Skip to main content

Northwestern Joins Network to Improve STEM Education

Nationwide center receives grant to raise level of teaching of future faculty members

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern and 21 other universities that are part of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) recently received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant will expand CIRTL, a nationwide collaboration with the goal of improving the education of the diverse populations of undergraduates who pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

CIRTL’s strategy is to provide programs that help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows implement effective practices when they teach STEM undergraduates in their varied professional careers.  

“Faculty don’t often take the time to have discussions with each other or with students about STEM education,” said Robert Linsenmeier, professor of biomedical engineering and neurobiology at Northwestern and the University’s CIRTL institutional leader. “We’re trying to raise the level of teaching as an important intellectual activity that is part of the package of a faculty career.”

Northwestern's CIRTL program, co-sponsored by the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching, The Graduate School, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, is working to build a community of practice within and across the STEM disciplines to improve STEM teaching and learning.  

Northwestern’s CIRTL learning community is modeled to reflect the center’s three core ideas: learning communities, learning-through-diversity and teaching-as-research.

The center offers Northwestern graduate students and postdoctoral fellows expanded options for preparing to teach. Participants can take part in a modified version of the Searle Center’s yearlong teaching certificate program that will be more STEM-focused.

The certificate program will take advantage of some of the seminars, coffee hours and workshops offered online through the CIRTL national network. A STEM teaching colloquium series at Northwestern will feature outside speakers from other center institutions.

To encourage Northwestern STEM faculty members to participate, CIRTL at Northwestern will offer “mentored discussions of teaching” (MDT). These discussions will introduce future faculty to an array of teaching perspectives and approaches by pairing a group of students with an interested faculty member for conversations about course development, design and teaching.

“Our center’s participation places us among the leading universities that care about the overall preparation of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for faculty careers,” said Linsenmeier.

For more information about the program and registration, visit CIRTL at Northwestern or email Robert Linsenmeier at or CIRTL co-leader Nancy Ruggeri at