Category: Features

When you mark something as “Features” you are forcing it to the top of the news page on news and events.

Sarah Green: Glasgow—Michigan Tech Agents of Change

Michigan Tech delegation, colleagues and friends at COP26 in Glasgow

Sarah Green shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, March 21 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.

Dr. Sarah Green: “The ultimate challenge to understanding how things work is to consider the whole Earth as a system of physical, biological and human processes.”

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 3/21 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Professor Sarah Green, interim chair and professor of Chemistry. Last November, six Michigan Tech students and three alumni helped lead events and a press conference at the 26th United Nations COP26 event in Glasgow, Scotland. The group was accompanied by Green, whose interests include all aspects of environmental chemistry, from molecular analytical methods to global climate change. 

The group’s effort was part of the Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education (YEAH), a multidisciplinary research and education network involving 10 universities. Formed in 2019 with support from the National Science Foundation, YEAH prepares students to engage on climate-related issues across disciplines and cultures—and to be part of the climate solution as scientists and emerging leaders. 

On the trip were Jessica Daignault, who earned her PhD in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2021, and current mechanical engineering PhD student Ayush Chutani. During Husky Bites we’ll hear about their experiences at COP26—and what comes next.

Daignault is now a professor civil engineering at Montana Tech. Chutani is conducting doctoral research at Michigan Tech, testing new solar panel coatings designed to shed snow.

We’ll also get a head start in celebrating United Nations World Water Day, coming up on Wednesday March 22, 2022. At Michigan Tech, World Water Day celebration at the Great Lakes Research Center for a week!

Ayush Chutani: “For me, finding solutions to global problems is as important as our approach to finding them.”
Dr. Jessica Daignault: “There must be transparency and accountability in the negotiation process, and the voices of minority populations must be heard.”

“We are linked to our environment by flows of atoms, and some of them are causing planet-wide changes,” notes Green. “Chemical flows help visualize the big picture of climate change and the human impacts. The ultimate challenge in understanding how things work is to consider the whole Earth as a system of physical, biological and human processes,” she says.

Green first joined the Department of Chemistry at Michigan Tech in 1994, then served as department chair for the next nine years. Her research includes carbon cycling in the Lake Superior basin; origin and fate of organic carbon in terrestrial, lake, and marine environments, response of aquatic systems to climate change; integration of biological, geological, physical, and chemical data for understanding of global cycles, and the communication of climate change science.

At Michigan Tech Green was instrumental in several major climate-related environmental monitoring efforts, beginning with KITES, an NSF-funded project that spawned many subsequent environmental monitoring efforts in the upper Great Lakes. The work continues today with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Alliance for Coastal Technologies and NOAA’s Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS). 

In 2013 she was named a Jefferson Science Fellow by the US State Department, and spent a year working in the Bureau of East Asia-Pacific Affairs. Then, from 2015-2019, Green served as co-chair for the Scientific Advisory Panel on the Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), United Nations Environment Programme.

Part of the MTU delegration at COP26 in Glasgow

Green’s work with the State Department and with UN Environment has given her direct experience at the science-policy interface. “Perhaps the most important aspect of policy is listening carefully to identify the key concerns of all players,” she says. “My work with policy has also exposed me to a few of the many smart and dedicated people who are striving to improve the world.”

Green has brought both experiences back to her teaching, especially in her Climate Science and Policy course at Michigan Tech. She also teaches a course on Green Chemistry. 

“I first met Dr. Sarah Green while I was a student in her climate policy course during graduate school,” says Daignault. “Since then I have had the privilege of attending two United Nations COP meetings with her and other MTU delegates.”

“I was a student in Dr. Green’s course on climate policy last semester,” adds Chutani. “I was fortunate to attend COP26 in person last year. I hope to go next year as a part of the MTU delegation.”

“We have the technology to drastically slow global warming,” says Dr. Sarah Green.

“Climate change is an enormously multifaceted problem,” says Green. “Many actions are urgent, so removing impediments to action may be the most critical starting point. Innumerable opportunities are emerging and many would flourish if obstacles were removed.”

“We have the technology to drastically slow global warming,” she says. “The best case scenario is that we collectively commit to deploying that technology, and that we skillfully manage potential economic and social disruption that can result from such large scale changes. The faster we act, the better the chance of keeping global temperatures within tolerable limits.” 

Adds Green: “The worst-case scenarios are bad—and unpredictable. Humans have no experience with a climate warmer by 2 degrees Celsius than the one where civilization developed.”

“Imagine taking the entire population of Earth to a new planet with unknown weather patterns, unknown ecology, new disease pathways and unpredictable crop yields.” 

Dr. Sarah Green

“People can contribute to climate solutions by working on myriad fronts, including new energy systems, cultural change, modern materials, ecology, art, hydrology, communication, transportation systems, philosophy, chemistry and especially cross-disciplinary exchanges.”

Dr. Green, how did you first get interested in chemistry and Earth system science?

I have always wanted to understand how things work. My dad encouraged me to take things apart to figure them out. In college, I spent a few months replacing the engine in my car and saw how mechanical, electrical and chemical processes all join in a coherent system.

Chemical reactions are themselves tiny systems that work when atoms and molecules line up in the right places with the right energies and electron arrangements to transform.

My graduate work focused on carbon-containing molecules in the ocean, which led me toward what is now known as earth system science.”

What do you like best about your work now?

I really like collaborating with people from diverse fields because I always learn new perspectives on the world, new tools to understand it and new connections between its parts.

