Ken Kraft Passes away

Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences Ken Kraft passed away on Jan. 12 at his Chassell Township home.

Kraft’s research was in invertebrate ecology, particularly in aquatic environments, and some of his work was used by the Army Corps of Engineers and Cleveland-Cliffs (now Cliffs Resources) in their environmental studies.

“He was well respected in his fields of study—entomology and aquatic environmental studies,” said Professor Emeritus Bob Keen. “He was also a mentor to a number of graduate students, including some who went on to attain PhDs and did very well.”

Professor Emerita Janice Glime recalled him as a “rather gentle, quiet person. You could always count on him. He was in his office from 9 to 5, when he wasn’t in class. His lab and library were adjacent to his office, and he was always there.”

“He was a very soft spoken gentleman who had a great smile,” said long-time staff member Pat Asselin. “He was a pleasure to know and work with.”

Kraft’s career at Michigan Tech actually began in forestry, where he was taught zoology, and he joined the biological sciences department when it was formed in 1962. He eventually rejoined the forestry faculty before retiring.

“He was the nicest guy I knew,” said Professor Emeritus Jim Spain, also of biological sciences. “We did work together on Lake Superior. We once took a boat and a student to Rabbit Island to find a heron rookery. Well, we searched all over and couldn’t find it. We went back to the boat to discover that we had parked it right underneath the rookery!”

Kraft was instrumental in setting up Tech’s first research program on Lake Superior through his connections with faculty at Minnesota-Duluth.

Spain also credited Kraft with creating the “rock pasty”—pebbles surrounded by a cloth—that was lowered into the lake and became a home for invertebrates that they were studying. “We published that one,” Spain said.

Spain said Kraft also led a seminar where he had everyone, including the faculty, read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. “We grew our enrollment exponentially at the time, because of the environmental movement,” Spain said.

Kraft was one of the founders of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Houghton, according to fellow church member Harriet King.

“He served as president, did our newsletters, and always brought fresh eggs from his farm,” King remembered. “He would have church and community members out to his farm to see the orchards, gardens, and chickens.”

Kraft received his PhD in Entomology and Botany from the University of Minnesota. He taught at Minnesota, Moorhead State and Bemidji State before coming to Tech. He retired in 1996 after 34 years of service.

Kraft was preceded in death by his wife, Susie, in 2009 and is survived by two daughters, Jennifer Turner and Karen Miller, and grandchildren, Jessica Turner and Alexander and Andrew Miller. The O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home in Hancock is in charge of arrangements. A summer memorial service is planned.

Original article published in Tech Today

Great Lake Fishery Commission – Lake Superior Technical Committee Lake Superior Research Presentations

Great Lake Fishery Commission – Lake Superior Technical Committee

Lake Superior Research Presentations

Great Lakes Research Center – Michigan Technological University

7 January 2014

1:00 Opening Tom Pratt and Guy Meadows
1:15 Marine Engineering Activities at the GLRC Guy Meadows
1:30 Remotely Operated & Autonomous Vehicle Support Jamey Anderson
1:45 Buffalo Reef Spawning and Stamp Sands Charles Kerfoot
2:00 Sand in Lake Superior Tributaries: Ecology and Restoration Casey Huckins
2:15 Ecosystem responses to Restoration Activities in Lake Superior Tributaries Amy Marcarelli
2:30 Optics and Remote Sensing of Lake Superior Colleen Mouw
2:45 Phytoplankton Productivity  and Optical Characteristics – Interlake Comparison Gary Fahnenstiel
3:00 Hydrodynamic Modeling of Lake Superior for Decision Support Penfgfei Xue
3:15 Nutrient-Phytoplankton-Modeling of Lake Superior for Decision Support Marcel Dijkstra
3:30 Bioenergetic Modeling of Lake Superior for Decision Support Nancy Auer
3:45 Multidisciplinary Social Science Research Related to Lake Superior Fisheries Pat Martin
4:00 Carbon Cycling and Restoration Efforts in the Coastal Wetlands of Lake Superior Rod Chimner
4:15 Engaging K12 Students, Teachers and the Community in Lake Superior Stewardship Joan Chadde
4:30 Closing Guy Meadows and Tom Pratt
4:45 GLRC Tour Guy Meadows, Mike Abbott and Marty Auer
5:30 Dinner and Discussion Guy Meadows and Marty Auer

Graduate students awarded BRC travel grants

The Biotechnology Research Center announces its Fall 2013 Travel Grants. Recipients from Biological Sciences include:

* Faten Dhawi Almuhanna (Bio Sci) International Plant and Animal Genome XXII Meeting (poster)

* Ramkumar Mohan (Bio Sci) The Midwest Islet Club Meeting (poster)

* Aparupa Sengupta (Bio Sci) Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (podium)

Awards for other departments are in Tech Today.

