Research Centers and Institutes Promote Interdisciplinary Work

Guest author: Peter Larsen

Happy post-Thanksgiving to the ECM faculty and team members!

As you think about your upcoming plans for research — and how to fund it! — now might be a great time to explore the Research Centers and Institutes at Michigan Tech.

Michigan Tech’s Research Centers and Institutes exist to promote interdisciplinary work across campus. Michigan Tech is home to 21 Centers and Institutes. This post is designed to provide answers to some common questions and information about how to engage with these campus resources.

What is the difference between a Center and an Institute?
A Center is a collaborative effort of faculty/researchers from two or more departments focused on a particular theme of research or educational activity. An Institute is proposed for larger initiatives that involve collaboration across multiple Colleges/Schools. Institutes may also contain one or more research centers within their organizational structure.

How are Centers and Institutes formed?
Centers and Institutes typically arise out of the interdisciplinary work of researchers. Approval requires evidence that there is a group of interdisciplinary researchers working together that could benefit from a Center/Institute structure. The second general factor in the decision to develop a Center or Institute is the existence of a funding opportunity that would benefit from the existence of the research center. Centers are proposed by faculty through an established process. Department chairs and deans from all involved administrative units must approve the plan, with final approval granted by the Vice President for Research, Provost, and University President.

How do I join a Center or Institute? What are the benefits of that affiliation?
Faculty can affiliate with one or more Centers/Institutes by simply expressing an interest. Only one Center can be the “home” to a sponsored project, but researchers with multiple research thrusts can affiliate with more than one Center or Institute.

Centers and Institutes provide an intellectually stimulating environment for researchers working across disciplines and on large projects. Centers/Institute funds are used to further the interdisciplinary mission of the group. Funds are used for a variety of purposes, for example to support student travel, provide cost share on research projects, or fund shared equipment or personnel. Centers also offer services like administrative support, access to equipment/facilities, and shared information about upcoming proposal deadlines. In addition, Centers/Institutes often organize professional and social opportunities for Center members, students, post-docs, and research staff.  Once you become a member of a Center, you can suggest opportunities and events that are beneficial to the group.

How are Centers and Institutes funded?
Centers are funded through the scholarly work of affiliated researchers. 18% of Institutional Research and Development (IRAD) funds collected from externally funded projects submitted through a Center or Institute are returned for use by the Center or Institute. These funds are in addition to the IRAD returned to the PI and administrative units (department and college/school); in other words, no one receives less IRAD if a Center or Institute is involved. The Center orInstitute is accountable to the Vice President for Research to show that IRAD funds are being effectively leveraged to expand the interdisciplinary work of the center.

How are Centers and Institutes administered?
Centers and Institutes are governed by the structure proposed and approved during the creation of the center. Most Centers or Institutes could be called “academic” or “virtual” centers in that the researchers and director are employed by academic departments, rather than directly by the Center. These Centers are proposed and led by a director who is a tenured or tenure-track faculty member.

A small number of Centers/Institutes affiliated with Michigan Tech operate uniquely. These Centers/Institutes are their own organizational unit (operating outside of an academic department, college, or school) and typically have a full-time director, multiple full-time staff members to support and conduct research, and often have Center-owned facilities and equipment. The Keweenaw Research Center, the Michigan Tech Research Institute, and the Great Lakes Research Center are examples of this alternate Center/Institute structure. Other Centers are similar to these in some ways with a full-time director and staff (e.g., Center for Technology and Training) and/or their own facilities (e.g., Advanced Power Systems Research Center).

Centers are authorized for a specific period of time (usually five years). Annual reports are required, and a self-study is required at the end of the initial authorization period to determine effectiveness and to provide a justification for Center renewal (if desired).

How can I learn more?

Contact information for current Center and Institute directors can be found here

Center and Institute functions and opportunities will be a topic of discussion during the annual Research Development Day that will be held January 11, 2018. Center and Institute directors will be invited to attend the social at the end of the day to interact with and discuss collaboration with interested faculty.

In addition, we are planning a Spring 2018 TechTalks on March 21 that will provide highlights of each of the Centers and Institutes in a brief, 2-minute presentation format, followed by a social time to discuss and learn more. Watch your email and Tech Today for additional information.

Proposal Support from Campus Satellite Office

Guest author: Lisa Jukkala

VPR Campus Satellite Office Pilot

Sponsored Programs Office (SPO) Spotlight

To provide each of you with direct and convenient access to proposal support, the Vice President for Research (VPR) set up a satellite office on campus.  The majority of the VPR staff are located in the Lakeshore Center in downtown Houghton which means our interactions with you have been predominantly through email.  However, to support faculty and staff face-to-face, in areas related to sponsored programs, we located this office on the 6th floor of the Dow Environmental Sciences & Engineering Building. My name is Jennifer Bukovich and my role in SPO is to help with multiple aspects of your proposal preparation.

