Category: News

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.

In Print: Jill Olin

Congratulations to Jill Olin and her postdoctoral fellow, Jim Junker, who recently published a paper titled “Can biodiversity of preexisting and created salt marshes match across scales? An assessment from microbes to predators” in the Ecosphere Journal. You can learn more about the research on the LSU website.

Jill Olin
Jill Olin
Jim Junker

Abstract: Coastal wetlands are rapidly disappearing worldwide due to a variety of processes, including climate change and flood control. The rate of loss in the Mississippi River Delta is among the highest in the world and billions of dollars have been allocated to build and restore coastal wetlands. A key question guiding assessment is whether created coastal salt marshes have similar biodiversity to preexisting, reference marshes. However, the numerous biodiversity metrics used to make these determinations are typically scale dependent and often conflicting. Here, we applied ecological theory to compare the diversity of different assemblages (surface and below-surface soil microbes, plants, macroinfauna, spiders, and on-marsh and off-marsh nekton) between two created marshes (4–6 years old) and four reference marshes. We also quantified the scale-dependent effects of species abundance distribution, aggregation, and density on richness differences and explored differences in species composition. Total, between-sample, and within-sample diversity (γ, β, and α, respectively) were not consistently lower at created marshes. Richness decomposition varied greatly among assemblages and marshes (e.g., soil microbes showed high equitability and α diversity, but plant diversity was restricted to a few dominant species with high aggregation). However, species abundance distribution, aggregation, and density patterns were not directly associated with differences between created and reference marshes. One exception was considerably lower density for macroinfauna at one of the created marshes, which was drier because of being at a higher elevation and having coarser substrate compared with the other marshes. The community compositions of created marshes were more dissimilar than reference marshes for microbe and macroinfauna assemblages. However, differences were small, particularly for microbes. Together, our results suggest generally similar taxonomic diversity and composition between created and reference marshes. This provides support for the creation of marsh habitat as tools for the maintenance and restoration of coastal biodiversity. However, caution is needed when creating marshes because specific building and restoration plans may lead to different colonization patterns.

Student Stories: Kate Meister, Human Biology Major, Future Physician’s Assistant

Kate Meister sees her best path to becoming a Physician’s Assistant through the Biology department. She is a senior studying Human Biology. One of the degree requirements is to complete a capstone. She chose to do an undergraduate teaching experience with Travis Wakeham. Kate is passionate about biology and education, so she and Travis are also collaborating with Steve Elmer (KIP) and others across Michigan and Indiana to bring back PhUn (Physiology Understanding) Week. Kate also loves to play basketball. We had a chance to learn more about Kate and her experiences at Michigan Tech.

Lighthouse on the water with a sunset background
Kate’s favorite lighthouse at Breakers Beach

Why did you choose to major in Human Biology?

My major is Human Biology and I have a minor in Pre-Health Professions. I chose this major as it complements my plans to become a PA. The courses and experiences that I have been lucky enough to be a part of prepare me everyday to become a Physician’s Assistant. 

Why did you choose to study Human Biology at Michigan Tech?

I chose to study at Michigan Tech because of the tight-knit community, second-to-none education, the culture of the MTU women’s basketball program, and the pure location. This community is so supportive and proud of the university and of the women’s basketball program. The curriculum, especially in human biology, pushes you to become the best student you can be. The MTU women’s basketball program is a winning program historically, and the culture is so strong. Houghton is an organic area, and I have loved getting to know the UP in my time up here. 

What do you love about Michigan Tech?

I love the support I feel at Michigan Tech. I feel so supported by the faculty and classmates, in the classroom and out of the classroom. Our professors know how to push us as students, but they also care about us as humans rather than just students. 

Why did you choose to participate in women’s basketball?

Women's basketball team jumping and hugging on the court
Kate and team celebrate a victory against Grand Valley State

I chose to participate in basketball because it has always been a dream of mine to play collegiately. I love the sport and the relationships that I have made with teammates, coaches, staff within the athletic department, and community members. 

How does basketball round out your educational experience?

Being a member of the MTU women’s basketball team means that we not only push ourselves to become better at our game, but to become the best version of ourselves off of the court as well. Our organization is heavy on giving back, whether that is through volunteer opportunities that we take on as a team or through inspiring the next generation of huskies through our kids camps. 

What did you enjoy most about being involved in basketball?

I enjoy the relationships that I have made the most when it comes to picking my favorite part of basketball. I have met some of the most amazing people through basketball, and I have made lifelong friends. Being a student-athlete at Michigan Tech is not always easy, but having best friends that go through it all with you makes it much easier and so memorable. 

Kate and friends sitting by a campfire during sunset
Kate and friends enjoying a campfire at Breakers

What advice would you give to undergraduates looking to get involved in student organizations?

One piece of advice that I would give others that consider joining a student organization is to look at every opportunity as an experience, or as a chance to learn something or someone new. Being a part of an organization means a community of people that have similar goals, motives, and passions as you do, and that feeling is so inclusive. 

Do you think playing basketball helps you with your major of human biology?

