Paul Steif-Mechanical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Paul Steif

Associate Department Head & Professor, Mechanical Engineering

5000 Forbes Avenue
Scaife Hall 304
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 412-268-3507
Fax: 412-268-3348


Professor Steif’s activities focus strongly on engineering education. This includes:

Research to better understand how students learn (or do not learn) basic engineering subjects.

Development of educational materials that will help students achieve the necessary, fundamental understanding of engineering subjects.

Much of Steif’s work in engineering education currently addresses learning in Statics. Projects, which involve a number of collaborators, include: establishing a conceptual framework for Statics; devising tests to assess conceptual understanding in Statics and integrating their use into instruction; developing interactive courseware for statics that provides data to students and instructors on learning progress; and working with high school teachers to enrich high school physics instruction with concepts and problems from engineering mechanics.

In a second area of focus, Professor Steif investigates stress development and cracking during cryo-preservation of biological tissues, in collaboration with Yoed Rabin and Michael Taylor. One major impediment to cryo-preserving tissues of substantial size are the temperature gradients which accompanying cooling and thawing. These temperature gradients can give rise to unacceptably high levels of stresses that cause cracking. This project seeks to combine experimentation and modeling to capture the mechanical behavior of tissues at representative temperatures and predict how such tissues respond to realistic cryo-preservation protocols.


Sc.B. 1979, Brown University

M.S. 1980, Ph.D. 1982, Harvard University


  • P.S. Steif and M. A. Hansen, "New Practices for Administering and Analyzing the Results of Concept Inventories", (2007). Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 96, pp. 205-212.
  • J.L. Newcomer and P.S. Steif, "Student Thinking about Static Equilibrium: Insights from Written Explanations to a Concept Question", (2008) Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 97, pp. 481-490.
  • P. S. Steif and A. Dollár, (2009) “Study of Usage Patterns and Learning Gains in a Web-based Interactive Static Course”, Journal of Engineering Education, 98(4), pp. 321-333.
  • P.S. Steif, J. Lobue, A. L. Fay, and L. B. Kara, (2010) "Improving Problem Solving Performance by Inducing Talk about Salient Problem Features", Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 99, No. 2, pp. 135-142.
  • Steif, P.S., Palastro, M.C, and Rabin, Y., (2008) "Continuum mechanics analysis of fracture progression in the vitrified cryoprotective agent DP6," ASME Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, Volume 130, Issue 2, 021006.
  • Steif, P.S., Noday, D.A., Rabin, Y. (2009) “Can thermal expansion differences between cryopreserved tissue and cryoprotective agents alone cause cracking?” CryoLetters 30(6):414-421
  • Noday, D.A., Steif, P.S., Rabin, Y. (2009): “Viscosity of cryoprotective agents near glass transition: a new device, technique, and data on DMSO, DP6, and VS55”. Journal of Experimental Mechanics, 49(5):663-672 

Additional Websites

Mechanics of Materials textbook

Freely available web-based Engineering Statics course:

Concept assessment tool for Statics (Statics Concept Inventory) and simple web-based FEA program: