Category: Education

Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Smitha Rao

Smitha Rao
Smitha Rao

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Smitha Rao, assistant professor in Biomedical Engineering, as our eighth spring 2021 Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Rao was selected for her extensive recruiting and supervision of undergraduates in student research. She has four to five undergraduate students each year that she mentors in her lab. Three of her students have won the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Award and she has participated in the Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP) six times. Both of these programs run out of the Pavlis Honors College.

Her approach to mentoring in her words is that she wants students to seek and gain a sense of accomplishment and ownership, to develop confidence in their own abilities, and — in the process — contribute to science. She likes to get undergraduates involved in topics that are of interest to them, so their efforts take on a deeper personal meaning. She sees mentoring undergraduate students as an opportunity to train the next generation of engineers while honing her own skills.

The results? Rao’s description of her work speaks for itself: “Out of the 20 plus students that I directly mentored either as an advisor or as an instructor, about 10 are in graduate school. One student from my lab was recently offered a full fellowship to pursue a PhD at a different university. I typically have about four to five undergraduate students each semester. However, this year I have 9 undergrad students (freshman through senior).”

Rao’s mentoring does not stop at just teaching them fundamental lab skills. She encourages them to participate in different events from competitions to conferences, provides them information relevant to their own interests, and continues to offer guidance as they gain independence in their own research projects. Many of them become co-authors on papers describing the research they help with and some have stayed on for graduate school. Several of her undergraduate students continue to remain in touch with her even after they graduated. She often discusses with students their future goals and expectations, offering them information about different ways to define and achieve success. Most importantly, she encourages leadership and independence. Students are encouraged to explore their interests, invest time and effort in their work, mentor others and enjoy their work.

She extends this approach to her teaching as well, peppering students with difficult challenges, coaxing responses, and sharing a laugh with over-the-top examples used to illustrate a point. In one student’s words, “When starting the Biomedical Engineering program in 2014, I was not expecting to build a relationship with any of the professors in the department. That all changed in the fall of 2016 when I took one of Dr. Rao’s classes. From there, so many doors of opportunity were opened for me just by reaching out to Dr. Rao. I was fortunate enough to work alongside her in her research lab gaining incredible experience in research. She was one of the most enthusiastic professors I had during my time at Michigan Tech and I attribute a lot of my success thus far to her guidance. During my last year, Dr. Rao helped revamp my resume, prepare me for interviews, and was excited to be a part of the process of helping me start my career. I will never forget when I got the call of being offered my dream job during a meeting with her and she was jumping up and down just as much as I was. Dr. Rao is truly a one-of-a-kind professor and person, I am so honored and thankful to have worked with her and continue to connect with her.”

A second student agrees that Rao’s mentoring extends to the classroom, saying “Dr. Rao’s mentorship of undergraduate students has been exemplary, giving students hands-on experience at applying exactly what they are learning in class towards solving real-world problems related to improving human health. Meaningful undergraduate research is part of the culture in our department and Dr. Rao has certainly promoted this important piece in the education of the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

Dean Callahan’s choice especially valued how seriously Rao takes mentoring. In her words, “Dr. Rao’s emphasis on hands-on science is inspirational. And in the classroom, she is well-known for engaging students with their learning. Working with students is her passion.”

Rao will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

By Michael R. Meyer, William G. Jackson CTL.


Chee-Wooi Ten: Ahead of the Cybersecurity Curve

The Night Lights of the United States (as seen from space). Credit: NASA/GSFC.

Chee-Wooi Ten shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 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.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/22 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Chee-Wooi Ten, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. His focus: power engineering cybersecurity.

Associate Professor Chee-Wooi Ten at Michigan Tech

“For many years as a power system engineer, we referred to ‘security’ as the power outage contingency subject to weather-related threats,” says Ten. “The redefined security we need today, cybersecurity, is an emerging field on its own, one that works synergistically with security systems engineers.”

Joining in will be Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Junho Hong from the University of Michigan Dearborn. He is a power engineer, and a cybersecurity colleague and a longtime friend of Dr. Ten’s.

In an era of cyberwarfare, the power grid is a high-voltage target. Ten and Hong both want to better protect it. 

At issue are electrical substations, which serve as intersections in the nation’s power system. Because they play such a key role in our infrastructure, substations could be attractive targets. 

