Category: News

Pasi Lautala: Railroads—Back to the Future

Pasi Lautala shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 9/26 at 6 pm. Learn something new in just 30 minutes or so, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Dr. Pasi Lautala

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 9/26 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Pasi Lautala, associate professor of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Lautala directs Michigan Tech’s innovative Rail Transportation Program (RTP), preparing students to thrive and succeed in the rail industry—something he has done for the past 15 years.

Joining in will be Michigan Tech alumnus Eric Peterson, retired assistant chief engineer of public projects at CSX Transportation, who helped establish and grow the RTP at Michigan Tech.

During Husky Bites the two will share the secrets behind the energy efficiency of rail, and guide us from past railroads to what they are today. They’ll also discuss how railroads are securing a future in the era of rapid technology development. 

“Rail is considered more energy efficient. In many ways it is a more sustainable transportation mode compared to highway and air transport, says Lautala. “However, in order for rail transportation to keep up with the other modes of transportation, it must keep developing alongside them—and with an equal amount of passion. In the US, some of those challenges (but also opportunities) include long asset lives, non-flexible structures, and private ownership.”

Pat and Eric Peterson

Before moving to the US from Finland, Lautala worked for several summers with the Finnish Railway system. After graduating from Michigan Tech with his MS in Civil Engineering, he worked for five years as a railroad and highway engineering consultant in Chicago, before returning to Michigan Tech for his PhD in Rail Transportation and Engineering Education.

Michigan Tech’s Railroad Engineering Activity Club, aka REAC, is “for students interested in establishing contacts with, learning about, getting involved with, and a hair’s breadth away from being obsessed with the railroad and transportation industries in the United States of America and beyond.” Lautala and Peterson are honorary members.

“I first met Eric as a young consultant,” Lautala recalls. “He was one of the managers for our client, CSX Transportation. Once I returned to campus as a doctoral student, I learned Eric was a former classmate of my PhD advisor. Eric became an influential force and tireless supporter of our efforts to start the Rail Transportation Program. He still teaches some signals and communications lectures for us.”

“My wife, Pat, and I supported the startup of the Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program with Pasi as the leader,” adds Peterson. “At the time, we were hiring engineers at CSX for all types of jobs, including field supervisors—people comfortable working both in the field and in the office. The rest of the rail industry was hiring, too.” 

“The railroad industry is still hungry for young people with interest and education in rail transportation,” says Lautala. When he first came to Michigan Tech from Finland in 1996 to earn an MS in Civil Engineering, Lautala brought the railroad bug with him. The son of a locomotive engineer, Lautala grew up in a culture that embraced rail transportation as a sustainable public transit alternative, as well as an efficient way to move freight.

While the US has the most extensive and efficient freight rail system in the world, the development of railroads had been on the back burner for decades, while the rest of the world kept moving forward, he observes. 

In 2007 Lautala established the RTP at Michigan Tech in order to advance rail education to a wide range of students, with integrated coursework, for both undergraduate and graduate students, and a minor in rail transportation. CN, Canadian National Railway Company, quickly came on board as a major sponsor of the program. The RTP also collaborates closely with many industry companies, associations and alumni. Their involvement provides professional networking, education, field trips, conferences, and guest speakers for Michigan Tech students involved in the Railroad Engineering and Activities Club (REAC), the first student chapter ever established by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA).

“Students can also take part in hands-on rail industry-sponsored research projects across disciplines. Some topic areas include grade crossing and trespasser safety, materials research on railway equipment, locomotive emissions, the impact of climate change on railroads, and more,” says Lautala. Learning by doing is a central component of RTP’s approach to rail education.

Rail companies actively work with RTP to fill openings with Michigan Tech RTP students, whether for for full time jobs, internships or co-ops. And the RTP Experience wouldn’t be complete without the Railroad Night, an over 15 year tradition at Michigan Tech.

“Rail just makes sense, and it’s something this country needs.”

Pasi Lautala
Michigan Tech RTP students conduct field work

Lautala initially founded RTP’s innovative Summer in Finland program, which integrated an international component to rail education. It was an intensive five-week program, a collaboration among Michigan Tech, the Tampere University of Technology, and the North American and Finnish railroad industry. “That program created sufficient interest from the students and industry to officially launch the Rail Transportation Program,” Lautala says.

Outside Michigan Tech, Lautala serves as chair of National Academies’ Research Transportation Board Rail Group. “There are so many research possibilities—everything from infrastructure, with automated track-monitoring systems and recycled materials in railroad ties, to energy efficient equipment and operations,” he says.

Team Lautala!

Lautala’s own engineering research currently involves connected and autonomous vehicle communications at grade crossings, with fellow Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Associate Professor Kuilin Zhang. The two are working to develop safe and efficient driving and routing strategies for autonomous vehicles at railroad grade crossings. Reduced energy consumption, emissions, and potential time delays are some of their goals. Their research is supported with two separate grants from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Dr. Lautala, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Prof. Lautala likes to fish, hunt, and play the accordian.

