Schneiders Establish Professorship, Fellowships in Computer Science

Liza and Donn Schneider are seen on the Houghton waterfront. The couple, from Green Bay, have established an endowed professorship and postdoctoral fellowship support in Michigan Tech's Department of Computer Science.
Liza and Donn Schneider are seen on the Houghton waterfront. The couple, from Green Bay, have established an endowed professorship and postdoctoral fellowship support in Michigan Tech’s Department of Computer Science.

October 28, 2015—Through the generosity of an estate gift of $1 million, an endowed professorship will be established in the Department of Computer Science at Michigan Technological University. An additional $500,000 gift will provide postdoctoral fellowship support within the department.

The gift from Donn and Liza Schneider, of Green Bay, Wis., ensures their estate will provide $1 million to establish the Donn and Liza Schneider Endowed Professorship in Computer Science.

Min Song, chair of Computer Science, said the Schneiders’ contribution advances the mission of the department “to build a strong research and teaching environment that prepares students to learn, discover and innovate new knowledge in computer science.” With computing being one of the fastest changing and influential disciplines, Song says it’s important for the department to conduct state-of-the-art research on a global scale.

 “The Schneiders’ estate support will take a leading role in the educational and research programs of the CS Department and provide opportunities for CS faculty and students to conduct cutting-edge research,” Song said. “The generosity of the donors will further help to promote the CS relationship with national and international communities.”

 Song said the Department of Computer Science’s ability to attract and retain the best faculty, which in turn helps  attract the best students, is key to the success of its mission.  Permanently invested gifts from private donors are needed to help support competitive salaries, teaching technologies, research and other needs of top faculty.

The remainder of the estate gift, $500,000, will be used to support postdoctoral fellowships in computer science.  The names of Donn and Liza Schneider will be linked with all postdoctoral fellowships awarded from the estate gift fund.

Song said the fellowships are crucial to the success of the department. “Funding for postdoctoral fellowships is key to the success of the department,” he said. “They will substantially stimulate the intellectual growth of, and have a longstanding impact on, its academic programs.”

Liza Schneider said she, and her husband Donn, a Tech alumnus, wanted to make a gift that meant something.

“We don’t believe in charity,” she said, “We believe in philanthropy.”

 She said Donn was among some of the first graduates majoring in Computer Science at Michigan Tech, so the University, and the Department of Computer Science , in particular, have been on their radar for some time.

“We’ve been watching Michigan Tech over the last several years. It’s pretty obvious to us where the world-changing innovation is taking place,” Liza Schneider said.

She said the money set aside for post-doctoral fellowships will encourage the best individuals to conduct important research.

“If you have cutting-edge research going on, the best students will find it, and subsequently those students will then be leading future research,” she said.

“Good science breeds good science,” Donn Schneider added.

The Schneiders’ endowment funds will be administered by the Michigan Tech Fund.

Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

Originally Published on the Michigan Tech News Blog.

Julie King Named to Lorna and James Mack Professorship of Continuous Processing

Julie King
Julie King

October 27, 2015—Julia A. King, professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, has been named to the new Lorna and James Mack Professorship of Continuous Processing.

King’s research focuses on adding various carbon fillers to typically thermoplastic polymers to produce electrically and thermally conductive resins. Increasing the thermal and electrical conductivities of typically insulating polymers has the potential to greatly increase the market for these materials.

Michigan Tech chemical engineering alumnus James A. Mack ’59 and his wife, Lorna, endowed the new professorship. Mack is the retired president and CEO of Cambex Corporation, a developer and marketer of specialty chemicals. His company successfully combined biology with engineering — especially in he rapidly emerging field of tissue engineering and cell therapy and the development of small molecule therapeutics.

“Our goal is to have Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech in the forefront of process technology education,” Mack said. He praised Komar Kawatra, chair of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech, for his Unit Operations Lab and its contribution to learning.

Continuous Processing
“Many unit operations in the lab and in industry are achieved with continuous processing, such as distillation, separation, absorption and drying, to name a few,” Mack explained. “In practice, there are many chemical reactions that can be done more economically and safely if done by continuous processing. Also, it is easier to control product quality with exact in-process measurements rather than inspecting quality after the fact. This has come to the attention of the FDA, which is interested in seeing pharmaceutical manufacturers move from batch to continuous processing, even for complex molecules.”

Kawatra called Mack an accomplished and forward-looking chemical engineer and a loyal supporter of Michigan Tech and its Department of Chemical Engineering. In 2009, the Macks endowed a chair in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech. “We are pleased to be able to add the funding for the Endowed Professorship in Continuous Processing,” Mack said.

