Month: March 2012

Michigan Tech celebrates World Water Day

Michigan Tech celebrated World Water Day on Thursday, March 22, with a poster session, a guest lecture and a reception.

Lana Pollack, U.S. delegate  of the International Joint Commission delivered the World Water Day Lecture: “Critical Issues for the Great Lakes.” The program is Co-sponsored by CWS and the Visiting Women & Minority Lecture Series. Lana Pollack, chair of the US Section of the International Joint Commission, discussed threats to the health of the Great Lakes and how research data-based policy-making can protect these unique natural resources. The International Joint Commission is an independent, binational organization that works to prevent and resolve boundary waters disputes for the common good of the US and Canada. Lana Pollack – bio

Poster Session

Before the lecture, the Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society (CWS) sponsored a graduate poster session and competition to highlight the ongoing interdisciplinary research on water at Michigan Tech, looking toward the opening of the Great Lakes Research Center this summer. The poster session was held in the front atrium of the Dow Building. Cash prizes were awarded in 2 Poster categories:
Original Research (presentation of thesis or project research)
Coursework/Informational (presentation of coursework or literature based research)

View the Photos of the Posters and Presenters on World Water Day at Michigan Tech Report

Award Winning Posters

The Department of Biological Sciences won several of the awards in the Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society (CWS) presentation and poster session competition.

First Place Award Coursework/Informational;

BL4465 Biological Oceanography: Josh Papacek, Abby Raguse, Bethany Blease, Alicia Doyle, Mike Kraft, Taylor Luginbill, Danielle Scott, Jade Woiderski, and Melanie Lemerande; Advisor: Nancy Auer; “Human Noise Pollution and its Impact on Marine Life”

Second Place Award Original Research;

Aparupa Sengupta; Advisor: Rupali Datta & Sue Bagley; “Degradation of antibiotics in wastewater using tetracycline resistant microbes recovered from an invitro hydroponic phytoremediation system”

Third Place Award Original Research (Tie):

Jonathon Ebel, Advisor: Amy Marcarelli; “Biofilm Response to Nutrient Mitigation Using Salmon Carcass Analog in Central Idaho Streams:

Third Place Award Original Research (Tie):

Ashley A. Coble, Advisor: Amy Marcarelli “Nutrient spiraling and export responses to seasonal changes in a 1st-order tributary of Lake Superior”

Several Bio Sci students participated, More Photos of the Posters and Presenters on World Water Day at Michigan Tech are here.

Origins of the Computer Simulation Program in Biology at Michigan Tech

by James D. Spain (Written Spring 2012)

Jim Spain
Jim Spain

In 1969, while we were picking out the equipment for our new Chemistry-Biological Science building, one of the items that we chose was an Olivetti Programma-101. This was a programmable calculator that could be used for carrying out repetitive calculations, statistical analysis, and data analysis in general. We had little difficulty agreeing that it was something the department needed, as all recognized that this was the direction of the future. When it arrived, perhaps a year before we went into the new building, it was moved into Spain’s office to enable him to learn how to use it. It turned out to be a large, heavy piece of equipment, at least twice as big as an IBM typewriter. It could be programmed by typing in a series of two-character commands, such as A^, B+ and C<. These commands caused numbers to be moved from storage “registers” (B, C, D or E) to the accumulator (A), where one would carry out some numerical operation based on the contents of some other register, then exchange the result with what was in one of the other registers. The memory would hold 32 such commands. These commands and the contents of the registers could be stored on an 8×2-inch card with magnetic backing. The output consisted of a paper tape printout, which could list the program, print input, or data output. Since it behaved somewhat like a computer, it was called a “microcomputer”. It also might have been called a desktop computer, however that term was not prevalent at the time.

The only computer otherwise available to faculty was the “mainframe” that was being used by the engineering departments at Michigan Tech, but by few people on campus otherwise. One other computer on campus was an analog computer which one wired up to solve differential equations with electrical circuitry. It was popular with some faculty in the Math department; there was no Computer Science Department at that time.

After copying a few canned statistical programs into the P-101, Spain began to try programming a few things for himself. Soon, he discovered that it had the capability of looping around and carrying out repetitive operations. He then asked himself if it could carry on an exponential growth process, by taking a fraction of a number, adding it to the number and repeating the operation again and again, printing out the results of each step. Since it did this easily, he began to try various other phenomena observed in population growth and in biochemical kinetics. Amazingly, everything he tried seemed to produce data almost identical to real systems. “Wow.” he said, “I wonder if other people know about this?”

Olivetti P-101

Page of P101 Manual
Page of P101 Manual

Well, he looked in the literature and couldn’t find any mention of it, even in the journalSimulation. At about that time the first Conference on Computers in the Undergraduate Curriculum was scheduled and organized at the University of Iowa, so Spain submitted an abstract for a paper on his simple simulations. Surprisingly, it was accepted. When Spain presented his paper, he found he was the only person presenting anything in biology,and one of the very few in chemistry. Suddenly, he was rubbing shoulders with the “movers and shakers” involved in applying computational techniques in the basic sciences. One of the people he was to meet was Hal Peters, the director of CONDUIT, an organization of universities to increase the transport of software between different mainframe systems. Little did he realize how important his friendship with Peters was later to become.

As a result of these contacts, Spain was invited to be the chairman of the session on “Computer Applications in Biology” at the following convention to be held at Dartmouth College. The work that he had presented in Iowa was subsequently written up and accepted for publication in the journal [i]Simulation[/i]. It is amazing, in retrospect, that Spain was able to go so far as a result of a few hours playing around with this primitive computer.

In addition to the deterministic simulations on processes such a population growth, he also became interested in the simulation of random events by using random numbers, or at least what he had invented to serve as random numbers. Initially, these were produced by using a sequence of mathematical operations on a seed number to produce a product that one was unable to predict. He was later to find that this is true even for the most sophisticated random number generators, the only difference being in the sophistication of the mathematical operation. Initially, he wanted a random number simply to determine the occurrence of a particular play during a simulated football game he had invented. One of his initial interests was to devise ways to determine how random his “random numbers” actually were. At first, he did this by writing down long lists of numbers and counting how frequently certain digits were repeated. Later, he wondered if anyone else had been interested in this sort of thing. It was then that he discovered a thick black book in the library published by the Rand Corporation that consisted of page after page of computer-generated random numbers, not unlike those that he had produced, and a list of tests that had been applied on them to test their behavior with what you would expect from”real” random numbers. This led him into the application of statistical analysis to the testing of random numbers.

1 Million Digits book
1 Million Digits book

Page from Rand book
Page from Rand book

He was later to discover that the generation of random numbers and their testing could all be done much more efficiently by the use of computers. And, that computer models based on random numbers make up a significant field of simulation in both biology and chemistry. Much later, his interest in random numbers would grow and he would find that they could also be used for the encryption of data.

In the meantime, Spain was so convinced that computer applications should be an important component of the biology curriculum that he submitted a proposal for a new course on Computer Applications in Biology. This was approved for the following year and for several years after, he taught this course using the two P-101 machines that they now had in the department. Shortly, Olivetti came out with the P-602, and the department obtained one of these as well. About this time, Spain contacted the people at the Olivetti Corporation and asked if they would be interested in discussing potential instructional applications of their equipment. This resulted in an invitation to visit their home office in New York City.

Olivetti P-602
Olivetti P-602

Univac 1110 computer
Univac 1110 computer

After several years of teaching students programming of Olivetti computers, Spain decided that they would be better served if they were being taught a language that was more broadly applicable to science, such as BASIC programming language, on the mainframe. So, during the next summer, Spain began learning IBM Basic Programming Language, using the UNIVAC that Michigan Tech was employing at that time. Program input was accomplished by IBM cards generated by a punch-card machine about the size of a desk. Each single line of BASIC code was punched into an IBM Card, using a typewriter keyboard, each character producing a loud chunking sound, as the holes were punched into the card. A program consisted of a stack of such cards. This stack was preceded by a couple of header cards that included a password and ID.

This stack of cards was then submitted to the computer center’sservice desk, where the computer attendants would put it into the processing queue. The user would then have to wait for it to be processed, perhaps coming back the next day if the center was very busy. On returning, you would receive a large printout, listing your errors, etc. Then, you would redo the necessary cards and resubmit the revised stack of cards. This could take several repeats to successfully get a single program to run. The process was especially frustrating if the program didn’t run and wouldn’t tell you why it didn’t run, such as when the Computer Center changed your ID or their mode of operation for some reason. Sometimes, after an exasperating discussion, you would find that your password was no longer valid and they would say, “We explained that in the October News Letter, didn’t you read it?” Of course it hadn’t been read it, since most of it was largely unintelligible.

Univac 1110
Univac 1110

IBM punchcards
IBM punchcards

IBM key punch
IBM key punch

MTU 1979 Husky IBM Card
MTU 1979 Husky IBM Card

Despite all this, Spain lived with (at?) the Computer Center for a couple of years. In 1978, he felt confident enough to offer a College Teacher Workshop on Computer Modeling in the Life Sciences. This was arranged by the Continuing Education Department and came off very well, using the course materials that he had developed for his department course. It was attended by 12 faculty, representing colleges from various parts of the country. The whole operation was set up in a classroom in the computer center. One of the people who came to this initial workshop was Brian Winkel, an applied mathematician from Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute, IN. He became so interested in what we were doing that he came back for a sabbatical year at Michigan Tech, teaching in the math department and becoming a friend and colleague for the remainder of Spain’s life.