Assistant Professor Junho Hong, University of Michigan Dearborn. His research areas include Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Power Electronics, and Energy Systems.

A physical attack could damage parts of the grid, but a cyberattack to interconnection substations could cripple the entire system simultaneously. 

Some power companies remain reluctant to fully implement electronic control systems because they could compromise security. “This is a controversial issue for most utilities,” said Ten. “If the substation network is compromised, the grid will be vulnerable. If hackers know what they are doing, that could result in a major blackout.“

With better security from cyberattacks, companies could use Internet Protocol (IP) communications to manage electronic control systems. “It would be faster, more efficient, and more economical, too,” says Ten. 

However, IP has a disadvantage: hackers are notoriously resourceful at breaking into IP networks, even when they are protected by firewalls.

Still, solutions to IP problems can be found, says Ten.

“Let’s say you check your front door once a day to make sure it is locked. Does that mean your house is secure? Probably not. Just because your door is locked doesn’t mean someone can’t get in. But if you put a camera in front of your house with incoming motion data to determine if there is movement around your house, you have more data so security can be better assessed.” 

““The key word, says Ten: “Interconnected.”

The power grid is too big, so we need to simulate cyberattacks to see what happens, adds Ten. “When it comes to power system research, data is really sensitive, and cybersecurity clearance requirements make it hard to get data. That is why simulations are important. We try to make simulations as close as possible to real systems. That we can ‘try out cyber attacks’ and see the impacts.

Running simulations saves utility companies time and money, and helps them prepare for the cascading effects of such an event, adds Ten. “We can emulate the real world without constructing the real thing, something called the ‘digital twin’.”

“We can solve the problems of cybersecurity by understanding them first. Then, we can apply analytical methods to deal with those problems.”

– Chee-Wooi Ten

Ten works with government agencies, power companies, and the vendors that provide products used to strengthen substations’ cybersecurity framework. By collaborating with all the stakeholders, he aims to transform the energy industry by improving efficiency, reliability and security, both in the power grid and cyberspace. No single vendor can do everything; it has to be synergistic,” says Ten.

It’s true: hypothetical impact analysis scenarios are a lot like one scene in the movie, Avengers. Dr. Ten will explain at Husky Bites!

Professor Ten, how did you first get involved in engineering. What sparked your interest?

I actually did not do well academically in high school. I was obsessed with computers. My dad had some money to sponsor my studies in the US. And since computers were invented in the US, I wanted to be part of that, so I went to Iowa State University. In Fall 1997, the Asian economic crisis hit and affected my studies, so I changed my major to power engineering, in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. When I look back, I have billionaire George Soros to thank. (Many people feel his aggressive Asian currency trades were to blame.) The power engineering program at Iowa State was one of the most historically established programs in the US. I was able to get involved in undergraduate research, with mentoring from a professor who taught me a great deal.

Family and hobbies?

I was born in Malaysia and was recently naturalized as a US citizen. My ethnicity is actually Chinese. My grandparents came to Malaysia from China early in the 20th century due to war and hunger, to pursue happiness. My brother is an engineer, too. My dad didn’t finish his university studies. I am the only one in our family with a doctorate degree.  My parents sent me to a foreign country to get a taste of life. (Imagine, I did not know how to speak English and had to relearn everything in the US!) I would not be who I am today had I stayed in Malaysia.

I’ve been living in Houghton now for about 11 years. My newest hobby is downhill skiing with my daughter. She’ll be turning 9 soon. Our ski hill, Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley, is just 10 minutes from down the road.

Professor Hong, how did you first get involved in engineering? What sparked your interest? 

“In South Korea, two years of military service is a requirement after graduating from high school,” says Dr. Junho Hong. “Before going to college I served two years in the Navy, and learned a lot about technology on Navy ships.”

When I got to college, computer science was a hot topic but I wanted to better understand electricity. Without electricity how can we have technology? So, I chose electrical engineering. After graduation, I started looking at the much bigger work going on outside my country. I decided to earn my PhD. That’s how I met Chee-Wooi. We both studied at the University College Dublin in Ireland. We had the same doctorate advisor, Professor Chen-Ching Liu.

Dr. Hong (r) with his graduate advisor at Washington State University, Dr. Chen-Ching-Liu (l). Dr. Liu was also Dr. Ten’s PhD advisor at Washington State University. A world traveler, Dr. Liu is now at Virginia Tech. He was recently named a member of the US National Academy of Engineering in 2020 for his contributions to computational methods for power system restoration and cybersecurity.

