Archives—November 2019

Tomorrow Needs Faculty and Scientist Seminar Series

Tomorrow Needs Seminar Flyer

A seminar series to bring advanced PhD students and postdoctoral scholars to Michigan Tech has been launched by the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems, in partnership with the College of Computing, the College of Engineering, and the Great Lakes Research Center. The Tomorrow Needs Faculty and Scientist Seminar Series is intended to build connections with up-and-coming researchers, recruit and retain top talent at Michigan Tech, and provide opportunities for these promising scholars to learn more about Michigan Tech and the University’s excellent resources for research and education.

Those selected will be invited to present a research seminar, tour the Michigan Tech  campus and research facilities, and meet with faculty and students.

Applications to nominate scholars from around the globe are sought from all areas of the university. Nominations of advanced PhD candidates and postdoctoral scholars currently at Michigan Tech are also encouraged.  Find the online nomination form at  mtu.edu/icc/seminars. In the near term, applications will be reviewed as they are received, with a more formal review process to be instituted in the near future.

“Recruiting and retaining talented faculty and researchers is essential for Michigan Tech as we pursue the growth strategies identified by Tech Forward and the University’s leadership team,” says Adrienne Minerick, dean of the College of Computing. “We have an abundance of excellent teaching and creative research at Michigan Tech that complements a terrific quality of life here in the Upper Peninsula. This seminar series will showcase our top-notch people, facilities, teaching and research support infrastructure, and the Houghton/Hancock area to talented new PhDs and post doctoral researchers.”

Tim Havens, the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems and director of the ICC, stresses that the seminar series is open to all University areas. “The need to attract and retain top-tier faculty and researchers is a challenge shared across campus. We welcome nominations from all units. We are also very open to adding new partners to this initiative.”

Download the Seminar Series flyer.


University Research: A Multifaceted Endeavor

University Research: A Multifaceted Endeavor

The following commentary is part five of a six-part series featuring updates, national trends and personal perspectives from the University’s leadership team regarding the future of higher education and Michigan Tech. All questions or comments may be directed to the author of the article (ddreed@mtu.edu).    

Michigan Tech receives most of its research funding from the federal government. The federal research environment is challenging, with low and even declining funding rates, regulatory changes and the evolving federal budget climate, but Michigan Tech has managed to hold its own. Even in this difficult environment, in the last fiscal year Michigan Tech researchers achieved all-time highs in new sponsored awards ($63.5 million) and in research expenditures ($80.4 million). This was only possible through the outstanding creativity of our faculty and staff, a concentration on the development of outstanding proposals and a focus on areas where we can be recognized as one of the world’s leading institutions.

The campus developed these focus areas through the Tech Forward process last academic year. Several of the initiative areas include a significant research component. In particular, the Institute for Computing and Cybersystems (ICC, Tim Havens, director), the Health Research Institute (HRI, Caryn Heldt, director), and the Institute for Policy, Ethics, and Culture (IPEC, Jennifer Daryl Slack, director) were identified as highly exciting opportunities for future growth.  The Vice President for Research Office (VPR) is working with all three throughout this academic year to develop plans for continuing growth and eventual maturation as vibrant, self-supporting centers of scholarly activity.

Michigan Tech is well-positioned to reach $100 million in annual research expenditures within the next five years. To reach this will require continual work to improve the research environment on campus. There are several such initiatives underway this academic year:

  • Financial Services and Operations has removed the 3.5% annual administrative fee from all IRAD accounts, allowing all of these funds to be used to support and grow our research and graduate programs.

  • Our Shared Facilities were established five years ago. The associate vice president for research development is working with them to review their activities over the last five years and to formulate plans for their continued success and growth over the next five years.

  • Michigan Tech has made significant strides over the last few years in reducing the administrative workload associated with sponsored research activities. According to the Federal Demonstration Partnership’s 2012 and 2018 Faculty Workload Surveys, we have reduced the proportion of investigator’s research time spent on administrative tasks from more than 50% to 43%, below the national average of 44%. Many people in VPR and elsewhere on campus have worked to achieve this significant accomplishment. I think we can all agree, though, that there is still too much effort on administrative work when researcher’s efforts would be better spent on the creative activities involved in research and scholarship.  Thanks very much to all on campus who participated in the survey; the results shed light on a number of areas ripe for further process improvement, and we will prioritize and address them over the next few months and coming years.

