All posts by Kim Geiger

Taking on Disasters—Before They Happen

Brian Tucker of GeoHazards International (GHI) struggles to hold a heavy adobe brick used in typical buildings in rural Peru. GHI retrofitted an adobe school building in the village of Chocos, Peru, with geomesh, which holds the adobe walls together and greatly improves their earthquake resistance. Credit: Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University
Brian Tucker of GeoHazards International (GHI) struggles to hold a heavy adobe brick used in typical buildings in rural Peru. GHI retrofitted an adobe school building in the village of Chocos, Peru, with geomesh, which holds the adobe walls together and greatly improves their earthquake resistance. Credit: Gregory Deierlein, Stanford University

Next week more than 1,200 first-year students at Michigan Tech will hear from MacArthur Fellow Brian Tucker, founder and president of Geohazards International.

Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Landslides. Storms.

Brian Tucker, founder global non-profit Geohazards International, takes on disasters before they happen. Tucker will present “Lessons Learned in Reducing Natural Disaster Risk in Poor Countries,” this Thursday, September 13 at 6 p.m. in the Rosza Center at Michigan Technological University.

Tucker is a seismologist and MacArthur Fellow whose work focuses on preventing readily avoidable disasters in the world’s poorest countries by using affordable civil engineering practices. He founded GeoHazards International (GHI) in 1991 after recognizing that multi-story residences, schools, hospitals, stores, and offices built from adobe, stone, or unreinforced masonry in many regions of the world are death traps when earthquakes strike.

A consulting professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stanford University, Tucker is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Earthquake Engineering as well as the board of the World Seismic Safety Initiative. He is a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.

In 2001 he was awarded the Gorakha Dakshin Bahu Award for service to the people of Nepal by the King of Nepal. He was named a MacArthur Fellow by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 2002. He received the George E. Brown, Jr. Award, from the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation for International Science and Technology Cooperation, in 2007.

Most recently, Tucker was given the Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award from Pomona College in 2017 and was named among the 100 Distinguished Alumni of University of California, San Diego. He has also won two “Hammers” from the 2016 and 2017 C.R.A.S.H-B’s World Indoor Rowing Competition.

Tucker received a BA from Pomona College, a PhD from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and an MA in Public Policy from Harvard University. Tucker served as Principal and Supervising Geologist at the California Division of Mines and Geology from 1982–1991. He founded Geohazards International in 1991.


Michigan Tech’s First-Year Engineering Lecture is a longtime annual tradition for freshmen in the College of Engineering, and now students from the School of Technology, and Department of Computer Science are joining the event.

Please note: space at the venue is at capacity, so the event is not open to the public this year. 

 

 


Study Abroad: Clean, Renewable Energy in Iceland

Zoe Ketola, Systems Engineering undergraduate, studied renewable energy in Iceland this summer.
Zoe Ketola, Systems Engineering undergraduate, studied renewable energy in Iceland this summer.
Zoé Ketola enrolled in the The Green Program, which offers short-term, experiential education about the world’s most pressing issues in sustainable development. Ketola took classes through Reykjavik University School of Energy, and also traveled extensively around Iceland. In Ketola’s group there were about 20 others students, coming from Penn State, University of Michigan, Colorado State, and some Canadian universities, to name a few.

Here at Michigan Tech, Ketola is turning her innovative ideas into a reality with a BSE degree in systems engineeringan engineering degree she can customize to fit her interests. She wants to work on improving and overhauling the US electrical grid—facilitating the transition from traditional to clean energy sources.

Why did you decide to go to Iceland for your study abroad?
Iceland is what fell into my lap. It is considered the world’s renewable energy capital and renewable and clean energy are my passion. I never set out looking to go to Iceland (or anywhere, really) but when the department chair of Engineering Fundamentals, Professor Jon Sticklen, told me about the opportunity I couldn’t think of a better place to learn about what I love. Plus, have you seen pictures of the place? It’s a dream if you like the outdoors.

What was your main project while you were there?
I worked on a project that detailed providing personal solar arrays to impoverished communities within the United States. My group focused on communities in West Virginia and we looked into providing the equipment, doing install, how we would run our company, etc. We did this outside of taking courses on hydropower, geothermal, biofuels, and icelandic culture/history.What did you learn about culture and society in Iceland?
The Icelandic people are very hearty. They are independent and they kind of do their own thing. The most interesting things to me included how independent the children are and just how important keeping their public places clean is. You don’t wear your shoes in homes or the public pools. The pools also have a monitor who makes sure you shower before swimming.