Family and hobbies?

Before the pandemic, I used to go swimming at least once a day. Right now I’m doing a lot of training, instead. I’ve got equipment in my home—for cycling, weight training and working out. My wife and two kids are in South Korea for the time being. Early in the pandemic, my wife had some medical issues, and with hospitals here in Southeast Michigan overwhelmed with Covid patients, she had to go back home for medical treatment. It’s been hard to endure. I miss them greatly! My son and daughter are 9 and 6. 


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Jeremy Shannon

Jeremy Shannon
Jeremy Shannon

The College of Engineering has selected Jeremy Shannon, principal lecturer in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES), for this week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Dean Janet Callahan selected him for teaching excellence in a field course.

Shannon joined GMES as a lecturer in 2007. He teaches a variety of courses throughout the year including Understanding the Earth (GE2000), a large course that is taken by many non-major students. Department Chair Aleksey Smirnov (GMES) says “Dr. Shannon provides a vital contribution to GMES undergraduate instruction and advising. He is an outstanding instructor and an impactful and trusted mentor.”

One of Shannon’s favorite courses is Field Geophysics (GE3900), a summer, a five-credit course required for Geological Engineering, Geology, and Applied Geophysics majors. Most geoscience programs only require a field geology course, so this class provides an extremely unique, hands-on experience for GMES students. The five-week-long class is set up like a consulting job with weekly projects. Each project uses a different geophysical technique, or a combination thereof, with specified goals. As one student put it, “Jeremy had an innate ability to connect with us all, especially on field trips. He utilized more field visits than any other professor I had at Tech. This gave me real-life scenarios and examples to help cement concepts I had learned in the classroom.”

A typical week involves fieldwork, the reduction, interpretation and modeling of data, and a final written report or oral presentation. Shannon worked for a few years in environmental consulting and likes that he can share with students his own experiences that mimic the format of this class, especially the report writing. This class offers one of the best opportunities in the GMES curriculum for practice in scientific writing, an invaluable skill that will translate directly for students that either choose employment or decide on graduate school. A recent alumnus observed that Shannon made sure the students also “focused on the hard work that occurred back in the classroom completing the reports to improve students’ report writing skills. Jeremy had very high standards for the reports. His resolve in consistent writing and proper formatting for all reports significantly influenced my use of proper documentation, even today.”

Shannon is an MTU alumnus and took the Field Geophysics class as an undergraduate in the summer of 1992. He was honored to take over the class in 2007 from his former professor and mentor Dr. Jimmy Diehl, who taught it for 25 years. He has continued and built upon this legacy to deliver a unique field experience to GMES students. In particular, Shannon has proactively worked to upgrade the geophysical equipment which is typically expensive. Over the last several years, with the help of departmental, alumni, and C2E2 funding, new seismic refraction and ground-penetrating radar systems were purchased. Other equipment includes magnetometers, electrical resistivity meters, electromagnetic instruments, and one precious gravity meter. And he makes using the equipment fun. Another student said, “Jeremy helps students to see the joy in fieldwork. He makes it exciting to see seismic waves be recorded by a geophone, or he encourages us to be patient in aligning the gravimeter.”

The class projects typically target objects or structures within tens of meters below the surface. The projects include determining depth to bedrock and water table, mapping contacts between different rock types, or locating buried metallic and non-metallic objects on the site of a Calumet & Hecla stamp mill in Lake Linden. About five years ago, Shannon collaborated with the Michigan DNR and had the class perform geophysical surveys to delineate a buried bedrock valley near McLain State Park. There is no definite surface expression of the valley as it is filled with glacial till, but a gravity survey showed that the ~3 km wide and 200 meters deep valley trends to the north through a portion of the park. The absence of bedrock near the surface where the valley is located is precisely the location where significant beach erosion is taking place. These results became part of the decision-making process, which resulted in the recent restructuring of the park layout.

Dean Callahan summarizes: “Shannon’s dedication to continually improve the field course provides a unique learning environment for our students in which they develop skills that they will use throughout their careers. He is very deserving of this recognition.”

Shannon will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer), recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Written by Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.


