Category Archives: News

Making a Difference Award Winners Recognized

Several staff members were honored with Michigan Tech Staff Council Making a Difference Awards at an awards program in the MUB Wednesday.

Above and Beyond Award: David Caspary (ChemEng)
One of David’s nomination letters states that “David goes above and beyond every day to make sure that chemical engineering students get the best education possible, and that the department runs to benefit the students.” His primary role is to manage the world-class Process Simulation and Control Center. He runs Summer Youth Programs in the lab, serves on the Chemical Engineering Departmental Executive Committee and works closely with alumni.

Above and Beyond Award: David Caspary (ChemEng)
Above and Beyond Award: David Caspary (ChemEng)

Visit the Staff Council blog for a photo of this year’s recipients and a list of all who were nominated.

Making a Difference Award Winners Recognized
Making a Difference Award Winners Recognized

Chemical Engineering News Briefs


David Shonnard (ChE/SFI), Bethany Klemetsrud, Jordan Klinger and Suchada Ukaew (ChE) have received $24,482 from Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC for the research and development project titled “Characterization of Products From Fast Pyrolysis of Municipal Solid Waste: Preliminary Analyses Using Micro-Pyrolysis.”

Caryn Heldt (ChE/BRC) has received $104,633 for the first year of a five-year project totaling $525,684 from the National Science Foundation. The title of the project is “CAREER: Surface and Interparticle Forces for Improved Virus Removal.”

Technology Century, an online and print publication of the Engineering Society of Detroit, featured editor Matt Roush’s interviews with faculty and graduate students from the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech, the first stop on his annual Tech Tour of university campuses in Michigan.

Researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering participated in the TCS2014 Symposium on Thermal and Catalytic Sciences for Biofuels and Biobased Products, featuring the latest results from the NSF-funded Sustainable Energy Pathways (SEP) project. The symposium was held Sept. 2-5 in Denver, Colo.

David Shonnard, professor and Robbins Chair in sustainable materials, presented a keynote lecture on sustainability of transportation biofuels. Professor Michael Mullins and PhD student Lilu Funkenbusch presented a poster on the computational modeling of a chemical reactor producing hydrocarbon biofuel from wood chip-derived bio-oil.

Michigan Tech researchers participated in the TCS2014 Symposium on Thermal and Catalytic Sciences for Biofuels and Biobased Products featuring the latest results from the NSF-funded Sustainable Energy Pathways project. Robbins Chair David Shonnard (ChE) presented a keynote lecture on sustainability of transportation biofuels. Professor Michael Mullins (ChE) and PhD student Lilu Funkenbusch presented a poster on the computational modeling of a chemical reactor producing hydrocarbon biofuel from wood chip-derived bio-oil.

Robert Handler, David Shonnard, and Jiqing Fan (ChE/SFI) have been awarded $47,602 for environmental life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies for Gas Technology Institute (GTI), and the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation Grand Challenge on a project to transform carbon from a liability into an asset. GTI will serve as the prime contractor and will perform process engineering, catalysts, and reaction systems research and development work. Michigan Tech will be a subcontractor performing LCA. The project began on April 1 and will run for two years.

Scientists develop simple analysis tool for tears: Research led by associate professor Adrienne Minerick (ChE) to develop a tear test for vitamin deficiency was picked up by the news site Medical News.

PI Adrienne Minerick (ChE) and Co-Pis Mary Raber (ILI) and Paul Bergstrom (ECE) have been awarded a $200,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation for “PFI: AIR–TT: Blood Typing Device without Reagents: Sensing Electrodes to Replace Optics.”

Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Awards to Chemical Engineering students, showing their advisor and project title.
Shannon Ennis; Chemical Engineering; S. Komar Kawatra
Title: pH Neutral Iron Ore Processing: A Breakthrough in Environmentally Friendly Mineral Processing
Peter Gardner; Chemical Engineering; Caryn Heldt
Title: Infectivity of Hepatitis A Virus and Porcine Parvovirus in the Presence of Cochlospermum Planchonii Extracts
Alex Reichanadter; Chemical Engineering; Julie King;
Title: Mechanical Properties of Continuous Carbon Fiber/Graphene Nanoplatelet/Epoxy Composites

Biofuels Digest, a publication featuring news of the biofuels industry, published an article on American Process, an Alpena, Mich., based biofuel refinery that recently shipped the first shipment of cellulosic ethanol produced from forest waste products. In the article, CEO Theodora Retsina credited Michigan Tech for technological support, for the experiments and environmental analyses conducted by professor David Shonnard (ChE), professor Sue Bagley (Bio Sci) and students.

The 2nd Annual Research Forum for Graduate and Undergraduate Students for the Department of Chemical Engineering was held on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. View the complete report with links to video clips and photos.

