Category: News

SWE Section Attends WE22 Conference

A World of Opportunity Awaits

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) WE22 Societal Conference was held in Houston, Texas, on Oct. 19–22. Twelve members of Tech’s SWE section and their advisor, Gretchen Hein, attended the conference.

The section’s conference activities included:

  • Hein, Aerith Cruz, Skyler Brawley and Talia Olson held an #IamRemarkable Workshop regarding how to advocate for yourself and others.
  • Alli Hummel and Kathleen Heusser presented on the SWE Section’s tiered funding model.
  • Julia Westfall applied and was accepted into the SWE Collegiate Leadership Institute.
  • The section was awarded the 2000 Gold Level Collegiate Mission Award.
  • Gretchen Hein was recognized for her review of Undergraduate Scholarship and the Multicultural Awards.

The students also enjoyed meeting many of our Tech alumni who attended the Houston Area Alumni Meet and Greet. It was interesting to learn about their experiences at Tech and how campus and classes have changed over the years.

The section and their advisor thank their corporate sponsors for supporting their travel to the conference. We look forward to attending SWE WE23 Societal Conference in Los Angeles, California, next year.

Each student’s conference experience was different, and their quotes are below:

  • Alli Hummel (civil engineering):
    “The most impactful part of the conference was talking to various students and company representatives after giving a presentation on our section’s tiered funding model.”
  • Abby Mello (chemical engineering):
    “It was inspiring to hear the stories of so many accomplished women in STEM. I look forward to seeing the women in our chapter follow in their footsteps, face challenges with the confidence they have earned, and lead impactful lives fulfilling their aspirations.”
  • Natalie Hodge (electrical and computer engineering):
    “It was amazing to hear stories and life lessons from many incredible women. It really helped me rethink the way I approach challenges and other situations.”
  • Victoria Berger (materials science and engineering):
    “I found the keynote speeches to be inspiring and motivating and loved how the women presenting them were so accomplished in life.”
  • Amanda West (mechanical engineering):
    “With the support of my SWE section and the environment of woman empowerment, I took full advantage of the career fair with hundreds of companies, learning how to network and sell my resume.”
  • Aerith Cruz (management information systems):
    “It was an incredible experience being able to share “#IamRemarkable” to a global audience.”
  • Skyler Brawley (computer engineering):
    “I had an amazing experience during my first time at the WE22 conference.”
  • Talia Olson (mechanical engineering):
    “I had the opportunity of presenting with such inspiring women leaders on the #IamRemarkable workshop.”
  • Kathleen Heusser Pakenas (biomedical engineering):
    “I was able to see the most amazing women in engineering leadership … The entire experience made me feel that I can have a place at the top of the engineering world too, if I’m willing to work hard enough for it.”
  • Sophie Stewart (mechanical engineering):
    “I have never seen so many women engineers in one place! I had so much fun attending the sessions, networking, and hearing everyone’s story.“
  • Josie Edick (chemical engineering):
    “As a graduating senior, I spent a lot of my time during WE22 at the career fair. … I was able to diversify my network and discuss opportunities with industries I never knew were possible to work in as a chemical engineer.”
  • Julia Westfall (mechanical engineering):
    “I learned MTU alumni are everywhere and frequently hold leadership positions wherever they are … I did not realize how well employers recognized our smaller-sized school.”

By Gretchen Hein, Advisor, Society of Women Engineers.

Walt Milligan: Kitchen Metallurgy

Trick, or treat? At first glance these almost look edible! (Sand molds, filled with molten metal castings, sit on a cooling rack in the Michigan Tech foundry.)

Walter Milligan shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 10/31 at 6 pm. 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. Walt Milligan

What are you doing for supper this Monday (Halloween) night 10/31 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Walt Milligan, chair of the Department of Materials Science Engineering at Michigan Tech. 

It’s Halloween, and during Husky Bites, we’re going to learn a few things about knives! If you ever wondered what “tempered” means in a steel product, or have seen videos of people quenching red-hot steel into water or oil and wondered why, Prof. Milligan will explain. 

Just how do they make the high performance carbon and stainless steels that are used for kitchen knives? There’s a bit of nanotechnology involved. During Husky Bites we’ll learn about the different kinds of stainless steel.

“How do you store your knives?” asks Professor Milligan. “You don’t want them banging around in the drawer,” he says.

But why not?

Lightsaber? Nah. This is annealed copper at 900°C.

Have you ever wondered why some stainless steel items in your kitchen stick to a magnet, and why some don’t?

Or what kind of steel is used to make an extraordinarily sharp knife, or an ultra-strong knife? During Husky Bites, Prof. Milligan will teach us about all this, and a lot more. 

In the photo to the right, Prof. Milligan teaches his Intro to MSE class at Michigan Tech how annealing, a heat treatment process, alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of metal to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable.

After he grabs a copper bar out of the furnace that was annealed at 900°C for roughly an hour, Prof. Milligan holds the copper bar, about to demonstrate to the class how its ductility increased (and strength decreased) by having a student easily bend the previously unbendable rod with just their hands.

Milligan began his academic career at Michigan Tech in 1989, and for 17 years he taught MSE and conducted interdisciplinary research on high-performance structural materials. In 2006, he took on a new challenge, and was appointed as Michigan Tech’s first Chief Information Officer, and was tasked with building a robust, campus-wide information technology organization. He held that position until 2015 when he returned to the faculty, and then, a few years later, served as the interim department chair in the (then) brand new Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech. He became chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in July 2021.

