Winter is Here: Students Attend Conferences and Other Updates

Mount Ripley and Portage Canal with snow.Classes nonstop from K-Day until Thanksgiving can be exhausting. On the Walker lawn outside my office, the broomball courts filled with snow from the past two storms and across the canal, I can see the snow guns blowing on Mont Ripley after a successful opening weekend. Having taken beginner lessons last year, I am ready to hit the slopes hard this winter. One of my department chairs even gave me a private lesson on waxing and sharpening my new skis!

I was very proud last month when eight of our Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology students presented at the Michigan Space Grant Consortium. Their presentation, Setting foot on Mars: A Big Step and Even Greater Leap for Undergraduate and Graduate Students, analyzed the most energetically efficient form of locomotion on Mars and its implications for successfully carrying out a human Mars mission. They are now seeking funding to present at the Johnson Space Center in Texas.

Over in Cognitive and Learning Sciences, a large contingent of faculty and students represented Michigan Tech well at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Conference in Seattle. Six of our students presented posters at the conference. The talent and dedication of our students and faculty is what makes MTU such a special place.

Our architects recently unveiled the first rough sketches of our new health research building, and whatever doubts I had were washed away. It will be a beautiful seven-story structure attached to the southeast corner of the Chemical Sciences building, with natural light throughout the building and, hopefully, some mass timber construction. While the state is paying part of it, we will lean heavily on support from our alumni and corporate partners to maximize the potential of this space. I was particularly impressed by the prediction that the new space will use less than 1/3 of the energy per square foot than our current laboratory space on campus! Health research and pre-health education are both growing parts of our mission at Michigan Tech.

For the first time ever, this year’s freshmen class in CSA was majority (52%) female! This class was 8% larger than last year. Our efforts now focus on retaining these students and recruiting another great class next Fall. In CSA our application numbers for Fall 2020 are up more than 80% from the same time the previous year, and have, as of November 16, exceeded the final total from last spring! I’m proud of our wide array of degree options in the College that are proving so popular with the students.

Critical to everything we do are our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a Dean’s Priority Fund. With state support representing only about 16% of MTU’s budget, your gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day. Thank you!

If you are a current student or alumni back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me at any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or make suggestions.

David Hemmer
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences


Fall 2019 Updates

Staff with President in Cardboard boat in water paddlling.We are midway through the semester now and winter is in the air and on the ground with a coating of snow that seems to have stayed. On the Walker lawn outside my office the broomball courts are under construction. I recently enjoyed watching my first cardboard boat races, including one magnificent vessel captained by our very own President Koubek!

One of my favorite events as Dean, the induction ceremony for our Distinguished Alumni Academy was held in October. We were proud to induct Ziyong Cai (1990 Physics PhD), who captivated the crowd with his tale of growing up in China during the cultural revolution when schools were closed and he had to save for more than a year to afford the TOEFL fee. Laura Barrientos (1995 Chemistry PhD) described her work battling the Ebola virus and starting her own business. Finally, we inducted our third ever honorary member into the academy, former Humanities chair, Dean of Sciences and Arts and Michigan Tech’s first ever Provost, William Powers. Powers shared his stories of working with former President Ray Smith, and leading the department as it moved into the as yet unrenovated Sherman Gym where faculty and staff worked in cubicles on the basketball court!

Teaching Abstract Algebra

In between my dean duties, I grade stacks of papers, as this semester I am teaching my first class here at Tech, with 42 students in Math 3310 Abstract Algebra. It has been wonderful to be back in the classroom after two years away, and great to have a real chalkboard! It has been a thrill to get to know so many of our undergraduates.

College Grows

For the first time ever, the freshmen class in CSA was majority (52%) female! This class was 8% larger than last year, and our early application numbers for Fall 2020 are up 109% from last year at the same time! I’m proud of our wide array of degree options in the College that are proving so popular with the students.

Our ROTC programs are thriving, with 70 cadets this Fall in Army and more than 100 in Air Force (up from 30 just a few years ago)! Both programs were recently visited by Colonels who command multiple ROTC units, and both visiting Colonels were very impressed with what they observed on the ground.

