Category: Features

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Michigan Tech Students Form New Chapter of SASE

Civil engineering student Isaac Fong is the founding president of Michigan Tech SASE.

When Isaac Fong arrived at Michigan Tech as a student in 2019, he took note of the professional societies on campus with cultural identities: The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE); Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE); Society of Women Engineers (SWE); and American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

None existed, yet, for students of Asian heritage. But that was about to change.

“Some friends at other schools encouraged me to start a Michigan Tech chapter of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). I started asking around my circles to find people who might want to join an interest group for SASE. I found a staff member who was willing to advise the chapter, and then a faculty member,” Fong says. “From there on, we found enough members, and SASE just took off.”

SASE was officially approved through Michigan Tech’s office of Student Leadership and Involvement in March, 2021.

Founded in 2007, SASE is the national go-to organization for talent and leadership development in science, engineering and technology. It’s also a community where students representing all of the pan Asian cultures connect and support each other.

“Any student at Michigan Tech is welcome to join SASE,” Fong says. “Faculty members can be honorary, non-voting members of SASE, too.”

The SASE logo, which features a blue gear combined with a green beaker.

Fiona Chow, a third year student in the College of Business, is a founding member of SASE.

“Growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by many other Asian individuals, other than family. So the opportunity to be a part of a supportive, relatable community is really appealing to me. In SASE we will help each other advance, both professionally and personally,” adds Chow.

“Isaac reached out, asking if I would be interested in joining and helping get SASE on its feet,” says Michigan Tech student Fiona Chow.

She looks forward to possibly attending the SASE national convention and regional conferences in the future. “These events will not only be a great networking opportunity but also a huge learning opportunity.”

“Our first meeting at Michigan Tech was a Zoom meeting with a handful of people,’ she adds. “The engagement and the excitement to be in one space, and to be starting something new, was so exciting and fantastic. I left the meeting filled with anticipation, for getting to know these people more, developing career skills with them, and seeing how the club will grow.”

Liz Fujita, academic advisor and outreach specialist in Michigan Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, serves as co-advisor of SASE. She’s also a Michigan Tech alumna. “I was so excited to hear about the formation of this group,” she says. “It’s one that I wish had been here when I was in college.” Fujita earned two bachelor degrees at Michigan Tech in 2012, Mathematical Science and Social Sciences.

“SASE is open to all students who are interested in the success of professional networking, development, and community among Asian and Asian American students,” says chapter co-advisor Liz Fujita.

SASE’s goal this fall is to have at least one event per month, adds Fujita. “We’ll host guest speakers, internal resume workshops, and social events, including events in partnership with other affinity-based organizations on campus.”

In the meantime, SASE members formed a summer book club, reading two books: Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong and Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu.

“When I was a student in college, I enjoyed being in various student organizations,” says Distinguished Professor Zhanping You, Michigan Tech SASE co-advisor. “As a faculty member, it has been my great interest to support them.”

Zhanping You, a Distinguished Professor of Transportation Engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering, serves as the other Michigan Tech SASE co-advisor. “After years of service in various professional groups at Michigan Tech, I believe an organization of Asian students involved in science and engineering is really needed,” he says. “I am very happy to help the start of this new chapter of SASE.”

Dean of the College of Engineering, Janet Callahan, affirms her support of Dr. Zhanping You, Liz Fujita, and SASE. “This will provide a way for our students to connect, and build—and keep building upon these connections,” she says, adding: “And, I am reading Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu, this summer, in support of SASE and their summer reading project!”

Within the Michigan Tech new chapter of SASE, an Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) relations committee will work to amplify APIDA voices on campus and educate others through planned events. For students and working professionals alike, Fong says he hopes SASE activities and efforts will help educate and support students.

“We were all first supported and educated by others,” Fong says. “Now, through SASE, we have the chance to give back.”

Want to learn more about SASE? Contact Michigan Tech SASE co-advisor Liz Fujita.

ISAAC FONG

President, Michigan Tech SASE
Major: Civil Engineering
Hometown: Canton, Michigan (Metro Detroit)
Campus Involvement: Husky Swim Club, ASCE, Success Center ExSEL Peer Mentor, RA
Summer 2021: LEAPS Project Engineer Intern at Barton Malow
How did you first get interested in STEM?
“I grew up playing with Lego sets. I was obsessed with airports and subway systems from a young age. I didn’t really consider a career in STEM until late in high school, when I learned how I could incorporate buildings and infrastructure into my career. Classes in physics, calculus, and humanities all helped pique my interest in civil engineering.”

FIONA CHOW

Founding Member, Michigan Tech SASE
Major: Management Information Systems
Campus Involvement: SENSE Enterprise (“Cool people. Cool projects. Cool advisors,” notes Chow.)
Hometown: Eagan, Minnesota (Twin Cities area)
Summer 2021: Data Engineer Intern at Polaris Inc.
How did you first get interested in STEM?
“It all began in third grade when I switched to a STEM elementary school with opportunities to explore various areas, from engineering to computer science. I started college majoring in Software Engineering and just recently switched to Management Information Systems. It’s a better fit and combination of things I am passionate about—combining people and technology.”


Michigan Tech Students Win 2021 NFPA Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge

This award-winning fluid-powered bike was designed, built and tested by a Michigan Tech student team in Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET).

Earlier this month a team of students from Michigan Technological University was declared the Overall Champions of the 2021 National Fluid Fluid Power Association Vehicle Challenge, a national competition.

The contest, dubbed “Hydraulics Meets the Bicycle,” combines human-powered vehicles along with fluid power and consists of three races—sprint, endurance, and efficiency.

The Challenge is hosted each year by Norgren, a respected world leader in motion control and fluid technology based in Littleton, Colorado. This year the competition was expanded into two separate virtual competitions hosted by Norgren plus a second company, Danfoss Power Solutions, in order to reach a wide range of students and industry members all over the country. 

The winning team! Left to right, Andrew Ward, Jake Lehmann, John Kurburski, and Alexander Provoast

John Kurburski, Andrew Ward, Alexander Provoast, and Jake Lehmann made up the winning team. All are students in Michigan Tech’s Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology. The fluid-powered bike project also served as their senior design project, required for graduation.

