Author: Sue Hill

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Melanie Watkins

Melanie Watkins
Melanie Watkins

Melanie Watkins, research assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE), has been selected for this spring’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

Watkins will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other spring showcase members, and is a candidate for this summer’s CTL Instructional Award Series.

“This nomination highlights a faculty member who is incorporating Fourth Industrial Revolution concepts into the curriculum so that our graduates will be leaders in their future jobs,” states College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan. “Dr. Watkins is integrating new concepts and skills into course learning outcomes and also developing new courses as industry aligns with digital and computing competencies.”

Watkins models the importance of lifelong learning. Her industrial experiences taught her to master new approaches and modeling tools to maintain a competitive advantage against other engineering consulting firms. Now in academia, she has completed multiple computing and data science courses, and remains thirsty to learn more.

Watkins used the skills she gained to design a new course first offered in spring 2021: CEE 4610/5610 Water Resources System Modeling and Design.

The course incorporates 2D hydraulic modeling with lidar data, Linux scripting, and OpenFOAM computational fluid dynamics. Additionally, Watkins included 2D modeling using lidar and computer programming in CEE 4620 River and Floodplain Hydraulics to extend student preparedness.

Watkins’ teaching approach ties the knowledge and skills students need to be successful into project-based instruction. In fall 2021’s CEE 4620, Watkins had students model and design a culvert for U.S. Highway 41 at Peepsock Creek, west of Pilgrim River, after the Michigan Department of Transportation gave a guest presentation overviewing the damage from the Father’s Day Flood. 

Former student Jenna Koenig says the Hydraulic Engineering Center’s River Analysis System and Aquaveo materials she encountered in Watkins’ class are giving her an edge.

“I have been in a unique position at my current job because I have quite a bit of experience in these areas where many of my colleagues don’t,” Koenig says. “Dr. Watkins did an amazing job with these courses and with Senior Design. I’m very prepared to tackle almost anything on any project I’ve been put on; it is a great feeling! The first couple of months have been a pretty steep learning curve, but it’s been a great experience so far. I’m thankful for her help in preparing me in a great way!”

Watkins’ efforts to keep pace with the changes in industry also make her a strong graduate student recruiter. “Melanie provides a positive impression on our junior and senior students, and she is a convincing salesperson,” says Audra Morse, chair of CEGE. “Our students want to keep their Michigan Tech connection after they complete their undergraduate degree.”

“The Water Resources Modeling Certificate, which Melanie led, is one of our most popular online certificates,” Morse adds.

“Dr. Watkins’ passion for learning permeates everything she does, and I commend her for her work in support of integrating the Fourth Industrial Revolution into the undergraduate curriculum,” concludes Callahan.

By the Center for Teaching and Learning.


SWE Celebrates Graduating Seniors and Scholarship Recipients

Michigan Tech’s section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) celebrated the end of the semester with a banquet sponsored by Oshkosh.

Graduating seniors recognized at the event are:

The section also awarded two $1,000 scholarships to our upper-division students. The scholarships were sponsored by Ruby & Associates Inc. and Deployed Technologies to recognize students for their contributions to the SWE section and the University community.

Scholarship recipients are:

By Gretchen Hein, Society of Women Engineers Advisor.


Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2021

Mike Pulick Jr.
Mike Pulick Jr.

Michigan Tech class of 2021 celebrates midyear commencement with speaker Mike Pulick Jr. Pulick built an exceptional career through developing the business leadership skills he first learned at Tech. The 1986 electrical engineering (EE) graduate also knows about following in family footsteps — and in his case, those steps led to extraordinary family ties with Michigan Tech.

Eugene Manley, Jr.
Eugene Manley, Jr.

Michigan Tech alumnus Eugene Manley Jr. discussed science, mentoring and STEM diversity as a “brilliant but not famous” guest on the Research Evangelist podcast. He is Director, Scientific Programs at the Lung Cancer Research Foundation. He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Technological University, a masters in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and PhD in Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemstry from Boston University.

Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison

Civil Engineering ’81 BS, ’82 MS alumnus Jim Morrison has joined STV Incorporated as VP and engineering chief for tunneling and geotechnical engineering. In this role, Morrison will serve as a project lead and senior advisor on projects with geotechnical and tunneling elements.

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

The appointment of MTU alumnus Eric Roberts (‘93 ME-EM) as the new executive director of 20Fathoms was featured in the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Roberts said 20Fathoms has more than 90 members, a record high. 20Fathoms also taught more than 250 people skills — often virtually — through its HealthSpark Accelerator, tccodes and tccyber through a pandemic.


Tinu Folayan Welcomed as Write-D Facilitator

Writing in the Discipline (Write-D) and the Department of Chemical Engineering are pleased to welcome Tinu Folayan as the department’s Write-D facilitator beginning in the spring 2022 semester.

Write-D provides a dedicated time and space for graduate students to get work done and receive support on writing projects within their discipline, such as manuscripts, research proposals, etc. Guest speakers from the department and industry visit to briefly present research, writing and publishing tips.

Current departments and facilitators include:

Write-D is a free program open to all graduate students. If your department is not listed but you would like to participate, contact Write-D coordinator Sarah Isaacson at sisaacso@mtu.edu.

By Sarah Isaacson, Write-D Coordinator.


Fall 2021 Research Seed Grants for Engineering PIs

The Vice President for Research Office announces the Fall 2021 Research Excellence Funds (REF) awards. Congratulations to all the principal investigators!

Thanks to the individual REF reviewers and the REF review panelists, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process. Awardees in the College of Engineering include:

Research Seed Grants

By Kathy Halvorsen, Associate Vice President for Research Development.