  • Lastly, many of you may be aware that a number of cases have emerged nationally where university and other researchers have exhibited egregious behavior that has resulted in federal criminal charges of fraud and abuse. My understanding is that over 1,000 researchers across the country are under investigation. Many of these relate to failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest and also unfunded conflicts of commitment.  We expect there to be new federal requirements to change our disclosure practices at some point. In the meantime, it’s important for all to disclose any commitment and financial conflicts through our internal processes, as well as externally in technical reports and funding applications. When in doubt, the best practice is to disclose.

In closing, I would again like to recognize the outstanding efforts of all members of the University community, including researchers and the personnel who support them, both centrally and in their units, in developing and supporting a vibrant and creative environment. This improves our educational activities and strengthens our ongoing research efforts. Michigan Tech is in a great position with our outstanding strengths in areas of state, national and international significance.  Through progress in the Tech Forward initiatives and continued growth in our research and graduate programs, we will continue to increase our contributions to areas of great societal need.


Yakov Nekrich to Present Computing Seminar Talk this Friday at 3 pm

Yakov Nekrich

The College of Computing (CC) will present a Friday Seminar Talk on November 22, at 3:00 p.m. in Rekhi 214. Featured this week is Yakov Nekrich, associate professor of Computer Science. He will present his research titled: “Space-Efficient and Compact Data Structures.” Refreshments will be provided.

Massive data sets are becoming increasingly common in many areas. Therefore, it’s desirable to keep the data in compact form so that it fits into the main memory. What operations can be performed on data that is stored in compressed form without decompressing the data? This question is addressed in the emerging research field called compressed (or compact) data structures. In this talk, Nekrich will describe a compressed index for a collection of strings and efficient solutions for several related problems.


Health Informatics MS Program Is Among Top 20 in Nation

Health Informatics Graphic

The website OnlineSchoolsCenter.com has released the “Top 20 Online Schools for Master’s of Health Informatics Degree Programs for 2020.” The ranking provides readers with the twenty finest online colleges and universities offering graduate degrees in health informatics.

Michigan Tech was listed among the top 20 programs and was the only school from Michigan to make the list.

Find the full list here.

OnlineSchoolsCenter.com identified the following Michigan Tech Health Informatics program standouts: Michigan Tech is an excellent university that is well-decorated with glowing recognition. Namely for students’ professional success, the best online graduate programs, and one of the finest online Masters in Health Informatics in the nation! What makes this degree most exciting are the eleven different areas of focus in which students can concentrate their coursework. No other school on this ranking has as many specialization options. Online students learn from expert faculty members in the areas of healthcare systems analysts and design, cybersecurity, and much more. Graduates from Michigan Tech often go on to earn six-figure incomes, and the school has been recognized for this achievement in education, according to Money Magazine.


 Meet and Greet with John Cheney-Lippold Is Mon., Nov. 18, 3-4 pm

John Cheney-Lippold

Meet & Greet with John Cheney-Lippold, University of Michigan associate professor of American culture and digital studies and author of We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves, will take place Monday, November 18, from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m., in Rekhi G09.

Dr. Cheney-Lippold will present “Algorithms, Accidents, and the Imposition of a World of Calculation” on Monday, November 18, at 7:00 p.m. in EERC 103. The lecture is part of the Institute for Policy, Ethics, and Culture’s Algorithmic Culture Series. 

Algorithms are everywhere, organizing the near limitless data that exists in our world. Derived from our every search, like, click, and purchase, algorithms determine the news we get, the ads we see, the information accessible to us and even who our friends are. These complex configurations not only form knowledge and social relationships in the digital and physical world, but also determine who we are and who we can be, both on and offline.

The explosive, sometimes accidental transformations performed by statistics and algorithms alter our world to produce “someone else,” no longer the beings we thought we were. 

To demonstrate how statistics and algorithms are fundamentally transformative, Cheney-Lippold explores the use of statistics to invalidate the signature of a multimillion-dollar will and to objectify racial categories in the case of People vs. Collins. He also examines the accidental algorithmics that led to the lethal collision of a Tesla autonomous vehicle. 

His lecture reorients many of the pressing questions of contemporary culture of algorithmic bias, ethics, and ideas of justice.

Download the event flyer.


John Cheney-Lippold to Present Algorithmic Culture Series Lecture November 18

John Cheney-Lippold

The Institute for Policy, Ethics, and Culture’s Algorithmic Culture series continues with “Algorithms, Accidents, and the Imposition of a World of Calculation,” a keynote lecture from John Cheney-Lippold, on Monday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in EERC 0103. A Q&A will follow.