MMET Senior Lecturer David Wanless advised the team, and MMET Lecturer Kevin Johnson contributed to their understanding of pneumatic and hydraulic circuits in his fluid power class. 

Competing with twenty-two schools from all over the country, the Michigan Tech team placed first in efficiency, second in endurance, and third in the sprint race. After race results, two design reviews, conference participation and a final presentation the Michigan Tech team was awarded Overall Champion of the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge for 2021.

close-up of the bike mechanism

They powered their bike using a hydraulic circuit—transferring pedal power through a hydraulic pump and motor to drive the rear wheel. “The circuit can also be powered with stored energy in an accumulator, which can be recharged mid-race through regenerative braking,” Wanless explained.

“A pneumatic circuit is also used to actuate the controls of the hydraulic circuit through the use of two switches,” added Alexander Provoast, MMET team member.

The competition was helpful to the students in several different ways, said MMET senior John Kurbuski. “The best part of competing was being introduced to members of the industry and the learning that came with it. I definitely gained a lot of knowledge relevant to my career.”

Due to Covid, NFPA organizers decided it would be best if each university created their own bike course according to the guidelines and rules. The Michigan Tech team first built their bike in the MMET Machine Shop on campus while following MTU Covid guidelines. To compete, teams then recorded their results and submitted them to NFPA. Reviews and mentor interactions were done via Zoom.

According to Kurbuski, the greatest challenge was figuring out how to create a fluid powered bike in such a short amount of time.

“There was a huge learning curve for our team. We had little knowledge about fluid power prior to the competition.”

MMET senior John Kurbuski

Most members of the team will be graduating soon, either this spring or summer. Kurbuski will graduate in April. His job hunt is now underway, with “NPFA Fluid Vehicle Challenge Grand Champion” as a great new addition to his resume. 

“I look forward to finding a career in the manufacturing industry,” adds Kurbuski.

Be sure to check out the team’s final presentation here


Jared Wolfe: “Molti-Colored” Migratory Birds

Jared Wolfe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 19 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

Dr. Jared Wolfe

What are you doing for supper this Monday 4/19 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Jared Wolfe, Wildlife Biologist and Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be Wolfe’s longtime colleague and friend, Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation, Audubon Louisiana. 

Dr. Erik Johnson

During Husky Bites, get ready for a wide-ranging, free-wheeling conversation about wild bird research, education and conservation. Be sure to bring your questions for these two world experts. 

“Here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, there is an incredible diversity of birds that show up to breed in the summer, but many of these birds are decreasing in abundance—they are diminishing,” says Wolfe. “We’ve lost 2.5 billion birds in North America over the past 30 years,” he adds. “Why?” 

For Wolfe and Johnson, much of their life and work has become dedicated to finding both why, and how. The two began collaborating at Louisiana State University, where they both earned their PhDs. Among their many joint projects is a book, Molt in Neotropical Birds; Life History and Aging Criteria. The volume, published in collaboration with the American Ornithological Society, describes molt strategies for nearly 190 species based on information gathered from a 30-year study of Central Amazonian birds.

Wolfe has spent 15-plus years working with tropical birds in Africa, Central and South America where he studies effects of climate and habitat change on sensitive bird species and wildlife communities. In North America, he works with managers to integrate wildlife management and conservation into sustainable forest stewardship.

Molt in Neotropical Birds, by Erik Johnson and Jared Wolfe, CRC Press, 2017, 412 pp.

Wolfe joined Michigan Tech in 2018, Determining how birds adapt lifecycle events to climate change and subsequent shifts in food resources is a central facet of his research. He uses monitoring data from California, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Brazil to measure changes in breeding and molting phenology, and survival relative to climate. He also studies bird communities within human dominated landscapes and adjacent habitat patches. 

Bird migration is an important focus in the Wolfe Lab at Michigan Tech. “Seasonal movements of birds have captured the imagination of naturalists for millennia,” he says. “The advent of diminutive tracking devices ushered in an era of discovery, where connectivity between breeding and wintering grounds are continually being revealed.” 

Wolfe and Johnson both employ geolocators and other technologies to study migration to better understand the movements of temperate birds. Photo credit: Erik Johnson

​Johnson has over 15 years of applied ornithological research experience in five countries. He completed his dissertation work studying the effects of forest fragmentation on avian communities at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) in coordination with the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA). His primary focus now at Audubon Louisiana involves avian conservation challenges along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Prof. Wolfe, how did you first get into Wildlife Biology? What sparked your interest?

Jared Wolfe and his crew from Central Africa. Wolfe co-founded the Biodiversity Initiative in 2013. It seeks protect all wildlife–including forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, and hundreds of bird species – and conserve the rainforest across central Africa.

Growing up in downtown Sacramento, there wasn’t much opportunity to recreate in nature or see wildlife outside the city. There was a strip of riparian forest bordering the American River which served as a refuge from the city. Just a short bike ride from my house I would see coyotes, migratory birds, waterfowl, and beavers all seeking refuge, like me, from the city. These formative experiences helped develop a passion for wild places and wild things which led to a lifelong fascination with plants and animals. Luckily, I learned about the profession of wildlife ecology when I was 18, and never turned back!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to go fishing, birding, hiking, camping, hunting, anything that gets me away from social media and my computer!

Wolfe founded a banding station at Michigan Tech’s Ford Center and Forest in Alberta, Michigan. “High capture rates and diversity make this a wonderful location to study bird populations,” says Wolfe.

Could you tell us a little about your family?

Sure, I am from Sacramento, California. My wife, Dr. Kristin Brzeski is a conservation geneticist who is also a professor at CFRES. We have one son, a covid baby, 7 month old Lawrence. We went into the pandemic barely pregnant, and to the surprise of our colleagues, are emerging with an infant! 

Prof. Johnson, how did you first get into Wildlife Biology? What sparked your interest?

Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

I suppose I’ve always been into birds. My parents tell stories of me when I was little, being more interested in the pigeons than the lions, elephants, and zebras when we visited zoos. I started really picking up binoculars when I was about 10 and starting keeping bird lists when I was 11. My mom and aunt are casual bird watchers, and my whole family was an outdoorsy sort of family, so they embraced my interest from the beginning. From there I became focused on wildlife biology, ecology, and conservation more broadly.

