Category: Education

Calling All Adventurous STEM Undergrads: What Are You Doing This Summer?

TECH SCEnE is short for Technology, Science and Community Engagement in Engineering. It’s a Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Are you a college student—tribal college, community college or university student—who wants to see your contributions make an impact?

Want to be part of a program structured to apply science and technology to benefit the community? 

How about a truly great way to spend eight weeks in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula this summer, expenses paid, along with a generous stipend of $4,800?

Check out the full details at mtu.edu/techscene. Then, be sure to apply by March 1, 2022.

Join us in Michigan’s gorgeous Upper Penninsula for TECH SCEnE, a Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates, funded by National Science Foundation (NSF).

TECH SCEnE is a program that combines STEM and engineering research with direct community involvement and impact. Stay on campus at Michigan Technological University. Go on amazing outdoor trips guided by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community KBIC Natural Resources Department. Do hands-on research on campus with your team, right alongside a faculty mentor.

Apply online for free. Women and students from underrepresented backgrounds are all encouraged to apply. Know anyone who might be interested? Please help spread the word!

Find full details about the program, the mentors, and the projects at techscene.mtu.edu

Note: all must apply to TECHSCEnE by March 1, 2022.


2022 Design Expo Registration Now Open

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

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

RSVP for Design Expo Today!

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

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

Social Hour and Awards Ceremony

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

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

Become a Judge

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

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

2022 Design Expo Website

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

By The Enterprise Program and College of Engineering.


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Melanie Watkins

Melanie Watkins
Melanie Watkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the Center for Teaching and Learning.


Kanwal Rekhi Receives Michigan Tech’s Highest Honor: Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction

Kanwal Rekhi talking with students at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo

Kanwal Rekhi, a visionary who routinely works to forward entrepreneurial skills and educational opportunities at Michigan Tech and around the world, received the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction during mid-year Commencement in December. The medal is awarded to individuals associated with Michigan Tech who, like its Nobel prize-winning namesake, have exhibited extraordinarily distinguished professional and personal accomplishments. Rekhi, who earned his master’s in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969, is managing director of Inventus Capital Partners in California.

The native of Punjab, in what was then British India (now Pakistan), earned a master’s in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969. In the more than half a century since his time on campus, MTU has never been far from Rekhi’s thoughts–and generosity.

After leaving Michigan Tech, Rekhi worked as an engineer and manager before becoming an entrepreneur. In 1982, he co-founded Excelan, a company that made Ethernet cards to connect PCs to the fledgling Internet. Excelean became the first Indian-owned company to go public in the U.S. In the early 90s, he became a venture capitalist investing in more than 50 startups and sitting on the board of directors of more than 20 companies.

In the past few decades, Rekhi has been a tireless supporter and benefactor to Michigan Tech. He developed and funded the Rekhi Innovation Challenge, a crowdfunding competition to help promote and support student innovation. He provided major funding for the Silicon Valley Experience, an immersive tour during spring break of San Francisco area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni, and is a sponsor of the 14 Floors Entrepreneur Alumni Mentoring Sessions.

Additionally, every student who has walked the Michigan Tech campus in the past 15 years has passed the Kanwal and Ann Rekhi Computer Science Hall, dedicated in April of 2005.

The Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction is bestowed on individuals associated with the University who have exhibited especially distinguished professional and personal accomplishments. It is named for 1931 Michigan Tech alumnus Melvin Calvin, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for unraveling the biochemical secrets of photosynthesis. The series of biochemical reactions Calvin identified is known as the Calvin Cycle.

“Kanwal and his accomplishments epitomize the values we share as an institution. His passion for Michigan Tech is unparalleled and he is most deserving of this award.”

Rick Koubek, President, Michigan Technological University

While the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction is Michigan Tech’s highest honor, it is far from the first recognition the University has given Rekhi. He has received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Board of Control Silver Medal, an honorary Doctorate in Business and Engineering, and was inducted into the Electrical Engineering Academy.


Husky Bites Starts Up Again on Monday, January 24!

Join us for a Bite!

Craving some brain food, but not a full meal? Join us for a bite at mtu.edu/huskybites!

Grab some dinner with College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan and special guests at 6 p.m. (ET) each Monday during Husky Bites, a free interactive Zoom webinar, followed by Q&A. Have some fun, and learn something new. Everyone is welcome!

Husky Bites is a free family-friendly webinar that nourishes your mind. The Spring 2022 series kicks off this Monday (January 24) with “Winter Carnival—One Hundred Years,” presented by University Archivist and alumna Lindsay Hiltunen. From queens to cookouts, snow statues to snowballs, skating reviews to dog sled races, discover the history of Winter Carnival across the decades, through rich images of fun and festivities via the Michigan Tech Archives. Joining in will be mechanical engineering alumna Cynthia Hodges, who serves as a Wikipedian in Residence (WiR) for Michigan Tech. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, she is organizing a Winter Carnival Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, and alumni and students are welcome to help. 

Check out the full Spring 2022 “menu” at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Dean Callahan. “We aim to make it very interactive, with ‘quizzes’ (in Zoom that’s a multiple choice poll) during the session. Everyone is welcome, and bound to learn something new. Entire families enjoy it. We have prizes, too, for attendance.” 

The series features special guests—engineering professors, students, and even some Michigan Tech alumni, who each share a mini lecture, or “bite”. During Husky Bites, special guests also weave in their own personal journey in engineering, science and more.

Have you joined us yet for Husky Bites? We’d love to hear from you. Join Husky Bites a little early on Zoom, starting at 5:45 pm, for some extra conversation. Write your comments, questions or feedback in Chat. Or stay after for the Q&A. Sometimes faculty get more than 50 questions, but they do their best to answer them all, either during the session, or after, via email.

“Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. This family friendly event is BYOC (Bring Your Own Curiosity).”

Dean Janet Callahan

Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites. Check out past sessions, there, too. You can also catch Husky Bites on the College of Engineering Facebook page.


Tau Beta Pi Inducts 15 New Members at Michigan Tech

Congratulations to our Fall 2021 Tau Beta Pi Initiates! (Not pictured here: Andrew Scott and Dr. Mary Raber)

The College of Engineering recently inducted 14 students and one eminent engineer into the Michigan Tech chapter of Tau Beta Pi.

Tau Beta Pi is a nationally recognized engineering honor society and is the only one that recognizes all engineering professions. Students who join are the top 1/8th of their junior class, top 1/5th of their senior class, or the top 1/5th of graduate students who have completed 50% of their coursework. The society celebrates those who have distinguished scholarship and exemplary character, and members strive to maintain integrity and excellence in engineering.

Mary Raber is Chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Engineering Fundamentals

Fall 2021 Initiates

Undergraduate Students: Dom Bianchi, Mechanical Engineering; Sean Bonner, Civil Engineering; Sam Breuer, Computer & Electrical Engineering; Sophia Brylinski, Materials Science & Engineering; Spencer Crawford, Computer Engineering; Jacqui Foreman, Chemical Engineering; Stephen Gillman, Computer Engineering; Michael Kilmer, Materials Science & Engineering; Emerald Mehler, Chemical Engineering; Ben Stier, Computer Engineering; Alex Stockman, Computer Engineering; and Jordan Zais, Biomedical Engineering

Graduate Students: Tonie Johnson, MS, Biomedical Engineering; and Andrew Scott, MS Electrical & Computer Engineering

Eminent Engineer

Dr. Mary Raber


Tinu Folayan Welcomed as Write-D Facilitator

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

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

Current departments and facilitators include:

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

By Sarah Isaacson, Write-D Coordinator.


