Category: Uncategorized

Then There Were Three: Stratus Nanosatellite Launch for MTU’s Aerospace Enterprise

Michigan Tech’s students designed Auris. It has been selected for launch by the University Nanosatellite Program, sponsored by AFRL.

The Aerospace Enterprise, under the direction of Dr. Brad King, is launching satellites as well as student careers. At the University Nanosatellite Program, sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) in August, ten students from the Enterprise team presented their latest satellite application, Auris, to judges from several space-related agencies.

The challenge for the competition was to develop a satellite mission that is relevant to both industry and the military. Students conceived of the idea for Auris, a ‘listening satellite,’ through discussions with Enterprise alumni working in industry and their interest in monitoring communication from other satellites to estimate bandwidth utilization.

Dr. L. Brad King, Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professor (Space Systems), Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

“Ten university teams were in attendance and of the teams, we were among three of the schools to be selected to move forward. We now move on to ‘Phase B’ of the program and have a guaranteed launch opportunity with substantial funding to complete the design and integration of our spacecraft,” says Matthew Sietsema, Chief Engineer for the Aerospace Enterprise.

As a result of this award, the Aerospace Enterprise will soon have three satellites in space. Stratus, a climate monitoring satellite that determines cloud height and cloud top winds, was set for a March 2021 launch date. However, it was delayed due to the pandemic and is planned for launch in 2022. Oculus, an imaging target for ground-based cameras for the Department of Defense, was launched in June 2019.

“The Enterprise has remained on the same trajectory and has been very successful by all measures,” remarks King. “Students do a great job managing themselves and the leadership to replace themselves as they graduate and new members move up. It’s a challenge to juggle more than one satellite, but our students have remained focused and hard working while managing several projects and it’s a testament to their tenacity.”

Creating real-world, hands-on learning opportunities for around 100 students per semester, the Enterprise serves as a stepping stone for many as they launch their careers.

“Our students, even if they aren’t in leadership roles, do well securing positions in the aerospace industry. We tend to perform well because we offer a three-year, long-term program, which allows our students to maintain the situational knowledge required to solve complex problems.”

—Dr. Brad King


Paul Sanders: Tiny House Design—Weather, Watts, and Materials

This green, sustainable, net zero Tiny House was designed and built by Michigan Tech students. It sits on a foundation near the shores of Lake Superior. And it’s comfortable and enjoyable year-round, even during a harsh winter.

Paul Sanders shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, October 18 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 10/18 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Paul Sanders, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. 

Prof. Paul Sanders holds the Patrick Horvath Endowed Professorship of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. He’s also an alum—he earned his BS in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering in 1991.

Tiny houses are springing up all over the US. But in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Michigan Tech is located, total snowfall can exceed 200 inches during the winter. Designing a tiny house for Michigan’s UP involves several extra layers of complexity. Especially if you want that tiny house to be carbon-neutral.

Last spring, a group of students in the Green Campus Enterprise at Michigan Tech took on the challenge: design and build a sustainable and affordable tiny house for cold climates—one that would serve as a model for green, energy-efficient (tiny) housing.

Michigan Tech’s Green Campus Enterprise was created in 2008, part of the Higher Learning Commission’s Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) project. Under the AQIP project, Green Campus is charged with estimating the University’s carbon footprint and suggesting ways to reduce it. The team is advised by Chris Wojick, senior researcher at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, and Rob Handler, operations manager/senior research engineer at Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute. Students taking part in Green Campus Enterprise annually measures the carbon footprint of Michigan Tech, and also design and implement projects to improve sustainability.

The Green Campus team began by working with their client, Sanders, to design the Tiny House with his family’s checklist and the team’s sustainable goals in mind. They researched and developed innovative solutions for making common building practices more sustainable. Next, the team modeled the thermal and energy performance of their preliminary tiny house designs. Once the best option was modeled, they worked directly with Sanders to create construction drawings and bring the house from idea to reality. 

Michigan Tech alumna Sierra Braun ’21 works as as an architectural drafter for S.C. Swiderski, LLC in Mosinee, Wisconsin, while pursuing an MS in Architecture. While on campus, she led the Green Campus Enterprise.

The team constructed sections of the tiny house on campus. Then Sanders, along with a lot of help from his son Caleb, assembled the home on their property in Bete Gris, Michigan, on Lake Superior. The result: a very sustainable (and cute and cozy) tiny house, which will hopefully be sided before the Keweenaw winter!

