Li Ke

Li Ke is a postdoctoral researcher in the Culture, Curriculum, and Teacher Education program within the UNC School of Education. He promotes scientific literacy among K-12 students by helping them utilize models and reasoning to approach social issues in science such as climate change.

Li Kephoto by Alyssa LaFaro
February 26th, 2020

Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A: Early on, I was fond of being a bus conductor collecting quarters. But later that dream job was replaced by being a cool scientist conducting experiments.

Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

A: I did a lot of tutoring for high school students when I was a chemistry major in China. It was such a rewarding experience when they told me they were more interested in the subject or did well on a test because of my help. It was witnessing students’ struggle with learning science that led to my decision to change my field of study from chemistry to science education. I want to make an impact on how people learn science.

Li Ke, his wife, and a group of people sit around a table

Ke (right), his wife, and his friends participate in a “Mafia” game night in the chemistry building at Michigan State University.

Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

A: One day, when I was collecting classroom video-recording data for my dissertation, the participating teacher that I worked with had a medical emergency. She asked me if I was willing to teach for her since I was familiar with the students and the activity our research team designed. While I knew I could not use it as data for my dissertation, I could not turn down the teacher’s request. After all, the goal of the research project was to help students better learn science, so I agreed. I was later told by the teacher that, since then, she knew for sure I really cared about her students’ learning, as opposed to viewing them as objects in an experiment.

Q: Describe your research in 5 words.

A: Improving how students learn science.

Q: What are your passions outside of research?

A: I love playing board games with my friends in my spare time. Since college, I have been playing a social deduction game called “Mafia,” the object of which is to figure out each other’s identity through talk. While it is a good way to relax and hang out with friends, it’s a lot more fun if you have a group of geeks who are keen on discourse analysis and micro-facial expression detection.

Research UNCovered delves into the lives of UNC researchers from all disciplines and career levels, showcasing not only their research prowess but personal experiences in academia and beyond. Know someone we should feature? Nominate a researcher.