“Iceland changed my life. I know that sounds cliche but I felt like I was losing my fire to make things better. I met people who cared about the same things as me and wanted to save the world. Nothing felt better than that. I can never thank my professor enough for helping me to get there.”

How has studying abroad impacted or changed your outlook?
Well, I’m itching to go back to Iceland and have been since I landed back stateside. I’m now looking more seriously at pursuing a masters dealing with energy, maybe even in Iceland.  Iceland reignited my passion to help the planet and to focus on improving the renewable/clean energy sector.

Through the Green Program, Zoé Ketola studied abroad in Iceland with a strong focus on clean renewable energy
Through the Green Program, Zoé Ketola studied abroad in Iceland with a strong focus on clean renewable energy

What was your most memorable experience?
I hiked a little over 10 miles at Fimmvörðuháls in the Icelandic highlands. When we got to the top of our hike, I couldn’t believe I was there. I was standing in between two glaciers with 20 fantastic people from all over the world and it was so surreal. The world is so big yet we all ended up there together.

Outside of working and studying, what was everyday life like? What did you do for fun?
Mostly spent time outside. I hiked everywhere it feels like, including near the southern coast and in the highlands (where I also camped). We visited hot springs, public pools, mountains, glaciers, and a local hostel where we got to meet a band we had started listening to that morning on the bus. We also visited Iceland’s largest geothermal plant and two hydropower plants, one of which was built in the 1960s.

What are your career goals?

I want to work on improving and overhauling the US electrical grid and facilitating the transition from traditional energy sources to clean energy sources. I don’t know what that means yet because it doesn’t look like anyone is doing exactly what I feel like needs to happen but I’ll figure it out along the way. If I quit every time I wasn’t sure of how to move forward I would never get anything done.

Michigan Tech Brings Global Experts in Sustainable Iron and Steel to Houghton

Advanced Sustainable Iron and Steel Making at Michigan Tech
Advanced Sustainable Iron and Steel Making Laboratory (ASISC) at Michigan Tech

International industry leaders and research engineers from mining and mineral processing are on the Michigan Tech campus Thursday and Friday for the 7th annual meeting of the Advanced Sustainable Iron and Steelmaking Center (ASISC). The meeting features speakers from India, China, Chile, Brazil, United Kingdom, Sweden, South Africa, Columbia and the U.S., as well as Michigan Tech faculty and students.

A total of 25, 30-minute presentations will take place during the meeting. This year’s theme: “New Paradigms in Mineral Processing.”

ASISC members pool resources to address a diverse spectrum of interdisciplinary research questions. During the annual meeting, they share their work and experiences to further the development of a new generation of sustainable, economical mineral processing technologies.

The meeting kicked off with Komar Kawatra, professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech and founder and director of ASISC, welcoming participants. Todd Davis, area manager of Tilden Mine Plant Operations for Cleveland-Cliffs, delivered the first presentation. Following Davis, Anna Edigar, also of Cleveland Cliffs spoke about the role of government relations in the iron ore industry. She also shared an update on the Cliff iron ore operation.

Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech, welcomed attendees at today’s lunch at 1 p.m.

Callahan holds a PhD in materials science, an MS in metallurgy, and a BS in chemical engineering, all from the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where she is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Engineers. “Bringing together world experts to focus on sustainable ways to process iron and steel is important,” she remarked. “Each gain we make has a multiplying effect across the world.”

A Pilot Scale Carbon Dioxide Scrubber for the Michigan Tech Steam Plant

Sam Root and Sriram Valuri at work on the carbon dioxide scrubber
Sam Root and Sriram Valuri at work on the carbon dioxide scrubber

Meanwhile at Michigan Tech, chemical engineering undergraduate Sam Root, along with Kawatra and chemical engineering PhD student Sriram Valluri are making plans to install a pilot scale carbon dioxide scrubbing column in the Michigan Tech steam plant.

“The new equipment will scrub carbon dioxide from a sample stream of less than one percent of the main exhaust from the steam plant,” Root explains. “This will allow us to study the effects of real flue gas on carbon dioxide capture. The findings of this research will be applied in the future when designing a full-scale scrubbing operation.”

