MTU students help provide fresh vegetables for needy families

As part of 2022 Make A Difference Day, ten enthusiastic Michigan Tech students from Delta Zeta Sorority and Beta Sigma Theta Fraternity helped dig more than 400 pounds of carrots, rutabagas, and beets from a local farm for distribution to needy families through the Western UP Food Bank and Salvation Army in Houghton and Hancock.


Students came from the following departments:
Sam Griswold and Dominic Sobcinski, Electrical & Computer Engineering;*Corbin Sullivan, Civil Engineering; Samantha Ludwick, Chemistry; Emma Quinn, Materials Science; Hunter Malinowski Computer Science and Psychology;  Emily Kughn, College of Business; Lauren Kiss, Biomedical Engineering; Emaly Jadin and Zoe Kumm, Chemical Engineering. Samantha Ludwick, VP for Philanthropy with Delta Zeta National Sorority, was enthusiastic about their experience. “We had a blast harvesting veggies to be donated. We’d be happy to
help out again!”


Corbin Sullivan, a 3rd year Civil Engineering student, observed, “I participated in the Fall harvest yesterday because I wanted to learn more about agriculture and what it takes to grow one’s own food. As a Civil Engineering student, it is our job to design a world that serves humanity. Sometimes we forget what it took our ancestors to get to where we are now. I think that learning about the natural world around us is a must so that we know how to preserve it– not just for the future of the human species but for all species– and to prevent or mitigate any damage we might cause in the world.” 


The Western UP Food Bank serves more than 400 families and 500 seniors in Houghton, Baraga, and Keweenaw counties, and delivers food to 40 organizations in six counties. They are the only food bank in operation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They rely nearly 100% on local donations from businesses and individuals. To support their work, send your contributions to: P.O. Box 420, Hancock, MI 49830.


This community service event was organized by Joan Chadde, with the Michigan Tech Center
for Science & Environmental Outreach.
Way to go students!

CEGE Seeking Corporate Sponsors for Mobile Interactive Displays

The Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering Department is seeking corporate sponsors for three Mobile Displays. The purpose of the Mobile Displays is to provide opportunities for prospective students, K-12 students, families, friends, and visitors to campus to experience civil, environmental, and geospatial engineering. 

The Mobile Displays will be in prominent locations throughout Dillman Hall and Dow Engineering and Experimental Sciences Building so that prospective students on a campus tour can learn about our programs through hands-on activities and connections to real-world engineering. Being mobile, the displays will be used during K-12 Outreach events, Career Fairs at area schools, and travel with our Geospatial Engineering Trailer, which supports K-12 outreach to students in Michigan and beyond. Of course, the Mobile Displays will be deployed in our own classrooms as demonstrations faculty use to emphasize key principles to future engineers. Each Mobile Display is based on a key principle essential to the discipline and the degree program. 

The key principle demonstrated in the Civil Engineering Mobile display is stress. Stress is the result of when a force like tension or compression acts on a material or body.  Stress is measured as a ratio of force over area (e.g., lb/in2, N/m2).  The higher the force, the higher the stress – or the smaller the area the higher the stress.  All materials have a “stress limit” that, if reached, will fail said material or body.  Stress on a bridge beam being “loaded” by moving traffic can be controlled by changing the area moment of inertia, I, which is defined by the geometrical cross-section of the beam.  The higher the moment of inertia the less stress a beam will experience.  The beauty of the engineering design process in this simple case is best explained by considering that a pipe (which is hollow) will have a bigger area moment of inertia than a rod (which is solid) using the same amount of material.  This Engineering Mobile Display demonstrates how a specific load (or a specific deflection) can affect the stress on a beam based on its cross-sectional shape.  The many “mini beams” represent real-world structural sections currently used by industry.  Students and visitors can see the interaction of loads, deflections, stresses, materials, shapes, and even failures with hands-on “interplay” and real-time calculations.  The almost seemingly rudimentary principles of the ancient tried-&-true engineering process is easily explained and is sure to capture the interest, and spark curiosity, in all folks that stop by to play with us. 

Concentration is the key principle demonstrated through the Environmental Engineering Mobile Display. Using their own breath, students can see the impact of the amount of CO2 they release when they breathe in their environment. Those CO2 concentrations are then connected to current and past atmospheric CO2 concentration data. Concentration is a fundamental way in which we express the amount of substances in our water, air and soil environments. Helping our students experience firsthand the concept of concentration can draw them into the field. 

Location is the fundamental principle demonstration in the Geospatial Engineering Mobile Display. Location is the basis of positioning, where a person, place or thing is identified in three-dimensional space. We all occupy space and location is where we are at any given point in time. This location can be quantified by measurements that ultimately identify position. Geospatial Engineers use a multitude of tools that include electronic total stations, 3D scanners, UAV’s, and GPS to precisely and accurately measure position to determine location. Look around you. There is literally nothing that has been constructed, placed, erected, or removed without first knowing its location.  Location is where we are and will always be.Designed with sustainability and accessibility for all in mind, the Mobile Displays are easily transportable and easy for children of all ages to explore. Sponsorships are available for each Mobile Display. To become a CEGE Mobile Display sponsor, please contact Audra Morse at anmorse@mtu.edu or 906-487-3240.

GLRC Appoints Pengfei Xue as Associate Director

Effective today (Oct. 10, 2022), Pengfei Xue (CEGE/GLRC) will become the Great Lakes Research Center’s first associate director.

Established in 2013, the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) has grown to include more than 100 affiliated faculty and research staff, achieving $9.2 million in new research awards and $7.1 million in research expenditures in fiscal year 2022. The GLRC’s portfolio includes core research in the areas of Great Lakes science and system processes, sustainability and marine technology adaptation.

Xue, an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE), will lead the GLRC’s Hydrodynamics, Climate, and Environment Research Team, and contribute to the center’s long-term strategy development.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to support Dr. Xue’s appointment as associate director,” stated Tim Havens, director of the GLRC. “His leading hydrodynamic modeling research has been a shining example of the high-quality research going on at the GLRC, and his commitment to the strategic growth of the GLRC is evident in his mentoring of new scientists and engineers in his group. I’m thrilled to welcome him to the GLRC executive team.”

“I am proud of Pengfei’s success and the impact his research has had. He is an expert in the development of numerical models and computer simulations for the Great Lakes, as well as environmental risk analysis, seasonal forecasting and regional climate change, ” said Audra Morse, CEGE department chair. “More importantly, the appointment acknowledges the impact Pengfei has had on his colleagues and the work he will continue in an effort to support his colleagues’ growth as scholars.”

By the Great Lakes Research Center.

Amlan Mukherjee Appointed to GSA Committee

Amlan Mukherjee
Amlan Mukherjee

Congratulations to Amlan Mukherjee (CEGE) on his appointment to the prestigious U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Acquisition Policy Federal Advisory Committee.

Mukherjee is currently the Green Building Initiative (GBI) chair-elect. According to GBI’s press release, in his role on the committee, Mukherjee will assist in providing expertise and counsel to the GSA as they seek innovative solutions to acquisition policy and ways to address the highest-priority federal acquisition challenges.

“We at GBI are thrilled that the GSA will get a chance to know the incredible level of expertise, experience, and commitment to sustainability and climate improvement that Amlan brings to every role,” said Vicki Worden, president and CEO of GBI. “His work and support for GBI has been invaluable, and we know GSA will significantly benefit from his input.”

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

Michigan Tech’s Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA Implements Two Projects

The student chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA at Michigan Tech successfully completed two implementation projects in the spring and summer of 2022. First, in April, they coordinated with the EWB country office in Guatemala to construct a gravity-fed water supply system for the community of Cantón Libertad in northwestern Guatemala. Due to COVID-related travel restrictions, this was a “remote” implementation project coordinated by EWB-Guatemala staff engineers. Although members of the Michigan Tech chapter did not travel to assist with construction, they were responsible for system design, construction planning, and fundraising for the project that is providing safe drinking water to more than 400 people. The students are currently working to improve water supply wells for a neighboring community that could not be reached with the gravity-fed system, and they will continue to monitor and evaluate the system and provide technical support to both communities as needed.

A second project was implemented in Bolivia in August. Six students and a professional engineering mentor traveled to the community of Santa Barbara, Bolivia for the first stage of a road improvement project involving resurfacing and installation of drainage facilities. During this trip, the team worked with their local partner organization, Etta Projects, to install a new culvert and reduce erosion on steep areas along a section of the road. Future stages of the project will continue to upgrade critical sections of the road and improve access to schools, clinics, and shopping areas for over 200 community members.

Emily Shaw Named 2023 Knauss Marine Policy Fellow

Emily Shaw
Emily Shaw

Michigan Sea Grant has announced that PhD in Environmental Engineering candidate Emily Shaw has been named a finalist for the 2023 Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. She will officially become a fellow after receiving her host office placement this fall.

The Knauss program matches graduate students and recent graduates with host agencies in Washington, D.C., such as congressional offices, the National Marine Fisheries Service, or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For one year, fellows work on a range of policy and management projects related to ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources. Fellows can be placed in the federal legislative or executive branches.

Shaw is currently finishing her doctoral program through the Great Lakes Research Center. Her dissertation focuses on toxins that affect fish populations and the humans that interact with them.

Read more in the Michigan Sea Grant press release.

Five High School Students Participate in One-week Summer STEM Internship at Michigan Tech ~ July 18-22

Five high school students from Detroit and Houghton participated in a 5-day science and engineering summer internship program at Michigan Technological University (MTU) from July 18-22, 2022. The students were paired with faculty with a variety of expertise and research interests.

Students worked in the lab and/or in the field (outside), toured campus, lived in a dorm, ate in the dining hall, and met students from around Michigan and beyond.

Dr. Daisuke Minikata, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, hosted two interns in his lab that were supervised by graduate students, Rose Daily, Benjamin Cerda Barrios, and Ben Morhardt. High school students, Michelle Simpkins and Eural Johnson learned about PFAS contamination by sampling local bodies of water and using the Orbitrap for qualitative identification, built PFAS molecules in ChemDraw 3D, toured the wastewater treatment plant and MTU Sustainability Demonstration House, became familiar with careers in environmental engineering. Michelle attends UPrep Academy for Math & Science and Eural Johnson attends Cass Tech.

Dr. Kuilin Zhang, Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, hosted high school student Omaree Ishmael. Omaree used a Traffic Counter App to collect traffic data at Sharon Avenue and M-26 intersection. He then used the data to create a signalized intersection model using PTV VISSIM, a multi-modal traffic flow simulation software package. He also performed the CAV (Connected and Automated Vehicles) cooperative driving automation simulation.

Lastly, Dr. Evan Kane at the USDA and post-doc Julia Stuart, hosted two interns—Nora Sullivan and Bryson Taylor. Nora attends Houghton High School and Bryson attends Davis Aerospace Academy in Detroit. They learned how to conduct an N2 fixation in the field, performed a glucose assay in the lab, and visited the Nastoria bog field research site.

On the last day of their internship, students summarized the skills and knowledge that they had gained throughout the week in a presentation to fellow interns, hosts, and to their parents who joined virtually.

Students received a $900 scholarship to cover their meals, lodging, and roundtrip transportation on a Michigan Tech coach bus. In addition, the students went mountain biking at Tech Trails which was a brand new experience for four of the five interns. Some experienced being in a forest for the first time.

Students had this to say about their internship experience:

I learned how wastewater will change how the water is used in the world.

Our visit to the bog was very interesting.

Learning and experiencing new things!

Faculty and graduate students were always willing to answer my questions.”    

One student’s comment wraps it up, “Everything was great!”

Three of the five say they are now more seriously considering Michigan Tech after their internship experience.

The high school STEM internship program is coordinated by Michigan Tech Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, with funding from the National Science FoundationDepartment of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, USDA Forest Research Lab, Raytheon, and the Shannon Foundation.

Michigan Tech Team Recognized for Runway Safety Project

Interior view of a plane cockpit looking out onto the runway.
AlphaJet PAF Cockpit View

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine mentioned Michigan Tech in a press release announcing the winners of the 2021-2022 TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs.

