Author: Sue Hill

Michigan Space Grant Consortium Awardees for 2022-2023

Michigan Space Grant Consortium NASA

The University of Michigan – Michigan Space Grant Consortium has announced grant recipients. Michigan Tech faculty and staff researchers receiving grants are:

Faculty Led Fellowships for Undergraduates

Brendan Harville for “Seismic Amplitude based Lahar Tracking for Real-Time Hazard Assessment.”

Sierra Williams for “Understanding the Controls of Solute Transport by Streamflow Using Concentration-Discharge Relationship in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

Graduate Fellowships

Espree Essig for “Analyzing the effects of heavy metals on vegetation hyperspectral reflectance properties in the Mid-Continent Rift, USA.”

Caleb Kaminski for “Investigation of Ground-Penetrating Radar Interactions with Basaltic Substrate for Future Lunar Missions.”

Katherine Langfield for “Structural Characteristics of the Keweenaw and Hancock Faults in the Midcontinent Rift System and Possible Relationship to the Grenville Mountain Belt.”

Tyler LeMahieu for “Assessing Flood Resilience in Constructed Streambeds: Flume Comparison of Design Methodologies.”

Paola Rivera Gonzalez for “Impacts of La Canícula (“Dog Days of Summer”) on agriculture and food security in Salvadoran communities in the Central American Dry Corridor.”

Erican Santiago for “Perchlorate Detection Using a Graphene Oxide-Based Biosensor.”

Kyle Schwiebert for “LES-C Turbulence Models and their Applications in Aerodynamic Phenomena.”

HONES Awards

Paul van Susante for “Lunabotics Competition Robot.”

Research Seed Grants

Xinyu Ye for “Analyzing the effects of potential climate and land-use changes on hydrologic processes of Maumee River Watershed using a Coupled Atmosphere-Lake-Land Modeling System.”

Pre-College Educational Programs

Jannah Tumey for “Tomorrow’s Talent Series: Exploring Aerospace & Earth System Careers through Virtual Job-Shadowing.”

Michigan Tech Represented at Midwest Growth Capital Symposium

SuPyRec logo.
ZiTechnologies logo with statement Clean Energy Pellets from Non-Recyclable Plastic-Paper.


Jim Baker (VPR) presented “Supporting Tech Companies from Pre-Launch to Investment” at the Midwest Growth Capital Symposium, held virtually and hosted by the University of Michigan’s Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The symposium also was attended by two Michigan Tech startup companies, SuPyRec and ZiTechnologies. Company representatives presented to prospective investors and hosted virtual booths throughout the event.

SuPyRec is led by David Shonnard (ChE) and is commercializing plastics recycling technology developed in his lab. ZiTechnologies is led by PhD graduate Stas Zinchik and is commercializing clean energy technology based on research conducted in Ezra Bar Ziv’s lab (ME-EM).

Both companies are leveraging support resources available within Michigan Tech’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization through Nate Yenor, director of technology business incubation, in close collaboration with MTEC SmartZone, the Michigan Small Business Development Center and Husky Innovate.

By Jim Baker, Vice President for Research Office.

The symposium took place May 17 and 18, 2022.

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: David Labyak

David Labyak
David Labyak

Dean Janet Callahan has selected David M. Labyak, assistant professor in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET), for this spring’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

Labyak 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.

Labyak brings his 23 years of professional industry experience to life in the classroom. He relates engineering project examples from General Motors in manufacturing and process engineering; Copper Range Company and Raytheon Missile Systems in project engineering; and Great Lakes Sound and Vibration in simulation analysis. All offer students an endless supply of practical applications to help understand engineering theory.

Labyak first developed new assignments and restructured machine design courses MET 3242 and MET 3451. Then, he developed new graduate courses: MET 5800 and MET 5801 for the mechatronics M.S. and online course MFGE 5200 for the manufacturing engineering graduate certificate.

In these courses, Labyak relates course theory to industrial applications of sheet metal design and fabrication, mining facility maintenance, and missile assembly processes. In addition, he uses examples from his family-owned farm in Ontonagon, where he maintains tractors and farm equipment. Vibrations, reliability and fatigue in mechanical components such as bearings, gears, drive systems, clutches and brakes provide examples students can easily grasp.

Labyak’s ability to explain where and how students will utilize the course content in their careers also makes him a great recruiter and advisor. “David often volunteers to meet with prospective students and their families,” says John Irwin, chair of MMET. “His industry knowledge in terms of engineering needs provides insight to guide MET students throughout their career paths.”