“The Michigan Tech steam plant currently produces a flue gas that is 10 percent carbon dioxide by volume,” says Kawatra. “Our goal is to use the scrubber to reduce those emissions to zero.”

The steel industry currently produces a flue gas that is 16 percent carbon dioxide by volume, adds Kawatra. Carbon dioxide scrubbers are not yet widely used in the steel industry, at least not yet.

“Making our scrubber compatible with real flue gas is the biggest challenge we’ve faced on this project. Flue gas is released from the boiler at high temperatures. It contains particulates that may be harmful to the packing inside the column. The equipment used to filter and cool the flue gas must be carefully selected to ensure that all materials are chemically compatible with the flue gas,” Root explains.

“Carbon dioxide levels are increasing, and this contributes to climate change. Capturing carbon dioxide on a large scale would be a huge step forward in mitigating anthropogenic climate effect. I am excited to work on such an important project as a young engineering student.” – Sam Root,  chemical engineering senior at Michigan Tech

Master Machinist Jerry Norkol and Research Associate Stefan Wisniewski, both staff in the Department of Chemical Engineering, worked with the students to design the new scrubbing column, and also built the experimental setup. Larry Hermanson, director of energy management for Michigan Tech Facilities, is also involved in project planning and installation. In just a few months, once the test pilot scrubber is installed on the steam plant, the team will begin to examine how impurities in flue gas, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, as well as depleted oxygen levels, affect its ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

A Long Time In the Making
Kawatra and his graduate students have spent the past 15-plus years developing the scrubbing column technology at Michigan Tech with support from Carbontec Energy Systems in Bismarck, North Dakota. Carbontec is a developer of technologies for the energy, oil and gas and iron and steel industries. John Simmons, chairman of Carbontec, earned a BS in metallurgical engineering at Michigan Tech in 1953. He is a member of the Chemical Engineering Academy at Michigan Tech, a native of Ironwood, Michigan, and a strong supporter of Michigan Tech.

Root and Valluri will present a poster on the pilot carbon dioxide scrubber project at the ASISC annual meeting poster session.

Speakers at the ASISC Annual Meeting
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
Dr. Komar Kawatra, Michigan Tech
Todd Davis, Tilden Mine, Cleveland Cliffs
Anna Ediger, Cleveland Cliffs
Dr. Sandra De Moraes, IPT, Brazil
Dr. Natasia Naude, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Samira Rashid, Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions
William Irani, Gaustec Magnetic Technology
Esau Arinwae, Solvay
Professor Yuexin Han, Northeastern University, Shenyang, P. R. China
Dr. Janet Callahan, Dean of Engineering, Michigan Tech
Professor Shaoxian Song, Wuhan University of Technology
Maria Bjorkvall, LKAB
Dean Connor, Metso Minerals Industries
John Simmons, Carbontec Energy

FRIDAY, AUGUST 10
Dr. Luis Cisternas Universidad de Antofagasta, Chile
Michael Archambo, Michigan Tech
Victor Claremboux, Michigan Tech
Sriram Valluri, Michigan Tech
Dr. Rajiv Ganguli, University of Alaska Fairbanks
John Carr, Solvay
Dr. Tathagata Ghosh, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Dr. Latika Gupta, Michigan Tech
Scott Moffat, Solvay


Study Abroad: Designing Water Systems in Rural Panama

A community woman uses buckets to carry water for her family in Nidori, in the province of Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica
A community woman uses buckets to carry water for her family in Nidori, in the province of Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica

In Panama much of the population is without access to clean water. Organizations including Panama’s Ministry of Health, the US Peace Corps, and now Michigan Tech through its International Senior Design Program (iDesign), have increased technical support to rural communities in Panama to help solve this problem.

A student team from Michigan Tech traveled to Panama to improve the water system in Nidori, in the province of Bocas del Toro. The team, comprised of civil and environmental engineering majors Adam Tuff, Madie Martin, Logan Anderson, Kellie Heiden and Tia Scarpelli, worked with Peace Corps volunteer Colleen Hickey to assess the needs of the community, gather data on existing water sources, and complete a survey for a new water distribution system.