I’m located in room 616 and I am eager to assist the faculty and staff in many areas related to proposal submission and award administration including but not limited to:

  • Interpretation of agency guidelines.
  • Prepare and/or provide guidance related to your budget, transmittal sheet and cost share form.
  • Interpretation of the grant/contract terms and conditions.
  • Provide guidance for post-award activities including no-cost time extensions, budget modifications, etc.

If you are working on your first proposal, we can start by talking about the resources you will need to complete your proposal.  I can guide and help you develop a budget that meets your agency format.  Michigan Tech requires an internal transmittal sheet to help all of the units supporting your research know their responsibilities and commitments.  I can help you complete this important document as it summarizes your project and includes all required University approvals.

The VPR Office and I are extremely excited about this opportunity to be located on campus. I look forward to the personal interaction this location will provide.  For assistance, please stop by my office, room 616 of the DOW building.

ABET Recognizes ECM Program

Dear ECM-ers from 2015-present,

 Yesterday was the culmination of the on-site visit by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).  Evaluators were here assessing programs in both the college of engineering and the school of technology.  At the exit meeting, two strengths were noted across all programs.  The first was the Early Career Management Committees and the second was the Enterprise program.

I wanted to share with you how significant this is.  For the last 6 years, departments and programs have been completing their assessments which culminated in a report submitted to ABET this last summer for their review.  Their questions during their visit this week largely originated from those reports.  Enterprise was of course emphasized everywhere in the report, but the Early Career Management Committees would not have been.  Thus, it was the mention of this program during the opening session on Monday at 8 am and discussions with all of you that reinforced in the ABET evaluators minds what an asset this program has been.

Each of you have played a meaningful and significant role in cultivating and supporting our own talent.  Each of you have contributed to creating a place where we all love to work and can thrive.  Each of you play a valuable role in creating the future of Michigan Tech.  Thank you for all of these things and the other tiny efforts in between.
While you are in the mindset of helping shape the future of Tech, please take the time to respond to the survey about working, living, and learning at Michigan Tech. Go to   There was an article in TechToday and only a tenth of us have responded.  Participating is key so that our administration can prioritize initiatives (like ECM) to support the growth and professional development of all of our faculty.
Thanks and congratulations for the recognition of a program you have helped make very impactful!

Your Language Road Map: A Guide to English Services at Michigan Tech

Guest author: Heather Deering

“Language, identity, place, home: these are all of a piece—just different elements of belonging and not-belonging.” ~Jhumpa Lahiri

Moving to a new place can bring many challenges.  The English Language Institute (ELI) at Michigan Tech helps international faculty and their families feel at home through a variety of language services the ELI offers.

Tea Time
Tea Time is a free weekly event that runs all year round. Each week students, faculty, and community members meet to practice conversation and share stories. Some of the themes we have discussed have been bucket lists, natural hazards, politics, war dances, and dowries. Come join us at the ELI office (DHH G044) from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Customized tutoring is available for Michigan Tech international students and faculty. We also welcome community members interested in developing their English language skills. Tutors are our professionally trained IESL instructors, who will conduct a needs assessment and work with you to develop an individualized tutoring program that is suitable for you.

Cost:   $25 (faculty)
$15 (family members and graduate students)

Foundational English
Tailored to any student just beginning to learn English, Foundational English courses focus on the different skill areas of listening, speaking, writing, and reading.  Students can select how many classes they wish to take in this program.  These courses are offered six weeks every semester and in the summer.

Cost:   $360 per course
$1,440 for all four courses

Night Owls
Night Owls meets two hours per week for seven weeks every Fall and Spring semester.  It covers survival English needed in everyday life in Houghton.  This semester, the class starts on Thursday, October 19. At the end of the class this fall, students will be invited to a Thanksgiving celebration. This group is led by community teachers and is made possible with support from the Office of the Provost.

Cost:   $25.00 for seven weeks

To register for any of these services (other than Tea Time), visit this link.

If you have any questions or would like more information on other community services, please contact Heather Deering, the ELI Director, at or (906) 487-2009 or visit the English Language Institute website.





Finding RFPs and Funding Opportunities

RFPs and opportunities are circulated by Natasha Chopp (sign up for her limited submission reminders here).  Research Development has a broad set of resources available to guide you through locating funding sources, budget planning, proposal development and other.   Many opportunities are also listed under the RFP category on the Engineering Research and Innovation blog.

