Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering 2023 Department Awards

Department Scholar Award

Caleb Novitch accepting an award from Audra Morse.
Caleb Novitch accepting an award from Audra Morse.

Senior status during the next academic year

  • Represents the best of student scholarship in the department
  • Participates in research or scholarly activities
  • Has a high level of intellectual curiosity
  • Shows intellectual creativity
  • Demonstrates communication skills

Nominees for this award were:

Brodey Bevins – nominated by Pasi Lautala
Caleb Novitch – nominated by Jennifer Becker and Yousef Darestani
Francine Rosinski – nominated by Audra Morse

Presented to Caleb Novitch

From his nomination, “Caleb Novitch is being recognized by the Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering Department not only for his outstanding academic achievements and dedication to learning but for his strength of character. He is honest, responsible, and possesses excellent interpersonal skills. He is always willing to help others and work collaboratively with classmates to achieve common goals.”

Nicole Bloom Award for Environmental Sustainability

Kendra Lachcik accepting an award from Audra Morse.
Kendra Lachcik accepting an award from Audra Morse.

This award is made annually to an undergraduate civil, environmental, or geospatial engineering student who has demonstrated leadership, passion, and activism for effecting environmental sustainability at the local, national, or global level. This award is accompanied by the Pati and Soumitri Reddy $1000 endowed scholarship.

Nominees for this award were:

Claire Cristen – nominated by Judith Perlinger and Robert Handler
Josh King – nominated by Zhanping You
Kendra Lachik – nominated by Audra Morse

Presented to Kendra Lachcik

Kendra has had a lifelong passion for environmental issues which was her motivation for pursuing an environmental engineering degree. Since January 2021, she has been a tenant in the Sustainability House where the goal is to retrofit the house into a net-zero energy, zero waste house and also host outreach events to promote sustainable system concepts. Kendra was recognized in 2022 as the Inaugural Michigan Tech Sustainability Award Winner and represented Michigan Tech at COP 27 in Egypt. As stated in the award nomination, “Kendra is always happy to share her enthusiasm for environmental engineering with prospective students and is an ambassador of Michigan Tech and environmental sustainability.”

Undergraduate Department Service Award

Jacob Wysko accepting an award from Audra Morse.
Jacob Wysko accepting an award from Audra Morse.

This award is to recognize a CEGE student that has shown exemplary service to the CEGE Department through student organizations affiliated with the Department (ASCE, Chi Epsilon, SEEN, EWB, Rail Engineering Activity Club). This award is accompanied by a $500 scholarship.

Presented to Jacob Wysko

Jacob is a senior in the geospatial engineering program and is also a member of the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter. He was nominated for his willingness to support the delivery of our undergraduate programs when a faculty member had to take leave suddenly in the middle of the semester. Jacob is TA for SU 2000 and he made sure labs ran unaffected during the faculty absence.

Danielle Ladwig Award for Graduate Excellence

Tyler LeMahieu accepting an award from Audra Morse.
Tyler LeMahieu accepting an award from Audra Morse.

This award is made annually to a graduate level student in civil or environmental engineering in recognition of outstanding achievement in academics, research, and service, in memory of our friend and colleague, Danielle Ladwig. This award is accompanied by the Pati and Soumitri Reddy $1000 endowed fellowship.

Nominees for this award:

Tyler LeMahieu – nominated by Angela Keranen and Shelle Sandell
Yingtong Tan – nominated by Kuilin Zhang

Presented to Tyler LeMahieu

Tyler personifies the type of person this award was created to recognize. He has been recognized for his excellence in teaching with the 2021-22 with the student voted CEGE GTA of the Year and with the graduate school Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award. He was awarded an NSF Fellowship in 2022 for a proposal titled “Understanding Wild Rice Site Suitability in a Changing Climate” with Dr. Cory McDonald as well as a Michigan Space Grant Consortium fellowship for “Assessing Flood Resilience in Constructed Streambeds: Flume Comparison of Design Methodologies” with Dr. Brian Barkdoll. In addition to his contributions to teaching and research, it is Tyler’s consistent willingness to help in a service role to the department that completes the picture for this award. Whether it be STEM outreach to K–12, meetings with prospective graduate students, or coordinating the CEGE Graduate Orientation, Tyler has been a willing and enthusiastic participant.

Wilbur Haas Graduate Research Excellence Award

Ben Barrios accepting an award next to Audra Morse.
Ben Barrios accepting an award next to Audra Morse.

