Nominations open for the 2009 Distinguished Dissertation Award

Nominations are closed for the 2009 competition.

Nominations are now open for the 2009 Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/University Microfilms International (UMI) Distinguished Dissertation Award. This year, nominations are being accepted from dissertations in the fields of:

  1. biological and life sciences (more details)
  2. humanities/fine arts (more details)

Michigan Tech may nominate one student in each field. PhD students who have completed all of their degree requirements between July 1, 2007, and June 30, 2009, are eligible.   Next year, the 2010 competition will accept nominations in the fields of social sciences and mathematics/physical sciences/engineering for students who have graduated between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2010.

A nomination packet must include the following:

  1. a completed nomination form. The form is available at http://www.cgsnet.org/portals/0/pdf/2009UMI_NominationForm.pdf .
  2. a 10-page abstract of the dissertation, double spaced on white letter-sized paper.
  3. optional: abstract appendices containing non-textual material such as charts, tables or figures.
  4. a letter of reference from the dissertation advisor.
  5. a letter of reference from a member of the nominee’s dissertation committee.
  6. a letter of reference from a person chosen by the nominee.
  7. a pdf file of the dissertation on a CD.

The letters of reference should address the significance and quality of the dissertation work.

Nominations should be delivered to Debra Charlesworth in the Graduate School no later than 4 p.m. on June 19. Contact Charlesworth (ddc@mtu.edu) if you have any questions about the competition.  See also the Council for Graduate School’s announcement page.



Seminar May 21(2pm): Submitting your thesis or dissertation

Update: View this seminar online.  See the 2009 Archives.  It will be online for approximately one year.

Are you planning on finishing your thesis or dissertation this semester or next semester?  Do you assist students submitting theses or dissertations?  If you answered yes to either of those questions, please join the Graduate School at our next seminar designed to help students, faculty, and staff better understand current procedures and have all of their questions answered.

Join Debra Charlesworth of the Graduate School for a description of online submission of a thesis or dissertation from start to finish. This seminar will be useful to students preparing their documents as well as faculty and staff who assist students.  We will also introduce a new dynamic form, which is part of our continuing effort to reduce the number of forms students need to complete and make them easier to complete correctly.  The seminar will be May 21st at 2:00pm.

Please register for the event at our online registration site:

http://www.gradschool2.mtu.edu/registration/events/

Once you register, you will receive a confirmation with the location and a reminder of the date and time.  Space is limited, so register early! The seminar will be taped and available online for those unable to join us at this time.


SMART Scholarship

SMART Scholarship

Department of Defense

Very competitive, but a super opportunity.

Applications open in August, deadline in December

The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program has been established by the Department of Defense (DoD) to support undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

SMART Scholars Receive:
• Cash award paid at a rate of $25,000 – $41,000 per
year depending on prior educational experience
• Full tuition and related education expenses
• Health Insurance
• Book allowance
• Summer Internships (multi-year participants)
• Post-Graduation Career Opportunities

SMART Brochure


Helping Folks Exercise

Tech Today

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

Do obese people avoid exercise because the equipment is not designed for them?

Does the pain or discomfort sometimes associated with exercise keep them from working out?

A Michigan Tech researcher is looking at how exercise equipment might be hindering workouts of the obese.

“I want to know if using this ergometer [rowing machines] leads to different movement kinematics and therefore joint loads, depending on body shape, for example,” says Karen Roemer, assistant professor of biomechanics in the exercise science, health and physical education department. “Potentially, we could give equipment manufacturers suggestions for new designs.”

Roemer is using some high-tech equipment for her research, and, thanks to a $26,700 grant from the Michigan Tech Research Excellence Fund, she will be able to do even more.

“We are using reflective markers [tiny sensor-balls] attached to the skin, then shooting them with multiple cameras,” she says. Similar to modeling Tiger Woods’ swing for a videogame, the many markers are translated via software that reproduces the movement.

“These are complex biomechanical problems,” Roemer says. “For modeling the knee joint, we used scans performed in an open MRI scanner and data from motion analysis using 80 reflective markers and 12 digital cameras.”

The result is a multi-body knee-joint model that looks like it came from the Matrix: complicated processes and images broken down by all the markers, then reassembled to resemble the real joint. And it takes time.

