Category Archives: Faculty

ECE well represented at the SPIE Photonics West

SPIE Photonics West attendees and presenters: (L-R)Abhinav Madhavachandran, Arash Hosseinzadeh, Derek Burrell (SPIE/OSA MTU chapter president, Liz Dreyer (Cloos), Anindya Majumdar, Mitch Kirby, and Nima Taherkhani
SPIE Photonics West attendees and presenters: (L-R) Abhinav Madhavachandran, Arash Hosseinzadeh, Derek Burrell (SPIE/OSA MTU chapter president), Liz Dreyer (Cloos), Anindya Majumdar, Mitch Kirby, and Nima Taherkhani

Michigan Technological University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), along with Departments Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Physics were well represented at the annual SPIE Photonics West conference held in San Francisco, CA, on February 13-18, 2016.

Arash Hosseinzadeh, PhD candidate in electrical engineering, Derek Burrell, BSEE senior and SPIE/OSA MTU chapter president, and Mitch Kirby, BSBE (EE minor) presented papers and research findings on topics:  Design and optimization of polymer ring resonator modulators for analog microwave photonic applications, Comparison of self-written waveguide techniques and bulk index matching for low-loss polymer waveguide interconnects, and Effects of incident intensity on laser speckle contrast imaging.

BME Chair Sean Kirkpatrick was session chair and moderator and ECE Prof. Chris Middlebrook co-authored two papers presented. Also attended were Nima Taherkhani, MSEE candidate, and ECE alumna Liz (Cloos) Dreyer ’12, currently a PhD pre-candidate in electrical engineering (optics) at the University of Michigan, Abhinav Madhavachandran, MSBE candidate, and Anindya Majumdar, PhD candidate Physics.

Student travel was partially funded by Michigan Tech’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Graduate Student Government (GSG).

See more information on the SPIE/OSA MTU Chapter see mtu.osahost.org.

 

 


Fridays with Fuhrmann: Michigan Tech’s Winter Wonderland

FWF_image_rev3_20160205This week Michigan Tech is celebrating its annual Winter Carnival. The students have Thursday and Friday off from classes, and there are a lot of winter-related activities going on. The most visible sign of Winter Carnival for most of us is the collection of interesting and creative snow sculptures that have popped up all over campus. These attract a lot of visitors and media attention, and are a lot of fun.

Up to now I have used this column to write about electrical and computer engineering, and engineering education, but I thought this week it would be appropriate to take a break and write about something else that Michigan Tech is famous for: snow.

Michigan Tech is, according to AccuWeather.com and some other polls, the snowiest campus in the United States, with over 200 inches of the white stuff per year on average. Snow is definitely part of who we are, part of our heritage and culture. In a typical winter the snow starts up around Thanksgiving, gets pretty serious in December and January, then stretches into February and March, sometimes even into April. The city and the university are all geared up to handle the snow; they keep the roads plowed and haul the snow away to snow dumps out of town when necessary. All the residents of Houghton – most, anyway – have a plan to handle the snow in their driveways, sidewalks and lawns. We take it all in stride. To be honest, most of us are “snow snobs” laughing with derision at poor souls further south when a couple of inches brings a city to its knees.

200 inches of snow sounds like a lot – and I guess it is – but for the most part it is pretty benign. One can see major winter storms on the national news that dump one or two feet of snow all at once on some unfortunate region, and even though that can happen here too it’s actually pretty rare. The reason we get so much snow is in the first place is something called “lake effect”, in which cold Arctic air blows down out of Canada from the north and west, across Lake Superior, picking up moisture from the warmer water, forming snow in the air and then dumping it on the Upper Peninsula when it hits land. Lake effect snow doesn’t need inclement weather to happen; I have seen snow falling and the sun shining all at the same time. Of course, we can also get what is called “system snow”, meaning the same kind of winter storm systems that can happen anywhere in the upper Midwest. Our biggest events occur when both happen at the same time, something they call “lake effect enhanced snow.” My main point here is that you don’t need major blizzards to create 200 inches of snow in a year. You just need a little bit at a time, over an extended period of around 4 months, and as long as the temperatures remain cold it just piles up.