“Climate change cannot be addressed without considering social justice, gender equality, capitalism, freshwater and ocean resources and impacts to biodiversity.”

Dr. Jessica Daignault

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

Michigan Tech’s Leading Scholars program was my gateway. I wasn’t sure which specific engineering discipline I was going to pursue until I got to campus my first year, where I discovered Environmental Engineering. I was excited to find a program that combined my aptitude for math and science with the physical, chemical, and biological processes related to the environment. 

Hometown, family?

I grew up in Marquette, Michigan on a small hobby farm. I have a deep love for the Upper Peninsula. I have a dog named Smith and a horse named Diams. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to get outside and adventure on horseback, bicycle, or foot. 

I am interested in energy equity and just transitioning towards a sustainable future.

Ayush Chutani

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

My engineering interests stem back to a young age from watching Nat Geo and Discovery Channel shows. I always wanted to be a creator and inventor and pretty much started with mechanical engineering; my journey started with aerospace engineering. Still, I later transitioned to renewable energy, sustainability, and climate change during my masters. For me, finding solutions to global problems is as important as our approach to finding them. Also, I am interested in energy equity and just transitioning towards a sustainable future. 

Hometown? And what do you like to do for fun?

I grew up in Faridabad, India, in the National Capital Region. I like to draw, sketch and cook in my free time. I also spend considerable time enjoying popular fiction, including movies and games. I try to look out for unique foods and interesting local stores when I travel.

Read More

Sarah Green Named Jefferson Science Fellow

Reflection and Perspectives from Inside COP25

Caryn Heldt: The Making of a Vaccine

Caryn Heldt shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, March 14 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

“Our goal is to bring biotherapies to market faster,” says Dr. Caryn Heldt.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 3/14 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Chemical Engineering Professor Caryn Heldt, to learn how different vaccines are made. Heldt, the James and Lorna Mack Endowed Chair of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, will talk about the different types of vaccines, how they are created and designed, and the FDA approval process. 

Caryn Heldt

Joining in will be one of Dr. Heldt’s former students, Dylan Turpeinen, who worked as an undergraduate and graduate researcher in the Heldt Bioseparations Lab at Michigan Tech. Dr. Turpeinen earned his BS in 2016, and his PhD in 2020, both in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech. He’s now a downstream process development scientist at the Florida-based biopharmaceutical company Resilience (formerly Ology Bioservices). In his role, Dr. Turpeinen operates and optimizes purification unit operations to produce vaccines.

Heldt is an alumna, as well. She graduated from Michigan Tech in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. She earned a Masters in Chemical Engineering in 2005 and her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2008, both from North Carolina State University. After post-doctoral studies in chemical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2010, she joined the chemical engineering faculty at Michigan Tech. Then, in 2015, Heldt won a prestigious NSF CAREER Award, which boosted her efforts and focus on vaccine research and development. She’s a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Society of Biological Engineers, and the Biophysical Society.

Pictured: the ultrastructural details of an influenza virus particle, or “virion”. Dr. Heldt is PI on a joint research project with Johns Hopkins University, funded by the FDA, “Integrated and Continuous Manufacturing of an Influenza Vaccine.”

Heldt teaches both undergraduate and graduate classes at Michigan Tech. Her lab, the Heldt Bioseparations Lab, is busier than ever, with seven graduate and five undergraduate students and two postdocs⁠—her vaccine research dream team. “Our lab focuses on the science of viral surface interactions and applies it to vaccine manufacturing and purification,” she explains. “We are interested in how viruses interact with different surfaces and chemistries. This could be important in how viruses infect cells, but we focus on how we can change surfaces to improve purification and manufacturing of viral therapies.”

Dylan Turpeinen

Turpeinen started out in the lab with Dr. Heldt as undergraduate researcher, fabricating and testing graphene-based electrochemical biosensors for rapid protein detection. He shared his enthusiasm for biosensors with middle and high school students the summer after he graduated with his BS, teaching at Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Program (SYP) and then started work on his master’s degree, conducting graduate research on biosensors to detect malaria.

We are interested in how viruses interact with different surfaces and chemistries.

Turpeinen’s research then shifted to developing and testing a gold nanoparticle aggregation assay for virus detection, which could be used to ensure surface cleanliness on cruise ships, at hospitals or doctor’s offices between patients. His doctoral dissertation was entitled, “Development of Detection and Purification Strategies for Viral Products,” successfully defended (virtually due to the Pandemic) in July 2020.

Observing these chemical reactions in a test tube sometimes reminded him of a sunset: “The gold nanoparticles are the sun that start above the lake displaying a red-ish pink color and as the sun begins to set behind the lake, the color changes to a deep purple. When the sun is set, only the crisp blue color of Lake Superior is left behind.”

“Integrating graduate and undergraduate training in the lab inspires and guides the next generation of engineers. It also enhances our research.”

Caryn Heldt
A day in the life in the Heldt Bioseparations Lab

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

Ever since grade school, I planned on being an engineer. At first, I wanted to work at mission control at NASA. Later, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. My mom and sister are nurses, and while I didn’t want to be a medical doctor, making medicines really intrigued me. Now as an engineer I can still make a difference without working directly with patients. 

“A few years ago my son had the Grand Champion chicken in the Houghton county Fair!”
Looking good!
Dr. Heldt is a quilter!

Hometown, family?