Robert Nemiroff: NASA’s Best Space Images

A detailed view of the Cat’s Eye Nebula. Observations suggest that each ring, or dust shell, around this nebula took about 1,500 years to form. Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

Robert Nemiroff shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 22 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Michigan Tech University Physics Professor Robert Nemiroff

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/22 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Robert Nemiroff, University Professor of Physics at Michigan Tech. He’s a leading researcher both nationally and internationally in the field of gravitational lensing and gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Joining in will be Alice Allen, Faculty Specialist in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park. 

During Husky Bites, Nemiroff and Allen will share stories and science behind the best space images and videos on one of NASA’s most popular websites: APOD: Astronomy Picture of the Day.

“I like this amazing image of the F ring of Saturn,” says Allen. Cassini spacecraft image of Saturn’s moon Prometheus, having perturbed the planet’s thin F ring, moves away as it continues in its orbit. [Prometheus Creating Saturn Ring Streamers / Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA]

Nemiroff co-created and leads APOD, which is translated by volunteers into 20 languages daily, accessed over 1 million times per day on average and has a massive number of followers on Facebook (about 400,000), Instagram (about 800,000) and Twitter (about 1 million). 

Back when the site was launched in 1995, Allen quickly became a fan. “Alice used to send in interesting email comments to APOD,” Nemiroff recalls. “She then volunteered to help out and soon took expert care of APOD’s discussion board and Facebook page.” It was something she did in her spare time, evenings and weekends—in addition to her day job as an IT expert working in Washington, DC.

“This is one of my favorite astro images,” says Allen. It’s a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 124). Judy’s image of it is particularly stunning.” Visible at the center and spanning six light years across, the star creates the surrounding nebula. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Judy Schmidt

About four years after starting APOD, Nemiroff co-created the Astrophysics Source Code Library (ASCL), an open repository of astro research software housed at Michigan Tech. It now lists over 2,500 codes.

“Alice agreed to take over the editorial duties of the Astrophysics Source Code Library in 2010, as editor in chief,” adds Nemiroff. “She has done a fantastic job—growing the ASCL into a major force for transparent science in astrophysics.”

Before coming to Michigan Tech, Nemiroff worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. That’s when Nemiroff and NASA astrophysicist Jerry Bonnell first started APOD on the NASA website. “We did it partly to provide accurate information about the multitude of astronomical images that were circulating on the Internet, partly just for the fun of sharing the wonder of the cosmos,” Nemiroff says. Back then, “NASA didn’t bother much with the web.” For their work on APOD, Nemiroff and Bonnell won the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Klumpke-Roberts Award in 2015 “for outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.”

“During the Fall 2020 semester, the first student to see the cat in my Zoom background during a lecture was eligible to receive a free KitKat bar,” say Prof. Nemiroff.

APOD and ASCL are side gigs for Nemiroff, as well. He, too, has his day job as a University Professor of Physics at Michigan Tech. Early in his tenure, Nemiroff led a group that developed and deployed the first online fisheye night sky monitor, called CONCAMs. They deployed later models to most major astronomical observatories around the world. Through Nemiroff’s efforts, Michigan Tech acquired one of the largest telescopes available exclusively for student use, too.

Today, Nemiroff is perhaps best known scientifically for predicting recovered microlensing phenomena, and for first showing, along with others, that gamma-ray bursts are consistent with occurring xx at cosmological distances. “Microlensing uses the mass of stars to act as giant gravitational telescopes on randomly-aligning background stars and quasars. Much has been learned from microlensing—for example, about the mass distribution in the universe,” Nemiroff explains.

Another one of his current research interests involves limiting attributes of our universe with distant gamma-ray bursts (aka GRB). “Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known and it is now established that they are the only explosions that can be seen in the early universe,” he says. Nemiroff uses GRBs to probe how known local properties of physics hold up along these great distances.

As for Allen, one of her first jobs out of college was as a programmer. She stayed in IT her whole career and retired four years ago. “I missed science, however, and a few years before retiring is when I drifted into working in astronomy in my free time,” she says. Allen’s hobby soon turned into a faculty appointment in the Astronomy department at the University of Maryland.

