Category: Research

Two Engineering Students Awarded DoD SMART Scholarships

Apply, Award Phase, Employment, Degree Pursuit, Retain

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the Department of Defense (DoD) Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship awardees.

• Lauren Mancewicz, doctoral graduate student in environmental engineering, is a scholarship awardee. Mancewicz’s current research focuses on using a numerical variable-density groundwater flow and transport model to investigate the impacts of sea-level rise on island hydrology and freshwater resources.

• Casey Majhor, doctoral graduate student in electrical engineering, is a scholarship awardee. Majhor’s research focuses on improving and implementing autonomous ground vehicles and robotics. As a DoD SMART Scholar, Majhor plans to contribute to DoD project focus areas such as combat vehicle robotics and manned-unmanned teaming vehicle systems.

The Graduate School is proud of these students for their outstanding scholarship. These awards highlight the quality of students at Michigan Tech, the innovative work they have accomplished, the potential for leadership and impact in science and engineering that the country recognizes in these students, and the incredible role that faculty play in students’ academic success.

The DoD SMART Scholarship is part of the National Defense Education Program and its benefits include full tuition and education-related expenses payment, a stipend of $25,000-$38,000 per year, summer internships ranging from 8 to 12 weeks, health insurance, a miscellaneous allowance of $1,200 per year, mentorship at one of the DoD sponsoring facilities, and employment placement at a DoD facility upon degree completion.

By the Graduate School.


Award Results for Design Expo 2021

PPE Project

As we’ve come to expect, the judging for Design Expo 2021 was very close, but the official results are in. More than 1,000 students in Enterprise and Senior Design showcased their hard work on April 15 at Michigan Tech’s second-ever, fully virtual Design Expo.

Teams competed for cash awards totaling nearly $4,000. Judges for the event included corporate representatives, community members and Michigan Tech staff and faculty. The College of Engineering and the Pavlis Honors College announced the award winners below on April 15, just after the competition. Congratulations and a huge thanks to all the teams for a very successful Design Expo 2021.

Last but not least, to the distinguished judges who gave their time and talents to help make Design Expo a success, and to the faculty advisors who generously and richly support Enterprise and Senior Design—thank you for your phenomenal dedication to our students.

Please check out the Design Expo booklet and all the team videos.

ENTERPRISE AWARDS

(Based on video submissions)

  • First Place—Husky Game Development (Team 115) Advisor Scott Kuhl, (CC)
  • Second Place—Aerospace Enterprise (Team 106) Advisor L. Brad King, (ME-EM)
  • Third Place—Innovative Global Solutions (Team 116) Advisors Radheshyam Tewari (ME-EM) and Nathan Manser (GMES)
  • Honorable Mention—Consumer Product Manufacturing (Team 111) Advisor Tony Rogers (ChE)

SENIOR DESIGN AWARDS

(Based on video submissions)

  • First Place —Advanced PPE Filtration System (Team 240) Team Members: Matthew Johnson, Electrical Engineering; Bryce Hudson, Mary Repp, Carter Slunick, Mike Stinchcomb, Braeden Anex, Brandon Howard, Josh Albrecht, and Hannah Bekkala, Mechanical Engineering Advised by: Jaclyn Johnson and Aneet Narendranath, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Sponsored by: Stryker
  • Second Place—ITC Cell Signal Measurement Tool (Team 204) Team Members: Reed VandenBerg and Andrew Bratton, Electrical Engineering; Noah Guyette and Ben Kacynski, Computer Engineering Advised by: John Lukowski, Electrical and Computer Engineering Sponsored by: ITC Holdings Corp.
  • Third Place—Development of a Beta Brass Alloy for Co-Extrusion (Team 234) Team Members: Anna Isaacson, Sidney Feige, Lauren Bowling, and Maria Rochow, Materials Science and Engineering Advised by: Paul Sanders, Materials Science and Engineering Sponsored by: College of Engineering
  • Honorable Mention—EPS Ball Nut Degrees of Freedom Optimization (Team 236) Team Members: Brad Halonen, Rocket Hefferan, Luke Pietila, Peadar Richards, and David Rozinka, Mechanical Engineering Advised by: James DeClerck, Mechanical Engineering- Engineering Mechanics Sponsored by: Nexteer
  • Honorable Mention—Electric Tongue Jack Redesign (Team 230) Team Members: Jack Redesign and Brandon Tolsma, Mechanical Engineering; Collin Jandreski, Christian Fallon, Warren Falicki, and Andrew Keskimaki, Electrical Engineering Advised by: Trever Hassell, Electrical and Computer Engineering Sponsored by: Stromberg Carlson
  • Honorable Mention—Bone Access and Bone Analog Characterization (Team 212) Team Members: Sarah Hirsch, Mechanical Engineering; Elisabeth Miller and Christiana Strong, Biomedical Engineering; Morgan Duley, Electrical Engineering; Katelyn Ramthun, Biomedical Engineering Advised by: Hyeun Joong Yoon and Orhan Soykan, Biomedical Engineering Sponsored by: Stryker Interventional Spine Team
  • Honorable Mention—Blubber Only Implantable Satellite Tag Anchoring System (Team 221) Team Members: Quinn Murphy, Lidia Johnson, Joshua Robles, Katy Beesley, and Kyle Pike, Biomedical Engineering Advised by: Bruce Lee, Biomedical Engineering; Sponsored by: NOAA

DESIGN EXPO IMAGE CONTEST

(Based on image submitted by the team)

  • First Place—Blizzard Baja (Team 101): “Our current vehicle, Hornet, after a race.” Credit: Blizzard Baja team member
  • Second Place—WAAM Die Components (Team 237): “MIG welding robot printing a steel part.” Credit: Mike Groeneveld
  • Third Place—Aerospace Enterprise (Team 106): “Team photo, pre-Covid.” Credit: Aerospace Enterprise team member

DESIGN EXPO INNOVATION AWARDS

(Based on application)

  • First Place—Consumer Product Manufacturing Enterprise, Shareable Air project (Team 101) Advised by: Tony Rogers, (ChE)
  • Second Place—ITC Cell Signal Measurement Tool (Team 204) Advised by: John Lukowski (ECE) 
  • Third Place—Hospital Washer Autosampler Implementation (Team 218) Advised by: Sang Yoon Han and Houda Hatoum (BioMed)

DESIGN EXPO PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

(Based on receiving most text-in voting during Design Expo)

ENTERPRISE STUDENT AWARDS

  • Rookie Award—Jack Block, CFO – Supermileage Systems Enterprise
  • Innovative Solutions—Cody Rorick, Alternative Energy Enterprise
  • Outstanding Enterprise Leadership—Andy Lambert, CEO – Supermileage Systems Enterprise and Daniel Prada, Spark Ignition (SI)
  • Team Lead—Clean Snowmobile Enterprise

ENTERPRISE FACULTY/STAFF AWARDS

  • Behind the Scenes Award—Kelly Steelman, Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Dept. of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, nominated by Built World Enterprise.

Jared Wolfe: “Molti-Colored” Migratory Birds

Jared Wolfe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, April 19 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites

Dr. Jared Wolfe

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

Dr. Erik Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you like to do in your free time?

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

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

Could you tell us a little about your family?

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

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

Erik Johnson, Audubon Louisiana

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

What do you like to do for fun?

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

Family and growing up?

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

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

Read more

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

Watch

Where Research Goes Outdoors


Tiny Nanoindentations Make a Big Difference for Prasad Soman

microphoto of nanoindentations seen near the grain boundary of iron, seen at 20 microns
Nanoindentations performed near or away from the grain boundary of iron, made to study their effect on deformation. Photo credit: Prasad Soman

Prasad Soman will graduate soon with his MSE PhD. But instead of walking down the aisle and tossing his cap in Michigan Tech’s Dee Stadium, this year he’ll take part in Michigan Tech’s first-ever outdoor graduation walk.

“My PhD research goal was to better understand how the addition of carbon affects the strengthening mechanism of iron—by looking to see what happens at the nanoscale,” he explains.