MTU 1979 Husky IBM Card
TRS-80 Computer

About this time, several companies were beginning to introduce small computers that had significant memory and video output. An especially popular one that employed BASIC was Radio Shack’s TRS-80. It had 8K of memory, a cassette recorder for storage of programs and a black-and-white screen. In addition, some low-resolution graphics, including crude curves, could be displayed, as they were being generated. Somehow, Spain was able to get one. Now, he had total control of programming, right on his own desk. He was no longer hassled by passwords, ID numbers, changes in operation, etc. As soon as he was able, he discontinued his relationship with the MTU Computer Center.

He set about transferring all of his simulation programs to this platform. Every day was a new thrill, as curves were generated on the screen with so little effort. One day during Christmas Break, when he was in the Bio-Science building alone, he set about transferring his curve-fitting program to the TRS-80. When it got close to lunch time, he called his wife to tell her that she better go ahead and eat lunch, as he had a few more things to do. However, everything that he did, suggested something else that would make the program just that much better. So, on and on he went; adding this; checking that; when all of a sudden, he looked up and discovered that it had gotten dark outside his window. It was then that he realized that he had been sitting at his desk, first turning to the computer, then turning back to his scratch material, then back to his computer, etc., while never having once gotten up to eat or go to the bathroom for the entire day! He had never been so absorbed in anything in his entire life.

The following year, with the help of Brian Winkel and a student, he set up two workshops, one for college faculty and one for high school science teachers. These were supported in part by NSF, but also by Radio Shack, as they loaned Michigan Tech 30 TRS-80s for use during the workshops. These were described in the brochure as Microcomputers and Modeling in Undergraduate Life Sciences. On the weekend before the workshops were to commence, a truckload of boxes arrived and in only a couple of hours, we had set up and had running a complete computer center, with 30 work stations. These were fun sessions, as the three instructors learned as much as the students, due to the many computer tricks that participants brought with them.

During this period and in subsequent years Spain was writing programs at what seemed like one-a-day (but probably, more like one a week). These, of course, were simple programs; things like using random numbers to describe the path of a worm moving around the screen; using random numbers to play a game of paper-rocks-scissors, analysis of a pendulum, describing a path of a satellite orbit, firing a cannon, etc, etc. Spain’s conclusion was that there was nothing you could not do with a computer, if it had any basis in mathematics. And, that the computer was the all-purpose toolbox for making things that behaved like the real world and testing ideas about real-world behavior.

In 1979, Spain submitted three interdependent proposals to the National Science Foundation. The main one was to carry on a project to develop 20 simulations that could be used for undergraduate biology instruction. It was named the SUMIT Courseware Development Project. The word SUMIT stood for Self-contained Undergraduate Modular Instructional Technique, which was sort of meaningless, but gave a salable acronym. The second proposal was for 10 TRS-80s that would be used for testing the material in biology classes. The third proposal was for three undergraduate workshops that would be used for dissemination of information about the completed simulations. Although, these proposals were submitted to separate divisions of NSF, each mentioned the other and apparently met with the approval of all three reviewing committees.

Apple ][+ computer
The project director at NSF called to negotiate a change of computers from TRS-80s (B-&-W screens) to Apple ][+ machines (color displays) and further required that Tech have a commitment from CONDUIT to publish the materials before the combined project would be approved. Since Spain had previously met Hal Peters, Director of CONDUIT, there was little difficulty in arranging the latter. When all the requirements were met, all three projects were approved and Michigan Tech was awarded approximately $250,000, the largest educational grant given out by NSF during the 1979 academic year!

Soon after the SUMIT project was begun in 1979, three excellent graduate students named Ted Soldan, Cathy Leece, and Mark Shaltz enrolled. The other faculty member involved in the project was Dr. Ken Kramm. The 20 proposed projects were parceled out to the five staff on the project and they began working on them. The funds were used to provide summer salaries for the two faculty and stipends for the three graduate students. Unfortunately, Ken Kramm left the department after the first year. However, he had completed much of his assigned work and so he was not replaced. During the following two years, the SUMIT group was able to complete about a dozen modules. The graduate students wrote master’s theses describing the planning and development of these projects to complete the requirements for the MS degree in Biological Sciences. The students assisted in the 1980, 1981 and 1982 workshops.

About 10 modules were submitted for review by CONDUIT and the following year, Spain went on sabbatical and spent the bulk of his time getting the modules ready for publication. In the end, eight instructional modules were published. The remainder of the simulations were made available to workshop participants and the general educational community on computer disks available from Michigan Tech. The eight modules developed by SUMIT made up the bulk of CONDUIT’s biology offering between ’84 and ’90. Unfortunately, all but one of these was available only for use on the Apple II computer, which was beginning to be supplanted by the new IBM-PC. It is only hoped that in addition to being used for instruction, they played some role in future developments in instructional computing. Although this sounds like we fell far short of our goal, it was exceptionally high productivity compared to most NSF projects, which were usually designed to produce a single product.

Ironically, one of the published modules, called “Baffles”, was not among the original 20 proposed. However, it was a game that had significant application in teaching students the principles of scientific inquiry and deductive reasoning. It was based on a physical game called “Black Box”, in which one discerns the location of objects in a closed box by probing it with sticks. With Baffles, all of the objects are reflectors that can either deflect a beam to the right or to the left when “laser” beam probes are directed at one of forty points around the perimeter of the box. By analyzing the place where the beams exit the box, the goal of the player was to deduce the location and tilt of each “Baffle”. This becomes quite challenging when the number of baffles is increased to a point where almost all exit beams are the result of multiple hits. The score was based on the number of beams that were required to correctly locate all the baffles. The amount of time required was not a factor. This was sufficiently popular that it was made available for both the Apple II and the IBM-PC computers. It also led to some spin-off games of a similar nature by other authors. This serendipitous outcome turned out to be the most important result from the SUMIT project.

Spain decided to use the same principles in a reverse fashion to design a computer game called “Lazer Maze”. In this game, the player was allowed to see the location of a bunch of reflective baffles that were randomly placed in an open box. Then a beam was fired into a randomly determined location. The objective was to predict, as rapidly as possible, where the beam would emerge from the box. This produced an exciting game that was tested on a number of students and friends. It appeared to be much more interesting to females than males. Up to that point, computer games were mainly based either on sports or war games and hence were mainly enjoyed by males. Was Lazer Maze perhaps the long sought computer game that appealed to females? Somehow Spain had gotten the name of a company called Avante Garde, in Portland, Oregon, and knew that their president was named Mary K. Smith. So, he sent them the disk and waited for a response. Shortly, he got a call from some computer nerd who said that the program worked fine, but they really had no interest in it since it just wasn’t the kind of game they published. Spain asked if the president had reviewed it and he said that she hadn’t. So, Spain asked if he would get her to do so. He grudgingly said,”OK” and hung up. In about 30 minutes Spain had a call from Mary K. Smith, who was really enthusiastic about the program, saying that she thought it had the potential of starting a”whole new genre of computer games.” and that they definitely wanted to publish it. Then, she put the programmer back on the phone and he said that he would soup it up a little by putting in some “laser sounds” and making it so that an alien was killed when the laser came out the other end.

LazerMaze Game
LazerMaze Game

LazerMaze Game screen
LazerMaze Game screen

LazerMaze Game screen
LazerMaze Game screen

Spain wasn’t crazy about the “alien” part of it, but in about a month, the revised product came back for his approval and even though it had lost some of its feminine mystique, he wasn’t going to argue at that point, so he signed the contract and returned it. Laze Maze sold for a couple of years, during the life time of Avante Guard company.

Meanwhile, Spain continued to offer summer workshops for both college and high school teachers. In 1982, Winkel and Spain were joined by Jim Randall, from Indiana University, who had written a text on Microcomputers and Physiological Simulation. In 1983 Winkel and Spain were joined by Tom Coleman from Univ. Mississippi and in 1984 it was Winkel, Randall & Spain again with 24 participants. Over the seven-year period ’78 to ’84, there were a total of about 120 participants representing 105 colleges and universities. There were at least an equal number of high school teachers who were involved in high school workshops. It was gratifying to see the interest that had been generated and to have played a role in the general application of computers to science education in both colleges and high schools.

During his teaching in biological sciences Spain had gradually gathered instructional materials for the students to use. This was printed up annually by the MTU print shop and sold to students at cost. After several years, he began to look for a publisher and in 1980, Addison-Wesley agreed to publish a book on the subject, if camera-ready copy of the manuscript could be provided. About this same time, Brian Winkel and his wife, Phyllis, were on sabbatical in Houghton, so they agreed to produce the camera-ready copy for Spain. This was great as they already had experience publishing a journal called Cryptologia. Fortunately, Brian and Phyllis helped with the many mathematical equations and his friend Ed Williams from Chemical Engineering agreed to go over the English and logic that he had employed. So, all in all, Spain had much more help than he would have ever gotten by sending a manuscript to a publisher. The result was that his 1982 simulation class had a published text to work from, called BASIC Microcomputer Models in Biology. Soon, he was receiving comments from faculty who had either used the text in their class or had, at least, read it. Several years later, he had more citations in Citation Index from Basic Microcomputer Models in Biology than from the twenty-five research papers he had struggled to produce.

Spain's Simulation book
Spain’s Simulation book

BioSim by Keen & Spain
BioSim by Keen & Spain

About this time, a new faculty member, Dr. Robert Keen, joined the Computer Applications Group. His primary interest was in use of computers for statistical analysis and so, began teaching a course on this subject. He was also interested in modeling and simulation, so that when Spain went on sabbatical in 1983, he assumed the responsibility for the simulation course and wrote anInstructor’s Manual to Accompany Basic Microcomputer Models in Biology. This book was remarkable in that it was twice as thick as the original text. The year after Spain returned from his sabbatical, he decided to take early retirement from Michigan Tech and continue his career, first at Eastern Michigan University, as their director of Instructional Computing and later at Clemson University in South Carolina, where he directed the Chemistry Learning Center. When he retired from classroom teaching, he and his wife began a publishing company, Electronic Homework Systems, Inc, which produced over 700,000 computer disks that were sold through bookstores at colleges and universities around the country. He retired in 2010.

After Spain left Michigan Tech, Keen took over responsibility for the simulation course, which he greatly expanded. He subsequently assumed senior authorship of a revised text that was published in 1991 by John Wiley. This text, Biological Simulation Techniques: A BASIC Approach, by Keen and Spain, is still being used at a few schools around the country.

Notes on the Startup of Research in Aquatic Ecology

by James D. Spain (Written Spring 2012)

Spain's Lab
Spain's Lab

In 1968, the department began a study of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Waterway, as it was felt that Michigan Tech had great potential in this area, being located very near to the geographical center of the big lake. Despite this fact, little significant research in either biology or chemistry of this great resource had been done at Michigan Tech. Otherwise, Lake Superior research was being carried on at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), and to a small extent by the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin. So, it was obvious that great potential existed in a very interesting area for research.

To gain some knowledge about what was being done by our major competitor, Ken Kraft and Jim Spain made a trip to Duluth to meet with a couple of researchers at UMD, where Ken had previously served on the faculty. We found these men to be the most congenial of colleagues. After being treated to lunch and a tour of their lab, we left Duluth with a stack of reprints and other pertinent literature along with their encouragement to launch our studies in this exciting area.

One of the obvious requirements of lakes research is to have a platform for collecting samples, which generally means a boat. So, about the first thing we did was to put together a NSF Undergraduate Equipment proposal that involved a sampling craft and other essential equipment. In order to broaden our credibility and to justify the large budget proposed, we decided to make it an interdisciplinary grant involving the departments of Geology, Civil Engineering, and Forestry, in addition to Biological Sciences. The interdisciplinary concept was fairly new at the time and so NSF became quite interested, with the result that we received one of the largest undergraduate equipment grants funded that year. With this money we purchased a number of basic limnological research tools.

A major piece of equipment obtained with the grant funds was a 20-foot steel pontoon sampling raft. It was constructed by the MTU Physical Plant Department, based on our specifications. Since it consisted of a raft with an 8×8 foot pilot house/lab on its deck it was called the Monitor after the “cheese box on a raft” warship of Civil War fame. The name had a double meaning in that our initial investigations were to monitor the pollutants of the Portage Lake/Torch Lake system. Since the Physical Plant had constructed the Monitor, I had no trouble getting them to designate a docking site at the east end of the Michigan Tech Coal Dock. They also provided about 800 sq ft of storage space in the green metal building nearby and also provided some work space and running water. Thus, we had a Lakeside Lab that was used for about forty years until the recent (2012) completion of the Great Lakes Research Building. With the aid of the Physical Plant, we also set up an automatic water level recorder at the corner of the coal dock. This equipment was sufficiently sensitive to monitor the seiche activity in Keweenaw Bay and we got some interesting data over the years it was in place. When we went a significant distance in order to do the sampling work, such as to Ontonagon, Eagle Harbor, or Keweenaw Bay, we used the Evinrude Sweet 16, with 90 HP engine, owned by the Spain family.

Early on, we were able to interest one of the engineers on the National Parks Service shipRanger III to allow us to place a temperature recorder on the intake water supply during the voyage back and forth to Isle Royale. He became interested in the project and agreed to turn on the recorder when it left the dock, mark the time when the ship left the waterway, again when it entered Rock Harbor on the north side and turn the recorder off when it docked. He also added other tidbits of information when noticed. At the end of the summer I had some very interesting data that tied in nicely with the studies on the thermal bar that we did later and that other researchers have since elaborated.

During this same period, Spain was able to get two small grants for the support of MS graduate students. One of these grants was from the Ontonagon-Huff Paper Mill and the other was from Michigan DNR. With this money we were able to hire two graduate students who were ideal for the work that we were doing. They were both from Superior, Wisconsin, with fathers who had worked on the ore boats. Thus, they were able to provide a lot of common sense boating knowledge to support our initial forays into this field. We had two main projects. One dealt with the investigation of the Keweenaw Waterway system from Lake Superior on the north to Keweenaw Bay on the south, including Torch Lake. The other project covered about a mile of water in and around the mouth of the Ontonagon River (about 60 miles away). The objective of each was to find out anything unusual about the chemistry and biology of these two bodies of water that would have a bearing on future management strategies. Both students participated in both projects, but Dave Drown was responsible for the Ontonagon project and Jim Yanko was responsible for the Keweenaw Waterway project. I went on most trips, primarily directing the chemical aspects of the projects. Ken Kraft consulted on the biology of both projects, which consisted primarily of bottom invertebrates.

In the Keweenaw Waterway, the most interesting chemical feature was discovered more or less by accident. Not having much of a research plan, we began to measure most anything that was easy to measure. This included; phosphate, nitrate, oxygen and chloride. One constituent, we hit upon more or less by accident, as we were going to carry out a dye tracer experiment by dumping fluorescent-dye into the lake and measuring the dye in various down stream locations using a fluorometer. However, we discovered that the background concentration of fluorescence was so high that it obviated the tracer study and we became interested in the source of the fluorescence; was it natural or was it a pollutant? It turned out to be the result of the tea-colored tannin-like substances in most of the streams and thus natural. We discovered that the background research on natural fluorescence had been done at Yale University and so Spain borrowed the PhD thesis and copied pertinent portions as the work was largely unpublished. The Yale Library became extremely upset and demanded that the copies be destroyed immediately. Since we were not planning to publish any parts of the thesis, Spain ignored the demand.

In other studies, oxygen depletion and the nutrients, phosphate and nitrate, were only found in significant amounts in Dollar Bay, which suffered with runoff from the local milk processing factory. So it ended up that we routinely began to study the concentrations of chloride ion and natural fluorescence. Here we found that the chloride concentration varied from 300 ppm in Torch Lake to about 10 ppm in Portage Lake to about 1 ppm in Lake Superior. The high chloride (salt) content was later traced to the dewatering of a mine called Osceola #13, which drained into a creek, which fed Torch Lake. Other rivers had concentrations of only 1 or 2 ppm. We also found some interesting variations in the natural fluorescence of the water. It was high in rivers, relatively low in Torch Lake and almost zero in Lake Superior waters.

When we tried to study bottom invertebrates, we found that most of the waterway was covered with a fine clay-like material that was so dense and/or so toxic that it was largely devoid of invertebrates. This material was found to be the result of finely ground copper-ore waste that had been dumped into the system over a period of almost a hundred years. These results seemed to be sufficiently interesting that Jim Yanko used it for a thesis topic and I had at least something to report at the upcoming Great Lakes Research Conference.

Our Ontonagon study yielded somewhat less of a concrete nature. There were little significant changes in chemistry and the bottom was so dynamic because of the river flow that not much was found to be growing there. This latter fact led to the major invention of the project. Ken Kraft, had the idea of forming an artificial invertebrate environment to see what might be collected. The students decided to make their device by gathering up some small rocks from the shore of Lake Superior and wrapping them with hardware cloth to make a container with dimensions of about 12 x 8 x 2 inches. The result was what they called a “rock pasty” because of the similarity to the local Cornish meat pies that are a Copper Country specialty. When these rock pasties were placed at different sites, allowed to remain for approximately a week and then retrieved and sloshed up and down in a plastic baby bathtub (a common tool for invertebrate study), a measure of invertebrate populations was obtained. The question is; what does it exactly represent? Several studies were done exploring the applicability of the rock pasty for invertebrate analysis. This became one of the major topics of Dave Drown’s thesis.

Serendipity is often an important component of research. As Spain was working on the introduction to the pollution paper for Great Lakes Research Conference, he wanted some evidence to support his contention that the waterway could be considered an estuary of Lake Superior. So, he went to the library and began looking up the topic of estuaries. In the process of pulling books off of the shelf, and thumbing through pages, he ran across a book called Estuaries, edited by George Lauf. On flipping through the pages, looking for studies on freshwater estuaries, he discovered a very interesting paper that dealt with using two conserved chemical constituents to mathematically study water mass movements in the mouth of the Hudson River. All of a sudden he realized that all the data that we had been collecting for the past year concerning chloride and natural fluorescence concentrations would allow him to do exactly the same thing in the Keweenaw Waterway. He checked out the book from the library and rushed back to his office. Using the same mathematical equations, he was able to show that Keweenaw Waterway system contained three kinds of water: Lake Superior water, Torch Lake water and tributary water. To my knowledge, this important oceanographic technique had never been used with freshwater systems before. Our “research” had suddenly jumped from the high school science project level to something at the Ph.D. level or beyond. We even had winter data, collected through the ice, which showed layering of the three kinds of water similar to what is seen in the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next year or so, Spain was able to write several papers on this subject and have them accepted by major journals. It was satisfying to have contributed something of significance to the literature of chemical limnology, although it is unlikely that the technique is broadly applicable because of the special circumstances of our local system.

