Category Archives: Announcements

Dennis “Doc” Wiitanen Announces Retirement

After 42 years of distinguished and dedicated service to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Michigan Tech, Professor Dennis O. Wiitanen announces his retirement, to be honored May 4, 2012. Prof. Wiitanen is a nationally recognized leader in electric power and energy systems. His most significant impact and his lasting legacy, though, is in undergraduate education. Thousands of Michigan Tech students have completed his classes in power system design and analysis, and have gone on to take their place in the workforce.

Dennis was, and continues to be, a tireless team member and advocate for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. No one knows more about the inner workings of the Department. He has served as the Associate Chair for the Department for twenty-five years and for five different chairs. For many of those years he was Chair of the Undergraduate Programs Committee, guiding the evolution of our educational programs to keep pace with ever-changing technology and workforce needs.

We invite you to participate in a very special initiative being put forward by the ECE Department, an initiative to honor Dennis Wiitanen on the occasion of his retirement. In recognition of everything that “Doc” has done, the Department is establishing the Dennis Wiitanen Professorship in Electric Power Systems. The funding to make this professorship a reality is 70% in place, but we need your help to finish the job. Our goal is to raise $300,000 to bring the total endowment to $1 million. Endowments are private gifts invested to produce income annually for use as faculty support, scholarships, or other needs. In this case, the income would be used to support the Wiitanen Professorship holder and to provide funds for supporting ECE students, purchasing equipment, and funding travel. Your gift can make it happen.

This will be a unique professorship on the Michigan Tech campus, in that it will be named in honor of one of our own rather than a single external donor. Several years ago, a fund was established for a professorship in electric power systems; gifts were solicited from several industry partners, with the primary contributors being Detroit Edison, Consumers Energy, Northern States Energy (now Xcel Energy), Upper Peninsula Power, and Wisconsin Public Service. The account has sat dormant, accumulating investment income, but the time has come to put the money to its intended use. Because the funding sources are so diverse, the ECE Department decided that the best title to put on the position is the name of the one person with a common connection to all of these entities, someone who has had a bigger role in the education of power engineers than anyone else at Michigan Tech: Dennis Wiitanen. For more information or to make a gift or pledge.

It is our goal to have everything in place by the time of Prof. Wiitanen’s retirement dinner, which will take place on the Michigan Tech campus on Friday, May 4, 2012. Please join us in celebrating the many accomplishments and contributions of Dennis O. Wiitanen to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Michigan Tech University. See Wiitanen Celebration for event details and to purchase tickets.


The Circuit – fall 2010 newsletter

The ECE fall 2010 newsletter, The Circuit is now available. The publication highlights recent activities in the department including:

> Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiatives (SFHI):  Next-Generation Energy Systems

> $3 Million Grant received from the US Department of Energy to Develop Electric Vehicles Education Programs

> ECE Students Bring Laptops to Ghana

> Tech’s Online Power Engineering Program Marks 10th Anniversary

> Dave House:  Why Research is Key to the Future of Tech and to ECE

and more . . . check it out!


Alumni Gifts Fund New Center for Computer Systems Research

Center for Computer Systems Research
Center for Computer Systems Research

Computer engineering and computer science are both key to advancing knowledge of computing. The engineers focus on design and integrating software and hardware, while the scientists concentrate on analysis and the fundamental nature of computing.

Now, with the enthusiastic support of the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is creating a space where Michigan Tech’s computer engineers and scientists can put their heads together.

The new Center for Computer Systems Research will occupy the entire fifth floor of the Electrical Energy Resources Center (EERC). The Seaman Mineral Museum, a longtime tenant of the area, will be moving to a new building in the Advanced Technology Development Complex. Construction on the center is slated to begin December 1, with the opening expected in April 2011.

“We’re excited about working with the computer science department on this,” said Dan Fuhrmann, chair of electrical and computer engineering. “We’ll be looking at experimental architectures, new applications, and new ways of doing computing.”

Steven Carr, interim chair of computer science, is equally enthusiastic. “It’s a really neat opportunity for Computer Science and Computer Engineering to finally collaborate in a much more defined way,” he said. “We have always worked well together, and there are faculty in both departments who have the potential to cooperate closely on large projects. The center will play a big role in making that happen.”

The half-million-dollar renovation is funded in part by two $150,000 gifts, one from the James Fugere Foundation and the other from the Dave House Family Foundation. The remaining $200,000 is being underwritten by numerous smaller donations given to the department over the last several years.

“The fact that this is made possible completely by alumni donations is phenomenal,” said Fuhrmann.

Brainstorming for the new center began over a year ago, when Michigan Tech launched a strategic initiative to hire faculty in the area of computational discovery and innovation. Through the initiative, the department has gained two new computer engineering faculty, Zhuo Feng and Saeid Nooshabadi.

“We started thinking about what we could do to reinforce the hiring initiative and our relationship with the computer science department,” Fuhrmann said. In addition, the computer engineering program was growing; with new master’s and PhD degrees, it needed more space.

The Center for Computer Systems Research addresses all three issues. The new faculty are expected to be heavily engaged; Nooshabadi in particular will play a leadership role, since his research crosses the disciplines of electrical engineering and computer science. Preliminary plans include offices that can be used by faculty from both departments, informal meeting rooms, laboratory space, a conference room, space for graduate students, a seminar room, and even a kitchen. A department committee chaired by Senior Lecturer Glen Archer provided guidance to OHM Engineering Services in Hancock, which drew up the plans.

The center represents a huge step forward for the department, and it wouldn’t be happening without support from alumni, Fuhrmann stressed. “I’d like to thank all of you who have contributed to the department over the years,” he said. “Your generosity has made this possible. We literally couldn’t have done it without you.”