Biotechnology Research Center Research Forum Awards

Maria Gencoglu
Maria Gencoglu
The Eleventh Annual Research Forum sponsored by the Biotechnology Research Center was held on Wednesday, Oct. 22, and Thursday, Oct. 23. Forty-one graduate and undergraduate students conducting research in life science, biotechnology, human health and related areas presented posters. Oral presentations were also given. Speakers included Jeremy Goldman (Bio Med), Ashutosh Tiwari (Chem), Hairong Wei (SFRES), Justin Segula (SFRES graduate student), Jingtuo Zhang (Chem graduate student) and Caleb Vogt (Bio Med undergrad student).

Thank you to the participants, the judges and all who helped with another successful BRC Research Forum. A list of BRC award winners is below.

Graduate Grand Prize
Maria Gencoglu (ChE) “A New Virus Purification Process: Virus Flocculation in the Presence of Osmolytes”
Advisor: Caryn Heldt

Graduate Merit Awards
Emily Shearier (Bio Med) “Mesenchymal Stem Cell Spheroids for Therapy Following Axillary Lymph Node Dissection” Advisor: Feng Zhao

Yu Wang (Bio Med) “Building a Virtual Breast Elastography Phantom Lab Using Open Source Software”
Advisor: Jingfeng Jiang

Undergraduate Grand Prize
Caleb Vogt (Bio Med) “Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Response to Nitric Oxide Relesasing Materials”
Advisors: Megan Frost and Feng Zhao

Undergraduate Merit Award
Mitchell Tahtinen (Bio Med) “Prevascularization of Natural Extracellular Matrix Scaffold”
Advisor: Feng Zhao

Michigan Tech at AIChE Annual Meeting Atlanta

aicheCome and see how Michigan Tech is creating the future in Chemical Engineering at the American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) Annual Meetiing in Atlanta Georgia on Monday November 17 at the Hilton Atlanta Room 306, from 7-9 p.m..
Come visit with our faculty over food & drinks, learn about our innnovative research,
our outstanding lab facilities, our undergraduate and graduate education, and how we are
creating the future.
Tne featured speaker will be Prof. David Shonnard, Director of the Sustainable Futures Institute.
Michigan Tech AIChE Atlanta

First Commercial Quantities of EPA-Approved Cellulosic Ethanol Sold–With a Little Help from Michigan Tech

drshonnardScientists and engineers—including several at Michigan Technological University—have been talking for years about biofuel, particularly cellulosic ethanol, which is fuel made from trees and other woody plants. The stumbling blocks have been huge and progress, slow. But the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuels Standard mandates that cellulosic ethanol be blended into gasoline for use in vehicles, so the need is immediate.

Read More

Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APS LABS) Social Event

thumbThe Michigan Tech Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APS LABS) hosted an open house and tours of their new facilities along with the Michigan Tech First Friday Social for October 2014.

Laboratory tours and presentations were given by faculty, staff and graduate student researchers.
The guests saw research, outreach and educational initiatives in mobility, sustainable transportation, and energy.

Goups of guests also toured the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Mobile Laboratory and saw the pilot production facilities for the university’s Wood-to-Wheels and Wood-to-Energy initiatives.

The Advanced Power Systems Research Center – APS Labs – are in the former Blizzard Snow Plow Factory Building near the County Airport.

A Photo Gallery can be seen on Advanced Power Systems Research Center APS Lab.

A few short video clips can also be viewed:

APS Labs
APS Labs

View Video clip “APS Labs Program Video on Michigan Tech Engineering Channel on YouTube

Wood to Wheels Pilot Plant
Wood to Wheels Pilot Plant

View Video clip “Wood to Wheels Plant Tour Program Video on Michigan Tech Engineering Channel on YouTube

Black is the New Green: Biochar Beats Wood in Cook Stoves

image112833-horizIt’s one of the world’s biggest killers, leading to lung cancer, heart disease, and COPD, not to mention child pneumonia and low birth-weight babies. It affects billions of people. And if you think it’s tobacco, you are wrong, but understandably so. The smoke from wood-fired cook stoves in the developing world is a best-kept secret in the pantheon of unhealthy things we humans inflict upon ourselves. The solution is not simply a matter of telling women (for it is mostly women who cook) to find some other way to prepare the family meal. Alternatives to gathering your own wood are typically too expensive or simply nonexistent for subsistence farmers. However, that may soon change in the West African nation of Benin, thanks to a partnership between students at Michigan Technological University and the French firm AFI.