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



Simon Carn: Sniffing Volcanoes from Space

Lava Lake on Mount Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo credit: Simon Carn

Simon Carn shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 15 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/15 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Volcanologist Simon Carn, Professor, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Also joining in will be GMES Research Professor Bill Rose, one of the first in volcanology to embrace satellite data to study volcanic emissions and is a well-recognized leader in the field. 

Professor Simon Carn in the field at Kilauea volcano (Hawaii) in 2018 (with lava in the background).

Prof. Carn studies carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanoes, using remote sensing via satellite.

His goal: improved monitoring of volcanic eruptions, human health risks and climate processes—one volcanic breath at a time.

“Volcanology—the study of volcanoes—is a truly multidisciplinary endeavor that encompasses numerous fields including geology, physics, chemistry, material science and social science,” says Carn.  

Carn applies remote sensing data to understand the environmental impacts of volcanic eruption clouds, volcanic degassing, and human created pollution, too.

“Sulfur dioxide, SO2, plays an important role in the atmosphere,” he says. “SO2 can cause negative climate forcing. It also impacts cloud microphysics.” 

Professor Bill Rose

Many individual particles make up a cloud, so small they exist on the microscale. A cloud’s individual microstructure determines its behavior, whether it can produce rain or snow, for instance, or affect the Earth’s radiation balance.

“During Husky Bites I’ll discuss volcanic eruptions and their climate impacts, he says. “I’ll describe the satellite imagery techniques, and talk about the unique things we can measure from space.”

Carn was a leading scientist in an effort to apply sensors on NASA satellites, forming what is called the Afternoon Constellation or ‘A-Train’ to Earth observations. “The A-Train is a coordinated group of satellites in a polar orbit, crossing the equator within seconds to minutes of each other,” he explains. “This allows for near-simultaneous observations.”

Volcanic glow in Ambrym, volcanic island in Malampa Province in the archipelago of Vanuatu. Photo credit: Simon Carn

The amount of geophysical data collected from space—and the ground—has increased exponentially over the past few years,” he says. “Our computational capacity to process the data and construct numerical models of volcanic processes has also increased. As a result, our understanding of the potential impacts of volcanoes has significantly advanced.”

That said, “Accurate prediction of volcanic eruptions is a significant challenge, and will remain so until we can increase the number of global volcanoes that are intensively monitored.”

Carn is a member of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, and the American Geophysical Union. He served on a National Academy of Sciences Committee on Improving Understanding of Volcanic Eruptions.

Here’s another look at Ambrym. Photo credit: Simon Carn

Carn has taught, lectured and supervised students at Michigan Tech since 2008 and around the world since 1994 at the International Volcanological Field School in Russia, Cambridge University, the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and at international workshops in France, Italy, Iceland, Indonesia, Singapore and Costa Rica.

“After finishing my PhD in the UK, I worked on the island of Montserrat (West Indies) for several months monitoring the active Soufriere Hills volcano. This got me interested in the use of remote sensing techniques for monitoring volcanic gas emissions. I then moved to the US for a postdoc at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, using satellite data to measure volcanic emissions.

Dr. Carn during a research trip to Vanuatu in 2014. The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, home to several active volcanoes.

While there, I started collaborating with the Michigan Tech volcanology group, including Dr. Bill Rose.”

Rose, a research professor in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech, was once the department chair, from 1991-98.

 “Houghton, where Michigan Tech is located, is really an important place for copper in the world,” he says. There is a strong relationship between the copper mines here and volcanoes. We live on black rocks that go through the city and campus, some jutting up over the ground. Those rocks, basalt, are big lava flows, the result of a massive volcanic eruption, a giant Iceland-style event.”

“Arguably, Michigan Tech owes its beginning to volcanic activity, which is ultimately responsible for the area’s rich copper deposits and the development of mining in the Keweenaw,” he says.

“I was very much aware of the volcanic context when I arrived in Houghton as a young professor,” adds Rose. “I had a dual major in geography and geology, but the chance to work in an engineering department sounded good to me. It gave me a chance to go outside, working hands-on in the field.”

Rose did everything he could to get his students to places where they could be immersed in science. For many geology graduates, those trips were the highlight of their Michigan Tech education.

“This is a view of our helicopter landing in the crater at El Chichon, Mexico,” says Prof. Bill Rose. “Simon asked me to share this image and talk about it during Husky Bites.”

“I always took students with me on trips,” says Rose. “That was my priority. After all, the best geoscientists have seen the most rocks. We went all over the world, looking at volcanoes, doing research, and going to meetings,” he says. “I usually took more students with me than I had money for.”