What do you like to do for fun?

I really love to do anything outdoors—travel, hike, bike, garden. And of course, bird watching. Lately, I’ve been interested in photographing insects, with a particular interest in leafhoppers, planthoppers, and treehoppers. I dabble in guitar and violin, and used to really be into snowboarding, which is much harder to do in Louisiana!

Family and growing up?

On this Downy Woodpecker, can you spot it? Differences in coloration provide valuable information about a bird’s age. Find out how on Husky Bites this Monday 4/12 at 6 pm ET. Photo credit: Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana.

I live in Sunset, Louisiana, but grew up in Pittsburgh and was born in Boston. I have family all over the eastern US—my parents are still in Pittsburgh, my younger brother is in New Hampshire, and I have aunts, uncles and cousins in Ohio, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts, and more distant connections to Germany, where my mom was born. My wife, Ceci, is from Metairie, Louisiana (just outside of New Orleans), and we’ve been married 15 crazy years.

Read more

Fine Feathers: Migration and Molt Affect How Birds Change Their Colors

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Where Research Goes Outdoors


Kit Cischke: Students Boldly DOING Where No One Has Done Before

Kit Cischke and three graduating seniors from Michigan Tech’s Wireless Communications Enterprise team share their knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, April 12 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday 4/12 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Kit Cischke, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at  Michigan Technological University. He’s also longtime advisor to Wireless Communications Enterprise (WCE), part of the University’s award-winning Enterprise Program.

“I can’t lie,” says Kit Cischke. “Part of the reason I got excited about Enterprise way back in 1999 (as a student) was because the name of the program was the same as my favorite fictional ship.”

Joining in will be Abby Nelson, Ken Shiver, and Michael Patrick:  all three are ECE students and senior members of WCE. During Husky Bites, they’ll walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company.

Part of the university’s award-winning Enterprise Program, WCE is focused on technology—wireless, optical, renewable energy and biomedical. The student-run enterprise works as a think-tank for companies looking to push their product lines to a higher level. And WCE members also work as entrepreneurs, taking their own ideas to a level where they can be useful for industry and consumers alike. 

A student sits in the lab, soldering another LED onto the printed circuit board she designed herself and fabricated on equipment sitting not two feet away. A group puts the finishing touches on a setup for an experiment to detect water leaks in washing machines. Two students are at a computer, debugging code. A 3D printer hums away as yet another prototype is fabricated. Amid all this are students just sitting on the couch, discussing events of the day. It’s 10:00 PM on a Tuesday in the middle of the semester. Nobody has made these students come; they are here by their own volition. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“There’s no shortage of interesting and meaningful projects,” says Cischke. “Just a sampling: Android tablet programming with machine learning algorithms; machine vision algorithms; estimating the power contribution of anaerobic digester systems; and establishing a Bluetooth connection to a smart power tool. Some are explicitly wireless, others are not. Regardless, student leadership abounds.”

As an ECE instructor and WCE advisor, Cischke has the fantastic ability to make complex topics easy to understand. He does this through analogies, humor, and being open and approachable to students. He strives to be a “complete human being” with his students, sharing stories about his family and life.

During Husky Bites, Nelson, Shiver and Patrick, along with Cischke (WCE faculty advisor) will walk us through their projects and share what it’s like for college students to serve industry clients—and think, work and operate like a company. 


“This is a Differential Amplifier Circuit used to sense the voltages of 4 cells in a battery pack,” says WCE team member Abby Nelson. “Version 5. It will be connected to an arduino so that we can remotely find out the charge of those cells in the battery.”

Cischke first came to Michigan Tech as a student in 1997. During his studies, he worked as an intern for IBM, verifying hard drive controllers in VHDL, and helped found one of the original Enterprise teams—the Wireless Communications Enterprise. He graduated in 2001 with a BS in Electrical Engineering, went to work for Unisys for about four and a half years and completed a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities.

“When I gathered in a classroom in 1999 with 40 fellow students to found a new Enterprise team, WCE, we couldn’t have imagined how it is today,” he recalls. “We had no space to call our own. We had no equipment. We had no clear projects. Over time, we found our footing and established our course,” says Cishke.

“I graduated into the ‘real world’ and found that the structure we were striving toward in WCE was the very structure found in industry,” he adds. “It was a considerable shock when I returned to Michigan Tech in order to teach—and found WCE had become an engineering company, composed entirely of students, only five years later.”

I watch the final presentation of a student who has been in WCE for four semesters and heading off to the “real world” now. There is no comparison to the student he was before WCE. He is older, wiser and more experienced. He has worked in a team and led a team himself. He is ready to make his mark on the world. This is the Wireless Communications Enterprise.

“When I was first asked to advise WCE students, I was intimidated,” Cishke admits.”The previous advisor had nursed the group through the formative years and had them operating at a state I couldn’t imagine sustaining. My fears were unjustified.

“It takes active effort on the part of an advisor to upset the momentum the students have. Student leadership abounds. Turns out it’s not intimidating to be their advisor—it’s a pleasure.”

Kit Cischke

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

Actually, it was Star Trek. Some friends got me watching it in high school and my hero was Geordi LaForge (the chief engineer on the Enterprise). I don’t know that I expected “real” engineering to be like a day in deep space, but I loved the technology and problem solving. I first came to Michigan Tech as a budding chemical engineer, but realized that I liked playing with computers more than chemistry and switched into electrical and computer engineering. It’s a field that I enjoy and is constantly changing. 

The Star Trek character Geordi LaForge, portrayed by LeVar Burton.

What was the best part of taking part in WCE?

The best part is working with the students and watching them do cool things. When I started as a student, there was a sense that we didn’t know exactly what we were doing. What was our purpose? What was our value-add to the department and university? Now, the program and the students practically sell themselves. They accomplish so much and are so driven to do it. I have the “grade stick” to hold over them, but most of the students are internally motivated. 

Any hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?

