Author: Kim Geiger

Tau Beta Pi Honor Society at Michigan Tech initiates 39 new members

Each chapter of Tau Beta Pi has its own bent statue. On campus at Michigan Tech campus it is located between Rekhi Hall and the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

The College of Engineering inducted 38 students and one eminent engineer into the Michigan Tech Michigan Beta chapter of Tau Beta Pi this academic year.

A nationally-recognized engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi is the only one that recognizes all engineering professions. Members are selected from the top eighth of their junior class, top fifth of their senior class, or the top fifth of graduate students who have completed 50 percent of their coursework.

Tau Beta Pi celebrates those who have distinguished scholarship and exemplary character and members strive to maintain integrity and excellence in engineering. The honor is nationally recognized in both academic and professional settings. Alumni embody the principle of TBP: “Integrity and Excellence in Engineering.”

The new Tau Beta Pi logo in blue, with Tau Beta Pi symbol, "the bent" which resembles an old watch winding key.

Fall 2020 Initiates:

Undergraduate students
Evan DeLosh, Mechanical Engineering
Nolan Pickett, Mechanical Engineering
Ben Holladay, Electrical Engineering
Jacob Stewart, Civil Engineering
Malina Gallmeyer, Environmental Engineering
Caleigh Dunn, Biomedical Engineering
Mikalah Klippenstein, Electrical Engineering
Savannah Page, Biomedical Engineering
Katie Smith, Chemical Engineering
Cole Alpers, Mechanical Engineering
Ben Pokorny, Mechanical Engineering
Kyrie LeMahieu, Mechanical Engineering
Anna Hildebrandt, Materials Science & Engineering

Graduate students
Shankara Varma Ponnurangam, Mechanical Engineering
Koami Soulemane Hayibo, Electrical Engineering
Kaled Bentaher, Chemical Engineering
Nicholas Hendrickson, Mechanical Engineering

Spring 2021 Initiates:

Undergraduate students
Anders Carlson, Mechanical Engineering
Brian Geiger, Mechanical Engineering
Emily Street, Mining Engineering
Jacob Lindhorst, Mechanical Engineering
John Benz, Mechanical Engineering
John Hettinger, Computer Engineering
Joshua King, Materials Science & Engineering
Laurel Schmidt, Mechanical Engineering & Theatre Technology
Matthew Fooy, Chemical Engineering
Matthew Gauthier, Mechanical Engineering
Max Pleyte, Biomedical Engineering
Nick McCole, Engineering
Nick Niemi, Biomedical Engineering
Tom Morrison, Chemical Engineering
Zach Darkowski, Mechanical Engineering

Graduate students
Aiden Truettner, Chemical Engineering
Iuliia Tcibulnikova, Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences
Rajat Gadhave, Mechanical Engineering
Ranit Karmakar, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sreekanth Pengadath, Mechanical Engineering
Fnu Vinay Prakash, Electrical & Computer Engineering

Professor Tony Rogers, Michigan Tech

Eminent Engineer
Dr. Tony Rogers, Department of Chemical Engineering


Jared Wolfe: “Molti-Colored” Migratory Birds

Jared Wolfe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 19 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites

Dr. Jared Wolfe

What are you doing for supper this Monday 4/19 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Jared Wolfe, Wildlife Biologist and Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be Wolfe’s longtime colleague and friend, Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana. 

Dr. Erik Johnson

During Husky Bites, get ready for a wide-ranging, free-wheeling conversation about wild bird research, education and conservation. Be sure to bring your questions for these two world experts. 

“Here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there is an incredible diversity of birds that show up to breed in the summer, but many of these birds are decreasing in abundance—they are diminishing,” says Wolfe. “We’ve lost 2.5 billion birds in North America over the past 30 years,” he adds. “Why?” 

For Wolfe and Johnson, much of their life and work has become dedicated to finding both why, and how. The two began collaborating at Louisiana State University, where they both earned their PhDs. Among their many joint projects is a book, Molt in Neotropical Birds; Life History and Aging Criteria. The volume, published in collaboration with the American Ornithological Society, describes molt strategies for nearly 190 species based on information gathered from a 30-year study of Central Amazonian birds.

Wolfe has spent 15-plus years working with tropical birds in Africa, Central and South America where he studies effects of climate and habitat change on sensitive bird species and wildlife communities. In North America, he works with managers to integrate wildlife management and conservation into sustainable forest stewardship.

Molt in Neotropical Birds, by Erik Johnson and Jared Wolfe, CRC Press, 2017, 412 pp.

Wolfe joined Michigan Tech in 2018, Determining how birds adapt lifecycle events to climate change and subsequent shifts in food resources is a central facet of his research. He uses monitoring data from California, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Brazil to measure changes in breeding and molting phenology, and survival relative to climate. He also studies bird communities within human dominated landscapes and adjacent habitat patches. 

Bird migration is an important focus in the Wolfe Lab at Michigan Tech. “Seasonal movements of birds have captured the imagination of naturalists for millennia,” he says. “The advent of diminutive tracking devices ushered in an era of discovery, where connectivity between breeding and wintering grounds are continually being revealed.” 

Wolfe and Johnson both employ geolocators and other technologies to study migration to better understand the movements of temperate birds. Photo credit: Erik Johnson

​Johnson has over 15 years of applied ornithological research experience in five countries. He completed his dissertation work studying the effects of forest fragmentation on avian communities at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) in coordination with the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA). His primary focus now at Audubon Louisiana involves avian conservation challenges along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Prof. Wolfe, how did you first get into Wildlife Biology? What sparked your interest?