Probably my early summer internships, first at a rail construction site, and then with Finnish Railways.

Hometown?

Kangasala, Finland. I have split my life evenly between Finland and the US, twenty-five years each. I recently spent a year in Finland with my wife and two rascals (children): Olavi (10) and Ansel (8).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Hobbies, you name it…..soccer (including coaching), hockey, golf, and many other sports. Three accordions and an equal number of bands. I’ve done some acting, too (though that’s been pretty quiet recently).

A rail adventure!

Eric, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I saw the Mackinac Bridge while it was under construction. A few years later when our subdivision was expanded, I spent the summer watching the grading contractor.  

Boating is another hobby. We have a 17’ boat for water skiing and a 20’ sailboat we use each summer for a few weeks on Crystal Lake near Frankfort, Michigan, when our family vacations together.

One of your most memorable accomplishments?

Training as a locomotive engineer.

Hometown?

I was born in Detroit and moved to Bloomfield Township when I was in the 4th grade. I am an only child. I married Patricia Paoli in 1970.

Eric and Pat thus far have three married adult children, and nine grandchildren.

What do you like to do in your spare time

My dad exposed me to both model railroading and real railroads. My primary hobby is model railroading in O Scale 2 rail, which is 1/48 scale. My work was all in the railroad industry.

Read more:

See Tracks? Think Train!

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Operation Lifesaver are partnering together to raise rail safety awareness. Most Americans today know the dangers associated with drunk driving, distracted driving or texting while crossing the street, But many are unaware of the risks they are taking around railroad tracks.

Husky Bites: Join Us for Supper This Fall!

Husky dog with plaid shirt and glasses sitting at a table with a bowl of dog bones
What are you doing for supper each Monday night at 6 pm ET this fall? Join us for some brain food, via Zoom or Facebook Live. Get the full scoop at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Craving some brain food? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guests each Monday at 6 p.m. ET this for a 20-minute (or so) interactive Zoom webinar, with plenty of time after for Q&A. Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. This family friendly event is BYOC (Bring Your Own Curiosity). All are welcome. Get the full scoop and register⁠—it’s free⁠—at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Guests include Michigan Tech faculty members, who share a mini lecture and weave in a bit of their own personal journey to their chosen field. Also invited to join in during the session—their colleagues, mentors, former students, or current students.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with a ‘quiz’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll), about every five minutes. Everyone is welcome, and bound to learn something new. Some entire families enjoy it,” she adds.

Those who join Husky Bites via Zoom can take part in the session Q&A, one of the best parts of Husky Bites. But there are a few ways to “consume” the webinar. Catch the livestream on the College of Engineering Facebook page. Or, if you happen to miss a session, watch any past session on Zoom or youtube. (Scroll down to find the links on mtu.edu/huskybites).

On Monday (September 26), we’ll launch the season with “Railroads—Back to the Future, with Dr. Pasi Lautala, alumnus, director of Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program, and associate professor of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering. Prof. Lautala will be joined by Eric Peterson ’70, ’71, retired former assistant chief engineer of public projects at CSX—and one of Michigan Tech’s greatest supporters and advocates of railroad activities and education.

About Husky Bites

Dean Callahan first launched Husky Bites June 2020, after the the first few months of the pandemic. Since then, she has hosted attendees from Michigan Tech’s campus community, across the US, and even attendees from various countries around the world. “There’s something of interest for all ages,” she adds. “A lot of folks turn it on in the background, and listen or watch while preparing, eating or cleaning up after supper,” she says. Dean Callahan awards some really great prizes for attendance. Also, high school students qualify for a nifty swag bag.

Get the Full Scoop

Want to see full schedule details? Just go to mtu.edu/huskybites. You can register from there, too. Husky Bites is presented by the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Engineering Alumni Activity Fall 2022

Debra Larson
Debra Larson

Michigan Tech was mentioned in a Mining Journal story on alumna Debra Larson, who is a presidential candidate for Northern Michigan University. Larson received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from MTU. “I’m very much interested in following the science,” Larson said.

Juliana Strieter
Juliana Strieter

DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service) published a feature story on the Sept. 1 promotion of Michigan Tech alumna Juliana Strieter ’96 (BS, civil engineering) to the rank of captain in the U.S. Navy. As an officer, Capt. Strieter’s tours include deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as Charlie Company commander and assistant training officer with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR. In 2014, she had the distinction of being the first permanent party stationed at Naval Support Facility Deveselu, Romania, and was on the forefront of the establishment of the Navy’s first new installation in over 20 years. She later served as the Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization analyst to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations and oversaw all aspects from programming through execution of sustainment and recapitalization across the Navy’s $305 billion shore enterprise.

Arick Davis
Arick Davis

Rapid Growth mentioned Michigan Tech in a story featuring Grand Rapids startup Last Mile Café, an online coffee business co-owned by Arick Davis ’16 (electrical engineering). Since its inception, Last Mile Café has donated more than 10% of revenue to charitable organizations that work for environmental justice, clean drinking water, criminal justice reform or youth-at-risk.