Soman studied the mechanisms of grain boundary strengthening by using an advanced and challenging technique known as nanoindentation to get “up close and personal” to the interfaces between individual crystals within a material. Just last week Soman successfully defended his PhD dissertation: “Study of Effects of Chemistry and Grain Boundary Geometry on Materials Failure.” The research was sponsored by the US Department of Energy.

photo of Prasad Soman
“My experience at Tech has been exciting and fulfilling: study, teaching, and research amidst the beauty of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” says Prasad Soman, who will graduate from Michigan Tech on April 30 with a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering.

He’ll soon be moving to California to take a position with Amazon, the culmination of many years of hard work. “My journey into the field of metallurgy and materials science began in India, way back in high school, when I was thinking of choosing a major for my undergraduate studies in engineering. I had developed a great interest in Physics and Chemistry, then discovered I could pursue my interest even further by choosing metallurgical engineering as my major,” he says. Though his new position will not utilize his metallurgical expertise in a direct way, Amazon was drawn to Prasad’s ability to independently carry out and complete a detailed research project that required a high level of attention to detail, data collection, and advanced analysis and physical modeling.

“I attended College of Engineering Pune, one of the top tier schools for metallurgy in India. Upon graduation, I went on to work in the steel industry for a while, and then decided to pursue higher education in the US.

Soman arrived at Michigan Tech with the intention of earning a Master’s in MSE. Professor Yun Hang Hu advised Soman towards that degree, involving him in research focused on the fabrication and characterization of Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2)-based electrodes (aka Moly) for supercapacitor applications. The experience prompted Soman to continue on in his studies and earn a PhD.

For his MS degree, Soman worked with Yun Hang Hu, Charles and Carroll McArthur Professor of MSE at Michigan Tech

Two MSE faculty members, Assistant Professor Erik Herbert and Professor Stephen Hackney, served as Soman’s PhD co-advisors. “Prasad analyzed the effect of grain boundary segregation on the strengthening and deformation mechanism in metals and alloys,” says Herbert. “To do this Prasad intensively used small-scale mechanical testing, including nanoindentation and in-situ TEM experiments.”

“The most exciting part of this work involved utilizing various material characterization techniques,” says Soman. “The Advanced Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL) facility, located in the Michigan Tech M&M building near the MSE department, is one of the best materials characterization facilities in the world. Characterization of the materials response to mechanical indentation was essential for my PhD work, so having access to the many techniques available in ACMAL was both revealing and fulfilling.”

‘The work was painstaking, but thanks to Prasad’s incredible hard work, skill, and dedication, he was able to make significant inroads to improve our understanding.” 

Dr. Erik Herbert, Assistant Professor, Materials Science & Engineering

Soman used a variety of characterization methods in his research, including nanoindentation, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and electron backscatter diffraction spectroscopy (EBSD). “All help examine materials behavior at the nanometer scale,” he adds.

In particular, Soman used nanoindentation to study local grain boundary deformation in metals and alloys. “Using nanoindentation we can measure hardness at a very small length scale. The indentation impression size is on the order of a couple of microns—smaller than the width of a human hair,” Soman explains.

Two MSE faculty members, Professor Stephen Hackney (l) and Assistant Professor Erik Herbert (r) served as Soman’s PhD co-advisors.

“Performing a nanoindentation was challenging at first. The goal is to get the indentation very close to the grain boundary. The task is done using a simple optical microscope, yet accuracy on the order of a couple of microns must be achieved. That kind of accuracy is essential for the proper positioning of the indent relative to the boundary. But just as for any other thing, the more you practice (and learn from mistakes) the better you perform. It’s been a great achievement for me to consistently get the indentation accurately placed.”

PhD Candidate Prasad Soman hard at work in Michigan Tech’s ACMAL Lab

“Instrumented indentation experiments allow us to measure materials properties—including hardness and elastic modulus—as a function of depth,” says Soman. “We also examine how different microstructural features—grain boundary vs. grain interior—respond to a very localized deformation at nanometers length scale.”

