Archives—July 2018

GLRC Hires Gagnon to Promote University-Indigenous Community Partnerships in Research

The Great Lakes Research Center announces the appointment of Valoree Gagnon as director, University-Indigenous Community Partnerships.

In this new role, Gagnon serves as a resource for those desiring research partnerships with indigenous communities by providing guidance for creating and sustaining equitable partnerships, supporting growth for mutually-beneficial research design and practices, and by strengthening inclusion of transdisciplinary knowledge. She intends to continue to expand Michigan Tech’s partnerships in the region—across disciplines, jurisdictions and communities—and strengthen m’naademdamowin (respect) and reciprocity for one another.

“I’m pleased to be in a role that allows me to make meaningful connections among people. Building partnerships is an important pathway for advancing research and policy,” says  Gagnon. Her office is located in GLRC 310 and she can be reached by email.

by Great Lakes Research Center


Ye Sun Wins CAREER Award

An innovative idea to replace wearable health monitoring devices with embroidered electronics garners attention from the National Science Foundation.

Health monitoring devices—FitBit or Garmin accelerometer watches, apps on cell phones, heart monitors—are becoming ubiquitous, but they have their drawbacks. In some climates, these devices can rub irritatingly against skin. Some are heavy and bulky. So imagine if embroidery on clothing could replace these devices altogether.

Ye Sun, an assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, has received an NSF CAREER Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by early career faculty. The research and development grant is for Sun’s project “System-on-Cloth: A Cloud Manufacturing Framework for Embroidered Wearable Electronics.”

Sun’s project is funded for $500,000 for five years.

Flexible electronics to improve well-being monitoring

Well-being management includes daily monitoring of health signals, including heart rate, brain waves and muscle signals, and the list of monitorable signals is growing.

By using conductive thread and passive electronics—tiny semiconductors, resistors and capacitors—Sun’s lab is able to design flexible embroidery to turn logos into wearable electronics.

“For now, when we have wearable devices there are different problems—they can cause skin irritation and some people can’t wear these devices 24 hours a day, but sometimes such long-term monitoring is necessary,” Sun says. “In the future, all electronics can be flexible and won’t affect people’s lives.”

Sun’s lab can embroider on just about anything flexible, whether cloth, foam or other materials. The lab provides coding for the electronics and stitch generation to embroiderers. The stitches themselves become the electronic circuit.

Building manufacturing networks and combining art and engineering

But the funding isn’t just for improving embroidered electronics, it’s also to build a manufacturing network and cloud-based website where stitch generation orders can be made.

“In the future, a person can upload the embroidery design to generate the stitches or download certain stitches,” she says.

Sun is working with professional embroidering companies to create prototypes by downloading stitch schematics from a cloud-based website. She says any embroidery company has the potential to manufacture embroidered health monitors.

She also hopes flexible, wearable electronics will interest a new generation of engineers by appealing to their artistic sides—this type of embroidery circuit weaves together craft and functional design.

“I believe the embroidered wearable electronics can be a new direction for wearable electronics,” Sun says. “To make this successful, we need the technical electronics and the manufacturing to translate the design to make it happen.”

By Kelley Christensen, Tech Today, July 18, 2018


Family Tradition: Morin Named Distinguished Teacher

Brigitte Morin’s parents are educators, so it is not surprising that she became a teacher herself. In fact, she’s become a very good one.

Morin knew she wanted to teach since she was a kid. It was in her blood she says. “Both my parents were educators—my mother was a first-grade teacher and my father taught high school English and French.” Morin is the recipient of Michigan Technological University’s 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice category.

Morin, a 2006 Michigan Tech alumna with a biology major and a Spanish minor, started her career teaching high school biology and horticulture in Huntley, Illinois. During her six-year tenure there, her courses expanded to include anatomy, physiology and AP biology. In 2011, she earned a master’s in biological sciences with a focus on biology education from Northern Illinois University. “I was fortunate because this program was designed specifically for high school teachers and allowed us to take many content and pedagogy courses around our busy schedules,” Morin says. “My research examined whether or not the incorporation of scientific literature in the classroom motivated students to read more outside of school. Spoiler alert–it did not.”

Great to be back home

After six years in the suburbs, Morin says she was “ready to come home.” In 2012, she was offered a temporary position in Tech’s biological sciences department, teaching a handful of medical lab sciences and general biology courses. After the retirement of Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Director Alice Solden in 2013, Morin became a lecturer in the department. Since then, she has taught a wide variety of courses including medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology II, human nutrition, current health issues, basic medical lab techniques, clinical immunology and serology and medical parasitology.

Morin, who was recently promoted to senior lecturer, developed a new course, the Biology of Movement and Meditation, which she says teaches students, “not only the science behind meditation and yoga, but also techniques they can use to help them survive the crazy college years.”

Morin teaches several hundred students each semester and almost all of them rave about her teaching. At the top of their list is her enthusiasm. As Bruce Seely, former dean of the College of Sciences and Arts says, “Brigitte’s infectious enthusiasm is apparent to everyone who knows her and there is no surprise she has received this recognition. She clearly loves teaching—and her students know it.”