Michigan Tech students L to R: Kellie Heiden, Tia Scarpelli, Madie Martin, Logan Anderson, and Adam Tuff
Michigan Tech students L to R: Kellie Heiden, Tia Scarpelli, Madie Martin, Logan Anderson, and Adam Tuff

“It was very difficult just to make it to the community,” says team member Adam Tuff. “To get there we flew into Panama City, took a bus to David District and stayed  there for the night, then in the morning took a bus to Chiriqui Grande, then a small boat. The community is definitely off the grid.”

The rural area is part of the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca, one of the areas set aside by the government for the various indigenous groups of Panama. The Ngöbe people rely on water transportation throughout the community, often by canoe, due to the location of the homes and schools, as well as the rough surrounding terrain.

“Our project was a little complicated, as we serviced one community with two smaller aqueducts,” explains team member Kellie Heiden. “The first portion of our project came from the newly found quebrada ‘mountain stream’ water source. We utilized this source by designing a stream dam that siphoned water through PVC pipes to five homes that currently have no water distribution system at all. This  means that they carry buckets to and from a water source a few times a day to get adequate water. The second portion of our project collected water from the pozo ‘spring’ water source. This required the designing of a spring box and a distribute tion line that feeds into a concrete tank. The water collected in the tank will be used to service twelve homes that have a water distribution system only during the wet season.”

The team designed a stream dam that siphoned water through PVC pipes to five homes that had no water distribution system at all
The team designed a stream dam that siphoned water through PVC pipes to five homes that had no water distribution system at all

“It was difficult to figure out how we could design a simple system that would last,” adds Tuff. “It is not the same as designing a system in America where the people and parts needed to fix problems are readily available.” The team worked closely with the community members to figure out what they would be able to main tain.

Back on campus, they produced a report in both English and Spanish detailing the design process, technical design components, construction, maintenance, feasibility, recommendations, and impact their project will have on the community.

Implementation depends on funding, but the team is optimistic. “Our time in Panama was difficult due to factors like weather—full days of rain—and access limitations. Just getting to the sites was an adventure,” says team member Tia Scarpelli. “But the field experience was very rewarding. The people of Nidori really wanted to know how they could help.” Adds Scarpelli: “Studying abroad and especially programs like iDesign are very helpful if a student is considering something like the Peace Corps—it will give you a great snapshot of what that sort of experience is like without the full-on commitment.”

Kellie Heiden earned her BS in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2015. She is now a Project Engineer at August Mack Environmental, Inc. Tia Scarpelli earned a BS in 2015 and MS in 2016, both in Environmental Engineering. Adam Tuff earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2014. He is now a Construction Inspector at HDR in Bellevue, Washington. Madie Martin earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2015. She is now a Engineer II at Kiewit in Houston, Texas. Logan Anderson earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 2015. He is a world traveler and teacher at VIPKid and Rustic Pathways.


Study Abroad: Investigating Myocardial Graft Materials in Hannover

Michigan Tech MSE student Jacob Braykovich studied abroad at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science.
Michigan Tech MSE student Jacob Braykovich studied abroad at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science.

Jacob Braykovich, a materials science and engineering major at Michigan Technological University, had spent two years working in the Michigan Tech Surface Innovations lab, helping to develop biodegradable zinc-based cardiac stents. He had a summer internship at start-up InPore Technologies, working on polymeric water filtration systems. But he wanted to do something different during the last summer before earning his undergraduate degree. 

Braykovich thought about going overseas, and began looking into options. That’s when he discovered the RISE program, or Research Internships in Science and Engineering. The RISE program is for students in the USA, Canada, or UK who want to spend a summer researching science or engineering at German universities. Braykovich applied for and won a scholarship to attend Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany.

Braykovich joined a team of researchers at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science working on myocardial graft materials. Myocardial grafts, both biological and synthetic, are used to help restore damaged myocardium, or heart muscle. Whether from heart attack or disease, damage to the myocardium can result in scar tissue, which can diminish the heart’s ability to contract and pump blood effectively.

“The Liebniz team, led by Hans Jürgen Maier, has developed a biodegradable magnesium alloy scaffold designed to mechanically support a myocardial graft and then gradually lose its function as the graft develops its own strength,” Braykovich explains.