Yes! I love bikes and the riding of bikes! I ride on mountain bike trails, paved roads, and gravel roads. I commute to the campus year-round on my bike—it’s far more possible than most people think. I’m a USA Cycling official too. When I’m not on a bike, I referee hockey, run, and I’m also learning how to do cross-country skate skiing and play guitar at my church.

Meet These Three Wireless Communications Enterprise Members at Husky Bites

Abby Nelson had two internships at John Deere, and accepted a job upon graduation. She’ll be taking part in the company’s development program for new engineers, with three 8-month rotations, all in different jobs and locations.

Abby Nelson ’21, Computer Engineering

Growing up I was always interested in how things worked. I caught onto computers pretty quickly. When I had to choose a college major, I chose computer engineering off the cuff. It turned out to be the right choice.

As soon as I walked on campus at Michigan Tech and saw the buildings and the people, I immediately knew that this was where I was going to go. In WCE, I’ve worked hands-on so much more than I would have in the classes I’ve taken in my major alone. I’ve met business connections and learned from other people, as well. WCE projects are student led (faculty advised), so there is a lot of problem solving involved in completing projects.

In my spare time, I enjoy biking, kayaking, and hiking around the UP. There are so many outdoor adventure opportunities, I wouldn’t trade this place for anywhere else. I will be graduating April 30th, 2021, and I am literally counting the days! Then I’ll move to Moline, Illinois to work at John Deere starting in May.

Kenny Shivers takes a break during a hike near Hungarian Falls.

Kenny Shivers ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

During high school I took part in FIRST robotics. For those who aren’t familiar, every year a new game and game rules are released on the first Saturday of the year. Teams have six weeks during the “build season” to prototype, design, and build 120-pound competition robots to play against each other in 3v3 teams. After that come district, regional, state, and world championship competitions. All that fast-paced environment and creative problem solving got me interested in engineering. I ended up here at Michigan Tech as a result.

The best part about WCE are the people. This may sound a bit odd, since senior design or Enterprise are required to graduate. In WCE, those of us working on similar projects group together, which forms a sense of camaraderie. We’re all at Michigan Tech together and mostly dealing with similar problems. When it gets closer to the end of the semester, it’s crunch time, with more and more things to do on deadline. It’s a lot like a real job out in industry.

Like most Tech students I enjoy spending time outdoors and working with my hands. Last summer I stayed here in the Keweenaw because of the pandemic. I got an old, broken bike and fixed it up. It’s not a bike I would necessarily let someone else ride, but I know it well enough to trust it for myself. I also play piano and read a bit. Lately I’ve been focused on trying to make sure I have everything together to graduate and find a job. I’m actively looking for employment in embedded systems in Southeast Michigan.

Michael Patrick and his son, Charlie. “He’s an adorable little man.”

Michael Patrick ’21, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (Double Major)

I first became aware of engineering from my mother, a Michigan Tech chemical engineering graduate. She homeschooled me during my early education years. Then, in my FIRST Robotics team in high school, I was on the controls and electrical team (FRC Team 1718, The Fighting Pi). From that experience I knew I wanted to pursue electrical and computer engineering.

The best part of WCE, for me, have been the lab space and the community. I have made good friends in WCE, and the lab space has allowed me to tinker with electronics using tools I normally wouldn’t have access to. Right now I’m using it to repair a bluetooth speaker for a friend of mine.

Outside of school and becoming a new parent, I have a passion for cooking and healthy eating. I began a plant-based pescatarian diet 3 weeks ago, and never felt better. I also enjoy teaching and tutoring. I’m looking forward to having a side job as an online tutor once I graduate. Right now I’m still on the job hunt, looking ideally for an embedded software engineering position. Once I establish employment, I intend to start my loan payoffs and take a few years off from education, before pursuing a graduate degree.


Adam Meckler: Making it in the New Music Economy

The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO)

Adam Meckler shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 5 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing this Monday, April 5 at 6 pm ET? Join Dean Janet Callahan and special guest Adam Meckler, assistant professor of Visual and Performing Arts and director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Technological University. He’s also a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist—and owner/co-founder/CEO of Gig Boss, a handy app for organizing a freelance gig/business. 

Assistant Professor Adam Mecker, Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan Tech

During Husky Bites, Prof. Meckler will be talking about the shift of the music economy from selling albums to streaming, tools for young musicians looking to build a career in music, and ways for musicians to carve out passive income so they can focus on the music.

Joining in for Husky Bites on Monday will be Jared Anderson, chair of Michigan Tech Visual and Performing Arts. Prof. Anderson conducts conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers, and the internationally-touring Michigan Tech Concert Choir. 

During Husky Bites we get learn from Prof. Meckler how the app he co-created, Gig Boss, came to be.

Meckler joined the faculty at Michigan Tech Fall of 2019 as Director of Jazz Studies, after a decade-long career as a freelance trumpeter, composer, and educator in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Adam Meckler Orchestra (AMO), is the 18-piece big band that plays his original compositions. AMO’s debut album, ‘When the Clouds Look Like This’ was listed among the Best 2014 Jazz Releases by iTunes. 

In 2019 AMO released ‘Magnificent Madness’ just before Prof. Meckler packed up his family to move to Houghton. Though the band is founded in the traditions of jazz, it blends soul, R&B, hip-hop, and pop music to achieve a unique and grooving sound. (Listen to a song from Magnificent Madness here.)

Another thing Meckler offers online are instructional videos for the trumpet. This light, fun, easy to follow video, “How to Play the Trumpet – First Five Notes,” will get you off to a great start, at any age.

Adam Meckler plays along during the Michigan Tech Jazz Lab Band’s performance at the Fulton Street Collective in Chicago

Prof. Meckler, how did you first get involved in music? What sparked your interest?

“My dad sang in choirs when I was growing up. My mom was a violinist before I was born. She broke her pinky, so never got to hear her perform. I grew up hearing a lot of orchestral music, plus Motown, R&B, Soul, and 50s doo-wop. At around age 7 or 8 I took guitar lessons with my church pastor. Once I turned 10, I picked up a trumpet. I’ve always loved music. In fact I used to hum myself to sleep at night. My younger brother even moved out of our bedroom to sleep on the basement couch, just to get away from the sound!”