So what is all this snow good for? In a word, plenty. Houghton residents and Michigan Tech students know that the best way to deal with the snow is to get out and enjoy it. One of my favorite activities is skiing, both downhill and cross-country. (I’m not particularly good at it, but I don’t let that stop me). For downhill skiing, Michigan Tech has its own Mont Ripley, just across the Portage from Houghton. It’s not a huge hill, only 450 feet vertical, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in convenience. I have a season pass and can go on a moment’s notice. Don’t let the small size fool you, either: it has plenty of challenging runs. For the more adventurous skier, an hour away near Copper Harbor, is the cult favorite Mount Bohemia. This place is for expert skiers only (the trail map says “No Beginners Allowed” in bold letters) with 900 feet vertical and almost entirely black diamond runs, and none of it groomed. It includes 400 acres of glade skiing too with some of that rated as double and triple black diamond. With a bare minimum of amenities at the bottom, Bohemia is paradise for ski nuts. If cross-country skiing is your thing, there are four different trails systems right in the local area, including an extensive set of trails owned and operated by Michigan Tech. This is a world-class facility in every sense; Michigan Tech has played host to Olympic trials and just last month hosted the U.S. national cross-country championships. The conditions are usually great, the trails are well maintained, and the scenery is beautiful. My only complaint, as a “classic” or “glide” skier, is having to put up with those healthier-than-thou “skate” skiers as they go zipping past me in their garish spandex outfits!

There is plenty to do besides skiing of course. Snowshoeing is a favorite activity for many. For those who prefer their winter sports indoors, hockey is very popular and in fact there are a number of ECE faculty members who play in a local recreational league. The ECE Department puts on a student-faculty hockey game every December. They even got me out on the ice my first year in the department (just once.) For those who like motorized sports, snowmobiling is big around here too. You might think there would be tension between the “natural” outdoors types and the snowmobilers, but in my observation the two camps have reached a sort of peaceful coexistence. The snowmobiles have their own set of trails which are quite extensive, covering hundreds of miles of old railroad beds across the U.P. (one would NEVER mix skiing and snowmobiling on the same trail system.) It can be a little noisy sometimes, but you get used to it quickly, and most people recognize the economic benefit to the region. People come from all over to ride our snowmobile trails, and the years we do the best are the ones when we have snow when others don’t, like in Wisconsin, Illinois, and downstate Michigan. There is snowmobile parking on the Michigan Tech campus, and once you get past the novelty it seems perfectly ordinary.

So there you have it – Michigan Tech, in addition to all of its contributions in science, technology, engineering, and math, is a winter wonderland. This is a unique place to live, work, and play. Students and alumni reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. Everybody else, you are welcome to visit – we’d love to show it to you.

– Dan

Daniel R. Fuhrmann
Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University


Fridays with Fuhrmann – Teamwork without Borders

Google_2015_logo5I am writing today from beautiful Boulder, Colorado, where I have been attending a research progress review on a project I have been working on, along with other Michigan Tech faculty and students.  The project is sponsored by Google.  Michigan Tech is fortunate to be a research partner with Google on something they call a Multi-University Research Agreement, or MURA.  I can’t tell you the technical details of what we are doing, yet, but later this year everything will be made public.

Having observed how this project is managed over the past year, I am struck by how much the workplace, the team organizations, and the expectations of engineers have changed over the years.  This has been a great experience for me, not only because the work is interesting but because it gives me a glimpse of what our graduates can expect as they enter the workforce.

One of the most remarkable things I have noticed is how collaboration tools have made the world a smaller place, and have made geographical differences practically irrelevant.  The team working on this project, about 30 people all together, comprises full-time Google employees, independent contractors, engineering companies, and university teams like ours from Michigan Tech.  The group is spread out from Hawaii, to California, to Michigan, and to Europe.  Subsets of the team meet regularly via Google Hangout, which is a pretty easy-to-use teleconferencing tool, and it is like being in the same room (there is the one remaining issue of time zones, but most people don’t have a big problem with it.)   Even when most of the group gets together in the same city, like this week, there are still those who call in and contribute.

The success or failure of this project (and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be successful) depends on the ability of all the participants to work together as a team.  This week we had discussions about how things went in 2015, and the overall consensus was that the teamwork was pretty good.  It reminds me of why it is so important for us at Michigan Tech to teach our students about teamwork in our capstone projects, whether in Senior Design or Enterprise.  They are going to be working on teams when they leave the university, and knowing how to collaborate, how to get along, how to get work done on time, how to communicate, how to make expectations clear for others – these are all things that are going to be critical skills for career success.  The other side of teamwork that we stress at Michigan Tech is the development of individual skills.  Everyone on this Google project has a seat at the table because they are really good at what they do, and I don’t imagine that’s going to be any different anywhere else.