Join us at Husky Bites to learn more. Everyone’s welcome. Be sure to bring your questions, too! Both Prof. Nemiroff and Ms. Allen are looking forward to the Q&A.

What creates a STEVE (a Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement, not an aurora)? This one is over Copper Harbor, Michigan. We’ll find out during Husky Bites. Image Credit & Copyright: MaryBeth Kiczenski

Prof. Nemiroff, how did you first get involved in science? What sparked your interest?

I have been interested in physics and astronomy since grade school. In second grade I demonstrated my interest by saying the names of the planets faster than anyone else in my class—back then that included Pluto!

Prof. Nemiroff and his family enjoy a hike along the Sturgeon River, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Hometown and family?

I grew up in Upper Moreland and Abington, both suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My wife Holly works in the Portage Lake District Library. My daughter Eva studies writing at Sarah Lawrence College just north of New York City. 

Any hobbies? Pets? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a frequent player of noontime basketball in the SDC, known informally as “noonball”. (By coincidence, two other noonballers also spoke on Husky Bites this semester.) I am also a perennial season ticket holder to Michigan Tech’s basketball games. As far as pets go, our family has had as many as three cats, but now we are down to one.

“The hobby I spend the most time on is astronomy,” says Alice Allen. “We have the BEST solar system!!” (Pictured, Alice at her previous job in IT.)

Ms. Allen, how did you first get involved in science? What sparked your interest? 

My father worked at NASA, so there was space program talk at home, and my engineer-by-birth older brother was probably an early influence, too. Explosions that blow out the basement windows kind of catch a little sister’s attention. The natural world and science in general were always interesting to me. My academic background is actually biology. When I was a kid, I’d spend my Christmas money on models of the human body/body parts (including one similar to this Pumping Heart). I took all the bio I could when in high school, including microbiology and genetics. I had a chemistry set, and I begged for a telescope and eventually got one. 

Family and hometown?

I was born in Washington, DC and live in the Maryland suburbs of DC. I have one son; he lives in the Virginia suburbs of DC and is a senior software engineer.

Now this is one very cute tuxedo cat.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

The hobby I spend the most time on is astronomy; APOD is a fantastic resource for viewing and learning about the universe and really cool things we can all see just by looking up! In addition to working on the Astrophysics Source Code Library (ASCL), I’m involved in various efforts to improve research software and restore openness to science. I also like biking, reading, classical music, bird and nature-watching, and travel. I currently have one very cute tuxedo cat. 

Read more: 

The Best of the Best: 15 Years of the Astronomy Picture of the Day

The code librarian

In Search of … Time Travelers

Toward a continuous record of the sky


Alumni Gift of Advanced 3D Metal Printer Now Up and Running at Michigan Tech

One of the first test prints on Michigan Tech’s new 3D metal printer: intricate little fish.

A gift from Alumni, Michigan Tech’s highly-advanced 3D metal printer—a 3D Systems ProX350—arrived last March. It’s now up and running, able to process 11 unique metals, including bio-grade titanium (for biomedical applications), cobalt and chromium, several types of stainless steel, and more. With a resolution of 5 microns, this new large printer is state-of-the-art. 

Obtaining the new 3D printer was made possible by the generosity of Michigan Tech alumni. ME-EM Department Chair Bill Predebon received a 20 percent discount on the $875K system from Scarlett Inc. The owner of Scarlett Inc, Jim Scarlett, is a mechanical engineering alumnus. 

In addition to Scarlett, several other alumni donors pitched in. One anonymous donor provided over $600K , and five others have made up the difference to meet the full cost of $673K. Those five are: Ron Starr, John Drake, Frank Agusti, Todd Fernstrum, and Victor Swanson.

ME-EM department chair Bill Predebon and mechanical engineering alum Jim Scarlett

“Very few universities have a 3D metal printer of this quality and versatility,” says Predebon. “It is one of the most accurate metal 3D printers available. With approximately a 1-ft. cube size billet, which is an impressive size billet, you can make a full-size or scaled-down version of just about anything,” says Predebon.

