Category: Features

Jeremy Goldman: Stents—How to Stunt Stenosis

Microscopic image of an aorta containing a degradable zinc implant within the arterial wall at 4 months. Blue indicates cell nuclei, smooth muscle cells are red, and green is the media (middle) layer of the artery. Photo credit: Roger Guillory, Michigan Technological University

Jeremy Goldman shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 1 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/1 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Biomedical Engineering Professor Jeremy Goldman. He’ll explain why traditional cardiac stents need an upgrade, and how zinc alloys may be part of the solution.

Also joining in will be Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Roger Guillory, one of Goldman’s former students at Michigan Tech. He grew up in Houston, Texas, then earned his BS, MS, and PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Tech, working in Goldman’s research lab all the while. He returned to Tech last year as a faculty member.

Every year, more than 900,000 Americans will have a heart attack. To reduce the chance of having a heart attack in the first place, or preventing another one from happening, a permanent stent, a small expandable metal tube, is implanted in a coronary artery.

Dr, Jeremy Goldman

These tiny mesh tubes prop open blood vessels that are healing from procedures like balloon angioplasty. After about six months, most damaged arteries are healed and stay open on their own. The stent, however, is there for a lifetime.

But stents can be harmful later on. The tiny metal segments that make up the stent can break and end up poking the arterial wall in the heart. They may cause blood clots or inflammation. The stent itself begins to create more problems than it solves.

Goldman, his team of students and his research partners at Michigan Tech are the minds behind a smarter stent that gradually—and harmlessly—dissolves after the blood vessel is healed. “You could have all the early beneficial characteristics, but none of the harmful later ones, and you’d be left with a natural artery,” says Goldman.

Dr. Roger Guillory II

“Ours is a zinc-based bioabsorbable stent,” he explains. “Zinc works better and with fewer side effects than iron or magnesium, the materials most studied for stents,” Goldman explains.

“Pure zinc isn’t strong enough to make a stent that will hold an artery open as it heals, so we did additional experiments. Those studies suggest alloying zinc with other materials could propel the research over that hurdle.”

The team performed biocompatibility studies of zinc’s breakdown products and is now testing stents made from the most promising zinc alloys to understand how those stents might work in a human body. 

“So far, our bioabsorbable zinc alloy metal harmlessly erodes within the desired timeframe, 1-2 years. It really has demonstrated superiority to current materials,” says Goldman.

Biodegradable zinc heart stent, engineered to dissolve in place after a specified amount of time. Photo credit: Jaroslaw Drelich, Michigan Technological University

As a first year student at Michigan Tech, Guillory first read about Goldman’s research on the Michigan Tech website, and then went to see him after hearing him speak at a first-year seminar class. Goldman soon offered Guillory a job in his lab.

Guillory started out by performing histological analysis—cutting extremely thin cross-sections of an extracted artery (around 10 micrometers) frozen in liquid nitrogen in a machine called a cryostat. After obtaining these tiny cross sections, he stained them, looked at them with a light microscope, and interpreted the data.

Roger Guillory worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Goldman Lab starting in his first year at Michigan Tech. This photo was taken in 2014.

“Analyzing specimens with histochemical techniques is sort of like taking a picture of a huge party with lots of people,” says Guillory. “From that one picture we can figure out who is there (cell morphology), how they got there (tissue derived or cell migration), and why they came to the party (immune response, or injury response). We can also see from those pictures who is sick, (necrosis), as well as who has been there for a while (development of fibrous barrier).”

Guillory grew up in Houston, Texas. “I knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree many years ago,” he says. “I was attracted to the idea of probing the unknown. I have always wanted to learn more about what has not been explored, and pursuing an advanced degree allowed me to do just that.” 

In 2017, as a biomedical engineering doctoral student at Michigan Tech, Guillory won a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He used the funding to continue his research on degradable metals (zinc-based) for cardiovascular-stent applications. His coadvisors were Goldman and Jaroslaw Drelich, a distinguished professor in Michigan Tech’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

After postdoctoral studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Guillory returned to Michigan Tech as an assistant professor last spring.

“An unbelievable amount of data and studies have been done on multiple aspects of our project, but I can say what we have achieved thus far at Michigan Tech has never previously been done,” adds Guillory.

Prof. Guillory, how did you first get interested in engineering?

Dr. Guillory hard at work in the lab. In his spare time he likes to go fishing.

“I think I’ve always been this person who loves science. At my first Michigan Tech graduation, for my undergraduate degree, my mom pulled out a photo to show me. It was a picture of me at age 8 or 9, wearing a white lab coat and holding a clipboard. I wanted to be a scientist even then. In Houston, I attended a magnet school—a high school focused on STEM. One of the teachers urged us all to apply to Michigan Tech. She’d been to campus and thought it was a great place to study engineering. Well that day we all pretty much said, “Michigan??!? No way!” But then I decided to apply. I was up for the adventure, willing to take a risk.”

Any hobbies?

“I’m into cooking, savory things. I do a lot of grilling and smoking. I also play basketball at the SDC, often with Prof. Goldman. Last but not least, I love to fish. I go trout fishing, but honestly I’ll fish for anything. I’ll be going ice fishing this weekend.”

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

Dr. Goldman almost became a medical doctor.

“All through high school I was set on becoming a medical doctor. In college, I took pre-med courses and volunteered at different hospitals. At that time, there were big changes happening in the healthcare industry. Some of the doctors I talked to actually encouraged me not to become a doctor. That’s when I started thinking about biomedical engineering. I liked math and technology, and it seemed like a good way to combine my interests. We didn’t have biomedical engineering at my undergraduate university, so I took as many related courses as I could in addition to my major, which was chemical engineering. Then, in graduate school for my PhD, I finally took my first class in biomedical engineering. Right away it connected deeply in me. That was when I knew: this is it. This is what I really want to do.”

Pictured above: a bunch of lifesavers—especially that one in the center!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to play chess! I’ve been playing ever since I was a little kid. I played chess with my dad, and I played chess with my grandfather. When I was in second or third grade I started the school’s first chess club. And I was captain of the chess team in high school. Now, in the Covid age, I’m playing chess more than ever, including some amazing tournaments online. I also like running outside (even in the winter).

Read More

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The Healing Stent


Guest Blog: The Importance of Teamwork

Hurricane Frederic at peak intensity near landfall on Dauphin Island on September 12, 1979.
Credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

In his guest blog, Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus Patrick Parker ’75 tells the story of working in a power plant during Hurricane Fredric, a Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph. It happened just four years after Pat graduated from Michigan Tech.

“Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” — Andrew Carnegie

“Every Bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen” — Amy Winehouse

“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.” — Mark Sanborn

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” —Michael Jordan

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much!” — Helen Keller

Early in my career, I was a maintenance supervisor at a 7-unit power station just north of Pensacola, Florida. I had a crew of 15 people—electricians, mechanics, and welder/mechanics. We maintained equipment throughout the plant, and made repairs when any operational issues arose, to help avoid a power outage on one or more of the units.