“Back in the late 1980s, this photo was taken in the field in Guatemala (note the chicken!). I was talking to a witness from and eruption in 1929, and showing him photos I had of that event,” says Rose.

Not all students could afford to travel, however. So when Bill (partially) retired in 2011, he decided to do something about that. “My dream was to create a quarter-million- dollar fund for student travel,” he says. He launched the Geoscience Student Travel Endowment Fund with a personal donation of $100,000.

Students take part in one of the hundreds of field studies led by Dr. Bill Rose.

In 2004 Rose started the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at Michigan Tech, now  a graduate degree in Mitigation of Geological Natural Hazards, a program with strong connections with Central American countries and Indonesia. He also developed Keweenaw Geoheritage, in hopes of broadening geological knowledge of the region and of Earth science in general.

His work during his 50 years at Michigan Tech includes volcanic gas and ash emission studies, including potential aircraft hazards from volcanic clouds.

Prof. Rose and then graduate student Taryn Lopez, now Assistant Research Professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Prof. Rose, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

“My students. I treasure the time I have spent with them. I am laid back. I have been able to work with wonderful students every day of my 45 years at Michigan Tech, thousands of students. My style with these fine people is to give them hardly any orders. I encouraged them to follow their nose and network with each other.”

Last winter Dr. Carn and his kids built a ‘snowcano’ in their yard!

Professor Carn, when was the moment you knew volcanology was for you?

“The first active volcano I encountered was Arenal in Costa Rica during my travels after finishing high school. However, I think the point that I first seriously considered volcanology as a career was during my MS degree in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The first field trip was to Italy to see the spectacular active volcanoes Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius.”

Simon Carn on Yasur volcano, Vanuatu in August 2014. “We were measuring the volcanic gas emissions from Yasur, one of the biggest sources of volcanic gas on Earth.We were specifically interested in measuring the emissions of carbon dioxide from the volcano, to improve estimates of global volcanic CO2 emissions”

What do you like most about volcanology?

“Studying volcanoes is undeniably exciting and exotic. We are lucky to visit some spectacular locations for fieldwork and conferences. New eruptions can occur at any time, so there’s always something new and exciting to study. We are also fortunate in that it is relatively easy to justify studying volcanoes (e.g., to funding agencies), given their potentially significant impacts on climate, the environment and society.”

Q: Tell us about this photo of your grandfather. Was he a volcanologist, too?

“My grandfather (John Gale) at Vesuvius in 1943.”

“My grandfather is standing at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. He wasn’t a volcanologist, though he was a high school science teacher and a conservationist. The photo of Vesuvius was always one of his favorites, from a time when photographs were quite rare, and he often showed it to me in my youth.”


Graduate School Announces Spring 2021 Finishing Fellowship Award Recipients

Michigan Tech campus at night in the winter with Husky statue.

The Graduate School proudly announces the recipients of the Doctoral Finishing Fellowships for the spring semester, 2021. Congratulations to all nominees and recipients.

The following are award recipients in engineering graduate programs:


Ski – Score – Spike! Student Athletes at Michigan Tech

The 2019-2020 Women’s Basketball team at Michigan Tech. Core Values: Integrity. Passion. Appreciation. Unity.

Three Michigan Tech Head Coaches and Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret share their knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar today, Monday, January 25 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Ski – Score – Spike! What are you doing for supper tonight 1/25 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and three fantastic head coaches for the Michigan Tech Huskies: Tom Monahan Smith (Nordic), Sam Hoyt (women’s basketball) and Matt Jennings (volleyball). Joining in will be Suzanne Sanregret, Michigan Tech’s Director of Athletics. 

Student athletes at Michigan Tech are high academic achievers. How? What’s it like to be both an athlete and a student at Michigan Tech? 

During Husky Bites, they’ll describe a day in the life of a Michigan Tech athlete, talk about recruiting, academic/mental wellness, and more—including how Michigan Tech athletes and (and their coaches) cope with COVID-19 challenges, too. 

Tom Monahan Smith is head coach of the Nordic ski teams and assistant coach with the cross country teams at Michigan Tech.

A native of Bend, Oregon, Monahan Smith came to Houghton after serving as the Head Postgraduate Program Coach of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation in Ketchum, Idaho. 