During Husky Bites we’ll meet the team, see the house, and find out just how they did it. Joining in will be Michigan Tech’s Tiny House team leader Sierra Braun, who graduated from Michigan Tech in May 2021 with a BS in Civil Engineering. While on campus, she led Green Campus Enterprise. Dave Bach, the team’s consultant and mentor to Sierra, will be at the session, too. Bach is an expert on sustainable building design and a Michigan Tech alum. Last but not least, environmental engineering undergraduate Nick Kampfschulte will be at the session, too, to tell us about the tiny house thermal modeling/sensing system he helped design.

A great view from the Tiny House!

Sanders, a six-sigma black belt engineer during his employment with Ford Motor Company, has led Michigan Tech’s highly successful MSE senior design program since 2010. Sanders has been successful in securing industry sponsorship for 100 percent of all MSE senior design projects since 2011. This time, however, he decided to sponsor and fund a student project of his own: A two-story tiny house. Instead of seeking out a senior design team for the Tiny House project, however, he sought help from Michigan Tech’s Green Campus Enterprise. Sanders knows a thing or two about Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise Program. He previously served as an advisor to another Enterprise team, the Advanced Metalworks Enterprise.

Green Campus Enterprise artist rendering of the Tiny House, with a footprint of 200 square feet, it follows passive house principles. It’s also a net-zero energy building. Credit: Sierra Braun

Enterprise is a program unique to Michigan Tech, open to students of any major. Teams operate like companies, serving clients in a business-like setting to create products, deliver services, and pioneer solutions. There are currently 24 Enterprise teams on campus. Students in Green Campus Enterprise design and implement projects to improve the sustainability of the Michigan Tech campus, and measure its carbon footprint each year. The team was started in

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

As a kid I liked to build structures (play houses, cars) out of wood. I also liked chemistry, math, and physics in school.

Hometown, family? 

I grew up in Pulaski, Wisconsin as the oldest of three. My father was a high school chemistry teacher, and my mother was an elementary school teacher.

Sections of the Tiny House were built on campus, then transported to Bete Gris.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy building and remodeling. I also enjoy meeting new people and living (not traveling) in different places around the world.

Did you know?

Dr. Sanders is one of Michigan Tech’s most prolific and creative researchers. Check out the website of his research lab, Alloy Research Central, at http://alloyresearch.mtu.edu.

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

I’ve always enjoyed thinking through problems, and designing and building things as a kid. Growing up, my family did some fun construction projects, too, from building dog houses and bookshelves to a cabin and a treehouse.

Hometown, family? 

I’m from Stratford, Wisconsin, currently living with my boyfriend and our two cats.

Nick Kampfschulte—and PeeWee

Nick, how are you involved with the Tiny House project?

My role was to aid in the overall design and modular construction. I also worked on designing and implementing its thermal modeling/sensing system.

Hometown?

I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What do you do in your spare time?

I repair, build, and restore automobiles. I’m also into metal fabrication.

Dave Bach is an alum, too. He earned both his BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in Biological Science at Michigan Tech.

Dave, how are you involved with the Tiny House project?

I served as the team’s design and building advisor and mentor. I’ve been a professional sustainable builder and designer for the past 42 years. 

A dozen years ago, as a construction management instructor at Michigan Tech, Bach worked with Michigan Tech students on a design project to re-use two semi-trailer bodies and convert them to a single-family home.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve lived in the Copper Country since 1979, and in Houghton since 1999. I participate in all outdoor silent sports, especially mountain biking and cross-country skiing.


Joe Shawhan: Hockey in the Copper Country

Coach Joe Shawhan stands with arms folded with ice rink in the background.
Joe Shawhan, Michigan Tech Men’s Hockey Head Coach

Michigan Tech Hockey Coach Joe Shawhan shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, September 13 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.

Head shot of John Scott wearing his gold MTU hockey jersey.
NHL MVP and former Michigan Tech hockey player John Scott ’10 (Mechanical Engineering). If you haven’t already, check out his podcast, Dropping the Gloves.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 9/13 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Joe Shawhan, Head Coach of Men’s Hockey at Michigan Tech.

Yup, it’s time to talk hockey. Join in while two Michigan Tech hockey legends shoot the breeze. Serving as co-host along with Dean Janet Callahan during this session of Husky Bites is NHL All-Star MVP John Scott, a Michigan Tech alum. Scott graduated with his BS in Mechanical Engineering 2010.