“Cold working is the process of strengthening a metal through plastic deformation. Annealing is the process of heat treating a metal to increase its ductility and decrease its strength.”

Walt Milligan
Yes, the MSE classrooms are equipped with metallurgy furnaces!

Prof. Milligan earned a BS in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, as well as MS and PhD Degrees in Materials Engineering from Georgia Tech. He has worked for GE Aircraft Engines, Carpenter Technology Corporation, NASA—Glenn Research Center, the Nuclear Research Center in Grenoble, France, and the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. He is a Fellow of ASM International and a Distinguished Life Member of Alpha Sigma Mu, and has served on the Boards of Directors of TMS and ABET.

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

My father was a skilled machinist in the forging industry, so I was aware of manufacturing.  I was good at math and science, and those subjects interested me, so I decided to study engineering at the University of Cincinnati.  

Are those some cat ears behind that foundry crucible!?!

Hometown, family?

I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest of 6 children.  I have been married to my wife Sheila, who is a Teaching Associate Professor of Accounting at Michigan Tech, since 1984.  We met at school in Cincinnati.  We got married and moved to Atlanta, where I received my PhD from Georgia Tech.

The Milligans relax after a holiday ice hockey rental with friends and family. Left to Right: Walt’s son, Patrick Milligan, wife Sheila Milligan, associate teaching professor of accounting at Michigan Tech. Walt. Walt’s other son, Brian Milligan.

We have two adult sons. Patrick, age 31, received a BS in Materials Science and Engineering and an MS in Energy Systems Engineering, both from the University of Michigan. He works as a consultant in the electric power generation industry. Patrick is expecting his first child in March, so I’ll be a grandfather soon, which is hard to believe. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Brian, age 27, received BS and PhD Degrees from the Colorado School of Mines in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. All on his own, Brian became obsessed with high-quality knives in middle school and high school. So he welded together a home-made coal stove from junkyard parts, bought a used anvil on Craigslist, and started forging knives. He also has quite a collection of $200-$300 pocket knives from the likes of Benchmade and Spyderco.  

Walt with an MSE student, in his early days at Michigan Tech. He’s been a member of the Michigan Tech faculty for over 33 years!

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

Shortly after I moved to Houghton in 1989, I started playing ice hockey. Now, 32 years later, I am still playing (as a goalie, no less!) 2 to 3 times per week, 6 months per year.  I also was very involved in coaching kids’ hockey and am still involved in maintaining websites and leagues for kids hockey across the UP.

Academy for Engineering Education Leadership Inducts Three New Members

Sheryl Sorby, William Predebon, and Debra Larsen were inducted into the Michigan Tech Academy of Engineering Education Leadership on October 28, 2022.
Dr. Debra Larson

On Friday, October 28, the Michigan Tech community gathered to learn from, celebrate, and induct three outstanding educators into the Academy for Engineering Education Leadership. Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering, hosted the induction ceremony.

Inductees were Debra Larson, PhD, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, California State University-Chico; William Predebon, PhD, ME-EM Emeritus, Michigan Technological University; and Sheryl Sorby, PhD, Professor of Engineering Education, University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Bill Predebon

Creating pathways for all students to succeed is a primary focus for Debra Larson. She is a highly effective problem solver and resilient leader who respects shared governance and the diversity of experiences. She is passionate about innovating and delivering high-quality and hands-on education that prepares each generation of graduates for success and well-being. Dr. Larson earned her BS and MS in Civil Engineering from Michigan Tech, and her PhD in Civil Engineering from Arizona State University.

Encouraging faculty, staff and students to innovate, push boundaries, take risks, and be entrepreneurial was a daily activity for Bill Predebon while serving as ME-EM department chair for 25 years. Under his watch, the ME-EM department made tremendous strides in conducting interdisciplinary research, growing the doctoral program, expanding research funding and labs, and advancing the curriculum. Dr. Predebon earned his BS in Engineering Science at University of Notre Dame, and his MS and PhD in Engineering Mechanics from Iowa State University.

Dr. Sheryl Sorby

Serving as founding chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Tech, Sheryl Sorby developed and delivered a highly supportive first-year program—a legacy effort that remains to this day. Her groundbreaking research and outreach, focused on helping people across age groups and cultures to develop their 3-D spatial skills, has enabled educators to develop the capacity of students worldwide. Her curriculum is used by nearly 30 engineering programs in the United States. Dr. Sorby earned her BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Mechanical Engineering, and PhD in Engineering Mechanics, all at Michigan Tech.

The Academy for Engineering Education Leadership was established in 2018 by the College of Engineering. Two alumni, Sarah Rajala and Karl Smith, were inaugural inductees.

Engineering Students Place High in Computing[MTU] Showcase 2022

Trevor and Dominika stand next to their poster.
Trevor Petrin (left) and Dominika Bobik (right).

The Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) is pleased to announce the winners of the Computing[MTU] Showcase Poster Session of October 10. Congratulations and thanks to all the graduate and undergraduate students who presented their research posters!

Please visit the showcase’s Research Poster Session page to view the poster abstracts and photos from the event.