Jared Wolfe and his crew from Central Africa. Wolfe co-founded the Biodiversity Initiative in 2013. It seeks protect all wildlife–including forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, and hundreds of bird species – and conserve the rainforest across central Africa.

Growing up in downtown Sacramento, there wasn’t much opportunity to recreate in nature or see wildlife outside the city. There was a strip of riparian forest bordering the American River which served as a refuge from the city. Just a short bike ride from my house I would see coyotes, migratory birds, waterfowl, and beavers all seeking refuge, like me, from the city. These formative experiences helped develop a passion for wild places and wild things which led to a lifelong fascination with plants and animals. Luckily, I learned about the profession of wildlife ecology when I was 18, and never turned back!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to go fishing, birding, hiking, camping, hunting, anything that gets me away from social media and my computer!

Wolfe founded a banding station at Michigan Tech’s Ford Center and Forest in Alberta, Michigan. “High capture rates and diversity make this a wonderful location to study bird populations,” says Wolfe.

Could you tell us a little about your family?

Sure, I am from Sacramento, California. My wife, Dr. Kristin Brzeski is a conservation geneticist who is also a professor at CFRES. We have one son, a covid baby, 7 month old Lawrence. We went into the pandemic barely pregnant, and to the surprise of our colleagues, are emerging with an infant! 

Prof. Johnson, how did you first get into Wildlife Biology? What sparked your interest?

Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

I suppose I’ve always been into birds. My parents tell stories of me when I was little, being more interested in the pigeons than the lions, elephants, and zebras when we visited zoos. I started really picking up binoculars when I was about 10 and starting keeping bird lists when I was 11. My mom and aunt are casual bird watchers, and my whole family was an outdoorsy sort of family, so they embraced my interest from the beginning. From there I became focused on wildlife biology, ecology, and conservation more broadly.

What do you like to do for fun?

I really love to do anything outdoors—travel, hike, bike, garden. And of course, bird watching. Lately, I’ve been interested in photographing insects, with a particular interest in leafhoppers, planthoppers, and treehoppers. I dabble in guitar and violin, and used to really be into snowboarding, which is much harder to do in Louisiana!

Family and growing up?

On this Downy Woodpecker, can you spot it? Differences in coloration provide valuable information about a bird’s age. Find out how on Husky Bites this Monday 4/12 at 6 pm ET. Photo credit: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana.

I live in Sunset, Louisiana, but grew up in Pittsburgh and was born in Boston. I have family all over the eastern US—my parents are still in Pittsburgh, my younger brother is in New Hampshire, and I have aunts, uncles and cousins in Ohio, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts, and more distant connections to Germany, where my mom was born. My wife, Ceci, is from Metairie, Louisiana (just outside of New Orleans), and we’ve been married 15 crazy years.

Read more

Fine Feathers: Migration and Molt Affect How Birds Change Their Colors

Watch

Where Research Goes Outdoors


Mary Raber is the New Chair of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech

Mary Raber is the new chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech.

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that Mary Raber has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, beginning July 1, 2021.

“I am delighted that Dr. Raber will be chair of Engineering Fundamentals and I look forward to her joining the leadership team of the College,” states Dean Janet Callahan. “Her experience with design thinking, innovation and the principles of lean together inform her approach to solving problems. Dr. Raber’s industry background is an additional asset. Her experience will help us strongly align the engineering foundational first year with what we prepare our engineering graduates to accomplish.”

After a 14-year career in the automotive industry, Raber joined Michigan Tech in 1999 to lead the implementation and growth of the highly distinctive undergraduate Enterprise Program. She helped found the Pavlis Honors College, where she facilitated learning in leadership, human-centered design, and lean start-up and most recently served as assistant dean for academic programs.

A design-thinking and innovation enthusiast, Raber loves to help others embrace the tools and mindsets of innovation to effect positive change. She serves as co-director of Husky Innovate, Michigan Tech’s resource hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, and  she leads IDEAhub, Michigan Tech’s collaborative working group for educational innovation, as its Chief Doing Officer.

Raber earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan and an MBA from Wayne State University. Her PhD in Mechanical Engineering was earned at Michigan Tech, with a focus on engineering education.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

In part, it was a decision to move back to the area to be closer to family, but the timing couldn’t have been better, as the innovative Enterprise Program had just received NSF funding and Michigan Tech needed someone to get the program up and running.  It was a perfect fit for my interests and background, and with a lot of support from our industry partners who immediately saw the benefits of the program we have been able to grow it into the award-winning educational experience it is today. That experience set me on a path of educational innovation and curricular program development focused on experiential learning through high-impact practices. It’s a passion that continues today through my work with IDEAhub and the Pavlis Honors College. I look forward to bringing these experiences with me to the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

My interests lie at the intersection of innovation, education and learning. The connections between these three can bring about transformational change to the learning experience, and better prepare students to fulfill their personal and professional goals. Teaching allows me the opportunity to connect with students and build empathy for their challenges and hopes. In turn, these insights can lead to innovations in the classroom, so that courses and programs are designed with the needs of the students in mind. 

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair?

I look forward to working with, and learning from, the Engineering Fundamentals team, and to help continue their tradition of educational innovation. We share many of the same passions for student success with a goal to strengthen and enhance the role of the first-year engineering learning experience in order to best prepare students to meet the needs of the 21st Century. 

As a key partner in delivering the strategic mission and vision of the College and University, the Engineering Fundamentals team plays an essential role in helping students transition into their college life. It will be a privilege to work with the team that helps students begin their path toward successful careers in engineering.