Coach Joe Shawhan grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan—aka Hockey Town, USA, training site for the Detroit Red Wings. Back then hockey was a neighborhood sport and every kid in Shawhan’s class got in on the game. During Husky Bites, he’ll share stories about how he first arrived in Houghton and his relationship with former Head Coach John MacInnes—and what it was like coaching against John Scott in Junior Hockey as a member of the Chicago Freeze.

Coach Shawhan points with his arm extended over the heads of his hockey players at the sidelines during a hockey game.
“The best chance a team has of success is with individuals who expect it and work hard toward it. Every day. All the time,” says Coach Joe Shawhan.

“John and I have never really spent much personal time together outside of the odd interview or Podcast,” notes Shawhan. “I coached against John while he was in Junior hockey and was intrigued by his presence in college hockey. I have respected his humble nature and greatly appreciate his willingness to remember his alma mater.”

Before coming to Tech, Shawhan spent six seasons at Northern Michigan University. He was a volunteer assistant in 2007-08, the director of hockey operations in 2009-10, and an assistant coach for four seasons.

Coach Shawhan holds a tiny Husky pup in his arms.
It’s fun to follow Coach Shawhan on Twitter. Here’s one: “Found our newest Husky recruit at the FSU Ice Arena.”

As the head coach and general manager of the Soo Indians from 1995-2005, Shawhan compiled a 474-162-43 record to become the winningest coach in the history of the North American Hockey League.

Here at Michigan Tech, for 2020-21 season, Shawhan led the Men’s Hockey team went 17-12-1, ninth in the country in wins. The Huskies ranked fourth in the nation in penalty kill (90 percent) and were seventh in scoring defense (2.1).

What about 2021-22? During Husky Bites, Coach Shawhan plans to share the roster—and his hopes for the coming season.

After Coach Shawhan’s presentation on Husky Bites, attendees can ask take part in the Q&A. In fact, Coach Shawhan and John Scott are both ready to answer your questions.

John, what do you want to ask Coach Shawhan during Husky Bites?

First of all, character. What type of individuals do you look for? Next, how do you recruit players to Michigan Tech? How did Covid change things last year? Why are you excited for this year? What are the challenges? And what’s important in order to have a successful team?

Laura Shawhan up on Michigan Tech’s Mont Ripley.

Coach Shawhan: How did you first get interested in hockey? What sparked your interest?

My interest in hockey developed because of my environment. Growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, all my friends played on my same team.

Hometown, family?

My hometown is Sault Ste. Marie Michigan. I am married to my high school sweetheart Laura and we have 3 children: Mia (AJ) Rosenberg, Jordan and Rachel.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My hobbies outside of hockey include fishing, spending time with family and friends, playing guitar and tinkering. I also like to build things.

“The strength of Michigan Tech hockey is the character of the players sitting in the stalls.”

Coach Joe Shawhan


Auris Wins! Michigan Tech is Launching Into Space—with Ears

The team’s spacecraft, Auris, is a small satellite, a 12U cubesat. Its size in centimeters is just 20 x 20 x 30; its mass is 20 kg (about 44 pounds). Image credit: Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise

With Auris, the student-run Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Tech has done it again.

Earlier this month, 10 Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise team members, all undergraduates, traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico August 13-15 for the culminating event of the University Nanosatellite Program, a three-year design competition funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory – AFRL.

The Michigan Tech team won, along with teams from the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M. The three will now move to Phase B of the program, where they have AFRL funding for a multi-year development program to bring the spacecraft to flight maturity—and a guaranteed launch opportunity from the US Department of Defense. No launch date is set yet, but could happen as soon as 2024.

With Auris, the student-run Aerospace Enterprise at Michigan Technological University will have three working satellites. One of the team’s satellites (Oculus) is now in orbit; their second small satellite (Stratus) is due to launch in March 2023. Now, Auris will be the third to launch.

“It’s hard to say, but a conservative estimate is that at least 250 students have worked on the Auris mission since its inception, says Michigan Tech electrical and computer engineering student Matthew Sietsema, the team’s chief engineer and student lead.