“We can use our own metal powders, as well,” adds Predebon. “That’s a huge plus. Michigan Tech researchers, particularly those focused on materials development, can use the printer to deposit experimental metal compositions to produce unique metal alloys customized specifically for the 3D printing process.”

Faculty and graduate students at Michigan Tech will have access to the 3D metal printer for research projects. Undergraduate students working on senior design projects and student-run Enterprise teams will, too.

The process is direct metal printing, or DMP, and it’s a type of additive manufacturing, Predebon explains. “You start with metal powders, and from those you create the final metal part. You’re adding a material—in this case, metal—bit by bit. Traditional manufacturing is all about subtracting: taking metal away to make a part. This is the inverse, and it’s a game changer. You can do so much more this way.”

“For many industries—including medical, automotive and aerospace—3D metal printing is a game changer. Here on campus it will be a game changer for Michigan Tech faculty and students, too.” 

William Predebon, Chair, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Very few universities yet have a system with this sophistication and quality, notes Predebon. 

The benefit for Michigan Tech students, Predebon says, is competitive advantage. “When our students interview for a job, they will be able to communicate how they’ve been able to produce parts in a way very similar to what industry is doing. Some companies have metal 3D printers worth millions of dollars. In industry, engineers can use one of those to print out an entire engine block,” he says. “When Michigan Tech graduates see one on out in industry, the 3D metal printer might be larger, but they will already be familiar with the type of system.”

According to Materials Science and Engineering Professor Steve Kampe, development of additive manufacturing of metals represents a huge opportunity that will be prominent in manufacturing for generations to come. “It is a transformative technology in engineering,” says Kampe. “Using 3D printing to create metallic components poses huge challenges; but the potential benefits are enormous.”

“Metal additive manufacturing along with polymer additive processes are industry 4.0 topics included in Michigan Tech’s online graduate certificate in Manufacturing Engineering,” adds Professor John Irwin, chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology. “It is very fortunate for us to have this metal 3D printer here on campus. We’ll use it to demonstrate additive manufacturing design principles and view product purpose: form, fit, and function. 

Michigan Tech’s new metal 3D printer is located on campus in the Minerals and Materials Engineering (M&M) Building. The location in Room 117, is near several other 3D polymer printers. For more information on using the new printer, contact MSE Research Engineer Russ Stein.

Take A Virtual Tour of Our 3D Metal Printer

https://www.mtu.edu/unscripted/2021/10/be-brief-metal.html


Innovators in Industry: Future of Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility

Michigan Tech is excited to launch Innovators in Industry: a project connecting students with MTU alumni who are industry experts, leaders, and influencers.

The initial three-part series kicks off on Monday, October 25 at 7 pm with a session titled, “The Future of Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility.”

Featured alumni for the session will be Sean Kelley ‘86 of the Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., an engineering and environmental sciences consulting firm; Mark Rakoski ‘95, of Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America Inc.; and Birgit Sorgenfrei ’91 of Ford Motor Company.

Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering, will host the first session. Jeremy Bos, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (and also an alum) will serve as co-moderator. Bos earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2000 and a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Optics in 2012. He serves as advisor to Michigan Tech students taking part in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge.

The featured alumni will make short presentations with time for Q&A from the audience. All Michigan Tech students, faculty, and staff are invited to join the Zoom session.

During the session Sorgenfrei, Kelley, and Rakoski will discuss the future of autonomous automobiles and their design, and the design of the infrastructure with which those automobiles will need to communicate.

If the three alums could each go back in time, what would they have strived to learn while at Michigan Tech? They’ll share those insights with us, and provide valuable advice for students—those due to graduate soon, and in the next few years.

“Cars are some of the most complicated things out there, more complicated than jets or commercial aircraft. They’re basically really smart computers that move and let people get inside them.”