Undergraduate Winners

  • First Place: Dominika Bobik (ECE, Computer Engineering) — “An Educational Modeling Software Tool That Teaches Computational Thinking Skills”
  • Second Place: Niccolo Jeanetta-Wark (MEEM, Mechanical Engineering) — “Performance Measurement of Trajectory Tracking Controllers for Wheeled Mobile Robots”
  • Third Place: Kristoffer Larsen — “A machine learning-based method for cardiac resynchronization therapy decision support”

Graduate Winners

  • First Place: Shashank Pathrudkar (MEEM, Mechanical Engineering) — “Interpretable machine learning model for the deformation of multiwalled carbon nanotubes”
  • Second Place: Nicholas Hamilton — “Enhancing Visualization and Explainability of Computer Vision Models with Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations (LIME)”
  • Third Place (Tie): Zonghan Lyu (BME, Biomedical Engineering) — “Automated Image Segmentation for Computational Analysis of Patients with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms”
  • Third Place (Tie): Tauseef Mamun — “When to be Aware of your Self-Driving Vehicle: Use of Social Media Posts to Understand Problems and Misconceptions about Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Mode”

Read more on the ICC Blog, by Karen Johnson.

Mike Christianson: The Michigan Tech Band Experience—Wonderful Ruckus to Symphonic Thrills

The Huskies Pep Band. We love this scramble band for its energy, colorful hats and dress, and joviality!

Mike Christianson shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 10/24 at 6 pm. 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. Mike Christianson, leading bands, enriching lives.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 10/24 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Mike Christianson, Associate Professor, Visual and Performing Arts and Director of Bands at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be two members of the Huskies Pep Band, Matt Bettwy (mechanical engineering) and Laura Bufanda (theatre and entertainment technology), both who will be graduating with their bachelor’s degrees in December.

He’s Got The Music In Him

Mike Christianson learned all about bands at a young age, accompanying his band leader/director father to concerts in their hometown of Fargo. He saw all the greats like Count Basie and Buddy Rich. Christianson heard the music and absorbed the performances. He listened to them talk about the music and the different players in the band. And music was always in abundance at home and at Christianson family gatherings. Mike’s great-great grandfather and grandfather were band leaders too. His grandmothers also played music. And the music bug continued in his children. It’s fair to say in the Christianson household music is ever present.

In Pursuit of a Dream

This love and appreciation of music drove his dream. Christianson pursued that dream, moving to New York City to play professionally. You’d find him in different orchestra pits on and off-Broadway, playing in studios and clubs with a variety of musicians, Carnegie Hall, and even hitting the road for two years with Ray Charles. Christianson’s professional career led to a Grammy nomination with John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. The group was nominated for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album,” at the 61st Annual Recording Academy’s Grammy Awards, for its recording “All Can Work.”(recounted in Tech News back in 2019)

Eventually Christianson was asked to lead a band when a professor went on sabbatical. Directing the band brought joy. He was hooked. When he asked how he can do more of that, he was told to get his PhD. Enrollment at Rutgers University across the Hudson in New Jersey followed, as did another twelve years as a founder and band director for a local community band. 

The stage was set to begin a new career teaching music at Michigan Tech; trading in the iconic skyline of New York with the Empire State Building for that of Houghton-Hancock featuring the Lift Bridge and Quincy Mine. And we could not be more excited to have him here. Music at Tech has been a unique experience for Christianson. It has been all about the joy.

“If we were a music conservatory, we would likely be yelling at students all of the time, putting pressure on them to get better and not miss out on opportunities. Here students can just focus on the joy in music,” he says.

Mike Christianson earned his Bachelor’s of Music at Minnesota State University Moorhead, then his Masters of Music at the Manhattan School of Music, and his Doctor’s of Music at Rutgers University.

Because of that Christianson knew coming to Tech that teaching music would be a different experience for him. Michigan Tech Professor Emeritus Mike Irish, a great mentor of Christianson’s, told him “You’ll be surprised why you like this job.”

Originally, the new-kid-on-the-block did not know what his mentor meant.  Now Christianson thinks “Huh! I get it. I pick-up something new all the time. I estimate every year or two I learn a new way to approach the job. And every year I find a new reason why I like this job.”

“I see it in this Pep Band. That joy that comes from playing music and having fun with it.”

Mike Christianson

“Mike has been a musical mentor of mine ever since I joined Michigan Tech’s music program in 2019,” says Laura Bufanda, who earned her BS in Theatre and Entertainment Technology in 2022. They met briefly at the summer community concert in 2014, back when Bufanda’s brother, Randy, was attending Michigan Tech.

“Mike has been a great influence in my desire to learn how to perform other areas of music, including Jazz,” she adds. “As a euphonium player, it is somewhat expected that I only participate in performing classical music. However, I enjoyed the vast amount of different styles and genres of music Mike has exposed us to in the Superior Wind Symphony so much—that I chose to join MTU’s jazz program, as well!”

“I met Mike before I even started at Michigan Tech, during Michigan Tech Preview day in spring 2018 when I auditioned for the Visual and Performing Arts Talent Award scholarship,” says Matt Bettwe. “Mike was my first contact with the music department, and he was also one of the first faculty members I got to know during my first semester at MTU. I joined Superior Wind Symphony and the Huskies Pep Band,” he adds.

“With the academic rigors of my degree (almost all STEM courses) my time in Mike’s ensembles has been a huge part of my life at Michigan Tech. It’s the time of the work week when I can be less analytical, and focus on something different that I really enjoy.”