Family and hobbies?

Adam Mecker peforms with the Michigan Tech Jazz Band.

“I collaborate and write music with my wife, Jana Nyberg. She’s a vocalist, flautist, and band director. Jana appeared on Season 10 of American Idol and has released four full-length albums to date. She was a longtime music teacher in the Twin Cities, too. 

“Together we have two sons, Auggie is almost 6 and Hobbes is 3. Both our kids love to play the trumpet. They both have great rhythm. They both can sing. Music is fun for just about everything in life. We make up songs. We have one for taking our vitamin gummies, a song for taking a bath, and one for wiggling off our snow clothes. We are constantly singing. It’s a fun house to grow up in. 

“Auggie and Hobbes listen to me practice the trumpet, all the fundamental boring parts, every day. They see my microphone setup here at home, and see me collaborating with other artists. My philosophy is: don’t force your dreams on your children. Still, I’m living my dream, and Jana, too, so they experience a lot of music with us.

Be sure to check out Prof. Adam Meckler’s full bio and all his links here: https://linktr.ee/AdamMeckler

“There was a time I was practicing for West Side Story at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I played both the main role and a sub, so I had to learn two parts, with some real screaming on my horn. That was no problem for them. Oggie and Hobbs are used to hearing me playing full volume, even at bedtime. But just the other night, Jana texted me at about 11 pm while I was practicing in the basement, to say: ‘Adam could you please keep it down? I need to get some sleep!'”

Dr. Jared Anderson is chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Prof. Jared Anderson is a strong advocate for the transformative power of ensemble singing in building caring communities. As Director of Choral Activities at Michigan Tech, he conducts Michigan Tech choirs and teaches courses in music theory, group voice, and basic musicianship. He also coaches singers in Tech theater productions.

Anderson has conducted ensembles in Utah, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, ensembles of all sizes and voicing, with singers of many different ages and backgrounds. An active choral himself singer himself, Anderson has performed in venues and festivals worldwide.

Prof. Anderson, how did you first get involved in music? What sparked your interest?

“I grew up in Orem, Utah, and come from a big family. My mom played in dance bands, and so each of us, me and my brothers and sisters, had to play an instrument and do things. I played piano and she insisted that I not quit until graduating from high school, but that was never a question—I always loved it. One of my fondest memories is when my dad played William Tell overture and we’d all run around like The Lone Ranger in the house.”


Life is a song: “Jane and I are the proud parents of three children,” says Prof. Anderson.

I always thought I’d be a doctor like my dad. In college I studied piano. I thought, no problem—I’ll major in piano and then go to med school. But I never ended up taking any pre-med courses, not even one!” From there, I moved into singing and choirs. There’s just something about being in a community and conducting that got me hooked.  

Michigan Tech Concert Choir Director Jared Anderson poses with a new friend during a visit to a South African school. The choir spent two weeks in South Africa in May 2017.

What is your most meaningful and memorable choral experience thus far?

While earning my master’s degree, I conducted the Utah State Prison choir on Tuesday nights. Sometimes there’d be 20 guys and other times just a few, depending on lockdown. I’d enter the prison by going through all the checkpoints, and then I’d be alone, walking over to the prison chapel where we rehearsed. We sang a lot together, and they loved to sing. It was a medium security prison, so I’d joke – ‘Hey, I know you’re all here because you forgot to pay your taxes in 1984!’ But it was a hardened environment. I could see how singing made a difference in their lives, by how they interacted with each other after a few songs.

Be sure to check out Prof. Anderson’s full bio here.


Tim Schulz: Anatomy of a Fishing Season

A digital self portrait sketch by Tim Schulz. “I was fishing down at the Pilgrim River near town. I ended up using this for the cover of my book.”

Tim Schulz shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, March 29 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.

Tim Schulz, University Professor, Michigan Tech

What are you doing for supper this Monday 3/29 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Tim Schulz, University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prof. Schulz teaches electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, fishes for trout throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and plays guitar and writes songs in his spare time. He is the author of The Habits of Trout: And Other Unsolved Mysteries, a collection of essays about fishing. 

Will Cantrell, Dean of the Graduate School at Michigan Tech

Joining in will be Will Cantrell, associate provost and dean of Michigan Tech’s graduate school. Dean Cantrell is also a professor of Physics. His research focuses on atmospheric science, particularly on clouds. In the summer, he goes fly fishing, occasionally tying some of his own flies.

During Husky Bites, Schulz will share the story of how he came to write his book, The Habits of Trout. It all began with a quest to explore the rugged backwoods environs where another author, John Voelker, found an abundance of wild trout and a dearth of crowds.

Schulz first came to Michigan Tech in 1992 as an assistant professor. He earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and then served as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Schulz was appointed Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2007, then returned to the ECE department five years later as a professor. In 2019 Schulz was named a University Professor, a title recognizing faculty members who have made outstanding scholarly contributions to the University and their discipline over a substantial period of time.

“When my eye doctor asks if I ever see spots,” says Schulz, “I say ‘all the time.'” 

As a teacher, Schulz is widely acknowledged as one of the ECE department’s best, with his friendly, humorous style and his devotion to his students’ learning. He’s also a leader in using technology to deliver technical material in electrical and computer engineering. 

“There was a time when I believed I could solve the mysteries of trout in particular and of life in general. But now I think we sometimes need to get skunked. We need to break our line on a good fish every now and again, and sometimes we need to cast all day without a take. We need to be grounded by the humility of failure so we can be lifted by the hope of success.”

Excerpt with permission from The Habits of Trout and Other Unsolved Mysteries, by Timothy Schulz (Uptrout Press, 2018). All rights reserved.

Starting in 2012, Schulz created a series of videos collectively titled “Electric Circuits” and posted them on YouTube. Though he created them with his EE2111 (Electric Circuits 1) class in mind, they are reaching a much wider audience.  All combined, his educational videos have had over one million views on YouTube. One, “Thevenin Equivalent Circuits” has gotten more than 162,763 views. Since that time, Schulz developed a phone app of randomized electric circuit problems to use in this course, too. 

The Habits of Trout and Other Unsolved Mysteries is Schulz’s first book.

