Category: Education

Meet Brett Hamlin, Engineering Fundamentals Interim Department Chair

Brett Hamlin, a Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus, now leads the Department of Engineering Fundamentals

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce Dr. Brett Hamlin as interim chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals.

Hamlin grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota, and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, both at Michigan Tech.

He first joined Michigan Tech as a lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals in 1998. He is a senior lecturer as well as previous assistant chair in the department.

Hamlin’s teaching interests include graphics, visualization, solid mechanics, design, and thermo sciences. His research interests include educational methods, spatial visualization, heat transfer, and biomechanics. 
 

“I’m excited about this opportunity. I hope to continue to work with the dedicated faculty of the department and continue to push the boundaries of excellence in engineering education.”

Brett Hamlin, Interim Chair, Engineering Fundamentals


“I am delighted that Dr. Hamlin will be Interim Chair of Engineering Fundamentals, joining the leadership team of the college,” added Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. “His passion for first year teaching and learning, and his administrative experience strongly prepare him for this leadership role.”

Hamlin serves as faculty advisor for Michigan Tech’s student-run GEAR Enterprise team. The focus of GEAR (General & Expedition Adventure Research) is to design, model, test, prototype, and manufacture a wide variety of goods and equipment used in recreational outdoor and commercial expedition endeavors. Hamlin was a longtime advisor for Michigan Tech’s SAE Baja Enterprise. He also serves as an instructor in the Department of Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology—teaching Outdoor Emergency Care.

A former top Nordic skier, Hamlin is a senior level member of the Ski Patrol, qualified on both snowboard and Alpine skis. He is active in the local mountain biking scene, and on any given weekend you will find the entire Hamlin family out and about, either biking, skiing, hiking, camping, or climbing.

“I like to solve problems and brainteasers, and engineering is just like solving brainteasers in real life.”

Brett Hamlin

Previous department chair, Associate Professor Jon Sticklen, returns to faculty ranks. His focus has broadened to include STEM education research and teaching. He also plans to collaborate with Michigan Tech’s Department of Cognitive Learning and Sciences in its effort to develop a new undergraduate major, Human Factors.

Interested in meeting or talking with Prof. Brett Hamlin? Feel free to reach out via email or stop by his office at 112 Dillman.


Michelle Jarvie-Eggart on Engineering Education

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart
Michelle Jarvie-Eggart

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart participated in a paper for the 2020 ASEE conference online. The paper entitled “Work in Progress: Student Perception of Computer Programming within Engineering Education: An Investigation of Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors” was presented by Kelly S. Steelman (CLS).

Other authors include Kay L. Tislar, Charles Wallace, Nathan D. Manser (GMES), Briana C Bettin, and Leo C. Ureel II.

Steelman, K. S., & Jarvie-Eggart, M. E., & Tislar, K. L., & Wallace, C., & Manser, N. D., & Bettin, B. C., & Ureel, L. C. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Student Perception of Computer Programming within Engineering Education: An Investigation of Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . https://peer.asee.org/35683

Jarvie-Eggart also presented work with graduate student Amanda Singer alumnus Jason Mathews at the 2020 ASEE conference. Their paper, “Parent and Family Influence on First-year Engineering Major Choice” indicates matrilineal occupational inheritance may be affecting female engineering students.

Jarvie-Eggart, M. E., & Singer, A. M., & Mathews, J. (2020, June), Parent and Family Influence on First-year Engineering Major Choice Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . https://peer.asee.org/35035

Jarvie-Eggart is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Engineering Fundamentals and Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart (EF/RISE) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $199,633 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is entitled, “Research Initiation: Factors Motivating Engineering Faculty to Adopt and Teach New Engineering Technologies.” Shari Stockero (CLS/RISE) is the Co-PI on this two-year project.

Freeman and Jarvie-Eggart to Present at 36th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart (EF/CLS) and Thom Freeman (CTL/CLS) will virtually present a session titled “A Case Study Examining the Effects of Online Instructor Training” at the 36th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference at 12:45  p.m. Friday (Aug. 7)

Know as DT&L to those in the online learning community, it is the longest-running and most prestigious conference centered around innovations in, and advancement of, quality online learning and distance education.

It has been held annually in Madison by the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This year’s conference is a fully online event Aug. 3-7, 2020.


