Author: Kim Geiger

Tayloria Adams—Taking Dielectrophoresis to the Next Level

Tayloria Adams
“I am the first black woman to receive a PhD in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech. I hope this will encourage others!” —Tayloria Adams ‘11 ‘14

Last year the National Science Foundation awarded Michigan Tech alumna Tayloria Adams a prestigious Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology. Adams earned her Master’s and PhD in Chemical Engineering here at Michigan Tech, graduating with nine scholarships, fellowships and awards, three peer-reviewed journal publications, a book chapter, and a patent—No. WO2015051372-A1, to be exact. Her doctoral research examined the dielectric behavior of human mesenchymal stem cells, for the purpose of cell sorting in microfluidic devices.

How did you come to Michigan Tech? 

While on the hunt for a graduate school I was drawn to Michigan for two reasons: my mother lived in Detroit for a while before I was born, and affirmative action was started in the state. I applied to Michigan Tech and scheduled a visit. The environment was very welcoming, which got me hooked! Meeting Dr. Adrienne Minerick during the last year of my master’s degree was icing on the cake. My first interactions with her were in the classroom as I took her Advanced Reactive Systems course. I enjoyed her teaching style. She put a lot of effort into giving meaningful lectures and keeping students engaged. I looked into her research and I was very interested in dielectrophoresis, especially its use in studying red blood cells. The rest is history!

“I am passionate about three things: healthcare-related research, minority student success in STEM, and social justice. These areas are my calling.”

– Tayloria Adams

What was the most challenging aspect of your studies?

Research. There is a huge learning curve when entering a new research field. Learning how to design experiments effectively and accepting that there is no such thing as a perfect experiment are both great challenges. Something will always go wrong, but working through it to still collect the necessary data is what builds character and improves research skills.

What have you done since graduation?

I worked in the Michigan Tech Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) for one year after graduation, as the outreach coordinator. That year gave me the opportunity to grow as a mentor and advocate for underrepresented minority students. I am now conducting postdoctoral research in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, Irvine, in Lisa Flanagan’s lab, studying neural stem and progenitor cells (NSPCs) and their therapeutic potential. NSPCs are desirable because they form the three cell types of the central nervous system, astrocytes, neurons, and oligodendrocytes. However, one challenge is that NSPCs are grown as heterogeneous mixtures and we have little information regarding, which cells are best for neural repair. I’m using dielectrophoresis, an electrokinetic separation technique, as a method to target and enrich specific cells NSPCs. My goal is to effectively sort and characterize them.

You worked hard to educate and engage diverse people about the challenges facing underrepresented students at Michigan Tech. How would you describe the difference you made?

Working at Michigan Tech’s CDI provided me an outlet to engage in important conversations and be a part of the work. CDI was also very supportive of my research. I was able to practice research presentations in the center, use the space as a writing sanctuary when I was completing my dissertation, and almost all of the staff was present at my dissertation defense, which was immensely important to me. One of the best parts of my graduate education is that my daughter Aiyanna experienced college life at the undergraduate and graduate level before reaching college age. She’s learned about important campus resources such as CDI, and I am confident that this exposure has played a part in preparing her for college. As a parent this is something I am very proud of and would consider a success. My greatest frustration was the decline I saw in the number of African American students enrolled at Michigan Tech during my time there. A second frustration is the representation in faculty members. Michigan Tech is a great institution but these are areas where growth would make a huge impact on the community. I would say the difference I’ve made so far is showing what’s possible; but there is much more work to be done.

To learn more about Dr. Adams’s research, visit tayloriaadams.com.


Accelerated healing—Understanding physical and chemical cues in tissue repair

Rajachar Research

Rupak Rajachar
Rupak Rajachar
Biomedical Engineering

Made of fibrous connective tissue, tendons attach muscles to bones in the body, transferring force when muscles contract. But tendons are especially prone to tearing. Achilles tendinitis, one of the most common and painful sports injuries, can take months to heal, and injury often recurs.

Michigan Tech researcher Rupak Rajachar is developing a minimally-invasive, injectable hydrogel that can greatly reduce the time it takes for tendon fibers to heal, and heal well.

“To cells in the body, a wound must seem as if a bomb has gone off,” says Rajachar. His novel hydrogel formulation allows tendon tissue to recover organization by restoring the initial cues cells need in order to function. “No wound can go from injured to healed overnight,” he adds. “There is a process.”

Rajachar and his research team seek to better understand that process, looking at both normal and injured tissue to study cell behavior, both in vitro and in vivo with mouse models. The hydrogel they have created combines the synthetic—polyethylene glycol (PEG), and the natural—fibrinogen.

“Cells recognize and like to attach to fibrinogen,” Rajachar explains. “It’s part of the natural wound healing process. It breaks down into products known to calm inflammation in a wound, as well as products that are known to promote new vessel formation. When it comes to healing, routine is better; the familiar is better.”

“To cells in the body, a wound must seem as if a bomb has gone off.”

Rupak Rajachar

The team’s base hydrogel has the capacity to be a therapeutic carrier, too. One formulation delivers low levels of nitric oxide (NO) to cells, a substance that improves wound healing, particularly in tendons. Rajachar combines NO and other active molecules and cells with the hydrogel, testing numerous formulations. “We add them, then image the gel to see if cells are thriving. The process takes place at room temperature, mixed on a lab bench.”

Hydrogel
SEM image of the fibrinogen-based hydrogel

Two commonly prescribed, simple therapies—range of motion exercises that provide mechanical stimulation, and local application of cold/heat—activate NO in the hydrogel, boosting its effectiveness.

“Even a single injection of the PEG-fibrinogen-NO hydrogel could accelerate healing in tendon fibers,” says Rajachar. “ Tendon tissues have a simple healing process that’s easier to access with biomaterials,” he adds. Healing skin, bone, heart, and neural tissue is far more complex. Next up: Rajachar plans to test variations of his hydrogel on skin wounds.


Michigan Tech Celebrates National Engineers Week

HELP US CELEBRATE EWEEK 2017! 

     National Engineers Week celebrates the positive contributions engineers make to society and is a catalyst for outreach across the country to kids and adults alike. For the past 60 years, National Engineers Week has been celebrated each February around the time of George Washington’s birthday, February 22, because Washington is considered by many to be the first US engineer.

     Tech’s events during Engineers Week, (Feb. 18-25), are again sponsored by Tau Beta Pi, the local chapter of the Engineering Honor Society.

     National Engineers Week, also known as Eweek, begins on a sweet note at Michigan Tech with an ice cream social from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) in the Wadsworth Dining Hall.

     Things get rolling at noon Monday, (Feb. 20) with the pep band in front of the Husky statue. The iconic statue will be dressed in a lab coat and bow tie all week. The Green Campus Enterprise will have a rocket stove demo from 12:45 to 3 p.m. outside of Fisher Hall. The Mind Trekkers will be in the Dow Atrium from 1 to 3 p.m. with hands-on demonstrations. From 6 to 7 p.m. the Blue Marble Security enterprise will present a heart rate circuit board.

     Questions? Contact Morgan Herzog, Tau Beta Pi public relations officer, and/or Julia Zayan, president.

2017 Engineers Week_2
National Engineers Week 2017

Upcoming E-week events at Michigan Tech:

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Tau Beta Pi
Ice cream social
Wadsworth Dining Hall

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20

12:00 PM – 12:15 PM
Pep Band
Husky Statue

12:45 PM – 3:00 PM
Green Campus Enterprise
Rocket stove demo
outside Fisher Hall

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Mind Trekkers
Dow Atrium

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Blue Marble Security
Heart rate circuit board
EERC 722

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Railroad Engineering & Activities Club
Fisher Lobby

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Advanced Metalworks Enterprise
Foundry demo
Husky Statue

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23

12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
AIChE, Chem E Car stop reaction demo
Fisher Lobby

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
American Society of Engineering Management
Company panel
Chem Sci 101

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Engineers Without Borders
Presentation & meeting
Fisher 328

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Formula SAE
Chassis demo
MEEM Lobby

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Engineering Fundamentals,
E-week cake, stop by for a piece!
Dillman 112

12:45 PM – 3:00 PM
Green Campus Enterprise,
Winterization demo
Dow A
trium

8:30 PM – 11:00 PM
Film Board, Apollo 13
Fisher 135


Michigan Tech Wins Awards for Diversity Efforts in Engineering Education

wepan-logoMichigan Tech’s efforts to increase the numbers and diversity of women in engineering have been recognized by Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), a national network of women engineers, engineering educators, universities, corporations and non-profits who are working together to develop a diverse and innovative engineering workforce.

Michigan Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics received the WEPAN President’s Award for what the organization described as “outstanding accomplishments” in the National Science Foundation-funded engineering diversity initiative, TECAID (Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity).

In addition, WEPAN recognized the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), which won the WEPAN Strategic Partner Award. ASEE was honored for its “Year of Action on Diversity,” a project conceived and designed by the ASEE Diversity Committee, led by Adrienne Minerick and Teri Reed. Minerick is associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Engineering and a professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Tech. Reed is assistant vice president for research at the University of Cincinnati.

“These awards are a testament to the dedication, heart and trailblazing work our faculty and staff are doing to increase knowledge and awareness of the value of diversity and to cultivate environments that are inclusive of all individuals,” said Minerick. “These activities expand and strengthen the perspectives and education of all of our students such that they can engineer to present and future world demands and lead in a complex and changing society.”

President Glenn Mroz called the awards “a real honor for Mechanical Engineering and the entire university. We’ve been clear that it’s the responsibility of everyone at Michigan Tech to serve all students, regardless of gender or race, to have an impact on our world. This national recognition serves as evidence that people are taking that seriously, and it’s being noticed at the highest levels of our professions. The leadership that this team of people has shown is truly inspiring.”


NSF Video Showcase features Geoheritage Field Education

photo by Jim Belote
photo by John Belote

image53799-scol

Dr. Erika Vye, who earned her PhD in Geology at Michigan Tech just last month, together with her PhD advisor Professor Bill Rose, have created interpretative videos about the geological underpinnings of the Keweenaw. One such video, “Geoheritage Field Education in Michigan’s UP”, which features beautiful aerial drone imagery, is live now on the NFS Video Showcase, http://videohall.com/p/791 #stemvideohall. Please watch and vote. Public choice voting will end at 8:00 pm Monday, May 23. 2016, but the video will remain online.

Vye and Rose aim to connect people more personally to the the science of Keweenaw geology. Learn more at geo.mtu.edu/KeweenawGeoheritage.


Congratulations Sarah Rajala ’74 – Recipient of the 2016 AAES National Engineering Award!

Sarah-Rajala-March2014Dr. Sarah Rajala, Dean of the Iowa State University College of Engineering, has earned the National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES) – representing 17 multidisciplinary engineering societies from industry, government and academia. Rajala received the award on April 18 at a ceremony in Washington D.C. Rajala earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technological University in 1974 and master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Rice University.

The AAES National Engineering Award recognizes Rajala’s outstanding service in three key areas: 1) inspirational leadership at the institutional, national and international levels; 2) innovations in engineering education and assessment; and 3) her tireless efforts to promote diversity in the engineering field.

“It is indeed appropriate that Sarah Rajala receive the AAES National Engineering Award,” said Joseph J. Rencis, president of the American Society for Engineering Education, one of the AAES member societies. “She is a trailblazer and embodies the criteria of inspirational leadership and devotion to engineering education, advancement of the engineering profession and promotion of public policies.” Rencis also praised Rajala’s diversity efforts, adding “Sarah has recognized the engineering profession cannot achieve full success without full participation of the rich diversity of talent in our global population.”

From Michigan Tech, Rajala received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008; was inducted into the Electrical and Computer Engineering Academy in 1997; became a charter member of the Presidential Council of Alumnae in 1997; and earned the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 1986.

Rajala joined Iowa State in 2013, after having served as the first female dean of the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. Before she became dean, Rajala was the first female tenure-track professor in the engineering department at North Carolina State University, where she organized networking activities for the college of engineering women faculty and helped create a maternity leave policy for tenure-track faculty members where none had existed.