Soman says he decided to join Michigan Tech’s MSE program due to its strong emphasis on metallurgical engineering. “While here at Tech, however, I was exposed to a variety of domains within materials science—energy storage materials, semiconductors, polymers, and more. So, while I focused on my passion for fundamental science in metallurgy, I also developed understanding and skills in these different domains,” he explains.

“That has come to fruition, as I will now be going to work in the consumer electronics industry, which requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

The large building on the far left of this campus photo is Michigan Tech’s Mineral and Materials Engineering Building (aka the “M&M”)—home to the MSE Department and the Advanced Chemical and Morphological Analysis Laboratory (ACMAL).

Soman will soon pack up and move to Sunnyvale, California. He’ll be working as a hardware development engineer at Amazon. “The team is a cool group of engineers/scientists with diverse backgrounds—mechanical, chemical, design and other disciplines, as well. We’ll develop health and wellness electronic devices, such as smart watches, smart AR/VR glasses, and more. This job will allow me to utilize some of the key skills I developed at Michigan Tech in the field of metallurgy and mechanics. More than anything, I am eager to learn from the best of the best—all the folks in my team.”

One last thing, adds Soman: “I will terribly miss Houghton. I call it my home away from home.”


Michigan Space Grant Consortium Award Recipients in Engineering

Michigan Space Grant Consortium

Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff members received awards totaling $95,175 in funding through the Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC), sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the 2021-2022 funding cycle. The following are recipients within the College of Engineering.

Undergraduates receiving $3,000 research fellowships:

  • Chloe Strach (CEE): “Understanding and Predicting the Fate of 1,4-Dioxane in the Aqueous Phase UV/Chloramine Advanced Oxidation Process” with Daisuke Minakata (CEE)

Graduate Students receiving $5,000 research fellowships:

  • Jessica Alger (CEE): “Promoting Green Space Equity in Urban Areas with Water Resources Challenges” with Dave Watkins (CEE)
  • Diana Bullen (GMES): “Using a Biologically Enhanced Silica Recovery System to Retrieve Valuable Non-Renewable Resources from Waste Material” with Nathan Manser (GMES)
  • Ian Gannon (GMES): “Critical Mineral Potential in the Vulcan Quadrangle and Adjoining Areas, Dickinson County, Upper Peninsula of Michigan” with James DeGraff (GMES)
  • Brock Howell (GMES): “Effective Optimization of Groundwater Extraction Through the Development of Computational Tools” with John Gierke (GMES)
  • Ryan Klida (GMES): “Satellite-Based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Techniques for Earth Dam Monitoring and Failure Prediction” with Thomas Oommen (GMES)
  • Benjamin Mohrhardt (CEE): “Fate of Photo-Viable Dissolved Free Amino Acids Under Sunlight Irradiation in Natural Aquatic Environment” with Daisuke Minakata (CEE)
  • Katie Nelson (GMES): “Measuring CO2 Fertilization of Tropical Forests from Volcanic Soil Gas Emissions Using Remote Sensing: Volcán Rincón de la Vieja, Costa Rica” with Chad Deering (GMES)
  • Natalie Nold (ChE): “Improved Vaccine Production to Reduce Pandemic-Related Health Risks” with Caryn Heldt (ChE)
  • Kassidy O’Connor (GMES): “Using Satellite Aperture Radar to Improve Wildfire-Causing Debris Flow Mapping on the West Coast” with Thomas Oommen (GMES)
  • Jonathan Oleson (ME-EM): “A Machine Learning Model for Mechanics of Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Space-Composite Materials” with Susanta Ghosh (ME-EM)
  • Emily Shaw (CEE): “Toxicity in Fish Tissue: Redefining Our Understandings by Quantifying Mixture Toxicity” with Noel Urban (CEE)

Faculty and staff members receiving $5,000 or more for pre-college outreach and research seed programs include:

  • Luke Bowman (GMES): “Career Connection Explorations: Enriching Middle School STEM Curriculum Using NASA Resources” Includes augmentation

Tim Eisele: Backyard Metals

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

Tim Eisele shares his knowledge on Husky Bites this Monday, March 15 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 3/15 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Tim Eisele, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech. His focus: sustainable metallurgy.

