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JMEL_Logo_FINALLab Logo Credit: Lee Druce, Program Assistant, Department of Teaching and Learning

The Joseph Mathematics Education Research Lab (JMEL) at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education & Human Development centers scholarship that informs primarily transformative mathematics teaching and learning. The lab conceptualizes transformative as  research, teaching, learning, and service that centers criticality, action, social justice, and liberation for intersectionally minoritized students.

Directed by Dr. Nicole M. Joseph, JMEL has a special focus on Black girls and women (BGW), their identity development, and experiences in mathematics. We also study the role of whiteness within the construction of the mathematics discipline and how such social constructions shape BGW’s access, participation, underrepresentation, retention, and identity in mathematics across the pipeline (PreK-20) and beyond.

JMEL trains and mentors  undergraduate, masters, doctoral students, and post-graduates. Members understand that JMEL is grounded in epistemological orientations and paradigms rooted in Black Feminism and intersectionality, which means we call out oppressive structural systems, discourses, policies, and practices that many BGW face in the Western and American education system. This also means our theoretical and methodological practices challenge hegemonic notions of objectivity to emphasize humanizing and empowering research.

JMEL is a non-traditional lab, one that aims to train and mentor future researchers and educators through modeling and employing rigorous research practices coupled with goals of overall well-being. Prioritizing JMEL members’ health and wellness is key to re-imagining what it means to “work in a lab,” whereby one’s humanity is not fragmented, but honored.

JMEL speaks to multiple audiences including the education research field, mathematics teachers, parents and families, community members, schools and school leaders, and policy-makers.  JMEL research projects have been generously supported by the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, National Science Foundation, Federal Department of Education, Peabody College, and Vanderbilt Transdisciplinary Program (TIPs). Any questions regarding JMEL can be directed via email to lab director, Dr. Nicole M. Joseph. If you are interested in training in JMEL, please contact the director


Dr. Nicole M. Joseph, Director


Micaela Y. Harris, PhD student (Dissertation Adviser: Dr. Nicole Joseph), Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: Explores Black women’s resilience and persistence in teaching secondary mathematics.


Zariah Embry, PhD student (Dissertation Adviser: Dr. Nicole Joseph), Vanderbilt University

Research interests: Explores the experiences of Black girls and Black women through education


Marlena Eanes, PhD student (Dissertation Adviser: Dr. Nicole Joseph), Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: The learning experiences in elementary/middle school math that impact Black girls performance and outcomes in high school math courses.
Fradely delacruz

Fradely Delacruz, Research Assistant/Program Manager, Measuring Inclusive Constructs of Math Identity (MICMI), PIs: Nicole Joseph & Elizabeth Anderson, Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: Applied quantitative/qualitative research and community outreach


Dr. ReAnna S. Roby, Assistant Director, Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, Vanderbilt Univ.

Research Interests: Employs Critical Race Feminism, Curriculum Theory, and Critical Qualitative methodologies to explore how the narratives of Black women and girls in science (formally and informally) can be used to re-conceptualize science.

Taqiyyah Elliott, Master of Divinity, Black Religion/Culture Studies and Chaplaincy, Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: Concerns the pedagogies of Black girls’ racial, cultural, and spiritual experiences (inside and outside of school) and its relation to their identity and learning development

Mariah Deans Harmon, Doctoral Student, Department of Teaching and Learning (Dissertation Adviser: Dr. Lani Horn), Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: Explores the experiences of Black women pre-service teachers and centers the needs of Black women in teacher education.


Dr. Ashli-Ann Douglas, Postdoctoral Researcher, Psychological Sciences, Dept. of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: Explores children’s early math experiences, their relations to children’s math achievement and identity, and how they may be improved. She is particularly interested in children who are underserved by the school system including Black girls.



Martha Kakooza, Doctoral Student, Morgan State University

Research Interests: Understanding the racial and gender experiences of Black African women immigrants within STEM Higher Education



Natalie De Lucca, PhD student (Dissertation Adviser: Dr. Jessica Watkins), Vanderbilt University Research interests: Explores how to recognize and design for Black girls’ science learning


Maciel Duverge, Undergraduate, Psychobiology and Gender Studies, UCLA

Research Interests: Explores Afro-Latinx experiences in STEM at predominantly
white institutions, with an emphasis on how higher education STEM environments
impact marginalized communities.

Tasia Bryson

Dr. Tasia Bryson, Postdoctoral Fellow, UMass Boston.

Research Interests: The impact of the advisor/advisee relationship for underrepresented minority students in science graduate programs.

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Morgan Spellman, Masters student, Department of Special Education, Vanderbilt University

Research interests: Explores the underdiagnoses of Black girls with learning disabilities and ADHD in middle school classrooms, with an emphasis on how to improve support and intervention.

Sophia Pompilus

 Sophia Raymond, PhD student (Advisory: Dr. Barbara M. Brizuela), Tufts University
Research interests: Explores the construction of mathematics identity, primarily for middle school Black girls.
Joy Polk

Joy Polk, Master’s Student in Quantitative Methods Program, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University

Research Interests: How mathematical education may affect performance and confidence when students – particularly students of color – engage with mathematics longitudinally in academic and professional settings. She is particularly interested in how well children perform with mathematical concepts that require reading comprehension as a part of their mathematical literacy.