Kueber Watkins and Middlebrook Selected for 2022 CTL Instructional Awards

Melanie Kueber Watkins
Melanie Kueber Watkins

The Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) congratulates the 2022 Deans’ Teaching Showcase members who have been selected to receive 2022 CTL Instructional Awards. Mark your calendars for the following fall semester events, where instructors will discuss the work that led to their nominations. After each presentation they will receive formal recognition and $600 in additional compensation.

CTL Instructional Award Series Schedule:

  • Sept. 29 — Innovative or Out-of-Class Teaching: Kristin Brzeski (CFRES) and Melanie Kueber Watkins (CEGE)
  • Oct. 13 — Large Class Teaching: Loredana Valenzano-Slough (Chemistry)
  • Nov. 8 — Curriculum Development or Assessment: Chris Middlebrook (ECE) and Josue Reynoso (CoB)
Christopher Middlebrook
Christopher Middlebrook

All events will take place from 3:45–4:45 p.m. Detailed presentation titles, topics and registration links for the events will be announced later.

The CTL would also like to thank previous instructional award recipients who were instrumental in the selection process.

We’re looking for nominations for the upcoming (2023) Deans’ Teaching Showcase during spring semester. Please consider suggesting (to your dean or chair) instructors whom you’ve seen make exceptional contributions in curriculum development, assessment, innovative or out-of-class teaching, or large class teaching.

By the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.


The Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning will recognize Kristin Brzeski (CFRES) and Melanie Kueber Watkins (CEGE) as co-recipients of the CTL Instructional Award for Innovative or Out of Class Teaching on Sept. 29 at 3:45 p.m.

Watkins’ award presentation is titled “Collaborative Classroom Cloud Computing.”

From the abstract:

“Dr. Watkins will highlight her use of project-based learning to enhance student computing skills and job preparedness. Her approach involved integrating new concepts and skills into courses for 2D hydraulic modeling with lidar data, including Linux scripting.”

Pamela Rogers Klyn to Deliver First Year Engineering Series Lecture at Michigan Tech

Pam Klyn ’93 is Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Whirlpool Corporation

Pamela Rogers Klyn, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Whirlpool Corporation, will deliver the First-Year Engineering Series Lecture to more than 1,000 Michigan Tech’s incoming engineering majors on Monday, September 26 at 6 pm on campus at the Rozsa Center Auditorium.

The title of Klyn’s lecture: “Effort Creates Opportunities.”

“The First-Year Engineering Series Lecture provides an exciting opportunity for our students to learn how they can use their new technological education to positively impact the world, by hearing from some of the nation’s most innovative engineering leaders,” says Mary Raber, chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. “We look forward to learning more about Pam’s engineering journey as our students begin creating their own.”

“Pam’s dedication to continuous learning and developing others as a part of her own career journey are important keys to her own success and the success of many others. Her words of wisdom will be especially helpful to our new students,” adds Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering.

Klyn grew up in Auburn, Michigan and joined Whirlpool soon after graduating in 1993 with a bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech.

“I chose engineering because it provided a strong foundation of problem-solving skills for whatever it was I would choose to explore in the future,” Klyn says. “I originally thought I would pursue medical school. Instead I decided to enter the professional world.”

“The engineering education I received at MTU was a strong stepping stone to my career success at Whirlpool Corporation.”

Pam Klyn ’93, Senior Vice President, Corporate Relations and Sustainability at Whirlpool Corporation

Klyn has held advancing roles in engineering, product development, global innovation, and marketing at Whirlpool. Its vision: “Be the best kitchen and laundry company, in constant pursuit of improving life at home.” World-class Manufacturing, IoT (Internet of Things), environmental and social responsibility, leading-edge design, craftsmanship, and digital technologies all drive innovation at Whirlpool.

Whirlpool reported approximately $19 billion in annual sales in 2020, with 78,000 employees and 57 manufacturing and technology research centers. Its iconic brand portfolio includes Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag, Consul, Brastemp, Amana, Bauknecht, JennAir, Indesit and Yummly. The company had 472 patents awarded in 2020 alone. (Klyn was named on one that same year).

The Whirlpool Corp. site in Cassinetta, northern Italy, reached its zero waste to landfill goal a year ahead of schedule, and reduced its carbon emissions by 38 percent in just four years. Whirlpool is aiming for carbon neutrality at all of its 54 sites around the world by 2030. Photo credit: Whirlpool Corporation.

After her first year at Whirlpool, Klyn earned a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Michigan. Later she earned an executive MBA from Bowling Green State University.

Klyn is now a member of the Executive Leadership team at Whirlpool, and reports directly to the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, Marc Bitzer. 

“Pam has been an outstanding leader at Whirlpool. She brings not only a strong technical understanding of the products and the types of purposeful innovation that exceed our customer’s expectations, but also a commitment to bettering the communities around her,” Bitzer said.

