Category: News

Sarah Green: Glasgow—Michigan Tech Agents of Change

Michigan Tech delegation, colleagues and friends at COP26 in Glasgow

Sarah Green shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, March 21 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part of the MTU delegration at COP26 in Glasgow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Sarah Green

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

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

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

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

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

What do you like best about your work now?

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

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

Dr. Jessica Daignault

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

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

Hometown, family?

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

What do you like to do in your spare time?

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

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

Ayush Chutani

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

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

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

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

Read More

Sarah Green Named Jefferson Science Fellow

Reflection and Perspectives from Inside COP25


Engineering Study Abroad: Estefanio Kesto

“Being present and living in the now” is the motto Estefanio Kesto lives by, and his goals are ever changing, expanding, and adapting as life takes him in new directions.

Estafanio Kesto standing near a chalkboard with many digits of Pi.
Estefanio Kesto, next to digits of Pi in the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), in the Skolkovo District of Moscow

A bit about Estefanio Kesto

Estefanio Kesto is an electrical engineering student at Michigan Tech with a focus on Photonics—the study of light detection, manipulation, and generation. He’s involved in SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, as well as performing experimental research under the guidance of Professor Miguel Levy in the Department of Physics. Kesto is also involved in Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society and Eta Kappa Nu, the honor society of IEEE. He describes himself as an outdoorsman and an avid cyclist, as well. “If you approach me with any activities that involve the outdoors, then you can count me in!”

How did you get interested in Studying Abroad?

Many engineering students don’t seem to take the opportunity to study abroad. This is generally due to the misconception among them that transferring the course credits can be very involved and difficult. Additionally, many students are intimidated by the financial aspects. I also hesitated due to both of these things, which postponed my own study abroad endeavor. I eventually attended a meeting hosted by Vienna Leonarduzzi, then Michigan Tech’s study abroad coordinator. She discussed many options to overcome these obstacles.

The process of studying abroad looks hefty from the outside, but once you get more involved, you quickly learn that there are not only many options for engineering coursework to transfer into your degree program, but also options for merit and need-based scholarships to alleviate the potential financial burden.

How did you end up funding your trip?

In my case, I was privileged to be supported by the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman scholarship gives underrepresented individuals higher priority when it comes to financial support. As it turns out, engineering students are considered to be underrepresented when it comes to studying abroad! Use this fact to your advantage when writing scholarship essays for funding. Additionally, there may be university-wide study abroad scholarships available to relieve some of the financial burden. In any case, be sure to discuss your funding options with the study abroad coordinator at Michigan Tech before jumping to conclusions. For me, it was the Gilman program that truly enabled me to study abroad. I even discovered post-study abroad incentives that come with being a Gilman alum! 

I also discovered that the process of transferring courses taken abroad is significantly easier when done earlier in your degree program. So, my recommendation would be to study abroad as early in your degree program as possible! Studying abroad, say, as a freshman or sophomore, gives you more options in choosing your host country, too. This is because general education, free electives, and lower-level engineering courses are much easier to be replaced with study abroad courses, compared to senior level classes.

This was not the case for me, though. I first began to search for study abroad programs that would satisfy course requirements in the final year of my undergraduate studies. As a result, it quickly became discouraging—until Vienna informed me that courses offered through the European Project Semester (EPS) program can be used to satisfy the engineering senior design requirements for my electrical engineering degree. So, if you find yourself in my shoes, find a European Project Semester program in a host country of your liking and jump on it!

Estafanio next to Novia University logo.
At the University of Novia

Where did you study and live?

I lived in the town of Vaasa, which is on the southwest coast of Finland, located on the Gulf of Bothnia. Vaasa was not what I was expecting. It turned out to be one of the largest Swedish speaking towns in Finland (the second language in Finland is Swedish). Only 6 percent of the Finnish population speaks Swedish, but 50 percent of the people in Vaasa speak Swedish. This caught me off guard, as I was expecting a full Finnish-speaking town.  

Why did you choose Finland?

There is a strong Finnish heritage presence in the Keweenaw, where Michigan Tech is located. It inspired me to want to better understand who the Finnish people are, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to do that than fully immersing yourself in the culture of their home country, Finland!

What was your academic experience like in Finland?

European Project Semester (EPS) is a collaborative learning program for undergraduate students studying any of the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). There are 19 host institutions across 13 countries that make up this program today. It’s project-based, with projects often sponsored by companies in industry. This gives students the opportunity to apply their theoretical studies in the real working world. 

Students work in multinational, interdisciplinary teams of three to six students. At the beginning of the semester, EPS presents the engineering projects, and students choose their preferences. My project relied heavily on the internet of things (IoT), automation, and other aspects of software/mechanical/electrical engineering.