Register by April 9 to Attend Virtual Design Expo 2021 at Michigan Tech

Discovering Solutions Through Inspired Design is the theme of Design Expo at Michigan Tech on April 15, 2021. This year, due the pandemic, it’s will be a virtual showcase. Register in advance, by Friday, April 9, at mtu.edu/expo.

Join in as we celebrate our students at Michigan Tech’s Virtual Design Expo. This year, Design Expo will be a fully-virtual event. We wish everyone good health as we navigate safely through the global pandemic.

Please register in advance by Friday, April 9, at at mtu.edu/expo. Everyone’s welcome! Register for all or parts of the big day, which is Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Students will be ready to share their projects on a virtual event platform, Gatherly, where you can meet the teams, view projects, and ask questions in real time.

Hosted by the Pavlis Honors College and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech. More than 1000 student teams showcase their work and compete for awards.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR THURSDAY, APRIL 15

11:00 a.m.: Opening Remarks via live Zoom webinar
11:30 a.m.: Virtual event opens on the virtual event platform, Gatherly. Meet the teams, view projects, and ask questions in real time.
1:30 p.m.: Gatherly virtual event and Remote Judging closes
3:00 p.m.: Presentation of Awards via live Zoom webinar
3:30 p.m.: 2021 Design Expo concludes


Kit Cischke: Students Boldly DOING Where No One Has Done Before

Kit Cischke and three graduating seniors from Michigan Tech’s Wireless Communications Enterprise team share their knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, April 12 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday 4/12 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Kit Cischke, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at  Michigan Technological University. He’s also longtime advisor to Wireless Communications Enterprise (WCE), part of the University’s award-winning Enterprise Program.

“I can’t lie,” says Kit Cischke. “Part of the reason I got excited about Enterprise way back in 1999 (as a student) was because the name of the program was the same as my favorite fictional ship.”

Joining in will be Abby Nelson, Ken Shiver, and Michael Patrick:  all three are ECE students and senior members of WCE. During Husky Bites, they’ll walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company.

Part of the university’s award-winning Enterprise Program, WCE is focused on technology—wireless, optical, renewable energy and biomedical. The student-run enterprise works as a think-tank for companies looking to push their product lines to a higher level. And WCE members also work as entrepreneurs, taking their own ideas to a level where they can be useful for industry and consumers alike. 

A student sits in the lab, soldering another LED onto the printed circuit board she designed herself and fabricated on equipment sitting not two feet away. A group puts the finishing touches on a setup for an experiment to detect water leaks in washing machines. Two students are at a computer, debugging code. A 3D printer hums away as yet another prototype is fabricated. Amid all this are students just sitting on the couch, discussing events of the day. It’s 10:00 PM on a Tuesday in the middle of the semester. Nobody has made these students come; they are here by their own volition. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“There’s no shortage of interesting and meaningful projects,” says Cischke. “Just a sampling: Android tablet programming with machine learning algorithms; machine vision algorithms; estimating the power contribution of anaerobic digester systems; and establishing a Bluetooth connection to a smart power tool. Some are explicitly wireless, others are not. Regardless, student leadership abounds.”

As an ECE instructor and WCE advisor, Cischke has the fantastic ability to make complex topics easy to understand. 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.

During Husky Bites, Nelson, Shiver and Patrick, along with Cischke (WCE faculty advisor) will walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company. 


“This is a Differential Amplifier Circuit used to sense the voltages of 4 cells in a battery pack,” says WCE team member Abby Nelson. “Version 5. It will be connected to an arduino so that we can remotely find out the charge of those cells in the battery.”

Cischke first came to Michigan Tech as a student in 1997. During his studies, he worked as an intern for IBM, verifying hard drive controllers in VHDL, and helped found one of the original Enterprise teams—the Wireless Communications Enterprise. He graduated in 2001 with a BS in Electrical Engineering, went to work for Unisys for about four and a half years and completed a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities.

“When I gathered in a classroom in 1999 with 40 fellow students to found a new Enterprise team, WCE, we couldn’t have imagined how it is today,” he recalls. “We had no space to call our own. We had no equipment. We had no clear projects. Over time, we found our footing and established our course,” says Cishke.

“I graduated into the ‘real world’ and found that the structure we were striving toward in WCE was the very structure found in industry,” he adds. “It was a considerable shock when I returned to Michigan Tech in order to teach—and found WCE had become an engineering company, composed entirely of students, only five years later.”

I watch the final presentation of a student who has been in WCE for four semesters and heading off to the “real world” now. There is no comparison to the student he was before WCE. He is older, wiser and more experienced. He has worked in a team and led a team himself. He is ready to make his mark on the world. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“When I was first asked to advise WCE students, I was intimidated,” Cishke admits.”The previous advisor had nursed the group through the formative years and had them operating at a state I couldn’t imagine sustaining. My fears were unjustified.

“It takes active effort on the part of an advisor to upset the momentum the students have. Student leadership abounds. Turns out it’s not intimidating to be their advisor—it’s a pleasure.”

Kit Cischke

How did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Actually, it was Star Trek. Some friends got me watching it in high school and my hero was Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer on the Enterprise). I don’t know that I expected “real” engineering to be like a day in deep space, but I loved the technology and problem solving. I first came to Michigan Tech as a budding chemical engineer, but realized that I liked playing with computers more than chemistry and switched into electrical and computer engineering. It’s a field that I enjoy and is constantly changing. 

The Star Trek character Geordi LaForge, portrayed by LeVar Burton.

What was the best part of taking part in WCE?