We had some interesting experiences with the Monitor during the years we were working on the Keweenaw Waterway that has some general value in the seamanship area. This resulted from the raft-like design of the vessel. It first occurred when we were headed out on one windy day to take some samples in Torch Lake. The wind was blowing out of the north and we were on a southerly bearing. As with other trips, we had the engines wide open to try to get there as quickly as possible. Even then it took the better part of an hour to get from the MTU coal dock to Torch Lake. Things were going along fine, Spain was in the pilothouse at the wheel and the two graduate students were sitting outside on the lab bench that went across in front of the wheelhouse. As we went down the lake the fetch increased and the height of the waves grew larger and larger. All of a sudden, we went down the front side of a wave and the bow of the flat deck vessel went under the surface of the water, making it behave like a submarine going into a dive This maneuver, which is similar to stubbing one’s toe, threw the two students off of the lab bench into a foot or so of water, which was now on the deck. Fortunately, they hung on to something and I pulled back hard on the throttles, so that the boat slowly backed out of this awkward position. Happily there had been no equipment sitting on the lab bench (just two unhappy grad students). Wow! Nothing like this had happened before. So, we stood around for a few minutes considering the situation. Eventually, we decided that it had been some kind of a fluke and began to proceed down the lake, with the two guys at my side in the wheelhouse. We were so convinced that it had been a fluke, that we put the speed right back to where it had been. It wasn’t more that five minutes and it happened again. There we were with the bow under the water standing at what seemed to be about 45 degrees. What we finally had to do was to maintain a speed of no more than that of the waves, which was very hard to do since we wanted so much to go faster. Eventually, we made it around the point and away from the waves. Some years later, we ran into much the same situation with our own family boat, so this seems to be a general response of boats in waves when headed in the downwind direction. I personally believe that this phenomenon was the cause of the demise of the Edmund Fitzgerald, although there is still a controversy about this.

In addition to research, we often had the opportunity to instruct classes in limnology, both on the undergraduate, graduate level and summer workshops. When it came to the laboratory portion of the class, the Monitor served as an ideal outdoor laboratory and we had two extreme examples of lakes to study. Only about a mile from the MTU coal dock was Dollar Bay, which had most of the characteristics of a nutrient-rich lake, with high concentrations of phosphate and nitrate and low concentrations of oxygen, while on the other hand, we had Lake Superior, having all the characteristics of a nutrient-poor lake. We also had interesting populations of organisms living in Dollar Bay, while the waters just outside the Bay were almost devoid of life. In addition there were nice examples of sediment layering almost anywhere in Portage Lake.

During this period, we had an opportunity to participate in a somewhat larger limnological investigation, as we received an invitation to join with the University of Michigan’s work on theInland Seas research vessel, when it entered Lake Superior at Sault Ste. Marie. Since the ship was supported by an annual grant from NSF, we were able to participate without cost. So, Dave Leddy from Chemistry, my two graduate students and I drove over to the Soo to board the ship for a two-week cruise. We made two trips like that. It was a great experience for us all, but particularly for the graduate students Dave Drown and Jim Yanko. My justification was to study the chloride content and natural fluorescence at various locations around the Lake Superior, to provide background data for the conserved constituent research described above. The two trips sort of run together in my mind, so I will just describe it as one trip.

First let me describe the ship. The Inland Seas was a 114′ wooden-hulled minesweeper that was constructed during WWII. After the war, it was used by the National Park Service to ferry people to Isle Royale for several years under the name Ranger II. It was obtained as surplus by the University of Michigan after being replaced by the steel-hulled Ranger III. The University outfitted it with oceanographic gear and had a full professional crew. The research people, except for a few chief staff, were housed in the forecastle.

In a typical trip (greatly abbreviated), we sailed out of the Soo about noon and ran headlong into a fairly heavy sea coming out of the northwest. Since it was due to continue for most of the day, the captain decided to head into Batchawana Bay, where there was a sturdy T-shaped dock built by the Canadian government. The following day, Lake Superior was fairly calm as we headed north for Michipicoten Harbor, near Wawa, Ontario and so we reached it sometime before dark. Our destination the following day was Michipicoten Island, where some of the people studying algae wanted to make a collection at a mostly undisturbed site. The following morning we headed for a spot called the Lake Superior Shoals, a shallow spot in the middle of the lake between Michipicoten and Isle Royale. Again, we were looking for algae. The rest of us were sampling other features of the lake. From here we headed for Rock Harbor on Isle Royale. We were late arriving in Rock Harbor, so I remember little until the following morning. It was a beautiful day and we left for the north point, as we were planning to go around to the northwest side to sample in Five Finger Bay, one of the most pristine parts of the island. Isle Royale is a 45-mile long island that runs in a southwest to northeasterly direction. It consists of a series of ridges, some of which run the length of the island. These ridges extend out into the lake to become shallow reefs, which on the north side of the island form five finger-like projections called Five-Finger Bay. We arrived there at about 11 am with clear blue sky and gin-clear water. Most of us had never been there, so we were all on deck soaking up the scenery, as the captain slowly guided the ship into the complex of reefs. After some difficulty getting tangled up with the reefs, we spent the night at Windigo, the park service station at the southwest end of Isle Royale. The following morning we headed for Houghton into about a 10-15 foot sea. I spent most of the morning standing on the lee deck of the ship trying to keep my digestive tract going in the right direction. I don’t believe there was a soul on board who wasn’t wondering a little bit about the impact of our recent visit to Five Finger Bay on the ship’s hull. After spending the night in Houghton, we headed along the south shore if Superior, visiting Marquette, Whitefish Bay and returning to Sault Ste Marie.

From the above comments, you might wonder if any serious research was done during these trips. The answer, of course, is yes, there were several stops at research stations. Each time, the ship would come into the wind, ship’s bell would clang and everybody would move to his or her work station. The graduate students would help out where they were needed as they had a powerful work ethic and picked up the ship’s routine before the end of the first station. I helped with water sampling and took my samples to the small portion of the lab that had been assigned to me. Actual analysis was carried on later; usually when we were tied up at a dock somewhere. The data obtained from these trips contributed some to conserved constituent research, but the experience we gained was immeasurable.

For the low chloride ion concentrations found in the Lake Superior waters in this study and later studies of Keweenaw Bay, Spain developed a spectrophotometric procedure that involved the indicator used for chloride titrations in the Hach Kit (commonly employed for simple limnological studies). In this procedure, a certain amount of indicator is mixed with a given volume of water sample and read in the spectrophotometer, previously standardized with known concentrations of chloride ion in the range of 0.00 to 5.00 ppm. This simple procedure was found to be surprisingly effective for chloride ion concentrations below that which may be obtained with the standard chloride ion titration, using an indicator.

A year or so after this, MTU was fortunate to receive a gift of a 30-foot tugboat that had been used by a retired faculty member who ran the small marina at the lower entry of the waterway. This was a lovely little tugboat called the Lake Breeze. Shortly, we had it outfitted for research, using some new equipment and a few things off of the Monitor, which was subsequently used primarily for teaching limnology class and summer institutes. My two grad students were much happier with the Lake Breeze, as this was a real boat, with a real engine and a great boat smell. We had it outfitted very quickly and used it for all the Keweenaw Waterway research from that point on. It was a significant step up in morale as we now felt that we were doing real limnological research not unlike what we had experienced on the Inland Seas. We installed a wench driven by a small gasoline engine for retrieving sampling gear from greater depths. This was especially useful for hauling up some of the larger bottom dredges that we were using then.

As I indicated above, some of our water sampling was done through the ice. To accomplish this, we needed a means of getting to the primary stations on Portage Lake that were several miles from our Lakeside Lab. My initial effort in this direction was a six-wheeled amphibious vehicle that was purchased with the initial NSF grant. This proved to be almost worthless for everything. It barely moved in the water; it had no traction on ice or snow; and it was so low-slung that it could get hung up even driving on dry land. So, we managed to get rid of it somehow and do our work with an Evinrude Snowmobile that the university had obtained through one of its testing programs. This was a heavy machine and thus was able to carry Jim Yanko and me, as well as pull a sled full of equipment. Everything went fine until one day we went out on the ice-covered lake after a reasonably heavy snowfall. We moved along well on open ice, but about half way to the key station we were headed for, we hit some heavy snow and the Evinrude bogged down. When we got off the machine, we discovered that under the snow was a good four or five inches of slush. This commonly occurs when the ice is weighed down with snow causing it to crack, so that water comes up over the ice. Our weight and that of the snowmobile were not helping. To make things worse, slush had gotten in under the snowmobile tracks. Before we could do anything, all this slush had to be cleaned out. Then, dry snow had to be piled up to provide a base to get the snowmobile on so that the engine could be started. This operation took fifteen minutes, or more. Our objective was to get the equipment out of the slush field back to the solid ice. So, we got the machine revved up and Yanko jumped on it to drive it away. It only went a few yards and it was bogged down again. It became obvious that it was not going to hold anybody’s weight, much less pull a sled. So, I hauled the sled to the safety of the clear ice, while Jim worked on cleaning out the slush. We piled up the snow again and lifted the snowmobile into place. After revving it up, Yanko tried running along beside it for as long as he could go. This time it went perhaps ten yards before it bogged down again. This process was repeated about five times, until we finally got it out of the slush field onto firm ice. By that time, we were both about dead, so the sampling trip was canceled. We just could not face the possibility of getting into another slush field. That was my last experience with snowmobiles. It was enough to last a lifetime.