Michigan Tech Hosts Mineral Processing Experts from Around the World

Short Course
Short Course
The Advanced Sustainable Iron and Steelmaking Center (ASISC) at Michigan Tech is hosting its fourth annual meeting in Houghton on August 14-15, 2014. The annual meeting is a gathering of professionals from the mining and mineral processing industry.
ASISC members pool resources to address a diverse spectrum of interdisciplinary research questions. During the meeting they share their work and experiences to further the development of a new generation of sustainable, economical mineral processing technologies.

Ed Fisher led Chemical Engineering in 80s and 90s

fisherEdward Fisher, whose visionary leadership helped lay the foundation for the modern Department of Chemical Engineering, passed away Saturday, Aug. 2, at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital. He was 76.

Fisher came to the University in 1985 as head of what was then the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. When a separate Department of Chemistry was formed in the College of Sciences and Arts, he continued as chair of chemical engineering. In 1995, Fisher served as interim dean of engineering and then, after a final year as chair, returned to the faculty in 1997. He retired in 2003.

“Ed hired me, and he hired about half our department,” said Associate Professor Tony Rogers. “He left a big imprint. He had a very clear vision of where he wanted the department to go. We wouldn’t have our Unit Operations Lab in its current form without him, and he initiated the PhD program.”

“Although he did not conceive of the Process Simulation and Control Center—department’s showpiece Unit Operations Laboratory—he spearheaded the drive to get it funded,” drawing on alumni affiliated with Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, 3M and other corporations, said Professor Faith Morrison. “He also brought into the department the key staff members who built and operated the PSCC.”

The facility has stood the test of time. “Twenty years later and its still state of the art,” said Professor Emeritus Bruce Barna. “People are still amazed when they see it. I don’t know that there’s anything like it elsewhere, and without Ed, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“He also hired and recruited many of us and helped draw up our master plan,” Barna added. “We were lucky to have him come up here. He made his mark.”

Rogers remembers Fisher as the penultimate department chair. “Ed was always confident and had a serenity about him that was contagious,” he said. “I never heard him raise his voice, and that’s quite an accomplishment for a chair. He was very sharp and highly respected.”

Fisher also enjoyed socializing and was a good friend as well as a respected colleague.

“Ed was a great guy,” said Morrison. “He recruited both me and my husband, [chemical engineering professor Tom Co] in 1989. He was so enthusiastic about Michigan Tech that it was impossible not to catch the fever.

“He took us to lunch on the deck of the Downtowner and pointed across the Canal to the marina and said he had his boat there. It was a beautiful summer day—Keweenaw gold. And so we came, and we were immediately happy and have remained so for 25 years.

“Ed and Nancy entertained the department and made us all family,” she said. “Their home in Lake Linden was open to us all for so many events and gatherings.”

Barna has similar memories. “He and Nancy used to have gatherings several times a year, and they were masters of fine cooking. It was always fun to be over there, and of course, the swimming pool was often involved,” he said. Barna also joined Fisher on fishing excursions, including several big-game trips to Costa Rica and Guatemala, where they angled for sailfish.

They also sailed to and from Isle Royale, but probably the most memorable trip was from Kenosha, Wis., through the Soo Locks to Houghon. “We got to where the Fitzgerald went down and got into some legitimate 12- and 14-foot waves,” Barna said. “Ed might have had some white knuckles, but he never complained.”

Fisher earned a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a PhD in Chemical Engineering Science from Johns Hopkins University. He worked in industry and then joined the faculty of Wayne State University in 1968.

He was named 1982 Chemical Engineer of the Year by the Detroit Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and in 2006 he was inducted into the chemical engineering department’s Distinguished Academy, in part for his exceptional efforts on behalf of the department. David Caspary, manager of lab facilities, was among those Fisher hired to staff the groundbreaking Process Simulation Control Center.

“Ed Fisher was a visionary and a blessing to Michigan Tech,” Caspary said. “His efforts, his charisma, his leadership and his relationships with our friends in the chemical industry have had a lasting impact on the department and on the quality of our undergraduate chemical engineering program. He will be missed.”

Fisher is survived by his wife, Nancy; five children, Anna (Steve) Brown, Erik (Kiera) Fisher, Ted Fisher, Andrew Fisher and Greg Fisher; and seven grandchildren, Taylor, Samantha, Lucinda, Trey, Cole, Olivea and Daven Fisher.

A celebration of Edward’s life will be held Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m. at the Pearce Funeral Home in Lake Linden.

The Littlest “Graduate” Celebrates Her Parents’ Commencement

August and Elizabeth Skultety won’t be the only ones in their family wearing caps and gowns at Michigan Technological University’s 2014 Spring Commencement Saturday. Their 3-year-old daughter, Charlotte, will be right there with them in a miniature cap and gown in honor of her parents’ graduation from Michigan Tech.
“All of college has been a family experience for us,” said Elizabeth, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, “so it feels like she is graduating too. She has put up with all of our studying and other commitments.”