Cheney-Lippold is an associate professor of american culture and digital studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of our Digital Selves (NYU Press, 2017).

Algorithms are everywhere, organizing the near limitless data that exists in our world. Derived from our every search, like, click, and purchase, algorithms determine the news we get, the ads we see, the information accessible to us and even who our friends are. These complex configurations not only form knowledge and social relationships in the digital and physical world, but also determine who we are and who we can be, both on and offline.

The book, We Are Data by John Cheney-Lippold

The explosive, sometimes accidental transformations performed by statistics and algorithms alter our world to produce “someone else,” no longer the beings we thought we were. To demonstrate how statistics and algorithms are fundamentally transformative, Cheney-Lippold explores the use of statistics to invalidate the signature of a multimillion-dollar will and to objectify racial categories in the case of People vs. Collins. He also examines the accidental algorithmics that led to the lethal collision of a Tesla autonomous vehicle. This lecture reorients many of the pressing questions of contemporary culture of algorithmic bias, ethics, and ideas of justice.

The Algorithmic Culture series will conclude in December with a presentation from Meredith Broussard entitled “Artificial UnIntelligence.” Broussard’s lecture will be held Thursday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Union Building, Ballroom B.

The mission of the Institute for Policy, Ethics, and Culture is to promote research, policy engagement, and teaching that address the ethical and cultural challenges, implications, and strategies unique to the emerging technocultural environment. Its goals are to promote innovative research and collaboration on policy, ethics, and culture; contribute to policy making in Michigan and beyond; and provide students with tools to work proactively in the emerging environment.


Weihua Zhou to Present Friday Seminar Talk

Weihua Zhou

The College of Computing (CC) will present a Friday Seminar Talk on November 15, at 3:00 p.m. in Rekhi 214. Featured this week is Weihua Zhou, assistant professor of Health Informatics. He will present his research titled: “Information retrieval and knowledge discovery from cardiovascular images to improve the treatment of heart failure.” Refreshments will be provided.

Abstract: More than 5 million Americans live with heart failure, and the annual new incidence is about 670,000. Once diagnosed, around 50% of patients with heart failure will die within 5 years. Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) is a standard treatment for heart failure. However, based on the current guidelines, 30-40% of patients who have CRT do not benefit from CRT. One of Zhou’s research projects is to improve CRT favorable response by information retrieval and knowledge discovery from clinical records and cardiovascular images. By applying statistical analysis, machine learning, and computer vision to his unique CRT patient database, Zhou has made a number of innovations to select appropriate patients and navigate the real-time surgery. His CRT software toolkit is being validated by 17 hospitals in a large prospective clinical trial.


Mechatronics Engineering Lab Spotlighted in Donald Engineering Newsletter

Michigan Tech faculty and students at Donald Engineering

An article about the future Mechatronics Engineering Lab was included in the November 2019 issue of The Pilothouse, published by Donald Engineering, an engineering and distribution company headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The article is reproduced below.

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Michigan Tech University is currently making space for a new Mechatronics Engineering Lab that we refer to as The Mechatronics Playground. Donald Engineering is proud to be playing a big role in this Playground development. MTU Professor Alex Sergeyev, MTU Lecturer/ME Advisor Kevin Johnson, and  MTU Mechatronics students visited Donald Engineering in October to view demonstrations and to continue the process of fine-tuning these units. Several modules that DE is currently working on will be ready and delivered before the end of 2019!

Force Sensing Module

Pictured at right is the Force Sensing Module installed on a Schunk Pneumatic Gripper controlled by a Clippard Cordis closed-loop regulator. With a little math and PI calculations (as discussed in the last Pilot House issue), students will be able to measure, set, monitor, adjust, and record the force being applied by the gripper fingers to objects. This unit will help to demonstrate how much force can be or should be applied to objects in order to pick them up without damaging gripper fingers or the object itself. With this module, students will be exposed to some of the best and newest components like:


Alex Sergeyev, NMC Featured in Article about Robotics Manufacturing in Michigan

Robotics manufacturing shows Michigan’s automation leadership

In August 2019 Michigan Tech and Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) formalized a partnership and seven new articulation agreements designed to expedite degree completion for engineering students transferring to Michigan Tech from NMC. Under the 2+2 agreements, which took effect with the fall 2019 semester, engineering students are able to complete their first two years of study at NMC and then transfer to Tech with junior status. In addition to ensuring a quality undergraduate education for engineering students, the agreement is intended to create a pipeline of talented students from the Grand Traverse region to Michigan Tech and highly qualified future graduates to enhance the Grand Traverse area workforce.