Sean Kelley

Sean Kelley is senior vice president and principal with the Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., a 370-person engineering and environmental sciences consulting firm with 15 offices in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia. He earned a BS in Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech, and an MBA at Eastern Michigan University. He’s a registered Professional Engineer in both Michigan and Ohio.

Sean Kelley (’86 Civil Engineering), Mannik & Smith Group, Inc.

Kelley has led the development of infrastructure for closed-system test facilities to advance smart mobility technology, including three of the most significant facilities in the Midwest: University of Michigan’s Mcity in Ann Arbor; the American Center for Mobility located 30 minutes west of Detroit and the Transportation Research Center located at Honda’s North American test center in Central Ohio.  

He’s a recognized leader in the engineering consulting industry in Michigan. His focus on both the public and private sectors allows him to understand and appreciate the challenges associated with creating and maintaining a well-functioning and sustainable infrastructure to support a high quality of life for everyone. Kelley is often a featured speaker at conferences related to transportation and smart mobility. He has two grown children—Morgan and Aaron—who share his passion for learning and helping to advance humanity and a healthier planet.  

“Today there seems to be a huge disruption in the deeply embedded culture of the automotive industry: in order to get a common platform for smart mobility, there really has to be a lot more sharing and working together.”

Mark Rakoski

Mark Rakoski is VP, Advanced Engineering at Mitsubishi Electric. He joined the company in 1996 as an application engineer, soon after earning his BS in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech. Over the course of his career, he has served the company in various capacities, including as senior account manager for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and director and executive director for both the FCA and Ford accounts. 

Mark Rakoski (Mechanical Engineering ’95), Mitsubishi Electric

In his current position Rakoski is responsible for leading product development engineering teams for vehicle connectivity, autonomous sharing and electric solutions, and Mobility-as-a-Service—with specific focus on infotainment and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). 

In 2020, Rakoski was appointed to the Mitsubishi Electric Mobility Ventures (MEMO Ventures) Board. MEMO Ventures explores and funds ideas to create new business opportunities for the company’s Automotive Equipment Group (AEG) in the rapidly evolving mobility sector.

Rakoski is also responsible for Silicon Valley new ventures team management, contract negotiations, marketing and global strategic accounts management. He resides in South Lyon, Michigan. 

“The auto industry has been assisting our customers while behind the wheel for years, starting with the introduction of cruise control in 1948. Working in Driver Assist Technology is exciting, as the technologies leading to self-driving vehicles are available to customers now to increase safety and convenience.”

Birgit Sorgenfrei (EE ’91) Ford Motor Company
Birgit Sorgenfrei (Electrical Engineering ’91) Ford Motor Company

Birgit Sorgenfrei is currently a Driver Assist Technology Applications Lead at Ford Motor Company. She was previously Electrical Lead for Lincoln & Ford Programs, as well as a systems manager responsible for Autonomous Vehicle integration and advanced features for electrified vehicles. Her more than 20-year career at Ford includes research on sensors for electrical power assist steering systems, component and system radio design, vehicle planning, hybrid battery software delivery, fuel cell technology development, and the introduction of StartStop Technology to North America. Previously, she worked for General Electric, Johnson Controls Inc., IBM, General Motors, and internationally for Schlumberger Industries in France, the University of Hanover in Germany, and Ford Motor Company in England and Germany. Sorgenfrei earned her BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 1991, graduating summa cum laude. She then earned a MSEE degree from MIT, and later an MBA from the University of Michigan.


Other upcoming sessions of Innovators in Industry include:

Monday, November 1 – The Computing Revolution (hosted by the College of Computing)

Monday, November 8 – Entrepreneurship: Startups & Venture Capital (hosted by the College of Business)

All sessions will begin at 7 p.m. on Zoom.

The series is organized by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Innovators in Industry aims to give students direct access to industry leaders to help shape their paths. Future plans for the Innovators in Industry series include in-person sessions and on-location visits for students to industry hubs.