Sixth Annual Byron Fellowship Program

The Sixth Annual Byron Fellowship Program will take place May 17-22, 2009 at Turkey Run State Park. The Byron Fellowship is an interdisciplinary course in sustainable communities that uniquely engages participants through place-based learning. We are looking for 12 to 16 exceptional upper class undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates that have a passionate interest in building sustainable communities.

During the 5-day program, participants will learn from a collection of academic teachers and active practitioners. Participants and mentors represent a wide spectrum of disciplines including the arts, natural science, social science, engineering, and theology. The teaching methods include tutorial mentoring, collaborative discussion, and individual reflection.
More information regarding the event is available at: http://www.byronfellowship.org

An informational brochure in PDF format is available: http://byronfellowship.org/ByronBrochure2008.pdf

Applications can also be downloaded from our website: http://byronfellowship.org/byronapplication.doc

Rolling admissions have begun and will be open through April 15th .  The student cost of the program is limited to a subsidized rate of $250, which includes food and lodging for the event. Need based scholarships are available.

Kari Brown is available to answer questions, email kari@mtu.edu and thank you for your support.


Fulbright Scholar Dream Come True

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette

By Michael Babcok, DMG Writer

For Michigan Technological University graduate student, Richard Basary, coming to America was a dream and a goal.  The University’s reputation in Materials Science and Engineering attracted the Fulbright Scholar from Indonesia.  “Indonesia needs people who know about technology,” Basary says, “but with a servant heart.” After graduation, he plans to return to his home in Papua and make a sustainable difference in how people take advantage of renewable sources.

Read full story online.


Beautiful Bugs in Blue: The Making of Luminous Bacteria

Published in Tech Today

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

A team of Michigan Tech researchers led by Associate Professor of Chemistry Haiying Liu has discovered how to make a strain of E. coli glow under fluorescent light. The technique could eventually be used to track down all sorts of pathogens and even help in the fight against breast cancer.

E. coli bacteria are naturally found in animal intestines and are usually harmless. But when virulent strains contaminate food, like spinach or peanuts, they can cause serious illness and even death.

The researchers’ trick takes advantage of E. coli’s affinity for the sugar mannose. Liu’s team attached mannose molecules to specially engineered fluorescent polymers and stirred them into a container of water swimming with E. coli. Microscopic hairs on the bacteria, called pili, hooked onto the mannose molecules like Velcro, effectively coating the bacteria with the polymers.

Then the researchers shined white light onto E. coli colonies growing in the solution. The bugs lit up like blue fireflies. “They became very colorful and easy to see under a microscope,” said Liu.

The technique could be adapted to identify a wide array of pathogens by mixing and matching from a library of different sugars and polymers that fluoresce different colors under different frequencies of light. If blue means E. coli, fuchsia could one day mean influenza.

With funding from a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, Liu is adapting the technique to combat breast cancer. Instead of mannose, he plans to link the fluorescent polymers to a peptide that homes in on cancer cells.

Once introduced to the vascular system, the polymers would travel through the body and stick to tumor cells. Then, illuminated by a type of infrared light that shines through human tissue, the polymers would glow, providing a beacon to pinpoint the location of the malignant cells.

The technique would allow surgeons to easily identify and remove malignant cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

The team’s work using polymers to detect E. coli was partially supported by the US Department of Agriculture and has been published in Chemistry–A European Journal.

The article, “Highly Water-Soluble Fluorescent Conjugated Fluorene-Based Glycopolymers with Poly(ethylene glycol) Tethered Spacers for Sensitive Detection of Escherichia coli,” is coauthored by Liu, postdoctoral associate Cuihua Xue, graduate students Singaravelu Velayudham and Steve Johnson, undergraduates Adrian Smith and Wilbel Brewer and Professor Pushpalatha Murthy, all of Michigan Tech’s chemistry department; and graduate student Ratul Saha and Professor Susan T. Bagley of the biological sciences department.


Graduate Student Selected to Attend Leadership Conference

Published in Tech Today

Timothy Colling, senior research engineer with the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute, has been selected to participate in the Eno Transportation Foundation’s Leadership Development Conference in Washington, DC, in May.

The conference brings together the top 20 graduate students in transportation engineering from across the country for the one-week program, in which participants meet top government officials, leaders of transportation organizations and members of Congress to get a firsthand look at how transportation policy is developed and implemented.

Colling is a doctoral student in civil engineering and assistant director of Michigan’s Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP).

His advisor, Professor Bill Sproule (CEE), says that this is “a tremendous opportunity” for Colling and “a recognition that he is one of the country’s future transportation leaders.”


ESC/BRC Research Forum Awards Announced

Published in Tech Today

The Ecosystem Science Center and the Biotechnology Research Center have announced award recipients of the Fifth Annual ESC/BRC Graduate Research Forum, held on Feb. 27.

Two Grand Awards, six Merit Awards and three Honorable Mention Awards were presented.

