Author: College of Engineering

Sue Hill is the Digital Content Manager for the College of Engineering.

Excellence in Review Award for Daisuke Minakata

Daisuke Minakata
Daisuke Minakata

Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) published the 2017 Reviewer Awards on November 7. Among the recipients is Assistant Professor Daisuke Minakata, who received an Excellence in Review Award recognizing his contributions during a single year.

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b05472

Dr.  Minakata’s research interests include development of computational tools for various water and wastewater treatment technologies, innovative water treatment technologies, and sustainable energy harvesting technologies. He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers in ES&T, Water Research, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Applied Catalysis, and others.

The peer review process is inherently anonymous, and it is valued because this is how journals ensure that papers published meet their high standard for quality. The purpose of this international award is to celebrate and recognize the reviewers who went the extra distance to write reviews that were truly exceptions.

ES&T is an authoritative source of information for professionals in a wide range of environmental disciplines. The journal combines magazine and research sections and is published both in print and online.

David Hand on Ballast Treatment

Great LakesIn preparing ballast treatment standards, which a federal court ruled inadequate in 2015, the EPA turned to some of the country’s best scientists in the field to help establish a safe number of organisms that could be discharged per cubic meter of water while still protecting the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters from new invasions.

The only thing the panel could agree on is that the fewer organisms allowed to survive in a ballast tank, the better. Beyond that, they were at a loss because, they said, you can’t just pick a magic number and call it safe.

Unless the number you pick is zero.

That is the number Isle Royale National Park Superintendent Phyllis Green aimed for when she learned in 2007 that an invasive virus deadly to dozens of freshwater fish species was creeping toward her rugged, forested island in the middle of Lake Superior.

Green went straight to the captain of the Ranger III, the 165-foot-long ship that ferries park passengers to the island, 73 miles from its home port on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Worried that the ferry might suck the rapidly spreading virus into its ballast tanks while docked at the mainland, she asked if there were any way to disinfect that ballast before it was released into park waters. The captain said no. “What happens,” Green replied, “if I tell you that you can’t move this ship unless you kill everything in your ballast tanks?”

That’s when the brainstorming started. Green’s goal was to try to figure out how to make the Ranger III safe to sail — not in years or even months, but in a matter of days. She sat down with the captain, the ship’s engineer and David Hand, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University. Hand had worked on water purification systems for the International Space Station that can turn sweat and urine into tap water.

“This,” Hand told the group of the ballast problem, “is not rocket science.”

Two weeks later, Isle Royale’s passenger ship had a crude ballast treatment system that used chlorine to fry viruses and other life lurking in its 37,000-gallon ballast tanks, and then vitamin C to neutralize the poison so the water could be harmlessly discharged into the lake.

Read more at Discover Magazine, by Dan Egan.

Becker and Seagren Speak Out on Biosolids Concerns

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Biosolid spreading at the Mason Stamp Sands has local residents still concerned but experts from Michigan Tech are speaking up on the subject.

“It’s not surprising that people have questions about biosolids because most people don’t think about the whole wastewater treatment process,” said Jennifer Becker, Civil and Environmental Engineering professor.

Top questions include impact on water supply and wildlife.

“We can’t say there is absolutely no risk because there is nothing I can think of that we do that has no risk,” said Becker.

But biosolids are processed to the point where experts says health risks are very low, even in unlikely cases of high contact with the material.

“So, for example, for many of the metals this would be a child actually eating the biosolids. This gives you a feel for the regulations. They are based on a very extreme case,” said Eric Seagen, also a Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at MTU.

Read more and watch the video at TV6 FOX UP, by Mariah Powell.

Jennifer Becker
Jennifer Becker
Eric Seagren
Eric Seagren

Xue and Auer to Forecast Algal Bloom Toxicity

Lake Erie Algal Bloom
Lake Erie Algal Bloom, NASA

Pengfei Xue (CEE/GLRC) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $68,975 research and development agreement with Ohio State University. Martin Auer (CEE) is the Co-PI on the project “ECOHAB 2017 Linking Process Models and Field Experiments to Forecast Algal Bloom Toxicity in Lake Erie.”

This is the first year of a three-year project potentially totaling $206,907.

By Sponsored Programs.

Pasi Lautala Interviewed on Railway Education

Summer Youth Rail Program

Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program was featured in the INFORMS Railway Applications Section 2017 newsletter. INFORMS is the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. The article Railway Education for the 21st Century included an interview with Pasi Lautala (CEE) describing our program’s history and current activities.

Feature Article: Railway Education for the 21st Century

The prize for best student recruiting must go to Michigan Tech, which since 2010 has offered a residential summer rail camp experience to students in the 9th through 12th years (American high school). Michigan Tech is the scrappy underdog of railway education.

How did Michigan Tech become one of the top railway education centers in the United States? It all started with the current program director, Pasi Lautala, who came to Michigan Tech in 1997 as an exchange student from Finland. Faculty members Bill Sproul and Eric Petersen shared a mutual interest in rail, and took an interest in Lautala. In 2002, they invited Lautala back to Michigan Tech to teach some courses in railways and pursue his PhD.

The summer youth program is the jewel of Michigan Tech’s program. Founded in 2010, the program is unique at Michigan Tech, because unlike other youth programs at Michigan Tech, it attracts students from all over the United States (Michigan Tech is otherwise strictly a regional school). At its peak under NuRail funding, the program offered 100% scholarship and enrolled a capacity group of 25 students. Today, without NuRail funding, the program offers 50% scholarship and enrolled 14 students last year.

The industry has to change, it has to modernize. Pasi Lautala

Director Pasi Lautala says the student body at Michigan Tech is a good match to the railroad industry, because its students are very hands on, engineering focused, and outdoors oriented, “Railroad people need to drive big trucks and shovel snow.”

Read more at the INFORMS newsletter of the Railway Applications Section, by Steven Harrod.

You, Students Travel to Minnesota

Zhanping You MnROAD
Zhanping You at MnROAD Grand Opening in Minnesota

Zhanping You (CEE), students Siyu Chen, Fangyuan Gong, Ran Zhang, and visiting scholars Songtao Lyu and Chundi Si attended the National Road Research Alliance (NRRA) Grand Opening at MnROAD Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

You received a plaque from Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle for Associate Member Michigan Tech Transportation Institute. US Rep. Tom Emmer and Zelle joined the event.

Zelle, Deputy Commissioner Susan Mulvihil and associate members of NRRA cut the ribbon with Rep. Emmer.

MnROAD, located near Albertville, Minnesota, is a pavement test track consisting of various combinations of road-building materials and designs. MnROAD collects pavement field data with thousands of sensors located in each test section. A tour of MnROAD Low Volume Road was shown by the MnROAD staffs.

PHOTO GALLERY

Rail Transportation Program and Railroad Club Activities

Railway InterchangeRail Transportation Program and Railroad Club participate in Railway Interchange

Pasi Lautala, director of Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program (RTP) and 11 undergraduate and graduate students participated in the Railway Interchange on Sept. 17-20, 2017, in Indianapolis.

With over 8,500 participants, Railway Interchange is the largest railway conference in the US, organized by several professional associations. As part of the student activities, Team 1 of the Railroad Engineering and Activities Club (REAC), consisting of Aaron Dean (ME), Alyssa Leach (CE), Alex Christmas (CE), Derek Owen (CE) and Mario Marachini (CE) got 3rd place in the student quiz bowl. Team 2 (Kyle Dick, Andrew Erickson, Erick Flaten, Clive Pinto, Pratik Tuplondhetook) took 7th place in the bowl. Aaron Dean also had success in the undergraduate student poster competition, taking the 1st place with his poster on “Using In-Vehicle Head Orientation Sensing Data to Rapidly Evaluate Driver Visual Scanning Behavior at Rail Grade Crossings”. Dean also presented a poster- “The Evaluation of Driver Compliance Behavior at Grade Crossings based on Naturalistic Driving Study Data” by Modeste Muhire in his absence as part of the graduate poster competition, taking the 2nd place.

As part of the conference, five Michigan Tech students were also recognized for winning student scholarships by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA). To cap a successful conference, Dr. Pasi Lautala presented “Evaluation of Driver Behavior at Highway Rail Grade Crossings” in the closing general session of the conference.

Rail Transportation Program presents at the SHRP2 Safety Symposium

Pasi Lautala, director of Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program (RTP) and Aaron Dean, a senior in the ME Department and an undergraduate research assistant for the RTP, participated in the Tenth SHRP 2 “Safety Data Symposium: From Analysis to Results” on Oct.6, 2017, in Washington, DC.

The Symposium included nineteen selected presentations by the researchers within and outside the US that use the SHRP 2 Naturalistic Driving Study database.

Aaron Dean presented his research on “Development & Validation of Post-Processing Methods for the SHRP2 MASK Head Pose Data”, and Lautala presented on “Using NDS data to evaluate driver behavior at highway-rail grade crossings”.

Michigan Tech was the only institution invited to make two presentations in the conference and Dean was the only undergraduate presenter.