Finally, I will mention that the nature of engineering careers is changing rapidly.  Certainly there will be those that work full-time for a large corporation, and maybe they stay with that corporation a long time.  On the other hand, there are those that work for corporations, but change jobs often.  Others work as independent contractors, coming and going from teams as their skills are needed.  I am fascinated by these engineers, at least the ones I have seen in this group: they are extraordinarily talented in their particular area of expertise, and because of all the collaboration tools available today they can live wherever they want.   In all of these cases I am just talking about engineers selling their time and expertise; I haven’t begun to talk about entrepreneurship, which is another avenue that engineers are increasingly exploring.  The bottom line is, if an engineer is good at what he or she does, their career arc and their lifestyle is limited only by the imagination.

At Michigan Tech we do our best to prepare students for this new engineering environment of the 21st century.  I am always open to feedback about how well we are doing.

Being able to travel to meetings like this has its perks.  On Friday, when this is posted, I’ll be taking a vacation day and skiing at Loveland Pass, in the Rocky Mountains not too far Denver.  Finally, I have a chance to see if all my time spent on Mont Ripley has done me any good!

– Dan

Dan Fuhrmann, Dave House Professor and Chair
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Michigan Technological University

 


Follow ECE on Social Media

MTU_ECE_smphotoThe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) is now on Facebook and Twitter. Like and follow us for faculty spotlights, student accomplishments, outreach and events, industry and alumni news, and more; including a weekly post from the chair in “Fridays with Fuhrmann”. We hope you’ll add us to your social media picks.


ECE Annual Report 2015

ECE Annul Report 2015
ECE Annul Report 2015

We are happy to share with you our newly released ECE Annual Report 2015. A look back at our past year highlights research activities by Profs. Zhaohui Wang, Wayne Weaver, Bruce Mork, and Mike Roggemann, along with ECE’s involvement in Michigan Tech’s new research agreement with Google ATAP. Once again the year included a wide variety of hands-on student projects in our Senior Design and Enterprise programs and we thank our sponsors for making it all possible! Our undergraduate programs added two new concentrations starting Fall 2015 – Biomedical Applications and Environmental Applications within the Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. We invite you to read about these stories and more. From all of us at ECE, best wishes for 2016!


Zhaohui Wang Receives Outstanding Service Award

Zhaohui Wang resized
Zhaohui Wang, ECE Assistant Professor

Zhaohui Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech University, received the Outstanding Service Award for her work as Information Systems Chair in the 10th ACM International Conference on Underwater Networks & Systems (WUWNet), held in Washington DC, October 22-24, 2015. The scope of the WUWNet conference covers a broad range of research directions relevant to underwater networks and network-related signal processing, communications, systems, and applications. The goal of WUWNet is to bring together researchers and practitioners in areas relevant to underwater networks, and serve as a forum for presenting state of the art research, exchanging ideas and experiences, and facilitating interaction and collaboration.

WUWNet’15 link: http://wuwnet.acm.org/2015/

Kit Cischke Selected for Dean’s Teaching Showcase

Kit Cischke, ECE Sr. Lecturer
Kit Cischke, ECE Sr. Lecturer

The Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominee for this week comes from the College of Engineering. Dean Wayne Pennington has chosen to recognize Kit Cischke, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and faculty advisor for the Wireless Communication Enterprise.

Associate Dean Leonard Bohmann indicates that the “students love Kit because he brings his practical experience into the class, showing the practical applications of the theory.” As evidence, Eta Kappa Nu, the Electrical and Computer Engineering student honor society, selected Kit as their Professor of the Year in both 2013 and 2014. Bohmann continues: “Kit has the ability to make complex topics easy to understand. He works hard to get students to understand and have fun doing it.”

Kit indicates that he does this through analogies, humor, and being open and approachable to students. He strives to be a “complete human being” with his students, sharing stories about his family and life. He also tries to “embrace technology”, using an iPad to deliver his lectures and an audio recorder so students can review them.