Her use of humor and clarity are also common themes, but her willingness to challenge students, while at the same time showing compassion, is especially praised. In one student’s words, “I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher than Brigitte. She realizes the importance of good grades, but she looks deeper than that. She challenges us, but makes it manageable. She cares about our well-being, not just our scores. She makes an impact.”

Large class? No problem.

Chandreshekar Joshi, chair of biological sciences, carries high praise for Morin, indicating her teaching is not only excellent, but has also helped spread best practices within the department. Joshi says, “Brigitte does an excellent job engaging students, but what impresses me most is her successful effort of flipping a huge classroom with more than 100 students. Brigitte is teaching us how to successfully implement active learning. It is a pure delight to see how easily she does a Herculean job.”

Morin’s unbridled love for both teaching and Michigan Tech is apparent. She says “At Michigan Tech, I’m spoiled. I’ve got fantastic students, a supportive department and a University that values teaching and what I do. Being here has fueled my passion for education and for connecting with students. Never once has my commitment to teaching waivered. Every once in awhile, I think, ‘Should I get a PhD? Move into research?,’ and my answer never changes. No, my place is in the classroom with my students. That’s where I find the most joy and excitement each and every day.”

Morin will receive a $2,500 monetary award and a plaque at an awards dinner sponsored by the president’s office in the fall. Richelle Winkler, an associate professor in Michigan Tech’s social sciences department is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Associate Professor/Professor category.

By Michael Meyer

Published in Tech Today, July 10, 2018


Richelle Winkler Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

With the goal of understanding and promoting community sustainability, Richelle Winkler introduces her students to new ways of thinking about society and how they fit within it.

Winkler, associate professor of sociology and demography, in the Department of Social Sciences, is the recipient of Michigan Technological University’s 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Associate Professor/Professor category. Winkler teaches large, general-education Introduction to Sociology sections each year, and smaller courses that cater to social science students, graduate students or transdisciplinary students.

Winkler received her PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010. Prior to joining the Michigan Tech faculty, she worked as an applied researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Applied Population Laboratory where she served as associate scientist and associate director. She was selected to give the inaugural Michigan Tech Research Forum Distinguished Lecture in 2016, and presented with the University’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017. Also in 2017, the Rural Sociological Society (RSS) presented her their Excellence in Instruction Award. In addition to RSS, Winkler is active in the Population Association of America and the International Association for Society and Natural Resources, for which she co-hosted the International Symposium for Society and Resource Management (ISSRM) on the Michigan Tech campus in summer 2016.

Winkler says her primary professional goal is to “understand and promote rural community sustainability.” Her teaching, research and service work all address this goal. She says she loves teaching at an introductory level where she is “able to get to know students from across campus and introduce them to new ways of thinking about society and how they fit within it.” She especially challenges students in these classes to consider their personal role in participating in a democratic society and how they can serve their communities and contribute to positive social change. Winkler serves as a Safe Place Ally and “strives to make her teaching as inclusive as possible.”

Former College of Sciences and Arts Dean Bruce Seely, sees Winkler’s integration of teaching and research as an ideal match for Michigan Tech. Seely says, “Richelle further amplifies the commitment to teaching that is a core value of the college. She is one of the many faculty who chose Michigan Tech precisely because she can pursue both teaching and scholarly endeavors. This balance is vital here. It’s a clear signal that of the value attached to both of these core faculty responsibilities. I’m proud of her.”

Perhaps what is most unique about Winkler’s teaching is her smaller classes take a community-engaged scholarship approach, integrating teaching, research and service. She engages students in working directly with community partners to address practical problems, foster rural community sustainability and promote empowerment of disenfranchised communities. As she sees it, this integrated approach pays big dividends: “Students learn how to apply knowledge, how to work in professional teams and how to make a difference in their community. “

Social Sciences Chair Hugh Gorman, agrees that Winkler’s incorporation of research and practice into her classroom dramatically increases relevance for students. He elaborates, “Richelle excels at turning the classroom into an opportunity for students to research questions of direct interest to the larger community. Whether the issue is related to establishing better recycling programs, exploring possibilities for community-scale solar power, or examining how neighboring municipalities can share services, Richelle helps her students transform theory into practice and move from abstract exercises to research that matters.”

Winkler’s students certainly confirm the value of these connected activities, but also give her high marks in the more conventional aspects of teaching, such as timely feedback and clarity. As one student puts it, “Dr. Winkler set clear goals and provided timely, high-quality and valuable feedback on assignments. On my papers and homework assignments, she would always make thoughtful and introspective comments and notes that demonstrated to me that she was doing more than just grading. I felt that she was truly making an effort to understand the points that I was attempting to make and then engaging in dialogue with me.”

Winkler will receive a $2,500 monetary award and a plaque at an awards dinner sponsored by the President’s office in the fall. Brigitte Morin, senior lecturer in Michigan Tech’s biological sciences department, is the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice category.

By Michael Meyer

Published in Tech Today, July 9, 2018