After the initial projects were done and the graduate students had departed, Spain became involved in the development of the Lake Superior Basin Bibliography, which made use of a mainframe program developed at the University of Wisconsin. This was done in conjunction with a consortium of universities in the Lake Superior region and supported by a large grant from the Federal Government. The controlling board for the consortium, of which Spain was a member, defined a group of tasks that should be done to make the region more effective in protecting Lake Superior from potential problems in the future. One of the tasks was to develop a computerized bibliography to assist any researcher who wished to work on the lake. Presumably because of the availability of computers at Michigan Tech, we were given this assignment and Spain was selected as the leader of the project. Since the computer program was already available from the University of Wisconsin, all that was needed was to define the keywords to be used and assign them to each of the individual publications that dealt with the Lake Superior Basin. Despite our relative inexperience with the bibliographical science, our group forged ahead by hiring some part-time students and getting the MTU Library to assign us a room not far from the main stacks. They were also kind enough to have library personnel gather all the books and journals that they thought dealt with Lake Superior in one way or another. These publications were brought to our evaluation room.

The first weeks were spent in setting up the procedures that we would be using and getting to understand how the U.W. Bibliography Computer Program worked. All the data were to go on IBM punch cards for entry into the program. All we had to do was to define the data; someone else was being paid to punch it into the cards, using an IBM Key Punch. The objective of the work is perhaps more comprehensible if it is thought of as a crude and primitive version of current web search engines, like Google. Our responsibility was to anticipate the keywords that users of the system might enter to search for sources of information. Our funding was for two summers; the first summer was spent largely in defining better and better keywords to cover the available publications. The second summer was spent trying to apply these to all the publications having any relevance to the Lake Superior region that were available in the MTU library, plus those that were in other bibliographic listings. This work was carried out on the large conference table with all of us sitting around. We would write down the bibliographic information on the card that we had developed and check off the appropriate keywords from the list on the card, based on a quick perusal of the publication. If the students had any questions, they would pass the book to me for arbitration. As a consequence, I reviewed a lot of material during the summer, of course spending quite a bit of time on those things that caught my interest. The final product worked quite effectively and was used for many years at Michigan Tech and the other schools that had the necessary technology to make use of it. Whether it really was as effective as originally intended or not, I don’t really know. Of course it was not too many years before it was supplanted by bigger and more effective computer systems, but it is hoped that our bibliography played some role in laying the groundwork for the later systems.

During the work the Lake Superior Basin Bibliography, aquatic research and limnology instruction was taken over by Dr. Thomas Wright, a fisheries biologist from the Univ of Wisconsin-Madison. He led two graduate students, Bill Deephouse and Tom Rozich, in the study of two species of fish that ran in the Sturgeon River, the major tributary of the Keweenaw Waterway.

After the work on the Lake Superior Basin Bibliography, I got together with Davis Hubbard of the Chemical Engineering Department. Dave was a specialist in hydrology and the peculiar aspects of fluid flow. I had been able to interest him in a special feature of large lakes called the “thermal bar”. The thermal bar is a feature that occurs during the warming of the water of large lakes in the spring. Inshore water warmer that 4°C comes in contact with offshore water that is colder than 4°C. Because water is most dense at 4°C, it tends to sink to the bottom to be replaced by both inshore and offshore water, which mixes to make still more 4°-water. The result is a curtain of descending water that separates warmer inshore water from the mass of cool offshore water, acting as a dynamic barrier, and so it is called a thermal barrier or thermal bar. As far as we could find, no one had studied the fine structure of thermal bars, and nobody had studied the thermal bar in Lake Superior.

Dave and I ran some crude transects of water temperature at the north entry of the Keweenaw Waterway and off of Eagle Harbor to verify that the thermal bar did exist in those areas, which of course it did. The thermal bar near Eagle Harbor was especially exciting to observe, as one could place the boat right at the 4° line and observe that there was a distinct line of flotsam on the bar and that the color of the water was significantly different on one side from the other, being clear blue on the offshore side and greenish on the inshore side. This line of demarcation was not nearly as evident at the upper entry. The following year, Dave had a graduate student who was interested in studying the fine structure of the thermal bar with a special computer analysis program. First we needed some data on the fine structure of the TB. So we obtained 150 meters of polypropylene line, marked it off in 10-meter units and put floats and anchors at each end. We also set up two pieces of plywood to serve as a range marker on shore. Then, when the weather was appropriate we took a series of 10 vertical water samples and temperature readings every 10 meters across the thermal bar. We believed that this might have been the most intensive set of transect samples ever taken in lakes research. Since each location took about 20-30 minutes, it took hours to complete and was done at least two times during the spring. The water was analyzed for natural fluorescence, which was higher in the inshore water because of the runoff.

All the data was subjected to the computer analysis. Despite the general pattern that confirmed the thermal bar concept, there was no distinct line of demarcation. We were very disappointed in the results, because we had hoped to answer the question of whether the line leans inward toward the shore or vise versa. In retrospect, it became clear that undulations in the long-shore current that is assumed to flow inside the thermal bar had caused fluctuations in the pattern during the time that we were taking the data. We had seen a similar phenomenon occur when we examined the thermal bar near Eagle Harbor, where it appeared to undulate as we watched it, so it was foolish to believe it would not have occurred in the Upper Entry study as well. It was evident that we had to find a faster way to take samples!

The following spring, Dave and I carried out a new high-speed technique, this time by taking a transect of Keweenaw Bay. In preliminary studies, we started at one shore near a big old barn that served as our initial range marker, and driving the Evinrude at about 20 mph, trailing a temperature probe about 10 meters behind the boat. I piloted the boat while calling temperature readings into a tape recorder, and making sightings of special features as we passed (“we are now in line with the entry light”, etc.). At the same time, Dave was taking surface water samples and calling sample numbers into the tape recorder. Again, we felt that we must be making limnological history of some sort, with our high-speed sampling procedure.

The results of these kinds of studies were very striking. We found a very clearly demarcated thermal bar on each side of the bay that was mirrored by both fluorescence and chloride concentration. But, it was evident that to see the fine structure, we needed a vertical array of thermal sensors and a more sophisticated recording device. However, we were operating with no financial support and no platform that could carry it. So, the next step was to use the data obtained to get that sort of support. Unfortunately, the following year, Dave went on sabbatical leave in Venice to work on the water problems in the Venice Lagoon and I became involved in working on the computer. Because of these distractions, our exploratory study was never published. After Dave returned, we never got back to the project, as he was working on some research that was more appropriate to chemical engineers.

At about this time, Spain was invited by a member of the Wisconsin DNR to carry out an analysis of oscilloxanthin in portions of sediment cores taken from Lake Winnebago. This involved development of quantitative analysis for the mercurochrome-colored oscilloxanthin produced byOscillotoria rubescens, a species of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) normally associated with human pollution. The final technique involved an extraction of the sediment sample, followed by adsorption on micro columns, elution by isopropanol and spectrophotometric analysis at three wavelengths. The results showed significant quantities of oscilloxanthin in what appeared to be pre-Columbian times.

Tom Wright’s studies were concluded when he took a leave of absence to work with the Corps of Engineers at Vicksburg, MS. He returned for a short period of time and then left for a full-time position in Vicksburg.

The Development of the Degree in Clinical Lab Science at Michigan Tech

by Jack C. Holland

Written in Winter 2011-12

Clinical Laboratory science began to develop in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of the work was done by pathologists or physicians in private office practice. Eventually the office nurse would find this to be part of her duties. In the 1930s the degree of Medical Technology was instituted to separate the analytical needs of the profession from the hands on nursing. World War II had a profound effect the whole medical field; money was made available for better medical instrumentation and all medical training was expanded. At the end of the war in 1946 hospitals were developing large, well equipped pathology laboratories and the new wartime doctors were trained to use them. The new degree in Medical Technology was appealing to both men and women who found it satisfying to help people with scientific analysis rather than the hands on work done by other medical professionals.

The Chemistry Department at Michigan Tech became involved with this new degree at the end of WW II. At first the students were truly chemistry majors who were sent to a hospital laboratory for a year of internship during their degree. The hospitals provided them with classroom instruction and hands on training in Clinical Chemistry, Immunology, Microbiology, and many other aspects of this new science. These courses transferred into Michigan Tech and were accepted as part of their degree. At first this bachelor’s degree became labeled General Science and it wasn’t until 1958 that its name was formally changed to Medical Technology. The name of the degree was then changed again in 1995 to Clinical Laboratory Science because the term “Medical Technology” sounded like it was the same as the service provided by ambulance personnel rather than scientific analysis. The original degree was initiated on the Michigan Tech campus in 1945 with Dr. Kendall acting as the advisor for these students in the Department of Chemistry. The first class of two students graduated in 1949.

In 1949 Dr. San Clemente (Chemistry Department) started the first on-campus course in clinical laboratory science. It was called Blood and Urine Analysis. Dr. San Clemente was director of a military chemical/ microbiological laboratory during WW II and taught the science with great enthusiasm. (He was also responsible for the establishment of K Day in the fall term.)