New Space

Planning continues for our new health research building. This beautiful laboratory building will be near the current Chemistry building, which will also be renovated to host our departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering. Architects are busy on campus gathering information from our faculty to design laboratory space to meet their needs.

Support

Critical to everything we do are our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a “Dean’s Priority Fund”. With state support representing only about 16% of MTU’s budget, your gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day.


College of Sciences and Arts Remains Very Strong

Students at a picnic table on campus

Greetings from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

It is cold and rainy as classes start today, but the students’ excitement is palpable as we begin a new academic year. This is always my favorite time to be on campus, the leaves are starting to change, the freshmen are meeting new friends, the raucous sounds of the Pep Band can be heard in the distance, and no one is behind on homework yet! This semester I am teaching my first class here at Tech, with 42 students in Math 3310- Abstract Algebra. It was great to get back in the classroom after two years away, and great to have a real chalkboard!

The big news on campus is the launch of our new College of Computing. The computer science department has left CSA to join the new College, leaving us with 9 academic departments plus Air Force and Army ROTC. The “new” College of Sciences and Arts remains very strong, with our freshmen class up 17% from last year! For the first time ever, the freshmen class in CSA will be majority (52%) female! We not only welcome new students but new faculty as well, with eight new tenure-track faculty and several more teaching faculty joining the College. I look forward to sharing with you their accomplishments as the year goes by.

In our Biological Sciences Department, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Trista Vick-Majors. Dr. Majors is best known for her work discovering microorganisms under the Antarctic ice sheet. Other projects have focused on boreal aquatic environments and alpine lakes. Her research should be a great fit for the Copper Country. Dr. Elena Giusarma joins our Physics Department as an assistant professor this Fall. She adds to our already strong astrophysics group. She describes part of her work as “building a convolutional neural network to understand the effect of massive neutrinos in the Universe.” Wow!

Our ROTC programs are thriving, with 70 cadets this Fall in Army and more than 100 in Air Force (up from 30 just a few years ago)!  I continue to enjoy meeting our successful alums. Last month I snuck in a quick trip to the Pacific Northwest, hosting alumni events in Seattle and Portland and meeting with more than a dozen of our successful alumni working at Nike, Intel, Boeing, etc….

Planning continues for our new H-STEM building. This beautiful laboratory building will be near the current Chemistry building, which will also be renovated to host our departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering. Groundbreaking should be in fall 2020. The architects have made several visits to campus, and are meeting with researchers to design to meet our needs.

Critical to everything we do are our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a “Dean’s Priority Fund”. With state support representing only about 16% of MTU’s budget, your gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day. Thank you!  If you are ever back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or make suggestions.


First Academic Year as Dean

David Hemmer and faculty putting a sash on a grad student at commencement.Greetings from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

I completed my first academic year as Dean of Sciences and Arts at our graduation May 4, when more than 1000 graduates walked across the stage of a packed MacInnes Ice Arena on a beautiful sunny day. On May 3 our Board approved the new College of Computing, which goes live on July 1. While I am sad to see our wonderful Computer Science Department leave CSA, the new College will position Michigan Tech for growth and success in an era where computing and data science dominate so many aspects of our lives.

Things are much quieter on campus now, which leaves time to reflect on the past year and plan for an exciting year ahead. We will have at least eight new tenure-track faculty joining our College in the fall, with our Humanities chair search and biology search still underway. We are excited to welcome Adam Meckler as our new Jazz director, replacing the legendary Mike Irish. You can listen to his smooth sounds at www.adammeckler.com.

Freshmen deposits in the college are up 11% from last year, thanks in part to our exciting new Sustainability Science and Society degree. Thanks to all our alumni and friends who help with recruiting, and feel free to contact me if you’d be willing to help in your area.

Our student, Alyssa Smith, exercise science major, was recognized as the top undergraduate kinesiology student in the nation! Over in biology our superstar sophomore, Tessa Steenwinkel, won a prestigious Goldwater fellowship. Tessa has been working in the lab of Professor Thomas Werner since her first day on campus! Many of our undergraduate research opportunities on campus, both during the year and over the summer, are supported by alumni donations. Our faculty are busy too. Professors Roman Sidortsov and Tim Scarlett received national media attention for their grant to study the feasibility of using abandoned mines for hydroelectric pumped storage, essentially turning the mine into a giant battery!