Learning more about the human body through my degree has helped develop me into a better athlete. Understanding the body on a molecular, cellular, anatomical, and physiological level has given me a deeper understanding of my overall body and athletic performance. 

Outstanding Scholarship Award: Catherine Rono

Catherine Rono
Catherine Rono

Congratulations to Catherine Rono, graduate student in Biological Sciences, for the Outstanding Scholarship Award recognizing her academic performance! Catherine is working towards her PhD in Biological Sciences.

Exceptional graduate students may be nominated by their program or department for the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the year of their graduation. Nominees will have demonstrated academic or professional qualities that set them apart within their academic program. Nominations are made each fall and spring semester.

From Catherine: I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Joshi, Dr. Huckins, Ms. Tori and the entire Biological Sciences Department for this recognition and nomination to receive the award. Thank you so much Dr. Mark for your constant support and guidance. Thank you for challenging me to get out of my comfort zone and be better. 

Outstanding Scholarship Award: Laura Schaerer

Laura Schaerer

Congratulations to Laura Schaerer, a graduate student in Biological Sciences, for her Outstanding Scholarship Award recognizing her academic performance! Laura is working towards her PhD in Biological Sciences.

Exceptional graduate students may be nominated by their program or department for the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the year of their graduation. Nominees will have demonstrated academic or professional qualities that set them apart within their academic program. Nominations are made each fall and spring semester.

From Laura: Thank you to the Biology department for their nomination, this is a very happy surprise!

Biological Sciences Faculty Members Receive Exceptional Fall 2022 Student Evaluation Scores

Heartiest congratulations to 12 instructors (that’s 17% of all instructors awarded) from the Biological Sciences Department who have been identified as some of the only 70 campus-wide instructors who received exceptional “Average of Seven dimensions” student evaluation scores during the Fall 2022 semester. Only 91 sections university-wide (out of more than 1,379 evaluated) were rated so highly by the students. Their scores were in the top 10% of similarly sized sections university-wide, with at least a 50% response rate and a minimum of five responses.

The following faculty, staff, and graduate students received the recognition.

  • Dr. Amy Marcarelli, Professor (Nominated for the MTU teaching award, 2018, 2020, and 2022)
  • Ms. Brigitte Morin, MS, Associate Teaching Professor (Winner of MTU teaching award in 2018)
  • Dr. Thomas Werner, Associate Professor (Winner of MTU teaching award in 2013, 2019, and MASU professor of the year, 2021)
  • Dr. Jill Olin, Assistant Professor
  • Ms. Claire Danielson, MS, MLS Program Director, and Assistant Teaching Professor (Nominated for the MTU teaching award, 2022)
  • Ms. Sarah LewAllen, MS, MLS Program Coordinator
  • Ms. Jenna Disser, MS Graduate Student
  • Mr. Karl Schneider, Ph.D. Graduate Student
  • Ms. Michelle Kelly, Ph.D. Graduate Student
  • Mr. Isaac Lennox, MS Graduate student, KIP
  • Mrs. Nicole Roeper, MS, Director, Pre-Health Professions, and Instructor
  • Mr. John Romanowski, MS, Lab Supervisor, Biological Sciences

Interim Provost Dr. Andrew Storer recently congratulated them for their outstanding accomplishments in teaching.  

We are very proud of these achievements, and we thank them and you all for fulfilling the educational mission of our university!

The departmental student rating average for Fall 2022 was 4.47 out of 5. Since 2013, our faculty, staff, and students have been in this top 10% of teachers list 152 times.

Three Biological Sciences professors are Nominated for the 2023 Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award

Amy Marcarelli
Amy Marcarelli
Claire Danielson
Claire Danielson

We are pleased to announce three finalists for the 2023 Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award. Congratulations go out to:

Robert Larson
Robert Larson

Professor Amy Marcarelli is nominated for the Associate Professor/Professor category. This is Amy’s fourth nomination. 

Teaching Assistant Professor Claire Danielson is nominated for the Assistant Professor/Teaching Professor/Professor of Practice category. This is Claire’s second nomination. 

Assistant Professor Robert Larson, is nominated for the Assistant Professor/Teaching Professor/Professor of Practice category. This is Rob’s first nomination. 

These three join prior Biological Sciences department Distinguished Teaching Award winners in the recent past: Dr. Thomas Werner (2013 and 2019), Ms. Karyn Fay (2016), and Ms. Brigitte Morin (2018). Dr. Thomas Werner also won the Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year award in 2021

The Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes outstanding contributions to Michigan Tech’s instructional mission.

To whittle the finalists to a single winner, The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is seeking input on the finalists for its annual Distinguished Teaching Awards. Based on more than 40,000 student ratings of instruction responses, ten finalists have been identified for the 2023 awards. The selection committee solicits comments from students, staff, faculty, and alumni to be referenced during their deliberations.

Comments for the finalists are due by March 31 and can be submitted online.

The process for determining the Distinguished Teaching Award recipients from this list of finalists also involves the additional surveying of their spring 2023 classes. The selection committee makes the final determination of the award recipients. The 2023 Distinguished Teaching Awards will be formally announced in May.

For more information, contact the CTL at or 906-487-3000.