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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


National Engineers Week 2018

2018 Eweek Poster FrontPlease join us in celebrating National Engineers Week at Michigan Tech. All are welcome!

National Engineers Week is celebrated at Michigan Tech this week with a variety of events on campus. It began yesterday and runs through Saturday (Feb. 24).

Events at Michigan Tech during Engineers Week, also known as Eweek, are sponsored by Tau Beta Pi, the local chapter of the Engineering Honor Society, and the College of Engineering. .

Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, EWeek is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.

The week’s first event will be held this afternoon. How to Make a DIY Composter will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. today (Feb. 19) at Dillman 320. The Green Campus Enterprise will help you learn about composting and show you how you can start doing it yourself.

Additional Eweek events at Tech include:

  • Engineers Week Cake: Enjoy a free piece of cake with the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. Cake will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow (Feb. 20), at Dillman 112.
  • Engineering Though the Ages Presentation. Learn about the marvels of the past with Chelsey Rock. 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) in Fisher 138.
  • Build a Heart Rate Circuit Board. Build your own circuit board with Blue Marble Security Enterprise. 4 – 6 p.m. Friday (Feb. 23) in EERC 622.
  • Free showing of “The Martian.” Enjoy a free showing of “The Martian” on behalf of the College of Engineering and Film Board. The film will be shown at noon Saturday (Feb. 24) in Fisher 135.

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.


Three Student Teams Chosen for Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

3D PrintingThree Michigan Tech student teams have been chosen to compete in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit on Nov. 16, 2017. The student teams will compete for a total of $21,000 in funding.

Statewide, 27 teams were selected through submission of a one-minute video and a brief write-up about the company product or service, revenue model and team capabilities.

The Tech student teams are Looma, Makerhub and FitStop. Looma is a food and nutrition app that helps users eat healthier by providing preference-based recipe suggestions with integrated calendaring for preparation time and grocery lists for shopping. Makerhub is a web application that connects individuals who own 3-D printers with others who need 3-D printed parts. FitStop is a web application that connects people who are traveling for business or leisure with gyms or fitness centers in the city they are traveling to.

Three Michigan Tech-affiliated start-ups will also participate in the competition. They are StabiLux Biosciences, Goldstrike Data and Orbion.

By Jenn Donovan.


Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Labs Available to Harvey Displaced Researchers

March for ScienceFour Michigan Tech labs, so far, have responded to a request by scientific honor society Sigma Xi and the March for Science for researchers to open their labs to scientists displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Rudy Luck (Chem), David Shonnard (ChemEng), Paul Sanders (MSE) and the Great Lakes Research Center all have invited researchers and students impacted by Harvey to work in their labs.

In its call for lab space, Sigma Xi wrote, “some researchers in the storm’s path will be displaced from their laboratories for an extended period. These individuals may require extraordinary measures to continue their work. Sigma Xi is joining with March for Science to assemble a list of research laboratories nationwide that are willing to accommodate faculty, postdocs and students who need to temporarily relocate.”

Nationwide, 290 labs have signed up so far. To see the list of labs click here.

By Jenn Donovan.

Biofuels Conversion, Biochemical & Thermochemical

Shonnard Lab @ Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI
David Shonnard
drshonna@mtu.edu

Alloy Research

Sanders Alloy Research Lab @ Michigan Technical University
Houghton, MI
Paul Sanders
sanders@mtu.edu
Al, Fe, Ni, Cu, Mg alloy development; modeling, casting, thermo-mechanical processing, mechanical testing, SEM/TEM
may be able to provide basic housing (basement bed, bath)


2017 Staff Service Award Recognition

The annual Staff Council Service Recognition Luncheon will be held at noon Wednesday, June 14, in the MUB Ballroom. President Glenn Mroz and Staff Council Chair, Jenn Biekkola will present awards for five-year increments of service to more than 150 staff members. Recent staff retirees will also be recognized.

A big “THANK YOU” for your service and commitment to Michigan Tech to the following staff members in the College of Engineering who will be honored for reaching a 5 year anniversary date this fiscal year.