I grew up in Pinconning, Michigan. My dad dropped out of school in 8th grade to help on the family farm and my mom has an associate’s degree in nursing. They instilled in me the importance of education and pushed me to get a bachelor’s degree. They were a little surprised when I took it so far as to get a doctorate degree. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I live in Atlantic Mine with my husband Gary and our three children. At home we have about 25 chickens (give or take a few) that give us fresh eggs. I enjoy quilting in my spare time. I’ve even started quilting viruses and microscopes, so my love for science is bleeding over into my hobbies. As a family, we downhill ski, snowshoe, and camp. I’ve also served on the Michigan Tech Preschool board, and was a FIRST Lego League coach, too.

“Gold nanoparticle size increase reminds me of a sunset over Lake Superior.”

Dylan Turpeinen, spoken as a chemical engineering PhD student at Michigan Tech

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

As a kid, I was always using Lego blocks to build anything I could imagine—houses, planes, and spaceships. When I got older, I found myself thinking about how and why something worked. I knew I needed to learn techniques to figure out how. When I visited Michigan Tech in high school, the professors I talked to made me very excited about Chemical Engineering.They explained how it was the “jack of all trades” of engineering. I knew pursuing an engineering degree would teach me the techniques I needed in order to figure out most things at a base level. To this day I deep-dive into any project I am interested in to understand how it works.

Ellie and Momo: they get along great!

Hometown, family?

I was born in Orlando but grew up in Houghton where I stayed for almost 15 years. I currently live in sunny Gainesville, Florida with my wife LiLu Funkenbusch and our two fur babies, Ellie (dog) and Momo (cat).

Any hobbies?

I like woodworking, PC gaming, and visiting local breweries to enjoy any and all IPAs (aka India Pale Ales). I also enjoy making various improvements to our new house.

Watch

Play How Vaccine Manufacturing is a Bit Like Making Salad Dressing video
Preview image for How Vaccine Manufacturing is a Bit Like Making Salad Dressing video

How Vaccine Manufacturing is a Bit Like Making Salad Dressing

Read More

Bouncing, Sticking, Exploding Viruses: Understanding the Surface Chemistry of SARS-CoV-2

The Pandemic Toolbox: COVID-19’s Wrench Remade Research Labs

Students Study Nanotech, Viruses Across Oceans and Disciplines in Singapore

Chemical Engineering Major Wins Portage Health Foundation Scholarship

Q&A with Bhakta Rath Award Winners Pratik Umesh Joshi and Caryn Heldt

TECH SCEnE Offers the Best of Both Worlds in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal members share their knowledge, wisdom, and culture with TECH SCEnE REU students. Apply for TECHSCEnE Summer 2022 by March 15 at https://www.techscene.mtu.edu. Tentative program dates are June 3, 2022- July 29, 2022. Tribal college, community college or university students, women and students from underrepresented backgrounds are all encouraged to apply.

What are you doing this Summer 2022? Want to combine cutting-edge engineering research with direct community involvement and impact? With a generous stipend, travel allowance, plus all expenses paid for 8 weeks?

Samantha Haynes, future biomedical engineer, spent 8 weeks as a TECH SCEnE REU researcher last summer.

Biomedical engineering student Samantha Haynes decided to immerse herself in something entirely new via TECH SCEnE, a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Experience (REU) at Michigan Technological University. Haynes came all the way from Arlington, Virginia, where she studies biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech.

The 8-week, all-expense paid program offered at Michigan Tech is called TECH SCEnE (short for Technology, Science and Community Engagement in Engineering). Haynes stayed on campus, went on outdoor trips throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, guided by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and conducted hands-on research in campus labs alongside a faculty mentor.

TECH SCEnE research projects include water quality testing for heavy metal contamination, smart adhesives for underwater applications, remote monitoring and mobile robots, simulating daylight for hatcheries, and in vitro modeling of the impact of heavy metals.

Samantha is seventh from the left. TECH SCEnE stands for Technology, Science and Community Engagement in Engineering

In addition to hands-on laboratory experience, Haynes and her fellow students took plenty of field visits to the beautiful lakeshores of Lake Superior and Keweenaw Bay. Application deadline for Summer 2022 is March 15. Tentative program dates are June 3, 2022- July 29, 2022.

This year is forecast to be outstanding for viewing the Northern Lights in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Located just 20 minutes or so from the Michigan Tech campus, McLain State Park on Lake Superior is a great potential viewing spot!

Haynes pioneered research on heavy metal contamination in the soil and wild rice beds around the Keweenaw last summer as an undergraduate researcher taking part in TECH SCEnE. She also worked alongside members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), her fellow REU students, and other volunteers to plant over 75 trees, build hoops houses, harvest foods, and upkeep a large community garden, the tribe’s People’s Garden.

Wild rice, known as manoomin, the good berry, is both a spiritual and nutritional staple of the Keweenaw Indian Community.

Samantha, what did you like most about TECH SCEnE?

I applied to TECHScENE REU because I thought the internship was very unique. I was excited to have the opportunity to work in Michigan and learn about the local Indian community. I personally value diversity and learning about different communities very much, so I appreciated that this type of internship existed. I’m also passionate about creating positive social change, helping to protect the environment, and using science to bridge gaps in education and educate the public on pressing issues.

What was the best part?

Samantha and fellow volunteers tending to plants in one of the many Hoop Houses of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community People’s Garden

Out of all the experiences activities we did throughout TECH ScENE, building relationships with my fellow peers, mentors, and the Native American community was my favorite part.

