Chemistry, Cognition, and Learning

Amanda’s research group studies how chemistry is taught and how people learn. Our lab is interdisciplinary and bridges the social sciences with cognitive science and neuroscience.


When people learn, they are processing information: encoding, retrieving, and using information to make decisions. Research in our lab explores how people learn in chemistry, where we rely on models and diagrams since molecules are invisible to the eye. We ask questions like:

  • How do novices encode diagrams, and what does this reveal about learning?
  • What neural processes are involved?
  • What skills are needed to learn in chemistry, and do they overlap with other sciences or the arts?
  • How can educators design materials or activities to help students learn?


peer-reviewed articles
  • A. Parker, E. Noronha, A. Bongers.* “Beyond the deficit model: organic chemistry educators’ beliefs and practices about teaching green and sustainable chemistry” Submitted August 9, 2022.
  • Yu Pei, Sarah Gulycz, Zhe She,* A. Bongers* “A Scaffolded Assessment on Chromatography Theory for Analytical Chemistry Classrooms.” Revision submitted: August 8, 2022.
  • A. Bongers* “A virtual poster session designed for social learning in undergraduate chemistry research” Journal of Chemical Education 2021, 99, 6, 2259-2269.
  • A. Bongers, B. Beauvoir, N. Streja, G. Northoff, A. B. Flynn*. “Building mental models of a reaction mechanism: the influence of static and animated representations, prior knowledge, and spatial ability.” Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2020, 21, 496–512.
  • A. Bongers, A. B. Flynn, G. Northoff*. “Is learning scale-free? Chemistry learning increases EEG fractal power and changes the power law exponent.” Neurosci. Res. 2020 Jul;156:165-177.
  • A. Bongers, G. Northoff, A. B. Flynn*. “Working with Mental Models to Learn and Visualize a New Reaction Mechanism.” Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2019, 20, 554–569.
2018 and earlier
other work

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