Flaming Trumpets (!) at Michigan Tech’s Parade of Nations

The Band Program at Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech offers multiple opportunities for students to engage in music, including five jazz ensembles, a symphony orchestra, two choirs, and three bands. Not bad for a technological university without a school of music. But the three band experiences (Visual and Performing Arts Campus Concert Band, Huskies Pep Band, and Superior Wind Symphony) would not be the same without the leadership of Mike Christianson.

The Superior Wind Symphony (SWS) is the premier wind ensemble at Michigan Tech. This auditioned ensemble of winds and percussion performs the music of composers spanning five centuries, living and not, from all genders, ethnicities and genres. SWS concerts offer symphonic thrills, innovative programming, fruitful collaborations, and exciting premieres. These concerts feature music from the standard repertoire and often utilize innovative formats that include visual art, the spoken word, and dance. Plus, the ensemble takes to the road to play concerts throughout the Great Lakes region. SWS invites renowned guest conductors and performing artists to work with them, like Frank Battisti, Bill Berz, and Scott Robinson.

The Campus Concert Band was founded to enable the marching drill ROTC band continue to play in the spring semester. The band plays a variety of traditional and contemporary concert band literature as well as popular works. It also performs around the community at a variety of venues. The ROTC band is no longer, but the Campus Concert Band continues to play on.

Matt Bettwy conducts the Huskies Pep Band during a hockey game at Michigan Tech.

But perhaps the most famous of the three bands is the Huskies Pep Band. They are known by many names: The Pride of Pastyland, the Cream of the Keweenaw, the Second-best Feeling in the World, the loudest, most spirited pep band in the nation. We love this scramble band for its energy, colorful hats and dress, and joviality. From its humble beginnings in 1928 as the Michigan Tech ROTC Band under the baton of E.E. Melville, the Michigan Tech Huskies Pep Band has grown to become one of the most recognized bands in all of college hockey. We bet there were no bassists and guitarists in that original incarnation like there are now! The Huskies Pep Band is open to any Michigan Tech student that likes it louder, faster, and higher! No audition required.

Prof. Christianson, how did you first get into music? What sparked your interest?

Band directing is a Christianson family tradition. I am the fifth consecutive generation in my family to become a band director. My grandmother was a pianist and my father a band director. So I was exposed to music at a very young age. Even though I grew up in Fargo, ND, we had all these amazing bands come to play there: Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton are just a few. My father took me along to see them, and I dreamed of going on the road with one of those bands.

To become a professional musician, I knew I had to go to music school, which took me to Minnesota State University Moorhead. 

New York was next, where it took a little while to get established, but I landed a job playing with Ray Charles’ band. And then built a varied, interesting, and successful career as a musician.

When was this photo taken of Mike Christianson? We hope to find out during Husky Bites!

Hometown and Family?

Fargo, North Dakota is my hometown. My wife is Cyndi. Our daughter, Michelle, represents the sixth consecutive generation in my family to become a band director, and our son, Aaron, when at Michigan Tech, was a student director of Pep Band.

Is there a band you think of when you think of the Pep Band?

I saw all the great big bands with my dad as a kid. But years before I took the Tech job, I asked my father which band he enjoyed seeing the most. It was Spike Jones and the City Slickers. Not only were they terrific musicians, but they were a really goofy comedic band. They wore these crazy outfits and props. They played well and had so much fun doing it. My dad saw all these jazz greats, but still enjoyed Spike Jones the most. That stuck with me. And I see it in this Pep Band. That joy that comes from playing music and having fun with it.

The Huskies Pep Band is open to any Michigan Tech student. No audition required! Note: we’re pretty sure “ASS” (in this case) is short for “alto sax”.

How did you become a band director?

I worked at New Jersey City University and volunteered to be the band director while a professor went on sabbatical. I really enjoyed the experience and decided to start a town band in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where my family lived. It was a great learning experience. I put up flyers and posted online to recruit members. At our first meeting we had five flute players show up out of eight musicians, so a little imbalance. But they kept coming, and bringing their friends. Eventually we grew into a delightful band of friends, neighbors, and music professionals. Many musicians stepped in and wanted to be a part of it. I met some fantastic musicians along the way and learned a variety of music styles. I was with that community band for twelve years.

How did you get into teaching music?

Remember that interim band director position? Well I loved being a band director so much, I asked “How can I get a job doing this?” That’s when they told me to get a doctorate. So I enrolled at Rutgers to get my DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts). And I ended up here because they offered me a job!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

If I’m not playing music, I’m probably writing it. I am not a composer. But one of my favorite teachers of all-time, Ludmila Ulehla, taught our composition class. She served as the chair of the Department of Composition at the Manhattan School of Music from 1972 to 1989.

Ludmila laid it out as follows: “Write a piece of music for your best friends. Otherwise, no matter what you write, it will never compare to Beethoven or Bach. And it will always be played last. And how good is it going to sound, anyway, when played by skilled musicians who have spent hours practicing and refining the Greats, but not so much time with your music? So, identify four favorite musicians who happen to be your friends. They are the ones most likely to practice and play your piece, and you win. They’ll do their best. They won’t be critical. And they will love you for it.”

Laura Bufanda’s career goal is to work in advertising as art director. She’s well on her way!

Laura, how did you first get into music? What sparked your interest?

I began playing the Euphonium in 4th grade (about 17 years ago) after both of my older brothers had gotten involved- I was always inspired to join Band because of their interest in it–and with a strong interest of my own, through elementary dance and music classes.

What is it like playing in the Huskies Pep Band?