First Name Last Name Service Years Department
Christopher Gilbertson 5 Civil & Environmental Engineering
John Kiefer 10 Civil & Environmental Engineering
Rashelle Sandell 20 Civil & Environmental Engineering
Joan Becker 20 Electrical and Computer Engineering
Robert Barron 30 Geological & Mining Eng & Sciences
Paul Fraley 5 Materials Science and Engineering
Thomas Wood 5 Materials Science and Engineering
Allison Hein 25 Materials Science and Engineering
Nancy Barr 10 Mechanical Engrg-Engrg Mechanics
Jeremy Worm 10 Mechanical Engrg-Engrg Mechanics

Read more at the Staff Council Blog.

Chris Gilbertson
Chris Gilbertson
John Kiefer
John Kiefer
Shelle Sandell
Shelle Sandell
Joan Becker
Joan Becker

Robert Barron
Robert Barron
Paul Fraley
Paul Fraley

Thomas Wood
Thomas Wood
Allison Hein
Allison Hein
Nancy Barr
Nancy Barr
Jeremy Worm
Jeremy Worm

Lucia Gauchia Participates in LATTICE Peer Support Symposium

Lucia Gauchia
Lucia Gauchia

Assistant Professor Lucia Gauchia attended the first symposium for a new national program, LATTICE, or Launching Academics on the Tenure-Track: An Intentional Community in Engineering. The four-day symposium, which took place May 18-21, 2017, on Bainbridge Island, WA, focused on career skills, self-reflection, and conversations about identity and the academy. The symposium featured:

  • a cohort of early-career engineers,
  • mentorship and networking with senior panelists,
  • and professional development workshop sessions.

LATTICE is funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the University of Washington, North Carolina State University and California Polytechnic State University.

Gauchia has joint appointments with the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. She holds an endowed position as a Richard and Elizabeth Henes Assistant Professor for Energy Storage Systems. Having held a faculty position for four years now, she recommends pursuing mentorship opportunities earlier. Nevertheless, the experience was a good one. She was able to join a community and share stories with women in electrical and computer engineering.

I especially enjoyed being able to engage and interact at a fuller level, with no burden of having to dissociate emotion from professionalism, work and research interest and career from personal life.Lucia Gauchia


Two 2017 NSF CAREER Awards Within the College of Engineering

Lucia Gauchia
Lucia Gauchia

Biomimic Batteries
Lucia Gauchia

2017 NSF CAREER Award

When batteries drain, people say they’re dead. Recharging them is not the only way to bring them back to life. Lucia Gauchia studies what’s called a battery’s second life, when it is repurposed for a new use.

In engineering, we take the fish out of the pond and expect to be able to tell how it’s going to live in the pond; ecologists do not extract their subjects from their environment.

So, Gauchia turned to systems designs and population analyses that quantify individuals, groups and their interactions with their environment.

With her NSF CAREER award Gauchia will test a number of batteries in first and second life stages under a variety of conditions. She will then use Bayesian networks to inform ecology-based methods to discern patterns in the data; with those patterns she can do cross-level testing to see what holds true from batteries to packs to modules. The analyses should help better predict when a battery might fail in any of its life stages. “Batteries are interesting systems and they have peculiar behavior—and you just don’t believe that until you test them yourself,” she adds.

Gauchia is an assistant professor with a dual appointment in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Read the full story here.


Zhaohui Wang
Zhaohui Wang

Eco-friendly Marine Acoustics
Zhaohui Wang

2017 NSF CAREER Award

From monitoring whale populations to tactical surveillance, underwater acoustic communication networks are handy systems to have in place. But their greatest feature—being underwater—is also their greatest challenge. Zhaohui Wang has a plan for improving underwater acoustics networks to maximize information delivery.

The ambient soundscapes of the ocean floor or Lake Superior or even small inland lakes are full of background noise, which can interfere with an acoustic signal—or a signal can interfere with natural sound, such as whale whistles. In addition, underwater environments change seasonally, daily or even hourly, which can alter a signal’s strength by the time it reaches the receiver. With her NSF CAREER award, Wang will model, understand, and even predict underwater dynamics in real time.