MET alum Mickala Kohtz ’21 explains how Labyak was effective in teaching MET 4660 CAE and FEA Methods. “He took the time to understand the way that I learned best and would walk me through difficult concepts. Dave was always willing to help his students, whether it was after class, the weekends, and even to lend a listening ear about job offers or Senior Design help.”

Likewise, former student Joshua Olusola says Labyak is very friendly and open to students anytime you find him available, even on Saturdays. “He gave sufficient in-class practice questions to ensure that the concept was understood before he assigned homework.” MET 5801 was Olusola’s first encounter with the Simulink software, but he transitioned smoothly using instructional labs prior to lab assignments. “I would say almost every student who had a course with Dave always jumped at an opportunity to take another with him due to his exceptional teaching technique and friendly personality. These traits indeed made students more open to learning.”

Dean Callahan recognizes Labyak’s ability to connect with students. “The personal relationships that Dave is able to develop with his students demonstrates the best parts of the high-tech, high-touch education that is Michigan Tech’s trademark. He is an inspiration to us all.”

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Christopher Middlebrook

Christopher Middlebrook
Christopher Middlebrook

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Christopher Middlebrook, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), as our ninth Dean’s Teaching Showcase member of spring 2022.

Middlebrook will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Middlebrook was selected for growing his work with printed circuit board (PCB) design into something extraordinary. He recognized a training need for electronic design engineers and put all the pieces in place to address a national security problem and offer employment opportunities for Michigan Tech students.

Like most great things, it started small. Middlebrook had an idea that if students like building electronic circuits, they might enjoy designing the printed circuit boards as well. His involvement with the Institute for Printed Circuits (IPC), a trade association founded to standardize assembly and production of electronic equipment, led to an IPC student chapter being formed in ECE. He gathered free materials and used equipment from local and national suppliers and launched an undergraduate course in PCB design. It was a huge hit. Local PCB manufacturer Calumet Electronics Corporation worked closely with him to offer the students an in-depth view of the design process from schematic capture to tested and accepted final product. Calumet Electronics Director of Engineering Services Rob Cooke describes Middlebrook as a “key strategic partner.” Cooke says: “Chris continually pushes to get feedback from our company about what students need to learn to be successful. He believes, as do we, that being able to see, touch and work with materials and processes is a key to being able to design and build.”

The industry connection did not stop there. Plexus Corporation, a dominant force in the electronics manufacturing industry, has a strong interest in the strength of the electronic system design education. Christina Jufliak, Michigan Tech alumna and a manager at Plexus, learned of Middlebrook’s efforts through the department’s External Advisory Committee. She saw a benefit to both her employer and the University. In her words: “As a Michigan Tech student, I saw firsthand the school’s efforts to provide relevant and hands-on experiences for students to prepare them for their careers.”

Middlebrook worked with Jufliak, the Michigan Tech Office of Advancement and the Plexus Corporation Charitable Foundation to secure $150,000 to create the Plexus Innovation Center on the sixth floor of the Electrical Energy Resources Center (EERC). Jufliak summarizes: “I am very excited that the Plexus Innovation Lab will continue supporting these efforts, preparing students to take on internships and full-time positions within their respective fields.”

This professional-grade makerspace has become a lighthouse for the design, fabrication and testing of electronic systems for researchers, Senior Design and Enterprise projects across the campus. Dean Callahan comments: “Middlebrook’s educational leadership has made a difference to what students are able to design and build, right here in the EERC.”

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Timothy Eisele

Tim Eisele
Tim Eisele

Dean Janet Callahan has selected Timothy Eisele, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, as our seventh 2022 Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Eisele will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Eisele was selected for his record of engaging students in the classroom through hands-on experiential learning and relating material to real-world examples and his own research.

Among the variety of classes taught by Eisele are courses focused on the extraction of metal ions from fluids. While these align with his research expertise, available textbooks often don’t include the latest research in the field. Eisele fills that gap by working continuously to improve his class notes and handouts each year. He also develops unique in-class demonstrations and laboratories that elucidate these current topics. His priority is to make these accessible and connected to his students’ world. For example, in Hydrometallurgy/Pyrometallurgy, there is a copper electrowinning experiment students are able to conduct entirely at home. Eisele’s philosophy focuses on helping students develop a deep understanding of the subject material, so they can internalize what they are learning and remain engaged.

Callahan especially appreciates this ability to find and do science outside of the lab. “Dr. Eisele finds experiments to do — even in his own backyard,” she notes. “I recently had him as a guest for Michigan Tech’s Zoom webinar series, Husky Bites, where he relayed how he has developed a way to extract manganese and iron by using naturally occurring anaerobic iron-dissolving organisms.”