While living on the Gulf Coast, I had heard many stories of hurricane events, most of which involved the loss of property due to the high winds, tremendous rainfall (often over 20 inches) and if you were close to the beach, the storm surge could have waves over 10 feet washing ashore. I heard stories of lost friends and family, stories that usually ended with “I told them to “move up north till this is over!’”

Michigan Tech Alumnus Patrick Parker, BSME ’85

In early September of 1979, we began watching closely a tropical storm off the southern tip of Florida moving North by NW, directly toward us. After a couple of days, its gusts were often much higher.

Our plant manager had lived through several events like this and began issuing instructions that would prepare us for the worst, while we prayed for the best. We began with a thorough clean up of the plant for anything important to be moved somewhere it would be safe. We paid special attention to any of our safety equipment, fire fighting gear, tools, rigging, and anything that could be useful in dealing with fire,collapse of structures, flooding, or any first aid. We also moved anything hazardous such as flammables, gases, or anything that could cause harm if it got out into the area around the plant. As that went forward, our Plant Manager made our staffing plans for the upcoming event.

Our operations department in the downtown office sent us instructions to put all seven of our units into service, to help ensure some redundancy in the event we start tripping units off line, due to storm damage. In order to do that we called in our operators who were skilled in the use of oil and natural gas for combustion. We finally worked it out, so all our operators were here (half were sleeping) as well as all our maintenance staff to address needs as they arose. We had also arranged for a good store of water, food, and sleeping arrangements for those workers who were staying overnight. All our employees all wanted to stay, but there were some with responsibilities that forced them to go home.

The coal yard would be another concern due to its size and proximity to a river that dumped into the Gulf. We received coal usually by barge which was less than 50 feet from the river. Our people who worked there began constructing a dike made of coal that would minimize any spillage into the river as strong winds and rain began. (Two years later they built a concrete dike about 2 feet thick by 8 feet tall around the portion of the coal pile adjacent to the river.)

As the storm approached, we began making final preparations for the high winds and rain by closing all doors and reinforcing them with steel beams/braces. The windows were covered with plywood and canvas sheets, and the smaller windows near walkways were covered with duct tape to minimize shattering and spreading glass.

Anything that was likely to get airborne during the wind and rain was moved off the site, such as contractor trailers, port-a-johns, and unnecessary equipment. The concern was to protect the transmission lines and support poles from being knocked down or shorted out. We did a thorough final walk around of all plant space, paying special attention to the area outside to check for anything else. Then the hard part began—WAITING!

We were on our feet almost nonstop, walking around, looking, checking and listening for anything that might indicate a problem. Many of us laid down somewhere and slept as we had been working almost 30 hours straight.

On September 12, 1979, in the early evening hours, Hurricane Fredric’s eye came ashore as a category 4 with sustained winds of 155 mph. It was located about half way between Pensacola Florida, and Mobile, Alabama. That landfall put us in the northeast quadrant of the storm, which typically is the worst part of the storm due to a hurricane’s counter clockwise rotation.

After 40 years I still have many images of what happened that week and the aftermath that followed for many weeks. I’ll share just a couple: I remember going to the top floor that was still inside the boiler structure with the Plant Manager (about 9 stories up) to look south toward Pensacola. I was expecting to see light coming from the city as usual, but there was none.

About every 3 to 5 minutes there was a large BOOM and a large flash of orange light coming from several miles south. I didn’t know what was happening, and it made me more than a little apprehensive. I imagined some industrial plant nearby exploding and burning. I asked the Manager what he thought it was, and he said, “Oh that’s just the pole mounted transformers blowing up. There will be a lot of overtime work for the Division Linemen to do when this is all over!” Was he ever right!

“There is a practice that still goes on today that couldn’t speak more clearly about the importance of working together. When the rain and wind subsided, hundreds of trucks from Line Departments of other power companies came from all over the southern states, converging on Pensacola and all the way to Mobile—bringing manpower, power poles, lights, transformers, and miles of conductor wire to assist with our repairs, all around the city and neighboring counties.”

Patrick Parker, BSME ’75


The division manager for the area around Pensacola came to the Plant and asked if he could “borrow” some of our people, especially electricians to assist in the walk down of all the “radials” as everyone he had was busy with the repairs. Our plant manager gave him almost all our electricians, and a couple of our engineers to help.

When electric power leaves the power plant, it passes through a Generation Step-Up transformer (GSU) which raises the voltage to transmission power levels (typically 345 KVA). The transmission line then carries the power to a ‘substation’ which lowers the voltage to typically 25 KVA and then sends the power in different directions around the city/county on the wooden power poles commonly seen. Each separate circuit is called a “radial”.

The trouble is there are many hundreds of miles of radials, which are very vulnerable to storms due to the high winds, lightning and heavy rain. Plus, the radials will not call and tell where the damage is; you must go out looking for them! Someone must walk each radial from one end to the other, and radio the Lineman Dispatcher, informing them what damage was found, and where it is located. Then they can dispatch people, parts, and equipment to make the repairs, thus hoping to save a lot of time with more people out looking. It works very well.

At the plant we had only one significant event during the storm. The plant had been built 75 feet into the ground to minimize the stress on the structure during high winds. The ‘pump room’ (75 feet down) was cooled, thankfully, by several large fans (12 feet in diameter) that pulled air in from outside. The problem was that the duct work for the fan also provided a perfect route for rainwater to flow in. We had all seven units running, when one of our staff noticed one of the large 480 Volt busses was on fire. As things happen in life, one of the cooling fans was right over the buss. We found a perfect example why water and electricity don’t mix well, as it was spitting sparks, flashes, and fire from the top of the buss.

Some of our firefighting group stretched out a fire hose and charged it up. I learned an important lesson that night. It seems it is sometimes possible to put out an electric fire with water. Instead of spraying the buss directly with the stream of water (inviting electric shock), they aimed the fire hose steeply upward, bouncing the stream of water off the flooring of the deck above the buss. A heavy downpour descended on the buss which eventually put the fire out.

The other unfortunate detail lay right above the buss in a large cable tray which routed most of the control wiring for the plant substation. As it burned and shorted out, almost all the switch yard breakers opened (for safety sake, they default open), which tripped 6 of the 7 units. We managed to keep unit 6 running at 300 megawatts. I guess the “good news” for us was even if we had all the units running, the transmission lines and distribution system was out of service due to the storm. We had no way of sending our power anywhere. It took us about a week to rewire the substation controls, the 480-volt buss, and other damage that was surprisingly minimal. I give our plant manager the credit for that. We had no injuries during the event or in the time that followed.

I learned several very important lessons during that experience:

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare! I believe that was the key to minimizing damage and preventing any injury.