What was the most challenging aspect?

The unlearning process of everything I thought I knew about Native Americans. We participated in weekly workshops to unlearn false, preconceived ideas and to learn factual information about Native American tribes and tribal members, especially those we were working with as part of TECH SCEnE. 

“Boozhoo! Welcome to our wellness trail,” says this sign, located on Keweenaw Bay Indian Community tribal land. Take a moment to learn a few words of the Ojibwe language. “Miikaans means “trail”. “Aki” means Earth. And “boozhoo!” means “greetings!” or “hello!”

What next? What are your future plans?

Currently I am a junior in biomedical engineering, so the next step is to secure another internship for summer 2022, in order to gain more experience. Once I graduate, I plan to start working and possibly consider graduate school after a year or two.

Samantha’s final presentation, with her TECH SCEnE research mentor, Professor Rupali Datta

Are you an adventurous college student? Want to learn how to use science and technology to benefit both the community and the environment? Apply to TECH SCEnE by March 15. Tribal college, community college or university students, women and students from underrepresented backgrounds are all encouraged to apply. Learn more and apply for free at techscene.mtu.edu.

Hajj Flemings: Looking Deeper

Hajj Flemings earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1996 and his MBA at Lawrence Tech in 2003: “The educational experience gave me an appreciation for adapting and prepared me for the future.”

When Hajj Flemings looks at a city, he sees more than the streets and buildings. Blessed with an uncanny gift for looking deeper into places, people, and cultures, Flemings invites those around him to bring their light and search with him for the essential. 

When he graduated from Michigan Tech with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering, Flemings was well prepared to adapt to his new work environment on the factory floor at Ford—and begin refining the key concepts for his future endeavors. He went on to start Brand Camp University, an educational platform that is preparing people for the future of work, and Rebrand Detroit, a civic design and brand project and multi-disciplinary collaboration with the residents, community stakeholders, and local government to change cities—starting with his home city of Detroit.

At Ford Flemings was a quality engineer responsible for 20 percent of their aftermarket parts, including remanufactured engines and catalytic converters. 

“I was giving instructions to people who worked on the line longer than I had been alive, but it was through that role I gained an appreciation for making complex concepts simple, while learning to communicate with people who knew more about the core job than I did,” he shares. “It helped me prepare to pivot on my career when the time was right.” 

“I knew on day one that I didn’t want to be an engineer my whole life, but I also knew the degree taught discipline and trained you on how to solve problems.”

Hajj Flemings 

Being a creative at heart, Flemings was writing a branding book and establishing his business while preparing for an exit plan from Ford. “Quality engineering continues to influence what I do today to think beyond aesthetics. It means creating something that works, makes business sense, and is accessible and sustainable,” he explains. “In everything I do, I am thinking about the entire design process journey and how the product meets reality.” 

There is a seasonality of products and people. Products have a lifecycle just like people who leave their positions, notes Flemings. “When creating, we need to ensure we have everything on the ground needed to create it, know how to put it in the hands of the consumer, and make sure there is a documentation trail, so we can hand it off to the next person.”

The grit and determination he gained working through challenging coursework at Michigan Tech has enabled Flemings to lead rebranding efforts for cities across the country and also in Haiti. Looking back on his career successes, Flemings says he feels inspired.

 “The greatest opportunity I have in my role is to learn from others’ stories, develop relationships, and to be able to write the stories of businesses and cities to impact their culture.” 

Hajj Flemings

Students, Faculty and Staff: Sign Up for LEED Green Associate Training at Michigan Tech

Better buildings equal better lives. This is Discover Elementary in Arlington, Virginia. LEED Zero Energy. Photo by Alan Karchmer

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework to design, construct and operate healthy, highly efficient, cost-saving, green buildings.

Michigan Tech’s Joe Azzarello is one of the founders of the US Green Building Council and has led LEED training workshops throughout the United States, Mexico, South America, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Kohler Co.

Are you a student, faculty member or staff at Michigan Tech? If so, you are invited to prepare for, and when ready, take the LEED Green Associate exam. The prep will take place during two sessions, at a low cost, right here at Michigan Tech, with expert training from an original founding member of the US Green Building Council—Michigan Tech alumnus Joe Azzarello.

The LEED exam prep training at MTU will take place over two days. Azzarello will teach on campus in two 5-hour sessions, from 12-5 pm on both Sunday, March 20 and Sunday, March 27. The room is ChemSci 211. Those who cannot attend in person can attend via Zoom. LEED exam training costs $80.00, which includes notes and printed materials. Attendees are expected to purchase their text book, which varies in cost from $73.00 to $115.00, depending on e-book or vendor.

“Attendees will be well trained in what to study for the exam to become accredited as a LEED Green Associate,” notes Azzarello. “Then they must register, take, and pass the LEED GA exam from the USGBC at a later date in order to receive accreditation. The complete costs for LEED Green Associate accreditation varies. The USGBC website provides information on the Steps to Become a LEED Green Associate.

There is no need for a college degree. “Literally anyone can take the course if they can read, memorize some information, and add and subtract,” says Azzarello.

The USGBC LEED Green Associate exam measures general knowledge of green building practices and how to support others working on LEED projects. “The exam is ideal for those new to green building. It’s an accreditation that can enhance your current endeavors, and also open doors to new career opportunities,” Azzarello explains. “LEED accreditation is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.”

Depending on interest, Azzarello may offer more LEED training to Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff. Next up would be the LEED Accredited Professional Exam for individuals who actively work on green building and LEED projects.

