Pasi Lautala has been named College of Engineering (CoE) associate dean for research. He is a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE); director and founder of Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program (RTP); and director of the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute.
In his new position as associate dean, Lautala will support faculty and staff engagement with agencies that fund research projects — ranging from one-year, single-investigator projects to complex multidisciplinary projects involving several institutions, spanning years.
“Dr. Lautala will work to further expand the University’s mission of discovering new knowledge through research, and launching new technologies through innovation,” said Audra Morse, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “He has a strong track record of working with faculty members to form highly competitive research teams. He’s going to continue doing that work, and also expand his efforts to help others lead large, collaborative research proposals.”
Under Lautala’s direction, Michigan Tech developed one of the largest multidisciplinary rail transportation research and education portfolios in the nation. RTP projects include improving grade crossing safety through improved inspection techniques and data analytics that utilize drones, communications research between automated and connected highway/railway vehicles, and better understanding of driver behavior at crossings.
Michigan Tech researchers are involved in additional rail projects, including development of a life cycle analysis framework for rail infrastructure, rail transportation resiliency and lowered environmental footprint through locomotive emissions analysis, and predicting track vulnerabilities for short- and long-term natural disruptions.
Lautala serves as chair of the Rail Group on the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a unit of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS).
“It has been a great experience to work with the Rail Transportation Program, the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute, and colleagues in the CEGE over the last 15 years,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to this new adventure. For me, the most exciting part of research has always been identifying opportunities that allow our greatest minds to cross-pollinate and use their expertise to address the variety of issues facing us on a daily basis. It’s going to be a steep curve to learn all the facets of research that take place within and beyond the College of Engineering, but I’m excited about the opportunity. I will do my best to help continue the expansion of our research in new directions.”
Lautala joined the Michigan Tech faculty in 2007, and soon after established the RTP to advance rail education and research across disciplines. He first came to Tech from Finland in 1996 to earn an M.S. in Civil Engineering. After his graduation, he worked for five years as a railroad and highway engineering consultant in Chicago before returning to Michigan Tech for a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering – Transportation.
Materials Science and Engineering Professor Emeritus Larry Sutter was the previous associate dean for research. He retired in July 2022.