Category: Announcements

Greetings from the Copper Country to our GMES Alumni and Friends!

A Note from the Chair

I hope you have stayed healthy and safe during these unusual times.
Spring has finally arrived at the Keweenaw after a long winter! As the cycle of Nature starts anew, so too does the process of regular Departmental Newsletters. This newsletter reaches you after a long hiatus, but the dormancy does not mean that progress ceased behind the scenes; on the contrary, we have been keeping busy, and many new exciting developments have occurred.


Aleksey Smirnov, Professor and Chair, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University

Any attempt to recap all the news and excitements over the last decade in a single letter would be impossible, so I encourage you to visit our Departmental News blog to read more about the achievements of our faculty, students, and staff in research and education. You may also want to check out our faculty and staff directories to see some new and not-so-new faces and learn more about our people and their activities.

An achievement that cannot go unmentioned is the reinstatement of our Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering program in 2019. This success came through the dedicated and indefatigable efforts by Professor John Gierke, who served as department chair from 2014 to 2020, and our superb mining engineering faculty, Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee and Senior Lecturer Nathan Manser (an MTU alumnus BSME ‘01), who joined the Department in 2014 and 2018, respectively. Several faculty from outside the department generously contribute their expertise in the education of our mining engineering students. I am delighted to report that, in spring 2020, we celebrated our first graduating class of mining engineers since 2004!

Our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to keep our department moving forward positively through the global pandemic crisis. Our achievements and the success of remote and socially distanced learning and research are sources of pride for the department and the wider GMES community. Despite unprecedented challenges, our students and faculty performed extraordinarily well, especially since experiential geology learning is not easily amenable to virtual instruction. Their flexibility, resourcefulness, and perseverance have been exemplary.

Also deserving of praise are our 2020 and 2021 graduates and the student recipients of recognitions and awards.

Our faculty and research scientists have stayed very active in cutting-edge and societally relevant research, collaborating around the globe and providing hands-on, real-world experience for our students.

Many of these achievements have been possible only with your continuing support, encouragement, and interest in our efforts and accomplishments.

Your impact on the world is a great motivator for our students.

On behalf of our students, faculty, and staff, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our alumni and friends who have donated to our department; this support has allowed us to keep offering the best instruction and resources to our students during these difficult times.

One of my overarching goals as chair is to maintain and expand a strong and committed alumni base. If you are ever back in town, I hope you will stop by to say hello and share your story. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to email me any time at asmirnov@mtu.edu, or use this link to share your successes and achievements or offer suggestions. Your impact on the world is a great motivator for our students.

Finally, I invite you to stay connected to the department via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and our website.

Best wishes,
Aleksey Smirnov


Mary Raber is the New Chair of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech

Mary Raber is the new chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech.

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that Mary Raber has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, beginning July 1, 2021.

“I am delighted that Dr. Raber will be chair of Engineering Fundamentals and I look forward to her joining the leadership team of the College,” states Dean Janet Callahan. “Her experience with design thinking, innovation and the principles of lean together inform her approach to solving problems. Dr. Raber’s industry background is an additional asset. Her experience will help us strongly align the engineering foundational first year with what we prepare our engineering graduates to accomplish.”

After a 14-year career in the automotive industry, Raber joined Michigan Tech in 1999 to lead the implementation and growth of the highly distinctive undergraduate Enterprise Program. She helped found the Pavlis Honors College, where she facilitated learning in leadership, human-centered design, and lean start-up and most recently served as assistant dean for academic programs.

A design-thinking and innovation enthusiast, Raber loves to help others embrace the tools and mindsets of innovation to effect positive change. She serves as co-director of Husky Innovate, Michigan Tech’s resource hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, and  she leads IDEAhub, Michigan Tech’s collaborative working group for educational innovation, as its Chief Doing Officer.

Raber earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Michigan and an MBA from Wayne State University. Her PhD in Mechanical Engineering was earned at Michigan Tech, with a focus on engineering education.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

In part, it was a decision to move back to the area to be closer to family, but the timing couldn’t have been better, as the innovative Enterprise Program had just received NSF funding and Michigan Tech needed someone to get the program up and running.  It was a perfect fit for my interests and background, and with a lot of support from our industry partners who immediately saw the benefits of the program we have been able to grow it into the award-winning educational experience it is today. That experience set me on a path of educational innovation and curricular program development focused on experiential learning through high-impact practices. It’s a passion that continues today through my work with IDEAhub and the Pavlis Honors College. I look forward to bringing these experiences with me to the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

My interests lie at the intersection of innovation, education and learning. The connections between these three can bring about transformational change to the learning experience, and better prepare students to fulfill their personal and professional goals. Teaching allows me the opportunity to connect with students and build empathy for their challenges and hopes. In turn, these insights can lead to innovations in the classroom, so that courses and programs are designed with the needs of the students in mind. 

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair?

I look forward to working with, and learning from, the Engineering Fundamentals team, and to help continue their tradition of educational innovation. We share many of the same passions for student success with a goal to strengthen and enhance the role of the first-year engineering learning experience in order to best prepare students to meet the needs of the 21st Century. 

As a key partner in delivering the strategic mission and vision of the College and University, the Engineering Fundamentals team plays an essential role in helping students transition into their college life. It will be a privilege to work with the team that helps students begin their path toward successful careers in engineering.


A Note to Our Students

Dean Janet Callahan stands in front of the summer gardens on campus at Michigan Tech
Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Your journey is unique: Each person here comes from a different background, and has had different experiences across their life.

The lived experiences of each of us are different; they are not equal, and they are certainly not equitable. My experience, as the daughter of an engineer and a nurse (guess which one was my mother!) is an example—I was exposed to the best of school districts, played with toys as a child that taught me 3d spatial skills, and I was indulged by my parents when I showed an interest in photography. And then found myself one of about four women in a class size around 40, as I studied engineering in the 1980s—and truly—at my alma mater there were only male-gendered bathrooms on every floor, and one I could use on one floor only. Things have changed now, but my point is, this was my journey, and it was my unique journey.

I have heard from many students, especially in this new year, who have reached out to me directly, to share experiences, concerns, and frankly their outrage as well. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have ideas about how we can improve your experience as a student and as a member of our community. And, I would love to hear your story—your journey to Michigan Tech, your experiences here, and your dreams. Just send me an email and we’ll have a zoom meeting: Callahan@mtu.edu And if you are in a student club or organization and would like me to stop in during a meeting, to listen, I would be honored to do so.

I would love to hear your story—your journey to Michigan Tech, your experiences here, and your dreams.

Dean Janet Callahan

This is a true statement: diversity in an equitable and inclusive environment is essential for the development of creative solutions to address the world’s challenges. Across your educational experiences you have probably learned that when we design solutions, we must have a diverse team with multiple perspectives in order to develop the best solutions. Without a winning team, we can’t win. Our own perspective is not enough — we don’t know what we don’t know.

Finally, I assure you that we are fully committed to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech



New Publications by Michigan Tech MMET Faculty

Dr. Michelle Jarvie-Eggart

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Senior Lecturer, co-authored a work-in-progress paper “Understanding First-Year Engineering Student Definitions of Engineering Disciplines” and also published and presented in the 2020 ASEE virtual conference proceedings. Learn more here.

Lecturer Kevin Johnson and John Irwin, Professor/Chair, co-authored two papers published and presented at the ATMAE and IAJC Virtual Joint Conference.

Kevin Johnson

The first paper, “Program Improvement Utilizing the SME CMfgT and NCEES FE Exam Results” and the second “Preparation of MET Students for the NCEES FE Exam – Lessons Learned” both present MET student exit exam results from over the past 10-15 years. Many MET students pass the very rigorous Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam qualifying them in most states to eventually become certified as Professional Engineers. Learn more here.

Dr. Irwin along with Assistant Professor David Labyak authored a paper published and presented in the 2020 ASEE virtual conference proceedings entitled “FEA Taught the Industry Way.” The paper shared result from a survey they conducted of students and industry. The survey sought input on methods used to teach FEA to develop skills for accurate analysis, physical testing of parts, and reporting results in a format required by industry professionals. Read the ASEE paper here.


Michigan Tech Receives State-of-the-Art Software from Petroleum Experts Limited

MOVE, a geologic modeling software, provides a full digital environment for best practice structural modeling to reduce risk and uncertainty in geological models.