The best part is working with the students and watching them do cool things. When I started as a student, there was a sense that we didn’t know exactly what we were doing. What was our purpose? What was our value-add to the department and university? Now, the program and the students practically sell themselves. They accomplish so much and are so driven to do it. I have the “grade stick” to hold over them, but most of the students are internally motivated. 

Any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

Yes! I love bikes and the riding of bikes! I ride on mountain bike trails, paved roads, and gravel roads. I commute to the campus year-round on my bike—it’s far more possible than most people think. I’m a USA Cycling official too. When I’m not on a bike, I referee hockey, run, and I’m also learning how to do cross-country skate skiing and play guitar at my church.

Meet These Three Wireless Communications Enterprise Members at Husky Bites

Abby Nelson had two internships at John Deere, and accepted a job upon graduation. She’ll be taking part in the company’s development program for new engineers, with three 8-month rotations, all in different jobs and locations.

Abby Nelson ’21, Computer Engineering

Growing up I was always interested in how things worked. I caught onto computers pretty quickly. When I had to choose a college major, I chose computer engineering off the cuff. It turned out to be the right choice.

As soon as I walked on campus at Michigan Tech and saw the buildings and the people, I immediately knew that this was where I was going to go. In WCE, I’ve worked hands-on so much more than I would have in the classes I’ve taken in my major alone. I’ve met business connections and learned from other people, as well. WCE projects are student led (faculty advised), so there is a lot of problem solving involved in completing projects.

In my spare time, I enjoy biking, kayaking, and hiking around the UP. There are so many outdoor adventure opportunities, I wouldn’t trade this place for anywhere else. I will be graduating April 30th, 2021, and I am literally counting the days! Then I’ll move to Moline, Illinois to work at John Deere starting in May.

Kenny Shivers takes a break during a hike near Hungarian Falls.

Kenny Shivers ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

During high school I took part in FIRST robotics. For those who aren’t familiar, every year a new game and game rules are released on the first Saturday of the year. Teams have six weeks during the “build season” to prototype, design, and build 120-pound competition robots to play against each other in 3v3 teams. After that come district, regional, state, and world championship competitions. All that fast-paced environment and creative problem solving got me interested in engineering. I ended up here at Michigan Tech as a result.

The best part about WCE are the people. This may sound a bit odd, since senior design or Enterprise are required to graduate. In WCE, those of us working on similar projects group together, which forms a sense of camaraderie. We’re all at Michigan Tech together and mostly dealing with similar problems. When it gets closer to the end of the semester, it’s crunch time, with more and more things to do on deadline. It’s a lot like a real job out in industry.

Like most Tech students I enjoy spending time outdoors and working with my hands. Last summer I stayed here in the Keweenaw because of the pandemic. I got an old, broken bike and fixed it up. It’s not a bike I would necessarily let someone else ride, but I know it well enough to trust it for myself. I also play piano and read a bit. Lately I’ve been focused on trying to make sure I have everything together to graduate and find a job. I’m actively looking for employment in embedded systems in Southeast Michigan.

Michael Patrick and his son, Charlie. “He’s an adorable little man.”

Michael Patrick ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

I first became aware of engineering from my mother, a Michigan Tech chemical engineering graduate. She homeschooled me during my early education years. Then, in my FIRST Robotics team in high school, I was on the controls and electrical team (FRC Team 1718, The Fighting Pi). From that experience I knew I wanted to pursue electrical and computer engineering.

The best part of WCE, for me, have been the lab space and the community. I have made good friends in WCE, and the lab space has allowed me to tinker with electronics using tools I normally wouldn’t have access to. Right now I’m using it to repair a bluetooth speaker for a friend of mine.

Outside of school and becoming a new parent, I have a passion for cooking and healthy eating. I began a plant-based pescatarian diet 3 weeks ago, and never felt better. I also enjoy teaching and tutoring. I’m looking forward to having a side job as an online tutor once I graduate. Right now I’m still on the job hunt, looking ideally for an embedded software engineering position. Once I establish employment, I intend to start my loan payoffs and take a few years off from education, before pursuing a graduate degree.


Adam Meckler: Making it in the New Music Economy

The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO)

Adam Meckler shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 5 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing this Monday, April 5 at 6 pm ET? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guest Adam Meckler, assistant professor of Visual and Performing Arts and director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Technological University. He’s also a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist—and owner/co-founder/CEO of Gig Boss, a handy app for organizing a freelance gig/business. 

Assistant Professor Adam Mecker, Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Tech

During Husky Bites, Prof. Meckler will be talking about the shift of the music economy from selling albums to streaming, tools for young musicians looking to build a career in music, and ways for musicians to carve out passive income so they can focus on the music.

Joining in for Husky Bites on Monday will be Jared Anderson, chair of Michigan Tech Visual and Performing Arts. Prof. Anderson conducts conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, and the internationally-touring Michigan Tech Concert Choir. 

During Husky Bites we get learn from Prof. Meckler how the app he co-created, Gig Boss, came to be.

Meckler joined the faculty at Michigan Tech Fall of 2019 as Director of Jazz Studies, after a decade-long career as a freelance trumpeter, composer, and educator in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO), is the 18-piece big band that plays his original compositions. AMO’s debut album, ‘When the Clouds Look Like This’ was listed among the Best 2014 Jazz Releases by iTunes. 

In 2019 AMO released ‘Magnificent Madness’ just before Prof. Meckler packed up his family to move to Houghton. Though the band is founded in the traditions of jazz, it blends soul, R&B, hip-hop, and pop music to achieve a unique and grooving sound. (Listen to a song from Magnificent Madness here.)

