Doctoral Students

Mario Martinez-Garza, Graduate Student Researcher, Doctoral Student studying Math, Science, and Engineering Education, Vanderbilt University.  Mario is a doctoral student of math, science and engineering education at Vanderbilt University. A life-long gamer and student of games, his main area of interest is the application of good design principles to support learning from, and through, games of all kinds. He has alternated careers between technology and education, serving as a middle-school math and science  teacher, a competition math coach and also co-founder and lead game designer of Kognitia Games, a start-up devoted to delivering fun, competitive games to support school mathematics. Most recently, he served as a producer and game designer at large for a company specializing in commercial casual games. He holds a B.S. in Chemistry and a M.Ed. in Education.


James Hughes, Ph. D Student of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University.  James' research interests involve student learning through technology-enhanced environments in several domains, with a focus on math and science. Specifically, James is interested in components of such technologies that provide consistent transfer from virtual spaces to real world situations. James has a budding interest in the synergy of games and augmented reality technologies that could enhance student "in game" learning and simultaneously transfer learning to real world situations.


Kara Krinks, Doctoral Student, Math and Science Education, Vanderbilt University.  Kara is a second-year doctoral student in the Math and Science Education Program at Vanderbilt University. Before beginning her doctoral studies, Kara spent several years teaching high school and college physics. Her research interests include teacher and student thinking about physics through formal and informal representations of problems. She holds a B.S. in Engineering Science, M.S in Physics and M.A. in Teaching.


Blaine Smith, Doctoral Student, Language, Literacy, and Culture, Vanderbilt University.  Blaine is a doctoral student in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program at Vanderbilt University. Her research examines the digital literacy practices of adolescents across contexts--she is particularly interested in the social processes of multimodal composition and gender issues in literacy. As a member of the SURGE research team, her interests revolve around the intersections between gaming, multimodality, and content literacy.

Kirk Loretz, Graduate Research Assistant, Doctoral Student, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Vanderbilt University.
  Kirk Loretz is a Ph. D. student in computer science at Vanderbilt University. He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science at Vanderbilt. In addition to SURGE, he is working with the Teachable Agents Group at Vanderbilt. Kirk’s research is in educational data mining and using data mining techniques to assess learning behaviors from activity traces of student interaction in learning environments.

Grant Van Eaton, Doctoral Student, Department of Teaching and Learning, Vanderbilt University. Grant's research interests include curriculum development and scaling of educational games and simulations, the mind/brain interactions between students and educational technology, and the comparative advantages of online learning platforms and the traditional classroom learning environment. He joins the team after teaching high school biology and middle school reading in Washington, DC, where he also served as science department chair and team leader, and was actively involved in new teacher training and development across the east coast with Teach For America and The New Teacher Project. He holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and a MAT from American University.