These undergraduate students in Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise traveled to New Mexico for the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program Flight Selection Review. Back Row (Left to Right): Jonathan Joseph, Thomas Ziegler, Nolan Pickett, Matthew Carey, Kyle Bruursema. Front Row (Left to Right): Emi Colman, Samantha Zerbel, Zoe Knoper, Rachel Mellin, Matthew Sietsema

Lyon (Brad) King is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Professor of Space Systems in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. As the founder and faculty advisor of the University’s Aerospace Enterprise, King empowers undergraduate students to design, build, and fly spacecraft. 

Professor Lyon Brad King

“Michigan Tech’s winning spacecraft is called Auris, which is Latin for ‘the ear,’ King explains. “Auris will fly in low-Earth orbit and will point its antenna ‘up’ to higher geostationary Earth orbit.” (Geostationary satellites are located 22,237 miles above the earth’s surface.)

“The spacecraft will listen to the signals broadcast from communications satellites as it flies through their transmission beams, and be able to map the spatial extent and shape of the transmission beams,” adds King. “Auris will also determine the location of the transmitting satellite.”

Auris signal trace. Image credit: Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise

This is the second time the Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise student team has won the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program competition. The first time, in 2011, Michigan Tech was the sole winner with Oculus-ASR, which was launched from Cape Canaveral on a Space-X Falcon Heavy in June 2019. Oculus-ASR now serves as an imaging calibration target for ground-based observatories tasked with characterizing spacecraft. 

In 2020 NASA slated Michigan Tech’’s second student-built satellite, Stratus, for a deployment from the International Space Station (ISS). That launch is expected in 2023. Stratus is a pathfinder mission funded by NASA’s Undergraduate Student Instrument Program and the CubeSat Launch Initiative. The Stratus vehicle is a three-axis-stabilized thermal infrared telescope that will be used to image atmospheric clouds.

“I am so incredibly proud of our Aerospace Enterprise team.” 

Janet Callahan, Dean, College of Engineering

At the University Satellite Program’s recent Flight Selection Review event in Albuquerque, a total of ten university student teams competed for the chance to advance their satellite design project to the next phase and launch: Missouri S&T, Minnesota, SUNY Buffalo, Texas A&M, Saint Louis, Western Michigan, Alaska Fairbanks, Michigan Tech, Auburn, and UT Austin.

Judges from Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), United States Space Force (USSF), Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Space Dynamics Lab, Missile Defense Agency, and NASA were present to evaluate the missions.

The MTU students staffed a booth, briefed their mission to the judges and other schools, and performed technical demonstrations for the judges.

“Michigan Tech will soon have no less than 3 student-designed and built satellites in outer space—it’s amazing.”

Bill Predebon, Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise Program, with more than 25 teams working on projects and products with researchers and companies, provided the overarching framework for the Aerospace Enterprise. 

Like all Enterprise teams at Michigan Tech, Aerospace Enterprise is open to students in any major. “It’s important for students to learn how to work in an interdisciplinary group,” says King. “In the workplace, they will never be on a team where every member has the same expertise. To design, build, manage and operate a satellite requires mechanical, electrical, computer science, physics, materials, everything— it really crosses a lot of boundaries and prepares them for a career.”

Last, but not least: “Aerospace Enterprise has a leadership and management hierarchy that is self-sustaining,” says King. “Current leaders are constantly working to mentor their successors so we have continuity from year-to-year.”

Matthew Sietsema ’22

Q&A with Matthew Sietsema, Chief Engineer and Student Lead, Michigan Tech Aerospace Enterprise Team

Matthew Sietsema is an aspiring Space Systems Engineer working toward a Michigan Tech double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. He’ll be graduating next December 2022. As Chief Engineer of the Aerospace Enterprise team’s two spacecraft programs, Auris and Stratus, Sietsema serves as the technical lead of 100+ undergraduate students. He’s head of all assembly, integration, and testing activities, requirements management and verification for the two satellites. “The dual purpose of the Auris mission,” he explains, “is both Space Domain Awareness (SDA), and Space Visualization.”

Q: How does it feel for Auris to win the AFRL University Nanosatellite Program along with the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M?

A: It feels incredibly gratifying and I’m extremely proud of our team and our mission! Auris has been in the works for more than five years at this point, and to be able to finally close the loop and push forward to the next phase is an electrifying prospect. My congratulations also go out to both UMinn and Texas A&M—the motivations behind each of our missions are very similar, so it’s validating to see the fundamental concepts of our mission being lauded all around.

