Pratibha Varma-Nelson Ph.D.

Professor, Chemistry
Founding Executive Director of SEIRI
Primary Appointment: Founding Executive Director of SEIRI


B.S, Poona University, India
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University, Maywood, Illinois

Awards & Honors

2013 Woodward Lecturer, The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Keynote lecture to be presented on April 24, 2013.

Sloan-C’s award for effective practices in online and blended education, 2012.

Prestigious External Award Recognition (PEAR) Recipient, 2012

Member of the 2011 cohort of outstanding women to be included in the online archival exhibit, “Women Creating Excellence at IUPUI.”

Stanley C. Israel regional award from the American Chemical Society for work in advancing diversity in the chemical sciences she recently received, 2011

Featured in the article “Promoting Diversity Through Conversation” Chemical and Engineering News, Volume 88, Issue 24, June 14, 2010, PP 49-52.

Prestigious External Award Recognition (PEAR) recipient, April 17, 2009

James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Chemistry, 2008

Project Kaleidoscope Delegate to the People's Republic of China, 2005

Teacher /Scholar Award, Saint Xavier University School of Arts and Sciences, 2002

American Chemical Society delegate to Havana, Cuba, 1998

Nominated for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education - US Professor of the Year Program, 2004 and 1998

Professional Affiliations

American Chemical Society, Division of Chemical Education, Board of Publications (BoP) 2013-present                                                                                                                                                       Program Director, National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, 2006-2008
Founding Chair, New Member Committee, Division of Chemical Education, American Chemical Society, 2002-2006
Member, External Advisory Board, Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL)
National Dissemination Project, 2003-2006
Member, 2002-present, Long Range Planning Committee, Division of CHED, American Chemical Society
Member, Advisory Board, International Gordon Research Conference on Science
Education and Visualization held at Mount Holyoke College, CT. August 5-10, 2001
Member, National Visiting Committee, NSF funded, Molecular Science Project, UCLA, Chemistry, 1996-2000


Member, Advisory Board, Chemical & Engineering News, 2007-2010
Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Science Education and Technology, 2006-present

Current Research

Dr. Varma-Nelson’s scholarly contributions are in chemical education. She is known in the STEM education community for her pioneering work in development, implementation and dissemination of the Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model of teaching. She was a Co-PI of two NSF funded National Dissemination Grants awarded to the PLTL project. In addition she was a founding Co-PI of the first NSF funded Undergraduate Research Center  “Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education, (CASPiE). Her team at IUPUI is working on developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating cyber Peer-Led Team Learning (cPLTL),, in general chemistry and organic chemistry. The cPLTL workshops are a synchronous online adaptation of the educational intervention Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), in which students, under the guidance of undergraduate peer facilitators, work collaboratively in small groups to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. PLTL and cPLTL workshops are being used to do research on student and peer leader behaviors in face-to-face and online environments. Peer leader behavior and peer leader-student discourse in the cyber and face-to-face environments of both Organic Chemistry and General Chemistry PLTL programs are being systematically examined to explore the differences in leadership style of the peer leaders in the two learning settings. Our group uses both qualitative and quantitative methods. Varma-Nelson is also studying the effectiveness of exporting pedagogies developed in chemistry to other STEM disciplines the humanities.

Select Publications

Peer Reviewed Articles

Smith, J., Wilson, S.B., Banks, J., Zhu, L., & Varma-Nelson, P. (2014). Replicating Peer-led Team Learning in Cyberspace: Research, Opportunities, and Challenges. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(6), 714-740.

McDaniel, J., Metcalf, S., Sours, J., Janke, T., Newbrough, J. R., Shuck, L., & Varma-Nelson, P. V. (2013). Supporting student collaboration in cyberspace: A cPLTL study of web conferencing platformsEDUCAUSE Review Online

Mauser, K., Sours, J., Banks, J., Newbrough, R., Janke, Te., Shuck, L., Zhu, L., Ammerman, G., and Varma-Nelson, P., "Cyber Peer-led Team learning (cPLTL): Development and Implementation", Educause Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 4, 2011. Online Journal. Invited

Varma-Nelson, P., Hundley, S.P., & Tarr, T., “The role of centers for teaching and learning in improvement of undergraduate engineering education.” Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education, Annual Conference, 2011. Washington, DC: American Society for Engineering Education.

Gosser, D.K.; Kampmeier, J.A.; Varma-Nelson’s. Peer-Led Team Learning: 2008 James Flack Norris Award Address. Journal of Chemical Education, 87, Vol. 4, April 2010, 374-380. Invited

L. Gafney and P. Varma-Nelson "Evaluating Peer-Led Team Learning: A Study of Long-Term Effects on Former Workshop Leaders" Journal of Chemical Education 2007, 84, 535-539.

P. Varma-Nelson "Peer-Led Team Learning" Metropolitan Universities Journal: STEM Innovation and Dissemination: Improving Teaching and Learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics 2006, 17, 19-29.

