Brian Sato

Picture of Brian Sato
Professor of Teaching, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
School of Biological Sciences
Associate Dean, Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation
Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2008, Cell Biology
B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 2003, Molecular and Cell Biology
Phone: (949) 824-0661
University of California, Irvine
2238 McGaugh Hall
Mail Code: 3900
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Discipline-based education research, Biology, STEM
Research Abstract
My research goals, while varied, focus on how we can improve STEM education at the undergraduate level. Currently, my group is focused on three projects:

(1) Examining the impact of teaching faculty across the UC system - While considerable effort has been spent in the recent past to identify means to increase success in the classroom for STEM undergraduates, particularly at-risk students, a major challenge has been how to disseminate these methods on a broader scale. One potential means to accomplish this is through change agents, faculty that are embedded within departments that can act as resources to implement new teaching methods. The University of California has a unique faculty line, the Lecturer with Security of Employment/Teaching Professor, and we are currently exploring whether these faculty are successful change agents.

(2) Exploring the impact of active learning classrooms and faculty professional development - UC Irvine recently opened the Anteater Learning Pavilion, a building which contains only active learning classrooms. In conjunction, the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation creating the Active Learning Institute to prepare faculty to teach in these rooms. We are examining the impact of both the building and professional development on classroom teaching practices, faculty perspectives, student perspectives, and student outcomes to better inform future institutional decisions surrounding teaching.

