Category: Alumni

Grace Gonzalez – Journey through MTU’s Biological Sciences

Grace Gonzalez graduated from Michigan Tech’s Medical Laboratory Science program in 2023, but her passions didn’t end with only MLS. During her time at Michigan Tech, Gonzalez delved into her interests in human medicine as well as animal care. She began doing aquatic research with Biological Sciences professors Dr. Casey Huckins and Dr. Jill Olin, started Michigan Tech’s Aquarium Society, and even volunteered at the local wildlife rehab, just to name a few. Now, she is beginning her journey into veterinary medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Read more about Grace’s experiences at Michigan Tech, what inspired her to lead this journey, and those who supported her along the way—including MLS’s Claire Danielson, Sarah LewAllen, and Brigitte Morin—on our Pre-Health Professions blog post From Fish Tanks To White Coats: Grace’s Vet School Journey.

Grace Gonzalez
Grace Gonzalez

About the Biological Sciences Department

Biological scientists at Michigan Technological University help students apply academic concepts to real-world issues: improving healthcare, conserving biodiversity, advancing agriculture, and unlocking the secrets of evolution and genetics. The Biological Sciences Department offers seven undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees. Supercharge your biology skills to meet the demands of a technology-driven society at a flagship public research university powered by science, technology, engineering, and math. Graduate with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience needed to solve real-world problems and succeed in academia, research, and tomorrow’s high-tech business landscape.

Questions? Contact us at biology@mtu.edu. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Alumni Stories: Manas Warke, PhD, Biological Sciences, Now a Postdoctoral Fellow

Manas Warke graduated from Michigan Tech with his PhD in Biological Sciences in 2022. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati. Manas is currently working on a USEPA project titled: Unregulated Organic Chemicals in Biosolids: Prioritization, Fate, and risk evaluation for land applications. In addition, he’s working with a startup, Phytobox, to implement phytoremediation to clean up polluted water and make it potable. We had a chance to learn more about Manas and his experience at Michigan Tech.

Where are you from?

Manas working in the lab
Manas doing RNA extractions in the COVID lab

Mumbai, India

Where did you do your undergraduate studies, what did you major in, and when did you graduate with your undergrad?

Bachelors in biotechnology from Mumbai University. I graduated in 2017.

Why did you choose to study at Michigan Tech? 

I was working on my master’s degree when I learnt about a PhD opening in Dr. Datta’s lab. I chose to study at Michigan Tech because of the opportunities it offered with great labs, research, funding and overall environment.

What are you doing now? 

I am working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

What do you enjoy most about your postdoctoral fellowship? 

I like how I can conduct independent research based on the knowledge and skills I learned at Michigan Tech—meeting new scientists and networking to learn about the exciting research around campus. I also mentor a few students in the lab and the department. The most important is the work-life balance that comes with a postdoc. Since the hours are flexible, I get time to pursue my hobbies, take breaks and spend time with friends.   

Manas standing by grass on a porch of a house
Manas in San Antonio with the Vetiver grass for Lead pytoremediation

How did your degree and course of study at Michigan Tech prepare you for success? 

Biological Sciences trains you to be a professional in many fields. The research and opportunities Michigan Tech has provided have prepared me to excel in the research field. The excellent lab facilities and collaborative environment at Michigan Tech and the Department of Biological Sciences allowed me to pursue more diverse research and learn many skills. My advisor, Dr. Datta, always encouraged new ideas and thought of better approaches to develop exciting project ideas.

What piece of advice would you give to an undergraduate looking to go to grad school? 

If you’re passionate about a specific research field, go for it. It is okay to be unsure of what you want to do next. Ask a lot of questions, even though they seem irrelevant. Always try to meet new people, especially fellow grad students, and colleagues, as they could be friends and potential future collaborators. Participating in research competitions, conferences, and presentations is an excellent way to build a network and know people with the same interests.   

How would you change the world with the knowledge you have acquired?

Use my knowledge to tackle global problems of soil and water pollution that pose a significant risk to human health. Share my experience and research to create awareness and advocate for issues like environmental health by participating in local and national events. Actively conduct research that positively impacts society and develop innovative solutions. And lastly, volunteer for non-profits, charities, and community organizations.