Engineering Graduate Students Place in 2021 3MT

This year’s Three Minute Thesis competition organized by the Graduate Student Government (GSG) of Michigan Tech had great participation both in person at The Orpheum Theater and virtually over Facebook Live. Twenty-eight participants competed at the MUB Ballroom for a place in the finals, held at The Orpheum Theater on Nov. 4.

After a very close competition, Priyanka Kadav, a PhD student from the Department of Chemistry, won first place.

Kadav’s presentation was titled “Capture and Release (CaRe): A novel protein purification technique.” She will go on to represent Michigan Tech at the regional levels of the competition.

The runner-up was Emily Shaw, a PhD student from the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering, with a presentation titled “Toxicity in Fish Tissue: Redefining our Understandings by Quantifying Mixture Toxicity.”

Yue (Emily) Kang from the Department of Mathematical Sciences department won the People’s Choice award with her presentation, titled “Robust numerical solvers for flows in fractured porous media.”

Other finalists were:

Each presentation was scored by a panel of judges from diverse academic backgrounds. The judges for the finals were:

  • Wallace Southerland III, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
  • Jim Baker, associate vice president for research administration
  • Marie Cleveland, a Michigan Tech alumna who was awarded the Alumni Association Outstanding Service Award in 2014

This year’s finals were also streamed live on GSG’s Facebook page and can be watched online.

GSG would also like to thank all the volunteers and The Orpheum Theater for making this event possible.

By Graduate Student Government.

Emily Shaw presenting at 3MT.
Emily Shaw presenting at 3MT.
Sunit Girdhar presenting at 3MT.
Sunit Girdhar presenting at 3MT.
Arman Tatar presenting at 3MT.
Arman Tatar presenting at 3MT.
Michael Maurer presenting at 3MT.
Michael Maurer presenting at 3MT.


Michigan Tech SWE Members Attend WE21 Conference

Student members of Michigan Tech’s section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the Society of Women Engineers WE21 Conference, held Oct. 21-23. 

MTU SWE attendees included Aerith Cruz, Lisa Downie, Sophie Owen, Katy Pioch, Veeraja Sohoni, Grace TenBrock, Julia Westfall, Abby Woodford and Conny Yang. They were accompanied by SWE advisor Gretchen Hein (MMET) and two SWENexters, Jenna Beaudoin and Chloe Daniels of Lake Linden-Hubbell High School.

The group members attended sessions on professional development and the Career Fair and enjoyed meeting with other professional and collegiate members.

Cruz was a workshop panelist for the “Zoomed In! Inspiring Youth through Virtual Programming” session, where she discussed how our SWE section held virtual outreach during the COVID pandemic.

Beaudoin and Daniels, along with Devon Ginn from the Madam Walker Legacy Center, held a workshop titled “Madam Walker: Entrepreneur and Woman of Color” on the life and achievements of Madam C.J. Walker, one of the first woman millionaires and an advocate for women and African Americans.

Hein was the moderator of a panel titled “Finishing Grad School? Need Assistance Obtaining an Academic Position?” where graduate students could get advice and feedback about their transition from graduate school to academia.

The SWE members also hosted a Tech alumni event for Huskies at the conference. Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering, and Marney Kloote, director of advancement, attended as well.

Pioch said the conference was “one of the best experiences” she has had in SWE. “To be surrounded by so many successful, strong and encouraging women creates an atmosphere like no other,” Pioch said. “I had the chance to listen to women from many walks of life share their stories, career paths and advice over the course of three days.”

Meeting Tech alumni who have succeeded in their careers because of the experiences and knowledge they gained at Tech was another highlight for Pioch. “I really enjoy getting to know people who’ve been in our shoes and are excited to see the next generation of engineers and bright minds Tech is producing,” she said.

The closing keynote of the SWE conference was an inspiring talk by Patti Poppe, CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric. The keynote was the best part of the conference for Sophie Owen, MTU’s section president. “It was so inspiring to hear from a woman that is highly influential in the electric power industry, since this is the field I am interested in,” Owen said. “I also enjoyed getting to bond with my SWEsters over the weekend.”

“I want to also extend a thank-you to our generous corporate sponsor, Gerdau,” added Owen. “Without their support, attending this conference would not have been possible.”

According to Hein, Gerdau’s support allowed the nine women to attend the conference, meet with other people in technical fields and mentor two SWENexters during the trip.

By Gretchen Hein, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.


Sunit Girdhar, Steven Whitaker Receive 2021 INCE Awards

Two Michigan Tech graduate students were honored by The Institute of Noise Control Engineering (INCE) at their annual honors and awards ceremony recognizing outstanding service, research and activity in noise control.

Sunit Girdhar,
Sunit Girdhar

Sunit Girdhar, doctoral student in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, won both the inaugural INCE Student Scholarship and the Martin Hirschorn IAC Prize – Student Project.

Steven Whitaker, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student, received the 2021 Leo Beranek Student Medal for Excellence in Noise Control for Deep recurrent network for tracking an anthropogenic acoustics source in shallow water using a single sensor.

Dana Lodico, INCE-USA vice president, Honors and Awards Committee, applauded the winners. “This year’s winners should be incredibly proud of their achievements in noise control,” said Lodico. “Entries for INCE-USA Honors and Awards were very competitive, and we look forward to seeing how each winner continues to advance the noise control industry in their careers.” 

Read more about the awards on the INCE website.


Michigan Tech Engineering Students at COP26

Six Michigan Tech students and three alumni will help lead events and a press conference at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

As part of the Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education (YEAH), a multidisciplinary research and education network of students and faculty from 10 universities across four continents, MTU representatives will help showcase the “Voices of Optimism, Agents of Change” event and exhibit. They will also participate in a press conference Nov. 3 at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Participating engineering students are:

Read more about engineering students at COP26 in Michigan Tech Press Releases.