Dear Alumni and Friends,
As you may have heard, with Dr. Agrawal’s retirement in June, I have stepped in to fill the department chair role until a national search for a new chair is completed. When I was asked to return as chair this summer, I was happy to come back to the department I have spent over 35 years helping to build. I was able to come back up to speed quickly and help get the department ready for fall semester. Many major department changes have happened since then and I’d like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on a few of those.
I am not exaggerating to say this is a pivotal time in the history of Michigan Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering. In addition to Pradeep’s retirement, our long-time colleague Tony Rogers decided to retire this summer after leading our nationally recognized senior capstone design course for over 30 year and serving as mentor and advisor for our Consumer Product Manufacturing (CPM) Enterprise for more than 25 years. Professor of Practice Kurt Rickard retired after helping to rebuild our process control course and co-teaching our UO lab over the past 4 years. (He has now taken the job as mayor of Hancock!). In the previous year, Drs. Tom Co, Faith Morrison and Komar Kawatra, who had over 100 years of dedicated service to MTU between them, also retired! We are now faced with a multi-year faculty rebuilding phase. Professor of Practice Jon Herlevich and Assistant Teaching Professor Kyle Griffin are great new additions to our department, and we’ve begun the search for additional rising stars to join our faculty over the next 2 years.
Our longtime academic advisor, Katie Torrey, has moved to another position in the university. I originally hired Katie when I was chair 18 years ago, and she has been an invaluable resource for a generation of students and our entire department. Katie will be greatly missed, but we have lured Judy Burl out of retirement to serve as academic advisor until we find a permanent replacement. We are also lucky to have Tyson Kauppinen join our lab manager Stefan Wiesnewski to help keep our chemical engineering laboratories the best in the USA.
There have been many transformational changes to our facilities over the past few months! Due to the generosity of our alumni, we have a wonderful new Student Learning Center and Department Conference Room, which are heavily used by students and faculty. This summer we finished a complete renovation of all the classrooms and public areas of our building, and the new $53M HSTEM addition to our building will be ready for move-in by late March 2024.
Just today, it was announced that Michigan Tech has received a $5 million grant – with a potential $2 million matching grant – from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation for addition renovations to the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Building. In 2024 we are initiating 2 projects that will have a huge impact on our students: a new Senior Capstone Design Lab and a Maker’s Space for the Enterprise Programs centered in our department, which could be eligible for these matching gifts.
As a former (and now current) department chair, I know how important our alumni supporters and friends like you are to the success of our program. The resources we receive from the state and from tuition dollars are just enough to cover the basic salaries of the chemical engineering program, and little else. It is the generosity of our alumni and industry friends that allows our program to truly excel. If you would like to be a part of this exciting time for our department, be sure to reach out to me anytime to learn more.
Warmest wishes for the new year,