The Graduate Research Excellence Award is made annually to a graduate level student in civil or environmental engineering to recognize outstanding student scholarship and research contributions. This award is accompanied by a $1000 Wilbur Haas Memorial Fellowship.

Nominations for this award:

Ben Barrios – nominated by Daisuke Minakata
Yei Lin – nominated by Zhanping You
Miraj Bhakta Kayastha – nominated by Peifeng Xue
Yingtong Tan – nominated by Kuilin Zhang

Presented to Benjamin Barrios Cerda

In his nomination, Ben’s advisor, Daisuke Minakata shared that in the four years that Ben has been a doctoral student in his research group he has published three high impact publications as first author and another as the co-author and additionally there are several more ready for submission where he is co-author. One of the papers, though only published in 2021, already has 21 citations indicating the high impact to the community.

Ben also enjoys sharing his passion for science and technology with members of the community. Every summer since 2019, he has participated in a summer youth program directed to students from the Detroit area. The program shares with them some fundamental concepts of environmental engineering with hopes that they decide to pursue a higher education degree in the areas of STEM.

GTA Award

Chi Epsilon Presenting – Jacob Novitch

Award presenter and Jacob Novitch.
Jacob Novitch receiving GTA of the Year award.

Faculty of the Year Award- Chi Epsilon Presenting

Yousef Darestani – Faculty of the Year Award

Civil (structures, materials, geotech) and Geospatial Engineering (3 people were very close: Yousef, Kris Mattila, and Jake Hiller)

Jennifer Becker – Faculty of the Year Award

Environmental Engineering/Civil (Water Resources) Engineering

Department Citizenship Award

Jeffery Hollingsworth

Professional Advisory Board Faculty/Staff Award

Henrique de Melo e Silva

Recognition Also For

Rob Fritz on his retirement after 23 years of service to CEGE.

Outgoing Members of the CEGE Professional Advisory Board

Dennis Decator
Sean Kelley
Leslie Nelson
Kim Zimmer

Zhanping You Appointed to EGLE Scrap Tire Advisory Committee

Zhanping You (CEGE/MTTI) has been appointed to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Scrap Tire Advisory Committee.

Section 16911(3) of Part 169, Scrap Tires, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended, states:

“The director of the department shall appoint a scrap tire advisory committee of individuals interested in the management of scrap tires to advise the department on the implementation of this part. In addition to such other issues as the department may request the committee to consider, the committee shall advise the department on the report required by subsection (2) and the relevance of a national standard or specification under section 16901(1)(f).”

By Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

Daniel Dowden on Earthquake Resistance in Mass Timber Construction

Daniel Dowden
Daniel Dowden

Daniel Dowden (CEGE) was credited by DBusiness in a story about the benefits and potential of mass timber in the construction industry. Dowden provided info on mass timber buildings’ ability to withstand earthquakes.

Cited by National Geographic as the sustainable material with which future cities could be built, mass timber is an engineered wood that architects and builders increasingly see as a structural alternative to steel and concrete.

According to Dowden, steel and mass timber buildings can be built to respond in an equivalent manner to an earthquake of the same magnitude, but a mass timber structure built with cross-laminated timber walls that are designed to resist lateral forces must also be designed to withstand larger forces because wood is a brittle material compared to steel.

Read more at DBusiness, by Tom Beaman.

Elsa Meyer Interviewed on America’s Morning Headquarters

Two women interviewed in front of a Michigan Tech backdrop.
Elsa Meyer (right) and Cassy Tefft de Muñoz (left) are interviewed on America’s Morning Headquarters.

Cassy Tefft de Muñoz (CEO) and undergraduate student Elsa Meyer (civil engineering) were virtual guests last Thursday (March 23, 2023) on “America’s Morning Headquarters.” Tefft de Muñoz and Meyer talked about the Michigan Tech Mind Trekkers traveling STEM festivals and demonstrations, and explained the popular banana piano demo while host Jim Cantore tried it out.

Split view of a banana apparatus on a table and the pair of interviewees.
Elsa explains the popular banana piano demonstration.

Ricardo Eiris, Josiane Isingizwe Receive Best Paper Award

Ricardo Eiris
Ricardo Eiris
Josiane Isingizwe
Josiane Isingizwe

Ricardo Eiris (CEGE) and PhD student Josiane Isingizwe (civil engineering) have been awarded the Best Paper Award for the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) Conference Proceedings for papers published in 2023.

