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An art display in Pius XII Memorial Library

Sparking a Love for STEM

Christa Jackson, Ph.D., professor of educational studies in the Saint Louis University School of Education and a fellow with the SLU Research Institute, is creating impactful and fun experiences for young students in STEM.

There is a common divide among today’s students: some love and some hate subjects related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics. For Christa Jackson, Ph.D., this fuels her passion as an educator and researcher; Jackson wants to ignite young students’ excitement for STEM subjects at an earlier age.

When she was young, Jackson had an early interest in becoming a teacher. She spent many days gaining practice by teaching her younger sister the basics of adding, multiplying and subtracting numbers. This simple joy as a child developed into her full-time profession: educating and conducting research related to STEM education. 

Jackson has taken it upon herself to create meaningful and fun experiences that inspire students’ interest in STEM. She previously developed an integrated elementary school curriculum for science and mathematics programs called Newton, which allows students to use virtual reality to complete engineering concepts, solve problems, and unite their studies with today’s STEM careers.

"There is so much joy and beauty involved in mathematics,” Jackson said. “I tell my students that even if they come into my class with a total disregard for math, my hope is that the course will transform their initial thoughts and fears into an appreciation for mathematics."

In 2022, Jackson formed the Institute for STEM Collaboration, Outreach, Research, and Education (iSCORE) at SLU with a purpose of transforming the STEM community one mind at a time. iSCORE provides access and opportunities for scholars, particularly those historically excluded in the STEM community, including Black, Latinx and Indigenous populations; the economically disadvantaged; girls and women; emergent multilinguals; scholars with (dis)abilities; and potential first-generation college scholars. SLU undergraduate and graduate students are also able to help iSCORE by collecting and analyzing data to develop STEM learning workshops in historically underserved student populations in K-8 and their own research skills.

Jackson hopes that iSCORE will serve 10,000 scholars (PreK-20) and 1,275 elementary, middle, and high school teachers by 2027 — paving the way for a STEM-literate workforce and a more just society.

“SLU is a great place to [conduct] research because it fosters growth and innovation, and it serves a higher purpose for the greater good, which are central to my own research,” she said.

With her passion for incorporating course materials into daily life, she teaches an appreciation for mathematics and science and uses her research to help others see the joys that can develop from a career in STEM.


This story first appeared in a printed publication by SLU's School of Education. It has been modified for the 2023 SLU Research Institute Annual Impact Report by Mary Pogue, senior copywriter, Paradigm.

The Impact Report is printed each spring to celebrate the successes of our researchers from the previous year and share the story of SLU's rise as a preeminent Jesuit research university. Design, photography, and some writing contributions are made by Paradigm. More information on the Impact Report can be found here.