Day: March 1, 2021

Monique Wells is New Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DTE Energy

Monique Wells, Michigan Tech Chemical Engineering Alumna, is the New Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DTE Energy.

Monique Wells, a Michigan Tech chemical engineering alumna, is the new director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at DTE Energy.

DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide.

Wells is responsible for accelerating DTE’s progress in building a workplace where everyone feels valued and able to contribute their best energy toward serving customers, communities and each other.

“This is a critical time in history for us to work together toward unity and equity,” Wells said. “I’m excited to be part of a team at DTE who are so passionate about the company’s shared core values and about celebrating people’s diverse voices, perspectives and ideas.”

Wells earned a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech, and a Master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from the University of Toledo. She has experience as a production engineer at Dow and an instructor at Toledo Technology Academy.

Wells serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board at Michigan Tech, and servers on the Spring Arbor University’s Engineering Advisory Board, as well.

“Monique’s deep knowledge of diversity, equity and inclusion, along with her engineering and teaching experience, will build on our progress within our company and in our communities,” said Jerry Norcia, president and CEO, DTE Energy. “She will be a great resource for our company and the communities we serve, and I look forward to supporting Monique’s leadership and seeing the collective impact our efforts will make.”

Read a Q&A with Wells here.


Joe Kraft ’02 Takes the Helm at MineMax

Michigan Tech Geological Engineering Alumnus Joe Kraft ’02 is the new CEO of Minemax, a software and consulting firm with offices in Denver and Perth.

Joe Kraft, a Michigan Tech geological engineering alumnus, is the new chief executive officer of Minemax.

“Designed for mining people, by mining people,” Minemax specializes in mine planning and scheduling solutions and software, and has offices in both in Denver, Colorado, and Perth, in Australia.

Kraft earned his bachelor’s degree in Geological Engineering from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) in 2002. As a student, Kraft was in the Army Research Officer Training Corps, commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant at graduation.

Following graduation he served as the leader of a 29-person mechanized combat engineer platoon for a year in Iraq. He earned the bronze star medal and other honors for his combat leadership actions.

Kraft’s service in the Army culminated as the aide to the Deputy Commanding General, where he was responsible for the security, logistics, scheduling, staff and administrative requirements for a General Officer of the 7th Infantry Division, rising to the rank of Captain. 

Kraft went on to gain more than 15 years of experience in mine planning and mine operations, including time spent working at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and Cliffs Natural Resources before joining Minemax as a Senior Mining Engineer in January 2014.

Not long after joining the company, Kraft was appointed as Minemax’s General Manager-Americas. For five years Kraft managed all aspects of software sales and services for the company’s North and South American markets. Now, as Minemax CEO, he will lead Minemax worldwide.

“I am extremely confident in Joe’s ability to take Minemax to the next level,“ explained Jim Butler, Minemax founder and former CEO. “Joe is very competent, has deep knowledge of mine planning and understands our customer’s businesses. He has the respect of staff, customers and affiliate companies. I am sure all stakeholders in Minemax will benefit from his leadership.“

Says Kraft, “It really is a great privilege to be able to lead an established company which has such an exceptionally talented and loyal staff. As a former military officer, I learned early on how powerful a cohesive team can be, and I look forward to the many great things we will accomplish in the years to come.”

According to the company, Minemax solutions—which includes strategic and operational mine planning software and consulting—cover the whole spectrum of strategic and operational mine planning, and help mining companies achieve production requirements, maximize resource utilization and optimize business value.

Apart from the occasional wilderness adventure, Kraft spends time with his two young boys who keep him busy in any spare moments he might have outside his tight professional schedule.

“I am so very blessed to have a small, wonderful family,” he says. “My two young boys are keen little adventurers themselves. My wife is also a dedicated professional in her field. We have adapted to many changes over the past years to balance life and career.”


Paleomagnetism: Deciphering the Early History of the Earth

Rock samples in Smirnov’s lab are 2-3 billion years old.

Although it makes up about seven-eighths of the Earth’s history, the Precambrian time period is far from figured out. Key questions remain unanswered.

The Precambrian—the first four billion years of Earth history—was a time of many critical transitions in Earth systems, including oxygenation of the atmosphere and emergence of life. But many of these processes, and the links between them, are poorly understood.