Another thing Meckler offers online are instructional videos for the trumpet. This light, fun, easy to follow video, “How to Play the Trumpet – First Five Notes,” will get you off to a great start, at any age.

Adam Meckler plays along during the Michigan Tech Jazz Lab Band’s performance at the Fulton Street Collective in Chicago

Prof. Meckler, how did you first get involved in music? What sparked your interest?

“My dad sang in choirs when I was growing up. My mom was a violinist before I was born. She broke her pinky, so never got to hear her perform. I grew up hearing a lot of orchestral music, plus Motown, R&B, Soul, and 50s doo-wop. At around age 7 or 8 I took guitar lessons with my church pastor. Once I turned 10, I picked up a trumpet. I’ve always loved music. In fact I used to hum myself to sleep at night. My younger brother even moved out of our bedroom to sleep on the basement couch, just to get away from the sound!”

Family and hobbies?

Adam Mecker peforms with the Michigan Tech Jazz Band.

“I collaborate and write music with my wife, Jana Nyberg. She’s a vocalist, flautist, and band director. Jana appeared on Season 10 of American Idol and has released four full-length albums to date. She was a longtime music teacher in the Twin Cities, too. 

“Together we have two sons, Auggie is almost 6 and Hobbes is 3. Both our kids love to play the trumpet. They both have great rhythm. They both can sing. Music is fun for just about everything in life. We make up songs. We have one for taking our vitamin gummies, a song for taking a bath, and one for wiggling off our snow clothes. We are constantly singing. It’s a fun house to grow up in. 

“Auggie and Hobbes listen to me practice the trumpet, all the fundamental boring parts, every day. They see my microphone setup here at home, and see me collaborating with other artists. My philosophy is: don’t force your dreams on your children. Still, I’m living my dream, and Jana, too, so they experience a lot of music with us.

Be sure to check out Prof. Adam Meckler’s full bio and all his links here: https://linktr.ee/AdamMeckler

“There was a time I was practicing for West Side Story at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I played both the main role and a sub, so I had to learn two parts, with some real screaming on my horn. That was no problem for them. Oggie and Hobbs are used to hearing me playing full volume, even at bedtime. But just the other night, Jana texted me at about 11 pm while I was practicing in the basement, to say: ‘Adam could you please keep it down? I need to get some sleep!'”

Dr. Jared Anderson is chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Prof. Jared Anderson is a strong advocate for the transformative power of ensemble singing in building caring communities. As Director of Choral Activities at Michigan Tech, he conducts Michigan Tech choirs and teaches courses in music theory, group voice, and basic musicianship. He also coaches singers in Tech theater productions.

Anderson has conducted ensembles in Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, ensembles of all sizes and voicing, with singers of many different ages and backgrounds. An active choral himself singer himself, Anderson has performed in venues and festivals worldwide.

Prof. Anderson, how did you first get involved in music? What sparked your interest?

“I grew up in Orem, Utah, and come from a big family. My mom played in dance bands, and so each of us, me and my brothers and sisters, had to play an instrument and do things. I played piano and she insisted that I not quit until graduating from high school, but that was never a question—I always loved it. One of my fondest memories is when my dad played William Tell overture and we’d all run around like The Lone Ranger in the house.”


Life is a song: “Jane and I are the proud parents of three children,” says Prof. Anderson.

I always thought I’d be a doctor like my dad. In college I studied piano. I thought, no problem—I’ll major in piano and then go to med school. But I never ended up taking any pre-med courses, not even one!” From there, I moved into singing and choirs. There’s just something about being in a community and conducting that got me hooked.  

Michigan Tech Concert Choir Director Jared Anderson poses with a new friend during a visit to a South African school. The choir spent two weeks in South Africa in May 2017.

What is your most meaningful and memorable choral experience thus far?

While earning my master’s degree, I conducted the Utah State Prison choir on Tuesday nights. Sometimes there’d be 20 guys and other times just a few, depending on lockdown. I’d enter the prison by going through all the checkpoints, and then I’d be alone, walking over to the prison chapel where we rehearsed. We sang a lot together, and they loved to sing. It was a medium security prison, so I’d joke – ‘Hey, I know you’re all here because you forgot to pay your taxes in 1984!’ But it was a hardened environment. I could see how singing made a difference in their lives, by how they interacted with each other after a few songs.

Be sure to check out Prof. Anderson’s full bio here.


Tiny Nanoindentations Make a Big Difference for Prasad Soman

microphoto of nanoindentations seen near the grain boundary of iron, seen at 20 microns
Nanoindentations performed near or away from the grain boundary of iron, made to study their effect on deformation. Photo credit: Prasad Soman

Prasad Soman will graduate soon with his MSE PhD. But instead of walking down the aisle and tossing his cap in Michigan Tech’s Dee Stadium, this year he’ll take part in Michigan Tech’s first-ever outdoor graduation walk.

“My PhD research goal was to better understand how the addition of carbon affects the strengthening mechanism of iron—by looking to see what happens at the nanoscale,” he explains.

Soman studied the mechanisms of grain boundary strengthening by using an advanced and challenging technique known as nanoindentation to get “up close and personal” to the interfaces between individual crystals within a material. Just last week Soman successfully defended his PhD dissertation: “Study of Effects of Chemistry and Grain Boundary Geometry on Materials Failure.” The research was sponsored by the US Department of Energy.

photo of Prasad Soman
“My experience at Tech has been exciting and fulfilling: study, teaching, and research amidst the beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” says Prasad Soman, who will graduate from Michigan Tech on April 30 with a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering.