Steve Kampe: Hey, there’s MSE in Your Golf Bag!

True or false: When it comes to golf, it’s not the swing that matters the most—it’s the materials used to make the club. (Ah, unfortunately, false.)


Steve Kampe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 27 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“The sporting goods industry has a history of using materials as an enticing means to market new products and breakthroughs,” says Steve Kampe, Franklin St. John Professor and Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. “I’m always interested in what materials they uncover, and the marketing strategies they use.”

Kampe likes to use clubs in his golf bag as examples of how materials are designed, and how they work. “There’s fun in finding material science in everyday objects. Everything has to be made out of something,” adds Kampe. “The question is out of what—and how do we make it?”

“Where there are breakthroughs in new products and solutions, chances are an MSE is hard at work, often behind the scenes, at its root source,” says Steve Kampe, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech.

These are the questions engineers at Michigan Tech have been asking since the university’s founding in 1885, and the task that graduates from the (MSE) department have excelled at since its inception as one of the two founding departments at the Michigan School of Mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Back then, the department was known as Metallurgy, and its focus was on ways to extract valuable metals, such as copper or iron, from their naturally occurring states within minerals and underground deposits.  

Today, the discipline of materials science and engineering finds ways to use the fundamental physical origins of a material’s behavior in order to optimize its properties. “The invention of a new material could turn out to be a vital part of the solution to many of the challenges we now face,” notes Kampe.

“Since the beginning of recorded history, materials have been used to define our civilizations—and the evolutionary milestones associated with quality of life,” he explains.

“From the stone age to the bronze and iron ages, the materials and the human innovations that addressed the world’s challenges during those time periods, have been inextricably linked. Even today, our ability to address global challenges are heavily reliant on the materials that define our current generation,” he says.

“A lot hinges on the wisdom we possess in implementing in use of materials, and, increasingly, in their re-use.”

Contemporary materials science engineers (MSE’s) not only work with metals and alloys, but also with ceramics and glasses, and with polymers and elastomers. They work with composites, materials for electronic, magnetic and optical applications, and many other emerging materials and processes such as 2-D graphene, nanomaterials and biomaterials. Emerging materials include those for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing), smart materials, specialized sensors, and more.

A ceramic crucible in the Michigan Tech Foundry, containing molten
iron at approx. 1200°C.

“For example, MSEs are prominent in the conception and development of new battery technologies, as well as new lightweight materials that make cars and airplanes more fuel-efficient and reduce their CO2 footprint. MSEs are also involved in the development of new materials for the hydrogen economy, photovoltaics for sustainable solar energy, and materials that can convert kinetic energy into electrical and/or magnetic energy.

“The materials we use in our lives have a huge impact on our long term quality of life—and a huge impact on our ability to someday attain a circular economy and a sustainable world,” adds Kampe.

“Right now, today, we have the tools and data we need to make more intelligent decisions about the materials we use⁠ — to decide which materials, even some not yet invented, that would make the biggest difference. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate our dependence on unsustainable solutions.”

Despite its central importance to all engineering endeavors, MSE as a discipline is relatively small compared to other engineering disciplines such as mechanical, electrical, civil, and chemical engineering. 

Polished surface of ductile cast iron. Micrograph by MSE graduate Dan Frieberg.

“It’s one of the best aspects of being an MSE,” says Kampe. “Class sizes are small, so students are able to build strong networks with classmates, faculty, staff—and with like-minded colleagues from other universities and companies from around the world. Our small size also enables collaborative environments with lots of personal interaction and one-on-one mentoring.”

Not only is Kampe a member of the Michigan Tech faculty, he is also an alumnus, earning a Bachelor’s, Master’s and a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, all from Michigan Tech. He joined academia after working in the corporate research laboratory for a major aerospace company where scientists and engineers developed new products and technologies for the company’s future. He spent 17 years as an MSE professor at Virginia Tech, before coming full circle back to Michigan Tech.

Microstructure of demagnetized neodymium iron boron (Nd2Fe14B) alloy showing magnetic domain contrast within individual grains; an optical micrograph using polarized illumination. Micrograph by MSE graduate Matt Tianen.


At Michigan Tech, the MSE department manages the university’s suite of scanning electron and transmission electron microscopes, including a unique, high resolution scanning transmission FEI Titan Themis, which all students use, even as undergraduates.