For me it’s been a great experience for getting out and getting involved. As someone who isn’t super into sports, I still found games fun to attend with the Pep Band (my favorites are volleyball and hockey).

The most memorable experience happened during my first year, the “Flooter/A.S.S. Thanksgiving,” basically a “friendsgiving” shared by the Flute and Alto Sax sections of the Pep Band. This one event introduced me to many of the people I would be living with, and the house I would be living in for the majority of my time at MTU—some arm-wavers and some instrumentalists—all of my housemates were heavily involved in Pep Band throughout their years. It was something we all had in common. I’ve always been a big fan of band camp, too. That almost goes without saying. I’m what some may call a “band nerd”, but all growing up and to this day I have always loved band camp rehearsals and getting to meet all of the new members.

What are you hoping to do after graduation?

I am pursuing the world of art direction and advertising design. Growing up, I was always very interested in art of all mediums. After graduating from high school I chose to continue my path in digital media by completing a photography certificate program. Over time, I have grown more interested in the other areas of digital design. I’ve gained experience in graphic design to help me toward my goal of becoming an art director.

Hometown, family?

I grew up in Burlington, Connecticut with my Mom, Dad, and two older brothers (three are Michigan Tech alumni). I have been a permanent resident of Michigan since I graduated from high school in 2015.

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

Outside of Michigan Tech, I enjoy photography, graphic design, horseback riding, camping/adventuring, and exploring Detroit. I have 2 dogs: Mylee, a maltese/shih-tzu; and Hana, a maltese.

Says Matt: “The Copper Country Color Tour 2021 (I’m in the gray), a fall road bike ride put on by the MTU cycling club.”

Matt, how did you first get into music and engineering? What sparked your interest?

I started playing trumpet in fifth grade, found I loved it, and followed the hobby ever since. It was my favorite school activity for many years and I briefly considered a career in music, but late in high school I settled on engineering after taking physics class in high school and loving that, too. My interest in both subjects was roughly equal. The better financial and career prospects of engineering is what tipped the scale for me.

Hometown, family?

I’m from Sussex, Wisconsin, a town about 30 minutes west of Milwaukee. I grew up with my parents and one brother, who attends Columbia College in Chicago studying music business.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Outside of music and school/work, my biggest hobby is cycling. I race road bikes quite seriously during the summer months. I taught the beginner road cycling PE class at Michigan Tech in fall 2021. I mountain bike more casually during the spring and fall. It certainly helps that some of the best mountain biking trails in the Midwest are right here in the Keweenaw. I also occasionally like to hike, camp and explore the outdoors.

Listen

View (and hear) some recent concerts:

Superior Wind Symphony Reparations is a collection of 19 pieces of music by Black composers performed in 2021.

Superior Wind Symphony performs Centurius in February 2022

The Huskies Pep Band play their classic opener, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the theme song from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Huskies Pep Band still brought joy during lockdown. Who can forget the Virtual Fight Song video!

Read more

All That Jazz: Christianson a Member of Grammy Nominated Ensemble

Making Music

Excellence in Student Publishing

Global map with readership numbers marked at various locations.

This week, October 17–21, 2022, the Graduate School and the Van Pelt and Opie Library celebrate International Open Access Week. The event is organized by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).

This year, we’re marking Open Access Week by recognizing the 10 years of master’s theses, doctoral dissertations and master’s reports (ETDRs) that are freely available to the world through Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech, the University’s institutional repository. This collection of works is comprehensive back to 2012, and some are nearly a decade older. With Digital Commons, we’re provided with usage statistics that show activity on the platform and across the web. Throughout the week, we’ll share stories and insights informed by these statistics that speak to how publishing Open Access has benefitted Michigan Tech students. In the meantime, take a moment to check out the collection of ETDRs on Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech.

One great feature of Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech is its shareable readership dashboard. This dashboard displays statistics related to how users are interacting with content on the repository. For example, users have downloaded Michigan Tech master’s theses, master’s reports and dissertations over 1.5 million times from 227 different countries.

Top Ten Visited Submissions

  1. 33,471 hits — “Determination of Bulk Density of Rock Core Using Standard Industry Methods
    Author: Kacy Mackenzey Crawford, Master of Science in Civil Engineering
  2. 18,930 hits — “Modeling, Simulation and Control of Hybrid Electric Vehicle Drive While Minimizing Energy Input Requirements Using Optimized Gear Ratios
    Author: Sanjai Massey, Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
  3. 18,484 hits — “Teaching the Gas Properties and Gas Laws: An Inquiry Unit with Alternative Assessment
    Author: Michael Hammar, Master of Science in Applied Science Education
  4. 17,781 hits — “Twelve Factors Influencing Sustainable Recycling of Municipal Solid Waste in Developing Countries
    Author: Alexis Manda Troschinetz, Master of Science in Environmental Engineering
  5. 14,281 hits — “Parameter Estimation for Transformer Modeling
    Author: Sung Don Cho, Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering
  6. 12,895 hits — “Aerothermodynamic Cycle Analysis of a Dual-Spool, Separate-Exhaust Turbofan Engine with an Interstage Turbine Burner
    Author: Ka Heng Liew, Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  7. 12,597 hits — “Virus Purification, Detection and Removal
    Author: Khrupa Saagar Vijayaragavan, Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering
  8. 11,089 hits — “Measuring the Elastic Modulus of Polymers Using the Atomic Force Microscope
    Author: Daniel Hoffman, Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering
  9. 11,050 hits — “Identity and Ritual: The American Consumption of True Crime
    Author: Rebecca Frost, Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture
  10. 10,561 hits — “Energy Harvesting from Body Motion Using Rotational Micro-Generation
    Author: Edwar. Romero-Ramirez, Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