Klyn describes herself as hardworking and focused—while being grateful for the support she was given throughout her youth and early in her career. “This has fueled my strong desire to give back and leave things better than I found them in everything I do,” she says.

Klyn has excelled in a number of business and engineering leadership roles at the company. She lived in Milan, Italy as vice president, products and brands for Whirlpool EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), then led all washer, dryer and commercial laundry platforms globally as senior vice president of global product organization. Klyn was accountable for developing the product plans and long-term strategy to drive profitable growth in all regions.

In 2011, the Wall Street Journal profiled Klyn in an article, “Finding Their Way to the Fast Track, Rising Stars to Senior Managers,” about the initiatives that saved her company $854 million. “Be confident in your approach,” states Klyn in the WSJ article. “Look your senior leaders in the eye and say, ‘Here’s my plan, and here’s why it will work.’”

As the first female technology director for Whirlpool, Klyn has made it a point to serve as mentor to a number of individuals, seeking to provide tools and guidance for emerging female leaders. “I want to support their career growth and to give them the confidence to pursue roles at the highest levels of the organization,” she says.

She was elected to the Michigan Tech Presidential Council of Alumnae in 2012. Last year she was welcomed into the Michigan Tech Academy of the Department Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Academy. Selection into the Academy recognizes excellence and leadership in engineering and civic affairs. 

Klyn also serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board as part of her ongoing connection to Michigan Tech. 

Closer to home in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Klyn is a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs Board of Directors. She has served as the co-lead of the Whirlpool United Way Campaign for multiple years in support of her community. She’s also a trustee on the Whirlpool Foundation Board. Klyn is also a member of the Board of Directors for Patrick Industries, a $5 billion-plus publicly traded company. 

In her spare time, Klyn is an avid runner (24 marathons and counting) and a devoted landscaper. She lives with her husband, Steve, near Lake Michigan. She has two step-children, Parker and Cara.

Read more:

Providing the best leadership: Pam Klyn takes on new communications role at Whirlpool

Aurenice Oliveira Named ELATES Fellow

Aurenice Oliveira wearing gear and using a laptop on the Portage Lift Bridge.
Aurenice Oliveira, PhD, ELATES Fellow ’22-’23, Drexel University Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science

Associate Professor Aurenice Oliveira (ECE) has been selected for the Class of 2022-23 of Drexel University’s Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) fellowship program.

Aurenice Oliveira is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, and also serves the University as a vice president for research faculty fellow.

ELATES is a national leadership development program designed to promote women in academic STEM fields, and faculty allies of all genders, into institutional leadership roles. Oliveira is also a recipient of the first ASEE ELATES fellow scholarship covering program costs and travel expenses. 

The ELATES Class of 2022-23 Fellows comprise a prestigious cohort of 30 faculty members from over 25 institutions of higher education across the U.S. and Canada. Fellows include experts in engineering, mathematics and science, all of whom have significant administrative experience on top of their scholarly accomplishments. Oliveira was nominated by Dean Janet Callahan (COE) and former interim Chair Glen Archer (ECE) for this intensive yearlong program, which includes personal and leadership development work as well as series of on-site work in the Philadelphia area.

“I am excited to participate in a program focused on training an amazing group of women to become leaders in academic STEM fields.”

Aurenice Oliveira

“I am excited to participate in a program focused on training an amazing group of women to become leaders in academic STEM fields,” said Oliveira. “I would like to be able to bridge people and ideas as well as to tap into our strengths to create and encourage growth in my department and at Michigan Tech.”

Oliveira’s research interests focus on hybrid communications and networking, including connected and autonomous vehicles communications.  She is currently the IEEE chair for Northeastern Wisconsin Region 4 and recently served as the chair of the NSF ADVANCE Advocates and Allies Advisory Board (A3B) and as equity (DEIS) advisor for Michigan Tech faculty and chairs search teams. She is faculty advisor for two Michigan Tech student organizations on campus, as well, the IEEE student chapter and Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) Honor Society.

Oliveira will be also serving as a Michigan Tech Vice President for Research Faculty Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year in the areas of research development and research integrity.

Facilitated by leaders in the fields of STEM research and leadership development, the ELATES curriculum is focused on increasing Fellows’ personal and professional leadership effectiveness, from the ability to lead and manage change initiatives within institutions, to the use of strategic finance and resource management to enhance organizational missions. Pairing online instruction and discussion with intensive, in-person seminar sessions, the program encourages Fellows to apply what they’ve learned at their home institutions. Ultimately, it aims to create a network of exceptional faculty who bring broad organizational perspectives and deep personal capacity to the institutions and societies they serve.

Learn more online at ELATES at Drexel.

By Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Middlebrook Honored with Department of Defense Award

Christopher Middlebrook, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech, earned a DOD award recognizing his efforts to educate the next generation of the electronics manufacturing workforce.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Christopher Middlebrook was honored with an award from the Department of Defense for his efforts to educate the electronics manufacturing workforce’s next generation. His award was presented by Adele Radcliff, Director of the Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program. He received the award on Wednesday, August 17, during the Future Electronics Workforce Summit held at Michigan Tech.