“Normally, digitizing one movement analyzed with video cameras can take six to eight weeks,” she said. “But with the new system in my lab I will be able to do it within a few days.”

Roemer did similar research in her native Germany at the Chemnitz University of Technology’s Department of Sport Science before coming to Tech. She also worked with the German national volleyball team. Based on motion analysis performed during European League games, the kinematics of fairly complicated joints, such as the shoulder, can be analyzed.

Other simulation studies allow for analyzing other aspects. For the stress on knees, for example, she tests on the rowing machine and stationary bike and while walking or running.

For gait and running analysis, a special force plate has been installed in Roemer’s new lab in the SDC. When the movement of a reflector-laden runner is captured crossing the plate, data can be gathered instantly into computers.

The three dimensions of the ground reaction force resulting from the foot hitting the floor, for example, are shown on the computer screen in red arrows shooting up through the person’s body.

She is also interested in daily movements, such as the gait, and what problems exist with joint loads, for example, that can be compared to more-intense movements.

All this time- and technology-intensive work is worth the wait, however, if it helps fight the weight.


Regional Climate Change Center Awards Research Grants

Tech Today

by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director

The Midwest Regional Center of the National Institute for Climate Change Research, based at Michigan Tech, has awarded $1.5 million in US Department of Energy grants for four new collaborative research projects in seven states, as well as eight continuing projects.

The newly funded initiatives involve researchers from the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Minnesota, the University of California, Kansas State University and the University of Illinois.

They will investigate forest carbon dynamics; interactions among water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen in a grassland ecosystem; the effects of warming and changes in rainfall on root systems and soil carbon decomposition in a grassland ecosystem; and the interaction of elevated temperature and carbon dioxide on a soybean ecosystem.

“I’m very excited by the new group of projects the Midwestern Regional Center is funding,” said Andrew Burton, director of the center and associate professor in SFRES. “These new studies will continue the center’s and Michigan Tech’s strong involvement in examining the way forests, wetlands, grasslands and crops will respond to changing temperature and moisture.”

Since the center was established in December 2005, it has supported $7 million in collaborative research projects in its 13-state region.

“The research we have supported will improve our basic understanding of how terrestrial ecosystems may respond to climatic change and will help provide a solid scientific basis for determining appropriate responses,” Burton said.


Spring 2009 BRC Travel Grants Announced

Tech Today

The Biotechnology Research Center has announced the recipients of its 2009 Spring Travel Grants:

* Postdoctoral Scientist Yordan Yordanov (SFRES) will receive $500 toward his podium presentation at the 4th International Symposium on Plant Dormancy, to be held in Fargo, N.D., in June.

* Graduate student Sarah Kiemle (Biological Sciences) will receive $500 toward her podium presentation at the 2009 Phycological Society of America Annual Meeting, to be held in Honolulu in July.

* Graduate student Johnathan E. Lawrence (Biological Sciences) will receive $500 toward his poster presentation at the Experimental Biology 2009 Conference, held in New Orleans in April.

* Graduate student Angela Lucas (Biological Sciences) will receive $250 toward her poster presentation at the Experimental Biology 2009 Conference.

* Graduate student Anahita Pakzad (ME-EM) will receive $500 toward her podium presentation at the TMS 2009 Annual Meeting, held in San Francisco in February.

* Graduate student Ratul Saha (Biological Sciences) will receive $500 toward his poster presentation at the American Society for Microbiology 109th Meeting, held in Philadelphia this month.

* Graduate student Zijun Xu (Biological Sciences) will receive $290 toward his poster presentation at the 51st Annual Maize Genetics Conference, held in St. Charles, Ill., in March.


Biofuel for Jets Could Cut Carbon Emissions Over 80 Percent

Tech Today

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

The seeds of a lowly weed could cut jet fuel’s cradle-to-grave carbon emissions by 84 percent.

David Shonnard, Robbins Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering, conducted an analysis of jet fuel made from camelina oil to measure its carbon dioxide emissions over the course of its life cycle, from planting to tailpipe. “Camelina jet fuel exhibits one of the largest greenhouse gas emission reductions of any agricultural feedstock-derived biofuel I’ve ever seen,” he said. “This is the result of the unique attributes of the crop–its low fertilizer requirements, high oil yield and the availability of its coproducts, such as meal and biomass, for other uses.”