Chemical Engineering chair Pradeep Agrawal highlighted two other distinguishing features of Eisele’s teaching: his passion and genuine concern for engaging students. “The students readily sense his enthusiasm for the subject matter and his desire to engage them with the material,” writes Agrawal, who emphasizes that Eisele’s willingness to take time to relate class topics to the real world — while also respecting the parameters of being a student in today’s pandemic context — helps students as they master difficult topics.

“Active learning, enthusiasm for the subject, clear explanations and a strongly organized course are descriptors that align with Eisele’s approach to teaching,” summarized Callahan. “It is a pleasure to nominate Dr. Eisele for the Dean’s Teaching Showcase.”

2022-2023 Michigan Space Grant Consortium Awards

Michigan Space Grant Consortium NASA

A diverse, multitalented group of Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff members have been awarded fellowships and grants totaling an impressive $55,701 from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) for its 2022-23 funding cycle. This funding is sponsored by NASA.

Seismic amplitude-based lahar tracking, agriculture and food security, the effects of heavy metals on vegetation, and job shadowing aerospace and earth systems careers: these are just a few of the exciting, innovative projects that received funding.

The MSGC reflects NASA’s interests and promotes awareness, research and education in “space-related science and technology in Michigan.” To achieve this goal, the consortium not only funds fellowships and scholarships for STEM students, but also financially supports curriculum enhancement and faculty development. The MSGC is also deeply committed to supporting and upholding NASA’s policy of diversity and inclusion.

Congratulations to the winners and best of luck on your projects.

Thank you for representing Michigan Tech and making our University community proud!

Michigan Tech undergraduates who received $4,000 research fellowships are:

  • Brendan Harville (GMES) — “Seismic Amplitude-Based Lahar Tracking for Real-Time Hazard Assessment” with Greg Waite (GMES)
  • Sierra Williams (CFRES) — “Understanding the Controls of Solute Transport by Streamflow Using Concentration-Discharge Relationship in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan” with Fengjing Liu (CFRES)

Michigan Tech graduate students who received $5,000 research fellowships are:

  • Espree Essig (GMES) — “Analyzing the Effects of Heavy Metals on Vegetation Hyperspectral Reflectance Properties in the Mid-Continent Rift, USA” with Chad Deering (GMES)
  • Caleb Kaminski (GMES) — “Investigation of Ground-Penetrating Radar Interactions with Basaltic Substrate for Future Lunar Missions” with Aleksey Smirnov (GMES)
  • Katherine Langfield (GMES) — “Structural Characteristics of the Keweenaw and Hancock Faults in the Midcontinent Rift System and Possible Relationship to the Grenville Mountain Belt” with James DeGraff (GMES)
  • Tyler LeMahieu (CEGE) — “Assessing Flood Resilience in Constructed Streambeds: Flume Comparison of Design Methodologies” with Brian Barkdoll (CEGE)
  • Paolo Rivera Gonzalez (GMES) — “Impacts of La Canícula (“Dog Days of Summer”) on Agriculture and Food Security in Salvadoran communities in the Central American Dry Corridor” with Kari Henquinet (SS)
  • Erican Santiago (BioMed) — “Perchlorate Detection Using a Graphene Oxide-Based Biosensor” with Hyeun Joong Yoon (BioMed)
  • Kyle Schwiebert (Math) — “LES-C Turbulence Models and Their Applications in Aerodynamic Phenomena” with Alexander Labovsky (Math)

Michigan Tech faculty and staff members who received $2,200 or more for pre-college outreach and research seed programs are:

  • Paul van Susante (ME-EM) — Hands-On NASA-Oriented Experiences for Student Groups (HONES): “Lunabotics Competition Robot”
  • Jannah Tumey (Center for Educational Outreach) — “Tomorrow’s Talent Series: Exploring Aerospace & Earth System Careers Through Virtual Job-Shadowing”
  • Xinyu Ye (CEGE) — “Analyzing the Effects of Potential Climate and Land-Use Changes on Hydrologic Processes of Maumee River Watershed Using a Coupled Atmosphere-Lake-Land Modeling System”

By the Graduate School and Shelly A. Galliah.

2022 Design Expo Registration Now Open

Design Expo

The Enterprise Program and College of Engineering are excited to announce the 22nd Design Expo, being held in person from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21 in the Van Pelt and Opie Library’s first floor.