They received the award for a paper titled “Where Do Minority Serving Institutions Stand Today in U.S. Construction Education?”

The paper will be presented at the 59th Annual ASC International Conference in Liverpool, U.K., on April 3–5, 2023. Eiris and Isingizwe’s achievement will be celebrated during the award presentation.

Western U.P. STEM Fair and Festival 2023

The STEM Fair and Festival was held on Thursday, March 16, 2023, at the Memorial Union Ballroom on Michigan Technological University campus in Houghton, Michigan. More than 50 students presented their projects highlighting the results of weeks of work on a science or engineering investigations.

Students from Houghton, Baraga, Keweenaw, Ontonagon, and Gogebic Counties in grades 4–8 were invited to participate in the STEM Project Fair. Students prepared and presented on a science investigation or an engineering design project.

The 2023 participants and winners are posted on the MiSTEM Network.

Tom Oliver, director of Michigan Tech’s Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, coordinated the fair. For the first year after the pandemic, he’s thrilled with the number of kids and parents who came in and checked things out.

“You can see kids everywhere are having fun, which is entirely what we want to do,” he said. “We want them to have fun doing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, because those are things that lead them to what they want to do with their careers.”

Read more at the Daily Mining Gazette, by Garrett Neese.

Kinley Lyons is a 4th-year chemical engineering student at MTU now, but she participated in the STEM Fair years ago as a grade schooler. Lyons and her partner constructed a hovercraft as their project, using an old street sign, a tarp, and a leaf blower.

“It didn’t work that well, but it did work,” she said with a laugh. “It is one of the things that got me into engineering, and here I am now.”

Read more at the Copper Beacon, by Joshua Vissers.

Daisuke Minakata Podcast on Sunshine and Organic Molecules in Water

Organic molecules dissolved in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are essential to plant and animal life. Some of these molecules are also degraded and enter a complex cycle of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur containing compounds. Surprisingly, scientists currently have a limited understanding of the fate of these molecules. Dr. Daisuke Minakata and his colleagues from Michigan Technological University are involved in an ambitious programme to overcome this critical knowledge gap.

Minakata was prompted to develop a theory to explain the loss of critical amino acids from water. He assumed that other organic molecules absorb the energy carried by the rays of sunshine and those reactive intermediates transform amino acids into small pieces. According to his theory, such light-activated compounds could act as catalysts, inducing the indirect breakdown of critical amino acids.

Read more and listen to the podcast at SciPod.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

New Instrumentation Available for Radioisotope Research

The Department of Biological Sciences recently acquired a new liquid scintillation counter through a collaboration with the Vice President for Research Office; College of Sciences and Arts; Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering; Ecosystem Science Center; and Great Lakes Research Center.

This counter replaces an older, obsolete unit and is an essential piece of equipment for researchers working with or planning to work with radioisotopes. Researchers interested in using the new counter, or simply learning more about the about it, should contact David Dixon, director of biological laboratory operations, at

By the Associate Vice President for Research Development.

Ryan Sherman ’07 Selected for Award by Steel Bridge Task Force

Ryan Sherman
Ryan Sherman

The Steel Bridge Task Force has selected Ryan J. Sherman, PhD, PE, Assistant Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, as the recipient of the 2023 Robert J. Dexter Memorial Award Lecture

The Steel Bridge Task Force consists of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA), and the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) T-14 Technical Committee for Structural Steel Design. The program was instituted in 2005 in memory of Robert J. Dexter, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, who was an internationally recognized expert on steel fracture and fatigue problems in bridges.

Sherman joined the faculty in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology as an assistant professor in 2019. He earned his BS degree in Civil Engineering from Michigan Technological University and his MS degree and PhD in Civil Engineering from Purdue University.

Read more at BuildUsingSteel.

Feldhausen to Chair CEGE’s Professional Advisory Board

Benjamin M. Feldhausen
Benjamin M. Feldhausen

Benjamin M. Feldhausen has been elected to chair the Professional Advisory Board for the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Technological University.

A graduate of Iron Mountain High School and dual baccalaureate honors graduate in surveying and civil engineering of Michigan Tech, Feldhausen is licensed as both a professional engineer and professional surveyor. While attending MTU, he spent several years as an undergraduate teaching assistant, a peer mentoring advisor, a tutor and was also a member of the National Civil Engineering Honor Society, Chi Epsilon.

Read more at Iron Mountain Daily News.