreach project, and an innovative education technology company, housed within the Department of Physics and working with diverse partners at CU Boulder and around the world. PhET’s work has received numerous international awards, including being named a 2017 WISE Awards Winner, a 2011 Tech Award Laureate, and a winner of the 2014 Reimagine Education Award.

What Your Key Responsibilities Will Be

The primary responsibilities of this position will be to carry out and publish research on learning and engagement from sims, along with related issues on sim design and use. The work will be done with mentorship guidance and collaboration of Carl Wieman of Stanford University and is supported by the Yidan Foundation. This project will mesh with and build on the work of Wieman’s group in studying problem-solving in science. The group has established that the solving of real-world problems in science, engineering, and medicine involves making a set of specific and largely universal decisions, and that to make these decisions the scientist (or engineer or physician) uses the appropriate disciplinary knowledge. We believe that PhET sims offer a more effective way for students to learn the appropriate knowledge and how to apply it to solve problems than what is provided by traditional educational methods. The successful candidate will test this hypothesis by addressing the following research questions.
  1. How well do students learn knowledge and problem-solving skills through sim based educational activities compared to other instructional formats?
  2. How well does this learning process transfer across simulations and subjects?
  3. What is an optimum sim-based activity design for achieving such learning”?

With the support of the Yidan Foundation, PhET is growing its already substantial worldwide presence. These questions are to be explored with a wide variety of student and teacher populations from all parts of the world, with a particular interest in understanding how different contexts and backgrounds may impact learning.

The successful candidate will be involved in collaborations with other members of Wieman’s research group, particularly Wieman’s Senior Research Associate Argenta Price, members of the PhET research team, and PhET collaborators and staff throughout the world. Other responsibilities include collaborating with other members of the PhET team on design activities, as appropriate.

What You Should Know

The appointment start date is flexible. We will consider start dates as early as September 1, 2021, or as late as May 1, 2022. Review of applications will begin on June 21, 2021, and continue until the position is filled.

What We Can Offer

  • This is a full-time (40 hours/week) position, located in Palo Alto, CA.
  • The start date is flexible. Candidates can start as early as September 1, 2021 or as late as May 1, 2022.
  • The annual starting salary range for this position is $65,000-$75,000. Salary is commensurate with education and experience.
  • Modest relocation funds are available for this position following the University of Colorado’s relocation processes and procedures.


The University of Colorado offers excellent benefits , including medical, dental, retirement, paid time off, tuition benefit and ECO Pass. The University of Colorado Boulder is one of the largest employers in Boulder County and offers an inspiring higher education environment. Learn more about the University of Colorado Boulder .

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Be Empowered. Be Flexible. Be Boulder.

What We Require

A Ph.D. in any science who is interested in shifting their focus to science education research, or a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, learning sciences, or education with a strong interest in the physical sciences.

What You Will Need

  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively.
  • Ability to think creatively, plan, problem-solve, and follow through with action.
  • Strong analytical, critical thinking, and organizational skills.
  • Strong writing and communication skills, including the ability to effectively utilize different communication methods (e.g., written, verbal, visual).
  • Ability to balance multiple tasks and deadlines.
  • Positive and solutions-focused work attitude.

What We Would Like You To Have

  • Experience teaching or working with students and teachers.
  • Knowledge of the science education literature.
  • Experience in STEM education research.

Special Instructions

To apply, please submit the following materials:
  1. Resume/CV
  2. Cover Letter briefly describing your qualifications, professional goals, and specific interest in this position
  3. Research Statement
    • A 1-2 page statement discussing your research interests and potential research approaches related to PhET simulations and their ability to help students learn and apply/transfer knowledge and problem-solving skills.
  4. Transcripts/Proof of Degree (optional)
    • If you are selected as the finalist, your degree will be verified by the CU Boulder Campus Human Resources department using an approved online vendor. If your degree was obtained outside of the United States, please submit a translated version (if applicable) as an optional attachment.

During the application process, you will need to enter contact information for three references who will be contacted to provide letters of recommendation and additional materials, if needed, as the search progresses.

Application review will begin on June 21, 2021, and continue until the position is filled.

Note: Application materials will not be accepted via email. For consideration, applications must be submitted through CU Boulder Jobs .

Posting Contact Information

Posting Contact Name: Boulder Campus Human Resources

Posting Contact Email:

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