Biodegradable scaffolds are cut with a water jet at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science
Biodegradable scaffolds are cut with a water jet at Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science

“The work was similar to my research here at Michigan Tech, so I was able to hit the ground running,” he says. Braykovich worked on perfecting the abrasive water injection jet cutting strategy employed to produce the scaffolds—analyzing design, cutting-edge roughness, and burr generation. “I ultimately determined the optimum pressure, flow rate, abrasive size and material, traverse rate, and orifice diameter of the cutting technique,” he says.

He started each day with coffee and a pastry from a local bakery and headed to work on the train. His tasks at work ranged from cutting samples in the manufacturing facility to using the 3D laser microscope to take images of the cuts, which he then analyzed.

“Through the experience, I found the hierarchy of the education/research system at Liebniz to be much different than what I have known, and with that the expectations were much different. But through making mistakes, I gradually began to understand and appreciate the diverse culture,” he says.

Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science
Leibniz University Institute of Materials Science

Outside the lab each weekend Braykovich traveled solo to a new city or country. Berlin, a short 90-minute train ride from Hannover, was his favorite city. “There are people living in Berlin from almost every country you can possibly imagine, making the cultural dynamic something unlike I have ever experienced,” he says.

“Ultimately, working in a foreign country has allowed me to see past my current horizon onto new ideas and experiences,” adds Braykovich. “It taught me how to take a leap of faith into any unknown situation.”

Jacob Braykovich earned a BS in Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2015. He is now a PD Quality Engineer at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, where he is responsible for delivering quality of all interior functions for future Ford F-150 trucks.


Volunteering Abroad: A Change of Plan in Cartago, Costa Rica

Michigan Tech mechanical engineering student Alexandra Tateosian volunteers in Cartano, Costa Rica through for the non-profit organization UBELONG.
Michigan Tech mechanical engineering student Alexandra Tateosian volunteers in Cartago, Costa Rica through UBELONG, an international non-profit organization.

As a mechanical engineering senior at Michigan Tech, Alexandra Tateosian left campus for Cartago, Costa Rica thinking she would be assisting with the construction planning of a center for disadvantaged youth as a volunteer for the non-profit organization UBELONG. 

Tateosian wanted to spend time abroad before beginning a full-time job at 3M. After tutoring many international friends in English while studying in Australia, she began considering living abroad to teach English or for other volunteering opportunities. Her experiences as an intern for two international companies, Bemis Company and 3M, also sparked her interest in working abroad at a future point in her career.

The day she arrived in Cartago she learned that instead she would be working at a care center for the elderly. “The drastic change in projects was a good lesson in the nature of volunteerism as well as the importance of flexibility and adapting to local needs,” says Tateosian.

“I was able to make the most out of the new experience and learned a lot by approaching it with an open mind.”

While the center is very familiar with having volunteers come to assist staff, Tateosian was the first international volunteer to come with the objective of working on a specific project. “The first step was to identify areas of need,” she says. “We decided to focus on the Taller de Carpinteria (the woodshop).” One portion of her volunteer work she helped assess safety recommendations for the tools and equipment. She also designed woodworking projects to get more of the seniors involved, including building and painting puzzles that are used in other areas of the center as mind exercises.

“One goal was for me to train some of the seniors to be leaders for future projects after I left.” Tateosian worked closely with the staff to coordinate all the details. “It was certainly an amplified lesson in the importance of communication due to the language barriers,” she says.

“Exposing myself to different places and cultures became an important part of my life. I learned about human nature and how people interact similarly and differently and reasons for the differences,” adds Tateosian.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, Costa Rica
Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago, Costa Rica

Cartago is about a one-hour bus ride from San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, with many restaurants, museums, and other sites. Tateosian climbed to the top of Volcán Poás. She ate dinner each night with her host family and took a rock climbing and mountain biking trip nearby. On a visit to nearby Nicaragua to explore Ometepe Island she happened to meet a fellow Tech student in the Peace Corps Master’s International Program.

Her most memorable experience while living, working and studying abroad? “At the care center we ran an activity with the seniors where they reflected on what amor (love) meant to them. Afterwards, an elderly woman approached me and said ‘este es amor’ (this is love) and gave me a big hug.”

Alexandra Tateosian earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2014. She is now an Advanced Project Engineer at 3M.