The main objective of my collaborative project was to develop an IoT platform to facilitate the integration of different-branded smart devices in an automated living environment for disabled or elderly individuals, all within one intuitive user-interface. For example, products coming from Samsung, LG, Nest, and other electronic brands all have their own app. Our task was to integrate them all into one user-friendly app to control this automated living environment. It turns out the IoT could easily realize this problem. In addition to successfully creating an intuitive user-interface, my team and I further innovated the automated living environment by taking devices which were not considered ‘smart’ devices (i.e., had no connectivity capability) and turned them into ‘smart’ devices with the help of an ESP32 which is a microcontroller with Wi-Fi capabilities.

The experience was absolutely phenomenal. The university I attended, Yrkeshögskolan Novia (Novia University of Applied Sciences), and the faculty who guided my team, went above and beyond in providing my team with the resources and guidance to accomplish the task at hand. Additionally, working in a multi-cultural and interdisciplinary team of engineers allowed me to better understand how different cultures approach academia, work, and day-to-day life.

Estafanio with his housemates.
With housemates in Yrkeshögskolan Novia, Finland

What was the best part of the experience?

Living in a housing accommodation full of exchange students from all over the world! This did have its pros and cons, though. The biggest pro was the gaining of mutual cultural understanding from a diverse cohort of exchange students. The biggest con was that there was only one Finnish student, and I had been searching for native Finnish students to ‘adopt’ me into their cultural traditions. The ‘adoption’ was quite difficult considering I wasn’t able to socialize with Finnish students in my everyday life.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

If you think it’s dark and cold here in the Keweenaw, you’re mistaken, because Finland beats the Keweenaw in that respect. The cold wasn’t so challenging, but the lack of winter daylight, at least in comparison to the Keweenaw, was the most challenging thing for me. The sun would start to rise around 10am and set by 4pm. I found it tough to cope. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around how Finland has consecutively been rated the happiest country in the world in spite of the lack of daylight they receive.

Estafanio on a boat with the Norweigan flag hanging above him.
On a boat in the fjords of Norway

Did you visit any other cities or countries?

When you study abroad, you shouldn’t stay in your college town for the entire duration of your studies. This would make it very difficult to gain sufficient mutual understanding of your host culture. Luckily, my international coordinator at Yrkeshögskolan Novia encouraged exchange students to travel with the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) as much as possible. ESN subsidizes travels for exchange students around the EU, which makes the cost of traveling significantly cheaper than traveling on your own. I visited Oulu, Tampere, Turku, and Helsinki which are all cities within Finland. Outside of Finland I visited Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and France. Additionally, Professor Levy organized an opportunity for me to visit the Russian Quantum Center in the Skolkovo district of Moscow, where I was able to meet some of our collaborators and observe their experimental techniques.

Estafanio in front of St. Basil's Cathedral
In front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

When will you graduate, and what are your plans for the future?

Life changes, and you must be present in the now to adapt. Being present, and in the moment, allows you to adjust your professional goals accordingly. A strict, long-term professional goal that isn’t malleable can quickly deteriorate, due to challenges life throws at you. In turn, not meeting that goal within your perceived and specified timeframe can result in self-discouragement. 

The motto that best describes and dictates where I find myself in life is ‘being present and living in the now.’ In other words, I don’t have a strict long-term goal in regard to where I want to be in my professional life at any certain time. My professional goals change and will change in proportion to what’s happening now.

I do have an idea of where I want to be. I’d like to be working as a professor, instructing the next generation of scientists and engineers—or I’d like to work as a research scientist, making contributions that impact our society even more broadly. This is by no means a strict goal that I’m holding over my head. 

As for my post-baccalaureate plans, I’ve been admitted into a doctoral program in the University of Michigan’s Department of Physics, where I will be continuing my research studies within the optical sciences.


Caryn Heldt: The Making of a Vaccine

Caryn Heldt shares her knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive Zoom webinar this Monday, March 14 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 30 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites

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

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

Caryn Heldt

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

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

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

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

Dylan Turpeinen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hometown, family?

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

What do you like to do in your spare time?

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie and Momo: they get along great!

Hometown, family?

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

Any hobbies?

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

Watch

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Chemical Engineering Major Wins Portage Health Foundation Scholarship

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


Volunteer to Judge at Michigan Tech’s Design Expo 2022

Save the date! Design Expo 2022 will be held in person this spring, on Thursday, April 21, from 10 am to 2 pm at the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library on campus at Michigan Tech. Want to serve as a judge? Please visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page to register to judge by Friday, April 8, 2022.

Just how well do students involved in Michigan Tech’s Enterprise, Senior Design, and Capstone Design address design challenges? You be the judge—volunteer at Design Expo 2022!

