Thomas Tretter

Thomas Tretter
Director, Gheens Science Hall & Rauch Planetarium, Professor, Science Education
Co-Director, Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Teacher Development

Department of Middle and Secondary Education
Room 289 - College of Education and Human Development
tom.tretter @

Dr. Tretter's curriculum vitae [PDF]


After Bachelor (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology) and Master (Caltech) degrees in Electrical Engineering, I joined the Peace Corps to become a high school mathematics teacher in Gabon, Africa. After that experience, I realized I wanted to teach and spent the next 10 years in middle and high school mathematics and science classrooms in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Sudan. I joined the University of Louisville faculty as a science educator in 2004 after earning my doctorate in science education at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

My passion for science education revolves around supporting students in making sense of natural phenomena – understanding how and why things happen, being able to plan and predict how to change things. This probably emerged from my experiences growing up on a beef cattle farm in the Midwest where “figuring things out” was a daily expectation. My work at UofL includes working with preservice and inservice science teachers, and my favorite part of that work is being in classrooms with those teachers interacting with students. These experiences guide the strands of my research into studying how both students and teachers learn, and exploring how to continuously improve our system for science education. I enjoy the privilege of interacting with others in the science education community: classroom teachers, district administrators, state department of education, and university science education faculty across the world.

Educational Background

  • Ed.D., Curriculum and Instruction, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004. Focus on secondary science education.
  • Teaching Certification (1993) in physics and secondary mathematics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
  • Masters of Science (1987) in Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. Concentration on control systems.
  • Bachelors of Science (1986) in Electrical Engineering and German Translator’s Certificate, summa cum laude, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana.

Teaching Areas

  • Middle and High School Science Education
  • Graduate Topics in Science Education
  • Doctoral Research and Scholarly Development courses

Research Interests

  • Science Teacher Education
  • Undergraduate STEM education
  • Conceptions of scale and scaling in science
  • Learning with Data Visualizations
  • Applications of Quantitative Methodologies

Professional Activities

  • Editorial Boards: (2009-present) Journal of Science Teacher Education, (2007-2010) Journal of Research in Science Teaching, (2007-present) Journal of NanoEducation
  • Publications Committee (2012-2015), Association for Science Teacher Education
  • Institute for Education Sciences (IES) Principal Grant Review Panel member for Mathematics and Science Education funding program (2011-2014)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant Reviewer (2008-present)

Honors and Awards

  • 2010 National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) Early Career Research Award
  • 2008, 2007, 2006 Kentuckiana Metroversity Award for Instructional Development
  • Outstanding Dissertation Award 2004, National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • Teacher of the Year, Southern High School, Durham, NC (2000-2001)
  • Tau Beta Pi Fellow (nationally competitive engineering honor society fellowship) (1986-1987)

Professional Memberships

  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • Association for Science Teacher Educators (ASTE)
  • National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)
  • Kentucky Science Teachers Association (KSTA)


  • Tretter, T. R., Jones, M. G. & Falvo, M. (2010). Impact of introductory nanoscience course on college freshmen’s conceptions of spatial scale. Journal of Nano Education, 2(1/2), 53-66.
  • Saderholm, J., & Tretter, T. R. (2008). Identification of the most critical content knowledge base for middle school science teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 19(3), 269-283.
  • Tretter, T. R. (2008). Nanoscience and conceptions of size and scale in pre-college education. In A. E. Sweeney and S. Seal (Eds.), Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education. Stevenson Ranch, CA: American Scientific Publishers.
  • Tretter, T. R. (2006). Conceptualizing nanoscale. The Science Teacher, 73(9), 28-31.
  • Tretter, T. R., Jones, M. G., & Minogue, J. (2006). Accuracy of scale conceptions in science: Mental maneuverings across many orders of spatial magnitude. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(10), 1061-1085.
  • Tretter, T. R., Jones, M. G., Andre, T., Negishi, A., & Minogue, J. (2006). Conceptual boundaries and distances: Students' and experts' concepts of the scale of scientific phenomena. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(3), 282-319.
  • Tretter, T. R. (2005). Godzilla versus scaling laws of physics. The Physics Teacher, 43(8), 530-532.