Mike Stieff's research examines sex differences in organic chemistry problem solving, the interaction of spatial ability and chemistry expertise, and the development of visualization software for teaching chemistry. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Stieff and his colleagues are studying how physical models help (and hinder) students in organic chemistry. This work has led to the finding that molecular models only benefit learning when students are able to physically handle models, and that teaching methods that only display models can negatively impact student achievement. To address such limitations, Stieff is developing gesture-recognition interfaces that permit students to "handle" molecular models in virtual simulations. Stieff also directsThe Connected Chemistry Curriculum project, which involves the development and evaluation of molecular visualizations for teaching high schools. This project aims to improve the achievement of urban science students through activities that involve inquiry explorations of virtual chemical reactions. Stieff has been published in Cognition & Instruction, International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Research in Science Teaching and other journals. He has served as an assistant professor of science education at the University of Maryland-College Park, and he has taught general chemistry at the secondary level and organic chemistry for the City Colleges of Chicago.