Q&A with Medical Technologist Peyton Gast ’20, MLS

Medical Technologist Peyton Gast graduated with a BS in Medical Lab Science from Michigan Tech. She works for Marshfield Clinic Health Systems in Transfusion Service. We caught up with Peyton recently.

Medical technologist Payton Gast holds blood sample
Preparing platelets for transfusion

MTU: What are you doing now?

Peyton: I work in the Transfusion Service department of the lab. This is a unique department because we are not only a testing service for patient samples, but we also provide the hospital with a variety of blood products – red blood cells, plasma, platelets, etc. When you donate blood, it comes to labs like ours, and we make sure the right units go to the right patients. Depending on the patient, finding compatible blood products can range from a very easy to a rather difficult process. This process is always a little easier when you have a large blood supply – which we do not have right now. That’s why it’s so important to get out there and donate!

How did you end up becoming a Medical Technologist?

Peyton: I knew that I wanted to work in the medical field, but I was wary of having a patient-facing career. When I came to MTU and discovered medical lab science, I loved that it was a behind-the-scenes role with a direct, significant impact on patient care. When I did my clinicals at the Marshfield Clinic, I learned that their Transfusion Service was the perfect department for me – it requires extreme attention to detail, and I get to do a lot of critical thinking and advanced manual techniques – which is the fun part! I also like that I get to take part in the stem cell processing program, and I can teach what I’ve learned to new MLS students every year.

Medical technologist Payton Gast
Reading agglutination reactions to ensure a safe transfusion

How did your degree and course of study at Michigan Tech prepare you for success as a Medical Technologist?

Peyton: Michigan Tech provides relevant and hands-on experience which made me feel very prepared for my clinicals. I had the opportunity to work with samples regularly seen in the lab, as well as examples of more complex disease states – especially in microbiology and hematology! I apply the techniques I learned at MTU to my job every day, and I have more confidence in my career knowing that I have a well-rounded education.

What did you enjoy the most about your Michigan Tech experience?

Peyton: The best part of my education experience at MTU was the opportunity to work so closely with instructors. They were always eager to meet and discuss classroom topics so that we can all better understand the material – no matter the class size.

Medical Lab Science student Payton Gast
Managing inventory in the blood bank

What advice do you have for Tech students today who wish to pursue a similar career?

Peyton: I would tell any new students interested in lab science that a degree in MLS can take you in many directions. This career can be as specific or as broad as you want it to be, so take advantage of electives and use it as an opportunity to find what you’re most interested in. I would encourage students to push this career as far as it can go – whether it’s getting a specialty in your department, going into management, teaching, or being the best generalist out there – MTU will prepare you to do it!

Alumni and Friends Inducted into the CSA Academy

Steve Yang
Steve Yang

Steve Yang

Dr. Steve Yang was inducted into the CSA Academy of Sciences and Arts on September 15, 2022. Dr. Yang is the Co-CEO of WuXi AppTec and a member of its board of directors. He is also WuXi AppTec’s Head of WuXi Biology and Head of WuXi Testing businesses. His responsibilities include the management of multiple business units and commercial operations. WuXi AppTec provides a broad portfolio of R&D and manufacturing services. These enable companies in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries worldwide to advance discoveries and deliver groundbreaking treatments to patients.

Dr. Yang received his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of California, San Francisco. He started his undergraduate study at Fudan University, China. Yang completed his B.S. degree (Summa Cum Laude) in biological sciences from Michigan Technological University. He co-founded the BayHelix Group and served as the board’s chairman for two terms. BayHelix Group is a non-profit global professional organization of Chinese life science business leaders. We are proud of all of Steve’s achievements and welcome him back to engage with our students and curriculum improvements.

James Spain
James Spain

James D. Spain

Professor James D. Spain, PhD. was inducted into the College of Sciences and Arts Academy on October 7, 2021. He is one of the founding members of the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University. Dr. Spain started our department in 1962 and served as the first department head from 1962 to 1968. Dr. Spain played a major role in developing a strong curriculum in biological sciences at the B.S. level. He helped offer M.S. and Ph.D. programs in biological sciences in 1965 and 1970, respectively. He initiated interdisciplinary research in aquatic ecology. Dr. Spain was actively engaged in research in biochemistry with a special emphasis on chemical carcinogenesis. He was passionate about developing tools and offering courses in “Computer Applications in Biology”. He received Michigan Tech’s highly prestigious Faculty Research Award in 1965.