As a researcher, Schulz applies statistical signal-processing techniques to computational imaging and signal analysis. His methods have been used to clarify images from the Hubble Space Telescope and to miniaturize high-quality cameras for military surveillance and commercial applications. Shortly after the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, Schulz applied image processing methods to de-blur and improve images taken with the flawed telescope.

When and how did you discover a love of fly fishing? Did anyone teach you how?

Tim: One of my mom’s friends gave me a cheap fly rod when I was a kid, and I used that for bluegill. But I didn’t get serious about fly fishing in general, and fly fishing for trout in particular, until about 25 years ago when my wife Roxanne bid on fly fishing lessons that Ray Weglars donated to benefit a local art gallery. She has second guessed that ever since. 

Will: I helped my neighbor down the street, Lou Owen, with something. I think maybe it was his garage door opener. He insisted that I “take something” for my trouble. He ended up taking me fly fishing. That was my first experience with it. He showed me the basics. After that, I was self taught, and have no doubt taught myself some bad habits, especially with casting.

Rainbow Trout. Credit: Tim Schulz

Do you ever find yourself thinking about your research while you are out fishing? 

Tim: Sometimes, but not a lot. Mostly, I think about the flora, the fauna, and the fish. 

Will: Usually, when I’m fishing, I am thinking about the fish that’s rising, or where it might be if there’s not a fish rising, or how to get a fly to drift without dragging despite the three crosswise currents between me and where I want the fly…I am more likely to think about research problems when I’m walking the river to get where I will be fishing.

For those who have never ever tried it, what’s a good way to get started?

Tim: Go to a good fly shop and have them set you up. A good guide is invaluable for helping you get started. And read all you can on the subject. If you have a friend who fly fishes, take them to dinner, buy them beer, whiskey, or anything else they like. Fly anglers are secretive, but they have weaknesses, and they can be bought.

Will: Most fisherpeople will show you one or two spots that everyone knows about. What Tim suggests is probably the most reliable way.

“Here’s a brown I caught a couple of summers ago on
the Uncompahgre in Colorado,” says Cantrell.

How do you deal with the mosquitos and the biting insects?

Tim: From my chest down, I’m protected by waders. I always wear long sleeve shirts, and my wide-brim hat has been sprayed with bug-dope so much that the EPA has classified it as a minor environmental hazard. Also, if you do this long enough, you’ll learn to extend your lower lip in front of your upper lip and blow the bugs off your face. It really works.

Will: Badger Balm. Long sleeve shirt. If the bugs are biting you, there are also bugs on the water. Trout feed on bugs. I am much less bothered by biting insects when I’m casting to a rise that I think might be grandfather trout!

Brown Trout. Credit: Tim Schulz

In terms of fly fishing, what is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?

Tim: My greatest strength? Patience. I’m really good at sitting on a log or a rock and waiting for a fish to start feeding. I can do it for hours. Most of the big fish I’ve caught have been because of that. My greatest weakness? Patience. I’m really good at sitting on a log or a rock and waiting for a fish to start feeding. I can do it for hours. Most of my fishless days have been because of that. 

Will: My greatest weakness? Patience, lack thereof. I almost never do what Tim describes!

Word to the wise: Be careful if you decide to check out Madness and Magic, Prof. Schulz captivating blog. You may easily become hooked!


Andrew Barnard + Travis White: Lake Superior, Marine Autonomy—and Fishing

Photo credit: Travis White

Andrew Barnard and Travis White share their knowledge on Husky Bites tonight, Monday, March 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 tonight, Monday 3/22 at 6 ET? Hey, it’s World Water Day 2021! Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Andrew Barnard, Director of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC). Barnard is a Michigan Tech alum, and an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech, specializing in the field of acoustics, vibration, and noise control engineering.

Andrew Barnard, Director, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech

Joining in will be Travis White, aka Captain White. He’s a research engineer at the GLRC, owner of Keweenaw Charters, and also a Michigan Tech alum. Travis earned his BS in mechanical engineering in 2011. He’s also an entrepreneur, as cofounder of ProNav Marine, a company that offers up high-tech tools designed to enhance the boating and fishing experience.

Travis White, Research Engineer, Great Lakes Research Center, Michigan Tech

Together they will present some of their exciting work around the Great Lakes and beyond, including engineering an autonomous jetski that will help map the bottom of Lake Superior–and advance research in the area of marine autonomy.

“Autonomous marine vehicles can aid in data collection to identify invasive species, monitor the effects of climate change, evaluate fish populations, assess water quality, and much more,” says White. “Not only does their widespread adoption and use help to protect our limited water resources for economic, environmental, and social benefits but also related technologies promise to make global shipping smarter, cleaner, and more efficient.”

The mission of Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center: To become a leader in interdisciplinary aquatic science and engineering focused on the Laurentian Great Lakes Basin in its entirety through excellence in research education and outreach.

According to White and Barnard, GLRC’s 11′ Yamaha WaveRunner, a personal watercraft, is being made autonomous through the addition of remotely controlled actuators for steering and throttle and sensors including GPS, compass, and inertial motion sensing.

“The Michigan Tech engineers behind this are collaborating with a supplier in Madrid, Spain to adapt their commercially available off the shelf control hardware for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to what will become an autonomous / unmanned surface vehicle (ASV / USV) once the integration is complete,” says White. “Currently the WaveRunner is fully remotely controllable, but the ultimate goal is making it fully autonomous, meaning it can be given a program via a computer software interface and deployed to complete missions without requiring an operator at the controls.”

Michigan Tech GLRC’s Yamaha WaveRunner, a personal watercraft (aka “jetski)

That research is one of many projects underway at the recently established Marine Autonomy Research Site (MARS), which serves as a proving ground for new maritime technologies that will enable smart, autonomous, and unmanned shipping.  

“I grew up in the Blue Economy,” adds Barnard. “Twenty-one percent of the world’s surface freshwater is in the Great Lakes. If the Great Lakes states were their own country, they would have the world’s 3rd largest GDP. From tourism to shipping, water is vital to our economic engine.”