LANSING — Engineering students at Northwestern Michigan College program autonomous rovers to inspect environments underwater and in the air in-real time.The rovers aren’t the only things on the move in a burgeoning robotics industry that experts say is a key to Michigan’s economy.“We’re always going to be trying to move to some new technology – and we just kind of have to be ready for it,” said Jason Slade, the director of technical academics at the Traverse City school.

Automation could reshape Michigan’s workforce, experts say.  And the state is a leader in both manufacturing robots and in training employers to use them.

Michigan leads the U.S. with more than 28,000 robots mostly engineered in state, 12% of the nation’s total, according to a 2017 Brookings Institution report.

The state’s aging population creates a gap in the skilled labor pool that automation could fill, said Joseph Cvengros, a vice president at FANUC America, a Rochester Hills company that recently opened a 461,000-square-foot robot factory.

“The next generation isn’t as large so the way that companies are going to stay competitive is to have a balance of highly technical skilled people and automation,” he said.

The change doesn’t eliminate humans from the process, said Rep. Brian Elder, D-Bay City. Elder also chairs the House labor caucus.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to reach a point in which we don’t need human beings to do manufacturing work,” Elder said. “Every once in a while people will say, ‘everything is going to go away,’ and that’s just not true. Will things be different? Undoubtedly.”

The rise in Michigan of industrial robots that are getting smaller and smarter isn’t surprising, said Drew Coleman, the director of foreign direct investment, growth and development for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC).

“We’ve had robots and automation since Henry Ford invented the assembly line,” Coleman said. “If you think of anything that you buy, it’s been touched by a robot likely at some point,”

And experts say rather than looking at them as worker replacements, they should be viewed as the source of highly skilled jobs.

“We believe that this is opening up opportunities for Michigan in making us more competitive,” Cvengros said.

Automation has applications as diverse as more precise surgeries and self-driving semi-trucks, said Otie McKinley, the MEDC’s media and communications manager.

It requires “a transition of skill sets from the current workforce in addition to the attraction of a new workforce,” McKinley said.

Elder said the recent deal between the United Auto Workers and General Motors allowed for specific automation technology training for workers.

“The corporations and the union understand that well-trained workers will continue to make products that are good enough to demand market share,” Elder said.

Community colleges are stepping up with training programs that work with local employers, said Michael Hansen, the president of the Michigan Community College Association.

Schools with FANUC-certified education programs partner with companies looking to hire graduates skilled in programming and using robots in the workplace, Cvengros said.

Michigan Technological University partnered with Bay De Noc Community College in the Upper Peninsula to create a robotics and software development program in 2018. The  hands-on training program offers an easy path for transferring from the community college to the university, said Aleksandr Sergeyev, a Michigan Tech electrical engineering professor.

The “mechatronics” degree path encompasses electrical and mechanical engineering, robotics, automation and cybersecurity skills.

“I have seen that need in mechatronics for a long, long time,” Sergeyev said. “It doesn’t teach you the depth, it teaches the breadth.”

Sergeyev is a FANUC-certified professor who can train students for jobs in automation.

Professors with that certification can also train company professionals, ensuring that they both use the most updated software, Sergeyev said.

Internal surveys showed that 80% of Michigan Tech undergraduates are interested in taking the additional time required to complete a mechatronics degree and 85% of companies want their workers to have it, Sergeyev said.

Slade said a challenge is to prepare technology students for rapid changes.

“We have the hope that they’ll be able to use technology right now, but then adapt to new technology that comes online,” Slade said.


Kevin Erkkila, ’15, Featured in Midland Daily News Article

Kevin Erkkila

Michigan Tech Computer Science and ROTC alumnus Kevin Erkkila ’15, was featured in the article “Midland Remembers First Lieutenant Kevin Erkkila, Operation Inherent Resolve in the Middle East,” in the Midland Daily News. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Erkkila completed the Army ROTC program at Michigan Tech and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army upon graduation. Erkkila is currently deployed in the Middle East serving as an engineering officer with the 3-21 Infantry Division.

Errkila’s story is part of the “Midland Remembers” series this November in the Midland Daily News. The series shares stories of veterans with ties to Midland, Michigan.