Tech in 10: Q&A with Nina Mahmoudian

by Allison Mills, Tech Today, April 10, 2018

Michigan Tech’s thought leaders glimpse into the University’s future. Nina Mahmoudian, Lou and Herbert Wacker associate professor in mobile systems of mechanical engineering, reflects on where the field is heading over the next decade.

Q: What is happening today that will change mechanical engineering education and research 10 years from now?

The pieces that make an intelligent system are becoming more accessible and affordable. These components are going to change the face of education and research, especially in robotics. Users are getting younger and getting more hands-on learning opportunities—they’re watching YouTube videos, reading articles, taking online courses. They’re doing a lot of self-learning and teaching themselves programming on their own; kids often come to us with more background because they’re interested. It’s a new way of learning and there are so many opportunities, so we need to take it seriously.

Read the full story at mtu.edu/news.


Coleman-Kaiser Participates in Lean Community of Practice Activities

by Associate Vice President for Administration

Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, senior associate vice president for administration, traveled to Grand Rapids March 16 for a quarterly meeting of the board of directors of the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC). In her role as board vice president, Coleman-Kaiser coordinated a presentation by Cheryl Ronk, president of the Michigan Society of Association Executives, on best practices for governing boards.

On Jan. 31, Coleman-Kaiser was invited to participate in a live online event presented by Lean Frontiers Direct. This event brought together a group of thought leaders and practitioners who each presented 40-minute webinars on themes from the Shingo Award-winning book “The Toyota Way to Service Excellence” and featured co-authors Jeff Liker and Karyn Ross. Coleman-Kaiser presented “Case Study: My Journey Developing Coaches for Leadership Excellence.” Her session was framed around her personal journey of developing leaders as coaches of continually developing teams. A practical framework was offered as a starting point for developing your own coaching practice. This online session is available for viewing by anyone at Michigan Tech through the end of April. Contact Brenda Randell for login instructions.

Coleman-Kaiser was also recently interviewed by MLC founder Debra Levantrosser as a guest on the Michigan Business Network podcast The Leaning Edge. In this six-minute interview, Coleman-Kaiser talked about her practice of coaching people to achieve their own vision of Leadership Excellence.


Langston Honored by American Society of Environmental Historians

On March 17, Nancy Langston (SS) was awarded the American Society of Environmental Historian’s (ASEH) highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award for 2018. President Graeme Wynn recognized her service to the profession at the annual awards ceremony.  In presenting the award, Wynn cited Langston’s long, varied and vital service to the organization. “Nancy has earned many honors and distinctions, but this award recognizes service to ASEH specifically'” Wynn said.

Langston has been active in the leadership of ASEH for more than 15 years, serving as president from 2007 to 2009, vice president for two years before that and on the Executive Committee from 2003 to 2007.

She edited the journal from 2011 to 2014, and was instrumental in moving the journal to Oxford University Press and establishing the journal web page. She helped negotiate the contract with Oxford, which strengthened ASEH’s financial position.

In addition, she chaired the Outreach Committee (2005-2007) and continues to volunteer for ASEH committees and activities, including the society’s efforts to find and transition to a new executive director.

Langston has contributed significantly to a number of ASEH conferences, chairing the Program Committee for the Victoria conference in 2004 and the Local Arrangements Committee for Madison in 2012. In numerous lectures and editorials, she has drawn academic and public attention to the field of environmental history as a whole.


Hein Honored at National Science Teachers Association

Gretchen Hein (EF), was honored at the National Science Teachers Association National Conference for her advising of the 2017 eigth-grade eCYBERMISSION National Winning Team. eCYBERMISSION is a “is a web-based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) competition for students in grades six through nine that promotes self-discovery and enables all students to recognize the real-life applications of STEM” according to their website. The Lake Linden-Hubbell High School team was comprised of Siona Beaudoin, Beau Hakala and Gabriel Poirier, along with guidance from Ryan Knoll, a student in Chemical Engineering. Hein is advising the ninth-grade eCYBERMISSION team and they have submitted their mission folder for review and evaluation.


Mahmoudian Named Lou and Herbert Wacker Associate Professor

Nina Mahmoudian, an associate professor in Michigan Technological University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics has been named the first Lou and Herbert Wacker Associate Professor in Autonomous Mobile Systems.

The selection was made by Michigan Tech and donors, who wish to remain anonymous. One of the donors is a Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumni and the endowment is named in honor of their parents, Lou and Herbert Wacker.

This is an endowed professorship through a cash gift of $1,000,000.