Study Abroad: Analyzing the Behavior of Light in New Zealand

Mitch Kirby at Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand
Mitch Kirby at Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

The natural beauty and easy access to both snowboarding and surfing first attracted Mitch Kirby to New Zealand—that, and the legendary fly fishing. Kirkby was a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University when he received a Whitaker International Student Fellowship at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

“One of my professors at Michigan Tech, Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, told me about the Biophotonics and Biomedical Imaging Research Group at the University of Otago. As I learned more about New Zealand, everything sort of seemed to line up.”

Kirby worked with a group focused on light/tissue interaction. “As light propagates through biological tissue, the light waves exhibit different behavior based on the internal characteristics of the tissue,” Kirby explains. “Ultimately the goal of the project was to gather enough experimental data on the different light-tissue interactions so that down the road it would be possible to use a light-emitting device to make medical diagnostic decisions non-invasively. While the project was in the early stages, most of my time in the lab was spent lining up the different lenses and filters for the experiments with elliptically-polarized light. Later we began writing code on MATLAB and analyzing the behavior of the light.”

Kirby’s everyday life in Dunedin involved getting up very early, completing schoolwork and attending classes. After spending a few hours in the lab, he would finish up for the day around 3 pm. If the waves were good, he would surf. If not, he would explore the countryside. During the weekends, he traveled with a small group of friends to different locations throughout New Zealand. Trips usually involved snowboarding, backpacking, and just general adventuring.

Mitch Kirby crosses the Copeland Valley in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand
Mitch Kirby crosses the Copeland Valley in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, New Zealand

“Spending time overseas definitely opened my eyes to the ability of a college education to take you places,” says Kirby. “Traveling and living abroad while studying and working in the lab showed me that it is possible to mix work and play so that each day is an enjoyable one,” he adds. “I also enjoyed the excitement of working on a research project that could potentially change the way many medical diagnoses are made. There is a great deal of potential in the continued advancement of biomedical optics. My ultimate goal is to develop new technologies through academic research.”

Working with people in the lab from different backgrounds was a high point for Kirby as well. “Everyone had something unique to bring to the table, particularly because we all came from different countries and cultures.”

Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student Mitch Kirby surfs in New Zealand. "Traveling and living abroad while studying and working in the lab showed me that it is possible to mix work and play so that each day is an enjoyable one.”
Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student Mitch Kirby surfs in New Zealand. “Traveling and living abroad while studying and working in the lab showed me that it is possible to mix work and play so that each day is an enjoyable one.”

Once back in Michigan Tech, Kirby returned to the optics lab at Michigan Tech to investigate Optical Coherence Tomography as an undergraduate researcher.

Mitch Kirby earned a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 2016. The same year he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and is now a doctoral student in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.


Michigan Tech will host the 2018 ASISC Annual Meeting, August 7-10

Lab07112014066

Michigan Tech’s Advanced Sustainable Iron and Steelmaking Center (ASISC) will host its annual meeting in Houghton, in this August 7-10, 2018. The ASISC annual meeting is a gathering of professionals from the mining and mineral processing industry. New Paradigms in Mineral Processing Technologies is this year’s theme.

ASISC members pool resources to address a diverse spectrum of interdisciplinary research questions. During the meeting they share their work and experiences to further the development of a new generation of sustainable, economical mineral processing technologies.

On August 7-8, the ASISC Fundamentals of Minerals Processing Short Course will provide a general introduction to practical minerals processing. The course includes both lecture and laboratory demonstrations. Topics are tailored to attendee needs and requests. Hands-on laboratory work, performed by registered members, is the highlight of this course. The short course will be located on the Michigan Tech campus in the Department of Chemical Engineering

On August 9-10, industry leaders and research engineers will deliver mineral processing research presentations at the Magnuson Hotel in downtown Houghton, a 10 minute walk from campus.

Learn more and register online here.


Several Hundred Earthquakes Later: Dean Pennington Retires

Dr. Wayne Pennington, Research Professor of Geophysical Engineering
Wayne Pennington, Research Professor of Geophysical Engineering & Professor Emeritus, Michigan Tech

As a young boy fascinated by geology, Dr. Wayne Pennington probably never imagined he would personally experience several hundred earthquakes during his lifetime. (Yes, several hundred.) He will retire tomorrow as the dean of engineering and professor of geophysics at Michigan Technological University.