Azzarello is a LEED AP® and a registered and active USGBC® Faculty™. He is licensed to instruct multiple USGBC workshops and has led workshops throughout the United States, Mexico, South America, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. He truly enjoys instructing and sharing his 20-plus years of USGBC and LEED experience while bringing new professionals into the green building movement.

Azzarello earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech 1978 and an MS in Environmental Engineering in 1996 from Wayne State University. He is an adjunct instructor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and also serves as advisor to Michigan Tech’s Alternative Energy Enterprise team. 

“I am at the stage of my life now where it is time to give back to Michigan Tech and the community and am in the position to do so,” says Azzarello. “Without a degree from MTU I am not sure how my life would have turned out. I feel very fortunate to be able to give back.”

Prior to joining Michigan Tech, Azarello retired from Kohler Co. as a senior staff engineer focused on sustainability, directing the company’s green building efforts and serving as a global consultant to customers developing green building projects. With decades spent in the environmental field, Azzarello’s resume touts myriad experiences with recycling, energy efficiency, sustainability, co-generation, marketing, sustainable product design and green building design, and construction programs for several Fortune 500 companies, along with multiple smaller organizations as a sustainability consultant. He also served as Yellowstone National Park’s green building consultant. 

Azzarello has been a part of the green building movement since its beginning. He served on the USGBC’s first Board of Directors as Vice Chairman, actively involved as a Board member during its formative years. He helped pave the way for LEED by participating in the Beta testing of the newly developed green building guidelines that became known as LEED v1.0. Read Joe Azzarello’s full bio.

Read more:

Feathered Friend Helps Launch Green Career: Kohler’s Resident Green Building Guru Started on a Very Different Career Path

Martha Sloan: Tech Tales Emeritus

Professor Emerita Martha Sloan changed the face of both Michigan Tech and engineering education.

Martha Sloan shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, February 28 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 night 2/28 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Michigan Tech Professor Emerita Martha Sloan, whose impact on people on and off the Michigan Tech campus has been monumental. During Husky Bites, Prof. Sloan will share stories from an earlier time at Michigan Tech, when women in engineering were few and far between.

Joining in during Husky Bites will be Dan Fuhrmann, the Dave House Professor of Computer Engineering and chair of the Department of Applied Computing at Michigan Tech.

“Martha was a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering when I first came to Michigan Tech in 2008 to take the position of ECE department chair,” notes Fuhrmann. “Shortly thereafter I appointed her as associate chair, a position she held until 2012, just before her retirement after 43 years of service at Michigan Tech.”

Applied Computing Department Chair Dan Fuhrmann

A pioneer in many aspects of her career, Sloan is also a legendary mentor who always has time to help anyone who asks. She was the first woman to be hired as a faculty member in the Michigan Tech ECE department, and later became the first woman to serve as chair of the department. Sloan was also the first woman to become the president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the largest professional organization in the world.

Sloan earned all of her three degrees–a BS in Electrical Engineering with great distinction, an MS in Electrical Engineering, and a PhD in Education–at Stanford University. She earned her BSEE in 1961, Phi Beta Kappa and with great distinction, as the only woman among approximately 600 engineering graduates.

Prof. Sloan took home the ASEE Outstanding Young Electrical Engineering Educator Award.

In the 1960s she worked at the Palo Alto Research Laboratory of the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. She began a PhD program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but, feeling isolated there and pregnant with her first child, she did not complete the program. Instead, she moved to Germany, where she taught for two years at the Frankfurt International School. 

“My German was not good enough to be able to work as an engineer, so I taught 7th and 8th grade science, and picked up a MS in secondary education–all  in German–while I was there, too,” Sloan recalls. 

In 1969 Sloan moved to Houghton, Michigan with her husband, Norman Sloan, who had accepted a position as a professor of ornithology, forestry, and wildlife management at Michigan Tech.

As a role model and mentor, Dr. Martha Sloan supports women across campus and around the globe.

“I found myself looking for a job once again and thought I’d go back to teaching,” she says. “At the time there was no need for math or science teachers in the Houghton area. On sheer impulse, I wandered into Michigan Tech’s EE department, just to see if they needed a teacher, since I had a master’s degree. I was hired on the spot to teach Circuits.”

Needing a doctorate for her new job at Michigan Tech, Sloan returned to Stanford to earn a PhD in Education in 1973. Her thesis was on the COSINE Committee, an NSF-funded project to include computer engineering as part of the electrical engineering curriculum. 

Sloan became active in engineering professional societies, serving as treasurer, vice president, and president of the IEEE Computer Society, IEEE, and AAES. She served for nine years on the board of trustees of SWE, the Society of Women Engineers.

To pay tribute to Dr. Martha Sloan’s impressive legacy at Tech and her groundbreaking achievements, ECE alumna Jane Fryman Laird ’68 dedicated a bench at Husky Plaza in Dr. Sloan’s honor. 

Over the years Sloan has been honored with the Frederick Emmons Terman Award by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the IEEE Centennial Medal, and the IEEE Richard E. Merwin Distinguished Service Award. She received an honorary doctorate from Concordia University, was elected fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, given the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and earned the Michigan Tech Distinguished Service Award, too. (Read Professor Sloan’s complete bio on Wikipedia.)

In 1991 Sloan became a fellow of the IEEE “for contributions to engineering education, leadership in the development of computer engineering education as a discipline, and leadership in extending engineering education to women.”