This week Michigan Tech’s celebrates World Water Day 2021 with a week full of special events from March 18-24. “It’s an exciting and varied schedule for all ages,” say White. Registration is needed for events on March 23 & 24. Visit the Great Lakes Research Center World Water Day website for more details. All events all relate to the United Nations theme, “Valuing Water.”

Water is vital to life. On World Water Day, discover how our community values water from social, economic, cultural, and environmental perspectives.

During Husky Bites, Andrew Barnard and Travis White of the Great Lakes Research Center will talk about the USGS Saildrone (pictured here)—how it works, and how it’s used for fish population assessment.

“Fishing is a vital resource for Great Lakes communities and tribes,” adds Barnard. “The USGS conducts yearly Great Lakes fish surveys. One problem: Noise from large vessels can affect accurate fish counting.”

White will discuss some interesting interdisciplinary research in his job at the Great Lakes Research Center, as well:

DARPA BioProtein—turning plastic into food (economic sustainability through environmental sustainability)

Lake Superior Geology—the Midcontinent Rift System (MRS) sample collection at Stannard Rock.

And the Great Lakes Buoy Program—real-time measurements of wind, waves, and weather (And, “Great for fishing,” adds White).

“My goal was to form a career around my passions,” says Travis. “Two of those passions: being on the water, and big fish!”

During Husky Bites, Barnard and White plan to hare a few (fish) tales from their time spent working on and around the water, experiences that inspire their work and fuel their passion for protecting water resources.

Andrew Barnard was born and raised outside of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, an area cradled between Lake Michigan and the bay of Green Bay. He comes from a long line of teachers.


Tim Eisele: Backyard Metals

It takes a village. (Leaching manganese in Tim Eisele’s lab at Michigan Tech requires help from a sizeable community of bacteria.)

Tim Eisele shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, March 15 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 3/15 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Tim Eisele, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech. His focus: sustainable metallurgy.

Tim Eisele, Chemical Engineering, Michigan Tech

“There is more than one way to extract metals from ore,” says Eisele. “Massive mines that disrupt many square miles are not the only way to go. I have been working on a method for using bacteria to recover iron and manganese in such a way that, if it is done carefully, it may not even be obvious that mining is going on at all.”

Joining in will be Neha Sharma, one of Dr. Eisele’s PhD students. She came to Michigan Tech from the India Institute of Technology after internships at Tata Steel, the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre in Australia, and India’s National Metallurgical Lab.

Eisele holds a BS, MS and PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, all from Michigan Tech. In his research, he develops bacterial processes for upgrading and extracting iron ores and low-cost reprocessing of industrial wastes such as slags and sludges to recover valuable metals.

The inspiration for this began right in Eisele’s own yard, and in his own household well. “We have 9 acres of surprisingly varied property that includes rock outcroppings, grassland, woods, and a small fen–a type of wetland–that bleeds iron,” he explains.

Iron bogs are located all over the world. This one is located in the Black Hills of Western South Dakota. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

“It all started when we bought the house. All the plumbing fixtures were stained red. Really red. I took a glass of untreated drinking water to my lab at Michigan Tech, and found that iron precipitated out. We struck iron! So I thought, ‘Why is this happening? Is there something constructive we can do with this?’”

The high iron content of his home well water, Eisele figured out, was caused by naturally occurring anaerobic iron-dissolving organisms.

“The UP is well known for having these elements in the soil, both iron and manganese,” says Eisele. Jacobsville sandstone is a visible example. The white lines in Jacobsville sandstone are where bacteria ate out the iron.”

Jacobsville Sandstone from Jacobsville, Michigan. Held in the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech. Sample is approximately 12 cm across.

Eisele cultivated anaerobic and aerobic organisms in the laboratory to fully adapt them to the ore. “We use mixed cultures of organisms that we have found to be more effective than pure cultures of a single species of organism,” he explains. “The use of microorganism communities will also be more practical to implement on an industrial scale, where protecting the process from contamination by outside organisms may be impossible.”

“There was not much initial interest in the technology from industry,” recalls Eisele. “‘If you can demonstrate that you can do it at a profit, come talk to us,” they said.

Since that time, Eisele and his team have been branching out to also extract manganese, which is dissolved by the same organisms as the ones that dissolve iron. This has attracted more interest, including a recent funded project from the U.S. Department of Energy.

A diagram of Eisele’s reductive bioleaching concept. He’ll explain at Husky Bites!

“Manganese is one of the ‘battery metals,’” Eisele explains. “It’s also used heavily in most steel alloys.”

“Manganese is also currently considered a ‘critical element”. Currently there is no manganese mining or production in the US,” adds Eisele. “While there are manganese ores in this country, new extraction technology is needed in order to be competitive with ores elsewhere in the world.”

In Eisele’s lab at Michigan Tech, Neha Sharma and other students, both graduate and undergraduate, work on developing and refining the technology. This includes a small “model wetland” consisting of a 5-gallon container with a circulation of water and appropriate nutrients, –in effect, simulating the type of wetland that leaches metal.

“I work on a manganese leaching setup,” Sharma explains. “It involves analyzing the samples we get from the leaching flasks for the presence of manganese. The best part of the work? “New findings are always the best part,” says Sharma. The most challenging? “Writing about them!”

In the beaker on the right, anaerobic bacteria dissolve iron in the ferrous state. On the left, in Dr. Eisele’s hand, recovered electrolytic iron.

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

I have been interested in science and engineering for as long as I can remember. I originally decided to work with metals after taking a welding class in high school, and came to Michigan Tech to study metallurgy in 1980.

“This is a Cecropia Moth caterpillar (Hyalophora cecropia) that we found on a wild cherry last August.”

Family and hobbies?

I grew up on a small dairy farm in the Thumb area of lower Michigan, near Kinde (population 400). I then decided to move here, to the Big City. I currently live just outside of town with my wife, two children, a dog, a cat, six chickens, and a variable number of beehives. My daughters are still in school, and my wife is a locksmith.