Can you guess what this is? Hint: it’s not a snowflake. A dendrite in an as-cast Zn-Ag alloy. Micrograph by Ehsan Mostaed, post-doctoral research associate.


Have you ever put one of your own golf clubs under a high-powered microscope? Would you ever allow a student, a Michigan Tech alum, or even a community member to do something like that?

Sure. Bring one in. We’ll chop it up and take a good look at it.

When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I grew up in Williamston, outside of East Lansing, downstate Michigan. My dad had degrees in agricultural and mechanical engineering, so life on Trailmark Farm was pretty much a hands-on engineering operation. For as long as I can remember, getting an engineering degree was pretty much a given for me—I just didn’t know where it would be from. My two older brothers went to Michigan Tech for engineering and really liked it, so Tech became the obvious destination for me, too. My individuality was manifested by my choice to pursue metallurgical engineering, which has close ties to chemistry and the sciences, my favorite subjects in high school. Perhaps I was also influenced by all the fracture surfaces I created during my time growing up on the farm.

Family and Hobbies?

All four siblings in my family (two brothers, a sister, and me) went to Tech. From those original four, there have been eight additional Huskies from the Kampe clan—three spouses including Associate Provost Jean Kampe; our son, Frank (BS Marketing); a niece and nephew, and two first cousins.

I enjoy spending time outdoors hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and especially tending to the chores on the small farm up near Quincy Mine in Hancock where Jean and I live— growing flowers and harvesting the fruit. In winter, I follow the Huskies, both hockey and basketball. I also skate twice a week in (faculty-rich) hockey gatherings.

And yes, I enjoy golfing but have been denied this passion for the past few years due to a prolonged shoulder injury.

Read more

Universities the World Needs: Michigan Tech MSE
Keys to a Unique Nameplate
Advanced Metalworks Enterprise
MakerMSE


Joe Foster: Through the Looking Glass! Geospatial Wizardry

Joe Foster shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 13 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What if you had a high-tech job, but spent your work day outside, enjoying nature and fresh air each day? If you like computing, and the great outdoors, you need to learn more about what it takes to become a geospatial engineer.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech. He teaches courses in the elements of land surveying. He has served as a Principal for successful Land Surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects. “I’m also an old Michigan Tech alum, with a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, and a second Bachelor’s degree in Surveying, both from Michigan Tech,” he notes.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Studying geospatial engineering is both an adventure and a learning experience, says Foster. A lot of learning⁠—and geospatial wizardry⁠—takes place outdoors, in the field.

“Surveyors are experts at measuring,” Foster explains. “A myriad of equipment have been used over the years to accomplish the task, tools of the trade, so to speak. Over time, Surveying has evolved to become more, known now as Geospatial Engineering.”

Surveyors, now known as Geospatial Engineers, measure the physical features of the Earth with great precision and accuracy, calculating the position, elevation, and property lines of parcels of land. They verify and establish land boundaries and are key players in the design and layout of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, cell phone towers, pipelines, and wind farms.

And they are in demand. “There is an ongoing need for Surveyors,” says Foster. “Jobs are open and can’t be filled fast enough. We have a great need for those with an interest and aptitude for the profession.”

All land-based engineering projects begin with surveying to locate structures on the ground,” says Foster. Numerous industries rely on the geospatial data and products that geospatial engineers provide. With advances in technology, the need is increasing, too⁠—from architectural firms, engineering firms, government agencies, real estate agencies, mining companies and others.

Geospatial engineering students at Michigan Tech use satellite technology GPS and GIS to determine locations and boundaries.

Out in the field, Geospatial Engineers peer “through the looking glass” using numerous tools. “Robotic total stations, GPS receivers, scanners, LiDAR, and UAVs only scratch the surface of what is available in the toolbox,” says Foster.

Three theodolites on campus at Michigan Tech

Advances in GPS technology have led to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for mapping, as well as geospatial data capture and visualization technologies. Geospatial engineers also use virtual reality integration, Structure from Motion (a technique which utilizes a series of 2-dimensional images to reconstruct the 3-dimensional structure of a scene or object, similar to LiDAR), and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (drones). At Michigan Tech, students learn to use these tools, too.