He hasn’t retired from the geosciences, though—at least not yet. Dr. Pennington is a world-recognized expert in earthquakes, oil and gas exploration and development, and the intersection of those fields. He has worked in academia and industry, and conducted field work at sites around the world. In the 1970s he studied tectonic earthquakes in Latin America and Pakistan. In the early 1980s he was on the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin and studied the relationship of earthquakes to oil and gas production. In the early 1990s he worked at the research laboratory for Marathon Oil Company.

Pennington joined Michigan Tech in 1994 as a professor of geophysics. In a 1997 article in The Leading Edge, a journal of the Society of Exploration Geophyscists, he coined a new term, “seismic petrophysics”. It described the first purposeful application of rock physics theory—calibrated by laboratory and well measurements—to the interpretation of seismic data. It was also a turning point among professionals in petroleum exploration. Pennington asserted that a more comprehensive understanding of the geological and fluid factors affecting seismic energy propagation would yield results greater than the sum of the parts.

“Professionals in petroleum resource development know of the exploration expertise here at Michigan Tech in large part because of the research and educational activities of Wayne and his students and collaborators,” says Dr. John Gierke, current chair of the university’s GMES department. “Their efforts are aimed at integrating geological and geophysical understanding, a coupling encompassed in ‘seismic petrophysics’ that bolsters both disciplinary aspects of exploration. The result has been more insightful interpretations and more promising discoveries.”
“The data-driven emphasis of ‘seismic petrophysics’ requires a thorough understanding of the complex interactions of rock and fluid mechanics on the seismic response when exploring for and developing petroleum resources,” says Michigan Tech alumnus Dr. Joshua Richardson, a geophysicist at Chevron Corporation. “This integrated approach allows petroleum to be produced as efficiently and safely as possible.”

As a professor, Pennington taught his students at Michigan Tech how to interpret integrated (geophysical, geological, and engineering) data sets for reservoir characterization. He also used earthquake seismology to teach geology and physics to local middle and high school students. His lab, SPOT, encompassed “the people, the laboratory, the computers, the publications, and the projects associated with seismology, petrophysics, and their union: seismic petrophysics.”

Pennington became chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Geological and Mining Engineering Sciences in 2004, and then Dean of the College of Engineering in 2013. He continued his research activities as Dean, advising graduate students and publishing research results. He oversaw increases in undergraduate and graduate enrollment, degrees granted, and research expenditures. He hired four outstanding department chairs and promoted interdisciplinary cooperation and research within the college and across campus.

He has held other important positions during his career, including president of the American Geosciences Institute, Jefferson Science Fellow at the US Department of State and USAID, as well as outstanding mentor, advisor, colleague, supervisor, and friend.

During his last few days as Dean, Dr. Pennington generously answered our questions about himself and his plans for retirement.

Hometown:
I was born as the middle child of three to a dairy-farming family outside of Rochester, Minnesota. By the time I was 8 years old, we moved east, settling in Weehawken, New Jersey (above the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan). I earned a scholarship to The Peddie School, a private boarding school, for my last three years of high school. So I don’t really have a hometown other than the Copper Country, where I have lived longer than anywhere else.

Family:
My wife, Laura is a retired schoolteacher, most recently having taught at Hancock’s Barkell Elementary School. Our older son, Matthew, is an MD/PhD anesthesiologist with the University of Washington in Seattle where his wife is a gynecological oncologist; their son has just completed kindergarten. Our younger son, Keith, has degrees in biomedical engineering and business and is currently a PhD candidate in business at the University of Minnesota; his wife is a biomedical quality engineer for a large consulting firm. Both of our sons are Eagle Scouts and graduates of Houghton High School.

Number of times you have visited the site of an earthquake:
I have been in two large damaging earthquakes: in Pakistan in 1974 (the “Pattan” earthquake”) while living there and maintaining a seismic array for Columbia University; and in southern Mexico in 1979 (the “Petatlan” earthquake, magnitude 7.7) while setting up a local seismic array to monitor what turned out to be foreshocks. Including the aftershock series from those events, and many other smaller events, such as rock bursts inside coal mines and volcanic earthquakes on the Aleutian Islands, I have experienced at least several hundred earthquakes. I visited Haiti twice after the 2010 earthquake there; once as a member of a team from the US State Department, and once on a team from the United Nations.