He’ll soon be moving to California to take a position with Amazon, the culmination of many years of hard work. “My journey into the field of metallurgy and materials science began in India, way back in high school, when I was thinking of choosing a major for my undergraduate studies in engineering. I had developed a great interest in Physics and Chemistry, then discovered I could pursue my interest even further by choosing metallurgical engineering as my major,” he says. Though his new position will not utilize his metallurgical expertise in a direct way, Amazon was drawn to Prasad’s ability to independently carry out and complete a detailed research project that required a high level of attention to detail, data collection, and advanced analysis and physical modeling.

“I attended College of Engineering Pune, one of the top tier schools for metallurgy in India. Upon graduation, I went on to work in the steel industry for a while, and then decided to pursue higher education in the US.

Soman arrived at Michigan Tech with the intention of earning a Master’s in MSE. Professor Yun Hang Hu advised Soman towards that degree, involving him in research focused on the fabrication and characterization of Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2)-based electrodes (aka Moly) for supercapacitor applications. The experience prompted Soman to continue on in his studies and earn a PhD.

For his MS degree, Soman worked with Yun Hang Hu, Charles and Carroll McArthur Professor of MSE at Michigan Tech

Two MSE faculty members, Assistant Professor Erik Herbert and Professor Stephen Hackney, served as Soman’s PhD co-advisors. “Prasad analyzed the effect of grain boundary segregation on the strengthening and deformation mechanism in metals and alloys,” says Herbert. “To do this Prasad intensively used small-scale mechanical testing, including nanoindentation and in-situ TEM experiments.”

“The most exciting part of this work involved utilizing various material characterization techniques,” says Soman. “The Advanced Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL) facility, located in the Michigan Tech M&M building near the MSE department, is one of the best materials characterization facilities in the world. Characterization of the materials response to mechanical indentation was essential for my PhD work, so having access to the many techniques available in ACMAL was both revealing and fulfilling.”

‘The work was painstaking, but thanks to Prasad’s incredible hard work, skill, and dedication, he was able to make significant inroads to improve our understanding.” 

Dr. Erik Herbert, Assistant Professor, Materials Science & Engineering

Soman used a variety of characterization methods in his research, including nanoindentation, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and electron backscatter diffraction spectroscopy (EBSD). “All help examine materials behavior at the nanometer scale,” he adds.

In particular, Soman used nanoindentation to study local grain boundary deformation in metals and alloys. “Using nanoindentation we can measure hardness at a very small length scale. The indentation impression size is on the order of a couple of microns—smaller than the width of a human hair,” Soman explains.

Two MSE faculty members, Professor Stephen Hackney (l) and Assistant Professor Erik Herbert (r) served as Soman’s PhD co-advisors.

“Performing a nanoindentation was challenging at first. The goal is to get the indentation very close to the grain boundary. The task is done using a simple optical microscope, yet accuracy on the order of a couple of microns must be achieved. That kind of accuracy is essential for the proper positioning of the indent relative to the boundary. But just as for any other thing, the more you practice (and learn from mistakes) the better you perform. It’s been a great achievement for me to consistently get the indentation accurately placed.”

PhD Candidate Prasad Soman hard at work in Michigan Tech’s ACMAL Lab

“Instrumented indentation experiments allow us to measure materials properties—including hardness and elastic modulus—as a function of depth,” says Soman. “We also examine how different microstructural features—grain boundary vs. grain interior—respond to a very localized deformation at nanometers length scale.”

Soman says he decided to join Michigan Tech’s MSE program due to its strong emphasis on metallurgical engineering. “While here at Tech, however, I was exposed to a variety of domains within materials science—energy storage materials, semiconductors, polymers, and more. So, while I focused on my passion for fundamental science in metallurgy, I also developed understanding and skills in these different domains,” he explains.

“That has come to fruition, as I will now be going to work in the consumer electronics industry, which requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

The large building on the far left of this campus photo is Michigan Tech’s Mineral and Materials Engineering Building (aka the “M&M”)—home to the MSE Department and the Advanced Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL).

Soman will soon pack up and move to Sunnyvale, California. He’ll be working as a hardware development engineer at Amazon. “The team is a cool group of engineers/scientists with diverse backgrounds—mechanical, chemical, design and other disciplines, as well. We’ll develop health and wellness electronic devices, such as smart watches, smart AR/VR glasses, and more. This job will allow me to utilize some of the key skills I developed at Michigan Tech in the field of metallurgy and mechanics. More than anything, I am eager to learn from the best of the best—all the folks in my team.”

One last thing, adds Soman: “I will terribly miss Houghton. I call it my home away from home.”


Tim Schulz: Anatomy of a Fishing Season

A digital self portrait sketch by Tim Schulz. “I was fishing down at the Pilgrim River near town. I ended up using this for the cover of my book.”

Tim Schulz shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, March 29 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Tim Schulz, University Professor, Michigan Tech

What are you doing for supper this Monday 3/29 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Tim Schulz, University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prof. Schulz teaches electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, fishes for trout throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and plays guitar and writes songs in his spare time. He is the author of The Habits of Trout: And Other Unsolved Mysteries, a collection of essays about fishing. 

Will Cantrell, Dean of the Graduate School at Michigan Tech

Joining in will be Will Cantrell, associate provost and dean of Michigan Tech’s graduate school. Dean Cantrell is also a professor of Physics. His research focuses on atmospheric science, particularly on clouds. In the summer, he goes fly fishing, occasionally tying some of his own flies.

During Husky Bites, Schulz will share the story of how he came to write his book, The Habits of Trout. It all began with a quest to explore the rugged backwoods environs where another author, John Voelker, found an abundance of wild trout and a dearth of crowds.