I departed late on Easter for a wonderful week long trip along Interstate 10 from Pensacola to Mobile, Houston and Phoenix meeting many of our successful and generous alumni.

Planning is underway for our new H-STEM building. This beautiful laboratory building will be near the current Chemistry building, which will also be renovated to host our departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering. Groundbreaking should be in fall 2020.

Critical to everything we do are our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a “Dean’s Priority Fund”.

With state support representing only about 16% of MTU’s budget, your gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day. Thank you!  If you are ever back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or make suggestions.


Semester Updates

Campus Mall

Greetings from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

Winter has been unrelenting! When I arrived last July I was told that Tech “never closes!” We have been shut down for three days this semester. A recent blizzard dumped almost two feet of snow and 68 mph winds were recorded at the airport; it took two full days to get the snow drifts cleared off the road. My kids have not had a full week of school since mid-December, I believe they are at 9 snow days for the year. Mont Ripley has seen 255” of snow so far! I and my two oldest kids signed up for beginning ski lessons and have been enjoying our newest hobby.

Meanwhile, this has been an extremely busy time in the dean’s office. Twenty of our faculty in the College were up for either tenure or promotion to full professor. Reading their dossiers, I was blown away by the teaching excellence and scholarly success of my colleagues, many with worldwide reputations.

Hiring season is well underway. Faculty candidates are visiting on an almost daily basis (when their flights manage to arrive…). We are doing national searches for chairs of three departments: Chemistry, Humanities and Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology. Six other departments are running regular faculty searches. Hiring, retaining and promoting outstanding faculty is among my most important jobs as dean.

The Board of Trustees was in town last week, and I was proud that our own Professor Richelle Winkler, from Social Sciences, was selected to present to them on her community based solar project in L’Anse and Baraga. I enjoyed telling board chair Brenda Ryan about the many exciting happenings in our college, and taking her through the recently opened gallery show “Salon!” in the Rosza Center. Professor Lisa Gordillo curated the show, which features art and poetry from around the world, including some from several of our own faculty members. Up the hill our Kinesiology department awarded its first PhD. Matthew Kilgas defended his dissertation “Acute and Chronic Responses to Exercise with Blood Flow Restriction.” He is now a tenure-track faculty member at Northern Michigan.

As May 1 rapidly approaches all our departments are hard at work on initiatives to increase our freshman class next year. Gone are the days of calling students (they don’t answer their phones!) Instead we set up “texting events” where prospective students can chat with our current faculty and students in their preferred mode of communication!

Critical to all of this is our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a “Dean’s Priority Fund”.

With state support representing only about 16% of Michigan Tech’s budget, alumni gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day and we thank you!  If you are ever back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or make suggestions.

Best wishes,

David Hemmer

Dean- College of Sciences and Arts


Greetings from the new Dean

New CSA Dean David Hemmer with wife Ginny and children Meghan, Ben and Adam.
New CSA Dean David Hemmer with wife Ginny and children Meghan, Ben and Adam.

This will be my inaugural communication as the new Dean of the College of Sciences and Arts. I join Michigan Technological University after eleven years in the mathematics department at the University at Buffalo, SUNY; the last six as department chair. I am joined by my wife of 18 years, Ginny, and our children Meghan (13), Benjamin (9), and Adam (7).

I marveled from afar in June at the resiliency of the Copper Country residents pulling together to recover from the disastrous Father’s Day flood. We were fortunate that our new house, high up on Agate Hill, escaped unscathed. Our new friends and neighbors have been so very welcoming to our family.

This is an exhilarating time to arrive at Michigan Tech. We have a new president and four of the five colleges/schools have new deans. Everyone is full of ideas on how to maintain and build on the great momentum the departing leaders built.  Four of our 10 departments will be searching for new chairs this year.