Tim Eisele, Chemical Engineering, Michigan Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family and hobbies?

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

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

Neha Sharma, PhD student. Michigan Tech

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

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

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

Family and hobbies?

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

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


Chee-Wooi Ten: Ahead of the Cybersecurity Curve

The Night Lights of the United States (as seen from space). Credit: NASA/GSFC.

Chee-Wooi Ten shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 22 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes (or so), with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/22 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Chee-Wooi Ten, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech. His focus: power engineering cybersecurity.

Associate Professor Chee-Wooi Ten at Michigan Tech

“For many years as a power system engineer, we referred to ‘security’ as the power outage contingency subject to weather-related threats,” says Ten. “The redefined security we need today, cybersecurity, is an emerging field on its own, one that works synergistically with security systems engineers.”

Joining in will be Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Junho Hong from the University of Michigan Dearborn. He is a power engineer, and a cybersecurity colleague and a longtime friend of Dr. Ten’s.

In an era of cyberwarfare, the power grid is a high-voltage target. Ten and Hong both want to better protect it. 

At issue are electrical substations, which serve as intersections in the nation’s power system. Because they play such a key role in our infrastructure, substations could be attractive targets. 

Assistant Professor Junho Hong, University of Michigan Dearborn. His research areas include Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Power Electronics, and Energy Systems.

A physical attack could damage parts of the grid, but a cyberattack to interconnection substations could cripple the entire system simultaneously. 

Some power companies remain reluctant to fully implement electronic control systems because they could compromise security. “This is a controversial issue for most utilities,” said Ten. “If the substation network is compromised, the grid will be vulnerable. If hackers know what they are doing, that could result in a major blackout.“

With better security from cyberattacks, companies could use Internet Protocol (IP) communications to manage electronic control systems. “It would be faster, more efficient, and more economical, too,” says Ten. 

However, IP has a disadvantage: hackers are notoriously resourceful at breaking into IP networks, even when they are protected by firewalls.

Still, solutions to IP problems can be found, says Ten.

“Let’s say you check your front door once a day to make sure it is locked. Does that mean your house is secure? Probably not. Just because your door is locked doesn’t mean someone can’t get in. But if you put a camera in front of your house with incoming motion data to determine if there is movement around your house, you have more data so security can be better assessed.” 

““The key word, says Ten: “Interconnected.”

The power grid is too big, so we need to simulate cyberattacks to see what happens, adds Ten. “When it comes to power system research, data is really sensitive, and cybersecurity clearance requirements make it hard to get data. That is why simulations are important. We try to make simulations as close as possible to real systems. That we can ‘try out cyber attacks’ and see the impacts.

Running simulations saves utility companies time and money, and helps them prepare for the cascading effects of such an event, adds Ten. “We can emulate the real world without constructing the real thing, something called the ‘digital twin’.”

“We can solve the problems of cybersecurity by understanding them first. Then, we can apply analytical methods to deal with those problems.”

– Chee-Wooi Ten

Ten works with government agencies, power companies, and the vendors that provide products used to strengthen substations’ cybersecurity framework. By collaborating with all the stakeholders, he aims to transform the energy industry by improving efficiency, reliability and security, both in the power grid and cyberspace. No single vendor can do everything; it has to be synergistic,” says Ten.

It’s true: hypothetical impact analysis scenarios are a lot like one scene in the movie, Avengers. Dr. Ten will explain at Husky Bites!

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

I actually did not do well academically in high school. I was obsessed with computers. My dad had some money to sponsor my studies in the US. And since computers were invented in the US, I wanted to be part of that, so I went to Iowa State University. In Fall 1997, the Asian economic crisis hit and affected my studies, so I changed my major to power engineering, in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. When I look back, I have billionaire George Soros to thank. (Many people feel his aggressive Asian currency trades were to blame.) The power engineering program at Iowa State was one of the most historically established programs in the US. I was able to get involved in undergraduate research, with mentoring from a professor who taught me a great deal.

