These last 8 months have been one of the most tumultuous that I can recall in my time in academia. The shifts in federal emphases as well as the short-term and postulated long-term impacts on multiple dimensions of our research and educational community have many unsettled. The response from the Michigan Tech CommUNITY personally kept me going and I hope it has helped you as well.
I am returning from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), where I was asked to co-lead a session preparing native graduate students in the Lighting the Pathway program. This NSF program has over 80 native graduate students in STEM fields working on their PhDs with the goal of obtaining academic positions. The largest theme that came from the questions was finding positions at places with positive, inclusive workplaces. It gave me the opportunity to talk about best practices, and examples of how we have adapted some of those at Michigan Tech. I relayed our challenges, but talked about our trajectories and our progress, and most importantly our potential.
Our potential resides in each of you. Each creative idea you have, each collaborative partnership you form, and each student or colleague you include, cultivate, and graduate has a positive impact on our mission and on our world. As you convey skills and your love of learning in your classes and research this semester, please also convey your optimism for our ability to solve problems for society in a sustainable and just manner.
For example, incorporating the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges in your courses is an excellent means to place knowledge in context and position its utility for a greater purpose. This summer, at the 3rd Global Grand Challenges Summit, the opening keynote talk was from Rajiv Shah, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation. He emphasized that as we discover, engineer, and develop new knowledge, engineers need to simultaneously take responsibility for finding solutions so that knowledge cannot be used for negative, harmful, or bad purposes. Scientists and engineers have traditionally not utilized their time or talents thinking about this, but each time new knowledge is hijacked, I suspect it reduces our credibility with the general populace and thus puts progress in jeopardy. Our students are hungry for these perspectives, so in addition to the rigor and skills, please strive to also provide context. It will inspire our students to not only be great engineers, but also to be impactful, positive leaders with the foresight to position technologies for the benefit of all life on our planet.
The COE engineering council has been trying to do similar perspective exercises over the last year. Some of this is reflected in our updated COE strategic plan as well as in the articulated challenges and opportunities for the college. These were incorporated into the prospectus for the Dean of the College of Engineering. The PDF for forwarding to perspective candidates is attached and the webpage advertising for the position is here. The search committee is still seeking nominations, so send them to coChairs Paul Bergstrom firstname.lastname@example.org and Keat Ghee Ong email@example.com.
One further comment on the strategic plan. The largest criticism I’ve heard (feel free to offer your additional thoughts) are that we poorly address how to accomplish the goals and resources to implement new efforts are not available. The latter is particularly challenging this year due to the budget cuts, but efforts are underway to improve on the former. Each of you play a role. As you complete your merit summaries in Digital Measures/other for your chair, please directly point to alignments with the COE strategic plan. This year, we are refining metrics that identify possible ‘how’s and each department is being asked to discuss their plans and identify their own highest impact, resource-lean initiatives. Overall efforts to improve recruitment, increase retention, cultivate an empowering climate, and promote activities that increase awards, credentials, and prestige are encouraged and should be shared. As always, we welcome your thoughts!
I hope your department’s final preparations for the ABET visit on Oct. 22-24 are going well. Please show appreciation to your department’s ABET coordinator and Leonard Bohmann firstname.lastname@example.org and approach them with any last-minute questions.
A partial list of funding opportunities and activities available this fall include:
- Michigan Tech Research Forum – TechTalks are scheduled for Thursday, October 5th from 4 to 5:30 in MUB Ballroom A. Many of your colleagues are presenting, see http://www.mtu.edu/research-forum/. The Distinguished Lecturer for Fall is John Vucetich from the School of Forestry and Environmental Science, who is well known for the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose predator-prey study. His lecture is sure to enthralling and will be held on Tuesday, November 7th from 4 to 5:30 also in MUB Ballroom A.