“In my spare time, I like to take photos of insects, and started a website about it back in 2007, The Backyard Arthropod Project. Both of my daughters have participated in this from the beginning, and neither of them has the slightest fear of insects or spiders. My older daughter’s first contribution at the age of 2 was an assassin bug nymph, that she brought while crowing, ‘Take picture, Dada!’ My younger daughter, also at the age of 2, brought me a nice longhorn beetle that she held up while calling out ‘See! Bug!’ Lately I’ve also been including postings about the local plants, and have a couple of posts about the metal-leaching properties of our wetland.”

Neha Sharma, PhD student. Michigan Tech

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

“I was always interested in science during my school days, so when I graduated from high school I thought that engineering would be the perfect fit for me. My major during my undergraduate studies in India was mineral processing. Working through those subjects and various internships –all focused on mineral processing and metallurgy–sparked my interest towards the sustainable aspect of these industries.”

One of Neha’s charcoal drawings: “I call it a tranquil life.”

Family and hobbies?

Neha with her brother, father and mother, on a visit ft the US from India.

“I grew up in a small town in India called Bokaro Steel City. I earned my bachelor’s degree from the Indian School of Mines (now Indian Institute of Technology) in Dhanbad, India. My parents still live in India. My father is a teacher in high school, teaching math and physics. My older brother works for Borealis AI, in Canada. My mother is a homemaker and loves gardening. I love going to new places. In my spare time, I’ll read a book or sketch. I love badminton, and cross country skiing, too. I am also a big Lord of the Rings fan, and a Potterhead too!”


Paleomagnetism: Deciphering the Early History of the Earth

Rock samples in Smirnov’s lab are 2-3 billion years old.

Although it makes up about seven-eighths of the Earth’s history, the Precambrian time period is far from figured out. Key questions remain unanswered.

The Precambrian—the first four billion years of Earth history—was a time of many critical transitions in Earth systems, including oxygenation of the atmosphere and emergence of life. But many of these processes, and the links between them, are poorly understood.

Data can be obtained from fossil magnetism—some rocks record the Earth’s magnetic field that existed at the time of their formation. However, for very old rocks (billions of years old) the conventional methods of obtaining fossil magnetism do not work well.

Professor Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Michigan Tech Professor of Geophysics, Aleksey Smirnov, seeks to substantially increase the amount of reliable data on the Precambrian field. Smirnov investigates the fossil magnetism of well-dated igneous rocks from around the globe using new and experimental processes to help fill in the blanks. His work on the early magnetic field history is supported by several National Science Foundation grants including a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

“Deciphering the early history of our planet, the early history of its geomagnetic field, represents one of the great challenges in Earth science,” says Smirnov. “Available data are scarce, and key questions remain unanswered. For instance we still don’t know how and when the Earth’s geomagnetic field began.”

Smirnov and former student Danford Moore
drill rock samples in the Zebra Hill region, Pilbara Craton, Western Australia.

“How did the geomagnetic field evolve at early stages? How did it interact with the biosphere, and other Earth system components—these are all largely unanswered questions. There is also disagreement on the age of the solid inner core, ranging between 0.5 and 2.5 billion years,” note Smirnov.

Scientists largely believe the Earth’s intrinsic magnetic field is generated and maintained by convective flow in the Earth’s fluid outer core, called the geodynamo.

Smirnov’s research has broad implications for Earth science including a better understanding of the workings and age of the geodynamo.

Earth cutaway. Credit: Lawrence Livermore Lab

“Crystallization of the inner core may have resulted in a dramatic increase of the geomagnetic field strength preceded by a period of an unusually weak and unstable field,” he explains. “If we observe this behavior in the paleomagnetic record, we will have a much better estimate of the inner core age and hence a better constrained thermal history of our planet.”

Knowing the strength and stability of the early geomagnetic field is also crucial to understanding the causative links between the magnetic field and modulating the evolution of atmosphere and biosphere,” notes Smirnov.

An illustration of the Earth’s magnetic field. Credit NASA.

Today, the Earth’s magnetic field protects the atmosphere and life from solar and cosmic radiation. “Before the inner core formation, the geodynamo could have produced a much weaker and less stable magnetic field. An attendant weaker magnetic shielding would allow a much stronger effect of solar radiation on life evolution and atmospheric chemistry.”

Both graduate and undergraduate students work with Smirnov to conduct research, logging hours in his Earth and Environmental Magnetism Lab, traveling the world to collect specimens.

The Earth and Environmental Magnetism Lab at Michigan Tech: If you drop a metal object on the floor there, the shielding properties of the room can be lost.

“The primary (useful) magnetizations recorded by ancient rocks are usually very weak and are often superimposed by later (parasitic, secondary) magnetizations,” Smirnov explains. “In order to get to the primary magnetization, we have to remove the secondary magnetizations by incremental heatings of the samples in our specialized paleomagnetic furnaces. The heatings must be done in a zero magnetic field environment. This is one reason why we have the shielded room, which was specially built for our paleomagnetic lab. There are other shielded rooms around the country, but ours is the only one at Michigan Tech,” he notes.

“The second reason for having our instruments in the shielded room is that the magnetizations we measure are weak and our instruments are so sensitive that the Earth’s magnetic field can interfere with our measurements. In fact, in addition to the shielded room, each instrument inside has an additional magnetic shielding.”

Note that the shielded room was built before I came, by my predecessors Profs Jimmy Diehl and Sue Beske-Diehl.

Students in this photo (some now graduates) are performing liquid helium transfer into one of our cryogenic magnetometers. “We need to constantly keep the sensors at a very cold temperature (only a very few degrees above the absolute zero temperature) to provide their ultra-sensitivity,” says GMES professor and chair, Aleksey Smirnov. “It is based on the principle of superconductivity.”

On one month-long trip to the Pilbara Craton in northwest Western Australia, Smirnov and a student gathered 900 samples of well preserved, 2.7 to 3.5 billion year old Precambrian rocks. 

Smirnov stepped into the role of chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences last fall, but that won’t keep him too far from his research. “Any interested student should feel free to get in touch to learn more about research positions,” he says.

Investigations in Smirnov’s lab are not limited to the ancient field. Other interests include the application of magnetic methods for hydrocarbon exploration, magnetic mineralogy, magnetism of meteorites, biomagnetism, and plate tectonics.

Learn more

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

Clues To Earth’s Ancient Core


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.