Coeds from assorted majors who took Dr. San Clement's class in Blood and Urine Analysis in 1949
Coeds from assorted majors who took Dr. San Clement's class in Blood and Urine Analysis in 1949

Dr. Horton took over the Med Tech program from Dr. San Clemente but it remained in the Chemistry Department. During this period very little development in the degree took place.

In 1963 Dr Spain, a biochemist, was appointed Head of the newly created Biological Sciences Department and the

Medical Technology degree came under his direction. In 1966 Dr. Spain appointed Dr. Holland as adviser and finally Director of the Clinical Laboratory Sciences degree. Dr. Holland came to Michigan Tech with 14 years of laboratory experience in hospital and clinical laboratories and he was Board Certified in Clinical Chemistry. His first stage of development introduced a course in Clinical Chemistry in 1966 and then new ones covering Hematology, Urology, and Serology. A seminar series on medicine was popular from its inception. Besides these new courses the students were now required to take analytical chemistry and organic chemistry as well as freshman chemistry from the chemistry degree program. They responded well to these new academic requirements and enrollment increased as new medically oriented courses were instituted. However, many of these students came forward expressing a need to specialize.

Holland in Laboratory

The specialized curricula were easy to develop. A professor of business administration who was a hospital administrator with a PhD, James Gale, provided courses in the business curriculum, and set up special courses of medical interest for the students. This was the most popular specialty developed. Because of it, Michigan Tech gained a power base in hospitals throughout the country, since many of these students became laboratory and hospital managers.

The chemistry option didn’t need any new faculty. The students were required to take physical chemistry and a few other special courses, so that with their Medical Technology degree they could go directly into graduate school in Chemistry without having any academic deficiencies. Not many students followed this pathway, but some went on to work as clinical chemists in hospitals and researchers in pharmaceutical companies.

The Research Option was very popular. In this pathway the students took courses on research planning, statistical methods, and specific courses in the area that they wished to specialize in. A faculty position in Microbiology, Dr Eunice Carlson, was added in the Biological Sciences Department. This faculty member added courses in Medical Microbiology, directed research in this area for graduate students, and had the undergraduates assist in those studies. This indoctrinated them into research. These students rarely stayed in hospitals. The big medically oriented companies hired them as fast as they graduated.

Teaching was also a very popular specialty. Here the students, under the direction of Dr. Calvin Gale, got a Clinical Laboratory Science degree and a Michigan Secondary School Teaching Certificate at the same time. They would student teach in a Michigan High School before graduation. If they went on to internship, it was done after graduation. These people could teach math, chemistry, or biology in high school. Because of their medical background they were very popular teachers who could answer the hard questions on health that the high school students were interested in. Most of those who went on into internship, and practiced medical technology eventually became educational coordinators in hospitals.

The students that specialized in computer science in the 1980’s with Dr. Lowther gained choice positions in large hospitals and medical related industries like insurance companies. There were plenty of courses for them on campus. Nobody had more enthusiasm for their option than the computer specialists.

A small number of students came forward to specialize in the problems of Social Science. These students, working under Dr. Melton, were a dedicated few who seemed to be the most sensitive to the problems of the patients. They all had interesting things to say about their backgrounds. Either they, or their family, had suffered from some devastating medical problem. They were determined to help others. As medical technologists they understood the inner workings of hospital laboratories and the problems generated by the hospitals themselves. There weren’t many of these people, but they were in great demand when they graduated.

Med Tech Club 1982

To complete the curricula for all of these students, three new faculty members were hired who were medical technologists. They were Alice Soldan, Dr. David Nevalinen, and Debbie Gregg. These faculty members now covered all of the subjects that the Medical Technology degree demanded to complete the curriculum. Responding to the Clinical Laboratory Science degree requirements at Michigan Tech, pathologists proposed that the year of internship should now be described it as the “Clinical Year of Education.” This began to give the internship a postgraduate status.

Alice Soldan teaching lab 1983

Alice Soldan was the first faculty member the first-year students came in contact with. She wrote her home phone number on the blackboard, and told them to call her if they got into difficulty. She developed medically oriented courses for freshmen, so they didn’t get frustrated with just pure science in that very difficult year. Alice remains director of the Clinical Laboratory Science degree to this day.

Early Days of the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Tech

by James D. Spain
Written Spring 2012

After some 40 years as strictly a mining school, the Board of Control of Michigan College of Mines, in 1926, decided to add several new degree programs: B.S. in Chemistry, B.S. in Biology, and B.S. in General Engineering. They also decided to change the name of the college to Michigan College of Mining and Technology. Most of these plans were accepted by the State Legislature, but the formation of a biology department was to wait an additional 36 years before fruition.

This is not to say that biological courses were not taught on campus. In 1936 the Forestry Department was established under U. J. Noblet, so that by 1960, “forestry” courses included three terms of botany, two terms of zoology, plant physiology, plant ecology, entomology, and ornithology. Meanwhile, the Chemistry Department had initiated a program in Medical Technology under the direction of Dr. Charles San Clemente, so that by 1960, “chemistry” courses included: three terms of microbiology, two terms of comparative anatomy, and courses in embryology, histology, micro-technique and biochemistry. In 1952, Dr. San Clemente left Michigan Tech to join the faculty of Michigan State University, where he finished out his career. He was replaced by Dr. Ira Horton, who assumed the responsibilities for the Medical Technology program.

For a few years prior to 1962, at least two faculty members had been agitating for a separate Department of Biology at Michigan Tech. The two leaders of this activity were Robert Brown, who had been teaching botany courses in the Forestry Department and Ira Horton, in the Chemistry Department. As with many such proposals, the main deterrent was lack of funds and limited interest by administrators. In 1961, the Forestry Department accreditation was jeopardized by the lack of an “independent biology department”. This caused an immediate change in the attitude of both the Forestry Department, led by Gene Hesterberg, and the University Administration, which was led at that time by Dr. J. R. Van Pelt, President, and Dr. Frank Kerekes, Dean of Faculty. It was decided to form a committee to study the feasibility of setting up such a department. This committee consisted of Robert Brown and Gene Hesterberg, representing Forestry and Ed Williams and Ira Horton, representing Chemistry. James Spain was selected to chair the committee; although he was not expected to join the department, he did have a post-graduate background in the biological sciences.

The committee met a number of times and quickly concluded that plans for a separate department should move ahead as rapidly as possible, as it was clear that the Forestry Department could no longer have responsibility for teaching basic biology courses. It was determined that because of the university mission statement, the goal of the department should be to stress more technological aspects of biology, particularly biophysics and biochemistry, which were just becoming recognized as key elements in the future of biology. To emphasize this distinction, “Department of Biological Sciences” was selected as the name for the new unit.

The next order of business was to determine just who would make up the faculty of the new department. It was already clear that Bob Brown, Ira Horton and Ken Kraft, a zoologist teaching in Forestry, would join. Jim Spain was included to provide expertise in the area of biochemistry. The final member selected was Bob Janke, of the Physics Department, who wished to transfer to the department although he would need to obtain a leave of absence to obtain a Ph.D. in biology. Thus, we had five positions with which to start the department. The recommendations were submitted to the Dean of Faculty and the President. These were accepted by the administration and recommendations were submitted to the Board of Control, for their approval. As Jim Spain had been successful as chairman of the committee, and was actively engaged in funded research in bio-science (cancer research) at the time, he was appointed department head.

As soon as the department was approved, the four active department faculty began working on the curriculum for the BS Degree in Biological Sciences. The department was also responsible for the BS Degree in Medical Technology, but this was to continue with no immediate change. For the Biological Sciences Degree, they designed a strong program in physical sciences, with one year of general chemistry, two or three quarters of organic chemistry, one year of physics and one year of math through the Calculus. Although this was a departure from the biology degrees offered by the great majority of universities at that time, there was little contention within the department as Bob Brown had a chemical engineering undergraduate degree, Ira Horton had worked several years under a curriculum that was strongly influenced by chemistry and Jim Spain’s background was in biochemistry.

In the biology area, we planned to require one year of general biology, at least one additional year in either botany or zoology, followed by microbiology, genetics, and biochemistry. Electives included such things as comparative anatomy, animal physiology, plant physiology, histology, entomology and ornithology, to fill out the requirements in botany or zoology. When we completed the curriculum design, we were all reasonably satisfied that it was very strong compared to those at other universities. In fact, years later we were amazed to see biology curricula from highly respected schools that were significantly weaker than the one we designed, particularly in the basic science and math area.

It was obvious that we were going to have to scramble to cover all these classes. However, not all had to be taught each year, the number of students during the initial years was going to be small, and the courses were based on the quarter system existing at that time. Having made our plans, we began ordering the supplies that we would need and developed a plan for recruitment of the replacement for Bob Janke, who had already left on his first year leave of absence to begin studies at the University of Colorado. We decided that we needed someone else to teach in the general biology area, as well as provide help in botany. Other important jobs during that summer were student recruitment, publicity, finalizing new course approval, etc. There are dozens of such similar tasks that am existing department does routinely; however, we were initially pretty much on our own, lacking even a secretary. At the time it was all new, but we were having a lot of fun planning it out and getting it done.