2. Contain any Hazardous Materials—if they get loose, it doesn’t end well!

3. When someone asks for help GIVE IT. Work Together. You will need help one day, so make friends when you can.

4. NEVER, NEVER spray water on an energized electric buss! It usually doesn’t end well! I think we were very, very lucky!

5. When a hurricane approaches, the smartest thing to do is evacuate, sooner than later!

Most residents feel that as soon as the power company has all their wiring ‘hot’ again, all they must do is close their house breaker to restore power. Actually, the power company will deliberately open the wiring at the top of each power pole going to homes or businesses to prevent people from electrocuting themselves, and/or setting their house on fire due to internal damage to their home as a result of the storm. Before the power company will rewire the pole for you, they must see an inspection report of your home or business from a licensed electrician to make sure it is okay to activate power. As you might imagine, this frustrates the owners, particularly business owners. But the risks outweigh a few extra days without air conditioning.

About the Author

Pat Parker grew up in Ferndale, Michigan and went on to graduate from Michigan Technological University in 1975 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

His mom was from London, England. She was 14 during the London ‘blitz’ of WWII. His dad, from west Tennessee, flew for the Army Air Force in B-17s as a recon photographer. His dad met his mom while on leave in London, by pretending he was lost!

Pat first grew interested in mechanical engineering with the influence of an elderly neighbor by the name of John Pavaleka, who came to the US in the early 1920s from Czechoslovakia. John graduated from Yale with an ME degree. After graduation, he went to work for Boeing Aircraft, designing hydraulic systems in the WWII bombers—all the hydraulic systems that operated the gun turrets, landing gear, and flight controls. John was incredibly talented, and had his own hand-carved collection of airplanes of numerous designs including one with forward-swept wings.

While at Michigan Tech, Pat did well in Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, and Thermodynamics courses. A classmate, Rick Sliper, encouraged Pat to go into the power generation field. So after graduation, Pat went to work for a company that built large power-generation boilers—doing construction, commissioning, and ongoing maintenance. Beginning as a first line supervisor, Pat moved up to power plant manager at two locations.

Tired of all the travel (living largely in motels) and wanting to start a family, Pat changed jobs, in order to establish a home. Still, over 42 years, Pat and his family managed to live in six states.

Some of Pat’s work-related accomplishments include a great safety and environmental record; lowering operating costs; and improving availability. He also won an award from the State of Florida for helping two elementary schools with their education goals and their Christmas celebrations.

Reluctantly retiring for health issues, Pat now spends time woodworking, writing, camping—and spoiling his two granddaughters!


Ski – Score – Spike! Student Athletes at Michigan Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

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

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

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

Matt Jennings, Head Coach, Volleyball, Michigan Tech

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

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

Read more:

Jennings Hired to Lead Volleyball Program

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

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

Suzanne Sanregret, PhD, Athletic Director, Michigan Tech

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

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

Read More:

Q&A with Diversity Award Winner Suzanne Sanregret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

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

#Believe

Coach Sam Hoyt, Michigan Tech

Read more:

Q&A: Home Court Advantage



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

Looking good!

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

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

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

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

The series features special guests—engineering professors, students, and even some Michigan Tech alumni, who each share a mini lecture, or “bite”.

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

During Husky Bites, special guests also weave in their own personal journey in engineering, science and more.

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

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

Dean Janet Callahan

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

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

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

Prof. Brad King, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

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

Prof. Daisuke Minakata, Civil and Environmental Engineering

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

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

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

Prof. Rebecca Ong, Chemical Engineering

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

Prof. Jeremy Bos, Electrical and Computer Engineering

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

Prof. Erik Herbert, Materials Science and Engineering


Raymond Shaw: Lake Superior in My Driveway—Lake Effect Snow in the Keweenaw

Photo credit: Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com

Raymond Shaw shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, December 7 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 12/7 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Raymond Shaw, Distinguished Professor of Physics and Director of the Atmospheric Sciences program at Michigan Tech.

Dr. Raymond Shaw is a Distinguished Professor of Physics at Michigan Tech.

During Husky Bites, Prof. Shaw will describe the simple—and some of the not-so-simple—science of lake effect snow, and what makes the Keweenaw an ideal spot for epic snowfalls.

Also joining in, 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. 

Lake effect snow bands, as seen from space. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

So how can it be clear and sunny in one place, while 5 miles away it’s snowing cats and dogs? Shaw is ready to explain during Husky Bites. He is a world expert on cloud physics, atmospheric turbulence, and ice nucleation. 

“Snow itself doesn’t just materialize out of thin air,” Shaw says.  “For a snowflake to form, first a particle of dust, a nucleus, is needed. Water molecules attach themselves to this particle and then freeze as they’re carried high in the atmosphere by winds.”

Photo Courtesy Michigan Tech Archives

“Yet, within a few hours, you basically purge the atmosphere of all those particles,” adds Shaw, “So how can it snow for days on end?” 

Clouds are an integral part of the Earth’s environment—providing the water we drink, cleaning the air we breathe, and influencing the climate in which we live. “We want to understand the clouds,” he says.

To study clouds, Shaw and his team of researchers sometimes go inside, using holography and an airplane lab, or by dropping a pendulum-type device from a helicopter. He’s also studied clouds on a mountain top, where the most valuable tool is patience. “It can be very frustrating seeing a cloud hover fifty feet above you, but when it descends and you’re inside the cloud it is definitely worth the wait.”

Luckily, Shaw, Cantrell, and other atmospheric science researchers at Michigan Tech don’t cross their fingers and hope for cooperative weather—the University’s innovative Pi Cloud Chamber allows them to head into the lab and make their own.

“This unique chamber is used for investigating aerosol and cloud processes relevant to weather and climate. To make a cloud, the environment has to have a relative humidity above 100 percent,” Shaw explains. 

Michigan Tech on first day of Career Fair 2013.

“In the lab that’s a tricky thing to achieve because water condenses on any available surface. The MTU Pi cloud chamber gets around that by generating clouds through turbulent mixing,” he says.

“The Pi cloud chamber allows us to study a wide variety of research questions,” adds Shaw, “For example, how do clouds respond to clean versus polluted conditions?” 

And for us, here in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, home of Michigan Tech, it helps answer one of our most vexing questions: “How does Lake Superior end up in my driveway?

“In nature you take what the cloud gives you,” Shaw says. “With the cloud chamber you create the cloud you need.

After earning his PhD at Penn State, Shaw was a postdoc research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. He joined the faculty at Michigan Tech and soon earned a National Science Foundation CAREER award and then a NASA New Investigator Program award. As part of his research he collaborates with NCAR and international scientists at the Institute for Tropospheric Research in Leipzig, Germany, Peking University in Beijing, China, and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self Organization in Göttingen, Germany.

While Shaw finds research personally rewarding, there is ultimately a higher purpose. “Of course, the ultimate hope is that what my students, colleagues and I learn will somehow contribute to humanity, to our collective understanding and to our well being.”