To dig deeper into the collection, it consists of 2,611 dissertations, theses and reports with 76% of them available Open Access. The Open Access collection represents each college on campus:

  • College of Engineering: 58%
  • College of Sciences and Arts: 28%
  • College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science: 8%
  • College of Computing: 3%
  • College of Business: 1%
  • School of Technology: 1%

Citations for Student Engineering Works

Matthew Howard’s master’s thesis, “Multi-software modeling technique for field distribution propagation through an optical vertical interconnect assembly,” has been mentioned on Facebook 527 times. “Impact of E20 Fuel on High-Performance, Two-Stroke Engine,” a master’s report by Jon Gregory Loesche, was cited in a 2021 technical report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy.

By the Graduate School and the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

Yixin Liu: Sensing Smells

Dogs can potentially detect human diseases—including cancer and diabetes—from smell alone. At Michigan Tech, Yixin Liu, an assistant professor Chemical Engineering, develops “electronic noses” that can rival even the best dog nose.

Yixin Liu shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 10/17 at 6 pm. 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.

Prof. Yixin Liu

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 10/17 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Yixin Liu, assistant professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech. Joining in will be Riley Smith, the first undergraduate student researcher to join Prof. Liu’s Smart Chemical and Biological Sensing Laboratory at Michigan Tech. Liu develops chemical sensors and biosensors, electronic noses/tongues and sensor data analytics.

During Husky Bites, Prof. Liu will share how she goes about developing an “electronic nose” using an array of gas sensors and a data-analyzing algorithm. The result is a device that can mimic our biological olfactory system, able to sense smells in various applications, such as gas pollutants and breath analysis for medical diagnosis.

The ideal electronic nose is capable of sensing far better than even the best human nose ( more like a dog nose). “Dogs have a superior sense of smell. With training, dogs can sniff out bombs and drugs, pursue suspects, search and rescue lives, and potentially detect human diseases—including cancer and diabetes—from smell alone,” Liu says.

Prof. Liu uses nanofibers (seen here on the nanoscale) as sensing material to create electrochemical sensors. Coupled with machine learning techniques, the device turns into a smart nose with a number of superpowers.

Liu joined the faculty of the Department of Chemical Engineering as an assistant professor in 2020. She earned her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut and her bachelor’s degree in Polymer Material Science and Engineering from Zhejiang University in China. 

Riley Smith

“Riley was the first undergraduate student to join my lab at Michigan Tech,” says Liu. He reached out to me last year after my brief presentation to the Michigan Tech AIChE student group, indicating his interest in undergraduate research. 

“Riley is highly motivated and proactive,” adds Liu. “After training on the lab’s electrospinning machine for nanofiber fabrication, he took the initiative to come up with a detailed operation manual with pictures. Riley’s manual has helped many students in my lab to learn how to use the machine.”

“Once I heard Dr. Liu’s AIChE presentation, I reached out to learn more,” Smith adds. “I started working with Dr. Liu, and now I work along with many more students who have joined the team as the lab continues to grow.”

Liu’s interdisciplinary lab combines advanced nanostructured materials, device design, and data-driven approaches to develop high performance chemical and biological sensing technologies. Liu and her collaborators already have 4 US patents granted, with another six patent applications pending.

The Liu Research Group at dinner.

At Michigan Tech Liu and her research group work together to develop electrochemical sensors coupled with machine learning techniques. “The knowledge gained from our research leads us to other new low-cost biosensing devices and manufacturing processes,” says Liu. 

Control panel for the electrospinning machine in Dr. Liu’s Smart Chemical and Biological Sensing Lab.

Recently she was awarded an Engineering Research Initiation (ERI) grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a nanocomposite sensor for the simultaneous detection of glucose and cortisol.

“People with diabetes are 2-3 times more likely to have depression,” note Liu. “In addition, symptoms of depression and anxiety are often associated with elevated cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) which can lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes. If we could monitor both glucose and cortisol levels in a cost-effective and effortless way, that could help manage both diabetes and stress—it could also prevent pre-diabetes from progressing to full-blown type 2 diabetes,” Liu says.

The needle that generates the nanofibers.

“One of my long-term research goals is to develop a low-cost, easy-to-manufacture and high-performance biosensing technology based on e-MIPS—electropolymerized Moleculary Imprinted Polymers. I think e-MIPS could become an important platform for detecting biomarkers in human biofluids,” she says. “This would allow for ‘decentralized diagnostics’—rapid medical testing that can take place outside a hospital setting. Testing could be done at a satellite lab, doctor’s office, or even at home.”

Developing a reliable sensor that can detect polluting gas in real time, at an early stage, even in aggressively high heat, is another one of Liu’s research projects.

“Monitoring and control of combustion-related gases, including oxygen, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, are a top priority in many industries,” she says. “To be effective, though, sensors must be operate at 800~1000 ◦C. Right now, very few sensors have been able to detect gases above 600 ◦C, even in a laboratory setting.”

Once achieved, though, Liu says real-time, high-heat monitoring could save energy and help reduce pollution emissions.

Some of Prof. Liu’s beautiful acrylic paintings!