College Avenue 1965
Hubbell Hall
Hubbell School Bldg
Koenig Hall

The problem of where we were to be located was, of course, a major one. However, a new building was being constructed to house the physics and math departments, so they would shortly be moving out of Hubbell Hall, the original building that had been constructed in 1890 to house the Michigan College of Mines. This was a substantial building made of Jacobsville Sandstone, so there was talk that we might be able to move there permanently. During the fall of 1962, we started with Bob Brown and Ken Kraft still having offices and classrooms in Hubbell School (the old Forestry Building) and Ira Horton and Jim Spain still having offices in Koenig Hall (the old Chemistry Building). Sometime during the fall, Fred Erbisch, a Ph.D. botanist-lichenologist from the University of Michigan came to interview for a position. He was a very happy-go-lucky guy, who drove up from Ann Arbor and spent the night at Spain’s house. Everybody in the department seemed to like him, so he was hired to fill Bob Janke’s position for the following fall.

After a year or so in our original locations, Physics and Math moved to their new building and we were able to move into Hubbell Hall. We did this with essentially no reconstruction, using the old Physics Department lab benches, etc. We worked for some time on plans for modifying Hubbell Hall for our departmental needs, including laboratory equipment, etc. However, early one morning, Michigan Tech President Ray Smith toured Hubbell Hall with Senator Gar Lane, Chair of the Appropriations Committee for the State Legislature. Shortly after this tour, we heard that the legislature was not going to spend any more money repairing “Old Hubbell Hall”. Instead, Michigan Tech was to receive funds to construct a new Chemistry-Biological Sciences Building. So, from that point on, we began planing to move into a new building, where we would occupy about one and a third floors.

Hubbell Hall
Hubbell School razed
Hubbell Hall demolished
New Chem-BioSci Bldg

The amount of space that we had been allotted in the new building was based on the number of students that had been projected, based on a linear extrapolation of the initial numbers of students enrolled in the department. This was unfortunate, because the space was already too small for us by the time we moved into the building. Our enrollments had grown exponentially. Nationwide, engineering enrollments were declining and biology-related curricula were booming. In part, this was due to the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. The irony of our situation was that Ken Kraft had chaired a year-long seminar devoted to review of this book. It was an excellent seminar, as it provided an early focus for the department. Unfortunately, we did not appreciate the implications as they pertained to Michigan Tech’s enrollment projections. In addition, we had pulled out all the stops when it came to student recruitment. We sent letters to all high schools in the Upper Peninsula, and all recent graduates in either medical technology or chemistry, telling them about the biological sciences program and the pending masters degree program. We also did everything that we could to sell the university recruiters on our program; and perhaps most effective, we had developed NSF summer institutes for high school science teachers. The key person in writing proposals for summer institutes was Bob Brown, although all of us were involved in one way or another.

[As a result of the increases in enrollments and staffing of BioSciences, the department very shortly moved into offices and labs on several floors of the newly-constructed ME-EM builings.]

ME-EM construction begins

A year or so after the department was established, we were assigned a secretary, Anita Farrell. She deserves special mention for her immense help in keeping all the departmental functions organized and active.

A couple of years after the department was formed, Ira Horton retired and we received permission to replace him with someone to teach anatomy and physiology. The University acted positively on the application received from Robert C. Stones, who had received his Ph.D. from Purdue University. He was actively engaged in research on circadian rhythms of bats and hibernation. He employed some really innovative techniques to study bat temperature control; in particular, he invented a calorimeter that was extremely sensitive to minute changes in temperature.

Since one of the reasons that Spain was made department head was because of the research that he had been doing in the area of chemical carcinogenesis, he tried as much as possible to continue this while he was department head. For these and other reasons as soon as possible, the faculty put together a proposal to launch a masters degree program in biological sciences. This was approved in 1965 and in the fall of that year they had identified six candidates for the Masters program in Biological Sciences, all working in various areas of research. This was aided by the fact that Dr. Carl Moyer, Director of Research for the University, was housed on the second floor of our building.

In 1968, after six years as department head, Jim Spain decided to return to full-time teaching and research. Jack Slater, from the University of California-Berkeley, was brought in to assume the headship. However, Dr. Slater did not live up to expectations and was relieved of his position after two years. He was replaced by Dr. Bob Stones, who had demonstrated excellent leadership qualities within the department.

An Account of the Beginning Years of the Department of Biological Sciences

[image R Brown]

by Robert T. Brown
Written about 1973

At the October 13, 1961 meeting of the Board of Control, it was moved, seconded and passed unanimously, that a Department of Biological Sciences be created as of July 1, 1962, utilizing existing staff members and facilities.

With this action, Robert T. Brown and Kenneth J. Kraft from the Department of Forestry, James D. Spain and Ira H. Horton from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Robert A. Janke from the Department of Physics were joined into the new department.  Brown, Kraft and Janke shared a large office in Hubbell School.  Horton continued to occupy his office and laboratory in Koenig Hall.

MTU Board 1961
1962 Dept Bldgs
MTU Campus 1961
MTU Campus 1965

Spain became Department Head and, with Anita Farrell as secretary, established the Departmental Office in Koenig Hall.  After the first year, Susan Yonker had completed all requirements and became the first graduate in Biological Sciences in the Class of 1963.

President Van Pelt
Susan Yonker

President Van Pelt vigorously congratulated her and spoke briefly about the establishment of the Department when he presented her diploma.  From the single graduate in 1963 the numbers increased greatly as is shown in Table 1 (below). In contrast to the Biological Science majors, the number of Medical Technology graduates shows only moderate growth. Table 1 also shows the number of graduates with the Master of Science degree. The granting of this degree was approved by the Board of Control on February 13, 1965. In the fall of 1965 the first graduate students registered and in 1967, four of them received their degrees.  Then as a result of increasing interest in graduate education in Biological Sciences, on June 12, 1970, the Board of Control approved a Ph.D. program.

1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 Total
Med Tech 10 6 5 5 5 3 11 10 18 5 78
Bio Sci 1 5 4 14 14 10 11 27 50 44 180
M. S. 4 2 6 3 3 9 27
TOTAL 11 11 9 19 23 15 28 40 71 58 285

Student enrollments increased more rapidly than did the number of graduates since there is a four-year lag from initial enrollment until graduation. With this enrollment increase shown in Table 2 (below), the need for more faculty became evident. In addition, the retirement of Ira Horton and the departure of Robert Janke to get a Ph.D. required that new people be brought to the campus. Another factor leading to greater enrollment in Biological Science courses was the increasing number of Forestry students who took both requirements and electives in this department. In addition, the training of nursing students in cooperation with St. Joseph Hospital began in 1965 and the establishment of a Biology Teacher Education program began in 1969.  Both of these programs raised enrollments in Biological Science.

Acad Year beginning: 1962 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72
Undergraduate 6 21 38 58 59 73 98 141 192 199 222
Special/Unclassified 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 6 1 3
Graduate 0 0 0 6 9 10 8 11 13 19 27
TOTAL 6 22 39 64 69 84 107 152 211 219 252
Undergraduate 42 36 39 59 55 59 68 79 98 130 192
Special/Unclassified 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 2
Graduate 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
42 36 39 59 55 59 68 79 99 131 194
Undergraduate 28 18 19 30 45 49 53 79 90 124 147
Special/Unclassified 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 1
Graduate 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 28 18 19 30 45 49 53 79 91 127 148
GRAND TOTAL 76 76 97 153 169 192 228 310 401 477 594

Still another and perhaps even more important factor in the rapid growth of the Department was the public realization of the importance of ecology.  The location of the university plus the skills of the faculty made Michigan Tech a most attractive institution in which to study Biological Sciences with an ecological emphasis.

Along with an increasing concern for the environment was also an increasing concern for other humans. This concern led to a large increase in the numbers of Medical Technology majors and Premedical-Predental students, especially in 1971 and 1972. The increasing numbers of both students and faculty as well as the demolition of buildings brought about several changes in the departmental location.  Hubbell Hall was renovated and some of its facilities converted so that the department could move out of Hubbell School and Koenig Hall and function as a single unit.  Hubbell School was then demolished.

But the need for still larger and more modern facilities quickly became evident.  A new building to house Chemistry, Biological Science and Metallurgical Engineering was erected and Biological Sciences moved again. Both Koenig Hall and Hubbell Hall were then demolished and a new building to house the Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department was constructed where they had stood.

By the time the building was completed in 1971, the Biological Sciences Department was too large for the Chemistry-Biological Sciences-Metallurgical Engineering Building so an extensive alteration of the second, tenth and eleventh floors of the new building was carried out to accommodate Biological Sciences.  In the fall of 1971, the Department moved into its present location.

The amount of funds obtained from outside sources steadily increased during this period.  These grants fell generally into 4 categories:
1.   Undergraduate research grants.
2.   Undergraduate equipment grants.
3.   Faculty research grants.
4.   Summer institutes for elementary and secondary teachers.

Undergraduate research grants excited interest in students and also built a base for obtaining larger grants in faculty research.  In addition, some rather basic equipment was obtained with this grant money—equipment which could be put to many uses other than that for which it was initially purchased.

Undergraduate equipment grants were used to purchase items necessary for teaching various courses.  With these funds, the choice and quality of courses available to students was considerably enhanced.

The faculty research grants enabled scientific investigation by several of the teaching staff.  Results have been published in scientific journals and presented at professional meetings.  Some of the researchers have been invited to speak at various universities both here and abroad.  Students have come here because of interest in particular research topics.