- DARPA recently announced the topics open for 2018 Young Faculty Awards (https://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-09-07). Executive summaries are due Oct. 2, 2017, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time, and full proposals are due Dec. 4, 2017, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Additional information on the program and eligibility is also found at the link above. Basic eligibility requires an appointment as a “…tenure-track Assistant or Associate Professors and to tenured Assistant or Associate Professors within three (3) years of their tenure appointment…”
- Research Experiences for Undergraduates – an avenue to attracting more domestic students from UG institutions. National Academy Press has a report, “Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities (2017)” http://tinyurl.com/zfl2yzc So what is an excellent mechanism at Tech for this? The Pavlis Honors College is pleased to announce the third year of our Undergraduate Research Internship Program for the 2017-18 academic year. There are two tracks for faculty mentors to consider: Portage Health Foundation Scholars and the Pavlis Young Investigators. The internship program is open to any undergraduate student on campus. The Pavlis Honors College will provide $800 in funding for the student intern, with the expectation that faculty will identify a source to match this value, resulting in a total of $1600 (or $10/hr for 8 hours per week for a period of 20 weeks). Applications are due by October 2nd and include Online Student Application Form, Project Description (completed by student applicant with guidance from the faculty mentor), Faculty Mentor Letter of Support, Faculty Match Funding Acknowledgement. Details can be found on the Pavlis Honors College website.
- EMERGING FRONTIERS IN RESEARCH AND INNOVATION 2018 (EFRI-2018) Letter of Intent Deadline Date: September 29, 2017 (LOIs include THE TITLE, THE TEAM, and THE SYNOPSIS, which is a brief description of the specific goals of the proposal (maximum of 250 words). Preliminary Proposals are due October 25, 2017 and decide invitations for Full Proposals due February 23, 2018. For details on research topics, submission requirements and deadlines, please read the EFRI program summary. Webinar Details Program Guidelines: NSF 17-578 The Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program of the NSF Directorate for Engineering (ENG) serves a critical role in helping ENG focus on important emerging areas in a timely manner. This solicitation is a funding opportunity for interdisciplinary teams of researchers to embark on rapidly advancing frontiers of fundamental engineering research. For this solicitation, we will consider proposals that aim to investigate emerging frontiers in the following two research areas:
- Chromatin and Epigenetic Engineering (CEE)
- Continuum, Compliant, and Configurable Soft Robotics Engineering (C3 SoRo)
Due to the length of this letter, I’ve included most other requests for proposals (RFPs) on the engineering research blog, http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-research/. This blog is also updated daily with workshops/awards, and innovation opportunities – please subscribe to the RSS feed and encourage your research team to do the same.
We also just began a blog for student opportunities that is combined with external opportunities posted by the Grad School http://blogs.mtu.edu/engineering-students/. Our goal is to help raise awareness of opportunities, especially for grad students. This blog was established because we discovered many agency/foundation scholarships and fellowships as well as academic job postings are circulated outside of the traditional job posting mechanisms offered by Career Services. Students would refer to this resource to supplement their interactions with Career Services. Also on the topic of professional development of your graduate students, please refer them to the Graduate School’s new professional development series.
Lastly, you may have noticed improvements on our website thanks to Sue Hill and Kim Geiger in the COE. Content is being expanded to feature more collaborations and the people (faculty, graduate students, etc.) driving our innovative research. In addition, we have put in place a mechanism to support your scholarly research efforts and increase the visibility of your publications. We would like to help publicize your work by featuring your journal publications in media stories. Please share your manuscripts with us *as soon as they are accepted* by going to: www.mtu.edu/engineering/share-research. To properly write news summaries that yield the broadest coverage, our staff need 3 weeks to prepare for, write, edit, design, post, promote, and share a news release. The news release is then timed to coincide with the publication date of your manuscript. Here is an excellent guide to maximizing the impact of your research media. Also, if you have ideas to feature your group, your students, your collaborative team or center, please email us.
I hope you and yours get to enjoy the fall colors and that you have a productive and rewarding fall semester.