Kit has a long history of excellent teaching contributions at Michigan Tech. Brian Broeders, an alumnus who has been working as a product engineer for Plexus Engineering Solutions since 2009, praised Kit in a 2010 Linked In post for similar reasons. “He teaches class material in a clear and easy to understand format and his lab exercises help students make use of topics learned in class…I wish I had more instructors like him when I was in school.” Current students also praise his involvement as an organizational advisor and the fact that he really cares whether students are learning the material.

Cischke will be formally recognized with the 11 other Dean’s Teaching Showcase nominees at a luncheon near the end of spring term. Please join Dean Pennington and the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning in thanking Kit for his outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the College of Engineering.

Story as posted in Tech Today, March 25, 2015


Dr. Dennis Wiitanen Honored with Legacy Marker

IMG_2575denniswiitanenThe unveiling of the first Legacy Marker for Alumni Way was held in front of the EERC. The Legacy Marker serves to honor someone associated with Michigan Tech, and it was unveiled and presented as a surprise to the Dennis O. Wiitanen, Professor Emeritus, Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Dennis O. Wiitanen received the B.S. and M.S. degrees from Michigan Tech in 1963 and 1967 respectively, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1970, all in electrical engineering.

In 1970, he joined the electrical and computer engineering department at Michigan Tech, where his major research interests were in the areas of insulating materials and power systems. Dr. Wiitanen taught courses in both electric machines and power systems for over forty years. He is currently a Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Wiitanen is a member of the IEEE’s Power Engineering Society, Education Society, Industry Applications Society, and Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society, serving on several committees and subcommittees, and is a Registered Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan.

See the Photo Gallery

See the Video from UpperMichiganSource

Dennis Wiitanen Legacy Monument
Dennis Wiitanen Legacy Monument

Bruce Mork Named Wiitanen Professor of Electric Power Systems

Bruce Mork, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been named the Dennis Wiitanen Professor of Electric Power Systems.

The Wiitanen Professorship was established to honor longtime ECE faculty member Dennis Wiitanen, who retired in May 2012. Unlike most professorships, which are named for a single donor, the Wiitanen Professorship is supported by an endowment underwritten by a variety of industry, foundation, and alumni sources, including ITC Holdings, Consumers Energy Foundation, DTE Energy Foundation and electrical engineering alumnus David Brule.

Mork was named to the position after a yearlong selection process. He received high praise from leaders in the power industry and was unanimously supported by the major sponsors of the professorship.

“Bruce is the natural choice for the Wiitanen Professorship,” said Dan Fuhrmann, chair of electrical and computer engineering. “He has been a leader in teaching, research and curriculum development in the power and energy area within the ECE department and across campus for many years. He is a leading expert in power system protection, an area of critical need in the utility power industry as our infrastructure transitions to the smart grid. Plus, he was the driving force behind our online courses in power and energy, a model for the rest of the department and indeed the rest of the University.”

Dennis Wiitanen was also gratified by Mork’s appointment.

“I have had the pleasure of watching Bruce grow from a newly minted PhD assistant professor at Michigan Tech to an internationally recognized leader in the power field,” he said. “I am very pleased that he will be the first recipient of the professorship carrying my name.”

Bruce Mork was honored in his acceptance.

“It’s been a privilege to work with Dennis over the last 21 years of his outstanding 42 year career at Michigan Tech. He’s been an exemplary senior colleague and role model for us all. It’s an honor for me to be the first recipient of this prestigious Professorship. The resources provided will support ongoing developments in education and research which strategically address technology and work force needs of the Electric Power sector. We owe a lot to Dennis and this will greatly help us to maintain and advance our strong program.”

The professorship has a five-year renewable term and carries with it an annual discretionary stipend to support research equipment, graduate students and other expenses to build and maintain an active research program in the power area.


Zhuo Feng receives DAC Best Paper Award

ECE assistant professor Zhuo Feng received Best Paper Award at the 2013 Design Automation Conference (DAC), held this week in Austin, Texas, for his paper titled “Scalable vectorless power grid current integrity verification”. 

The DAC is a major annual conference in the electronics industry, this year with 747 papers. Prof. Feng’s paper was the sole winner, topping a slate of 8 nominated papers from academic and research institutions across North America and Europe.

For more information or a copy of the paper see http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2488840