In the classroom and through professional organizations, Rajala has worked to improve engineering education for students. She has received numerous teaching awards, provided key leadership related to reform engineering education, and was elected president of the American Society for Engineering Education [ASEE] in 2008-09.

The focus of Rajala’s research is the analysis and processing of images and image sequences and engineering educational assessment. She has directed numerous master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, authored and co-authored nearly 200 publications, and secured a patent on image sequence compression.


Dr. Denise Sekaquaptewa: Strategies to Strengthen Inclusion

Visiting Women and Minorities Lecturer/Scholar

All are welcome at an upcoming presentation by Dr. Denise Sekaquaptewa, University of Michigan Professor of Psychology, Associate Chair, and Associate Director, ADVANCE. Dr. Sekaquaptewa’s presentation will take place this Thursday, April 21, from 3:30-4:30 pm in MUB Ballroom B2. Afterwards there will be an open forum discussion on advancing a positive climate at Michigan Tech.

Dr. Sekaquaptewa’s experimental research program focuses on implicit stereotyping, prejudice, stereotype threat, and effects of category salience on test performance and academic motivation. Her current projects include studies of how environmental factors influence women students in math and science, and how stereotypes affect interracial communication.

This event is hosted by Michigan Tech Women in Science in Engineering (WISE) and the Pavlis Honors College. It is partially sponsored by the Visiting Women and Minority Lecturer/Scholar Series (WMLS) which is funded by a grant to Institutional Equity and Inclusion from the State of Michigan’s King-Chavez Parks Initiative. Refreshments will be served.

RSVP http://goo.gl/forms/Nw3zBFT5ZK

visiting women and minority lecture seriesweb


Greenhouse gas emissions vary by region – GE alumnae Deborah Huntzinger

Dr. Deborah Huntzinger
Dr. Deborah Huntzinger

Deborah Huntzinger, who earned her BS and PhD in Geological Engineering at Michigan Tech, is now an Assistant Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.

During her post-doc at the University of Michigan, Huntzinger was involved in research recently published in the journal Nature, “The terrestrial biosphere as a net source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”  Huntzinger is a coauthor in the research, which for the first time ever quantifies how greenhouse gas emissions vary by source sector and region.

“The comprehensive approach used to compile, synthesize, and interpret the data has led to results that bolster the understanding of human contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and point to regions where more attention is needed to manage emissions,” notes John Gierke, Huntzinger’s graduate advisor and chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech.

The group’s research suggests that a reduction in agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions, particularly in Southern Asia, may help mitigate climate change.

Read more at Eurekalert.org: “Greenhouse gas bookkeeping turns on its head”, and Nature: “The terrestrial biosphere as a net source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere”.

Huntzinger’s research interests focus on improving the understanding of complex environmental systems and our ability to forecast their future variability. Her current research interests are in the integration and comparison of environmental remote sensing products, model estimates, and in situ data to advance the understanding of biospheric contributions, both spatially and temporally, to land-atmosphere carbon exchange.


Remembering Dr. Michael R. Neuman

MichaelNeumanhonorsDr. Michael Neuman, physician, engineer, researcher and educator, passed away on February 17, from complications due to heart and kidney failure. He was 77.

Dr. Neuman was born and raised in Milwaukee and went to Cleveland to study at Case Western Reserve University. He earned his undergraduate degree, as well as a PhD in electrical engineering in 1966 and an MD in 1974, all from Case.

In his 50-year academic career he initially taught at his alma mater before teaching at Duke, Memphis and finally at Michigan Tech, where he arrived in 2003 as Professor and Chair in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He continued to teach after he stepped down as Chair in 2010.

Before going to medical school Neuman taught electronics in Case’s electrical engineering department. He developed a strong interest in medical electronics, which was a new field at the time. He was particularly intrigued by fetal monitoring, but he knew nothing about obstetrics. “My colleagues encouraged me, and asked me why I didn’t go to medical school. So I did,” he once recalled.

Neuman joined Michigan Tech at a point in his career when some faculty might be considering retirement. Instead he seized the opportunity to do more teaching, and to help young faculty develop their individual research programs.