Tom Monahan Smith, Head Coach, Nordic Skiing, Michigan Tech

Monahan Smith was a gold medalist in the freestyle sprint at the U.S. Junior Nationals in 2007 as well as being a six-time Junior All-American. He was also a prolific skier in high school, claiming the Oregon High School Nordic State Champion title three times. And he comes from a skiing family with his parents, brother, sister, and cousins all racing at the collegiate level.

Monahan Smith graduated from the University of Utah in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and also a bachelor’s degree in International Studies.

Read more:

Houghton-Bound: Tom Smith Hired as Michigan Tech Nordic Coach

Matt Jennings became the seventh volleyball coach in Michigan Tech history in 2012.

Jennings is also an instructor for the Department of Kinesiology and Integrated Physiology. He is currently teaching Sports Psychology and has taught various co-curricular courses for the department. He currently represents the GLIAC on the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) for the Midwest Region and is a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

Matt Jennings, Head Coach, Volleyball, Michigan Tech

Before making the move to the U.P., Jennings served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jennings earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science from Augustana College (Illinois) in 2003 and received his master of business administration (MBA) from St. Ambrose in 2006.

Read more:

Jennings Hired to Lead Volleyball Program

Suzanne Sanregret has been Michigan Tech’s athletic director since 2005.

Her vision within the Huskies’ athletic programs and work on conference and national committees has positioned Michigan Tech as a leader in collegiate athletics.

Suzanne Sanregret, PhD, Athletic Director, Michigan Tech

A veteran of working within Michigan Tech athletics, Sanregret started in 1993 in the equipment room. She moved to business manager, then to compliance coordinator, and finally to assistant athletic director for business and NCAA compliance prior to taking over as athletic director.

Sanregret attended Michigan Tech and graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She finished her master’s degree in business administration at Tech in spring 2006 and was inducted into the Michigan Tech Presidential Council of Alumnae in 2007. In March 2017, she completed her doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Phoenix.

Read More:

Q&A with Diversity Award Winner Suzanne Sanregret

Sam Hoyt became the ninth head coach of the Michigan Tech women’s basketball program in 2018.

Hoyt returned to Michigan Tech from the University of Sioux Falls where she served as an assistant coach. 

Sam Hoyt, Head Coach, Women’s Basketball, Michigan Tech

She earned a BS in Math at Michigan Tech in 2013. As a student, Hoyt was a standout player for the Huskies, helping lead the program to the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship game as well as garnering multiple individual awards, including All-American Honorable Mention honors

Coach Hoyt, how did you first get into coaching? What first sparked your interest?

I have been a basketball fan ever since I could walk!  My dad was a coach growing up, so I was in the gym all the time.  Our family is really competitive, so I loved that about basketball.  I’ve also always had an inclination to help others learn and grow, and coaching basketball has given me the opportunity to develop a variety of areas in the young ladies lives that I get the pleasure to work with.

Q: What did you want to do when you graduated high school?

A: I was going to be a math teacher so I could coach basketball. All the coaches I knew growing up were teachers. Coach Barnes reached out to me about a graduate assistant position at Youngstown after I graduated from Tech, and I thought that was a great opportunity because all I really wanted to do was coach basketball. All the doors have opened for me, and I’m blessed with how it’s played out.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

I was born and raised in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. I went to school at Michigan Tech and have now been coaching here for 3 years.  I live about 5 miles from campus with my golden retriever, Remi.  We love to go on hikes and enjoy the beauty of the UP!

#Believe

Coach Sam Hoyt, Michigan Tech

Read more:

Q&A: Home Court Advantage



Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Trever Hassell

Trever Hassell
Trever Hassell

College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has selected Trever Hassell, Senior Lecturer in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) for week two of the Deans’ Teaching Showcase. Callahan selected Hassell for his strong engagement of students in large classes. In one student’s words, he “has done an excellent job providing world-class teaching even in the midst of the pandemic and the shift to online learning. He continues to lecture on the important course material while trying out ideas to encourage student interaction outside of the lecture setting.”