One of my main goals is to develop a system that allows for harmonious co-existence with other acoustic systems—especially marine animals.

Wang is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Read the full story here.


Service Recognition for Faculty and Staff

Tuesday (May 9, 2017), faculty and staff members, along with their guests, gathered at the Memorial Union Ballroom for an awards dinner recognizing 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service to Michigan Tech. Within the College of Engineering, the following employees were recognized:

25 Years

  • John Beard, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Allison Hein, Materials Science & Engineering
  • Alex Mayer, Civil & Environmental Engineering

30 Years

  • Robert Barron, Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences
  • Stephen Hackney, Materials Science & Engineering

35 Years

  • William Bulleit, Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Gopal Jayaraman (retired), Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

This year’s Staff Service Recognition luncheon will be held on Wednesday, June 14. Congratulations to all the honorees.

Gopal Jayaraman
Gopal Jayaraman
William M. Bulleit
William M. Bulleit
Stephen A. Hackney
Stephen A. Hackney
Robert J. Barron
Robert J. Barron
Alex S. Mayer
Alex S. Mayer
Allison M. Hein
Allison M. Hein
John E. Beard
John E. Beard

Engineering Faculty Among Those Recognized by Fraternities and Sororities

On April 9, more than 320 students gathered for the 11th Annual Fraternity and Sorority Life Awards Ceremony held in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

In addition to the many student awards presented, Order of Omega, the Greek Life Honor Society that coordinates the awards, took the time to recognize some exceptional faculty and staff members.

There are more than 560 students in fraternities and sororities at Michigan Tech, and Order of Omega wanted to emphasize that these awards were coming directly from the students.

When writing a nomination for the Outstanding Faculty Award, students were asked to consider faculty who:

  • are dedicated to supporting students and helping them succeed academically
  • demonstrate a passion for teaching and/or research
  • utilize innovative teaching methods
  • promote academic integrity among students

When writing a nomination for the Outstanding Staff Award, students were asked to consider staff who:

  • are dedicated to supporting students and helping them succeed both inside and outside the classroom
  • demonstrate a passion for working with students
  • promote and inspire the Michigan Tech Values of Community, Scholarship, Possibilities, Accountability and Tenacity

The following faculty and staff members were nominated by members of the Greek community and were recognized at the 2017 Fraternity and Sorority Life Awards Ceremony:

Faculty:

Staff:

  • Laura Bulleit (Dean of Students Office)
  • Rochelle Spencer (Student Activities)

These nominations were written by individual students and were supported by an entire fraternity or sorority. In the end, the Outstanding Faculty Award was presented to Evelyn Johnson and the Outstanding Staff Award went to Laura Bulleit.

Advisor of the Year was also awarded to a staff member, Heather Simpson (Wahtera Center). Congratulations to all of these faculty and staff members who were nominated and thank you for inspiring and motivating students.

A special congratulations to Jessie Stapleton, director of student activities, for winning the first-ever Unsung Hero Award. She was recognized for all of her hard work and dedication to the students in the Greek community.

By Student Activities.

Scott A. Miers
Scott A. Miers
David Hand
David Hand
Noel R. Urban
Noel R. Urban

ME-EM Nonlinear and Autonomous Systems Lab Live Tour

NAS Lab Tour
Nina Mahmoudian and the NAS Lab Tour

To celebrate National Robotics Week, a team from University Marketing and Communications will host a live lab tour of the Nonlinear and Autonomous Systems Lab

Nina Mahmoudian (MEEM) and Donna Fard (MEEM) will talk about their research followed by students demonstrating robots they designed to better navigate an obstacle course in the lab. Join in from 11:15 a.m. to noon Wednesday (April 12, 2017) on Facebook Live and Twitter.

#mtulive

VIEW THE VIDEO TOUR ON FACEBOOK

VIEW THE VIDEO SCREENSHOTS