Carnegie Mellon University
November 20, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Researchers Lead Efforts To Train Area Science Teachers in Use of Electron Microscopy Tools

Contacts: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /

PTactilsITTSBURGH-Carnegie Mellon University's Marc De Graef and Judith Hallinen are providing logistical support to science teachers interested in using scanning electron microscopes for classroom assignments.

Microscopy"We have created a program designed to help high school science teachers improve their content and skill knowledge," said De Graef, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. "We need to pay more attention to math, science and engineering as U.S. student test scores in these fields continue to lag behind other advanced countries."

Since 2009, U.S. competitiveness has declined from 15th to 19th among the world's 144 most-advanced nations. In fact, 40 percent of women today in science and engineering fields were discouraged at some point in their academic career, according to a study from the American Association of University Women.

"Our new program, dubbed TACTILS (Teaching Advanced Characterization Tools in Local Schools) is working to stem the tide of declining competitiveness," said Hallinen, assistant vice provost for educational outreach and director of the Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach.

Hallinen provides support to DeGraef as he plans and implements a program enabling middle and high school teachers to integrate scanning electron microscopy into their classroom curriculums.

In August, teachers from more than a dozen western Pennsylvania high schools attended a two-day workshop to learn how to integrate their curriculum with the high-powered images and data available through Carnegie Mellon's electron microscopy labs. The project makes several microscope instruments as well as lesson plans available to certified teachers, either by means of loaning the microscope to the school or by using the microscope via remote control through a web browser.

"It was really great to get to use this high-tech equipment, and then be able to access it with real classroom work like learning about what goes into food processing to even understanding the chemical formula in your favorite lip gloss," said Yvonne Costabile, a chemistry and physics teacher at Tech City Charter High School in Pittsburgh.

DeGraef said the program is designed to encourage more students to think about exciting careers in engineering, math and science. "Math and science are languages, and we can talk about anything in that language: taxes, shoe sales," DeGraef said.

Program support comes from the National Science Foundation and the Leonard Gelfand Center. For additional information, see


Pictured above, high school teacher Yvonne Costabile receives instruction from CMU's Marc De Graef of the Materials Science Department about the scanning electron microscopy program.