I’ve liked math and science since grade school, especially physics.

Professor Emerita Martha Sloan

Prof. Sloan, How did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

Dr. Sloan holds her infant grandchild
Prof. Sloan is recognized by the Michigan Tech Alumni Association as an Honorary Michigan Tech Alumna.

The summer before my senior year in high school, I attended a five-week science and technology program at Northwestern University’s National High School Institute, with lectures and labs on all science and engineering programs Northwestern offered, plus field trips to industry in northern Illinois and Indiana. I was particularly enchanted by a unit on AC circuits taught from a book by Kerchner and Corcoran, which I later learned was the standard college text on the subject. By the end of the summer I was the top student in the program—I didn’t know there was a contest—and won a full scholarship to Northwestern. But I didn’t go to Northwestern; I went to Stanford, which I chose because the campus was so beautiful. This was before Stanford was as highly ranked as it is today (it was near the bottom of the top 20).

Prof. Sloan with her children and their spouses, all highly accomplished and then some.

I intended to major in physics, but then, in the  summer just before my freshman year, a letter arrived from Stanford advising me that if I had any thought of possibly majoring in engineering, I should start in engineering because transferring out was easy but transferring in might delay my graduation. So I chose electrical engineering, based on liking AC circuits.

Hometown and family?

I was born in Aurora, Illinois to an obstetrician and stay-at-home mom. They had both majored in chemistry in college. My brother became a math professor and assistant chair of the math department at the University of Illinois.

Three of Prof. Sloan’s adorable grandkids!

My daughter is a law professor at Chicago Kent. Her daughter (my granddaughter) earned an MS in Public Health and conducts research in Boston on comorbidities, when a patient has two or more diseases or medical conditions the same time. She has boy-girl twins who are now both studying medicine at different medical schools in Chicago. In addition, my great granddaughter’s longtime boyfriend is studying at a third Chicago medical school—so the family has Chicago medical schools almost covered! 

My son graduated from the US Naval Academy, spent 20 years in the Marines, and is now working on safety aspects of autonomous vehicles for General Motors. He and his wife, also a USNA graduate, have three young children.

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

I have two springer spaniels. I spend my spare time reading–and doing some writing, too. I’ve taken two classes on writing memoirs in the past year.

Prof. Dan Fuhrmann’s research focus: signal processing.

Prof. Furhmann, how did you first get into engineering and computing? What sparked your interest?

I was good at math and science in junior high and high school, so it just seemed like a natural path.

Hometown, family?

Born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and later moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am the youngest of four children. Currently married 26 years with three grown children in a blended family.

Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or Steamboat Springs, Colorado? Find out during Husky Bites!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Jamming on the deck!

I’ve played piano semi-professionally my entire adult life, including jazz, pop, rock, and salsa. I enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing. I try to take advantage of the Copper Country winters!

Read more

Jane Fryman Laird ’68 and Dr. Martha Sloan – Blazing a Trail for Generations of Tech Women
Martha Sloan IEEE Computer Society President and Award Recipient
Oral History Transcript – Martha Sloan: Engineering and Technology History Wiki

Interview with Dr. Sarah Rajala ’74

Sage advice from Dr. Sarah Rajala: “Take ownership of your learning!”

Michigan Tech electrical engineering alumna Dr. Sarah Rajala is professor emeritus and former dean of engineering at Iowa State University. She’s an internationally-known leader in the field of engineering education—and a pioneering ground breaker for women in engineering. She serves as a role model for young women and is passionate about diversity of thought and culture, especially in a college environment.

This month we celebrate with Dr. Rajala—she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional recognitions in engineering.

Dr. Rajala, how did Michigan Tech prepare you as a leader in engineering education? Or simply as a leader?

Being the only female in my electrical engineering class, I experienced numerous gender biases. In the early 1970s, there was still much skepticism about whether ‘a girl could be an engineer’. My experiences laid a foundation for my commitment to creating a more inclusive culture in engineering and in engineering education, in general. 

You have kept busy, pushing the boundaries across your entire career. What advice do you have for mid-career people looking for their next challenges and opportunities?

First, take advantage of the opportunities that are offered, especially if they allow you to expand your boundaries. Don’t be shy about raising your hand and indicating your interest. Professional societies are great places to find new challenges and opportunities. Of course, it is also important to set your priorities and know when to say no. Also keep in mind that there is no single path that is right for everyone.  

Based on what you’ve learned as an educator, do you have one or two pieces of advice for a high school junior or senior?

We each learn new material in different ways. Don’t decide you dislike a subject because you don’t like the way the teacher presents the material. And don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask the teacher if she/he can present the topic differently. Alternatively, work with your fellow students or another teacher who can help you explore the topic in a different way. Search the internet. There are many good resources out there that can supplement what you are learning in class. Take ownership of your learning!

What qualities do students need to develop in themselves in order to become solvers of problems?

Start with the fundamentals. Be inquisitive. Write down what you know and try to start working the problem. If you are really stuck, ask for help. Show someone what you have done so far, then ask for a hint to help you get started.  You will learn more, if you can get started and work the rest out for yourself.

Where do you think engineering education will be 20 years from now?

I hope we are more inclusive! No matter how one learns, we should be able to adapt our instructional approaches to engage and motivate everyone. Technology will likely play a larger role in the learning process. There will be an increasing number of new subjects to learn. Students and educators will all need to adapt to new ways to teach and learn. 

