Valerie Otero

Valerie K. Otero
University of Colorado, Boulder


"For the development of the Learning Assistant (LA) model and the associated LA Alliance, which has enhanced physics teacher education and recruitment, supported undergraduate course transformation, and physics instructor professional development."


Valerie Otero is a Professor of Science Education, specializing in physics education research (PER). She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico in 1991 and Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 2001. She is co-founder and executive director of the Colorado Learning Assistant program, the International Learning Assistant Alliance, and CU Boulder’s Center for STEM Learning. She has co-authored several physics curricula that reach high school and college students and teachers. Dr. Otero has advised the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the American Physical Society on issues in undergraduate physics education and physics teacher preparation. Her innovative instructional models have spread throughout the world, reaching hundreds of universities throughout the U.S. and in China, India, Ireland, Singapore, and Turkey. She has published in Physical Review, Physics Today, and the American Journal of Physics on physics education research and on the history of physics education in the U.S. Dr. Otero is a Chicana, first generation college student, who grew up working after school at her parent’s grocery store in Albuquerque, New Mexico and at her family’s booth at the New Mexico State Fair, where she still works every September. Dr. Otero is committed to building and sustaining programs that reach diverse stakeholders in STEM education with the ultimate goal of inspiring and supporting students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM disciplines.

Selection Committee:

2019 Selection Committee Members: Mats Selen (Chair), Paula Heron (Vice-Chair), Eleanor Close, Jennifer Docktor, Dave Pritchard, Kathy Perkins