Summer institutes were designed to update pre-college teachers with more modern methods and concepts than they may have been taught when they were in school years before.  Not only can they be better teachers; they often influenced their better students to come to Michigan Tech. In addition, two of them returned to obtain their masters degrees here and one of those, Donald Weiss, gave up his position in Philadelphia to teach biology at Houghton High School when the opening appeared.

The Departmental Headship has changed several times during its brief history. Dr. James D. Spain, who served several years in the Department of Chemistry, remained as Head for 6 years from 1962 to 1968. During that time, he consolidated the diverse interests and people into a cohesive functioning department and carried out research on cancer inducing chemicals with the aid of several research grants. For this research, he received the Faculty Research Award in 1965. He chose to retire from the Headship in 1968 because of his increasing interest in Lake Superior research. He has continued with aquatic research projects and in addition, has carried out pioneering work on the use of desk-top computers for mathematical modeling of biological processes. During this beginning phase of the department, the number of faculty members increased from 5 to 10 and the number of students from 76 to 228.

Dr. Spain was replaced as Head by Dr. John Slater who came from the University of California in Berkeley where he had been involved in research on the effects of nuclear radiations on living organisms as well as the influence of weightlessness on various life processes in satellites. In addition, he was involved in writing an elementary biology text book. During his 2-year tenure, he continued his radiation experiments and wrote many chapters in his book. He succeeded in approximately doubling the funds available to the department for teaching and research but he had disagreements with the administration and in 1970, departed to the State University of New York at New Paltz. During this 2-year period, one new faculty member was added and student numbers increased from 228 to 401.

Dr. Slater was replaced in 1970 by Dr. Robert C. Stones who came in 1964 from Purdue University where he had begun research on hibernation in bats. He continued this research and in 1968 he received the Faculty Research Award. Dr. Stones received several National Science Foundation grants to carry out this re-search. He appeared on the nationwide NBC-TV program “Animal Secrets” in 1967 and presented his bat research. During his first two years as Department Head, the number of faculty increased by one and the number of students from 401 to 594.

The secretarial staff also underwent several changes. Anita Farrell remained a secretary for nearly the first seven years. Her knowledge of what a good secretary should do, of how to organize an office and her ability to keep most people happy with her work most of the time aided greatly in these initial years. In the spring of 1969 she was replaced by a “revolving door” through which walked Linda Brylla, Patricia Andrews, Linda Burrus, Karen Van Kley, until at the beginning of 1973, Susan Bailey and Judith Drewyor were the secretaries. Several part-time people also came and went.

Faculty of Biological Sciences 1965

Some of the highlights in the careers of faculty members, in order of seniority, follow.

When the Department was formed in 1962, Ira Horton was very close to retirement. For many years, he had been in charge of the Medical Technology program. His experience and steady guidance were invaluable during these first years.

Robert Janke, who transferred from the Department of Physics, continued his biological education by studying for and receiving his Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Colorado. He has spent many summers carrying out ecological research on Isle Royale National Park supported by Park Service grants. He and his wife, Nadine, published “Flora of Isle Royale”, an illustrated guide to flowering plants of the island. He has also published scientific papers concerned with Biophysics and Plant Ecology.

Robert Brown carried out studies on allelopathic relationships in jack pine forests with the aid of a Sigma Xi grant and two National Science Foundation grants. This research led to a Fullbright Fellowship in 1971-72 (16 months) in Finland. He was one of 33 botanists from all parts of the world invited to a conference on allelpathy in 1968, supported by the International Biological Program. In 1972 he gave several lectures at the University of Kiev under sponsorship of the Soviet Academy of Science. Dr. Brown also obtained several grants for summer institutes of pre-college teachers. These institutes led to an assignment as an educational consultant by the Agency for International Development in India in 1968 (2-1/2 months).

Kenneth Kraft obtained National Science Foundation support for a research grant to study the jack pine cone moth. After concluding this study, he shifted his interests to aquatic insects and has since received several grants for the study of the influence of stream pollution from iron mines on aquatic insects. Dr. Kraft also obtained grants for undergraduate research and for undergraduate teaching equipment. These enabled the strengthening of the entire program. In addition, Dr. Kraft was invited to spend a year In Washington D.C. as an administrator in the National Science Foundation. While there, he met and married his wife Elizabeth (Susie).

Frederic Erbisch has long been interested in lichenology and more recently In radiation cell biology as well as metal fungicide compounds. He has received grants to screen metal fungicides, gamma irradiation of lichens and revegetation of copper stamp sands. He joined the faculty in 1963. Dr. Erbisch has also received an undergraduate research grant as well as a grant to develop an audiotutorial system in Biology. Both of these helped to improve the Biology program at Michigan Tech.

In 1966 Jack Holland replaced Dr. Horton as the director of the Medical Technology program. He continued to work on his Ph.D. while teaching in Biological Sciences and received that degree in Chemistry at Michigan Tech in 1968. His thesis dealt with investigations of bile acids in normal and precancerous rats. He also investigated various blood factors in hibernating and non-hibernating woodchucks. In addition, Dr. Holland received several Health, Education and Welfare grants for improvement of the Medical Technology program.

Faculty of Biological Sciences 1967

After Dr. Horton retired, Gloria RaIl (1964) and then Bruce Porter (1968) taught microbiology courses. Neither remained here long.

Betzabe Allison joined the faculty in 1967. Her primary research interests concerned aging in Tetrahymena and humans. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to lecture and do research in Peru in 1971-72. She and Eunice Carlson both have long been advocates of equal rights for women and have devoted considerable effort to this cause.

Carl Moyer, a physician, became an adjunct professor in 1967. His special skill was in the treatment of burn victims, especially with silver nitrate. He taught a few classes and then became Director of Research. A short time later, he built the Moyer Clinic between Houghton and Baraga, but then he died suddenly.

In 1970, Eunice Carlson became the microbiologist. Her primary interest was (and still is today) in the area of microbial ecology and viruses as well as genetics of these organisms. She has received grants to study these organisms.

In 1970, Thomas Wright joined the faculty as a part of the aquatic biology program. His research included the revegetation of copper stamp sands, the influence of copper ions in water upon sauger (a fish similar to wall-eyed pike) and nutrient relationships in aquatic systems.

A History of the Department of Biological Sciences

In 2012 the Department of Biological Sciences celebrates its Fiftieth Anniversary

In October 1961, the Michigan Tech Board of Control approved the formation of a Department of Biological Sciences. The Department began independent operations on July 1, 1962, with five faculty drawn from other departments at Michigan Tech.

The narratives assembled and linked from this page describe some of the history of the department.

Biological Sciences 50 year anniversary

Many of our alums may not remember, but the Department of Biological Sciences began at MTU in 1962, meaning that 2012 is our official 50 year anniversary. Several Emeriti and Current Faculty (Dr. James Spain, Dr. Robert Keen, Dr. Thomas Snyder, and others) are putting together a brief history of the Department, where it was, has been, and is currently going. We (myself, Patty Asselin, Jeff Lewin, Emily Betterly and Alice Soldan, among others) are working on festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary at the Alumni Gathering scheduled for August 2-4, 2012. We’ve already developed several activities that we hope will be of interest to alums from Biological Sciences for those dates. Please stay-tuned, more information will be coming out later, with individual mailings and the Spring 2012 newsletter.

Schedule for Alumni Weekend in celebration of Biological Sciences 50th Year Anniversary

Complete Reunion schedule Link

August 2

10:00 am Tech Talks: Dr. Nancy Auer, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences Fisher Hall (15)

Below the surface – Researching Great Lakes Fishes

Nancy has been working with and teaching about fishes of the Great Lakes for over thirty years. She is a well-known expert on lake sturgeon ecology and is an established researcher on larval fish identification.

August 3

4:00-5:30 pm Clinical Laboratory Science and Medical Technology Social- Dow Environmental Sciences Building (8), 7th floor atrium

Director of the CLS program Alice Soldan, a faculty member since 1976, will be completing her final year at Michigan Tech in spring 2013. Share your stories, meet classmates, and congratulate Alice on a successful career at Michigan Tech. Wine, beer, and light appetizers will be served. Cohosted by Alice and incoming CLS program director Karyn Fay ’89. Exclusive to clinical laboratory science alumni and guests.

August 4

11:00 am – 2:00 pm Biological Sciences Family Picnic – Raymond Kestner Waterfront Park, Houghton

Bring the family and meet fellow alumni for great food and summer fun. Houghton’s huge Chutes and Ladders park with slides, a playground, a beach, and a huge grass area perfect for Frisbee will ensure a fun-filled family afternoon!

1:00-3:00 pm Biological Sciences Alumni Agassiz Research Vessel Keweenaw Waterway Tours

Tour the Keweenaw Waterway during the biological sciences picnic lunch! Sign up for your time on the day of the event at the Family Picnic at the Raymond Kestner Waterfront Park (above). Minimum age is 8 years.

Great Lakes Research Center Events

August 2: Great Lakes Research Center Seminar & Dedication Schedule August 2: Symposium 9 am-1230 pm and Dedication 2 pm

August 3: Great Lakes Research Center Outreach Activities: Children’s Laboratory Exploration: Investigating the Lake Superior Food Chain Using a Lake Trout Stomach! Research Vessel Agassiz Research Boat Tour; Introduction to Michigan Tech’s NEW Signature Program: Family Engineering