William S. Hammack Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Prof. William S. Hammack

Michigan Tech chemical engineering alumnus William S. Hammack ’84 has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Hammack is honored for innovations in multidisciplinary engineering education, outreach, and service to the profession through development and communication of internet-delivered content.

Hammack earned a BS in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech, and an MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Illinois — Urbana-Champaign. He taught at Carnegie Mellon for a decade before returning, in 1999, to the University of Illinois, where he now teaches in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. 

As an engineer, Hammack’s mission over the last 25 years has been to explain engineering to the public. His media work — from his work in public radio to his books to his pioneering use over the last decade of internet-delivered video— has been listened, read, or viewed over seventy million times. He also recorded more than 200 public radio segments that describe what, why and how engineers do what they do. 

Hammack’s videos (The Engineer Guy), with more than 1.2 million followers on YouTube) are licensed under creative commons so they can be fully used to serve the public. They have been used by both industrial giants and small firms to train their workforce, in college classrooms to hone budding engineers, in K-12 classrooms, and by home schools to excite the next generation of engineers.

Among his many other honors, Hammack in 2020 was awarded the Hoover Medal, given by a consortium of five engineering societies. The award is named for its first recipient, US President Herbert Hoover, who was an engineer by profession. Established in 1929 to honor “great, unselfish, nontechnical services by engineers to humanity,” the award is administered by a board representing five engineering organizations. Previous winners include presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter; industrialist David Packard, the founder of Hewlett-Packard; and inventor Dean Kamen.

In 2018 Hammack was presented with the Carl Sagan Award for the Public Appreciation of Science, given by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents to recognize outstanding achievement in improving the public understanding and appreciation of science. 

Professor Bill Hammack’s upcoming book, The Things We Make: The Unknown History of Invention from Cathedrals to Soda Cans, is due out this Fall 2022.

Hammar is the author of seven books. His newest, a book on the engineering method, “The Things We Make: The Unknown History of Invention from Cathedrals to Soda Cans,” will be published later this year. In it Hammack shares human stories, perception-changing histories of invention, and accessible explanations of technology–revealing a panorama of human creativity across millennia and continents.

Hammack has also received the Public Service Award from the National Science Board, the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Distinguished Literary Contribution Furthering the Public Understanding of the Profession (IEEE), and the President’s Award, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Read more on his website, billhammack.org.

Read more:

NAE Bridge: An Interview with . . . Bill Hammack, Engineer Guy

“Engineering Guy” Bill Hammack

Zhanping You: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Professor Zhanping You and his team of students have engineered crumb rubber from waste tires into a sustainable rubber asphalt material for a better road. 
Professor Zhanping You

Zhanping You shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, February 21 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 night 2/21 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Zhanping You, a Distinguished Professor of Transportation Engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering, who uses old tires to make new roads. Joining in will be one of Prof. You’s PhD students, Dongzhao “Kobe” Jin.

Kobe Jin

Dr. You works with recycled materials to improve asphalt pavement performance. Crumb rubber, made from scrap tires, is one such material. ”Crumb rubber in asphalt reduces rutting and cracks and extends life, and it lowers noise levels,” he says. 

Scrap tires are plentiful, though not in a good way. “Hundreds of millions of scrap tires are generated in the US every year,” he notes. “Those giant piles of waste tires pose concerns of potential contamination of local groundwater and fire risk.”

You and his team of students have engineered crumb rubber from waste tires into a sustainable rubber asphalt material for a better road. “We do it through various experimental and numerical modeling techniques,” You explains. “Our research team has also expanded the work to include field pilot projects, too. Over the past 6-7 years or so, we’ve constructed quite a few roads in Michigan that use recycled tire rubber.” The team works with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the EGLE Scrap Tire division, plus road commissions in Dickinson County, Kent County, St. Clair County, Clare County, and Bay County.

“Teaching provides me with broad dimensions to sharpen my research vision, while research helps me develop in-depth understanding so that I can teach better,” Dr. You says.

Another material You and his team employ: pavement rubble. “More than 94% of the roads in the United States are paved with asphalt mix—about 360 million tons each year. In turn, that generates over 60 million tons of old asphalt pavement waste and rubble,” he notes. Recycling these waste materials not only greatly reduces the consumption of neat asphalt mix, it also lowers related environmental pollution, he adds. 

Blending recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) with fresh asphalt mix has presented several challenges for You and his team. “One noticeable issue of using RAP in asphalt pavement is the relatively weaker bond between the RAP and neat asphalt, which may cause moisture susceptibility,” he says. “We have determined that modifying the asphalt mix procedure and selecting the correct neat asphalt can effectively address this concern.” 

Before the recycled asphalt-tire-gravel mix ever makes it outside, You and his research team do plenty of work indoors, using computer modeling and lab tests to make sure they put viable material out in the elements. 

“When crumb rubber is blended into an asphalt binder, the stiffness of the asphalt binder is increased,” You explains. “ A higher mixing temperature is needed to preserve the flowability of asphalt binder. Conventional hot-mix asphalt uses a lot of energy and releases a lot of fumes. To solve this problem we developed a warm mix technology, a foaming process at lower temperatures, that requires less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.” 

You and his group developed and tested several foaming technologies for warm mix asphalt, integrating state-of-the-art rheological and accelerated aging tests, thermodynamics, poromechanics, chemical changes and multi-scale modeling to identify the physical and mechanical properties of foamed asphalt materials. 