Camelina sativa originated in Europe and is a member of the mustard family, along with broccoli, cabbage and canola. Sometimes called false flax or gold-of-pleasure, it thrives in the semi-arid conditions of the Northern Plains; the camelina used in the study was grown in Montana.

Oil from camelina can be converted to a hydrocarbon green jet fuel that meets or exceeds all petroleum jet fuel specifications. The fuel is a “drop-in” replacement that is compatible with the existing fuel infrastructure, from storage and transportation to aircraft fleet technology. “It is almost an exact replacement for fossil fuel,” Shonnard explained. “Jets can’t use oxygenated fuels like ethanol; they have to use hydrocarbon replacements.”

Shonnard conducted the life cycle analysis for UOP LLC, of Des Plaines, Ill., a subsidiary of Honeywell and a provider of oil refining technology. In an April 28 release, it cited Boeing executive Billy Glover, managing director of environmental strategy, who called camelina “one of the most promising sources for renewable fuels that we’ve seen.”

“It performed as well if not better than traditional jet fuel during our test flight with Japan Airlines earlier this year and supports our goal of accelerating the market availability of sustainable, renewable fuel sources that can help aviation reduce emissions,” Glover said. “It’s clear from the life cycle analysis that camelina is one of the leading near-term options and, even better, it’s available today.”

Because camelina needs little water or nitrogen to flourish, it can be grown on marginal agricultural lands. “Unlike ethanol made from corn or biodiesel made from soy, it won’t compete with food crops,” said Shonnard. “And it may be used as a rotation crop for wheat, to increase the health of the soil.”

Tom Kalnes is a senior development associate for UOP in its renewable energy and chemicals research group. His team used hydroprocessing, a technology commonly used in the refining of petroleum, to develop a flexible process that converts camelina oil and other biological feedstocks into green jet fuel and renewable diesel fuel.

As to whether we will all be flying in plant-powered aircraft, his answer is, “It depends.”

“There are a few critical issues,” Kalnes said. “The most critical is the price and availability of commercial-scale quantities of second-generation feedstocks. Today the cost for camelina, and other second-generation feedstock options like jatropha and algae, remains higher than the cost of crude oil, and there are still only limited amounts available. Further technology development is needed to drive down the costs and ramp up to commercial-scale harvesting. We are seeing great momentum in this area and believe that biofuels made using camelina will be commercially available for blending into the diesel and jet fuel supplies in the next three to five years. This is much sooner than many imagined.”

Additionally, more farmers need to be convinced to grow a new crop, and refiners must want to process it.

“But if it can create jobs and income opportunities in rural areas, that would be wonderful,” he said.


Graduate Students Earn Honors

Published in Tech Today.

CEE Professors, Graduate Student Win Rudolph Hering Medal
Alex Mayer and David Hand, both professors of civil and environmental engineering, and Karen Endres, a former PhD student, have been named winners of the 2009 Rudolph Hering Medal from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The award is given annually for the best paper on environmental engineering or water resources published in an ASCE journal during the previous year.

Their award-winning paper is titled “Equilibrium versus Nonequilibrium Treatment Modeling in the Optimal Design of Pump-and-Treat Groundwater Remediation Systems.”

The prize is a prestigious one among environmental engineers. The medal will be presented at the Environmental and Water Resources Institute Annual Congress May 17 in Kansas City.

Graduate Student Awarded Travel Assistance to Railway Conference
Graduate student Shane Ferrell, a member of the Rail Transportation Program, was awarded $1,800 in travel assistance from the International Heavy Haul Association to attend its June 2009 conference in Shanghai, China.

The Rail Transportation Program at Michigan Tech was established by the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute in 2007. The program provides rail-related education and research activities, engaging students and faculty with industry partners.


Graduate student and faculty talk about rail transportation

Published in Tech Today.

Pasi Lautala, director of the Rail Transportation Program, and graduate student Shane Ferrell, president of the Rail Engineering and Activities Club (REAC), were invited guests of Dick Storm recently on his “Keeping It in the UP” radio program on WOLV 97.7.

To download an MP3 file of the interview, which focuses on rail transportation in North American and rail activities at Michigan Tech, click here.