Dr. Spain took early retirement from Michigan Tech in 1984 and continued his career, first at Eastern Michigan University as their director of Instructional Computing. Later, at Clemson University in South Carolina, he directed the Chemistry Learning Center. Dr. Spain retired in 2010 and returned to the Copper Country. He recently published his autobiography, Perusing for Pioneer Pathways. We are grateful to Professor Spain for all that he has done for our department. The seed he planted in 1962 has now grown into this majestic tree that has witnessed the graduation of thousands of students since 1963.

This blog post initially appeared in the Fall 2022 Biological Sciences Newsletter. Read this article and others like it today.

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research

2018-19 Songer Award Recipients.
2018-19 Songer Award Recipients. Pictured Left to Right: Abby Sutherland, Billiane Kenyon, Jeremy Bigalke, Rupsa Basu, Matthew Songer, and Laura Songer.

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students. Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine. This is the second year of the competition.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. In the Spring of 2019, the Songer’s gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College may allow two additional awards.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. Students are encouraged to propose original, stand-alone projects with expected durations of 6 – 12 months. The committee also encourages applications from CSA students who seek to continue research projects initiated through other campus mechanisms, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, Pavlis Honors College activities or the Graduate Research Forum (GRF).

Funds from a Songer Award may be used to purchase or acquire research materials and equipment needed to perform the proposed research project. Access to and research time utilizing University core research facilities, including computing, may be supported. Requests to acquire a personal computer will be scrutinized and must be fully justified. Page charges for publications also may be covered with award funds, as will travel to appropriate academic meetings. This award may not be used for salary or compensation for the student or consulting faculty.

To apply:

  • Students should prepare a research project statement (up to five pages in length) that describes the background, methods to be used, and research objectives. The statement also should provide a detailed description of the experiments planned and expected outcomes. Students must indicate where they will carry out their project and attach a separate list of references/citations to relevant scientific literature.
  • The application package also should provide a concise title and brief summary (1 page) written for lay audiences.
  • A separate budget page should indicate how funds will be used.
  • A short letter from a consulting faculty member must verify that the student defined an original project and was the primary author of the proposal. The faculty member should also confirm her/his willingness to oversee the project. This faculty letter is not intended to serve as a recommendation on behalf of the student’s project.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 22. Applications may be emailed to djhemmer@mtu.edu.

The selection committee will consist of Matthew Songer, Laura Songer, Shekhar Joshi (BioSci) and Megan Frost (KIP). The committee will review undergraduate and graduate proposals separately and will seek additional comments about the proposed research on an ad-hoc basis from reviewers familiar with the topic of the research proposal. Primary review criteria will be the originality and potential impact of the proposed study, as well as its feasibility and appropriateness for Michigan Tech’s facilities.

The committee expects to announce the recipients by early May of 2019. This one-time research award will be administered by the faculty advisor of the successful student investigator. Students will be expected to secure any necessary IRB approval before funds will be released. Funds must be expended by the end of spring semester 2020; extensions will not be granted. Recipients must submit a detailed report to the selection committee, including a description of results and an accounting of finds utilized, no later than June 30, 2020.

Any questions may be directed to Megan Frost (mcfrost@mtu.edu), David Hemmer (djhemmer@mtu.edu) or Shekhar Joshi (cpjoshi@mtu.edu).

John DeMay ’84 appointed President of Astellas US Technologies, Inc.

Astellas Pharma Inc logo

Astellas, a global pharmaceutical company, announced that John DeMay ’84 has been appointed as President of Astellas US Technologies, Inc.:

In this role, DeMay will be responsible for promoting collaboration and cooperation across Pharmaceutical Technology divisions functions in the Americas.  He will also serve as the site manager for AUST based in Northbrook and will represent AUST in various Americas management activities. DeMay will also continue in his role as head of Project and Product Management Group reporting to Dr. Katsutoshi Nakamura, head of Project and Product Management within Pharmaceutical Technology.

“John’s background and broad experience in this area will help him meet the challenges of this new role, while continuing to grow the strong partnerships th

at exist within AUST and between AUST and its collaborators,” said Nakamura.  “He is dedicated to assuring stable global supply of clinical and commercial products for patients.”

Previously, DeMay served as executive director, Pharmaceutical Technology Management for AUST.  He joined Astellas in 2002 as an associate director of Technical Services and later served as director and senior director of the CMC Technology group within US Pharmaceutical Technology Management.

