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Charlesworth and Stevens head Postdoctoral Affairs Office

Graduate School Announcements

by Graduate School

The new Postdoctoral Affairs Office will be housed in the Graduate School. This move will expand the services offered to Postdoctoral Fellows and ensure compliance with University and federal regulations related to these positions.

Debra Charlesworth has been appointed the assistant dean for graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs and in her new role will coordinate professional development activities and other initiatives to enhance the experience of Postdoctoral Fellows at Michigan Tech. Charlesworth will work closely with HR in this new role. Departments or faculty members that seek to hire postdoctoral fellows in support of their research will continue to initiate these requests with their HR employment representative.

The Graduate School announces that Mary J. Stevens has joined them as the assistant to the dean. Stevens has many years of experience working with graduate students in IPS and we look forward to her contributions to the Graduate School. In her role, Stevens will coordinate Dean Murthy’s activities and serve to support the Graduate School in new initiatives.

4 Steps Toward Making Endowed Chairs More Equal

Creating a pipeline for women and minority faculty who are woefully under-represented among Endowed Chairs. Article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Nicholas D. Hartlep (Nov. 13, 2016)

Faith Morrison Appointed Associate Dean of Graduate School

Faith Morrison (Ch E) will serve Michigan Tech in the capacity of associate dean of the Graduate School beginning this semester. The position is half time, with Morrison continuing in her faculty role for the balance of her time.

Morrison will be involved in a number of projects in the Graduate School. A major project will be the development and implementation of university-level assessment of graduate student learning and graduate program review. She will also work to develop, implement and support efforts to attract and retain a diverse graduate student body and on other projects aimed at improving the graduate student experience at Michigan Tech.

Morrison brings 26 years of faculty and service experience to her new role. She has worked closely with ABET and Higher Learning Commission accreditation in the chemical engineering department as well as working as an academic advisor and as an advisor to student groups.

Her research expertise is in polymer rheology and she is well known nationally for her service in her professional society, the Society of Rheology, as well as for her authorship of two textbooks, including a popular introductory rheology text.  Morrison’s national activities also include serving on the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), as well as serving as chair of the AIP Audit Committee.

Morrison says, “I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to address new challenges and to contribute to Michigan Tech in this new way. The team in the Graduate School is terrific and have been very welcoming.”

Pushpa Murthy, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the graduate school said, “Professor Morrison brings a wealth of experience in student learning assessment and program review to the graduate school. In addition, her deep interest and passion in increasing the diversity on campus will be of great benefit as we continue to make the campus a more inclusive and welcoming place. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to benefit from her experience by involving her in the day-to-day operations of the Graduate School.”

Posted by the Graduate School

Minerick and Reed Receive WEPAN Award for “Year of Action on Diversity”

Tech Wins Awards for Diversity Efforts in Engineering Education

by Jenn Donovan

Michigan Tech’s efforts to increase the numbers and diversity of women in engineering have been recognized by Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), a national network of women engineers, engineering educators, universities, corporations and non-profits who are working together to develop a diverse and innovative engineering workforce.

Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics received the WEPAN President’s Award for what the organization described as “outstanding accomplishments” in the National Science Foundation-funded engineering diversity initiative, TECAID (Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity).

The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) won the WEPAN Strategic Partner Award. ASEE was honored for its “Year of Action on Diversity,” a project conceived and designed by the ASEE Diversity Committee, led by Adrienne Minerick and Teri Reed. Minerick is associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Engineering and a professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech. Reed is assistant vice president for research at the University of Cincinnati.

“These awards are a testament to the dedication, heart and trailblazing work our faculty and staff are doing to increase knowledge and awareness of the value of diversity and to cultivate environments that are inclusive of all individuals,” said Minerick. “These activities expand and strengthen the perspectives and education of all of our students such that they can engineer to present and future world demands and lead in a complex and changing society.”

President Glenn Mroz called the awards “a real honor for Mechanical Engineering and the entire university. We’ve been clear that it’s the responsibility of everyone at Michigan Tech to serve all students, regardless of gender or race, to have an impact on our world. This national recognition serves as evidence that people are taking that seriously, and it’s being noticed at the highest levels of our professions. The leadership that this team of people has shown is truly inspiring.”