Geospatial engineering students choose from two concentrations, says Foster. “Professional Surveying prepares students to become state-licensed professional surveyors. Students learn to locate accurate real property boundaries, conduct data capture of the natural/man-made objects on the Earth’s surface⁠—and conduct digital mapping for use in design or planning.” 

Geospatial engineers use drones, too.

The second concentration is Geoinformatics. “Students learn to manage large volumes of digital geo-information that can be stored, manipulated, visualized, analyzed, and shared,” he adds. “Students use more Geographic Information Science (GIS) tools, remote sensing, big data acquisition, and cloud computing.”

Do you love math + computing+ the great outdoors? Geospatial engineering combines all those things.

Once you’re working as a geospatial engineer, you could end up using both concentrations. “Land surveying and geographic information systems (GIS) are complementary tools,” he says.

Foster is excited about the growth of opportunities in the profession. During his own career, Foster worked as a principal for successful land surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects, including boundary, county remonumentation, and cadastral (USDA-FS) retracement surveys; topographic, site planning, and flood plain surveys; mine surveys (surface and underground); plats and subdivisions; and both conventional and GPS control surveys. He’s managed contracts with the USDA-Forest Service, mining companies in Northern Minnesota, the State of Michigan, and more. 

Foster is also a member of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS). At Michigan Tech, he’s advisor to the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (DHSC). Last year the group continued their tradition with the annual General Land Office (GLO) Workshop. Sponsored by DHSC and conducted by Pat Leemon, PS, retired U.S. Forest Surveyor from the Ottawa National Forest, it is a search/perpetuation of an original GLO corner. “That’s a once in a lifetime experience for a Surveyor,” says Foster.

Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County. Getting there will take you on the highest above sea-level drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. The peak is the highest point in Michigan.

When did you first get into surveying? What sparked your interest?

I first got interested in Surveying while studying forestry at Michigan Tech.  Surveying was one of the courses in the program. That’s where I learned there could be an entire profession centered on surveying alone.  I was hooked.  It incorporated everything I had come to enjoy about forestry; working outside, using sophisticated equipment, drafting, and actually putting all the math I had learned to practical use. After earning my first bachelor’s degree in Forestry, I decided to get a second bachelor’s degree in Surveying and to pursue that as my career.  

Tell us about your growing up. What do you do for fun?

I was born and raised in Michigan and have worked in the forest product industry and surveying profession for over 25 years. Work has taken me to just about every corner of Northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Copper Country. I came to know my wife, Kate at Fall Camp at Alberta, at Michigan Tech’s Ford Forestry Center. We made our home in the Keweenaw, where we both have strong family ties.

Lake Superior is our first love, and one that we share. Here’s a little known fact….Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area in the entire United States, with 541 square miles of land and 5,425 square miles of water. Nearly 90 percent of Keweenaw County is under the surface of Lake Superior!


Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and Dean

Embarking soon on your college career? Or, still pondering embarking? Then this is for you. A free, interactive Zoom short course , “Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and a Dean,” starts this Tuesday (July 7).

“We’ve added an extra chair, so now it is technically “Tips and Tricks from Four Chairs and a Dean,” says Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University. “We’ve created this short course for future college students. Both precollege students, and anyone who might be still be just considering going to college,” Callahan. “We want to give students leg up, and so we’re going to show all the tips and tricks we wish someone had shown us, back when we were starting out. That includes helpful strategies to use with your science and engineering coursework, as well as physics, chemistry, and math.”

The first Tips and Tricks session began on Tuesday, July 7 via Zoom at 6pm EST. If you missed it, no problem. Feel free to join the group during any point along the way. Catch recordings at mtu.edu/huskybites if you happen to miss one.

Each session will run for about 20 minutes, plus time for Q&A each Tuesday in July. The next is July 14, then July 21, and July 28. You can register here.

The series kicked off with Dean Janet Callahan and Brett Hamlin, interim chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals (July 7 – Tips and Tricks from Three, no, Four Chairs and a Dean).

Next up is John Gierke, past chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (July 14 – Reverse Engineering: How Faculty Prepare Exam Problems).

Then comes Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (July 21 – Tips for the TI-89).

Last but not least is Audra Morse, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (July 28 – Two Triangles Don’t Make a Right).

“Even some middle school students, eighth grade and up, will find it helpful and useful,” adds Callahan. “Absolutely everyone is welcome. After each session, we’ll devote time to Q&A, too. I really hope you can join us, and please invite a friend!”