Dr. Raymond Shaw. One of his favorite hobbies: snow biking!

Prof. Shaw, when did you first get into physics? What sparked your interest?

Physics captured my attention because it was possible to solve so many different types of problems with just a few simple truths. Physics is a good subject for someone with a poor memory!

How did you make the leap to atmospheric physics?

I remember earning my weather badge as a cub scout, and really disliking all the memorization of cloud types, like stratocumulus and cirrus. But I was fortunate to grow up around people who were interested in ideas rather than nomenclature, and eventually I became fascinated with what makes ice crystals grow in different shapes. I loved physics as an undergrad, and the ice crystal question was enough of a nudge to search for a graduate program in which I could combine physics with the atmosphere.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

I was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I’ve been living “down south” in the Keweenaw for over 20 years. My family and I love the snow… most of the time. Cross country skiing and snow biking are two of our favorite winter activities. 

Research is inspiring, nature is so profoundly beautiful and subtle, it’s a privilege to spend so much of my time trying to understand bits and pieces of it.

Raymond Shaw

Dean Cantrell is a member and former director of the Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences Institute, which promotes research and education in interdisciplinary areas spanning Earth, its ecosystems, and intergalactic space. 

Dr. Will Cantrell is Michigan Tech’s associate provost and also dean of the Graduate School. “I always tell my students, ‘don’t do what I did.'” See the full details below!

As Dean of the Graduate School, Cantrell emphasizes that graduate education at Michigan Tech is a unique combination of the questions “Why?” and “How?” with theory and practice. 

“That’s a powerful combination, and our students are valued by industry and by other academic institutions because of it,” he said.

Dean Cantrell, how did you first get into Physics, and then Atmospheric Science?

When I started my undergraduate studies, I intended to get degrees in Physics and engineering. (I hadn’t decided just what kind of engineer yet.) But I started taking Physics classes first and decided to just do that. When I graduated, I didn’t want to do any of the “traditional” routes like solid state or atomic and molecular, so I branched off into Atmospheric Science.

“I always tell my students, ‘don’t do what I did.’ I was young, single, with no dependents, so I thought, why not go to Alaska? Though, actually, it turned out to be a very good decision—and it really prepped me for Michigan Tech, too (we get a lot of snow here in Houghton each year).

I never had to shovel my roof in Fairbanks, but there were times when it would warm up to -20 degrees F and it actually felt warm. In Fairbanks, if it’s been -40 for a few weeks, and then it goes up to -20—when you go outside, you undo the top button on your coat!”

Dr. Cantrell has always loved teaching and outreach. “Will does not just cover the material, but to tries hard to inspire his students,” said fellow Physics professor, Alex Kostinski. “I am reminded of an old adage: ‘A student’s mind is not a goose to be stuffed, but a torch to be ignited’.”

Hometown and Hobbies?

I grew up on a small farm just outside of Hendersonville Tennessee. I’ve lived in St. Louis Missouri; Fairbanks Alaska; Seattle, Washington; Bloomington Indiana; and Houghton, Michigan. In the summer, I fly fish and occasionally tie some of my own flies.

Read more:

Six Questions with Distinguished Professors Raymond Shaw

Rainmakers: The Turbulent Formation of Cloud Droplets

Shaw Wins Research Award

Why it Snows so Much in the Frozen North

Teamwork: New Graduate school Dean Begins Duties

Watch more:

“The Pi Chamber is so named because it has an inner, working volume of 3.14 m3 (when we select a cylindrical wall boundary, with a diameter of 2 m and a height of 1 m). It also happened to be delivered to MTU on March 14, pi day, but that was a coincidence.”


Pengfei Xue: Severe to Extreme: Modeling Climate Change and Coastal Hazards on the Great Lakes

Great Lakes meteotsunami: These photos of the Ludington North Breakwater on Lake Michigan were taken just 10 minutes apart on Friday, April 13, 2018. Photo by Todd and Brad Reed Photography, featured on MLive.com.

Pengfei Xue shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 30 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/30 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Civil and Environmental Associate Professor Pengfei Xue, Director of the Numerical Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.

Associate Professor Pengfei Xue on campus at Michigan Tech

Catch a glimpse of the future during his session, “Severe to Extreme: Modeling Climate Change and Coastal Hazards on the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes are more like inland seas. From the cold depths of Lake Superior fisheries to the shallow algae blooms of Lake Erie, the bodies of water differ greatly from one another. Yet they are all part of one climate system. Together they contain one-fifth of the world’s surface freshwater.

Xue uses mathematical modeling to analyze and predict the short-term and long-term responses of that system to climate stressors. During Husky Bites, he’ll introduce the regional earth-system model he uses to understand and predict how the Great Lakes system responds to weather extremes and coastal hazards. 

Joining in as co-host for Husky Bites is Guy Meadows, who collaborates with Prof. Xue on the work.

We’ll get to see three modeled visualizations of the same storm passing by on Lake Superior. In each scenario, they’ll show and explain what could happen along the coast.

“The Great Lakes exert a strong influence on the physical, ecological, economic, and cultural environment in the region, across the nation, and internationally,” says Xue. “Human activities expose the system to multiple stressors. Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities,” he adds.

“This is a simulation of a numerical tracer released from the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio. It shows how a river plume goes into Lake Erie and mixes with the lake water,” says Dr. Pengfei Xue.


“In my lab, we analyze and predict short-term events. We also project the long-term influence of climate change on the Great Lakes ecosystem. Our goal is to help inform decision-making and management. One of the important concepts in climate change, in addition to knowing the warming trend, is understanding that extreme events become more severe,” Xue says. “That is both a challenge and an important focus in regional climate modeling.”
It takes a supercomputer to run the calculations. Xue uses Superior, the supercomputer housed in the Great Lakes Research Center, to build high-fidelity models and detailed simulations for a region where more than 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for water and other resources. 

“I do the science part, but I also want to apply my findings.”

Pengfei Xue

With his next generation numerical predictive models for the Great Lakes, Xue seeks answers to many “what-if” questions. “How will projected future climate change impact water levels, wave energy, sediment transport and shoreline damage?”

He also looks at short-term, episodic events like algal blooms and weather patterns.

His current research focuses on an Integrated Regional Earth System Model (IRESM, for short) for the Great Lakes region. The model consists of coupled atmosphere, lake, ice, wave, sediment, land surface, and biological components, and includes data assimilation and machine learning techniques. 

The bottom line: Xue seeks to better understand the processes in the Great Lakes and their impact on people.

Guy Meadows is Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. He joined Michigan Tech in June of 2012, to help establish the new GLRC. “This is a unique, amazing place. The future of Great Lakes research is based right here.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have Professor Xue at Michigan Tech and the Great Lakes Research Center,” says Professor Guy Meadows. “He has built very strong bridges both within the University and with our government research partners. Thanks to these partnerships, we have modeling of the Great Lakes running on Superior at a resolution not previously thought possible.