You has other solutions in the works, too, including man-made asphalt derived from biomass. “We tried using bio oil (derived from biomass) in asphalt and found it also improved pavement performance,” he says. 

Not even the pandemic can stop the construction of recycled roads in Michigan!
A Michigan Tech research team of students led by Zhanping You tests a new, cooler way to make rubberized asphalt in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“Asphalt made from bio oil can potentially reduce the consumption of petroleum asphalt and lower the production temperature while road rutting resistance can be improved. We actively work with local, state, and national recycling efforts to develop better road materials, using plastics, waste glass, and several other recyclables, too,” he notes. “We hope our efforts will contribute to a circular and low-carbon economy.”

Prof. You, how did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I got into civil engineering accidentally, but started to love it. When I was little, I had debates with my friends on the possible damage on roads–was it the load or the pressure from the tires?

Hometown, family?

I view Houghton as my hometown now since I have been here almost 17 years, even though I was born and raised in Northwest China.

A lot of testing goes on in Dr. You’s lab at Michigan Tech.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to read books—non-engineering, engineering, history, and literature. I’m also a recently appointed coadvisor to the Michigan Tech student chapter of Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). 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.

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

Says Kobe: “Dr. You’s humor, lifestyle, rigorous academic attitude, and profound understanding of sustainable pavement all impact me a lot.”

The first time I got interested in engineering was when they were paving the concrete road in my hometown. I became interested in how and why a mix of some aggregate, sand, and water could create such a hard road.

Hometown, family?

My hometown is a small county in Henan Province, China. I have two sisters and I love my family.

Any hobbies? Pets? 

I like cats and basketball (I go by Kobe in honor of my favorite basketball player). I read science fiction books during my spare time.

Read More

Q&A with Research Award Winner Zhanping You
When Rubber Becomes the Road

Kobe enjoys the Houghton Waterfront Park near campus (even in the middle of winter!)

TECH SCEnE: Adventure is Calling Your Name

TECH SCEnE REU 2021 alum Elizabeth Chery studies biomedical engineering at Florida International University, in Miami, Florida.

Want to combine engineering research with direct community involvement and impact? Biomedical engineering student Elizabeth Chery did, and she took the plunge just last summer at a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Experience (REU) at Michigan Technological University.

The 8-week, all-expensed paid program is called TECH SCEnE (short for Technology, Science and Community Engagement in Engineering). Chery stayed on campus, went on outdoor trips throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, guided by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and conducted hands-on research on campus with her team right alongside a faculty mentor.

“I found it very refreshing to be surrounded by nature in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and to enjoy endless outdoor activities like fishing, biking, hiking, and going to state parks.”

It was nearing the end of spring 2021. Summer was just around the corner. Chery found herself eager to start applying some of the knowledge she had gained in her college courses out in the real world.

“I wanted to see how what I was learning could connect to my future—or who I could help. I also wanted to get more exposure to research, to find out what it might be like in graduate school,” she explains.

“I have a passion for service, too, so when I discovered TECHSCEnE—an REU that emphasize bi-weekly organic gardening and indigenous culture visits—I was highly motivated to apply. This program was everything I wished for!

“TECH SCEnE is great for any student deciding whether to go into research or industry. There will be a balance of both to help guide you to your decision.”

Elizabeth Chery, TECH SCEnE REU 2021


Elizabeth, what did you like most about TECHSCEnE?

“Being in Houghton I soon discovered my love for the outdoors, and learning about indigenous cultures.”

The beautiful remote location of the program is what I enjoyed the most! I went to school in the big city. People fly to Miami to visit all the trendy hotspots I grew up with as a child. I found it very refreshing to be surrounded by nature, and to enjoy endless outdoor activities like fishing, biking, hiking, and going to state parks.

I liked being around many different kinds of people—and learning how to work together. Although we’re all in the same age group, we came from different parts of the United States, each with our own different social norms and upbringing. Despite TECHSCEnE’s overall goal—to consider research as a career—the faculty did a phenomenal job of educating us about team building. I met great people and we made tons of special memories together! We went on numerous field trips, some centered on career information, and others focused on social skills. Both are essential components for working in the real world. 

Elizabeth Chery presents her research results during the final days of her TECH SCEnE NSF REU at Michigan Tech

What was the most challenging aspect?

“This hiking trip in North Carolina for my birthday (in September) was inspired by the scenic beauty in I enjoyed during TECH SCEnE.”

Staying organized was a definite challenge with all the data we collected during the experiments. It was absolutely imperative that I document and create a daily report, so that I could make a strong bi-weekly presentation to my peers in the TECHSCEnE program. They were not as well-versed in my topic, so I needed to take an abstract idea and relate it to something more common without being too repetitive or complex. Their bi-weekly feedback helped me find the sweet spot of not over-explaining, yet still being clear and understandable.

What next? What are your future plans?

After completing TECHSCEnE, I joined a research lab at my own university to continue my interest in research. I recently added a minor in chemistry to my major, too. My goal for the upcoming summer is to intern for a biomedical technology company or pharmaceutical company. And my future career goal remains the same: to pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering with a concentration in tissue engineering. My ultimate goal is to become a physician-scientist.

Are you an adventurous college student? Want to learn how to use science and technology to benefit both community and the environment? Apply to TECH SCEnE by March 15. Tribal college, community college or university students, women and students from underrepresented backgrounds are all encouraged to apply. Learn more and apply for free at techscene.mtu.edu.