DARPA Young Faculty Awards Program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award (YFA) program aims to identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and equivalent positions at non-profit research institutions and expose them to Department of Defense (DoD) and National Security challenges and needs. In particular, this YFA will provide high-impact funding to elite researchers early in their careers to develop innovative new research directions in the context of enabling transformative DoD capabilities. The long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on DoD and National Security issues. DARPA is particularly interested in identifying outstanding researchers who have previously not been performers on DARPA programs, but the program is open to all qualified applicants with innovative research ideas.  Final proposals are due by December 4, 2017.  Get more information here.

Fall 2017 Welcome

Dear ECM-ers,

I hope your September and the first few weeks of classes have been going well.  A key ECM goal this year is to provide regular blog posts that provide information to supplement and support your monthly committee meetings.  This month I’d like to delve into managing ego, managing expectations, and time management since all are central to our own productivity, perceptions of accomplishment, and job satisfaction.   Setting up good habits and attitudes in these areas help ensure that as you build your group’s own enterprise for tenure and promotion that it doesn’t consume every waking moment of your time and thus compromise a healthy work/life balance.    

Managing your own ego can be the first step in seeking out resources and perspectives.   It’s the age-old joke about asking for directions and whether that is faster/less stressful than figuring it out yourself.  However, I think there is a difference between asking for help and asking for perspectives.  Each of you are in the driver’s seat of your career. It can be hard to ask for help because it can feel like you are giving up the wheel.  However, asking for perspective means you never give up the wheel, but gain knowledge of the road that you can’t see right in front of your vehicle.  Not everyone sees the same road, but collectively multiple people have seen most of the road and its obstacles.  The road is ever changing, so staying solidly in the driver’s seat is important.  I view ECMs as a highly valuable tool to gain perspective; so consult your ego, but don’t let it keep you from seeking perspectives.

Managing expectations – your own expectations and others – are frequently established as an afterthought or in a manner that isn’t transparently ‘owned.’  Expectations can end up hidden behind TODO lists, assignments, and other obligations.   However, the simple act of talking through what all parties expect from an activity/effort can be very beneficial.  One strategy is to intentionally separate the long term from the short term expectations.  The road to tenure and promotion is a perfect example.  Discussions on expectations typically arrive very quickly at, “How many grants/publications/etc. are expected in this department to achieve tenure?”  However, this question yields less than satisfying answers for many new professors, “It depends on …”  A focus on the short-term first usually helps this discussion greatly.  Answers like, “In the first semester, we expect you will establish your group by hiring (or identifying) your first graduate student, setting up your lab/other, giving seminars in other departments, starting to form collaborations, starting to integrate into the department as a citizen invested in our joint future, etc.” Tomorrow’s Professor enewsletter has long been a favorite read (skim?) of mine.  A recent post highlighted a book on the “Slow Professor” by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber whose underlying concept was to embrace deliberate, high impact efforts and resist the chaos from the ‘more, more, more’ messaging.  Please consider talking with your ECM about strategies to protect and cultivate time to think creatively and critically, which ultimately increases output quantity and quality.

As you all know from your past experiences, to achieve your goals, managing your time is key.  You did well at this in your previous positions or you wouldn’t have been successful and thus recruited and selected for your tenure-track position.  However, with your new roles, each of you have likely encountered – or will soon encounter – new time pressures and increases in disparate, unexpected, yet important tasks.  These new time pressures typically require adaptations because the game changes with each new stage of our careers.   This new game – for which you are prepared – requires some additional skills to thrive and your ECM can provide perspective.  Consider asking your committee members what strategies and tricks they use to maximize positive outcomes with greatest efficiency of their time.  For example;

  • How do you get to know your students on a personal level (beneficial for teaching evaluations) without it consuming all of your available time?
  • What strategies improve the quality and timeliness of your own or your TA’s feedback to students in large classes?
  • What is the best way to delegate comparison shopping of basic lab supplies to hourly students?
  • What strategies help with vetting potential graduate students?  Is relying on the standardized scores and application sufficient? (Hint: no)
  • How to prioritize and decide what great ideas go to which funding opportunity?
  • How to evaluate service requests?  Do your committee members have strategies to specialize their service?  Their outreach? Are there benefits to that strategy?

Please let me know of any topics you would like to see covered in these blogs.  This fall, we plan to cover an introduction to centers and institutes as well as an overview of resources at the Center for Teaching and Learning.   Also, the following two blog posts about current opportunities and resources.  

Happy ECMing,

Assistant to the Provost for Faculty Development