Meadows joined Michigan Tech in June of 2012, to help establish the new GLRC. “This is a unique, amazing place. The future of Great Lakes research is based right here.”

A bit more about Pengfei Xue

Prof. Xue’s modeling research experiences in other regions include Massachusetts Coastal Waters, Gulf of Maine, East China Sea, the Maritime Continent in Southeast Asia, and the Persian Gulf.

Prof. Xue recently joined Argonne National Lab as a joint appointee Scientist in the Environmental Science Division. His joint appointment will expand the already deep capabilities of both institutions. Michigan Tech’s GLRC Director Andrew Barnard agrees. “Dr. Xue’s collaborative work with Argonne will result in cutting-edge science and engineering solutions in predictive hydrodynamics.”

Pengfei Xue arrived at Michigan Tech from MIT in 2013. Note the bare walls. He skipped the ritual of decorating his new office at first, preferring instead to immerse himself in the Great Lakes.

Prof. Xue, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I liked math when I was a little kid. I was very much influenced by my father. He was a high-school physics teacher and would often pose math- or physics-related questions to challenge me for fun.  Later when I was in college, I majored in mathematics and became very interested in how to apply math to helping answer some real-life questions. That’s how I got interested in numerical modeling and ended up what I am working on now.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

After finishing my doctoral study at UMASS-Dartmouth and post-doctoral work at MIT, I moved to Tech seven years ago. I live with my wife and two cute kids in Houghton. We enjoy spending time reading and playing together. You may see me up at Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex working out or swimming, or out on the trails skiing—to relax and take my mind off work.

Read more:

Environmental Science Division of Argonne National Lab Welcomes Pengfei Xue

Weather the Storm: Improving Great Lakes Modeling

Guy Meadows: Shipwrecks and Underwater Robots

Where Modeling Meets Observations: Improving the Great Lakes Operational Forecast System

Video:

Building a Better Great Lakes Observational System


Marty Lagina: Say YES to the Quest: Reflections, Energy and Adventure!

“Something interesting and different happened on that island, and we still aren’t sure what,” says Marty Lagina. Pictured above: Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1931. Format: glass plate negative.

Marty Lagina shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 23  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.

“Engineering school teaches you how things work, and also to know what you don’t know,” says Marty Lagina.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/23 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Marty Lagina, CEO of Heritage Sustainable Energy, winemaker, and creator and star of the long-running reality TV show, Curse of Oak Island.

Joining in as Dean Callahan’s co-host will be Bill Predebon, the JS Endowed Department Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech.

Lagina is one of Dr. Predebon’s former students—as an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering, Lagina worked as his research assistant.

“If there’s ever been a human being, who if you cut him he bleeds Michigan Tech, that’s Bill Predebon,” says Lagina. 

Throughout his life, Lagina says his engineering education has given him the confidence to try new things.

“I was thinking of going to law school, and my father told me: ‘You would make a better lawyer if you knew how things worked.’ So I went to Michigan Tech to study engineering and I liked it. And it prepared me very well for what turned out to be a very multifaceted career.”

“When something interesting comes along, and it looks like fun, and it’s legal and ethical (even better if it’s good for society) and you might make some money—do it!”

Marty Lagina

Lagina graduated from Michigan Tech with his mechanical engineering degree in 1977, then took a job as a petroleum engineer for Amoco. A few years later, while attending law school at the University of Michigan, he worked as an independent petroleum engineer consultant, hired by various Michigan corporations to explore wells. “I was a law student, putting together oil deals, working out of a tiny room the size of a small walk-in closet,” he recalls.

“Our first 14 lost money, then we finally hit a decent well. It put us in business.” His partner in that first energy consulting business: Craig Tester, another Michigan Tech mechanical engineering graduate. They were college roommates.

A photo of Marty Lagina, from the Michigan Tech archives.

Once Lagina earned his JD, the two founded Terra Energy to pioneer the exploration and development of the Antrim shale natural gas resources of Michigan, which they did—successfully developing over $3 billion of oil and natural gas resources.

When he turned 40, Lagina decided to change course. He formed Heritage Sustainable Energy, a renewable energy provider. Heritage has successfully developed a series of wind and solar projects in Michigan, installing enough capacity to power the equivalent of 57,000 average Michigan homes every year.

Heritage operates a total of 139.2 megawatts (MW) of installed renewable energy capacity, with hundreds of MW in its project pipeline, along with a commitment to help reduce Michigan’s dependence on conventional energy sources.

Heritage Sustainable Energy’s Garden Solar Project is the first utility scale solar project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Garden Wind Farm, above, located north of the Village of Garden, will have 34 wind turbines by the end of this year.

In 2006, Lagina started doing some unnatural exploring to solve a 200–500 year old mystery. Featured on the History Channel, Lagina, his family and friends attempt to solve the “Curse of Oak Island,” based on the legend of a Nova Scotia island. 

“I’m the skeptic,” says Lagina. “My brother, Rick, is the optimist, but I’m the engineer who needs more proof.”

Part National Treasure, part Indiana Jones, the five-segment series follows their exploits as they attempt to—literally—get to the bottom of the ‘money pit’ on the island that has given up some clues, booby traps, bizarre hints and puzzle pieces. Theories of what is buried range from treasures from Solomon’s temple, the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar, or pirates.

First, they had to spend millions to purchase a controlling interest in the North Atlantic island. “And everything is difficult,” Lagina says. “It’s been dug at for 200-plus years, so you need to figure out if you are discovering something from the original works or not.”

Tester, an expert on drilling, resistivity, and more, also appears on The Curse of Oak Island.

Born in Kingsford on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Marty has spent nearly all his life living in Michigan. His background is in engineering and the energy business, but with family ties to one of Italy’s premier winegrowing areas, a passion for wine is in his blood.

He founded Mari Vineyards in 1999 (the same year he was inducted into Michigan Tech’s ME-EM Academy). His goal: to make world-class red wines in northern Michigan but with a nod to the Italian style of his ancestors. The winery’s namesake is Lagina’s Grandma Mari, an Italian immigrant who settled in the Iron Mountain area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Lagina is said to have fond memories of her creating wine in the basement of her home.

Marty’s Italian grandma, Teresa Mari, made wine her own wine at home. Her still—and her photo, above—are both on display at Mari Vineyards winery.

Mari Vineyards is situated on 60 acres in Traverse City. The winery is 100 percent carbon neutral and built from UP dolomite stone, dug from the bases of wind turbines. Lagina has unique growing methods, too—something he plans to share during his session of Husky Bites. As for the wine? “It’s good!” he says.

Mari Vineyards

“Winemaking is an art, but it’s also highly technical,” he adds. “My education at Michigan Tech is what gives me the confidence for innovation.”

Dr. Predebon, what do you do in your spare time?