Now’s the time to consider serving as a distinguished judge at Design Expo, coming up on Thursday, April 21, 2022 from 10 am to 2 pm at the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library. The event will take place in person this year.

“We welcome judges from various professions, disciplines, and backgrounds to serve as judge,” says Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator at Michigan Tech.

Hosted by the Enterprise Program and the College of Engineering as an annual event, Design Expo highlights hands-on, discovery-based learning at Michigan Tech. More than 1,000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design teams showcase their work and compete for awards, allowing students to gain valuable experience and direct exposure to industry-relevant problems.

In-person judging at the Opie Library on the day of the event usually takes about an hour, depending on the number of volunteers.

This year, prior to the event on April 21, judges will gain access to a digital gallery of student-created videos, in order to preview the videos prior to judging.

“Whether a judge or simply a guest, your involvement in Design Expo is greatly valued by our student teams and makes an important contribution to their education.”

Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator, Enterprise Program Office, Michigan Tech

Design Expo 2022 is generously supported by industry and University sponsorship, with Thompson Surgical as Executive Partner, and ITC Holdings as Directing Partner for the eleventh consecutive year. Additional partners include Globalization Partners, Property Management Inc., Winning by Design, Plexus, Husky Innovate, Altec. Inc., and OHM. These nine partners, along with more than a hundred project and program supporters, have made a strategic investment in our educational mission at Michigan Tech.

Sign Me Up!

Please visit Michigan Tech’s Design Expo Judges and Guests page for more information and to register to judge by Friday, April 8, 2022.

To be considered as a judge, please commit to the following: 

  1. Attend Design Expo for about an hour, sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 21, 2022, to visit assigned teams.
  2. Review and score assigned team videos via RocketJudge, an online platform, between April 18 and April 21, 2022, prior to the start of Design Expo.

Each judge will be assigned 3-5 teams to score throughout the judging period. 

Judges will then evaluate and score their same assigned teams during the in-person Design Expo event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 at the Opie Library on campus.

Who should judge?

  • Faculty and staff 
  • Community members
  • Alumni interested in seeing the accomplishments of today’s undergraduate students
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project
  • Anyone with interest in supporting our students as they engage in hands-on, discovery-based learning

Questions? 

Feel free to contact Briana Tucker, Enterprise Program Coordinator from Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program Office, at bctucker@mtu.edu.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samantha, what did you like most about TECH SCEnE?

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

What was the best part?

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

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

What was the most challenging aspect?

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

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

What next? What are your future plans?

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

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

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


Hajj Flemings: Looking Deeper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hajj Flemings 

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

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

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

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

Hajj Flemings


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

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


Jason Blough Named Interim Chair of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Distinguished Professor Jason Blough

Jason Blough has agreed to serve as Interim Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. He will officially start July 1, 2022, taking over from longstanding ME-EM Department Chair and faculty member Bill Predebon.

Blough, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, has a distinguished career, a thriving research group, and acquired many honors in recognition of his work, including the honor of Michigan Tech Distinguished Professor in 2021. He is himself a ME-EM graduate, having earned both BS and MS degrees at Michigan Tech before going on to earn his doctoral degree at the University of Cincinnati. 

Blough started his career in ME-EM as an assistant professor in 2003, and before that worked as a research professor at the Michigan Tech Keweenaw Research Center. Over the past year, he served as both associate chair and director of graduate studies for the ME-EM department. 

“I look forward to Dr. Blough becoming a member of the leadership team of the college and I am grateful for his willingness to serve ME-EM as interim chair,” said Dean Janet Callahan. 

Blough has been recognized for numerous contributions in teaching, research and service. He is a member of Michigan Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence and has received the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. He is identified as an international leader in the research area of noise, vibration and harshness, having received the Blue Ribbon Coalition Scientist of the Year Award (2006), the SEM DeMichele Award (2021) and the SAE Arch T. Colwell Merit Award (1997). He is also a Fellow of SAE (2021) and serves as a member of the SAE Snowmobile Committee, responsible for the development of the noise testing procedures used by the industry. Blough also sits on the Scientific Board of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association Conference, hosted by Katholieke University in Leuven, Belgium. 

He has published his research in numerous journals and peer-reviewed conference papers, and given over 30 short courses to industry. Additionally, Blough’s 100-plus funded projects total more than $3.7 million as principal investigator (PI) and $2.3 million as co-PI.

Extremely active in service, Blough has graduated both doctoral and master’s students, chaired an international conference in his field, served on boards, edited papers and journals, and advised Michigan Tech’s SAE student chapter and the SAE Clean Snowmobile Enterprise team for over 15 years. SAE has recognized him multiple times as an outstanding faculty advisor.