Data can be obtained from fossil magnetism—some rocks record the Earth’s magnetic field that existed at the time of their formation. However, for very old rocks (billions of years old) the conventional methods of obtaining fossil magnetism do not work well.

Professor Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Michigan Tech Professor of Geophysics, Aleksey Smirnov, seeks to substantially increase the amount of reliable data on the Precambrian field. Smirnov investigates the fossil magnetism of well-dated igneous rocks from around the globe using new and experimental processes to help fill in the blanks. His work on the early magnetic field history is supported by several National Science Foundation grants including a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

“Deciphering the early history of our planet, the early history of its geomagnetic field, represents one of the great challenges in Earth science,” says Smirnov. “Available data are scarce, and key questions remain unanswered. For instance we still don’t know how and when the Earth’s geomagnetic field began.”

Smirnov and former student Danford Moore
drill rock samples in the Zebra Hill region, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia.

“How did the geomagnetic field evolve at early stages? How did it interact with the biosphere, and other Earth system components—these are all largely unanswered questions. There is also disagreement on the age of the solid inner core, ranging between 0.5 and 2.5 billion years,” note Smirnov.

Scientists largely believe the Earth’s intrinsic magnetic field is generated and maintained by convective flow in the Earth’s fluid outer core, called the geodynamo.

Smirnov’s research has broad implications for Earth science including a better understanding of the workings and age of the geodynamo.

Earth cutaway. Credit: Lawrence Livermore Lab

“Crystallization of the inner core may have resulted in a dramatic increase of the geomagnetic field strength preceded by a period of an unusually weak and unstable field,” he explains. “If we observe this behavior in the paleomagnetic record, we will have a much better estimate of the inner core age and hence a better constrained thermal history of our planet.”

Knowing the strength and stability of the early geomagnetic field is also crucial to understanding the causative links between the magnetic field and modulating the evolution of atmosphere and biosphere,” notes Smirnov.

An illustration of the Earth’s magnetic field. Credit NASA.

Today, the Earth’s magnetic field protects the atmosphere and life from solar and cosmic radiation. “Before the inner core formation, the geodynamo could have produced a much weaker and less stable magnetic field. An attendant weaker magnetic shielding would allow a much stronger effect of solar radiation on life evolution and atmospheric chemistry.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students work with Smirnov to conduct research, logging hours in his Earth and Environmental Magnetism Lab, traveling the world to collect specimens.

The Earth and Environmental Magnetism Lab at Michigan Tech: If you drop a metal object on the floor there, the shielding properties of the room can be lost.

“The primary (useful) magnetizations recorded by ancient rocks are usually very weak and are often superimposed by later (parasitic, secondary) magnetizations,” Smirnov explains. “In order to get to the primary magnetization, we have to remove the secondary magnetizations by incremental heatings of the samples in our specialized paleomagnetic furnaces. The heatings must be done in a zero magnetic field environment. This is one reason why we have the shielded room, which was specially built for our paleomagnetic lab. There are other shielded rooms around the country, but ours is the only one at Michigan Tech,” he notes.

“The second reason for having our instruments in the shielded room is that the magnetizations we measure are weak and our instruments are so sensitive that the Earth’s magnetic field can interfere with our measurements. In fact, in addition to the shielded room, each instrument inside has an additional magnetic shielding.”

Note that the shielded room was built before I came, by my predecessors Profs Jimmy Diehl and Sue Beske-Diehl.

Students in this photo (some now graduates) are performing liquid helium transfer into one of our cryogenic magnetometers. “We need to constantly keep the sensors at a very cold temperature (only a very few degrees above the absolute zero temperature) to provide their ultra-sensitivity,” says GMES professor and chair, Aleksey Smirnov. “It is based on the principle of superconductivity.”

On one month-long trip to the Pilbara Craton in northwest Western Australia, Smirnov and a student gathered 900 samples of well preserved, 2.7 to 3.5 billion year old Precambrian rocks. 

Smirnov stepped into the role of chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences last fall, but that won’t keep him too far from his research. “Any interested student should feel free to get in touch to learn more about research positions,” he says.

Investigations in Smirnov’s lab are not limited to the ancient field. Other interests include the application of magnetic methods for hydrocarbon exploration, magnetic mineralogy, magnetism of meteorites, biomagnetism, and plate tectonics.

Learn more

Aleksey Smirnov is the new Chair of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Clues To Earth’s Ancient Core