“I’ve been at Michigan Tech since 1975. That’s 45 years this fall. I just finished 22 years as department chair. My work has absorbed my life, by choice. I have a real passion for our program. We do a good job of preparing engineers, with a heavy emphasis on hands-on education. 

Dr. Bill Predebon

“I have always enjoyed teaching, so the way I look at my role is to nurture the growth of my faculty and staff, right along with our students. I want to help them all reach their potential.

“That said, exercise is a big part of my life, too. I try to exercise every day. I mainly run on a treadmill and lift weights. My wife is an artist and a potter, and together we organically garden. Turns out you can grow anything here in the UP. My wife is very good; I just help. We have a peach tree, we have grown watermelon, we’ve grown cantaloupes, we’ve grown potatoes, her passion is pumpkins so we grow these large pumpkins—150 pounds.”

Dr. Predebon joined the faculty at Michigan Tech in 1975. He earned the Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award in 1984, and became chair of the university’s largest department, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, six years later.


Q&A with Gretchen Hein: Outstanding SWE Advisor at Michigan Tech

Could this be a future engineer exploring Dr. Gretchen Hein’s family farm?

In the words of Michigan Tech alumna Erin Murdoch, now an automation engineer at Kendall Electric: “I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”

Gretchen Hein is the recipient of a major award from the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. During ceremonies held online earlier this month on November 5, 2020, Hein was honored by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), with the SWE Outstanding Advisor Award. 

Hein is a senior lecturer in the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology and has served as the SWE Academic Advisor at Michigan Tech for the past 21 years. She teaches thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and first-year engineering courses. She joined the faculty after earning her PhD in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Gretchen Hein

Dr. Hein, how did you first find engineering? What sparked your interest?

When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a garbage collector because they let us ride through the neighborhood on the back of the truck. That’s also why I wanted to be a farmer—after haying, we were allowed to ride on top of the hay back to the barn. Later, when watching the Apollo Missions, I wanted to be an astronaut, riding on a spaceship. I said so at school, but it was the 1970’s. I was told by teachers and other adults, not my parents, that girls could not be astronauts. No woman had done that before. Being stubborn, I stuck with wanting to be an astronaut.

In high school, I took all the drafting classes my high school had to offer—mechanical and architectural drafting. I loved them. I wanted to be an architect. I read books on Buckminster Fuller, Frank Lloyd Wright and IM Pei. During my senior year, my dad, a mechanical engineer, said I should look into mechanical engineering, so I did. It sounded like fun.

I applied to General Motors Institute (now, Kettering University) and interviewed at Allison Gas Turbine Division. Working in a plant that made helicopter engines felt a little like “astronaut” and “architect” combined. I was sold. I began working there two weeks after my high school graduation. After earning my degree in mechanical engineering, I stayed on as a project engineer until I left for graduate school.

Dr. Gretchen Hein, front and center, surrounded by students, family, colleagues and friends, just after receiving the 2020 Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award from the Society of Women Engineers


How did you happen to become a SWE advisor?

I was asked to be the SWE advisor when Dr. Sheryl Sorby became the first chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals, in 1999. I was new to teaching and unsure of the time commitment involved, so I talked with my colleague, MaryFran Desrochers, and we decided to be SWE co-advisors. We shared advising until 2005 when MaryFran left to spend more time with her family. She returned to campus when her girls were older and now works for Michigan Tech Career Services.

These days there are three SWE advisors: I am in the College of Engineering; MaryFran is our SWE liaison with Career Services, and Elizabeth Hoy at the Great Lakes Research Center helps us manage SWE finances. Our section counselor is alumna Britta Jost, New Product Introduction Manager at Caterpillar Inc. and member of Michigan Tech’s Presidential Council of Alumnae. I’ve always thought that the section was very strategic in choosing their advisors and counselor. We all work together well.

A cobblestone on campus at Michigan Tech shows the date Michigan Tech’s first SWE section was established on campus: 1976.


What do you know now, that you didn’t know then?

Over the past 20 years, my advising style has evolved and grown. At the beginning, I observed. As I learned what the section valued and where their interests were, I began to make suggestions. That’s how SWE’s annual Cider Pressing tradition began at my farm. Students wanted an event outside, and they wanted to meet my sheep, alpacas, ducks, chickens, dogs, cats, bunnies, rats, geckos and bees. Now, it’s the most popular social fall event where over 60 SWE members and friends come, press cider and meet the animals.

Michigan Tech members started to become active nationally in SWE. As I watched them grow, I felt that I needed to join them. I learned, through the students, that we can grow, expand our skills, and contribute, even by “standing in the background.”

Great times! SWE’s Cider Pressing tradition takes place each year at Dr. Hein’s farm. This photo is from 2016.


Have things changed for women engineers since then? If so, how?

One of the reasons I chose Michigan Tech for my doctoral studies was because of the friendliness of the faculty and students. It is still a strong characteristic of Tech. The number of women students, along with faculty, has increased over the past 20 years. There are more opportunities and different areas of study in engineering now. As time has passed, people who were less accepting of differences have left, and those who are interested in diversity and inclusion have become leaders.

The grit and independence of our SWE members haven’t changed. The students are still people who enjoy working, collaborating and learning together.


What is the best part about being an advisor?

The students—hands down! And this includes our graduates. For example, at WE19, I saw Anne Maher (a former SWE section president and member). It was like one of those sappy movies where two people run towards each other. I was so excited to see her and meet her mother. I get the same feeling in the fall when I see our students return to campus. I love to hear how their summer went, where they worked, what they did and what they will be doing at Tech. I always try to attend our fall Ice Cream Social, where we all meet new members. They bring so much excitement to the organization. It’s great to learn where they went to high school and why they came to Tech.

Dr. Hein uses duck feet to help teach thermodynamics.

Your happiest time so far?

My happiest time is reconnecting. Every time I attend a SWE conference, I see so many of our graduates. Frequently, they recall “Duck Day” when I bring a duck into ENG3200, Thermodynamics/Fluid Mechanics. It’s a fun day because students get to pet, hold and see a duck. It’s a learning day because the arteries and veins in the ducks’ legs exchange heat to help regulate the duck’s body temperature.

SWE section members celebrate with Dr. Gretchen Hein at the news of her SWE Outstanding Advisor Award.

What motivates you?

The students make Michigan Tech. They motivate me. Like most people with doctorates, I had taken no classes on how to help others learn. My goal was to create a classroom environment that encouraged learning and discussion. At first, I did not succeed, but I really wanted to be the type of instructor where students came to class, enjoyed the class and learned—probably in that order. I kept talking with the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Michigan Tech. I was one of the first instructors to use online videos and blended learning. My students had told me that they were willing to learn material outside of class if we worked through more problems in class, so I learned how to make my course more efficient, to gain that extra time. I began to tell stories in class about my family, my industrial projects, TED talks—anything that would grab their interest and keep them laughing and thinking. I focused on how the course material could be applied to their careers; I invited former students to come talk about their careers in class. Last but not least, I related how much I struggled with Thermo when I studied it in college.

