Category: News

Student Leadership Awards Nominees and Winners from CEGE

The 28th Annual Student Leadership Awards ceremony was held on Friday, April 15, 2022. Surveying Engineering alumnus Jacob Heck was the keynote speaker. The Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial is proud of its many nominees and would like to congratulate them as well as the pair of awardees – Jemel Thompson – Dean of Students Award for Possibilities and alumnus Jacob Heck (’10 Surveying Engineering) for the Outstanding Young Alumni Award (to be formally announced at the 2022 Alumni Reunion).

Jemel Thompson
Jemel Thompson

Dean of Students Award for Possibilities

The Dean of Students Award for Possibilities recognizes a student that embodies our possibilities value statement: “We inspire the exploration and creation of all possibilities through innovative use of our skills and knowledge.”

Jemel Thompson

When Jemel Thompson arrived on campus, he struggled to see himself in anything at Tech, so he decided to forge the community he sought on his own. This was the inspiration to revive the Society of African American Men (SAAM) with the help of his fellow brothers. Jemel went on to become the first Minister of Direction (President) of the organization since its reinstatement providing resources and support for men of color on campus.

As one of his nominators shared, “Throughout his career at Michigan Tech, Jemel has continued to try new things, take chances, and engage meaningfully with everyone he meets. He has engaged with a wide variety of Tech experiences from working in curriculum development with Residence Education, re-establishing the Society of African American Men on campus, attending and on-site coordinating for the LeaderShape Institute, volunteering with the Tech Traditions committee, serving as a Husky Connect Mentor with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and a variety of other involvements in between. In each of these experiences, Jemel unabashedly asks everyone ‘why’ and ‘how can we improve.’ To him nothing is stagnant and it has pushed me and our Michigan Tech community forward.”

CEGE Award Nominees

  • Rising Star of the Year – Arika Booms
  • Student Employee of the Year – Chiarra Elkort-Wickboldt
  • Student Organization Advisor of the Year – Lynn Artman
  • Exceptional Enthusiasm as a Student Leader – Maddie Reitz
  • Outstanding Future Alumni Award – Stanton Schmitz
  • Percy Julian Award – Jemel Thompson
  • Provost’s Award for Scholarship – Thomas Pastell
  • President’s Award for Leadership – Jemel Thompson

BWE Team Places at WERC Environmental Competition

A group of three undergraduate environmental engineering students from Built World Enterprise (BWE) — Francine Rosinski, Jake McDowell and Morgan Hallberg — competed in the 32nd annual Waste Management Education Research Consortium (WERC) Design Contest. For WERC, they had to prepare a written report, oral presentation, poster presentation and bench scale demonstration. At the competition, they placed first overall in their task for the bench scale demonstration, second overall in their task, and second for the flash talk presentation.

Morgan Hallberg, Jake McDowell, and Francine Rosinski
Morgan Hallberg, Jake McDowell, and Francine Rosinski

Task 3: Value-added Use of Copper Smelter Slag

They focused their research experiment on value-added copper smelting slag use. They were asked to recover an economically valuable material from the copper slag and/or produce a useful product from copper smelting slag that makes use of its unique properties. In the theoretical business plan, the team extracted the high content of iron from the copper slag and used the remaining material to replace sand with copper slag in ceramic tiles. This, overall, increased the sustainability and strength of ceramic tiles.

Way to represent Michigan Technological University, BWE WERC team!

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for Tyler LeMahieu

Two Michigan Tech graduate students, Tessa Steenwinkel and Tyler LeMahieu, have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, and one undergraduate student, Jenna Brewer, has been given an honorable mention.

The oldest STEM-related fellowship program in the United States, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is a prestigious award that recognizes exceptional graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines early in their career and supports them through graduate education. NSF-GRFP fellows are an exceptional group; 42 fellows have become Nobel Laureates and about 450 fellows are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The fellowship provides three years of financial support, including a $34,000 stipend for each fellow and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for the fellow’s institution. Besides financial support for fellows, the GRFP provides opportunities for research in national laboratories and international research.

The Graduate School is proud of these students for their outstanding scholarship. These awards highlight the quality of students at Michigan Tech, the innovative work they have accomplished, the potential for leadership and impact in science and engineering that the country recognizes in these students and the incredible role that faculty play in students’ academic success.

Tyler LeMahieu

LeMahieu is an environmental engineering MS student under advisor Cory McDonald. LeMahieu’s proposal was titled, “Understanding Wild Rice Site Suitability in a Changing Climate.”

LeMahieu writes: “I plan to dedicate my career to bridging gaps between the scientific body and land managers. I would like to manage public and rural lands for the farmer, the logger and the hunter while managing those same lands for improved water and ecological health into perpetuity. Because fundamentally, rural land managers have the same goal in mind as those studying the environment — a useful, productive and sound ecosystem which will support and be supported by the next generation. That common ground is not always evident to both parties, but I am equipped to act as an intermediary with a foot in both worlds.”

By the Graduate School.

A Graduate Internship Experience

Bailey Papes, Environmental Engineering MS student.

Living next to the world’s largest freshwater lake, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is as fortunate. 

Bailey Papes, a master’s student in Environmental Engineering, is completing a research project that started in summer 2021 through an internship at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) in Alamogordo, NM. The facility focuses on pilot-scale testing of innovative water treatment processes for the desalination of brackish and impaired groundwater. During the internship, Bailey conducted her own research project focusing on the removal of per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from brackish groundwater using different types of biochar produced from halophytes and cow bone. Biochar may be a sustainable alternative to powdered activated carbon (PAC) or granular activated carbon (GAC) for PFAS adsorption from aqueous solutions. The results of the experiments showed that PFAS do adsorb to biochars. However, compared to PAC, approximately ten times more biochar must be added to water to effectively remove PFAS, and a cost-benefit analysis is needed to determine if biochar is an economically viable option for PFAS adsorption.

The internship at BGNDRF exposed Bailey to a wide range of drinking water treatment technologies and gave her experience addressing PFAS contamination, which is a growing concern throughout the world. It also opened her eyes to how serious water scarcity issues are within the U.S.  Prior to attending Michigan Tech, Bailey earned her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Western Michigan University. Subsequently, she served in the Peace Corps as an education volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where she taught chemistry, biology, and physics at the local high school. During her service, the well in her community dried up, and Bailey was forced to send a motorcycle five miles away to fetch drinking water. After experiencing water scarcity firsthand, she decided to pursue her master’s in environmental engineering. In addition to completing an internship at BGNDRF during her M.S. studies, Bailey worked with Dr. David Watkins to develop models of the wastewater collection systems in Houghton-Hancock that can be used in conjunction with SARS-CoV-2 concentrations to describe COVID-19 dynamics in these communities. She also is conducting research in the laboratory of Dr. Rebecca Ong (Chemical Engineering), and is completing graduate certificates in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Engineering Sustainability and Resilience. Dr. Jennifer Becker is Bailey’s graduate advisor. Upon graduation, Bailey will work for a water and wastewater engineering consulting firm to help ensure that everyone has access to clean and safe drinking water. 

Kim Nowack ’85 Named Woman of the Year

Kim Nowack
Kim Nowack

Mackinac Bridge Director Kim Nowack ’85 (civil engineering) has been named Woman of the Year by the Michigan Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS).

According to a press release from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the award was presented to Nowack during the WTS Michigan Chapter’s 2022 Scholarship and Recognition Awards Banquet March 10 in Howell. It “honors a woman who is an outstanding role model and has contributed to the advancement of women and minorities in transportation.”

“I have admired Kim Nowack for her professionalism, her technical knowledge, her leadership, and commitment to share her knowledge with future generations about careers in engineering,” said WTS member and past Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) member Barbara Arens, who assisted with Nowack’s nomination. “She is a humble and admirable leader, representing women and our industry well as the executive secretary of the MBA and our iconic bridge. The WTS Michigan Chapter is proud to honor her as WTS Michigan Chapter Woman of the Year.”

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

Zhanping You is an Exceptional Graduate Mentor

Zhanping You
Zhanping You

This year’s awardees for the Graduate Student Government (GSG) Merit Awards have been decided. A total of 37 nominations were received from departments all across campus. The decision process was not an easy one, as there was a very strong pool of nominations this year. We are very grateful to all of our nominees for all of the work they put in to improve and enrich the life of our graduate students.

In the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, Zhanping You, Distinguished Professor, Transportation Engineering, was awarded Exceptional Graduate Mentor.

Congratulations to all winners and thank you for all you have done for our graduate students.

By Graduate Student Government.

Ride the Waves Program Receives $40K Grant

Teachers and Group Leaders

Michigan Tech’s Ride the Waves Program invites Grades 4-12 students to join scientists from Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center in the exploration of Lake Superior, Portage Waterway, and Torch Lake. Programs are led by the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach staff and MTU students and funded by General Motors Foundation. There are three programs available for 2022:

  1. Aquatic Food Web Investigation (Portage Waterway)
  2. Mine Waste Remediation and Torch Lake Restoration
  3. Keweenaw Geoheritage (Jacobsville and White City)

Ride the Waves Sign Up 2022

About Ride the Waves

Michigan Tech’s Ride the Waves program, coordinated by the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, will receive a $40,000 two-year grant from General Motors to conduct Great Lakes education aboard the research vessel Agassiz.

The Center has received funding from GM for the program since 2016 with the assistance of Marty Auer, professor emeritus in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

The purpose of the funding is to put rural and underserved youth “on the water” to learn about STEM careers related to the Great Lakes, inland waters, environmental stewardship and sustainability. This will be accomplished through scientific excursions aboard MTU’s research vessel Agassiz paired with laboratory investigations led by Michigan Tech scientists and graduate students.

Since 2016, Ride the Waves with GM has served nearly 3,000 participants, delivering a variety of programs. Attention to inclusion and diversity has been a high priority, and the program has provided opportunities for Keweenaw Bay Indian Community youth and Michigan Tech’s Women in Engineering Program and Muslim Students Association, along with students from Detroit and Flint high schools, to learn how scientists assess the health of the Great Lakes.

For more information, contact Joan Chadde, director of the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, at or visit the Great Lakes Research Center website.

By Joan Chadde, Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

Listen to the interviews with Joan Chadde on the Keweenaw Report.

Rail Transportation Program Announces Scholarship Winners

The Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program is pleased to announce the winners of our annual scholarship program! This year our scholarship committee chose four winners from a pool of eight applications.

  • Nigel Soler and Matthew Switzer received $1,500 scholarships from our Michigan Tech Alumni and Friends program.
  • Stanton Schmitz and Alexander Lehnert will receive $1,500 scholarships from our CN Endowment Fund.

Congratulations to all of our winners! You can find more information about these students and our previous winners at our website.

By David Nelson, Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

12th Annual Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series kicks off this week

The 12th Annual Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series kicks off this week with a discussion of Chasing Coral, a 2017 film release, that examines how coral is vanishing around the world at an alarming rate. Between 2014 – 2017, Chasing Coral captured the most severe bleaching event in recorded history. During these years, 75% of corals suffered or died from heat stress brought on by climate change. It is predicted that if nothing changes, by 2034 there will be severe bleaching events every year, and by the end of the century, every reef in the world will bleach. (88 min.) The film is available on Netflix and YouTube (free).

The public is invited to participate in a free online facilitated discussion from 7:00-8:00 pm, Thursday, January 27, led by Casey Huckins, Professor, MTU Department of Biological Sciences, Great Lakes Research Center.

A $5 suggested donation per film to support the Sustainability Film Series is appreciated. Make donations online. Register HERE to receive the FREE zoom link to participate in the facilitated discussion on January 27th or request the link from Joan Chadde:

The Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series is co-sponsored by Friends of the Land of Keweenaw, Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, College of Forest Resources & Environmental Science, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, MTU Sustainability Demonstration House, Keweenaw Land Trust, and Dept. of Social Sciences Sustainability Sciences Program.

See the complete set of events for January-May 2022 here.

2022 Sustainability Film & Facilitated Discussion Series ~ SCHEDULE

Chasing Coral (2021) JAN 27 Netflix and YouTube
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an alarming rate. Between 2014 – 2017, Chasing Coral captured the most severe bleaching event in recorded history. During these years, 75% of corals suffered or died from heat stress brought on by climate change. It is predicted that if nothing changes, by 2034 there will be severe bleaching events every year, and by the end of the century every reef in the world will bleach. (88 min) Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Casey Huckins, MTU Dept of Biological Sci.

Fauci (2021) FEB 17 Link provided for 1-week.
This National Geographic documentary chronicles the life of Dr. Anthony Fauci, world-renowned infectious disease specialist and the longest-serving public health leader in Wash. D.C. He has overseen the U.S. response to 40 years of outbreaks from HIV/AIDS, to SARS and Ebola. (104 mins)
Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Terry Kinzel, Gerontology & Internal Medicine

Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater (2021) MARCH 17 YouTube
Much of the planet relies on groundwater. From the U.S. to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – so much water is pumped from the ground that aquifers are being rapidly depleted and wells are going dry. The film investigates the consequences of this emerging crisis in several of the world’s hotspots of groundwater depletion. These are stories about people on four continents confronting questions of how to safeguard their aquifers for the future – and in some cases, how to cope as the water runs out. (64 min)
Discussion Facilitator: Dr. John Gierke, Dept. of Geological and Mining Engineering & Science

OWN the Land. (2021) APRIL 21 YouTube
How the residents of North Memphis work with local government to turn their neighborhoods into a healthy and livable place. Solutions to low income neighborhood homes in disrepair, food deserts & urban farming; community empowerment. (46 min.)
Discussion Facilitator – Memphis & Shelby County Community Redevelopment Agency

The Ants & The Grasshopper: How do you change someone’s mind about the most important thing in the world? (2021) MAY 19 1-week link provided
What do we owe each other in the face of an existential crisis like the climate emergency? That’s the question at the heart of this documentary exploring how power and privilege shape climate justice and food justice from Africa to America – and how we might move forward together. (74 min.) Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Sarah Green, Interim Chair, Dept. of Chemistry (invited)

Questions? Contact Joan Chadde:

Online Structural MSCE Graduates it’s First Student

The Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering is honored to congratulate Hoss Yaqoub for being our first online MSCE graduate.  Hoss is graduating with his online MSCE in the area of Structural Engineering and will continue on to obtain his Ph.D. from Michigan Tech.  

From Hoss – “My name is Hoss Yaqoub. I earned my BSc in Civil Engineering from the University of Alexandria in 1995. Throughout the last 25 years, I worked in five international enterprises in four different countries which paved the way to shape my career and provided me with comprehensive experience. I conducted several front‐end engineering reviews, in addition, I gave technical support to the management which led, in most cases, to significant savings. Proudly, I had the chance to prepare the construction work design packages for several projects which in turns, strengthened my technical abilities superimposed by refining  my engineering capabilities. Currently, I’m working as an engineering facilitator in Calgary, Canada.

In these hard times due to COVID, a lot of effort was conducted mutually with a lot of Jogging, reading, classical music and boxing in my free time that lead my desire to get better opportunities to enhance my technical capabilities and scientific bases. This was the major lead to graduate from the MSCE online program in structural engineering in Fall 2021. With great passion, I was able to complete the program in two years. The program sets my eagerness to explore new aspects of structural design and civil engineering. It gave me the opportunity to gain and improve some skills and increased my consciousness about engineering in general. 

Now I do have the momentum to take one step forward, I’m planning to join the Ph.D. program at MTU to achieve more in-depth exploration for my favorite science of civil engineering.