Petroleum Experts Limited has donated the equivalent of $2,236,604.75 to Michigan Technological University. The donation has come in the form of 10 sets of the MOVE suite of programs to be used for education and academic research at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Petroleum Experts, established in 1990, develops and commercializes petroleum engineering software for the oil industry. Petroleum Experts offers educational licenses to accredited universities that provide geology and/or petroleum engineering related Master and Ph.D. courses.

Learn more about MOVE

The state-of-the-art software will be installed in a computer laboratory at GMES, where it will be used in the Structural Geology course (GE3050), required for department undergraduate majors, and in graduate-level courses in structural geology. In addition, the MOVE suite will be utilized in academic non-commercial research on tectonics and structural geology, such as the mapping of the Keweenaw Fault and other complex structural systems in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“The researchers and students at GMES greatly appreciate this generous donation from Petroleum Experts,” says Dr. Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech.


Remembering Roger Kieckhafer


By Glen Archer, Interim Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Roger cared deeply for his students, his family, and his profession. I think that may be the source we can draw upon to comfort our own sense of sadness and grief. The impact he had on hundreds of lives will shine on.

Professor Roger Kieckhafer was an inventor, engineer, researcher, educator, veteran and valued faculty member at Michigan Technological University. He died on Friday, July 17 in a tragic vehicle-bicycle accident. He was 69.

The loss to the faculty and staff in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the College of Engineering is immense. We will not recover quickly from the shock of his death.

Roger received his Bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1974 and earned his Master’s and PhD in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1982 and 1983, respectively. The years between were spent in service to the United States Navy as a Nuclear Officer aboard the Trident missile submarine USS Abraham Lincoln. He also supervised the construction of the USS Indianapolis. His time in industry was also well spent, producing several patents that were licensed to Allied Signal, now Honeywell Corporation.

Roger was fond of classical music, particularly opera, and sang in the Copper Country Chorale, often accompanied by his daughter, Maggie, on organ. He also sang in the prestigious Pine Mountain Music Festival, including the premiere of the opera Rockland, based on the story of the 1906 miner strike in Rockland, Michigan.

Roger was instrumental in creating the computer engineering degree program at Michigan Tech. Working with Linda Ott in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Sciences and Arts, he bridged the gap between two departments in two separate colleges, crafting a program that educated hundreds—a new breed of engineer steeped in both worlds.

Even after the development of the computer engineering program, Roger’s collaboration with the Department of Computer Science continued. “We worked together on a strategic hiring initiative, multiple curricular issues, reorganization discussions and countless other issues,” said Dr. Linda Ott, Chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Roger was always supportive. He clearly believed that we would have stronger programs working together rather than competing.”

Roger was a strong advocate for the ABET accreditation process in the ECE department. He led the initial ABET accreditation of the Computer Engineering program. The procedures and processes he set in place then are still in play nearly 20 years later, guiding the department’s subsequent accreditation for both its electrical engineering and computer engineering degrees.

In the words of Computer Engineering faculty member Kit Cischke, “For Roger, it always boiled down to what was best for our students. The content of our classes. The things our students needed to know to get good jobs. The assignments. The kinds of things they needed to do in the real world. Students were forever contacting Roger after graduation, saying, ‘Thanks for teaching me that. I’m using it every day in my job.’”

Over the past few days, Roger’s former students have reached out to express their grief and sadness. They have shared how much Roger meant to them during their time at Michigan Tech and how well he prepared them for the success they enjoy today. One of those students was Joseph Rabaut. In his words, “I can’t tell you how devastated I am. Dr. Kieckhafer was an amazing person and one of the best professors at Tech. He helped me a lot throughout the past few years, giving me advice and recommendations, and helping me understand computer engineering. I don’t really know what else to say, because words can’t really describe losing him.”

Roger cared deeply for his students, his family, and his profession. I think that may be the source we can draw upon to comfort our own sense of sadness and grief. The impact he had on hundreds of lives will shine on.

As we move forward, his legacy will live on. As suggested by several people, a scholarship fund will be set up in Roger’s memory.

Roger is survived by his wife, Patricia Kieckhafer; son, Alexander Kieckhafer (Mallika Lavakumar) and thoroughly adored granddaughters, Ananya Kieckhafer and Ishani Kieckhafer of Cleveland, Ohio; daughter, Katherine Kieckhafer of Boston, Massachusetts; and Maggie Kieckhafer (Tahmoures Tabatabaei) of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Roger’s obituary can be read here.