“Mike has, and will always be, a transformative force in my life and my family, says Associate Professor Keat Ghee Ong. He brought me to Michigan Tech, essentially gave me my first “real” job and helped me grow my career. I know he helped a lot of faculty members and their families the same way, too.”

“Mike had a keen eye for hiring faculty who were strong in both scientific ability and collegiality,” adds Associate Professor Jeremy Goldman. “As the faculty grew in size and capability, it retained the friendly camaraderie more typically found in smaller departments.”

Assistant Professor Smitha Rao joined the biomedical engineering department about a year ago. “I was fortunate to have met Dr. Neuman and received guidance from him in the very short time that I knew him,” says Rao. “It was amazing how he remembered experiments and details from a long time ago as well as what is currently being used. I feel I only saw a glimpse of the great scientist and wonderful human being that he was.”

As an engineer, Dr. Neuman had a very strong background in physics and materials, as well as in electrical circuits, and a vast knowledge of medicine, all of which allowed him to develop novel biomedical sensors constructed using micro-fabrication techniques and accessed by wireless technologies.

“Not only he was able to envision these concepts before anyone else, he was able to utilize the tools of the semiconductor industry that were available at the time to construct these devices,” says Michigan Tech Professor of Practice Orhan Soykan. The two first met when Neuman was Soykan’s PhD advisor at Case.

Writing on behalf of Neuman’s students, Soykan adds: “Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet and work with him all know just how easy he was to be approached, how willing he was to help others and how he did his very best to mentor all his students, ranging from three-year-olds to graduate students to new assistant professors.”

Neuman continued to teach after he stepped down as Chair in 2010. Soykan says Neuman wouldn’t miss an opportunity to teach, “whether it be the properties of metal-to-metal bonds, flow rate of lymph fluids or the best way to feed goats without being bumped from behind.”

Dr. Neuman’s daughter Elizabeth Rose wrote, “No memory of my dad can be complete without mentioning his goats. An engineer working in his lab at Case introduced him to his first goat; a large floppy eared goat named Sam I Am. Sam was quickly followed by a group of other goats that became my dad’s favorite hobby. He spent many happy hours in his barn with his goats (and later miniature horses) taking care of them and listening to classical music with them.” He truly loved showing them off to many faculty, staff, and especially their children.

Professor Martyn Smith worked with Neuman on many senior design projects over the years. “Whenever we needed ideas or background Mike would always provide insight and guidance to the project. He had a wonderful mind with superb recall on the topics needed. He was truly a gentleman and a scholar. I miss his wisdom.”

Toward the end, even while his health was failing, he was still trying to share his joy with others around him by writing limericks to introduce various topics to his students.

When one of his students learned Neuman was ill, he wrote a limerick and asked Smith to read it to him:

There once was a man named Mike

And engineering he very much did like

I’ve only known him for a year

But his teachings I hold dear

And my inspiration he truly did spike

Dr. Neuman is survived by his wife of 43 years, Judith Borton Neuman, his daughter Elizabeth Neuman (Joshua) Rose, grandchildren Emma Kathryn and Christopher Michael Rose, and a sister Bonnie Neuman.

A remembrance of the life of Dr. Michael Neuman was held last week at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. A second memorial gathering will take place in Cleveland with details to be announced. More information and a guestbook is available here.

Dr. Neuman will always be remembered as a devoted father and husband, a wonderful person with a subtle and ironic sense of humor, and a committed professor and scientist.

Mike, we are already missing you.


Congratulations, Dr. Brett Hamlin!

image63428-persPlease join us in congratulating Dr. Brett Hamlin for his fall 2015 teaching performance. Dr. Hamlin was identified as one of only 91 instructors who received an ‘exceptional’ (average of 7 dimensions) student evaluation score. Brett’s score was in the top 10% of similarly sized sections across all courses/sections on campus; only 109 out of more than 1200 sections university-wide were rated as highly. This achievement reflects Brett’s dedication to teaching and service to Michigan Tech and the community.

Congratulations, Dr. Brett Hamlin!