“I am honored to receive the appointment to the Lorna and James Mack Professorship of Continuous Processing,” said King. “I worked in industry with continuous processing for 10 years prior to joining Michigan Tech in 1996, three years at Exxon’s Baytown, Texas, refinery and seven years at Conoco in Ponca City, Okla. My research area involves continuous processing of composite materials. “

During her time at Tech, King has received $2 million in research funding, graduated nine PhD students and 10 master’s students, included 260 undergraduates in her research projects, and published 77 peer reviewed journal papers.

Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

Originally Published on the Michigan Tech News Blog.

Lynn Mazzoleni Leads a Team to Bring a New High-Resolution Spectrometer to Campus

The view from Lynn Mazzoleni's field site on Pico Mountain in the Azores is lofty and new mass spectrometer equipment on campus will improve our understanding of the atmospheric samples collected there.
The view from Lynn Mazzoleni’s field site on Pico Mountain in the Azores is lofty and new mass spectrometer equipment on campus will improve our understanding of the atmospheric samples collected there.

October 23, 2015—Air is not just air. It’s not just a sterile, preset mix of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and other molecules. As an atmospheric chemist, Lynn Mazzoleni knows air is dynamic and full of soot, sulfates, dust and other particles. Now, with a new piece of equipment, she can analyze complex aerosol samples and how their chemistry affects cloud formation.

State-of-the-Art Science: Peatlands to Pharmaceuticals

Mazzoleni is an associate professor of chemistry at Michigan Technological University and a recent Fulbright Scholar awardee. She is also the lead researcher on a team that is bringing a high-resolution mass spectrometer to campus through a Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The instrument is an analytical chemistry tool that identifies the type and amount of chemicals in a mixture.

“This will support various environmental and health studies involving very complex mixtures,” Mazzoleni says, adding that her team plans to study everything from atmospheric aerosols to wastewater, infant tears to porewater in peat.

The instrument will be an Orbitrap Elite mass spectrometer with sufficiently high scan rates. The scan rates matter, Mazzoleni says, because getting structural and quantitative data for trace components in complex samples is an intensified version of The Princess and The Pea. Quantitative measurements for such delicate and small molecules require fast chromatography, which is the separation and analysis of mixtures, and minuscule mass measurements in femtograms, or 0.000000000000001 grams.

Interdisciplinary Collaborations for Major Research Instrumentation

Right now, Mazzoleni must travel to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to run her samples through high-resolution mass spectrometry tests; it’s the only lab that can currently handle her environmental samples. Many biomedical labs have similar equipment, but often these are set up for larger molecules. Even without limited access, the closest facility is six hours south of Michigan Tech. The availability of the Orbitrap Elite on campus will open up new possibilities for a number of researchers, especially those conducting environmental analyses.

“We absolutely need ultrahigh resolving power to see the molecules in extremely complex mixtures in order to learn more about various natural systems, including aquatic systems, terrestrial systems, biological systems and atmospheric aerosols,” Mazzoleni says.

Delving into such complexity requires a large team. In addition to Mazzoleni, the project’s co-investigators include Evan Kane from the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences, Adrienne Minerick, associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Engineering and professor of chemical engineering, and Daisuke Minakata, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

The instrument will be located in Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, part of its new Microanalytical Facility, a core facility specializing in mass spectrometry equipment. The initiative, and the new Orbitrap Elite instrument, are supported by more than ten institutes and departments across campus.

“This project is a model of the deeply interdisciplinary collaboration that not only characterizes the nature of contemporary science, but which also marks many of the most exciting research activities now underway at Michigan Tech,” says Bruce Seely, dean of the College of Sciences and Arts, adding that Mazzoleni’s efforts to obtain the equipment span more than three years. “This is also a great example of how persistence and determination in the pursuit of external support can pay off for the researchers and the campus at large. I congratulate her and the team for their efforts.”

Student Research

The new equipment also opens doors for students. Annie Putman, a Michigan Tech alumna and current doctoral student at the University of Utah, says her experiences working with Mazzoleni developed her research skills, which have helped her succeed in graduate school.

“The ease of access to measurement lowers barriers to students proposing and completing projects of their own design,” she says, reflecting that her own process involved traveling across the country. Currently Mazzoleni shows videos in class to explain how high-resolution mass spec equipment works.

“Now, students will be able to walk up and see this instrument in action, which is so much better than watching a video on the Internet,” she says, adding, “Having the machine will not only make us more competitive, but actually give us the opportunity to lead new avenues of research in our respective fields.”

Michigan Technological University (www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

Originally published on the Michigan Tech News Blog.