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

My father is a mechanical engineer, and I have always watched him fix things and build new things at home since I was very young. I liked math, hands-on experiments, and exploring new technologies when I was in high school. It was quite natural for me to choose an engineering major when I went to university.

Hometown, family?

I grew up in Sichuan, China (hometown of spicy foods and the panda.) I was the only child of my parents (no siblings). My husband and I have a 4-year-old son.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have liked painting for years, and still do acrylic paintings in my spare time. I started to learn piano 5 years ago, and now I’m still learning, practicing, and having fun.

“Riley’s manual has helped many students in my lab to learn how to use the electrospinning machine,” says Prof. Liu.

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

I first got interested after having a conversation with my chemistry teacher in high school. I thought that engineering would be a fitting job—I knew I wanted to do something that required some type of problem-solving. After talking with a family friend who works in chemical engineering, my interest solidified. I finished my associate degree in science at a community college and started looking into four-year technological universities. 

Hometown, family?

I am from Kalamazoo, Michigan. My family consists of my mom, a younger brother who is in his junior year of high school, an older sister who is getting married in October, and my dad who works in consulting.   

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to spend a lot of time outdoors, whether hiking, kayaking, or hammocking. I have a small poodle mix who accompanies me on many of my outdoor ventures. I also like to work with my hands, on either woodworking projects or refinishing furniture.

Mike Roggemann: Mixing Lasers with the Atmosphere

“A mirage is light from the sky that is refracted back to your eye, with turbulence thrown in to make it shimmer,” says Michigan Tech Professor Emeritus Mike Roggeman. Image of ship on horizon, taken in Dubrovnik. Credit: Thriol, Flickr.

Mike Roggemann shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, 10/10 at 6 pm. 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.

Michigan Tech Professor Emeritus Mike Roggemann

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 10/10 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Associate Dean Leonard Bohmann and Mike Roggemann, professor emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. The two worked together for many years as colleagues in the ECE Department.

Note: Dr. Bohmann will fill in as host for Husky Bites on Monday, October 10. He is Michigan Tech’s associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering, and also a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

According to the National Weather Service, turbulence is an irregular motion of the air resulting from eddies and vertical currents, associated with fronts, wind shear, and thunderstorms. It can be chaotic, irregular, random, and swirling. “That’s the mechanical form of turbulence,” notes Roggemann. “I’m interested in the optical effects of turbulence,” he says.

Leonard Bohmann is associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech

“Think back to a hot summer day, when you’ve seen a car driving down a road that’s shimmering in the heat,” he says. “There are some really interesting atmospheric optic effects. A huge amount of work has been done to understand the nature of these effects and how to mitigate them—due to the practical impact on a huge number of things we really want to work.”

Over the years at Michigan Tech, Roggemann has put Michigan Tech’s north woods location on Lake Superior to great use for his research. One of his goals: to extend the range and understand the performance of imaging and laser systems in any kind of weather. 

“We’ve got it all here—remote locations, blizzards, thunderstorms, heat waves,” he says. “The UP is uniquely suited to the job.” 

Data from some of Dr. Roggemann’s previous research.

Roggemann and his research team at Michigan Tech developed a laser communications testbed to evaluate adaptive optics algorithms, installing it atop an eight-story building in the nearby city of Hancock. The system directed a laser beam 3.2 kilometers to a receiver located on the roof of the Dow Building on campus. They spent several years monitoring atmospheric turbulence, scattering, and weather to understand how such factors fluctuate in the real world. 


A Swiss F-5E Jet shimmers in the heat at RAF Fairford in England.

Free space laser communications systems send lasers through air. One challenge is that it’s not really free space—it’s air. “Atmosphere changes and turbulence can make the laser beam wander,” says Roggemann.  “Some technologies exist to partially mitigate these effects, but none are perfect,” he says.

Channel fading is one problem, and sometimes deep channel fading. If it goes down too low, the communication link can be broken. Roggemann and his research team of students designed and tested various ways of solving this problem to make laser communications more stable and reliable—and be able to achieve the highest possible channel capacity.

One thing they tried: using adaptive optics (AO) on the transmitter, to steer and focus the laser beam on the receiver aperture. The result was less fluctuation, which reduced fading. They discovered another benefit—an increase in received optical signal power.

A fellow of Optica (OSA) and fellow of SPIE, Roggeman is coauthor of the book “Imaging Through Turbulence,” and has authored or coauthored over sixty journal articles and over fifty conference papers, many relating to laser communication. Some of his other research interests include optical remote-sensing system design and analysis, and signal and image processing.

“Lasers and the atmosphere don’t mix all that well.”

Mike Roggemann

Before joining the faculty at Michigan Tech, Roggemann was an associate professor of engineering physics at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, in Ohio. 

He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering at Iowa University, and an MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Along the way he worked as an electro-optics program manager at Wright Laboratories, Wright-Patterson AFB, in Ohio, and an imaging researcher at the Phillips Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, in New Mexico. 

When you spot this sign, you’re in the right place to witness the Paulding Light.

Prof. Roggemann mentored and advised countless electrical engineering students over the years, many of whom earned their doctorate degrees. In addition to conducting research and teaching in photonics and optics, Prof. Roggeman served as the ECE department’s graduate director, no small feat. At any given time, the ECE department has about 50-plus PhD students and 140-plus MS students. 