Can Fruit Fly Pigmentation Patterns Help Cure Cancer?

Superior Ideas Crowd Funding

Why This Project Is Important

Every year, more than 7 million people die from cancer worldwide. Our ultimate goal is to help developing gene-therapeutic drugs that can stop tumors from growing. This novel work will utilize fruit fly pigmentation patterns, which develop under the control of the same genes that cause cancer in humans. We chose the fruit flies as a model because they grow fast in large numbers and are amenable to a wide variety of genetic approaches.

Project Description

Cancer is caused by genes that were originally “good” genes that have turned “bad”. Every organism needs these genes to develop from an egg into an adult, but when they mutate, they cause tumor development and growth. Fruit flies and humans share these genes and consequently also the cancer-causing genes. We will use fruit flies to study how cancer genes communicate with each other to form tumors. We previously discovered that one of the most notorious cancer genes (Wnt-1) in humans, which is involved in 70% of all human tumors, “paints” the black spots on the wings of the fruit fly Drosophila guttifera (see picture 2). Thus, wherever the cancer-causing gene is active, a black melanin spot will form on the wing, very similar to skin cancer that appears as black melanin spots on the human skin (Xeroderma pigmentosum). In this project, we will use black pigment spots on fruit fly bodies as a model to reveal how cancer gene communication networks function. The short-term goal of this study is to identify new genes that assist the already known cancer genes in the formation of tumors. This knowledge will set the stage for the long-term goal, which is to develop drugs that can switch the cancer genes off or block the the communication between themselves.

The objective of this proposal is to test what genes lead to the body pigment pattern of the spotted fruit fly Drosophila guttifera. We have very good reasons to believe that at least three independently acting cancer gene pathways are contributing to separate parts of the abdominal color pattern, making this fly a really exciting organism to study multiple cancer developmental pathways in parallel. Our research questions are:

1) What cancer genes are involved in the formation of pigment in this fruit fly species?
2) How do the genes interact with each other (and how can we interrupt their interactions)?
3) Where are the switches that turn these cancer genes on and off?

– See more at:

Susan Bagley Retirement Party Oct. 3

Susan Bagley, professor of microbiology in the department of biological sciences retired on August 17, after 34 years at Michigan Tech. She has influenced lives of thousands of Michigan Tech students through her teaching, advising them in their research and serving on graduate committees. She has actively collaborated with many faculty and staff from various units at Michigan Tech. A celebration in her honor will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., Thursday, Oct 3, in the Memorial Union, Ballroom A. Light refreshments will be served. The campus community is invited to join the biological sciences department in celebrating Sue’s career and wishing her all the best in her retirement.

From Tech Today

Sengupta takes third place

Aparupa Sengupta, a PhD student in biological sciences, took third place for her oral presentation “Using a Biological Remediation System to Address Antibiotic Contamination in Aquatic Sources” at the International Conference on Medical Geology Annual Meeting 2013, held Aug. 25-29 in Arlington, Va. She was selected from among 30-35 student presenters from around the world. Sengupta received a certificate, a book and $100 prize. Her coauthors were Adjunct Professor Dibyendu Sarkar and her advisors, Professor Emerita Susan Bagley and Associate Professor Rupali Datta (Bio Sci).

From 9 September Tech Today

Student Spotlight: 4.0 GPA Athletes

Excerpted from Michigant Technological Universty Student Affairs and
Advancement Connection Summer 2013

Melanie Hoffman and Brad Stebner are two of the nine
Michigan Tech student-athletes who hold 4.0 grade point
averages while participating in intercollegiate athletics. How
do they do it?

“Organization and communication,” said Hoffman, an
Academic All-American on the soccer team this past fall.
“Time management is important. I make sure I give myself
time to have fun, but when it’s time to work, I work hard.”

Hoffman, who owns the school record in the heptathlon,
helped the soccer team to its first conference title in 2012.
She is majoring in exercise science and biological sciences
and plans to attend dental school following graduation.

According to Stebner, the keys to success are “dedication
and balance. Being a student and an athlete are full-time
commitments on their own. Doing them together requires
a lot of effort, perseverance, and time management.”

Stebner, a hockey player, maintains his 4.0 GPA in
biological sciences with a minor in psychology.
He is a twotime winner of the WCHA Scholar-Athlete Award. With four
goals and 16 assists in 95 career games, the defenseman
hopes to pursue a professional career in hockey. He
ultimately plans to attend medical school back in his home
province of Alberta.

—Suzanne Sanregret

SURF presentations August 12 and 13

SURF End of Summer Presentations August 12 and 13

Biological Sciences has several presentations by either Biology majors or students being advised by Biological Science faculty.

Recipients of Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURFs) will present end-of-summer project updates Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 12 and 13), from 9 to 11 a.m., in Fisher 139. SURF recipients and projects are listed here.