Dr. Elizabeth Barnes

Assistant Professor of Biology Education

Dr. Elizabeth Barnes
(615) 898-5449
Room 1159, Science Building (SCI)
MTSU Box 60, Murfreesboro, TN 37132

Degree Information

  • PHD, Arizona State University (2018)
  • MS, Arizona State University (2014)
  • BS, Arizona State University (2013)

Areas of Expertise

Science Education, Biology Education Research, History and Philosophy of Science


I became interested in studying social perceptions of science as an undergraduate biology major and became fascinated by the social psychology underlying rejection and acceptance of scientific information. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, I earned my Ph.D. in Biology Education Research from Arizona State University studying how to reduce tension between religion and evolution. I now run the Social Perceptions of Science lab at Middle Tennessee State University.


Barnes, M.E., Maas, S.A., Roberts, J.A. Brownell, S.E. (2021). Christianity as a Concealable Stigmatized Identity (CSI) among Biology Graduate Students. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 20(1), ar9. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-09-0213

Barnes, M. E., Supriya, K., Dunlop, H. M., Hendrix, T. M., Sinatra, G...

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Barnes, M.E., Maas, S.A., Roberts, J.A. Brownell, S.E. (2021). Christianity as a Concealable Stigmatized Identity (CSI) among Biology Graduate Students. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 20(1), ar9. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-09-0213

Barnes, M. E., Supriya, K., Dunlop, H. M., Hendrix, T. M., Sinatra, G. M., & Brownell, S. E. (2020). Relationships between the Religious Backgrounds and Evolution Acceptance of Black and Hispanic Biology Students. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 19(4), ar59. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.19-10-0197.

Barnes, M. E., Werner, R., Brownell, S.E. (2020). Differential impacts of a culturally competent genetics curriculum on student perceptions of conflict between religion and evolution at an evangelical Christian university. The American Biology Teacher. https://f328e7ed-ae78-427b-9dac-2a65f1920a7d.filesusr.com/ugd/98a1a0_da4a7c2ba7014729a2016b3a00c1f2ef.pdf.

Barnes, M. E., Dunlop, H. M., Sinatra, G. M., Hendrix, T. M., Zheng, Y., & Brownell, S. E. (2020). “Accepting Evolution Means You Can’t Believe in God”: Atheistic Perceptions of Evolution among College Biology Students. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 19(2), ar21. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.19-05-0106

Barnes, M.E., Truong, J.M., Grunspan, D.Z., Brownell, S.E. (2020). Are scientists biased against Christians? Exploring real and perceived Christian bias in academic biology. PLoS ONEhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0226826

Dunk, R. D., Barnes, M. E., Reiss, M. J., Alters, B., Asghar, A., Carter, B. E., ... & Mead, L. S. (2019). Evolution education is a complex landscape. Nature ecology & evolution, 3(3), 327. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0802-9.

Barnes, M.E., *Dunlop, H.M., Holt, E., Brownell, S.E., (2019). Different Instruments used to Measure Acceptance of Evolution Leads to Different Research Findings. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 12(1), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12052-019-0096-z.

Barnes, M.E., & Brownell, S.E. (2018). A Call to Use Cultural Competence When Teaching Evolution to Religious College Students: Introducing Religious Cultural Competence in Evolution Education (ReCCEE). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 16 (4). https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.17-04-0062.

Barnes, M.E., Truong, J.M., Brownell, S.E (2018). Can Six Minutes of Culturally Competent Evolution Education Reduce Students’ Level of Perceived Conflict between Evolution and Religion? The American Biology Teacher, 80(2), 106-115. (^these authors contributed equally) https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2018.80.2.106.

Grunspan, D. Z., Nesse, R. M., Barnes, M. E., & Brownell, S.E. (2017). Core principles of evolutionary medicine: a Delphi study. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2018 (1), 13-23. https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eox025.

Barnes, M. E., & Brownell, S. E. (2017). Experiences and Practices of Evolution Instructors at Christian Universities that can Inform Culturally Competent Evolution Education. Science Education, 101(6), 1-24. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21317.

Barnes, M. E., Evans, E. M., Hazel, A., Brownell, S. E., & Nesse, R. M. (2017). Teleological Reasoning, not Acceptance of Evolution, Impacts Students’ Ability to Learn Natural Selection. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12052-017-0070-6.

Barnes, M. E., Elser, J., & Brownell, S. E. (2017). Impact of a Short Evolution Module on Students' Perceived Conflict between Religion and Evolution. The American Biology Teacher, 79(2), 104-111. https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2017.79.2.104.

Barnes, M. E., Truong, J. M., & Brownell, S. E. (2017). Experiences of Judeo-Christian Students in Undergraduate Biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 16(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.16-04-015

Barnes, M. E., & Brownell, S. E. (2016). Practices and Perspectives of College Instructors on Addressing Religious Beliefs When Teaching Evolution. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(2), 18. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.15-11-0243.

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National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Award (NSF GRFP), 2015 - 2020       

Graduate Excellence Award, Arizona State University, 2015, 2017, and 2018

Arizona State University Faculty Women’s Association Distinguished Graduate Student Award, 2018

Arizona State University Graduate & Professional Student Association Outstanding Mentor Award, 2017

Research / Scholarly Activity

In the Social Perceptions of Science Lab, we study how to improve science education about socio-scientific topics. Our research has focused on religious perceptions of evolution and we have studied how to make evolution education more inclusive for students from different backgrounds. We are now excited to be embarking on projects exploring political perceptions of climate change and COVID19 education. Since our research team needs good surveys to do our research, we also study how to improve survey methodology in evolution education studies.


BIOL 1110 - General Biology I