“Dr. Hein is supportive of her students and does her best to ensure each of us have all the tools and resources to flourish, both academically and professionally. She teaches valuable life skills for navigating the professional world as a female engineer, and serves as an exemplary role model.”

Erin Murdoch ’17

Your advice for future engineers?

For me, this question is personal. My son will be graduating in the spring with a degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech.

My advice is this: Find what you enjoy and do it, but realize that there will be times when the job is not exciting or that the challenges seem insurmountable. When visiting companies and during the interview process, see if you can visualize working with the people and in that environment. Each company has its own personality and so do you. You want these to mesh well. Figure out what type of community you’re happy in. It’s much easier to go to work when you like where you’re at. Use your contacts and resources.

I encourage everyone to keep learning and exploring, both at work and personally. The great thing is that sometimes growth in one area results in growth in another.

What do you want others to know about Michigan Tech’s SWE section?

The SWE section at Michigan Tech values outreach. And their commitment to SWE continues long after they graduate. Many are involved in their professional section and at the national level.

Members of the local SWE section are holding a thank you letter-writing campaign to show Dr. Hein appreciation for all of the hard work she has put in to help it succeed, and to congratulate her on her award. Send your letters to us here, at this address.


Bill Endres: Pivoting During the Pandemic: From Covid to Codes

Bill Endres shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 16 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.

Patient’s eye view of a bag valve mask. Michigan Tech engineering students, led by ME-EM Associate Professor Bill Endres, developed a device to help caregivers improve patient outcomes.

What are you doing for supper tomorrow night, Monday 11/16 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Prof. Bill Endres, along with recent engineering graduates Haley Edie and Ethan Twardy, and current student Theo Wachowski.

As the pandemic unfolded last spring, a group Michigan Tech engineering students pivoted from disappointment at a study abroad trip being cut short, to developing, prototyping and testing an electro-mechanical ventilator—one that is affordable, rugged, compact, and able to be rapidly manufactured and deployed. Their device automatically actuates a bag valve mask (BVM) to serve as a ventilator substitute, to improve patient outcomes.

Haley Edie, Theo Wachowski, Andy Sleder and Ethan Twardy were all studying abroad at Fachhochschule Kiel in Germany at the start of the pandemic, when Michigan Tech asked them to return home.

A bag valve mask is a hand-held, hand-operated device commonly used by EMTs and in emergency rooms and critical care settings to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing or not breathing adequately.

Prof. Bill Endres, the team’s advisor, reconfigured their 30-week senior capstone experience into a 12-week accelerated operation. Engineering students (now all recent graduates) Drew Scharlow, Andy Sleder, John Winkler, and Andrew Marogi worked on the project, as well. 

Dr. Bill Endres is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. He is also director of the department’s Senior Capstone Design program.

Some of the team extended their efforts over the summer through Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site program, offered through the Pavlis Honors College. 

The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, fosters entrepreneurship among university researchers, leading to successful commercialization of technology. Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site Program uses the same methods and principles to encourage technical entrepreneurship.

Endres and his students felt they had a potentially marketable product, and gave it a name, CoVent. They learned how to think about commercialization and transitioning their device into the marketplace. They interviewed paramedics, EMTs, doctors, nurses, combat medics, and more.

Use of a BVM to ventilate a patient is frequently called ‘bagging’ the patient. In medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest, when the patient’s breathing is insufficient or has ceased completely, a bag valve mask (BVM) saves lives by force-feeding air or oxygen into the lungs. BVMs are regularly used by first responders and medical professionals, frequently with compressions, instead of mouth-to-mouth ventilation.

Activated by hand, BVMs are challenging to sustain for longer periods of time. Particularly in rural areas, transport can take 40 minutes or more, and then bagging often continues in the ER. Some pediatric codes can last even longer, two hours or more.

Recent graduate Haley Edie is now in Boston working for Autodesk. In her spare time, she volunteers for FIRST Robotics.

During Husky Bites we’ll meet Haley Edie, who graduated last spring 2020 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. She is now a research engineer at Autodesk in Boston, Massachusetts, focused on generative design, robotics and additive manufacturing. 

“One of the biggest hurdles we faced as a team, was that we were all very geographically distributed,” says Edie. “We also had to find a way to build a hard prototype of our device when none of us had all the pieces for it.”

Ethan Twardy was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He’s also into drumming, cross country running, and theatre acting.

We’ll also meet Ethan Twardy, who earned his BS in Computer Engineering in Spring 2020. He is now a software engineer at Plexus Corp. in Neenah, Wisconsin. “From the place a patient is discovered, to the ambulance, to the ER—what is needed: something that can work between each of those worlds and kind of seamlessly transition between them. We’ve learned that our device needs to be interfaced with other breathing circuits, things like filters, pressure sensors, pressure taps, all these kinds of breathing circuit components” he adds.

Is the team ready to go forward with commercialization? “I guess the biggest change from the start to now is confidence,” adds Twardy. “Not only in talking about what we’ve learned and about the product, but also in understanding the customer.” 

Theo Wachowski: “Taking part in FIRST robotics team throughout middle school and high school cemented my love for design and fabrication,” he says.

Last but not least we’ll meet Theo Wachowski, set to graduate in December 2020 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He is currently working as a new product development intern at Boston Whaler in Edgewater, Florida. 

Wachowski agrees. “We’re getting great feedback. I know this can definitely help people. It’s really a team effort and the team decision in the end.”

Prof. Bill Endres is director of the senior design program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. “Putting my own startup experience to practice and to the test, I’ve developed the program to run a lot like a business,” he says.

Prof. Endres has personally advised more than 80 capstone teams over the past 15 years or so, as director he has overseen more than 350 projects/teams. Most are mechanical engineering teams, but plenty, like the CoVent team, are multidisciplinary teams, made up of students majoring in various engineering disciplines.

I have a passion for designing processes, physical devices, software tools, and even business models–from system-level to detail-level, discovering interconnections and intra-connections. I guess that makes me a geek.

Prof. Bill Endres

At Michigan Tech, teams of highly dedicated, senior-level students in all the engineering departments address practical, open-ended design challenges in their last course before graduating. Many of the projects are sponsored by industry and community organizations, even individuals. (Our College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan has sponsored several senior design team projects over the past few years, too.)

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

I’ve long had an interest in how things worked, mainly physical/mechanical devices.  I also liked biology, so I originally intended on pursuing bioengineering. That field was pretty new back in 1984. It  wasn’t even in the College of Engineering at U of Illinois at that time.  Plus, my older sister, who had a BS in Biology, said I’d have to get a PhD to do anything with it. No way was I gonna get a PhD!  So, I pursued mechanical engineering…eventually getting a PhD…thinking, “no way will I ever go be a professor!” 

