Kelly McDonald, Ph.D.

California State University, Sacramento

Kelly McDonald, Ph.D.

Kelly McDonald, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences at Sacramento State, is recognized for her efforts on closing the equity gap in research experiences among undergraduate students.

In response to findings that revealed only 3 percent of biology majors were receiving research experience, McDonald developed the Sustainable Interdisciplinary Research to Inspire Undergraduate Success (SIRIUS) in 2015 with the support of the National Science Foundation and the W. M. Keck Foundation. Aimed at providing all students the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research, SIRIUS has been integrated in 18 courses, reaching more than 5,000 students in biological sciences, chemistry, environmental sciences and geology departments.

McDonald built the foundation of SIRIUS through a multi-year faculty learning community (FLC) in which faculty collaborated to implement innovative, evidence-based teaching practices. McDonald directed the development of research-based curricula, working to increase student participation in research experiences—a high-impact practice that has been shown to increase student retention in STEM fields. The FLC increases student success by providing a framework for faculty to teach students science the way it is performed.

SIRIUS has become a model for large-scale curriculum redesign and implementation, and McDonald serves as a guide and mentor for other CSU campuses seeking to execute similar programs, including but not limited to Chico State and CSU Monterey Bay.

“Dr. McDonald genuinely and authentically wants to [improve] the lives of students. The beautiful part is that she has changed the lives of so many students already, and her work sets the foundation for many more students to succeed in the future," says Enid T. Gonzalez-Orta, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences and director of the Science Educational Equity Program at Sacramento State.