Throughout his 15-year career at Astellas, DeMay has played an important role in the chemistry, manufacturing and control (CMC) development and CMC project management.  He has contributed to the development, introduction and stable supply of several new drug products and marketed products.

DeMay holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree with a Chemistry Minor from Michigan Technological University and a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from Ferris State University.

Congratulations, John!

Emily Matthys ’13 ’16 receives national scholarship

Emily Matthys API AwardEmily Matthys recently received a national scholarship through the American Proficiency Institute (API) to help offset the cost of tuition while in her clinical practicum at the Marshfield Clinic.

According to the Medical Laboratory Observer:

“An appreciation for scientific advancements flows strongly among the winners of the 2016 American Proficiency Institute (API) scholarships. Five students enrolled in medical laboratory science programs across the United States won the awards to further their education.

“Now in our ninth year of awarding API Scholarships, I continue to be impressed with the caliber of students entering the medical laboratory science profession,” said Daniel C. Edson, President of API. “This year, a number of the scholarship winners are non-traditional students. They began their studies and careers in other fields, but found the clinical laboratory enticing enough to switch course.”

Ms. Matthys, who began her career as a field biologist, discovered the laboratory is where she excelled. “I think one of the most urgent issues clinical laboratory professionals will face is the spread of multi-drug resistant microorganisms,” she noted. “It will be rewarding to help identify and diagnose these infections to help inform treatment.”

Emily received her BS degree in Biology from Northern Michigan University and came to Michigan Technological University for a MS degree under Dr. Nancy Auer studying fisheries biology. After earning her MS degree, she took a position at Finlandia University teaching microbiology and it was there that she discovered medical microbiology and knew she wanted to pursue a third degree, in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) at Michigan Tech. She graduated our program in December of 2015, and started her clinical practicum at the Marshfield Clinic in the summer of 2016.

Karyn Fay, the director of our MLS program, noted that “Emily was a very positive role model for younger students while at Michigan Tech and this award is well earned!” “Emily comes to the practicum with a wealth of experience,” said Julie Seehafer, Ph.D., director of Laboratory Education at Marshfield Clinic. “With her technical knowledge and her leadership skills, she is likely to make an immediate contribution.”

We are very proud of Emily, and wish her the best as she completes her clinical practicum and enters the field of Medical Lab Science!

Tony Wilkinson ’80 named Director NY State Fish and Wildlife

DEC_Logo

The New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) announced that Anthony (Tony) Wilkinson, Biological Sciences MS 1980, has been appointed to lead its Division of Fish and Wildlife:

Anthony (Tony) Wilkinson has been appointed to head up the agency’s four Fish and Wildlife bureaus and more than 350 employees whose missions are to conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources.

“Tony Wilkinson brings a deep awareness of the issues that affect our state’s environment and our natural resources, and his decades of experience will fit in perfectly with the hundreds of colleagues here who share his passion,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Most recently Wilkinson was the Director for The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern NY Program, where he developed and implemented conservation plans for various habitats and species, including migratory fish in the Hudson River Estuary. He previously served as the Director of Operations for the national Natural Heritage Program, and has worked as a biologist and a zoologist for state agencies in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana.

Wilkinson has an undergraduate degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in Biological Science from Michigan Technological University. He grew up in southern Pennsylvania and spent much of his youth hunting, fishing and hiking with his father. He is married with two older children and lives in Saratoga County.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the DEC team and look forward to working with the sportsmen and women of New York and our fish and wildlife staff on the sound management of our precious wildlife and fisheries resources,” Wilkinson said.

Congratulations, Tony!

Alumnus Bob Martin ’76 Receives American Society for Microbiology Award

Robert Martin
Robert Martin

Michigan Tech Alumnus Robert (Bob) Martin recently received the Hologic Joseph Public Health Award at the American Society for Microbiology’s recent Microbe 2016 meeting in Boston. In addition to earning his mater’s in Biological Sciences from Michigan Tech, Martin was the head of the U.P. state health lab, located on the Tech campus and also taught medical bacteriology. According to the ASM the Hologic Joseph Public Health Award “Honors a distinguished microbiologist who has exhibited exemplary leadership and service in the field of public health.” Martin is also a member of Michigan Tech’s College of Science and Arts Academy.