UMass Boston


Hannah Sevian

Quinn Administration Floor 03


Hannah Sevian is a professor of chemistry and has been on the faculty at UMass Boston since 2001. Her undergraduate research with Carl Lineberger focused on photoelectron spectroscopy. Her doctoral research at Columbia University and University of Wisconsin with James Skinner focused on statistical mechanics of condensed phase spectroscopy. Her postdoc with Jane Lipson at Dartmouth College expanded to theoretical polymer chemistry. She taught chemistry and physics in the Spanish bilingual program at Chelsea High School and conducted experimental materials science research with Michael Rubner at MIT on light-emitting thin films. She has also served as a program officer at NSF and as associate provost at UMass Boston.

Area of Expertise

Chemistry education

STEM education


PhD physical chemistry

Professional Publications & Contributions

Additional Information

Dr. Sevian’s chemistry research for the past two decades at UMass Boston has focused on chemistry learning that is proactively inclusive, recognizes and builds on students’ cultural wealth and knowledge, and creates opportunities for learning so that students take an active role in connecting school to their lived worlds. Her development of the chemical thinking framework – a disciplinary nature of science theory that characterizes chemistry as the pursuit of six questions that are unique to chemistry – with collaborator Vicente Talanquer is tightly connected to her teaching, which centers on strengthening students’ capabilities in chemical thinking, building on the relevance of chemistry in their careers and lives. Her teaching centers cultural assets that students bring to learning. In her research, she studies how students develop chemical thinking across the decade from secondary to tertiary chemistry, how a focus on green chemistry influences students’ learning of chemistry, and how scientists and teachers develop responsive classroom assessment practices that promote students’ meaning making in chemistry. Her research has been published in chemistry, chemistry education, and science education journals and books. Innovation products have also been developed through this research:

  • The Assessing for Change in Chemical Thinking (ACCT) program is an 8-session course of study meant to be led by experienced chemistry teachers for their peers. It refocuses and enhances middle and high school teachers’ abilities to notice, interpret, and respond to students’ chemical ideas through strengthened formative assessment practices. The ACCT program resulted from a long-term NSF-funded collaboration with secondary chemistry teachers in Boston Public Schools and the BPS Science Department. The professional learning program was piloted nationally and all resources are freely available on the American Chemical Society’s ChemEd Xchange website at
  • An asset-based and culturally responsive supplemental chemistry course was developed by Dr. Sevian for students with higher likelihood of DFW outcomes in general chemistry. The development and study of impacts of this course were supported by NSF. Participation in the asset-based course has been demonstrated to close equity gaps in learning outcomes in General Chemistry 1 when coupled with use of the chemical thinking curriculum in the lecture course. Results of the study and the full curriculum and instructional resources for the asset-based supplemental chemistry course are available via an open-access article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society Au in 2023.