Murthy Named Dean of Graduate School, Associate Provost

by Office of Provost and VP of Academic Affairs

Pushpalatha Murthy, currently the associate dean of the Graduate School, has been selected as the new associate provost for Graduate Education and dean of the Graduate School.

Murthy will begin serving as dean on Sunday, June 19. Prior to being selected as dean, Murthy served as associate dean of the Graduate School during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Provost Jackie Huntoon stated “I am very happy that Dr. Murthy has agreed to take on this responsibility. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position that will serve the University well. The quality of our graduate programs is very important to Michigan Tech, and Dr. Murthy is committed to undertaking efforts to continue to increase their quality through time.”

President Glenn Mroz said, “Pushpa brings her national and international perspective and experience to the position, and her passion and dedication as well. She’s served on countless groups in her career to sort out ways that we can make Michigan Tech a better place to study and to work. And she’s done it with common sense, grace and a sense of humor that puts people at ease in even the most difficult conversations.”

Murthy joined Michigan Tech in 1985, serving first as a visiting assistant professor. In 1986 she moved to the tenure track as an assistant professor.

She gained experience in administration through her service as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2001-04 and as a program director in the Division of Graduate Education at the National Science Foundation from 2012-15. In 2014, Murthy traveled to India to conduct a series of workshops for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve as the Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School at Michigan Tech. I look forward to working with the university community to enhance graduate education at Michigan Tech” Murthy said.

She was awarded the Michigan Tech Faculty Distinguished Service Award in 2011, is a member of the editorial board for Protein Expression and Purification and is active in COACh International, a grassroots organization working to increase the number and career success of women scientists and engineers.

Through her work with COACh, she has gained experience designing and delivering professional development programs. Murthy’s work with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and COACh will greatly benefit Michigan Tech’s graduate students.

“Our campus will benefit from the expertise Dr. Murthy brings to us as a result of her work providing professional development to professionals around the world,” said Huntoon.

PECASE Winner Colleen Mouw in D.C. This Week

By Allison Mills | Published 12:30 PM, May 3, 2016

Colleen Mouw double-checked to make sure the email wasn’t spam. Who gets a personalized message from the White House anyway? The correspondence was indeed real—and an early step to Mouw winning one of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) this spring.

PECASE Award Winner Colleen Mouw

Mouw has helped bring oceanography to the Great Lakes for which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) nominated her for the PECASE Award. She will be in Washington, D.C. during early May.

Specializing in remote sensing, Mouw is an assistant professor of oceanography in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University and a scientist in the Great Lakes Research Center. Mouw’s work focuses on the big picture of some of the world’s smallest life forms.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work determining phytoplankton functional types from space,” she says, explaining photosynthesizing free-floating plants that make up the bottom of the food chain produce nearly half of the world’s oxygen and affect global carbon and nutrient cycles.

By connecting the world’s smallest and largest scales, Mouw hopes to help grow understanding of how aquatic ecosystems are responding to environmental change and what this means for water resources that people rely on in the Great Lakes and around the globe.

For her innovative work, Sen. Gary Peters joins in congratulating Mouw on her award, which he says is a true testament to her commitment to marine science and pursuit of innovative research.

“Mouw’s efforts to keep the Great Lakes safe are profoundly benefiting the millions of Michiganders that rely on the Lakes for clean drinking water and as drivers of economic growth through tourism, recreation, shipping, and so much more.”

The Salty Divide

Mouw says that in her research journey she has walked with two communities—people who study ocean systems and people who study lakes.

“Unfortunately, oceanography and limnology don’t cross each other as much as you’d think they would,” Mouw says, adding that fellow researchers have called this the “salty divide.”

Mouw is bridging the divide. The Great Lakes, while freshwater, are large enough to be seas, and their physical processes affect the lives and location of phytoplankton and other organisms. To better understand these complex relationships, Mouw is using oceanography tools and techniques to improve remote sensing data for the Great Lakes.