Family and hobbies?

I was born in Malaysia and was recently naturalized as a US citizen. My ethnicity is actually Chinese. My grandparents came to Malaysia from China early in the 20th century due to war and hunger, to pursue happiness. My brother is an engineer, too. My dad didn’t finish his university studies. I am the only one in our family with a doctorate degree.  My parents sent me to a foreign country to get a taste of life. (Imagine, I did not know how to speak English and had to relearn everything in the US!) I would not be who I am today had I stayed in Malaysia.

I’ve been living in Houghton now for about 11 years. My newest hobby is downhill skiing with my daughter. She’ll be turning 9 soon. Our ski hill, Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley, is just 10 minutes from down the road.

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

“In South Korea, two years of military service is a requirement after graduating from high school,” says Dr. Junho Hong. “Before going to college I served two years in the Navy, and learned a lot about technology on Navy ships.”

When I got to college, computer science was a hot topic but I wanted to better understand electricity. Without electricity how can we have technology? So, I chose electrical engineering. After graduation, I started looking at the much bigger work going on outside my country. I decided to earn my PhD. That’s how I met Chee-Wooi. We both studied at the University College Dublin in Ireland. We had the same doctorate advisor, Professor Chen-Ching Liu.

Dr. Hong (r) with his graduate advisor at Washington State University, Dr. Chen-Ching-Liu (l). Dr. Liu was also Dr. Ten’s PhD advisor at Washington State University. A world traveler, Dr. Liu is now at Virginia Tech. He was recently named a member of the US National Academy of Engineering in 2020 for his contributions to computational methods for power system restoration and cybersecurity.

Family and hobbies?

Before the pandemic, I used to go swimming at least once a day. Right now I’m doing a lot of training, instead. I’ve got equipment in my home—for cycling, weight training and working out. My wife and two kids are in South Korea for the time being. Early in the pandemic, my wife had some medical issues, and with hospitals here in Southeast Michigan overwhelmed with Covid patients, she had to go back home for medical treatment. It’s been hard to endure. I miss them greatly! My son and daughter are 9 and 6. 


New Publications by Michigan Tech MMET Faculty

Dr. Michelle Jarvie-Eggart

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Senior Lecturer, co-authored a work-in-progress paper “Understanding First-Year Engineering Student Definitions of Engineering Disciplines” and also published and presented in the 2020 ASEE virtual conference proceedings. Learn more here.

Lecturer Kevin Johnson and John Irwin, Professor/Chair, co-authored two papers published and presented at the ATMAE and IAJC Virtual Joint Conference.

Kevin Johnson

The first paper, “Program Improvement Utilizing the SME CMfgT and NCEES FE Exam Results” and the second “Preparation of MET Students for the NCEES FE Exam – Lessons Learned” both present MET student exit exam results from over the past 10-15 years. Many MET students pass the very rigorous Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam qualifying them in most states to eventually become certified as Professional Engineers. Learn more here.

Dr. Irwin along with Assistant Professor David Labyak authored a paper published and presented in the 2020 ASEE virtual conference proceedings entitled “FEA Taught the Industry Way.” The paper shared result from a survey they conducted of students and industry. The survey sought input on methods used to teach FEA to develop skills for accurate analysis, physical testing of parts, and reporting results in a format required by industry professionals. Read the ASEE paper here.


Michigan Tech Receives State-of-the-Art Software from Petroleum Experts Limited

MOVE, a geologic modeling software, provides a full digital environment for best practice structural modeling to reduce risk and uncertainty in geological models.

Petroleum Experts Limited has donated the equivalent of $2,236,604.75 to Michigan Technological University. The donation has come in the form of 10 sets of the MOVE suite of programs to be used for education and academic research at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Petroleum Experts, established in 1990, develops and commercializes petroleum engineering software for the oil industry. Petroleum Experts offers educational licenses to accredited universities that provide geology and/or petroleum engineering related Master and Ph.D. courses.