Schulz first came to Michigan Tech in 1992 as an assistant professor. He earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and then served as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Schulz was appointed Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2007, then returned to the ECE department five years later as a professor. In 2019 Schulz was named a University Professor, a title recognizing faculty members who have made outstanding scholarly contributions to the University and their discipline over a substantial period of time.

“When my eye doctor asks if I ever see spots,” says Schulz, “I say ‘all the time.'” 

As a teacher, Schulz is widely acknowledged as one of the ECE department’s best, with his friendly, humorous style and his devotion to his students’ learning. He’s also a leader in using technology to deliver technical material in electrical and computer engineering. 

“There was a time when I believed I could solve the mysteries of trout in particular and of life in general. But now I think we sometimes need to get skunked. We need to break our line on a good fish every now and again, and sometimes we need to cast all day without a take. We need to be grounded by the humility of failure so we can be lifted by the hope of success.”

Excerpt with permission from The Habits of Trout and Other Unsolved Mysteries, by Timothy Schulz (Uptrout Press, 2018). All rights reserved.

Starting in 2012, Schulz created a series of videos collectively titled “Electric Circuits” and posted them on YouTube. Though he created them with his EE2111 (Electric Circuits 1) class in mind, they are reaching a much wider audience.  All combined, his educational videos have had over one million views on YouTube. One, “Thevenin Equivalent Circuits” has gotten more than 162,763 views. Since that time, Schulz developed a phone app of randomized electric circuit problems to use in this course, too. 

The Habits of Trout and Other Unsolved Mysteries is Schulz’s first book.

As a researcher, Schulz applies statistical signal-processing techniques to computational imaging and signal analysis. His methods have been used to clarify images from the Hubble Space Telescope and to miniaturize high-quality cameras for military surveillance and commercial applications. Shortly after the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, Schulz applied image processing methods to de-blur and improve images taken with the flawed telescope.

When and how did you discover a love of fly fishing? Did anyone teach you how?

Tim: One of my mom’s friends gave me a cheap fly rod when I was a kid, and I used that for bluegill. But I didn’t get serious about fly fishing in general, and fly fishing for trout in particular, until about 25 years ago when my wife Roxanne bid on fly fishing lessons that Ray Weglars donated to benefit a local art gallery. She has second guessed that ever since. 

Will: I helped my neighbor down the street, Lou Owen, with something. I think maybe it was his garage door opener. He insisted that I “take something” for my trouble. He ended up taking me fly fishing. That was my first experience with it. He showed me the basics. After that, I was self taught, and have no doubt taught myself some bad habits, especially with casting.

Rainbow Trout. Credit: Tim Schulz

Do you ever find yourself thinking about your research while you are out fishing? 

Tim: Sometimes, but not a lot. Mostly, I think about the flora, the fauna, and the fish. 

Will: Usually, when I’m fishing, I am thinking about the fish that’s rising, or where it might be if there’s not a fish rising, or how to get a fly to drift without dragging despite the three crosswise currents between me and where I want the fly…I am more likely to think about research problems when I’m walking the river to get where I will be fishing.

For those who have never ever tried it, what’s a good way to get started?

Tim: Go to a good fly shop and have them set you up. A good guide is invaluable for helping you get started. And read all you can on the subject. If you have a friend who fly fishes, take them to dinner, buy them beer, whiskey, or anything else they like. Fly anglers are secretive, but they have weaknesses, and they can be bought.

Will: Most fisherpeople will show you one or two spots that everyone knows about. What Tim suggests is probably the most reliable way.

“Here’s a brown I caught a couple of summers ago on
the Uncompahgre in Colorado,” says Cantrell.

How do you deal with the mosquitos and the biting insects?

Tim: From my chest down, I’m protected by waders. I always wear long sleeve shirts, and my wide-brim hat has been sprayed with bug-dope so much that the EPA has classified it as a minor environmental hazard. Also, if you do this long enough, you’ll learn to extend your lower lip in front of your upper lip and blow the bugs off your face. It really works.

Will: Badger Balm. Long sleeve shirt. If the bugs are biting you, there are also bugs on the water. Trout feed on bugs. I am much less bothered by biting insects when I’m casting to a rise that I think might be grandfather trout!

Brown Trout. Credit: Tim Schulz

In terms of fly fishing, what is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?

Tim: My greatest strength? Patience. I’m really good at sitting on a log or a rock and waiting for a fish to start feeding. I can do it for hours. Most of the big fish I’ve caught have been because of that. My greatest weakness? Patience. I’m really good at sitting on a log or a rock and waiting for a fish to start feeding. I can do it for hours. Most of my fishless days have been because of that. 

Will: My greatest weakness? Patience, lack thereof. I almost never do what Tim describes!

Word to the wise: Be careful if you decide to check out Madness and Magic, Prof. Schulz captivating blog. You may easily become hooked!


Volunteer to Judge at Michigan Tech’s Virtual Design Expo 2021

Due to the pandemic, Michigan Tech’s Design Expo showcase of Enterprise and Senior Design student projects will be virtual again this year, for the 2nd time in its 21-year history.

Just how well do students in Michigan Tech’s Enterprise and Senior Design programs address design challenges? You be the judge—volunteer at Design Expo 2021!

Now’s the time to consider serving as a distinguished judge at Michigan Tech’s upcoming 21st annual Design Expo, held virtually on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Hosted by the Pavlis Honors College and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech.

Learn more at mtu.edu/expo.

At Design Expo, more than 1000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design teams showcase their work and compete for awards, which allows students to gain valuable experience and direct exposure to industry-relevant problems.