Design Expo has been expanded to highlight Senior Design/Capstone projects from all areas of the Michigan Tech campus, involving teams from the College of Business, College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science and College of Engineering. 

RSVP for Design Expo Today!

The Michigan Tech community, friends and sponsors are invited to register for this year’s Design Expo.

More than a thousand students in the Enterprise and Senior/Capstone Design programs will come together to showcase their work and compete for awards. In addition, a panel of judges, made up of distinguished corporate representatives, alumni, community members, and Michigan Tech staff and faculty, will be able to critique videos of team projects, solutions and results in advance of the live event, then come to Design Expo to meet the teams and ask any questions in person.

Social Hour and Awards Ceremony

Starting at 2:30 p.m., all student teams, judges, sponsors and friends, and the Michigan Tech campus community are invited to a social hour at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts with light refreshments, entertainment and door prizes. Then, at 3:30 p.m., we will begin the Design Expo Awards Ceremony, where student teams will be recognized and more than $3,000 in cash will be awarded.

Both events are free and open to the public. We encourage current and future students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, families of students, and others to help us celebrate our students and their achievements. Register today to see a schedule of events and attend the 2022 Design Expo.

Become a Judge

Are you interested in judging for the 22nd annual Design Expo? We welcome all Michigan Tech faculty, graduate students, staff, alumni, industry representatives and community members interested in the great work of our students! Find out more at our Become a Judge web page.

This year, judges will have the flexibility to evaluate team videos anytime between noon April 18 and 2 p.m. April 21. Judges will be assigned three to five teams, and will evaluate each team’s video using an electronic ballot. In addition, judges are asked to attend Design Expo in person between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. April 21 to judge their teams in person. Judges will be selected based on their availability to attend Design Expo in person.

2022 Design Expo Website

For more information on attending and judging Design Expo, visit our website. For questions, please reach out to Briana Tucker at bctucker@mtu.edu.

By The Enterprise Program and College of Engineering.

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.

Engineering Alumni Activity Spring 2022

Christine Andrews
Christine Andrews

A profile story featuring Michigan Tech alumna Christine Andrews ’06 ’12 (mechanical engineering, Tech MBA) was posted on GE Aviation’s blog. Andrews is a leader in a cooperative project between GE Aviation and NASA to develop a technology demonstration of a hybrid electric engine for commercial aircraft. After graduating from Michigan Technological University, she worked for Gulfstream Aerospace as both a certification engineer and a structural engineer until 2013, when she joined GE Aviation to be closer to family in Cincinnati.

Anurag Kamal
Anurag Kamal

Alumnus Anurag Kamal ’18 (MS, mechanical engineering) is one of 10 standouts featured by Forbes in a story on this year’s 30 Under 30 who are leading the green energy transition. Kamal co-founded ElectricFish, the company behind a containerized combination battery backup system and EV charger that can connect into existing, ubiquitous electrical infrastructure.

Amy Trahey
Amy Trahey

The ACEC 57th Annual Engineering & Surveying Excellence Award Gala was held on March 19, 2022. Amy Trahey, ’94 Civil Engineering alumnus, was presented the ACEC/M Vernon B. Spalding Leadership Award to honor her outstanding leadership roles in ACEC and several community organizations. Trahey is founder of the Great Lakes Engineering Group.

Wesley Davis
Wesley Davis

A Q&A with Michigan Tech alumnus Wesley Davis (civil engineering) was published by Civil Engineering Magazine in “Passion and communication are key to a successful career.” Davis is the principal engineer at Bogart, Pederson & Associates, a 25-person transportation firm in Becker, Minnesota. At an age of just 31, Wesley P. Davis, P.E., M.ASCE, has progressed quickly in his career as a roadway and transportation engineer.

Chaitanya Bhat
Chaitanya Bhat

Michigan Tech alumnus Chaitanya Bhat was profiled in Asphalt Magazine. Bhat is the Asphalt Institute’s (AI) first sustainability engineer. He completed his PhD in civil engineering in 2020 advised by Amlan Mukherjee (CEGE). One major project for Chait will be to collaborate with AI members and agencies to guide AI’s efforts to update and enhance their Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) models for asphalt binders, binder additives and modifiers.

Todd Brassard
Todd Brassard

Michigan Tech alumnus Todd Brassard of Calumet Electronics was quoted by Forbes in a story on the need to rebuild the nation’s domestic microelectronics ecosystem. “Whoever can build the highest density, highest speed systems is going to win,” Brassard asserts. Brassard has a BS in Electrical Engineering.

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.