William Predebon, chair of ME-EM, says the endowment of a professorship is an important recognition of faculty who are rising stars or at the top of their fields. “Endowed professorships are critical for the retention of our outstanding faculty or to attract a national research scholar. Today more than ever, faculty are being courted by other universities and an endowed professorship is a means to retain them.”

Predebon says, “The donors are humble and do not want to be in the spotlight.” He says when they met, the donor explained they were thinking of a donation and through discussion were persuaded to do an endowed professorship. “What sealed the deal was Nina’s research and the donor put it, ‘it was the gliding underwater robots and the mass of robots joining together to do their thing that reeled me in.’ We will be forever grateful for the generosity of the donors.”

Predebon says not only is the endowed professorship important to Michigan Tech, the appointment of Mahmoudian is appropriate. “Dr. Mahmoudian is a rising star and already a leader in her research in autonomous mobile systems. She is driven and a highly motivated scholar and teacher. Her enthusiasm in the classroom and in her research is infectious and compelling in such a way that students gravitate to her.”

Mahmoudian says she is thankful and humbled by the endowed professorship. “I am grateful for the generosity of the donors and the fact they gave back to the place they graduated, and honored their parents. I also appreciate the efforts that Dr. Predebon put to attract their attention to my work. I am honored that they found my research on underwater autonomy and coordination of unmanned systems interesting and worthy of investment.”

Mahmoudian says the endowment will have a lasting impact in the growth of autonomous systems and robotics research. It will provide her with additional resources to establish strong national and international research collaboration in autonomous long-term operations. “Undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in this research and will receive interdisciplinary education, innovation, technology translation and outreach experiences,” she added. Thinking long term, Mahmoudian says the endowment will help transform how science studies are conducted utilizing autonomous systems specifically under water.

Predebon added the generous gift is a reflection of confidence in both Mahmoudian and Michigan Tech. “The endowed professor in autonomous mobile systems is a visible recognition to the public that Michigan Tech, through Nina Mahmoudian, has a leadership position in this field and will foster continued research growth in this area.”

Story by Mark Wilcox, Tech Today, February 16, 2018


Environmental Engineering PhD Transition Mentoring Seminar

CEE 5992 Seminar

Date: January 22, Monday

Time: 3:05 pm – 3:55 pm

Location: GLRC 0202

Presenter and Affiliation:  Prof. Eric Seagren, Michigan Technological University

 

Presentation Title:  “A Pilot Program for Female Ph.D. and Postdoc Mentoring Teams at TUM and Michigan Tech”

 

Abstract:

The overall goal of this co-operative work between Prof. Eric Seagren (Michigan Tech) and Prof. Jörg Drewes (Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany) is to study and implement mentoring interventions focused on a critical transition point for women in the STEM pipeline, the transition from the Ph.D. to a faculty, or other high-level, position. Specifically, the collaboration has been focused on developing a pilot program for mentoring female environmental engineering PhDs/Postdocs using a group-based mentoring approach. The goal is to provide the mentee with a diversity of opinions to meet the various needs of the Ph.D. student or postdoc. The teams consist of the mentee, the mentee’s advisor, a female faculty/research staff member from the mentee’s department, and possibly another faculty member who understands the personal and social background of the mentee. Working together, individual mentoring plans are developed by the committee. The critical professional guidance provided by postdoctoral mentoring plans has been shown to be a key indicator of a successful postdoctoral outcome, and can increase the independence, productivity, and satisfaction of postdocs. Several key components are incorporated in development of the mentoring plans: (1) self-assessment, (2) relevant activities, (3) regular meetings, and (4) periodic evaluations. During the spring and fall of 2017, pilot mentoring teams were formed by Profs. Seagren and Drewes for a trial cohort of female Ph.D. students and post-docs at Michigan Tech and TUM. The methods and results of this pilot program will be shared with Profs. Drewes’ and Seagren’s colleagues, and opportunities will be provided for the German and U.S. mentees to interact and share experiences, opportunities, and challenges.

 



New Chair of CEE Dr. Audra Morse

It was Michigan Tech’s “wonderful reputation” that first got the attention of Audra Morse. That reputation was enough to convince her to leave Texas Tech to lead Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

On July 1, Audra Morse began her tenure as chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University. Morse comes to Michigan Tech from Texas Tech, where she had been the associate dean for undergraduate studies for more than 4 years.

Morse earned her bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees from Texas Tech and has been on the faculty there since 2003. She is a licensed professional engineer and a board-certified environmental engineer with the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Water Environment Federation, the American Water Works Association, American Society for Engineering Educators and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. However, she is most active with ASCE, serving at both the global and regional levels.