For his large section remote course, Hassell has been adapting iClicker questions used in previous semesters (pre COVID-19) for use with Reef (or iClicker Cloud). Simultaneously, he has been expanding his question bank. Implementation of the iClicker Cloud software during the Michigan Tech FLEX initiative allows Hassell to engage and stimulate student learning during lectures and receive real-time feedback regarding whether students are mastering the learning objectives of the course. Lecture iClicker questions are posted prior to the lecture for students to review in advance. During the lectures the iCloud clicker app is used for polling students, taking a screenshot question on the lecture computer screen and sending it to the students’ Reef app or mobile device webpage. Students respond to the question and their information is provided in real-time to the instructor. Class response results are then viewed, shared, and discussed. Utilizing the iClicker Cloud software has also allowed for uninterrupted course participation even as students have had to switch from remote to face-to-face modes. “Using technology to engage students keeps the Zoom sessions productive, helping students focus on understanding the material”, said Dean Callahan.

Having more than eight years of experience with “online/blended” courses, Hassell continually refines his online delivery. It is no surprise that pivoting to the FLEX mode of instruction presented him with an opportunity, rather than a burden. He found that transitioning from a touchscreen laptop using the ZoomIt app, which had a granular screen annotation resolution limitation, to a Windows Surface Pro and annotating with Microsoft OneNote vastly improved the annotation resolution, increasing student engagement in virtual activity. Interim ECE Chair Glen Archer said, “Trever has always been an experimenter and early adopter in the classroom. He’s always on the lookout for new tools and techniques that will make life in the classroom better.” In addition, Hassell has made course structural changes allowing for greater flexibility in the weekly assignments, course participation, and exams addressing student accommodations under COVID. Hassell gives students a choice, allowing participation by either synchronous iClicker questions or asynchronous communications within lecture discussions. As another student noted, “His courses are always very neatly organized, and his posting of lecture notes before our Zoom lectures each week has certainly helped. Mr. Trevor Hassel also encourages much-needed discussion both during and outside of lecture.”

Hassell has actively taken advantage of professional training and development opportunities. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) has been a vital resource and asset for information and advice. Attending several of the CTL’s lunch and learn workshops played a key role in helping him integrate available tools and strategies into the classroom environment. And students appreciate it. As another student commented, “Being in Mr. Hassell’s class in Power Electronics has been a very enjoyable experience. He was always available and even though I took the class in the middle of the pandemic, I felt like we were in the same room with him all along.”

Hassell will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.


Husky Bites Returns! Join us Monday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. (ET).

Looking good!

Craving some brain food, but not a full meal? Join us for a Bite!

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, learn a few things, and connect with one another as Huskies and friends. Everyone is welcome!

Husky Bites Spring 2021 series kicks off this Monday (January 25) with “Ski – Score – Spike! Student Athletes at Michigan Tech,” presented by three head coaches: Tom Monahan Smith (Nordic), Sam Hoyt (women’s basketball) and Matt Jennings (volleyball). Joining in will be Suzanne Sanregret, Michigan Tech’s Director of Athletics. They’ll be talking about the tremendous quality of our student athletes, recruiting, academic/mental wellness, share a day in the life of an athlete, and tell us how they cope with COVID-19 challenges, too.

“We created Husky Bites for anyone who likes to learn, across the universe,” says Dean 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. 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”.

This spring, topics include Backyard Metals, Cybersecurity, Enterprise, Fishing, Music, Lake Superior, the Mackinac Bridge, Migratory Birds, Snow, Sports, Stents, and Volcanoes.

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

Want a taste of Husky Bites? Check out a few comments from special guests, heard during past sessions:

I have always been interested in building things — long before I knew that was called “engineering.” I don’t recall when I became fascinated with space but it was at a very early age. I have embarrassing photos of me dressed as an astronaut for halloween and I may still even have an adult-sized astronaut costume somewhere in my closet — not saying. The desire to explore space is what drives me. Very early in my studies I realized that the biggest impediment to space exploration is propulsion. Space is just so big it’s hard to get anywhere. So I dedicated my professional life to developing new space propulsion technologies. There is other life in our solar system. That is a declarative statement. It’s time that we find it. The moons of Jupiter and Saturn hold great promise and I’m determined to see proof in my lifetime.

Prof. Brad King, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

I loved watching a beautiful image of planet Earth, one with a very clear sky and blue water, during my high school days. However, as I began to learn how life on Earth suffers many difficult environmental problems, including air pollution and water contamination, I also learned that environmental engineers can be leaders who help solve the Earth’s most difficult sustainability problems. That is when I decided to become an engineer. In my undergraduate curriculum, the water quality and treatment classes I took were the toughest subjects to get an A. I had to work the hardest to understand the content. So, naturally, I decided to enter this discipline as I got to know about water engineering more. And then, there’s our blue planet, the image. Water makes the Earth look blue from space. 