IMG_20180711_111625946I have been touring the CSA departments and am so impressed by the commitment of our faculty to excellence in both teaching and scholarship. I visited our beautifully renovated chemistry teaching labs. I hope we will secure the funds to renovate the remaining labs. I toured the sleep center where Professor Jason Carter of our Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology department is supported by Michigan Tech’s only NIH R01 grant, studying “Alcohol and Neurovascular Control in Humans”.

I attended a beautiful performance of the opera “Carmen” in front of a packed house at the Rosza center. Visual and Performing Arts Chair Jared Anderson directed the chorus and his colleague Joel Neves conducted the orchestra.

I want to thank outgoing Dean Bruce Seely for his dedicated 10 years of service and to wish him all the best in retirement. Bruce has been extremely generous sharing with me his time and wisdom, both before I arrived and since I started.


Award Winners

Summer is still trying to reach the UP — we’ve experienced too many days in the 60s with gray skies and rain. But the weather has not affected the recognition being earned by the faculty here in the college.

image109314-persAssociate Professor L. Syd Johnson (Humanities) works on bioethics and has explored such issues as head trauma and concussions in sports.  She was recently appointed to an advisory group at the National Institutes of Health Neuroethics Division, the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). She joins the initiative’s Multi-Council Working Group. This is a very nice recognition of the respect of Syd’s colleagues.

image144299-persProfessor of Physics John Jaszczak was part of an international team that identified and unraveled the composition and make-up of a new mineral over the past two years — Merelaniite. Named for the mining town in Tanzania where the mineral was located, Merelaniite was just named the Mineral of the  Year for 2016. The account of this effort offers an inside look at the process of describing and naming a new mineral.

Merelaniite is the thin whiskers, which are about 5mm long and occur with stilbite and graphite crystals.
Merelaniite is the thin whiskers, which are about 5mm long and occur with stilbite and graphite crystals.


Amazing Faculty doing Amazing Things!

The summer routine has settled in here – marked – finally! – by a few days of very nice weather.  Although the black flies are also swarming, the sunshine beats the dreary drizzle!  But the summer pace also will let me catch upon recognizing a few of the wonderful accomplishments of faculty from the college’s departments. And I could go on – but I think this list offers a taste of the variety of high quality work underway here.  Great work by great people!

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.05.22 PMRichelle Winkler (Social Sciences) was recently honored with the University’s Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of her numerous outreach activities — most notably by assisting the Main Street Calumet group understand community development.  She also was involved in developing Houghton County’s entry to the Georgetown University Energy Prize.  Congratulations!

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.06.09 PMGord Paterson (Biological Sciences) joined the department in January and was recently awarded funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for a project aimed at helping restore Arctic grayling to the state’s waters.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.07.11 PMPhilart Jeon (Cognitive & Learning Sciences) continues to support an expanding research program related to sound and human interactions with machines and devices. His most recent award is for a 4-year study of assess techniques for take-over of control in autonomous vehicles from the Korean Automotive Testing and Research Institute. He also published a handbook, Emotions and Affect in Human Factors and Human -Computer Interaction (Elsevier) in April.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.08.03 PMStephanie Carpenter (Humanities) recently received the 2017 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction for her short story collection Missing Persons. The editor-in-chief of the press selected her from 230 nominees, and concluded that he was “looking forward to sharing this collection of stories with readers everywhere.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.09.52 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.09.33 PMScott Kuhl, Keith Vertanen and James Walker (Computer Science) recently presented their research on typing in virtual reality at the ACM conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems, a major conference.  Walker lead the project as part of his dissertation project and noted that there have been few studies of this effort in virtual reality.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 5.10.30 PMLinda Ott (College of Sciences and Arts) has again received support from the Google Foundation in support of the Tech summer program to support secondary school educators in the area of computer science.  While many observers are pressing for more students to gain the opportunity to code while in high school,  not all teachers in this area are formally prepared, and others need to stay up to date in this rapidly changing area. Ott is working to remedy these issues.  Teachers can still apply for the CS 4 All program which will be ion campus from August 14-16.


