Her research focuses on the learning and teaching of physics, and on bringing contemporary physics and computational modeling into introductory physics courses. As a graduate student in chemistry at the University of Illinois she was introduced to the PLATO system by Stan Smith, a chemistry professor who developed a suite of innovative PLATO lessons on organic chemistry. Chabay wrote a suite of PLATO lessons on topics in general chemistry, and collaborated with Smith on the creation of several chemistry games. She also became a member of the PLATO system software staff. Her experiences on PLATO set her off on a quest to understand how to make abstract scientific concepts accessible and interesting to students. During sojourns at Stanford (Psychology) and Carnegie Mellon (Physics and the Center for Innovation in Learning) she has done research on motivation and learning, written the award-winning computer game /Electric Field Hockey/, and co-authored (with Bruce
Sherwood) /Matter & Interactions, /a modern introductory physics textbook for science and engineering students. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and has served on the executive board of the American Association of Physics Teachers.