Last March, Prof. Middlebrook was selected for the Michigan Tech Dean’s Teaching Showcase, 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.

Middlebrook’s 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 the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. His hard work was also instrumental in establishing the new Plexus Innovation Lab, an electronics makerspace, in Michigan Tech’s Electrical Energy Resources Center.

Middlebrook is a member of the IEEE, OSA, and SPIE. He was also an electrical engineer with the Electro-optics Division, NAVSEA Crane, where he served as a research test and development engineer. He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech, an MS in Optical Engineering at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, and a PhD in Optics at the University of Central Florida. He joined Michigan Tech as an assistant professor in 2007.

Middlebrook’s research interests include visible and infrared imaging systems, integrated photonic devices, optical remote-sensing system design, and optical beam projection through atmospheric turbulence. His facilities on campus include include a 700-square-foot optical research and testing lab, as well as a 500-square-foot teaching optical lab. He also serves as the faculty advisor for the Optics and Photonics Society at Michigan Tech.

Read more about the Future Electronics Workforce Summit news coverage:

Future Electronics Workforce Summit held at MTU’s Rozsa Center, by Colin Jackson, WLUC-TV

MTU hosts summit on future electronics workforce, by Garett Neese, Daily Mining Gazette

Meet a Six-Time Fellow at Michigan Tech

By working at the interface of theory and experiments, Dr. Yun Hang Hu is building a bright future for energy devices and technology.

Have you ever met a professor bestowed with the distinguished honor of Fellow…six times? At Michigan Tech, that professor is Yun Hang Hu, the Charles and Carroll McArthur Endowed Chair Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Dr. Hu is an international leader in energy research for his innovative processing of materials.

He has been named a Fellow six times for the breadth and rigor of his work:

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society – 2020: “For pioneering contributions to the dynamic control of structures and properties for carbon nanomaterials in their chemical synthesis, for the discovery of phase-disorder effects on memristive behaviors of metal sulfides, and for advances in chemical physics of catalysis and photocatalysis.”
  • Fellow of the ASM International – 2020: “For outstanding contributions to research and innovation in energy conversion materials; including application in solar cells, supercapacitors, hydrogen production and hydrogen storage.”
  • Fellow of the American Chemical Society – 2020: “Recognized for pioneering the synthesis and application of shape-controlled 3D graphene, discovering memristive behavior of 2D layer materials, inventing thermal-photo hybrid catalytic processes, designing efficient electrodes for energy devices, and inventing novel hydrogen storage materials.”
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – 2014: ”For distinguished contributions in the field of novel materials and catalysts, particularly for molecular design and synthesis of nanomaterials for energy conversion, storage, and utilization.”
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers – 2013: “Recognized for his exceptional, sustained accomplishments in energy, materials, catalysis and novel processes.”
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry – 2013: “More than five years in a senior position….efforts have made an impact in any field of the chemical sciences.”
Microscopic view of a material that flakes in thin, angular sheets.
Hu’s research has resulted in the development of promising new memrister materials. Electrical circuits made of molybdenum disulfide nanosheets (pictured above) can potentially store massive amounts of data in a miniscule amount of space on a computer. Memristers could make today’s iPhones as powerful as a supercomputer. Image credit: Yun Hang Hu

Hu innovates the processing of hydrogen production, hydrogen storage materials, greenhouse gas conversion, and energy conversion and storage. 

His groundbreaking work has led to several brand-new materials and processes, innovations will help in a number of applied technologies—from supercapacitors that run elevators to solar cell banks to computer data storage to making hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight.

In particular Hu investigates advanced materials for energy applications—their characterization and synthesis—using both chemical and physical approaches. His research areas include graphene for solar energy, dye-sensitized solar cells, photocatalysis, synthesis of novel solid materials and liquid fuels from CO2, hydrogen storage materials, and heterogeneous catalysis for energy and fuels. 

Hu also conducts research on 3D graphene materials for supercapacitors and solar cells and has developed several processes to synthesize 3D graphene with excellent performance for dye-sensitized solar cells and perovskite solar cells.

In addition to being elected a Fellow thrice in 2020, Hu earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Energy and Fuels Division of the American Chemical Society that same year.

And most recently, in 2022, for his pioneering contributions to hydrogen energy, Hu won the Rudolf Erren Award from the International Association of Hydrogen Energy (IAHE). The award is given for “Leadership in the Thermochemical Area (involvement with heat engines and combustion, thermochemical production, facets of hydrogen transmission, distribution and storage, such as metal hydrides).”