Prof. Endres’s daughter, Jess, is an ER Technician at Carle Foundation Hospital in Illinois. “She was our first subject matter expert (SME) who joined a Zoom call just 6 hours after the idea surfaced for the project.”

Hometown and Hobbies?

I grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, about 5 miles from O’Hare airport. As for my hobbies, I have a passion for designing processes, physical devices, software tools, and even business models–from system-level to detail-level, discovering interconnections and intra-connections. I guess that makes me a geek (and that’s a good word in my book, literally). In 1996 I set out to build a technology company focused on machining simulation software. With changes in life and profession, that effort was chalked up as a learning experience and set aside. Later I turned my entrepreneurial eye toward the cutting-tool industry. I founded Endres Machining Innovations, LLC (EMI) in 2005. Through R&D programs and commercialization partnerships, EMI has developed and delivered innovative tooling products–enabling substantial productivity improvements. 

Hamburg, Germany, and its Fernmeldeturmone, or radio broadcasting tower. Photo by Haley Edie.

Haley, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I really got into engineering when I was introduced to FIRST Robotics at my high school. I fell in love with working to solve a problem, working with my hands and the field of robotics in general. I still mentor and volunteer with FIRST to this day. I was born and raised in the small town of Almont in lower Michigan. I now work for Autodesk in Boston, Massachusetts as a Research Engineer. In my free time I love to read (sci-fi and fantasy!!), bake, hike, swing dance and volunteer at FIRST robotics competitions. 

Theo, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

My father was a carpenter, so from a young age I always had the opportunity to build things and design projects. Having the ability to take an idea and make it reality has always brought me joy in my hobbies and classwork. I had the opportunity to participate in a FIRST Robotics team throughout middle school and high school, which cemented my love for design and fabrication. I grew up in Kalamazoo, raised by two loving parents along with one older brother. My brother graduated from Michigan Tech in 2017 with a BSME and is now working in Holland, Michigan. I love the outdoors and anything to do out in the Keweenaw, I race sailboats with Michigan Tech, and sail out on Lake Michigan in the summer. And I’m an avid rock climber who loves to climb, either here at the SDC or out at Silver Mountain.


David Shonnard: Waste Plastics are Taking Over the World—the Solution is Circular

Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard, shown here at Gratiot River State Park, a remote beach in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

David Shonnard shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, November 9 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.

Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard founded Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 11/9 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Chemical Engineering Professor David Shonnard, longtime director and founder of Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute. Last week he won Michigan Tech’s 2020 Research Award.

During Husky Bites, Shonnard promises to shed some light and some hope on waste plastics—the role they play in our society and economy and their harm to the environment, especially the oceans and its biodiversity.

He’ll also take us on a walk down a remote Lake Superior beach to hunt for waste plastics, show us what he and his students found, where they found it, and what that means.

Felix Adom, one of Prof. Shonnard’s graduate students will join in, too. Dr. Adom grew up in Ghana, attending Kwame Nkrumah’ University of Science and Technology in Kumasi for his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2012, and then worked as a post-doc researcher and energy analyst at Argonne National Lab. He then joined Shell as greenhouse gas intensity assessment technologist, and is now carbon strategy analyst at Shell.

Felix Adom earned his PhD in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech in 2012.

Shonnard founded and is fully devoted to Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute, which brings together undergraduate students, graduate students, scientists and engineers from multiple disciplines in research and education projects. SFI members—more than 100 on campus—address technical, economic, and social issues related to the sustainable use of the Earth’s limited resources.

During his time at Michigan Tech, Adom was a member of SFI. On one project, he worked with a team of students in Shonnard’s hydrolysis lab to analyze a waste product of the wet mill corn ethanol industry—a thick, caramel-colored syrup. Ethanol production from corn creates an abundance of corn byproducts—seven pounds for every one gallon of ethanol according to some estimates. The syrup came by way of Working Bugs LLC, a green chemical manufacturer based in East Lansing, Michigan. Adom and the team identified the chemical make-up of the syrup and helped determine its value as a possible feedstock. They also discovered ways to convert the syrup, a waste stream, into a sugar- and amino acid-rich fermentation medium for other biofuels.

Today Adom is based in Richmond, Texas, not far from Houston. He is a carbon strategy analyst for Shell. “When I joined this team in 2016, it was a small group of 5 people. Today our team has 40 people and it is heavily funded.”

“Ever since Felix graduated, I have proudly watched from a distance the terrific trajectory of his career,” says Shonnard. He’s now helping a major oil company to develop their strategies to be more sustainable. I am really happy to see that.”

Some of the waste plastics collected at Gratiot River Beach.

The beach study, performed by chemical engineering undergraduates Mahlon Bare and Jacob Zuhlke, focused on identifying and quantifying macroplastic particles discovered on a beach along Lake Superior on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan within Gratiot River County Park. The park receives little foot traffic and is located in a remote part of the Peninsula. Searching five 100-foot sites spaced 1000 feet apart, the team gathered any visible surface plastic. They also processed sand dug from one-ft. deep holes. Researchers took samples of recovered plastic pieces and analyzed their composition using a micropyrolysis process and gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (GC/MS) system. No microplastics were discovered in the sand.

“Technology enables a circular flow of recycling. Right now, waste plastics are a cost, but they could be of value if we can convert them back into other, reusable forms. If they have value, then they’re less likely to get thrown out.”

David Shonnard, Chemical Engineering Professor and the Richard and Bonnie Robbins Chair in Sustainable Use of Materials at Michigan Technological University

Prof. Shonnard, how did you become focused on sustainability as a chemical engineer? 

“During my PhD at UC Davis, my advisor allowed me to take courses and conduct research outside of the traditional discipline of chemical engineering, so I could apply my skills to environmental problems. Once at Michigan Tech, our culture of collaboration across campus stimulated my research into areas of sustainable bioenergy and more recently into waste plastic recycling.”

What are the most important things all engineers should know about sustainability?

“Engineers, in my experience, often think a problem can be solved using the skills we possess. Unfortunately, this is not true when it comes to sustainability. Engineers need to collaborate outside their fields of expertise, with environmental scientists, economists, social scientists, and others to address these challenges.”

Characterizing the waste plastics in Dr. Shonnard’s lab at Michigan Tech.

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

As a young man searching for my career direction, among other things I restored old classic Porsche automobiles.  This sparked my interest in engineering and to gain a deeper understanding about how the parts of the vehicle worked.  My freshman year included chemistry, which I loved, and when combined with my interests in math I decided on chemical engineering, and have been super happy ever since.    

Hometown, Hobbies, Family? 

My wife, Gisela, is originally from Germany and before that Brazil, so international travel is in our DNA.  With Gisela and my two children (now grown and into their careers), we traveled a lot to Germany and Europe more broadly to visit relatives.  My only sabbatical was in Germany at a global chemical company headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany (can you guess the company?).  My sustainability research included collaborations in Central and S. America (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina).