Science on Screen 2021

These wonderful events pair popular films … with science and technology experts to show that science can illuminate films just as films can illuminate science.”
Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Science on Screen®, the popular national program that pairs films with experts, begins its 2021 season at The Tull Family Theater with a free community screening on Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m. The Tull Family Theater is honored to be selected for the third time as one of only 37 cinemas nationwide—and the only tri-state arthouse—to participate in this program. The schedule of films is below; other experts and presentations may be added. Given current occupancy restrictions, the Theater suggests securing tickets in advance for each  of these special events. All health and safety protocols are detailed on our website.

Past Events

Test Pattern

Thursday, April 29 @ 7:00 PM

Free admission, reservations required by emailing

Dr. Sara Jennings
Education Director, International Association of Forensic Nurses

Ryan Sabolcik
Educator, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape

Free Science on Screen® Opener: A free community  screening on Thursday, April 29, at 7 p.m., launches this year’s Science on Screen programming with a look at one of the roles of forensic sciences. The award-winning film Test Pattern follows a couple as they navigate the legal and medical systems in the wake of a sexual assault. The film depicts the limitations of these systems and the strain on the couples’ relationship. Recommended for ages 15+.

Following the screening, Dr. Sara Jennings, Education Director for the International Association of Forensic Nurses, will discuss the role of forensic science and the needs of the patient in a live, remote discussion.

Jennings, a longtime forensic nurse certified for both adult and pediatric examinations, holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Duquesne University and continues to practice clinically as a forensic nurse for an organization serving multiple hospitals in Richmond, Va.

The presentation will be moderated by Ryan Sabolcik, an educator with focus on sexual assault prevention with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), one of the oldest rape crisis centers in the country. PAAR provides confidential services with experienced, trained counselors and advocates, and is dedicated to assisting victims of sexual abuse and ending sexual violence. During and after the screening, PAAR staff members Emma Fornari and Rhea Modi will be available.

The Truffle Hunters

Tuesday, May 4 @ 7:00 PM

Julie Travaglini
Senior Director for Education and Curriculum, Allegheny Land Trust

Biodiversity isn’t only a large-scale phenomenon occurring in Italy’s hills. “Small” biodiversity is equally amazing, says Julie Travaglini, senior director for education and curriculum at the Allegheny Land Trust, the nonprofit that protects more than 3,000 acres of green space in Western Pennsylvania. Travaglini will share the biodiversity of our backyards and region in a kid-friendly presentation starting at 7 p.m., before the screening of The Truffle Hunters

With a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in education, Travaglini has had many experiences as a licensed environmental educator, working in settings from arboretums to zoos, and was recognized as the 2019 Outstanding Environmental Educator of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators. As a state licensed Specialty Discipline Instructor, she serves on several Boards, including the Western PA Mushroom Club.

Friday, May 7 @ 7:00 PM

Dr. Barb DeRiso
Former Officer and Longtime Member, Western PA Mushroom Club
Dedicated Truffle Hunter

Given the rich rewards of locating these elusive treasures, truffle hunters are known to be secretive. But Dr. Barb DeRiso is willing to tell all. Well, almost all.

DeRiso, a retired anesthesiologist, joined the Western PA Mushroom Club in 2006. Since 2010, she and husband Don Newman have hunted truffles in the Umbria, Le Marche, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna regions of Italy; toured the Urbani truffle facility in Umbria; and have visited the International White Truffle Fair in Alba, Italy. When pandemic travel restrictions lift, they look forward to their 28th trip to Italy.

My Octopus Teacher

Thursday, May 13 @ 7:15 PM

Dr. Kevin Tidgewell
Associate Professor Graduate School of Pharmacy, Duquesne University

Dr. Kevin Tidgewell starts his research by diving into tropical oceans and finishes his analysis far inland, in the labs of the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy.

Tidgewell works in the field of medicinal and natural products, specializing in the study of marine cyanobacteria, one-celled organisms that gather in colonies and look like limp seaweed when scooped up. But these simple organisms could hold the keys to pharmaceutical compounds helpful to treat complex central nervous system disorders, cancers and parasitic infections, even addiction and pain.

Tidgewell works with scientific collaborators in Puerto Rico, Curacao, Panama and Cameroon,and worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at both the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. 

Islands and marine life are cornerstones of his work now, but diving into this work was no easy decision. When he was 3, he nearly drowned in his family’s hot tub and grew into the rare Southern California kid who avoided the water. So when he announced to his family that he was looking at graduate school and studies of marine life and chemistry, his stunned family blurted “Kevin, you know that means you’ll have to learn to swim.”

Not only did he overcome his fear of swimming and water, he’s certified as an AAUS scientific diver along with a number of specialty diver NAUI certifications.

In Silico

Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:00 PM

Free Community Finale

Dr. Andrew Schwartz
Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology and Endowed Chair in Systems Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh

The work of Dr. Andrew Schwartz wowed the world by showing it was possible for people with paralysis to intentionally move a computer-assisted robotic arm with their thoughts.

Schwartz, a Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology and Endowed Chair in Systems Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, works at the leading edge of brain-computer interfaces. His research focuses on basic scientific principles governing what scientists call volitional arm and hand movement, and has driven the development of neural prosthetics – also known as brain-computer interfaces.

After his team decoded neural signals in monkeys to reproduce detailed movements of the arm, wrist and fingers, Schwartz and his Pitt colleagues further demonstrated the powerful potential of this technology in two volunteers with quadriplegia. Guiding a robot arm with their thoughts, one fed herself chocolate and the other bumped fists with President Obama. These astounding achievements sparked stories about Schwartz and his research in 60 Minutes, BBC News, the New Yorker, the New York Times, Scientific American and many other media outlets.

Schwartz, who joined Pitt in 2002, pioneered neural engineering as a major focus of bioengineering and neuroscience in Pittsburgh. He now leads the medical school’s newly established Center for Advanced Neural Systems, which aims to develop new concepts, analytical tools and experimental protocols to foster greater understanding of complex brain function.

He received his doctoral degree in physiology from the University of Minnesota and did postdoctoral research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Science on Screen is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.