How/Why did you choose geophysics?
I always loved geology, even as a small child. But once I got to college and realized I could do geoscience using math, there was no question of the subdiscipline that beckoned. Field work in exotic locations was also a major draw.

How/Why did you choose Michigan Tech?
When I decided to leave a comfortable job at an oil company research center, having determined that the job I enjoyed there would not exist much longer, I looked for a return to academics at an institution that was the “right” size, where I could merge science and engineering, and where applied research was valued. Michigan Tech was one of the rare institutions that ticked all boxes. Returning to the northern Midwest was attractive, particularly because the earthquake hazard is low here.

Part of the job you enjoyed most as professor, chair and then dean?
All those positions had their positive aspects, but I must say that I missed teaching and working with graduate students once I got a couple years into my position as dean.

Most rewarding aspect of your job?
Retirement. You know the joke about the two happiest days in a boat-owner’s life (the day he buys his first boat, and the day he sells his last boat)? It’s like that: there were many exciting and rewarding aspects in each of my career stages, both in academia and in industry. Starting each new position was exciting, yet so is leaving the last one.

Number of graduate students advised?
I’m not sure, but it numbers in the dozens.

Your biggest goal now?
I have a few short-term goals: attending a bar-tending class to improve my skills at making craft cocktails; continuing to offer training to industry; better understanding induced seismicity from wastewater injection; and evaluating the possibility of writing a book on “seismic petrophysics”. All while maintaining my kayaking and trail-developing skills. I will spend February through May of 2019 on a Fulbright at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, researching ways to better monitor oil and gas production and carbon sequestration.

What advice do you give to new students? New faculty? New chairs? New deans?
Don’t let anything or anyone discourage you. Listen to opinions but make up your own mind. Maintain your integrity above all else.

Best advice you’ve gotten so far about retiring?
I haven’t listened to any of it.

Thank you, Dr. Pennington—we wish you the absolute best in your new endeavors as a professor emeritus and research professor of geophysical engineering!

Words of wisdom written by Dr. Pennington over the years, just a sampling:

Students
“Students these days are a bit different from when I was (or many of you were) sweating over finals and cheering for our teams. They understand the need for natural resources, but are equally concerned about people and the environment, and their own lifestyle choices. They want to know how to make use of natural resources sustainably (leaving no legacy for others to deal with), and how to allow indigenous peoples to benefit from the development. They are concerned with how Earth works, but they want to use that knowledge to directly aid those who live the path of volcanic flows, or in earthquake hazard areas—while learning details about the internal operations and mutual interactions of features from the core to the atmosphere, and beyond. They want to combine engineering applications with natural science observations. In short, they want to ‘do’ and not just ‘learn.’”

Valued colleagues and their retirement
“As many of our long-time faculty retire, they are, in some sense, replaced by new faculty. In another sense, of course, these retiring faculty can never be replaced. Who can claim the legacy of Lloyal Bacon, perhaps the most-loved professor I have ever met? Nobody.”

Teaching
“In most classrooms, the students work on a problem, they get the right answer, and they’re done. But we all know that, in the real world, you work on a project—something unexpected happens—and you have to figure out the problem, explain it to your colleagues, and collectively plan your response to the situation.”

Research
“The research we do is conducted through computer modeling, in the laboratory, or in the field—from inside the Earth to outer space and everywhere in between—but it has common goals.”

—Wayne Pennington


Vote for the Whiz Kids tonight (Thurs. June 21) by 8:30 pm

The Lake Linden Whiz Kids eCybermission team along with advisors Engineering Fundamentals Senior Lecturer Gretchen Hein & 4th year chemical engineering student Ryan Knoll are in Washington DC this week. They will present their findings about using stamp sand in lightweight concrete. The presentations can be watched live and you can vote for their team for the People’s Choice Award.
 Voting is from 1:30-8pm today. They would love your support. The link is: http://ecyber18.hscampaigns.com/#9thgradeteams
They will be receiving a STEM in Action Grant Award tomorrow to continue their work and will be meeting with the EPA on Monday to discuss their project.  The meeting with the EPA would never have happened without help from Representative Jack Bergman. The team thanks the College of Engineering,  Chemical Engineering and Engineering Fundentals for their support.
Read past stories about the team here.
Lake Linden Whiz Kids
Lake Linden Whiz Kids