G. Weaver, D. Wink, P. Varma-Nelson, F. Lytle, R. Morris, W. Fornes, C. Russell and W. J. Boone "Developing a New Model to Provide First and Second-Year Undergraduates with Chemistry Research Experience: Early Findings of the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE)" The Chemical Educator 2006, 11, 1-5.

G. C. Weaver, P. Varma-Nelson, D. Wink, R. Morris and F. Lytle "Experiencing Research in a First or Second Year Science Course - Preliminary Results and Reflections on the Goals and Progress of the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE)" The Chemical Educator 2005, 11, 125-129.

Books and Manuals

Holme, T., Cooper, M., and Varma-Nelson, P. (Eds.), (2013), Trajectories of chemistry education innovation and reform Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

Gafney, L., and Varma-Nelson, P. (2008), Peer-led Team Learning: Evaluation, Dissemination, and Institutionalization of a College-level Educational Initiative (Innovations in Science Education and Technology), Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer-Verlag.

J. Kampmeier, P. Varma-Nelson, C. Wamser and D. Wedegaertner Peer-Led Team Learning: Organic Chemistry, 2nd Ed.; Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2006.

P. Varma-Nelson and A. E. Dreyfuss The Peer-Led Team Learning Dissemination Manual, 2001. [URL: ; under Dissemination Materials].

P. Varma-Nelson and M. S. Cracolice Peer-Led Team Learning: General, Organic, and Biochemistry; Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2001.

J. A. Kampmeier, P. Varma-Nelson and D. K. Wedegaertner Peer-Led Team Learning: Organic Chemistry; Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2001.

D. K. Gosser, M. S. Cracolice, J. A. Kampmeier, V. Roth, V. Strozak and P. Varma- Nelson Peer-Led Team Learning: A Guidebook; Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2001.

P. Varma-Nelson and R. Van Lanen Laboratory Manual: Small Scale Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry Experiments; Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL, 2001.


Varma-Nelson, P., & Banks, J. V. (2013). PLTL: Tracking the trajectory from face-to-face to on-line environments. In T. Holme, M. Cooper, and P. Varma-Nelson (Eds.), Trajectories of chemistry education innovation and reform (pp. 95-110). Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

Weaver, G.C., Wink, D.J., Varma-Nelson, P.V., and Lytle, F.E.(2009), “Integrating Research into the Curriculum: Using Laboratory Modules to Engage Faculty and Students” In Boyd, M.K., and Wesemann, J.L., Broadening Participation in Undergraduate Research: Fostering Excellence and Enhancing the Impact. Chapter 9, 109-125, Council on Undergraduate Research. Washington D.C. Invited

J. A. Kampmeier and P. Varma-Nelson "Peer-Led Team Learning: Organic Chemistry" In The Chemists' Guide to Effective Teaching Vol. II, M. M. Cooper, T. Greenbowe and N. Pienta, Eds.; Prentice Hall Publishing: Upper Saddle River, NJ. 2007.

P. Varma-Nelson and D. Gosser "Dissemination of Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) and Formation of a National Network Embracing a Common Pedagogy" In Teaching Inclusively: Diversity and Faculty Development, M. Ouellet, Ed.; New Forums Press: Stillwater, OK; 2005, pp. 503-518.

P. Varma-Nelson, M. Cracolice and D. Gosser, D. "Peer-Led Team Learning: A Student-Faculty Partnership for Transforming the Learning Environment" In Invention and Impact: Building Excellence in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education, Proceedings of an April 2004 Conference Cosponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs (EHR) -Retrieved May 21, 2007 [URL:]

P. Varma-Nelson and B. Coppola "Team Learning" In The Chemists' Guide to Effective Teaching; M. M. Cooper, T. Greenbowe and N. Pienta, Eds.; Prentice Hall Publishing: Upper Saddle River, NJ; 2005.

J. L. Sarquis, L. J. Dixon, D. K. Gosser, J. A. Kampmeier, V. Roth, V. S. Strozak and P. Varma-Nelson "The Workshop Project: Peer-Led Team Learning in Chemistry" In Student-Assisted Teaching: A Guide to Faculty Student Teamwork; J. E. Miller, J. E. Groccia and M. S. Miller, Eds.; Anker Publishing Company: Bolton, MA; 2001, pp. 150 -155.

J. A. Kampmeier and P. Varma-Nelson "Institutionalizing The Workshops" In Peer-Led Team Learning: A Guidebook; Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ; 2001.

National Reports

Auchincloss, L. C., Laursen, S. L., Branchaw, J. L., Eagan, K., Graham, M., Hanauer, D. I., Lawrie, G., McLinn, C. M., Pelaez, N., Rowland, S., Towns, M., Trautmann, N. M., Varma-Nelson, P., Weston, T. J., & Dolan, E. L. (2014).  Assessment of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences—A meeting report.  CBE-Life Sciences Education, in press. 

Contributor, (2013) AAAS Report, Describing & Measuring Undergraduate STEM Teaching Practices, meeting held in Washington DC, 17-19, December, 2012.

Co-Author of the 2011 AAAS report, “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action”,