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


Aleksey Smirnov is the new Chair of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Aleksey Smirnov is the new chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that Aleksey Smirnov has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, beginning July 1, 2020.

Smirnov joined Michigan Tech as an assistant professor of geophysics in 2007, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Plate Tectonics and Global Geophysics, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, and Fundamentals of Applied and Environmental Geophysics. 

His research interests include the long-term evolution of the Earth’s magnetic field and its geological and geodynamical implications. Deciphering the early history of our planet—including the early history of its geomagnetic field—represents one of the great challenges in Earth science.

Smirnov seeks to substantially increase the amount of reliable data on the Precambrian field by applying new experimental approaches to investigate the fossil magnetism of well-dated igneous rocks around the globe. He also investigates geodynamics and global plate tectonics, magnetism of rocks, minerals, and synthetic materials, environmental magnetism, and develops new techniques and instruments for paleomagnetic and rock magnetic research. His work on the early magnetic field history has been supported by several NSF grants including a 2012 CAREER award. 

“I am delighted that Dr. Smirnov will be Chair of GMES and looking forward to him joining the leadership team of the college,” states Dean Janet Callahan. “His experience as a faculty member and long-term perspective of the department will be something he can strongly leverage as he works to grow the research profile of the department and student enrollment.”

Professor John Gierke led the department as chair for two terms, or six years. “We are grateful for Dr. Gierke’s leadership,” says Callahan. He is also a tremendous teacher and researcher, and is looking forward to giving both his full attention once again.”

After receiving his BS in Geophysics from Saint-Petersburg State University (Russia) in 1987, and his PhD in Geophysics from the University of Rochester in 2002, Smirnov conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of Rochester, and at Yale University. At Michigan Tech, he is also affiliated with the Department of Physics.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

Our University has been renowned for its geophysical research, including my own field of paleomagnetism, for many years. The opportunity for collaboration with such an accomplished academic community played an important role in my decision. In addition, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the surrounding regions have a rich geologic history with some of the oldest rocks on Earth. This makes it a prime geological location to study the evolution of the early Earth’s geomagnetic field, which is one of my main research interests. After 13 fruitful years at Michigan Tech, I know I made the right choice. 

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

I have established a robust research program that involves worldwide collaborations and has yielded some important results. However, the most enjoyable part of both my scientific research and classroom teaching at Michigan Tech has been my interaction with students. My research activities provide excellent opportunities for student research and academic instruction, and I have been able to work together with very talented graduate and undergraduate students. 

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair?

I envision a vibrant and diverse department that is nationally and internationally recognized for its excellence in education and research. I intend to assure our position as a proactive, efficient, and respected participant in the efforts of both the College and the University as we strive towards our shared strategic goals, including student enrollment, research, diversity, and external recognition.

Our department has evolved over time to meet the needs of our ever-changing world, but it has been and remains an integral part of Michigan Tech since its foundation in 1885. As chair, I will be honored to uphold this legacy of excellence and distinction into the future.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

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

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

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

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

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

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


Graduate School Announces Summer 2020 Award Recipients

Michigan Tech in Summer

 The Graduate School announced the recipients of the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship, Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship, Matwiyoff & Hogberg Endowed Graduate Fellowship, and the DeVlieg Foundation Research Award. The Portage Health Foundation and the Graduate School have provided support to help students complete their doctoral studies and to those in health-oriented research areas.

The following are award recipients in engineering graduate programs:

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Award

Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship

Matwiyoff & Hogberg Endowed Graduate Fellowship

Profiles of current recipients can be found online.


Guy Meadows: Shipwrecks and Underwater Robots

Guy Meadows: “I love being on the waters of the Great Lakes and the oceans⁠—and having an engineering career that allows me to do what I love.

Guy Meadows shares his knowledge at Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, June 8 at 6 pm. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Guy Meadows uses an underwater robot to chart new territories in the field of underwater exploration. But not just any old robot—one of the world’s best.

Its name is Iver3, and it has two dual processor computers on board, Wifi, GPS, water flow and speed of sound sensors, and the latest in sonar technology. It can dive 330 feet and cover 20-plus miles of water on missions up to 8 hours. It also has a high definition camera, lights and a satellite phone. These combined features make Iver an impressive research tool.