In 2011, a group of Roggemann’s research students at Michigan Tech, led by then PhD student Jeremy Bos, examined the mysterious Paulding Light phenomena taking place in Paulding, Michigan. Their goal: separate fact from fiction.

Spoiler Alert: “The Paulding Light can be explained as a refraction of headlights from an inversion over the valley,” says Roggemann.

“If not for the students, why are we here?”

Leonard Bohmann
Free space laser communication is being tested and developed by NASA. At Michigan Tech, Dr. Roggemann is an expert on another kind: near ground laser communication. Credit: Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload, NASA.

Dr. Bohmann was serving as interim ECE department chair when the position for the College of Engineering associate dean opened up. “I kind of like the administrative side of things, so I applied for the job,” he says.

It gives him the chance to participate in professional service, including volunteering as a program evaluator for ABET, the organization that accredits engineering programs (including Michigan Tech’s). He’s an ABET commissioner, working with ABET for close to 20 years now. 

But how did Dean Bohmann end up at Michigan Tech in the first place? The year was 1988, early October. 

“Janeen and I decided to make the long drive to Houghton to see what it was like at Michigan Tech,” he recalls. “That night we stayed at McLain State Park campground. We got up in the morning, looked out of the tent, and saw snowflakes in the air.” 

The rest is history. “We decided to move to the Great North Woods, to live near the shore of Lake Superior. This August it will have been 33 years!” 

The Paulding Light. Note: the small green light is a star. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

I was fascinated by the space program as a boy in the 1960s and 1970s, and resolved to go to college and major in science or engineering to be a part of it.

Hometown?

I was born and raised in a small town in Iowa. After high school I went to Iowa State, and entered the Air Force upon graduation. I had some interesting assignments while on active duty, and got both my MSEE and PhD. I spent my last five years on active duty as a professor at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Upon retiring from the Air Force I joined the faculty at Michigan Tech, in the ECE department. I retired from academic life in June 2022.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Quite a few hobbies:  hunting, fishing, exercise, reading, shooting replica firearms from the 1800’s, boating, traveling (more now that I’m not tied down by the academic calendar!), snowmobiling, snowshoeing, moving snow in the winter, and hiking. Never a dull moment. We have two lovable dogs, Fritz and Penne.  

Dr. Bohmann at Design Expo, Michigan Tech’s Annual showcase of Enterprise and Senior Design student projects.

Dr. Bohmann, what is your advice for new students? 

“It is important to study hard, but also important to play hard. If you are going to come to Michigan Tech you need to embrace the outdoors, because it’s here.”

Hometown?

Cincinnati, Ohio. “I went to college in Dayton, and graduate school in Madison. I just kept moving north until I ran into water—Lake Superior—and then I stopped.”

Family?

Janeen and Nick. Before that, I grew up in a family of 10.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to snowshoe to and from work.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

“Realizing that I am impacting students all across the college. Although I am more removed from day to day interactions, I have a chance to make sure they are getting a great education.”

Read More:

It’s Out There: Return to the Paulding Light

Watch

Play Unraveling the Paulding Light mystery. video
Preview image for Unraveling the Paulding Light mystery. video

Unraveling the Paulding Light mystery.

Graduate School Announces Fall 2022 Finishing Fellowship Award Recipients

Students walking on campus in the fall.

The Graduate School proudly announces the recipients of our Fall 2022 Finishing Fellowships. Congratulations to all nominees and recipients.

Finishing fellowship recipients in engineering graduate programs are:

  • Vishnu Chakrapani Lekha — Geological Engineering
  • Emily Shaw — Environmental Engineering
  • Jiachen Zhai — Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Rasoul Bayaniahangar — Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Xuebin Yang — Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Read more about the awardees on the Graduate School Newsblog.

SWE Hosts Evening with Industry in 2022

Event room with tables and presentation screen.

On September 20 the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) hosted its annual Evening with Industry (EWI). The event brought together over 115 students and sponsors from 23 companies. The highlight of the evening was keynote speaker Carrie Struss from Milwaukee Tool, who discussed career development and tips from her career journey.

The section would like to thank all who attended and participated in making the evening a success. “EWI has been held for 34 years. Its success is due to the involvement and commitment of the SWE Section and our EWI Committee,” said Gretchen Hein, the section’s advisor.

The EWI Committee comprised four students: Alli Hummel (civil engineering), Natalie Hodge (electrical and computer engineering), and Maci Dostaler and Kathleen Heusser (biomedical engineering).

The SWE section works closely with Career Services to ensure the sponsor registration and support runs smoothly. The section thanks the sponsors for their support and input. They are truly part of the Michigan Tech learning community. These corporate representatives visit with the students during EWI and guide the students through the transition from student to professional. These interactions greatly help students learn how to advocate for themselves and others as they begin their careers.

Many students commented about the benefits of EWI:

  • “I got to know the recruiters before Career Fair and was able to get an interview.”
  • “I talked with Gerdau after EWI and they pulled me aside, went through my resume, and did a mini interview!”
  • “The Textron recruiter I talked to was very excited about me coming to the Textron booth at Career Fair. I’m definitely applying to a company (CWC Textron) I hadn’t considered before today!”
  • “Last year, I stepped into a one-on-one meeting with Stellantis on a whim which led to a successful internship with them, changing my whole career direction!”

SWE has begun planning the 2023 EWI event. If you are interested in learning more about it, please contact us at SWEEWI@mtu.edu.

By Gretchen Hein, Advisor, Society of Women Engineers.

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