Paula Bontempi is the NASA program manager who nominated Mouw for PECASE. She says that Mouw’s contributions to oceanography—from research on ocean plants in the Bering Sea to public health issues in Wisconsin lakes—reflect her ability to link water, land and atmosphere in a complex, changing climate.

“Mouw does a superb job of putting her research in the context of the ocean’s role in the earth system and its dynamics. She has active projects at many scales, ranging from the global ocean to the Great Lakes.”Paula Bontempi

There’s extra motivation to gather more data as well. Unlike oceans, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the lakes are a source of drinking water for about 40 million people.

Human Health and Algae Blooms

One part of Mouw’s research is monitoring and analyzing toxic algae blooms. In the case of Lake Erie, there is one main culprit: the cyanobacteria Microcystis. Both satellite observations and continuous monitoring with moored sensors enables Mouw and colleagues to look at change over time along with in-water parameters. Understanding the conditions affecting Microcystis and phytoplankton communities may lead to better predictions for algae blooms.

“Being able to record continuously has truly helped us understand ecosystem processes,” Mouw says.

John Gierke, Chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech, is especially appreciative of all of Mouw’s contributions to both human health and ecology.

“The PECASE recognizes Mouw as an outstanding researcher and a great scholar, who nationally sets the standard for young faculty in oceanography.”John Gierke

Gierke adds that he especially admires Mouw as an effective professor who inspires undergraduate and graduate students in the program. She also co-leads a national program called Mentoring Physical Oceanographers to Increase Retention that supports early career female researchers.

As Seen from Space

Phytoplankton contain different pigments—and from a satellite’s perspective that means they reflect light differently at various wavelengths. Mouw works with this reflectance data from water bodies collected by satellites. Of the light that enters a water body, reflectance is all about measuring the spectral characteristics of light radiating back. Different constituents in water scatter or absorb light, radiating back distinct spectral signals.

Additionally, the size of the phytoplankton changes that reflectance. Small phytoplankton tend to absorb light more efficiently than larger cells. These small changes in reflectance enable Mouw to identify different kinds of phytoplankton.

“We look at these microscopic cells from space and it’s not just about figuring out where they are, but who is there,” Mouw says.

The challenge in this work is sorting out the signal attributed to various constituents that have an optical signal. In addition to phytoplankton, Mouw also has to account for suspended sediments and colored dissolved organic matter—think how tea changes water color and the leaves might be floating in the cup.

The algae blooms in Lake Erie are a unique example because the Microcystis signal is loud (and visually very green on maps). More often, the signals from different phytoplankton are subtler, making it difficult to sort out other constituents that also contribute to the surface reflectance observed by satellites. Mouw and her students have spent a significant amount of time categorizing and labeling different reflectance signals in Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.

“This effort has really improved our understanding of systems, such as Lake Superior, that are difficult to access in the winter due to ice cover,” Mouw says.

The data comes from several satellites. Much of Mouw’s historical data comes from the SeaWiFS and MODIS satellite sensors. She and her team are looking forward to expanded capability of the next generation satellite sensor, called PACE.

Mouw’s PECASE Award reflects both the breadth and depth of her efforts to expand satellite observations in the Great Lakes and phytoplankton groups in the oceans.

Library Wins Prestigious Award by Opie and Van Pelt Library

Michigan Tech’s Van Pelt and Opie Library has received the H.W. Wilson Award from the American Library Association.

The award is given to the “library organization whose application demonstrates greatest merit for a program of staff development designed to further the goals and objectives of the library organization.”

In making the announcement, the awards  jury unanimously believed that Tech’s program is, “Empowering Library Staff to lead confidently and plan effectively.”

The committee went on to say “the desire to embed the Lean culture into your organization, will provide an enriched learning environment by which staff will certainly prosper. It was also noted that your willingness to include other local libraries in your training exemplifies your dedication to library services within your entire community.”

In addition to being named the sole winner, the library will receive a citation and $3,500.

The proposals authors and leaders were Laurie Stark, departmental coordinator; Lindsay Hiltunen, senior archivist; and Jenn Sams, instruction and learning librarian and student engagement coordinator.
The library sends a special thanks to Ruth Archer for her continued support of the library’s Lean knowledge and skills.