The IVER3. Consider it a robotic Aquaman. “Iver performs like a superhero,” says Meadows.

With Iver, Meadows and his team are able to provide ultra-high resolution acoustic images underneath the waters of the Great Lakes. “Whether it’s tracking underwater features, looking at shipwrecks, or mapping trout spawning beds, we can do this all much more precisely and in much greater detail than was ever possible,” he says.

Meadows is director of the Marine Engineering Laboratory, and the Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering at Michigan Tech. His work with Iver is cutting edge. “Iver can obtain a ‘survey quality’ map of a swath of the bottom of Lake Superior,” he explains. “The map size depends on the altitude of the robot above the lake floor, but at ten meters above the bottom you can map an entire football field.”

“What we’re doing is seeing with sound waves. Acoustic energy shines on the target and illuminates it for us. Navy research vessels use active remote sensing, too,” he adds. “But we can see a lot more clearly with Iver.”

A sepia-toned looking image of a shipwreck at the bottom of Lake Superior. Both the ship and its shadow are visible at a high resolution of detail.
Here is the John J. Audubon, which sank in Lake Huron in 1854 in 180 feet of water and now within the NOAA’s marine sanctuary boundaries. “We’re seeing with sound waves,” Guy Meadows explains. “Acoustic energy illuminates the target and allows a higher resolution image of the shipwreck and its acoustic shadow.”

Michigan Tech students learn how to program Iver as part of their many classes onboard Agassiz, the university’s research vessel. “If we set up the geometry just right, we can get the highest possible quality sonar image,” Meadows explains.

“When we go out to look at shipwrecks in Lake Superior, we program Iver to fly a prescribed distance from the bottom of the lake, and a prescribed distance from the vessel. We can see both the image of the target vessel, and its acoustic shadow,” says Meadows. “The images are fantastic, but the shadows also provide a great deal of valuable information and detail.”

Q: When did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

“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 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.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not on the beach or out on the water?

Having grown up in Detroit, I have had the opportunity to live, work and grow in a very diverse community. While as a faculty member at the University of Michigan, I was part of a great team that started the M-STEM Academies and became its founding director. The M-STEM mission is “to strengthen and diversify the cohort of students who receive their baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with the ultimate goal of increasing the number and diversity of students who are well prepared to seek career opportunities or to pursue graduate or professional training in the STEM disciplines in the new global economy.” This effort has been a very important part of my journey.

More about Guy Meadows

Throughout his career Guy Meadows has influenced policy and explored societal impacts of environmental forecasting for coastal management, recreational health and safety, and regional climate change.

Guy Meadows on the dock of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Tech, in front of a large, bright yellow buoy (about the size of a very small compact car) that is used to collect data in Lake Superior.
Guy Meadows, Director of the Marine Engineering Laboratory, and Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering at Michigan Tech.

After graduation from Purdue University with PhD in Marine Science in 1977, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan College of Engineering, where he served as professor of physical oceanography for 35 years. During that time, Meadows served as director of the Ocean Engineering Laboratory, director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (NOAA, Joint Institute), director of the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratories.

Meadows joined Michigan Tech in June of 2012, to help establish the new Great Lakes Research Center. His primary goal is to blend scientific understanding and technological advancements into environmentally sound engineering solutions for the marine environment, through teaching, research and service.

His research focuses on geophysical fluid dynamics, with an emphasis on environmental forecasting, full-scale Great Lakes and coastal ocean experimental hydrodynamics.

His teaching reaches beyond the University to less formal settings and includes five nationally televised documentaries for the History and Discovery Channels.

Read & View More

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Subsurface Vehicles at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center

Be Brief: Shipwreck

Freshwater Flights Reveal What Lies Beneath

To Protect and Preserve



Sustainable Foam: Coming Soon to a Cushion Near You

Chemical engineering major Lauren Spahn presented her research at the Michigan Tech Undergraduate Research Symposium last spring. Her lignin project was supported by Portage Health Foundation, the DeVlieg Foundation, and Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College.

Most polyurethane foam, found in cushions, couches, mattress, insulation, shoes, and more, is made from petroleum. Soon, with help from undergraduate researcher and chemical engineering major Lauren Spahn, it will also be environmentally-friendly, sustainable, and made from renewable biomass.