A four-member team from the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Technological University placed third in the Runway Safety/Runway Incursions/Runway Excursions Including Aprons, Ramps, and Taxiways category with its design titled, Thermal Detection System for Mitigating Runway Incursions at Non-Towered Airports.

The team included undergraduate students Clark Fadoir, Mary Ollis, Greg Porcaro, and Drew Vega.

Dr. Audra Morse served as faculty advisor to the Built World Enterprise at Michigan Tech.

The team describes the process for developing their hypothesis:

The team utilized Design Thinking to develop an effective solution. First, the team communicated and empathized with aviation professionals to learn challenges and concerns they are experiencing. Next, the team used the feedback from professionals to define the problem of runway incursions at non-towered airports. The team then created two prototypes to decrease runway incursions and used a decision matrix to evaluate and eventually choose the most effective solution. The design was then sent out to professionals to provide feedback and suggestions.

Clark Fadoir, Mary Ollis, Greg Porcaro, Drew Vega

Michigan Tech brings STEM to Metro Detroit Youth Day on Belle Isle

MTU Booth
Ashley Curie and Joan Chadde setting up the booth

On July 13, the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE) teamed up with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) to offer science & engineering activities and information about Michigan Technological University at the 38th annual Metro Detroit Youth Day on Belle Isle in Detroit.

Typically, 20,000 students ages 8 to 15 years descend on Belle Isle for a fun and educational day. In the aftermath of COVID, the numbers were smaller. It was the first-time experiencing Metro Detroit Youth Day for Michigan Tech representatives Dr. Wayne Gersie, V.P. for Diversity & Inclusion; Jeff Littmann, chair of the MTU Board of Trustees; Chris Sanders and Ashley Curie, CDI staff; and Joan Chadde, Director, MTU Center for Science & Environmental Outreach.

“It was a fun-filled day with tons of smiling faces. I was amazed to see so many young minds that were already thinking about their future. I’m so happy that Michigan Tech was able to be a part of their excitement,” observed Ashley Curie.

“Our team was glad to be part of this initiative that channeled the students’ curiosity in learning in a manner that helped develop their educational and career aspirations. Through science activities and exploration, we were able to offer a small glimpse of the Michigan Tech experience,” shared Dr. Wayne Gersie, VP for Diversity & Inclusion.

Youth participants designed electrical circuits, created launchers to see which could project a cotton ball the furthest, identified Michigan owls, and compared tree growth rates.

“This STEM outreach event was funded by OHM–Advisors to increase awareness of STEM careers and the diversity of the STEM career pipeline,” explained Joan Chadde. “We would like to participate next year!”

Participation at an All-Time High aboard the R/V Agassiz for Chassell Strawberry Festival

Interest in scientific excursions aboard the R/V Agassiz hit an all-time high this year at the 2022 Chassell Strawberry Festival on July 9! Hayden Henderson (Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, MTU 2017) was the captain and Kenny Larsen, a PhD student in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, was the chief scientist. Kenny presented a 40-minute program on “How scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes?” and “How can citizens be Great Lakes Stewards?”

Six 40-minute scientific excursions were conducted for a total of 110 participants (max 18 per excursion). There were 90 people on the waiting list who waited on the dock in hopes of getting on, plus 20 who had to cancel! A total of 220 people wanted to participate! This is an all-time record!

“We were sorry to not be able to serve everyone. I don’t remember ever being overrun with so many people and having a three-page waiting list!” observed Joan Chadde, event coordinator and Director of the MTU Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

Participants had lots to say about what they had learned. Some of their comments included:

  • How mercury and PCBs get into water
  • Lake turnover and stratification
  • How to keep our lakes healthy and be a better steward
  • How to sample and measure water quality.
  • How invasive species harm the lake.

And often, one is left with more questions, like this one:

Do fish smell like algae, or do algae smell like fish?

The Ride the Waves community outreach program is made possible with a grant from General Motors in support of the Agassiz and Great Lakes education/outreach.