(3) Examining the effectiveness of a light-touch study skills intervention - It is important that we focus not only on altering classroom instruction, but also providing students with the tools to maximize their independent learning time as well. There has been considerable work in laboratory settings examining self-regulated study with two particularly beneficial practices for enhancing learning being self-testing and spacing. We are investigating whether a light-touch study skills intervention, which presents students with information about self-testing and spacing and weekly reminders to implement them in course preparation, impacts study behaviors and performance in large enrollment courses. Additionally, we are exploring whether we can approximate student behaviors by examining their activity across the quarter using the class learning management systems.
King C, Denaro K, Sato BK. “Assessment of Demographic Biases Associated with the Ground Rules System in a Large Undergraduate Engineering Course.” Journal of College Science Teaching. Jan/Feb 2023. 52 (3).
Harlow AN, Buswell NT, Lo SM, Sato BK. “Stakeholder perspectives on hiring teaching-focused faculty at research-intensive universities”. International Journal of STEM Education. 2022. 9 (54)
Vemu S, Denaro K, Sato BK, Williams AE. “Moving the Needle: Evidence of an Effective Study Strategy Intervention in a Community College Biology Course.” CBE-Life Sciences Education. May 11, 2022.
Denaro K, Dennin K, Dennin M, Sato BK. “Identifying systemic inequity in higher education and opportunities for improvement.” PLOS ONE. April 2022.
Rozhenkova V, Sato BK, Buswell NT. ““My Blood is Boiling When I Think About Advising”: The Role of Academic Advising in STEM Student Retention.” Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice. March 11, 2022. doi:10.1177/15210251221084122
Park ES, Harlow A…..Sato BK. “Instructor facilitation mediates students’ negative perceptions of active learning instruction.” PLOS ONE. December 2021. pone.0261706
Hsu JL, Lo SM, Sato BK. “Defining Understanding: Perspectives from Biology Instructors & Biology Education Researchers.” The American Biology Teacher. Aug 1, 2021. 83(6): 372-376.
Hsu JL, Chen, A Cruz-Hinojoza E, Dinh-Dang D, Roth-Johnson EA, Sato BK, Lo SM. “Characterizing Biology Education Research: Perspectives from Practitioners and Scholars in the Field.” Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. July 30, 2021. 22 e00147-21. 10.1128/jmbe.00147-21.
Rutherford T, Karamarkovich S, Xu D, Tate T, Sato BK, Baker R, Warschauer M. “Profiles of Instructor Responses to Emergency Distance Learning.” Online Learning. March 2021. 25(1) 86-114.
Aebersold A, Hooper A, Berg JJ, Denaro K, Mann D, Ortquist-Ahrens L, Sato BK, Verma M. “Investigating the transition to remote teaching during COVID-19: Recommendations for campus leaders and centers for teaching and learning.” Journal on Centers for Teaching and Learning. Feb 22, 2021. 12, 4-25.
Williams ML & Sato BK. “Constructive or Disruptive? How Active Learning Environments Shape Instructional Decision-Making.” Journal of Learning Spaces. 2021. 10(2).
Denaro K, Sato BK, Harlow A, Aebersold A, Verma M. “Comparison of Cluster Analysis Methodologies for Characterization of Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) Data.” CBE-Life Sciences Education. Jan 14, 2021.
McPartlan P, Solanki S, Xu D, Sato BK. “Testing Basic Assumptions Reveals When (Not) to Expect Mindset and Belonging Interventions to Succeed. AERA Open. Oct-Dec 2020. 6(4):1-16.
Williams AE, Denaro K, Dennin MB, Sato BK. A survey of study skills of first-year university students: The relationships of strategy to gender, ethnicity and course type. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. July 2020.
Harlow A, Lo SM, Saichaie K, Sato BK. “Characterizing the University of California’s tenure-track teaching position from the faculty and administrator perspectives.” PLOS ONE. Jan 13, 2020.
Solanki S, McPartlan P, Xu D, Sato BK. “Success with EASE: Who Benefits from a STEM Learning Community?” PLOS ONE. March 22, 2019.
Sato, BK, Hill CFC, Lo, SM. “Testing the Test: Are Exams Measuring Understanding?”
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. March 7, 2019.
Lo SM, Gardner GE, Reid J, Napolean-Fanis V, Carroll P, Smith E, Sato BK. “Prevailing questions and methodologies in biology education research: A longitudinal analysis of research in CBE-Life Sciences Education and at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research.” CBE-Life Sciences Education. Spring 2019. (18)
Rodriguez F, Rivas MJ, Matsumura LH, Warschauer M, Sato BK. “How do students study in STEM courses? Findings from a light-touch intervention and its relevance for underrepresented students.” PLOS ONE. 2018. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0200767.
Shaffer JF, Schriner SE, Loudon C, Dacanay SJ, Alam U, Dang JV, Aguilar-Roca N, Kadandale P, Sato BK. “Impacts of physiology prerequisites on future anatomy and physiology courses.” Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) Educator. 2018 December, 22(3), 199-207.
Xu, D, Solanki, S, McPartlan, P, Sato BK. “EASEing Students into College: The Impact of Multidimensional Support for Underprepared Students.” Educational Researcher. May 21, 2018
Sato BK, Ding-Dang D, Cruz-Hinojoza E, Denaro K, Hill CFC, Williams A. “Impact of Instructor Exam Feedback on Student Understanding in a Large Enrollment Biology Course.” BioScience. 2018 August, 68(8): 601-611.
Sato BK, Lee AK, Alam U, Dang JV, Dacanay SJ, Morgado P, Pirino G, Brunner JE, Castillo LA, Chan VW, Sandholtz JH. “What’s in a prerequisite? A mixed-methods approach to identifying the impact of a prerequisite course.” CBE Life Sciences Education. March 1, 2017 (16) doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-08-0260.
Shaffer JF, Dang JV, Lee AK, Dacanay SJ, Alam U, Wong HY, Richards, GJ, Kadandale P, Sato BK. “A familiar(ity) problem: Assessing the impact of prerequisites and content familiarity on student learning.” PLOS ONE. 2016. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0148051.
Sato BK, He W, Warschauer, M, Kadandale P#. “The Grass Isn’t Always Greener:
Perceptions and Performance on Open Note Exams.” CBE Life Sciences Education. 2015 Summer (14): 1-10.
Sato BK, Kadandale P, He W, Murata PMN, Latif Y, Warschauer M. "Practice Makes Pretty Good: Assessment of Primary Literature Reading Abilities across Multiple Large-Enrollment Biology Laboratory Courses." CBE Life Sciences Education. 2014 Winter; (13): 677-686.
NSF IUSE: STEM Teaching Faculty as a Mechanism to Promote Institutional Transformation through the Implementation of Evidence-Based Teaching Practices (2018-2023)
NSF RCN: Creation of the Biology Educator/Researcher Cross-Segment Collective (2019-2024)
NSF IUSE HSI: Promoting Cross-Enrollment to Bridge the 2- to 4-Year Gap for Underrepresented Students (2019-2024)
HHMI Inclusive Excellence IE3 Learning Community: Working Collectively to Understand, Promote & Evaluate Inclusive Teaching (2022-2028)
NSF Conference Proposal: Two-Year/Four-Year Campus Research Communities Examining STEM Transfer Pathways (2022-2024)
NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate: The AGEP University of California Alliance: A Model to Advance Equitable Hiring of Teaching-Focused Faculty in STEM (2021-2026)
Professional Societies
Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research
Association for Biology Laboratory Education
Research Centers
Postsecondary Education Research and Implementation Institute (PERI^2)
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