Read More

A Bright Future for Energy

Memristors: Making a New Generation for Digital Memory and Computation

Yun Hang Hu Wins Both Research Award and Bhakta Rath Award

John Lenters: Eyes On the Water—Great Lakes Research from Buoys and Lighthouses

First deployment of a “Spotter” wave buoy near Stannard Rock lighthouse on Lake Superior, with fishing boat shown in the background. Photo credit: John Lenters

John Lenters, associate research scientist at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center will share his knowledge on Husky Bites Live during Alumni Reunion 2022. The session takes place Friday, August 5 at 4 pm ET at the Great Lakes Research Center, Conference Room 201/202. Everyone in attendance will learn something new, with plenty of time after for Q&A. 

Can’t make it in person? Join us remotely. Use this link to join the Zoom webinar on August 5 starting at 3:45 pm.

Dr. John Lenters retrieves a wave buoy near Grand Marais, Michigan.

Environmental research on the Great Lakes—the largest lake system on the planet—is challenging. Even basic information such as weather conditions are largely invisible to mariners due to massive data gaps across vast expanses of water. 

Dr. John Lenters will explain how Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center and collaborators use scientific instruments on buoys and lighthouses to better understand the physical processes of the Great Lakes, such as wind, waves, circulation, evaporation, and ice cover.

Dr. Lenters, when did you first get into atmospheric science? What sparked your interest?

I was always interested in weather and science as a kid, and I grew up downstate near Lake Michigan. So after I got my PhD in Atmospheric Science at Cornell, I returned to the Great Lakes region and began a postdoc position at UW-Madison to study the impacts of weather and climate on lakes.

Satellite image of stamp sands near Gay, Michigan and the track of a Spotter buoy drifting to shore on November 16, 2021.

I deployed my first “weather buoy” on Sparkling Lake (in northern Wisconsin) in 1999. I’ve been conducting similar studies on a variety of lakes ever since. This includes saline lakes in western Nebraska, Arctic lakes in northern Alaska, and the Great Lakes region.

Family and Hometown?

I grew up in Holland, Michigan and still have family down there (both parents). I have two sisters, one in Massachusetts and one in Wyoming. My fiancé, Amanda, is a wildlife biologist and forester with the Wisconsin DNR. We’ll be getting married in Copper Harbor on New Years Eve.

“Captain Dingo” (aka John and Amanda’s dog, Copper) pilots their pontoon boat on Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My hobbies include cross-country skiing, kayaking, birding, storm chasing, and playing the drums. Amanda and I have a dog named Copper who we think is mostly an Australian shepherd, but we call her the dingo, because she looks exactly like one!

In my spare time I like to travel, play music, take our pontoon boat out on the lake, and get some exercise (I run, swim, ski, kayak, and go on plenty of dog walks). I’ve done some triathlons in the past. My last one was the Copperman, many years ago.

Hungry for some brain food? Join us for a bite during Husky Bites!

More about Husky Bites

Launched by Dean Janet Callahan in 2020 near the start of the pandemic, Husky Bites is an interactive Zoom webinar that takes place each fall and spring.

“Feel free to invite a friend,” says Dean Janet Callahan about her Zoom webinar series, Husky Bites. “Everyone is welcome!”

During the semester, every Monday at 6 pm ET, each “bite” is a suppertime mini-lecture, presented by a different Michigan Tech faculty member who weaves in a bit of their own personal journey, and brings a co-host, as well—an alum or a current student who knows a thing or two about the topic at hand.

The Fall 2022 Husky Bites weekly Zoom webinar series resumes starting Monday, Sept. 12. “We’ve had attendees from nine countries, and a great mix of students, alumni, our Michigan Tech community and friends,” says Dean Callahan, who mails out prizes for (near) perfect attendance.

Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Dr. Larry Sutter Retires from Michigan Tech with a New Focus: Carbon Neutral Concrete by 2035

Lawrence L. Sutter P.E., Assistant Dean of Research and External Relations, College of Engineering, Michigan Tech
Now that he has retired, Dr. Larry Sutter plans to do a lot more consulting, with a strong focus on the development of sustainable concrete.

After 43 years of distinguished service to Michigan Tech as a staff member, former student, professor, and leader, Dr. Larry Sutter, associate dean of research and external relations in the College of Engineering, and professor of materials science and engineering, officially retired from the University as of June 30.

Sutter first came to Michigan Tech in 1979 to work in the former Department of Metallurgical Engineering, operating and maintaining their powerful electron microscopes. He had previously earned an associates degree in electronics at DeVry University in Ohio and had worked for an instrument vendor for three years. Taking advantage of Michigan Tech’s tuition benefit, while working full time, Sutter took a few undergraduate courses, and then a few more–eventually earning a BS in Metallurgical Engineering. He didn’t stop there. Sutter went on to earn an MS in Environmental Engineering, and finally a PhD in Civil Engineering—all at Michigan Tech.

While pursuing his doctoral degree, Sutter joined the faculty in Michigan Tech’s former School of Technology, teaching courses in civil engineering technology and construction management for nearly a decade, becoming a tenured professor. 