Atmospheric Sciences research marks 10 years

In recent years, a distinguishing feature of academic research has been its deep interdisciplinarity. This pattern has been growing since World War II, an event that spawned scholarly attention to developments in materials, nuclear power, rockets, jet aviation, computers and the medical field, among others. A good signal of the trend was the emergence of hybrid fields of specialization whose very titles signaled the difference, such as biochemistry, biophysics, geophysics, biostatistics and later biogeochemistry and biogeophysics. Importantly, much of the research in ALL fields was taking place at the boundaries between fields rather than at the core.

Image result for cloud chamber TechOne of the more important arenas for the growth of this approach to science and research at Michigan Tech has been in the domain of Atmospheric Sciences. Faculty involved in this research hail from physics, chemistry, environmental engineering, and geological sciences. And the program has just marked its 10th year, during which time the group has become visible and respected among their peers. A key step came in 2010, when the National Science Foundation provided funds to construct the apparatus that allows investigators to create the conditions for atmospheric clouds in the laboratory – a cloud chamber.

This grant of more than $1 million proved pivotal in advancing the research program and reputation of Michigan Tech’s atmospheric scientists. Studies conducted with the unique equipment have since illuminated the nature of rain droplets, the formation of snow particles and crystals, and the the behavior of aerosols in the turbulent upper atmosphere, among other subjects. In short, this is a very successful research group!

That success is affirmed by a recent note that the group’s current director, Raymond Shaw, shared with his colleagues to remind them of this anniversary. He chose to reflect a bit on the origin of the effort.

“When Richard Honrath and I submitted the Atmospheric Sciences program proposal, 7 names were listed as participating faculty, and that has now grown to 12. The program started with two students. We now have 8 alumni at various universities and labs around the US, 8 current students, and 2 or 3 more students starting in the fall.

Many excellent research papers have been written over that time and a sustained level of external funding for atmospheric research is firmly in place (as recognized, for example, by the recent NSF ranking of federal funds by discipline). Michigan Tech is now widely known and respected in the atmospheric sciences community.

We can be happy about what we’ve accomplished, and I’d like to thank administrators and department chairs who allowed a small group of faculty spread across campus start an interdepartmental program – a relatively novel idea at that time – and fostered it over the years with a graduate research assistant line from the grad school, availability of faculty time for teaching courses, hiring efforts, etc.

Thanks to all of you for the way you have contributed to the program over the years.”

Image result for raymond shaw techRichard Honrath was very much the founding spirit as the initial director of the atmospheric sciences program.

Tragically, he passed away in 2009 in a kayaking accident. But the current cloud chamber lab and the team of atmospheric researchers keep his spirit very much alive.

So happy birthday, cloud chamber!  Keep up the good work!


Longevity Recognized

Most academics expect to move and change universities on occasion, as part of the normal pattern of life.  But some of us – including yours truly – find a place we want to be and stay awhile. On May 9, Michigan Tech recognized those staff and faculty who had 25, 30, 35, and 40 years of service.  Several people from the college were on that list, and I want to recognize them reaching these important milestones.  A university pays attention to teaching and learning and to research — two labor-intensive activities.  In other words, we cannot be successful without the dedicated efforts of the people who lead those efforts in education and knowledge generation. Each of the people on this list make a difference in all they do, and we are most thankful for it.  Even more importantly, the students depend up on them.  To be excellent for a long time is a difficult thing to do, but this group has done exactly that.

25 years:  Michael Irish (VPA), John Jaszczak (PHY), Donald Kreher (MA), Sylvia Matthews (CSA), Ravindra Pandey (PHY),  Lorri Reilly (CH), Kelley Smith (CH), Allan Struthers (MA), Vladimir Tonchev (MA)

35 years: Andrea Lappi (PHY) Karen Salo (CSA)

Both of the 35-year recipients are pivotal staff for CSA. Andy manages the day-to-day tasks as department coordinator in Physics, while Karen is the heart and sole of administration in the college. But everyone here contributes to making the college work.  I want to congratulate everyone for their contributions and for their efforts – and for making it to 25 or 35 years! Thanks to each and every person!

FYI – for truth in advertising purposes, that’s me in the picture with Karen Salo – as I now have 30 years of service to Michigan Tech. The other picture shows Ravi Pandey and Andy Lappi from Physics.

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