If you have memories of Dr. Roger Kieckhafer, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.


Janet Callahan Named ASEE Fellow

Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Technological University, was initiated on June 24, 2020 as a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education.

A global society founded in 1893, ASEE is the preeminent authority on the education of engineering professionals, advancing innovation, excellence and access at all levels of education for the engineering profession.

Callahan was cited for contributions to ASEE and the engineering education community via outstanding leadership, educational scholarship, teaching effectiveness and championing diversity and inclusion within the community. Callahan has (co)authored over 50 ASEE and education publications. She has served in numerous positions in the society, contributes to multiple divisions, and currently serves as Chair of the Women in Engineering Division. 

“I am pleased and honored to join a distinguished community of ASEE Fellows who support engineering education and who have dedicated their careers in support of that purpose,” said Callahan. 

Callahan is among 9 fellows selected this year. The grade of fellow in ASEE is reserved for members with extraordinary qualifications and experience in engineering or engineering technology education or an allied field who have made important individual contributions. No more than one-tenth of one percent of individual ASEE membership may be elected fellow in any given year.


John Irwin is New Chair of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech

John Irwin stands at the front of a class with white board in the background. He wears a red and white checked shirt, and he is smiling at the class.
Professor John Irwin, new chair of the MMET department at Michigan Technological University, teaches a course in Product Design and Development on campus last fall.

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that John Irwin has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology beginning July 1, 2020. 

John Irwin is a professor and served as associate chair of the MMET department this past year with Materials Science and Engineering Professor Walt Milligan, who was interim chair during the department’s transition from the School of Technology to the College of Engineering.

“I am looking forward to Dr. Irwin’s leadership in the department of MMET. This is one of our strongest hands-on programs, graduating strongly qualified, highly sought graduates,” stated College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan. “Dr. Irwin’s extensive experience with continuous improvement of academic programs through ABET is a strong asset he brings to the department.”

Irwin has taught many courses in the MET program. Most recently, courses in Parametric Modeling, Statics and Strength of Materials, Product Design and Development, CAE and FEA Methods, Computer-aided Manufacturing, and Senior Design. 

His research interests include problem-based learning methods applied in the areas of CAD/CAM, static and dynamic model simulation, and product and manufacturing work cell verification. Dr. Irwin is also an affiliate professor with the Department of Cognitive Learning and Sciences, and Director of the Research and Innovation in STEAM Education (RISE) Institute at Michigan Tech. 

Irwin earned an AAS Mechanical Design Engineering Technology from Michigan Tech in 1982, a BS in Technical Education at Ferris State University in 1984, an MS in Occupational Education at Ferris State University in 1992, and a EdD in Curriculum and Instruction at Wayne State University in 2005. 

Irwin is a former collegiate cross country and track & field letter winner, and later competed as a company sponsored triathlete. Later he continued his athletic interests as a cross country coach for Mott Community College. John continues to run, swim and bike as an activity.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

I came to Michigan Tech from Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, where I was a professor of design engineering technology. After earning a doctorate, I was interested in seeking a University position in engineering technology and/or STEM education. Fortunately, at that time there was a faculty opening in Michigan Tech’s School of Technology. As a graduate of Michigan Tech I had ties to the UP, and also family close to Houghton. Both things impacted my decision, but the high quality reputation of a Michigan Tech education is mainly what brought me here.

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair of the MMET department?

I’ve got an in-depth familiarity with the faculty and staff, having been an MET faculty member since 2006. We want to create a sustainable approach to funding capstone projects through industry relations, seek out advanced manufacturing research opportunities, facilitate the development of faculty-led multidisciplinary research projects, support continued program assessment accreditation procedures, and increase degree options for students. Maintaining the quality and services of the MMET Machine Shop is integral to reaching our goals.     

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

Working with students in their senior capstone design sequence courses provides me with an instant reward as a faculty member. I greatly enjoy advising and facilitating the engineering problem-solving process. For many students, the senior project is their first opportunity to manage a project budget, work in a team for more than just a few weeks, and attempt to provide the project deliverables. Most rewarding of all is to hear from students after they’ve graduated, and find they are well established in successful careers as engineers. 

My research is very interconnected with my teaching. Specifically, I enjoy studying the use of simulations to better understand difficult-to-describe concepts, those that will benefit teaching and learning, and have a positive impact on industry in the long term. It is also especially wonderful to introduce many K-12 teachers to engineering concepts, and then see them apply those concepts in their classrooms.