$500 Grand Prizes

Ecosystem Science Center

Elizabeth Boisvert (SFRES) for “Initiation and Development of Three Lake Superior Coastal Peatlands”; advisor: Assistant Professor Tom Pypker

Biotechnology Research Center

Eric Minner (Biomedical Engineering) for “Hydrogel System Delivers Glutathione and Interleukin-10 to Mitigate Secondary Injury following Spinal Cord Damage”; advisor: Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert

$100 Merit Prizes

Ecosystem Science Center

Lucas Spaete (SFRES) for “Aspen Biomass Assessment for MI, WI and MN: A GIS and Regression Approach for Quantifying Biomass”; advisor: Associate Professor Ann Maclean

Sarah Stehn (SFRES) for “Altitudinal Gradients of Bryophyte Diversity and Community Assemblage in Southern Appalachian Spruce-Fir Forests”; advisor: Associate Professor Christopher Webster

Biotechnology Research Center

Jared Cregg (Biomedical Engineering) for “The Role of Aligned Fiber Density in Axon Motility”; advisor: Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert

Jill Jensen (Chemical Engineering) for “Selection for Improved Hybrid Poplar Via Dilute Acid and Enzymatic Hydrolysis Using Mini-Reactors”; advisor: Professor David Shonnard

Dalila Trupiano (SFRES) for “Activation Tagging of A Poplar AP2/ERF Transcription Factor Involved in Lateral Root Formation”; advisor: Associate Professor Victor Busov

Han Bing Wang (Biomedical/Chemical Engineering) for “Axonal Guidance Conduits Containing Aligned, Electrospun Poly-L-Lactic Acid Fibers Direct In Vitro Neurite Outgrowth”; advisors: Assistant Professor Ryan Gilbert (Biomedical Engineering) and Professor Michael Mullins (Chemical Engineering)

Honorable Mentions, Ecosystem Science Center

Chris Miller (SFRES) for “The Economic Feasibility of Aspen as a Coal Co-Firing Component”; advisor: Assistant Professor Robert Froese

Matthew Metz (SFRES) for “Summer Predation Patterns of Yellowstone Gray Wolves”; advisor: Assistant Professor John Vucetich

Max Henschell (SFRES) for “Do the Birds Care? Avian Community Response to Floristic Quality”; advisor: Associate Professor David Flaspohler


ENT5001: Professor Rekhi at his Two O’clock

Published in Tech Today

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

Maybe he missed his calling.

Maybe he should have been a professor instead of a successful entrepreneur who was part of the first Indian-owned company to go public in the US and the visionary who has helped numerous start-ups succeed around the globe.

Kanwal Rekhi ’67 was comfortable and engaging as he spoke to a packed ATDC Wednesday as students, faculty and community members learned about entrepreneurship and more.

Rekhi speaks from what he knows. He was brave enough to quit a safe, corporate job (after being laid off three times) and start his own company, with support from his wife, Ann, first and foremost.

“She said, ‘What about the mortgage? And the children?'” After some convincing, she said, “Do what you have to do.”

What he had to do was to start his own company, Excelan, with two partners. In 1982, they began manufacturing Ethernet cards to connect PCs to something called the Internet. Excelan was also instrumental in the TCP/IP Internet protocol. Excelan would go on to merge with Novell, and Rekhi became executive vice president, leading product development and technology strategies.

Rekhi drew parallels between the high unemployment of the early 1980s and today, and said both were good times to become an entrepreneur.

“The best times are the hard times,” he said. “Jobs are not plentiful, so there are resources available: laid-off people, rent is low, competition is not as tough, and you have time to get your service or product up to speed.”

He also said it is time to try your own business when you are restless and not happy, and you can identify the next wave.

Entrepreneurs create new wealth, he said, and, of course, it is hard.

“Ninety percent of people don’t have the entrepreneur gene and won’t try it,” Rekhi said. “So the odds of the percent who do try are ten times better! The first step is the hardest, into the valley of death. The first couple of years, it is just you, not even your wife or husband. Nobody outside.”

The downside to doing your own thing is that it is very difficult, he said. The upside is that there is unlimited potential for success, “but you have to find out if you have that entrepreneur gene. You have to try it.”

Becoming an entrepreneur in tough economic times has an additional upside: “You learn discipline early. You learn the value of money early. In boom times, they don’t have discipline, so when the market takes a downturn, they don’t do well. I discovered a new me.”

Fielding questions from the audience, he said money for start-ups is always available.

“Do your paper designs, paint a picture of that dream.”

And being an entrepreneur is much easier today because of the Internet. It is also a “team sport: We had a software guy, a hardware guy, me, who did the boards, and a sales and marketing guy.”

You can’t do it all by yourself, he said. First, find your strengths and weaknesses.

And he identified some strengths as personality traits, within the entrepreneur gene, for start-ups: having intellectual honesty, working harder than the other guy, holding yourself accountable, having a fair sense of value, knowing your domain, possessing leadership skills to pull everyone up, and not needing accolades from the outside.

“You’ll get daily satisfaction from the inside.”

He also thought the local area was perfect for entrepreneurs.

“You have a high quality of life, it is clean, good fiber (network), cheap labor with students, and a hotbed of intelligence here with the University.”

He compared Houghton and Michigan Tech to Silicon Valley and Stanford, which opened up its labs after hours, for example, to aid in intellectual property development.