Morse says it was the “wonderful reputation” of Michigan Tech and the CEE Department that got her attention. “I met and worked with CEE alumni through my activities and service with ACSE on the state and global level, and I regard them as leaders in their field.” She says it was the experience working with staff from Tech’s Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department on the Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity (TECAID) project that allowed her to learn more about University’s culture. “I believe my values as a faculty member are in alignment with what I learned about Michigan Tech, and I could envision being a faculty member there,” she says.

Although she has come from a university with a student population roughly five times that of Michigan Tech, Morse says the similarities between the two schools are striking. “Upon first glance it may seem that the institutions must vary significantly, but the two Colleges of Engineering and the departments are very similar in size. The similar size of students, faculty and staff inspired me to apply to Michigan Tech,” Morse says.

She says that at Michigan Tech, engineering comprises a greater percentage of the overall student population, which is different from her previous experience. “I see this as an opportunity at Michigan Tech that I did not have (at Texas Tech). As such, I believe CEE students and graduates, as well as the CEE faculty and staff, can have a greater impact on the University’s successes as compared to larger institutions.”

Morse says as she prepared for her interview, she reviewed the University’s Strategic Plan, the CEE Department’s mission statement, vision statement and guiding principles. “The themes, ideas and goals present in these documents resonated with me,” she explains. “Additionally, the College of Engineering recently finished the College Strategic Plan, which outlines goals for members of the College to accomplish.” Morse says these documents set a baseline for what she would like the department to accomplish. “However, the true creativity exists in how the department meets the outlined goals.”

“The faculty, staff and students of the CEE have and will continue to accomplish great things …”Audra Morse

Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is consistently ranked among the best of the nation. Morse hopes to build on that success.

“I believe the CEE Department has great potential to grow the graduate program while continuing to build industry funding sources, increase diversity of the undergraduate student population and advance the quality of our undergraduate education through more service learning and problem-based learning approaches, while also creating more inclusive classroom environments. The faculty, staff and students of the CEE have and will continue to accomplish great things, and I look forward to making others aware of their successes.”

University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jacqueline Huntoon says “Michigan Tech is fortunate to be able to attract talented individuals to leadership positions on our campus. Dr. Morse brings a great deal of experience to her new position, and I look forward to working with her in the future.”

Morse succeeds David Hand, who has been the CEE department chair since 2011 and returned to the classroom as of June, 30.

Reprinted from Tech Today, “From Lubbock to Houghton” by Mark Wilcox. July 19, 2017


Women Also Know Stuff

Women Also Know Stuff is the name of a website that provides a database of political science scholars working in politics, policy, and government in order to make women’s work more visible and accessible to others:

www.womenalsoknowstuff.com  and #womenalsoknowstuff

A summary article of the project appears in Inside Higher Education by Colleen Flaherty (July 6, 2017) with the tagline, “New paper explains effort to fight gender bias in political science, and, perhaps, in other disciplines as well.”

The board of Womenalsoknowstuff has published a paper documenting their project.

Women Also Know Stuff: Meta-Level Mentoring to Battle Gender Bias in Political Science

Emily Beaulieu, University of Kentucky

Amber E. Boydstun, University of California, Davis

Nadia E. Brown, Purdue University

Kim Yi Dionne, Smith College

Andra Gillespie, Emory University

Samara Klar, University of Arizona

Yanna Krupnikov, Stony Brook University

Melissa R. Michelson, Menlo College

Kathleen Searles, Louisiana University

Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre Dame

Abstract

Women know stuff. Yet, all too often, they are underrepresented in political science meetings, syllabi, and editorial boards. To counter the implicit bias that leads to women’s under-representation, to ensure that women’s expertise is included and shared, and to improve the visibility of women in political science, in February 2016 we launched the “Women Also Know Stuff” initiative, which features a crowd-sourced website and an active Twitter feed. In this article, we share the origins of our project, the effect we are already having on media utilization of women experts, and plans for how to expand that success within the discipline of political science. We also share our personal reflections on the project.

 


Michigan Tech Named a Top Online School for Women in STEM

by Jennifer Donovan, Tech Today, June 26, 2017

SR Education Group, an online education research publisher, has named Michigan Tech one of the 2017 Top Online Colleges for Women in STEM.

To develop this list, SR Education Group researched all accredited colleges offering at least 10 fully online STEM degrees, evaluating them on factors indicative of support for women students in STEM, including the proportion of female STEM graduates and available online resources for women in STEM. More than 280 schools were considered; 64 made the cut.

See the full SR Education Group announcement here.