We Reject Racism.

Michigan Tech stands together as a community to reject any actions steeped in racism, hatred and fear. These actions are repugnant to the College of Engineering. They have no place in our classrooms, labs or offices, nor in our society.

The College of Engineering believes that diversity in an inclusive environment is essential for the development of creative solutions to address the world’s challenges. 

Our faculty, staff and students are fully committed to diversity and inclusiveness. There is much work to be done and we all have a part to play in order for meaningful change to occur.

Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering

Leonard Bohmann, Associate Dean, College of Engineering

Larry Sutter, Assistant Dean, College of Engineering

Sean Kirkpatrick, Chair, Dept. of Biomedical Engineering

Pradeep Agrawal, Chair, Dept. of Chemical Engineering

Audra Morse, Chair, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Glen Archer, Chair, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Jon Sticklen, Chair, Dept. of Engineering Fundamentals

John Gierke, Chair, Dept. of Geological and Mining Engineering and Science

Steve Kampe, Chair, Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering

Bill Predebon, Chair, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics

Walt Milligan, Interim Chair, Dept. of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology

Read more:

A Call to Action:
Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Supporting Diversity
College of Engineering



Earth Day Continues! All are Welcome at these Copper Country (social-distance friendly) Special Events

Historical sign once hung on posts at the entrance to the city of Houghton, Michigan that says, Welcoome to the Copper country. You are now breathing the purest most vitalizing air on earth!
Courtesy of Michigan Tech Archives

There are still many Earth Day events coming up in Copper Country, and no matter where you live on this Earth, you’re invited. All are welcome.

  • Get Some Fresh Air: Nature is Open for Business
    Now through May 10 — Self-guided walk featuring Earth Day artwork from Houghton Elementary 4th grade students at Keweenaw Land Trust Paavola Wetlands. Can’t get there in person? Here’s the video tour.
  • Planet of the Humans
    April 21 and beyond: View “Planet of the Humans” (90 min.)  The film takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and giving in to corporate interests of Wall Street.
  • Invasive Plant Removal Challenge
    Now through June 20 — Stewardship Network Spring Invasive Plant Removal Challenge. Pull invasive species from your yard, natural area, anywhere. Submit location, number of people, and weight of invasive plants removed.
  • Great Lakes Bioblitz!
    Now through – May 20 — Great Lakes Bioblitz in your Backyard. Community members, families, and students across the Great Lakes states and Ontario are invited to participate in finding and identifying as many wild, living things as possible in a specific area (backyards and other outdoor spaces) during the next month
  • How Some are Turning the Stay at Home Order into a Positive Experience
    Saturday (April 25) from 6-8 p.m. — UPEC 2020 Celebrate the U.P. Presentations will be available later on YouTube. Speakers include Monica Lewis-Patrick, We The People of Detroit; Sarah Green, International Climate Action; Angie Carter, Western UP Food Systems Council, and several more. The event will wrap up with short videos on how some have turned the Stay at Home order into a positive experience.
  • What Happens to Houghton County Recyclables
    April 28, 7-8 p.m. — “What Happens to Houghton County Recyclables?” with Eagle Waste & Recycling owner, Alan Alba, and sponsored by Copper Country Recycling Initiative.
  • Native Plant Symposium: Monarch Butterflies
    April 30, 7 p.m. Native Plant Symposium Part 2, Sue Trull, botanist for the Ottawa Nat. Forest, will present “Monarchs & Milkweeds—All Hands-on Deck,” and “Using Native Plants to Support Pollinators” by Jackie Manchester-Kempke, of Houghton, an extension master gardener. Register here.
  • Book Club: Nature’s Best Hope
    May 7, 7 p.m.— Keweenaw Land Trust’s Natural History. Book Club discussion of Doug Tallamy’s “Nature’s Best Hope” via Zoom. (Password: 703851)
  • Five things you can keep out of the landfill:
    June 27  — (Stay tuned) The previously scheduled Waste Reduction Drive for Earth Day, sponsored by Michigan Tech’s student-run Sustainability House, will be rescheduled. In the meantime, keep collecting Styrofoam containers, plastic bottle caps, batteries and foil lined granola and energy bar wrappers. Read how they can be recycled here.