University of Calgary

Pratim Sengupta

  • Professor


Prof. Sengupta is Professor of Learning Sciences, and has also served as Research Chair of STEM Education. He completed his PhD in Learning Sciences at Northwestern University (2009). Prior to coming to the University of Calgary, Dr. Sengupta was a professor at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, where he co-founded and chaired the Learning Sciences PhD program. He is the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award (2012) for his research on developing agent-based programming languages and integrating computational modeling in K12 science and math classrooms. He moved to the University of Calgary in Fall 2015 as one half of a dual-career hire along with his partner, Dr. Pallavi Banerjee, who is a professor in the Sociology department. Prior to his career in the Learning Sciences, Dr. Sengupta attended Presidency College, Kolkata (India), the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (India) and Northwestern University  (USA), where he received his underdauate and graduate degrees in Physics.

Research & Scholarly Activity

I direct the Mind, Matter & Media Lab.

Since 2004, my research has primary focused on developing and designing agent-based computational systems (modeling platforms, programming languages and simulations) that can make complex scientific phenomena accessible to middle and elementary school children, teachers and newcomers to STEM disciplines through computational modeling, despite a tradition of introducing these phenomena in any depth at the post-secondary levels. I received an NSF CAREER Award in 2012 from the US National Science Foundation for this work. This research involves a deep disciplinary commitment to authentic forms of scientific, mathematical and computational expertise, as well as advancing theories and models of how we develop conceptual understanding through representational work. This work has made contributions in several fields: computational thinking, conceptual change in science education, digital games for science education, integrated STEM education, modeling in science education, etc.  Some of the most important publications from this body of work are listed below. 

My current research projects are mostly collaboratively conceptualized and conducted with my colleague Dr. Marie-Claire Shanahan. These projects lie at the intersection of thinking carefully about publicness, phenomenological and critical-theoretical-historical issues that are often overlooked in the context of designing learning technologies and STEM Education. Some preliminary public writing on some of these issues can be found here (Open Science, Public Engagement and the University - NSF sponsored white paper) and here (Computing in Public, Computing for Public - the first public post on public computing, published by FreeCodeCamp).

My current projects are listed below, along with other major collaborators (besides Dr. Shanahan) for each project:

a) designing open source, open science computational environments to engage the public (i.e., anyone) in authentic  and creative scientific modeling; 

b) designing complex simulations and models of socio-scientific systems for supporting critical conversations about socio-historical and environmental inequalities in the K-12 science and computing classrooms (collaboration with the University of Maryland, with Dr. Ayush Gupta, Dr. Andy Elby, Dr. Jennifer Radoff, and Dr. Erin Sohr); 

c) developing a critical phenomenological framework for designing computational systems that challenge systemic, institutional and political-historical hegemonies (a collective effort along with my Doctoral students in my research lab).   

This work also includes two upcoming books to be published by MIT Press and Springer.

PhD students who have completed their dissertations with me have found faculty and post-doctoral positions at Harvard University, Penn State University and Lipscomb University in the US.

My google scholar profile is the most up-to-date location for my papers and citations, along with links to papers. 

I spend a lot of time actually designing technologies and technological spaces along with my students and collaborators.




PhD, Learning Sciences, 2009
Northwestern University

MS, Physics, 2003
Northwestern University

MSc., Solid State Physics, 2000 
Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

Professional & Community Affiliations

Executive Editor, Cognition and Instruction

Selected Publications

Sengupta, P., Dickes, A., & Farris, A.V. (2018). Toward a Phenomenology of Computational Thinking in STEM. In: Khine, M.S. (Ed.): Computational Thinking in STEM: Research Highlights., pp 49 – 72. Springer: New York.

Hostetler, A, Sengupta, P, & Hollett, T. (2018). Unsilencing Critical Conversations in Social-Studies Teacher Education using Agent-based Modeling. Cognition & Instruction, 36(2), 139 – 170. (Sengupta and Hostetler are equal co-authors).

Sengupta, P. & Shanahan, M.-C. (2017). Boundary Play and Pivots in Public Computation: New Directions in Integrated STEM Education. International Journal of Engineering Education, 33 (3), pp. 1124–1134.

Sengupta, P., Krinks, K., & Clark, D. B. (2015). Learning to Deflect: Conceptual Change in Physics through Use of Digital Games. Journal of the Learning Sciences. 24 (2), 638 – 674. 

Farris, A.V., & Sengupta, P. (2016). Democratizing Children’s Computation: Learning Computational Science as Aesthetic Experience. Educational Theory, 66 (1-2), 279–296. (Farris and Sengupta are equal co-authors).

Sengupta, P., Dickes, A.C., Farris, A.V., Karan, A., & Martin, D. (2015). Programming in K12 science classrooms. Communications of the ACM, 58(11), 33-35.

Sengupta, P., & Wilensky, U. (2009). Learning electricity with NIELS: Thinking with electrons and thinking in levels. International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 14(1), 21-50.

Sengupta, P., Kinnebrew, J., Basu, S., Biswas, G., and Clark, D. (2013). Integrating Computational Thinking with K12 Science Education Using Agent-Based Computation: A Theoretical Framework. Education & Information Technologies, 18(2), 351-380.


  • Best Paper Award, 4th International Conference for STEM in Education 
  • NSF CAREER Award, 2012
  • Best paper selections: IDC 2012; CSEDU 2013; CSEDU 2014
  • Northwestern University – Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2008
  • K.L. Chopra Award for “Best Final Year Research Project” (all departments), IIT Kharagpur, 2000

Doctoral Students


Dr. Amy Farris, Assistant Professor, Penn State University, USA

Dr. Amanda Dickes, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Harvard University, USA

Dr. Kara Krinks, Assistant Professor, Lipscomb University, USA 


Dylan Pare'

Marilu Lam Herrera

Michael Cutler

Stephanie Hladik

Basak Helvaci

Jordan Kidney



Photograph of Pratim Sengupta

Curriculum Vitae

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