“No experience or education in engineering is required to be a judge,” says Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator in the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Tech. “In fact, we welcome judges from various professions, disciplines and backgrounds to volunteer to judge at this year’s event.”

As a virtual event, 2021 Design Expo will include a digital gallery of student-created videos showcasing project work. Judging usually takes about an hour, depending on the number of volunteers.

“We hope you will virtually join us at the 21st Design Expo. Whether a judge or simply a virtual guest, your involvement in the event is greatly valued by our student teams and makes a valuable contribution to their education.”

Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator, Pavlis Honors College, Michigan Tech

Sign Me Up!

Visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page for more information and to register to judge by Monday, April 5, 2021.

In order to be considered as a judge, please commit to the following: 

  • Attend Design Expo between 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM on April 15, 2021 to visit assigned teams via RocketJudge.
  • Review and score assigned team videos via RocketJudge prior to the start of Design Expo, April 12-15, 2021.

Who should judge?

  • Community members
  • Alumni interested in seeing what today’s undergraduate students are accomplishing as undergrads
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project
  • Anyone with an interest in supporting our students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning
A student from Advanced Metalworks Enterprise, one of the teams competing at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo 2021

Questions?

Feel free to contact Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator in Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College, at bctucker@mtu.edu


Andrew Barnard + Travis White: Lake Superior, Marine Autonomy—and Fishing

Photo credit: Travis White

Andrew Barnard and Travis White share their knowledge on Husky Bites tonight, Monday, March 22 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper tonight, Monday 3/22 at 6 ET? Hey, it’s World Water Day 2021! Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Andrew Barnard, Director of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). Barnard is a Michigan Tech alum, and an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech, specializing in the field of acoustics, vibration, and noise control engineering.

Andrew Barnard, Director, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech

Joining in will be Travis White, aka Captain White. He’s a research engineer at the GLRC, owner of Keweenaw Charters, and also a Michigan Tech alum. Travis earned his BS in mechanical engineering in 2011. He’s also an entrepreneur, as cofounder of ProNav Marine, a company that offers up high-tech tools designed to enhance the boating and fishing experience.

Travis White, Research Engineer, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech

Together they will present some of their exciting work around the Great Lakes and beyond, including engineering an autonomous jetski that will help map the bottom of Lake Superior–and advance research in the area of marine autonomy.

“Autonomous marine vehicles can aid in data collection to identify invasive species, monitor the effects of climate change, evaluate fish populations, assess water quality, and much more,” says White. “Not only does their widespread adoption and use help to protect our limited water resources for economic, environmental, and social benefits but also related technologies promise to make global shipping smarter, cleaner, and more efficient.”

The mission of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center: To become a leader in interdisciplinary aquatic science and engineering focused on the Laurentian Great Lakes Basin in its entirety through excellence in research education and outreach.

According to White and Barnard, GLRC’s 11′ Yamaha WaveRunner, a personal watercraft, is being made autonomous through the addition of remotely controlled actuators for steering and throttle and sensors including GPS, compass, and inertial motion sensing.

“The Michigan Tech engineers behind this are collaborating with a supplier in Madrid, Spain to adapt their commercially available off the shelf control hardware for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to what will become an autonomous / unmanned surface vehicle (ASV / USV) once the integration is complete,” says White. “Currently the WaveRunner is fully remotely controllable, but the ultimate goal is making it fully autonomous, meaning it can be given a program via a computer software interface and deployed to complete missions without requiring an operator at the controls.”

Michigan Tech GLRC’s Yamaha WaveRunner, a personal watercraft (aka “jetski)

That research is one of many projects underway at the recently established Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS), which serves as a proving ground for new maritime technologies that will enable smart, autonomous, and unmanned shipping.  

“I grew up in the Blue Economy,” adds Barnard. “Twenty-one percent of the world’s surface freshwater is in the Great Lakes. If the Great Lakes states were their own country, they would have the world’s 3rd largest GDP. From tourism to shipping, water is vital to our economic engine.”

This week Michigan Tech’s celebrates World Water Day 2021 with a week full of special events from March 18-24. “It’s an exciting and varied schedule for all ages,” say White. Registration is needed for events on March 23 & 24. Visit the Great Lakes Research Center World Water Day website for more details. All events all relate to the United Nations theme, “Valuing Water.”

Water is vital to life. On World Water Day, discover how our community values water from social, economic, cultural, and environmental perspectives.

During Husky Bites, Andrew Barnard and Travis White of the Great Lakes Research Center will talk about the USGS Saildrone (pictured here)—how it works, and how it’s used for fish population assessment.

“Fishing is a vital resource for Great Lakes communities and tribes,” adds Barnard. “The USGS conducts yearly Great Lakes fish surveys. One problem: Noise from large vessels can affect accurate fish counting.”

White will discuss some interesting interdisciplinary research in his job at the Great Lakes Research Center, as well:

DARPA BioProtein—turning plastic into food (economic sustainability through environmental sustainability)

Lake Superior Geology—the Midcontinent Rift System (MRS) sample collection at Stannard Rock.

And the Great Lakes Buoy Program—real-time measurements of wind, waves, and weather (And, “Great for fishing,” adds White).

“My goal was to form a career around my passions,” says Travis. “Two of those passions: being on the water, and big fish!”

During Husky Bites, Barnard and White plan to hare a few (fish) tales from their time spent working on and around the water, experiences that inspire their work and fuel their passion for protecting water resources.

Andrew Barnard was born and raised outside of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, an area cradled between Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. He comes from a long line of teachers.