Research links continents to key transitions in Earth’s oceans, atmosphere and climate

Mountain peaks, glaciers, and prayer flags near the Kunzum La Pass, a high mountain pass connecting the Lahaul and Spiti valleys in the Indian Himalaya. Credit: Timothy Paulsen, UW Oshkosh

A recent study led by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh geologist Timothy Paulsen advances the understanding of the role continents have played in the chemical evolution of Earth’s oceans, with implications for understanding atmospheric oxygenation and global climate oscillations. The research team includes Chad Deering and Snehamoy Chatterjee, Dept. of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University, and Jakub Sliwinski and Olivier Bachman, Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology, ETH Zurich.

Tim Paulsen

The team’s research article, Continental Magmatism and Uplift as the Primary Driver for First-Order Oceanic 87Sr/86Sr Variability with Implications for Global Climate and Atmospheric Oxygenation, is featured on the cover of the February issue of GSA Today, published by the Geological Society of America.

The team analyzed a global database of the chemistry of tiny zircon grains commonly found in the Earth’s continental rock record. “We use zircon because it is very resistant to weathering and breakdown over a wide span of environmental conditions and can be dated accurately,” Deering explains. Zircon grains are about the size of the width of human hair; typically around 150microns.

Chad Deering

“Oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface, setting it apart from the other terrestrial planets in the solar system,” said Paulsen, the lead author on the paper. “Geologists have long recognized that there have been profound changes in ocean chemistry over time.”

Yet there are significant questions about the drivers for changes in ocean chemistry in Earth’s past, especially associated with the ancient rock record leading up to the Cambrian explosion of life approximately 540 million years ago.

“Continents tend to be worn down by weathering and rivers tend to transport this sediment to the oceans, leaving scattered puzzle pieces for geologists to fit together,” said Deering, associate professor of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech, and coauthor on the paper. “There is increasing evidence that important pieces of the puzzle are found in the ancient beach and river sediments produced through continental weathering and erosion.”

The researchers’ findings, based on an analysis of an exceptionally large zircon data set from sandstones recovered from Earth’s major continental landmasses, may signify key links in the evolution of the Earth’s rock cycle and its oceans.

GSA Today highlights articles that appeal to a broad geoscience audience. On the cover:

“Our results suggest that two major increases in continental input from rivers draining the continents were related to the break-up and dispersal of continents, which caused increased weathering and erosion of a higher proportion of radiogenic rocks and high-elevation continental crust,” Paulsen said.

“Both episodes are curiously associated with snowball Earth glaciations and associated steps in oxygenation of the atmosphere-ocean system. Geologists have long recognized that oceans are required to make continents. It would appear based on our analyses that the continents, in turn, shape the Earth’s oceans, atmosphere and climate.”

This study was funded by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Faculty Development Program.

This news story written by Natalie Johnson, UW Oshkosh Today

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Natalie Johnson, UW Oshkosh
Kim Geiger, Michigan Tech


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Timothy Eisele

Tim Eisele
Tim Eisele

Dean Janet Callahan has selected Timothy Eisele, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, as our seventh 2022 Deans’ Teaching Showcase member.

Eisele will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Eisele was selected for his record of engaging students in the classroom through hands-on experiential learning and relating material to real-world examples and his own research.

Among the variety of classes taught by Eisele are courses focused on the extraction of metal ions from fluids. While these align with his research expertise, available textbooks often don’t include the latest research in the field. Eisele fills that gap by working continuously to improve his class notes and handouts each year. He also develops unique in-class demonstrations and laboratories that elucidate these current topics. His priority is to make these accessible and connected to his students’ world. For example, in Hydrometallurgy/Pyrometallurgy, there is a copper electrowinning experiment students are able to conduct entirely at home. Eisele’s philosophy focuses on helping students develop a deep understanding of the subject material, so they can internalize what they are learning and remain engaged.

Callahan especially appreciates this ability to find and do science outside of the lab. “Dr. Eisele finds experiments to do — even in his own backyard,” she notes. “I recently had him as a guest for Michigan Tech’s Zoom webinar series, Husky Bites, where he relayed how he has developed a way to extract manganese and iron by using naturally occurring anaerobic iron-dissolving organisms.”

Chemical Engineering chair Pradeep Agrawal highlighted two other distinguishing features of Eisele’s teaching: his passion and genuine concern for engaging students. “The students readily sense his enthusiasm for the subject matter and his desire to engage them with the material,” writes Agrawal, who emphasizes that Eisele’s willingness to take time to relate class topics to the real world — while also respecting the parameters of being a student in today’s pandemic context — helps students as they master difficult topics.

“Active learning, enthusiasm for the subject, clear explanations and a strongly organized course are descriptors that align with Eisele’s approach to teaching,” summarized Callahan. “It is a pleasure to nominate Dr. Eisele for the Dean’s Teaching Showcase.”