Prof. Daisuke Minakata, Civil and Environmental Engineering

I was born and raised in the City of Detroit. I went to Detroit Public Schools, and when I went to college I had to work to make ends meet. I got a job as a cook in the dorm, and eventually worked my way up to lead cook. I was cooking breakfast for 1,200 people each morning. One of my fellow classmates was studying engineering, too. He had a job working for a professor doing research on storm waves and beaches. I had no idea I could be hired by a professor and get paid money to work on the beach! I quit my job in the kitchen soon after, and went to work for that professor instead. I had been a competitive swimmer in high school, and the beach was where I really wanted to be. When I graduated with my degree, having grown up in Detroit, I went to work for Ford. I have to thank my first boss for assigning me to work on rear axle shafts. After about two months, I called my former professor, to see if I could come back to college. My advice for students just starting out is to spend your first year exploring all your options. Find out what you really want to do. I had no idea I could turn a mechanical engineering degree into a job working on the beach. Turns out, I could⁠—and I’m still doing it today.

Prof. Guy Meadows, Mechanical Engineering, Great Lakes Research Center

I first became interested in engineering in high school when I learned it was a way to combine math and science to solve problems. I loved math and science and thought that sounded brilliant. However, I didn’t understand at the time what that really meant. I thought “problems” meant the types of problems you solve in math class. Since then I’ve learned these problems are major issues that are faced by all of humanity, such as: ‘How do we enable widespread access to clean energy? How do we produce sufficient amounts of safe vaccines and medicine, particularly in a crisis? How do we process food products, while maintaining safety and nutritional quality?’ As a chemical engineer I am able to combine my love of biology, chemistry, physics, and math to create fresh new solutions to society’s problems. One thing I love about MTU is that the university gives students tons of hands-on opportunities to solve real problems, not just problems out of a textbook (though we still do a fair number of those!). These are the types of problems our students will be solving when they go on to their future careers.

Prof. Rebecca Ong, Chemical Engineering

My Dad ran a turn-key industrial automation and robotics business throughout most of my childhood. In fact, I got my first job at age 12 when I was sequestered at home with strep throat. I felt fine, but couldn’t go to school. My Dad put me to work writing programs for what I know now are Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs); the ‘brains’ of most industrial automation systems. Later, I was involved with Odyssey of the Mind and Science Olympiad. I also really liked these new things called ‘personal computers’ and spent quite a bit of time programming them. By the time I was in high school I was teaching classes at the local library on computer building, repair, and this other new thing called ‘The Internet’. A career in STEM was a certainty. I ended up in engineering because I like to build things (even if only on a computer) and I like to solve problems (generally with computers and math). 

Prof. Jeremy Bos, Electrical and Computer Engineering

The factors that got me interesting engineering revolved around my hobbies. First it was through BMX bikes and the changes I noticed in riding frames made from aluminum rather than steel. Next it was rock climbing, and realizing that the hardware had to be tailor made and selected to accommodate the type of rock or the type or feature within the rock. Here’s a few examples: Brass is the optimal choice for crack systems with small quartz crystals. Steel is the better choice for smoothly tapered constrictions. Steel pins need sufficient ductility to take on the physical shape of a seam or crack. Aluminum cam lobes need to be sufficiently soft to “bite” the rock, but robust enough to survive repeated impact loads. Then of course there is the rope—what an interesting marvel—the rope has to be capable of dissipating the energy of a fall so the shock isn’t transferred to the climber. Clearly, there is a lot of interesting materials science and engineering going on!

Prof. Erik Herbert, Materials Science and Engineering

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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

We stand together as a community to reject any actions associated with racism, hatred or fear. These actions are repugnant to the College of Engineering. They have no place in our classrooms, labs or offices, nor in our society.

Our faculty, staff and students are fully committed to diversity, equity, 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, Associate 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, Interim Chair, Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Brett Hamlin, Interim Chair, Dept. of Engineering Fundamentals
Aleksey Smirnov, 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
John Irwin, Chair, Dept. of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology

Read more:
A Call to Action: Center for Diversity and Inclusion
Supporting Diversity, College of Engineering