In 2007 Sutter became director of the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute (MTTI), which served as a link between Michigan Tech researchers and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and other state DOTS, as well as the Federal Highways Association. Under Sutter’s direction MTTI expanded, growing to 25 employees, focused on transportation research, education and training, outreach, product development and technology transfer, with over $3 million in research expenditures.

He also served as director of the US Department of Transportation-sponsored UTC-MiSTI (University Transportation Center for Materials in Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure). Sutter became actively involved with research through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, sharing his extensive knowledge of concrete making materials. He also contributed through his strong expertise in material characterization measures, which enabled him to accurately assess concrete durability and the deterioration of concrete pavements.

Sutter joined Michigan Tech’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2013 as a full professor. He advised graduate students and taught courses in scanning electron microscopy, and continued research on  concrete-making materials and concrete durability.

Over the years Sutter’s research focus honed in on various recycled and secondary materials for sustainable concrete, including fly ash and blast furnace slag. He is recognized nationally as a leader in development of standard tests and specifications for using these materials in concrete. 

“My professional goal now is to be a contributor to making the cement and concrete industry carbon neutral by 2035. It is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) but I feel strongly it can be done.”

Dr. Larry Sutter

In recent years Sutter earned several major awards. He was named a Fellow of ASTM International, formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.

In naming him a Fellow, ASTM recognized Sutter as “a valuable resource and advocate for the responsible use of sustainable materials in concrete mixtures, and a forward-thinking leader in integrating new and developing technologies into new and existing standards.”

Sutter’s dedication is underscored with a summary of his involvement: he is active on ASTM Committee C01 Cement, as well as C09 Concrete. He serves as vice-chair of committee C09, the second largest committee within ASTM, and serves as chair of subcommittee C09.24 Supplementary Cementitious Materials. Sutter is also chair of subcommittee C01.14 Non-hydraulic Cements, and serves on the executive committees of both C01 and C09.

“There are numerous professional activities I am involved in, to get the cement and concrete industry to carbon neutral,” says Sutter.

Sutter was also named Fellow of the American Concrete Institute, or ACI, in 2019. He currently serves as chair of ACI Committee 321 Durability Code, Vice-Chair of Committee 232 on Fly Ash and Bottom Ash Use in Concrete, and secretary of Committee 201 on Durability. He serves on the ACI Board of Direction. And now, he serves as chair of the board of the newly formed ACI Center of Excellence for Carbon Neutral Concrete (NEU).

Sutter earned the Jean-Claude Roumain Innovation in Concrete Award from ACI’s Strategic Development Council, which recognized his strong leadership in concrete materials education and research. The award committee cited Sutter’s work, which has “resulted in the advancement of knowledge of deicer-induced damage to concrete, utilization of fly ash and alternative cements, and characterization of a concrete air-void system to overall improve the sustainability and durability of concrete.” Sutter also received the Delmar L. Bloem Distinguished Service Award from ACI in 2018. 

In 2022 Sutter received the Champion Award from the American Coal Ash Association, the 8th recipient of the award over the past 10 years.

Larry with his wife Patty and daughter Lena.

Sutter made his mark outside the world of concrete and Michigan Tech, too. After enjoying hockey as a spectator all of his life, at the age of 37, he got the opportunity to get on the ice and enjoy the game as a participant. This happened because he casually commented to his graduate school office mate, John Sandell, now a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering, that he would love to play hockey—but only if he could play goalie. 

“John assured me that if I wanted to play goalie I could play 7 days a week—because no one else wanted to do it!”

Sutter has played hockey ever since, and even founded the Tuesday Night Hockey League, which involves the game (of course) but also a veritable locker room feast that Sutter prepares himself each week for his teammates.

Sutter’s love of hockey is contagious off campus, too. For each of his many ACI meetings, held in different cities across the country, where possible, Sutter manages to organize an ACI hockey game, which involves finding a rink nearby, recruiting 20 of his ACI colleagues, and playing, too. The game is followed by a reception and the event is always done as a fundraiser for the ACI Richard Stehly Scholarship with each game raising well over a thousand dollars to support the scholarship fund.

Tuesday Night Hockey League at Michigan Tech: first the game, then Larry’s homemade feast! (Larry is first on the lower left).

Sutter is a member of the National Academies Transportation Research Board, and the National Concrete Consortium. Both are leading venues for the dissemination of concrete research. He’s also a volunteer at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, something he has done for the past 42 years. 

So what are Sutter’s next steps after retirement?  “My plan is to do a lot more consulting now, with a strong focus on the development of sustainable concrete,” he says. “It’s time to give back.”

Making concrete stepping stones with fourth grade students (as a Mother’s Day gift) became an annual outreach event for Larry. “That was always a highlight of the year.”

Dr. Sutter generously answered our questions about himself and his plans for retirement.

Hometown?

I was raised in a small town Western New York called Perrysburg, about 50 miles south of Buffalo. I am #4 of six children, 3 brothers and two sisters

Why did you choose Michigan Tech?

Actually, Michigan Tech chose me. I came here in 1978 to install an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer in the Metallurgical Engineering department and while I was here I learned of a job opening in the electron microscope lab. I was looking for an opportunity to work at a university and continue my education, and I loved the small town environment of Houghton, so I applied for the job. I came to the interview in December of 1978, the record snow year. Professor Al Hendrickson picked me up at the airport with his VW bug and as we drove to town in that little car, with no heat, with snow banks 6 feet high on either side, I knew this was the place for me. Eventually I was hired, moved here in March of 1979, and so it began.

Part of the job you enjoyed most?

There were many highlights. Operating the electron microscopes, especially the electron microprobe, was a “gadgeteers” dream. That was and always will be the most fun and interesting job. But that wasn’t as professor or dean, that was as a research engineer.

Probably the highlight of my professor time was as director of the UTC. I worked with a very competent and resourceful staff person, Beth Hoy, and we did some very innovative things. We were able to fund a large number of students and we had numerous outreach programs to engage K12 students. Somewhere along that timeline we started making concrete stepping stones for a Mother’s Day present with 4th grade students. That was always a highlight of the year. The students would come, learn about microscopes, materials, and then get dirty making concrete.

Most rewarding aspect of your job?

Teaching in the School of Technology was rewarding as it was a two-year associates degree and I saw a lot of students that reminded me of myself at their age. The associates degree is a path into higher education that allows students to take an incremental step and prove to themselves that they can be successful. I saw so many students come in year one with the attitude that 6 months from now they will be a failure, only to find they like learning, and they can be successful in college, and by the end of year 2 they are looking at BS programs, or going to work with an associates degree and a much different career trajectory than would have been the case without the degree. I saw a lot of young people’s lives change for the better.

“If there is spare time, my first choice is to travel. I have a life goal of seeing every NHL team on their home ice at least once.” (Hopefully that includes at least a few destinations with beautiful beaches!)

Who were some of the people that influenced or helped you along the way?

In my time in the Metallurgical Engineering department as research engineer, the two influences were Professor Don Mikkola and Professor Duane Thayer. Don was the main reason I came to MTU. At one point I turned down the job offer and he called and talked me into coming; Don had a very convincing manner. Over the years he was always a supporter and a mentor, and a close personal friend. Duane Thayer was a major influence on my education and on my ultimate career path, and also a close personal friend. I became interested in the local copper history when I first came to Michigan Tech, and Duane, aka ‘Dewey’, filled in a lot of stories. I became interested in mineral processing/extractive metallurgy and that became my academic pursuit, under his tutelage. And for everyone reading this who was one of ‘Dewey’s Boys’ (and there were girls too), we all know we are in a special fraternity. Knowledge from that training is still serving me today as I work in the cement and concrete industry.

Plus, Dewey told me early on the secret of being a Yooper:  “Be the same way every day. Whatever you are, just be that way and don’t be changing on us.” 

Another major influence of mine came from another Dewey, Civil Engineering Professor George Dewey. He got me engaged in fly ash and concrete. Had he not supported me in my transition from research engineer to graduate student to faculty member, it never would have happened. He introduced me to ACI (the American Concrete Institute) and taught me much about how the construction industry works. His support early in my career was foundational. And more than anyone, he taught me how to write.

Last but not least, I worked with two professional staff, that without their skills, much of the research I led would not have had anywhere near the same level of impact. Those were Dr. Karl Peterson, who is now a professor at the University of Toronto, and Jerry Anzalone, now a successful entrepreneur and beachcomber in central California. Both were graduate students under my supervision at the time, but I received far more from them than I gave. Their laboratory skills and their work with students on the front lines made our research program successful.

Your biggest goal now?

My professional goal now is to be a contributor to making the cement and concrete industry carbon neutral by 2035. It is a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) but I feel strongly it can be done.

What will you do in your spare time? 

I don’t see a lot of spare time coming up in the near term. There are numerous professional activities I am involved in, to get the cement and concrete industry to carbon neutral. Plus I have leadership roles in ASTM and also in ACI, most notably as Chair of the Board for the new ACI Center of Excellence for Carbon Neutral Concrete (NEU). But if there is spare time, my first choice is to travel. I also have a life goal of seeing every NHL team on their home ice at least once. So far I have 16 of the 32 teams done. I’ve been to multiple arenas for some teams, like Detroit. I try to see a couple of teams each year. 

Larry as goalie.

What advice do you give to new students? New faculty?

My advice for new students: Put your phones away, listen to your professors, and read the book. And most importantly, ask questions. It will make them a better professor and it will help you understand that not every question has an answer, and for a young engineer that’s job security.

“With intelligent questions, not nonsense, drive your professor to the point where they say ‘I don’t know.'”

Larry Sutter

My advice for new faculty: Nothing is easy but everything is possible. Don’t take “No” for an answer and never forget the importance of the professional staff at the university. They are the cog that makes the machine work. Respect them and make them part of your team.

The College of Engineering and Michigan Tech are thankful for Dr Sutter’s leadership and friendship and wish him every happiness in his retirement!