Learn more about MOVE

The state-of-the-art software will be installed in a computer laboratory at GMES, where it will be used in the Structural Geology course (GE3050), required for department undergraduate majors, and in graduate-level courses in structural geology. In addition, the MOVE suite will be utilized in academic non-commercial research on tectonics and structural geology, such as the mapping of the Keweenaw Fault and other complex structural systems in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“The researchers and students at GMES greatly appreciate this generous donation from Petroleum Experts,” says Dr. Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech.


Paul Bergstrom: Nanoscaled Epic Fails!

A cell of eight SET (single electron transistor) devices at room temperature. Paul Bergstrom, an electrical engineering professor at Michigan Tech, created the first operating SET of any kind accomplished with focused ion beam technology, the second demonstration of room temperature SET behavior in the US, and sixth in the world.

Paul Bergstrom shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, October 26 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Doing anything for supper this Monday night at 6? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Professor Paul Bergstrom for “Nanoscale Epic Fails!” Joining in will be one of Bergstrom’s former students, Tom Wallner, now an R&D engineer at PsiQuantum.

At Michigan Tech, ECE Prof. Bergstrom and his team of student researchers develop nanoelectronic devices.  The effort takes them down some (seemingly) impossible pathways. 

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” It’s one of Prof. Paul Bergstrom’s favorite lines from Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.

“Nanoscaled materials and devices that leverage quantum—or nearly quantum—scales enable extraordinary behavioral changes that can be very useful in sensing and electronics,” he says.

“Conducting research in this area constantly demonstrates that what we think we know is not always everything we need to know about how atoms and molecules interact. One experimental failure leads to understanding for the next. It’s a life lesson under the microscope.

“With the scientific method, we have an idea. We know where we want to go. We create a path to get there. Depending on our results, we decide whether or not we’re on the right path,” he explains.

Working in the nanoscale, it’s all about the size of things, he says. Bergstrom and his team use focused ion beam (FIB) systems to fabricate electrical devices at the nanoscale, using elemental gallium. He’ll explain the process in detail during his session on Husky Bites.

“We can see down to the 10s of hundreds of atoms and molecules, and see quantum mechanical effects that take place,” he says. “Many nanodevices exhibit quantum mechanical electronic behavior at subzero temperatures. There are lots of blind alleys we need to map out in order to understand where to go next with our research.”

“Experimental failure is not final. There can be success through failure, even epic failure.”

Paul Bergstrom

Bergstrom and his team had a goal: make a single electron transistor (SET) operable at room temperature. And they did: Theirs was the first operating SET of any kind accomplished with focused ion beam technology, the second demonstration of room temperature SET behavior in the US, and sixth in the world.

Room-temperature SETs could someday open up whole new aspects of the electronics industry, says Bergstrom. “Moving to nanoscaled electronic devices such as SETs that rely on quantum behavior will allow us to eliminate leakage current. The SET may also allow technology its continued migration toward high levels of integration—from hundreds of millions of transistors to hundreds of billions of transistors ultimately—so that cost per device will continue to drop at its historic rate, or even faster.”

Bergstrom’s effort goes beyond the SET. “We hope to find ways to create devices ultimately that will not transfer current when they do logic. That is the ‘Holy Grail’ for nanoelectronics. And we are taking that challenge seriously.”

He also takes it in stride. “In research, past failures define the starting place. Current failures define impossible pathways. We know our starting point and our end point. We just don’t know the path in between.” And that’s okay, even good, he says.

Jin and Tom during their college days at Michigan Tech. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. Did they first meet in the lab? We’ll try to find out during Husky Bites.

Michigan Tech alum Tom Wallner graduated from Michigan Tech with a BS in 2002 and an MS in ‘04, both in electrical engineering. “From my undergrad work and throughout my career I’ve built things,” he says. “I’ve always been especially interested in building small things.” That fascination has led Wallner to some amazing places and workplaces. He also found the love of his life at Michigan Tech, Jin Zheng-Wallner.