Spahn works in the Biofuels & Bio-based Products Laboratory at Michigan Technological University, where researchers put plants—and their lignin—to good use. The lab is directed by Dr. Rebecca Ong, an assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Q&A with Lauren Spahn

Q: Please tell us about the lab.

A: “Our goal in working with Dr. Ong is to develop sustainable industries using renewable lignocellulosic biomass⁠—the material derived from plant cell walls. There are five of us working on Dr. Ong’s team. We develop novel co-products from the side streams of biofuel production, and pulp and paper production. We’re trying to make good use of the leftover materials.

 

Lignocellulose, aka biomass, is the dry matter of plants. Energy crops like this Elephant Grass, are grown as a raw material for the production of biofuels.

Q: What kind of research are you doing?

A: My particular research project involves plant-based polyurethane foams. Unlike conventional poly foams, bio-based foams are generated from lignin, a renewable material. Lignin is like a glue that holds wood fibers together. It has the potential to replace petroleum-derived polymers in many applications. In the lab, we purify the lignin from something called “black liquor”⁠. It’s not what sounds like. Black liquor is a by-product from the kraft process when pulpwood is made into paper. Lignin is collected by forcing dissolved lignin to precipitate or fall out of the solution (this is the opposite of the process of dissolving, which brings a solid into solution). By adjusting the functional properties of lignin during the precipitation process, we hope to be able to tailor the characteristics of resulting foams. It’s called functionalization.

Typically in the lab process, functionalization occurs on lignin that has already been purified. What we hope to do is integrate functionalization into the purification process, to reduce energy and raw material inputs, and improve the economics and sustainability of the process, too.

Purified lignin, used to make bio-foam. The resulting foam will likely be light or dark brown in color because of the color of the lignin. It would probably be used in applications where color does not matter (such as the interior of cushions/equipment).

Q: How did you get started in undergraduate research?

A: I came to Michigan Tech knowing I wanted to get involved in research. As a first-year student, I was accepted into the Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URSIP), through the Pavlis Honors College here at Tech. Through this program I received funding, mentorship, and guidance as I looked to identify a research mentor. 

Q: How did you find Dr. Ong, or how did she find you?

A: I wanted to work with Dr. Ong because I found the work in her lab to be very interesting and relevant to the world we live in, in terms of sustainability. She was more than willing to welcome me into the lab and assist me in my research when I needed it. I am very thankful for all her help and guidance. 

Q: What is the most challenging and difficult part of the work and the experience?

A: Not everything always goes according to plan. Achieving the desired result often takes many iterations, adjustments, and even restructuring the experiment itself. After a while, it can even become discouraging.

Lignin is like a glue that holds wood fibers together, giving trees their shape and stability, and making them resistant to wind and pests. Pictured above, a biofuel plantation in Oregon.

Q: What do you do when you get discouraged? How do you persevere?

A: I start thinking about my goals. I enjoy my research—it’s fun! Once I remind myself why I like it, I am able to get back to work. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about research?

A: I enjoy being able to run experiments in the lab that directly lead to new designs, processes, or products in the world around me. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to think up new product ideas, then go through the steps needed to implement them in the real world. 

Q: What are your career goals and plans?

A: I plan to go to graduate school for a PhD in chemical engineering, to work in R&D for industry. I am very passionate about research—I want to continue participating in research in my professional career.


Lignin at the nanoscale, imaged with transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Raisa Carmen Andeme Ela, a PhD candidate working in Dr. Ong’s lab, generated this image to examine the fundamental mechanisms driving lignin precipitation.

Q: Why did you choose engineering as your major, and why chemical engineering?

A: I chose chemical engineering because the field is so large. Chemical engineers can work in industry in numerous areas. I liked the wide variety of work that I could enter into as a career. 

Michigan Tech translates research into the new technologies, products, and jobs that move our economy forward.

Did you know?

  • Michigan Tech has more than 35 research centers and institutes
  • 20 percent of all Michigan Tech patent applications involve undergraduate students
  • Students in any engineering discipline are welcome to give research a try
  • Research expenditures at Michigan Tech—over $44 million-—have increased by 33% over the last decade, despite increased competition for research funding. 
  • Michigan Tech research leads to more invention disclosures—the first notification that an invention has been created—than any other research institution in Michigan.