He returned to the start-ups.

“There is no magic here. It will take four or five orders to make money, as the first and second orders from a customer are essentially free since you had to invest so much initially.”

More wisdom.

“Stay focused. One sharp knife is great. Two sharp knives together become one dull knife.”

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. Creating and shipping your product gives it value.”

“You should grow as a leader faster than your business grows. Be very honest with yourself.”

“Spread your risk around: technological, marketplace, financial and execution as a leader.”

“As a leader, keep asking, ‘What am I missing?'”

Today, as a leader of TiE, a nonprofit that fosters entrepreneurship with 50 chapters in 11 countries, Rekhi focuses on the South Asian business community and has ties all over Silicon Valley.

Sometimes those beginners talk to him about how hard it is starting out.

“From India, I was dropped off a bus at Michigan Tech in 1967,” he says. “I could do it, why not you?”

Lesson learned. Class dismissed.


Peace Corps Graduate School Programs Enjoy Record Participation

Michigan Tech currently has 34 students serving abroad through its Master’s International Peace Corps programs.  This is the highest level of participation across the country – for the fourth year in a row.  These graduate programs give students the opportunity to earn a graduate degree while also participating in the Peace Corps.   Read more in the press release from the Peace Corps and learn about our programs.

Tech Today has also written an article with some great quotes from our faculty.


Funding Available for Leading Graduate Student Visits

To support campus visits for leading graduate student candidates, the Graduate School has set aside $1,000 per department, with a maximum of $500 per student. Students who have applied for the highest degree offered by the program are eligible. Multiple requests may be submitted to utilize the $1,000 any time prior to June 1. Special consideration will be given to requests that contribute to meeting the University’s strategic goal of attracting and supporting a world-class and diverse student population.

Requests for campus visit funding can be submitted online.

The Graduate School is available to assist departments with campus visits. For more information, contact Jodi Lehman or Jacque Smith at 487-2327.



Military Man Addresses Leadership through Service

Published in Tech Today

by John Gagnon, promotional writer

“Service is the rent we pay to occupy the earth,” said Otha Thornton Tuesday night when he addressed about fifty people on an ethic of leadership that focuses on helping others.

“Take care of your people,” the popular military man counseled the group of mostly students. “Listen to your people.” Such service, he said, “can lead to great things.”

It was Thornton’s first trip back to Tech since helping lead the Army ROTC program from 1999 to 2001, when he also earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and technical communication. He will return to campus in May as Spring Commencement speaker.

He is visiting Tech in part to participate in Black History Month. He is scheduled to speak at noon today, Thursday, Feb. 26, about what the military means to African Americans. The session is at noon in the Memorial Union Red Metal Room. The King-Chavez-Parks Visiting Scholars Program, through the Office of Institutional Diversity, supported Thornton’s visit, as did Omicron Delta Kappa, the national student leadership society.

Thornton, a lieutenant colonel, joined the army simply to serve his country for four years. He says that the opportunities have stretched that stint to 20 years. “No regrets,” he said.

His duties have taken him from Hawaii to Upper Michigan, from Germany to Washington DC, where he now works as a presidential communications officer in the White House Communications Agency, located in the Executive Office Building. The agency numbers 1,200 people. He supervises 26.

He has had such duties as traveling to Arizona as part of an advance team to set up all the communications for a fundraising visit by former president Bush on behalf of John McCain during the run for president. In his two years in his current position, he has worked directly on four presidential events.

Asked how he felt about a black president, Thornton responded: “If you work hard and have your things in order, America is a great land of opportunity.”

When he was stationed in Texas, Thornton, a native of Georgia, was overjoyed to get orders for the ROTC program at Georgia Tech. At the last minute, his assignment switched to Michigan Tech.

He looked up Upper Michigan on the web and found out the winter would be the same as he had encountered in northern Japan: cold and snow, which he hated. He begged, “I’ll go to Kuwait. I’ll go to Korea–anyplace but northern Michigan.” His pleas were unanswered, and he was bummed. Then he came to Michigan Tech. “I’m glad I did. It was wonderful. The people are so friendly.” He singled out Associate Professor Patricia Sotirin and Professor Robert Johnson.

Early in his career, Thornton was in intelligence. Lately, he has been in human resources. In May he will go to Afghanistan as a personnel officer, basically helping to direct the “flow of people” who are being deployed there as part of the surge in the number of troops being sent to that country. He will leave behind two children, one in high school and one in college, and his wife, Caryn, a high school administrator.

It’ll be his first posting in a war zone, if you don’t count anti-drug and anti-human trafficking operations in Latin America.

He takes his new duty in stride, for he believes that where he is, is where he’s supposed to be.

His community service includes the National Board of Directors of the Parent Teacher Association and the Boy Scouts.

He told the students that, despite the ailing economy, there are many job opportunities in government and the military. He personally knows a dozen Tech alumni who work in the National Security Agency.

One student at Thornton’s speech definitely got message. Joe Scheinkoenig, a senior in electrical engineering from Waukesha, Wis., and a member of ODK, summed up the gist of the presentation: “You should put your workers first, then what you need from them will come.”