After graduation, Wallner spent time at Sandia National Labs, and then joined IBM doing microelectronics R&D, including time spent in South Korea for IBM, working with Samsung. After nearly a decade Wallner moved to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, “a company formed out of a bunch of fabs.” (AKA chip fabricators). Then one day Wallner’s career path took a fortuitous turn. “Some old IBM buddies knocked on my door, some very good friends. They said, ‘Hey Tom, do you want to try this photonics stuff?”

“It turns out testing photonics devices is a wide open field,” he says. “Not many people have a background and skill set in that area. I thought to myself, well, I know a little about photonics, I’ll just go figure it out.” Wallner went to work at SUNY Polytechnic Institute as an integrated photonic test engineer. 

Recently Wallner joined PsiQuantum, a startup based in Silicon Valley. “Our mission is to build the world’s first useful quantum computer. We’re taking a photonic path to that, which is different than most quantum computing,” he says.

As a student at Michigan Tech, Wallner worked on a team that developed an unmanned vehicle. “It looked like a bumblebee—300 pounds of unmanned robotics, with cameras on it. We navigated it on a course we set up out on the Michigan Tech golf course.”

Wallner was a management advisor in Douglas Houghton Hall (DHH) and president of Michigan Tech’s IEEE chapter for 4 years. “I was in charge of the building.  If a hallway light went out, or a door got jammed, OR the one time there was a water line break and a whole floor flooded–that was my responsibility,” he recalls.

“Tom not only renovated the IEEE student lab—he even secured industry sponsorship to cover the costs,” says Bergstrom. The Kimberly Clarke plaque still hangs outside the door of Room 809 in the EERC.”

“Tom also started building the MFF for me, and he developed the tool set for our room temperature SET research,” notes Bergstrom. Today the Microfabrication Shared Facility (MFF) at Michigan Tech provides resources for micro- and nano-scaled research and development of solid state electronics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), lab-on-a-chip, and microsystems materials and devices, serving researchers across campus and across the country.

Prof. Bergstrom, when did you first get into engineering? 

I knew I wanted to be, specifically, an electrical engineer by the time I was 16. I am the son of an analytical chemist who trained chemical technicians for industry. When donated tools would come into his teaching laboratory, I would come in and either fix them or disassemble them and recycle the components that could be processed. A passion for high-end audio also led me to analog amplifier design and speaker assembly. My desire to learn about the coupled electromechanical physics and engineering in audio as a young teenager sparked my interest in electronics and microelectromechanical systems—and launched my career at the micro- and nanoscale.

An “Ent” from Lord of the Rings.

Hometown, Hobbies, Family?

I grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities of Minnesota with family roots in northwestern Wisconsin. After formative years in Minnesota came graduate school in Michigan, semiconductor research with Motorola, Inc. in Arizona, and the last 20 years in the Keweenaw as faculty. I have too many hobbies and acquired skills outside of my profession, but they mostly revolve around musical enjoyment and performance, or enjoying and utilizing the northern forest and timber, or both. My wife calls me an “ent” (one of those mythical tree creatures who move and talk in the Lord of the Rings).

ECE Alumnus Tom Wallner ’02 04 is now an R&D Engineer at PsiQuantum

Tom, how did you find engineering? 

I started getting interested way back in grade school when I learned that you can make electromagnets with a lantern battery, a nail, and some wire. Later, in high school, my part time job was at a family owned electronics shop. I loved working with customers to help solve their problems. This was back in the day of mobile phones being “bag phones” and then I saw the transition to smaller phones. I remember being blown away by the Motorola Startac flip phone. When I graduated high school, I wanted to take the next step and learn more about how such cool devices work and how they are made.

Hobbies and Interests?

I was born and raised in Ashland, Wisconsin. My parents still live in the house I grew up in. I enjoy playing trombone, hunting, fishing, woodworking, and language learning. I met my wife,  Jin, at Michigan Tech. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, advised by Dr. Bergstrom. Our two sons, now aged 10 and 12, know all the technical jargon and acronyms. They talk about “SOP” (Standard Operating Procedure) while doing the dishes, and BKM (Best Known Method) while putting them away!