MAST Institute

The Mathematics and Science Teaching (MAST) Institute, established in 1987, provides leadership and coordination for projects and programs to improve mathematics and science education, within the University, the state, and nationally.

The MAST Institute is situated in the College of Natural and Health (NHS), and collaborates with faculty from NHS's School of Biological Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy, School of Mathematical Sciences, and the Science Education Program. Faculty from the collaborating academic programs and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences participate in Institute projects, working in partnership with K-12 educators, faculty from other higher education institutions, government agencies, and business/community representatives.

MAST Institute Affiliated Faculty

Nearly fifty UNC faculty members in the College of Natural and Health Sciences and the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences have been involved in MAST-related projects over the past twenty years. 

Growth of the Institute

Since its inception in 1987, the MAST Institute has grown by obtaining several million dollars from external funding for research, and through the pre-service and in-service training of teachers of mathematics and science of grades K-16 throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. The Institute has coordinated joint efforts among the departments of the University, other Colorado Institutes of Higher Education, and numerous school districts within state and region.

MAST Institute Goals

  • Prepare tomorrow's teachers
  • Enhance today's teachers
  • Facilitate faculty development
  • Support collaborative partnerships
  • Support research and development
  • Promote science & mathematics for all


News Highlights

New NHS Assistant Dean and MAST Institute Director 

Dr. David Slykhuis joined the College of Natural and Health Sciences as the Assistant Dean and Mathematics and Science Teaching (MAST) Institute Director on August 1, 2017.  Dr. Slykhuis holds a Ph.D. in Science Education from North Carolina State University, as well as an undergraduate degree from University of Northern Iowa and a graduate degree from Eastern Illinois University.  He began his career in science education as a secondary educator, teaching physics, chemistry, advanced chemistry, physical science and biology.

Dr. Slykhuis currently serves as a Professor of Science Education and Director of the Content Teaching Academy at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  His previous leadership roles at JMU include appointments as the Co-Director of the Center for STEM Education and Outreach and interim Department Head for Educational Foundations and Exceptionalities. Dr. Slykhuis’s research in the area of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) in science education is widely published.  He has a strong history of serving as the PI on external grants from the Virginia Department of Education, as well as on grants from NSF and PhysTec.   While at JMU he has been recognized with several awards for scholarly achievement and teaching excellence. Beyond the university, Dr. Slykhuis is active in and has served in leadership positions with the Association of the Advancement of Computing in Education-Society for Technology and Teacher Education (AACE-SITE) and the Association for Science Teacher Educators.


UNC Receives $1 Million Grant for from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) for Inclusive STEM Excellence

About the Grant

Project Title: Improving Classroom Culture to Support Intrinsic Motivation as a Pathway to STEM Inclusive Excellence
Grant award: $1 million, September 2017-August 2022
Funding Agency: Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Researchers: Mast Institute staff, Lori Reinsvold Ph.D. (Co-Director), will work with Project Director, Susan Keenan Ph.D. (School of  Biological Sciences), and Jodie Novak Ph.D. (School of Mathematical Sciences) on this new project that begins September 1, 2017.
Of note: Over multiple stages of peer-review by scientists and science educators, HHMI identified 24 schools out of 511 that applied for Inclusive Excellence 2017 awards.

See the Howard Hughes Medical Institute or the UNC News site for more information

UNC Awarded $2.2 Million to Help Recruit, Retain Teachers in Rural School Districts, December, 2016

The Colorado Department of Higher Education has awarded the University of Northern Colorado a $2.2 million grant that will be used over the next five years to help address teacher shortages in Colorado's rural school districts.

The Rural Educator Recruitment and Retention grant will fund the establishment and operation of the Center for Rural Education, which will be led by faculty from UNC's School of Special Education, School of Biological Sciences, and the MAST Institute. Dr. Harvey Rude (Special Education) serves as PI and Director of this center, and Dr. Rob Reinsvold (Biological Sciences) and Dr. Lori Reinsvold (MAST Institute) as Co-Directors. The center will focus on recruiting and retaining Colorado rural educators in high-need areas of science, mathematics, special education and cultural/linguistic diversity. For more information, contact Lori Reinsvold 

New Post Doctoral Research Associate Andrew PK Bentley Ph.D.

Dr. Andrew PK Bentley obtained his MS degree in geology at Temple University under the guidance of Dr. Ilya Buynevich on near-surface geophysics. White Sands National Monument outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico was chosen for the study site. An aeolian internal complexity threshold was proposed, which incorporates standardized scores of slipface thickness, point-source diffraction density, and continuity of major bounding surfaces at mesoscale range determined through semivariogram analysis.

Dr. Bentley’s current research focuses on the public’s acceptance of anthropogenic climate change (ACC). Specifically, Dr. Bentley quantified the correlation between individuals’ agreement with dissenter messages and ACC acceptance. A mix-methods approach guides his research; qualitative data is used to construct a quantitative instrument. Authentic dissenter messages were collected from the ‘echo chamber,’ and were used to build a Likert-Style survey instrument. Through several distributions of this instrument, and principal component analysis, Dr. Bentley determined that dissenter messages factored into five distinct categories. This data, and the instrument validation were recently published in Environmental Education Research ( This instrument is being currently employed to know what message are most correlated with ACC dissent. Preliminary results indicate that the most effective way to increase ACC acceptance may be to incorporate of the nature of science (NOS) in to ACC curriculums and outreach efforts.

Future research includes further distributions of the Anthropogenic Climate Change Dissenter Inventory to better understand which dissenter messages are most correlated with dissent. This information can be used to better inform teacher’s ACC education practices.

Dr. Bentley has taught high school, community college, and university Earth Science classes across several states. He designs his lessons based on a constructivist teaching philosophy. Whenever appropriate he teaches through guided inquiry, and begins each lesson by assessing students previous knowledge for that day’s topic.

When not conducting research or teaching, Dr. Bentley enjoys tinkering with his antique cars, motorcycles and pinball machines.

New Post Doctoral Research Associate Jennifer Parrish Ph.D.

Dr. Parrish will start August 14th in the MAST Institute.


Calendar of Events

 June 18 -  July 29, 2017

 Frontiers of Science

For six summer weeks, 25-30 students become immersed in a learning environment with dedicated instructors and mentors, boosting their self-confidence and facilitating self-discovery. FSI seeks to reach beyond the high-school curriculum by introducing new scientific concepts within a workshop setting. FSI students are immersed in learning-for-the-thrill-of-learning, residential STEM experiences to stimulate their interests so they can set and work toward personal, educational, and professional goals.

FSI participants, selected for their overall academic proclivity, science interest, and aptitude, engage in STEM studies science, technology, engineering and mathematics) during field trips, industrial visitations, seminars by professionals from academia and industry, and mentored research, as well as classroom and laboratory activities.

FSI promotes personal and social growth by introducing participants to college life and community living. As a result of these experiences, FSI students build rich insights into today's science and technology and become aware of options for future STEM careers.

For more information, contact Lori Ball