Q: It sounds like Phase B is about building the actual Auris satellite. What all goes into that?

A: In part, yes. Phase A was about designing and building the prototype version of the spacecraft, known as the Engineering Model (EM). One of the primary focuses of Phase B, among many other things, is to construct the final spacecraft meant to go to space⁠—the Flight Model (FM). We must first finish our build-up of the prototype, taking care to ensure that all of the individual components are working together properly and that the design itself is sound. From there, we move into building the FM spacecraft. This involves four distinct phases of build-up, or ‘integration stages’. The first is Component-Level Testing, where we ensure that each of the individual parts and circuit boards function as intended. Second is Subsystem-Level Testing, where we group components with similar jobs together and ensure that they can communicate with each other and correctly interoperate. Next is System-Level Testing, where we combine each of the discrete subsystems and make sure that the entire spacecraft works as designed. Last is Behavioral Testing, where we do an end-to-end verification of the function of the spacecraft and essentially ‘pretend’ to operate it like we would in space. The idea is to simulate and/or test everything that the spacecraft can possibly do, to make sure there are no unintended behaviors or nasty surprises once it gets on orbit.”

Q: Is it challenging for the team to manage several ongoing satellite missions?

A: At the moment, we only directly manage two missions: Auris and Stratus. Stratus is still under development, for another two years. Management of the Oculus mission was handed off to the Air Force when we delivered the satellite. But yes, the sentiment remains: it is incredibly challenging to manage a single spaceflight mission, let alone two at the same time. We have a strong core of leaders in our team, and do our best to foster an environment of learning and self-motivation. Our group is structured very closely to actual aerospace companies, so we rely on the tools of the industry and the experience of our members to catalyze progress and keep both missions on track.

Read More

Brad King: Space, Satellites, and Students

And Then There Were Two: MTU’s Next Student-built Satellite, Set to Launch

Michigan Tech’s Pipeline to Space

Winning Satellite to be Launched into Orbit


Tau Beta Pi Honor Society at Michigan Tech initiates 39 new members

Each chapter of Tau Beta Pi has its own bent statue. On campus at Michigan Tech campus it is located between Rekhi Hall and the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

The College of Engineering inducted 38 students and one eminent engineer into the Michigan Tech Michigan Beta chapter of Tau Beta Pi this academic year.

A nationally-recognized engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi is the only one that recognizes all engineering professions. Members are selected from the top eighth of their junior class, top fifth of their senior class, or the top fifth of graduate students who have completed 50 percent of their coursework.

Tau Beta Pi celebrates those who have distinguished scholarship and exemplary character and members strive to maintain integrity and excellence in engineering. The honor is nationally recognized in both academic and professional settings. Alumni embody the principle of TBP: “Integrity and Excellence in Engineering.”

Fall 2020 Initiates:

Undergraduate students
Evan DeLosh, Mechanical Engineering
Nolan Pickett, Mechanical Engineering
Ben Holladay, Electrical Engineering
Jacob Stewart, Civil Engineering
Malina Gallmeyer, Environmental Engineering
Caleigh Dunn, Biomedical Engineering
Mikalah Klippenstein, Electrical Engineering
Savannah Page, Biomedical Engineering
Katie Smith, Chemical Engineering
Cole Alpers, Mechanical Engineering
Ben Pokorny, Mechanical Engineering
Kyrie LeMahieu, Mechanical Engineering
Anna Hildebrandt, Materials Science & Engineering

Graduate students
Shankara Varma Ponnurangam, Mechanical Engineering
Koami Soulemane Hayibo, Electrical Engineering
Kaled Bentaher, Chemical Engineering
Nicholas Hendrickson, Mechanical Engineering

Spring 2021 Initiates:

Undergraduate students
Anders Carlson, Mechanical Engineering
Brian Geiger, Mechanical Engineering
Emily Street, Mining Engineering
Jacob Lindhorst, Mechanical Engineering
John Benz, Mechanical Engineering
John Hettinger, Computer Engineering
Joshua King, Materials Science & Engineering
Laurel Schmidt, Mechanical Engineering & Theatre Technology
Matthew Fooy, Chemical Engineering
Matthew Gauthier, Mechanical Engineering
Max Pleyte, Biomedical Engineering
Nick McCole, Engineering
Nick Niemi, Biomedical Engineering
Tom Morrison, Chemical Engineering
Zach Darkowski, Mechanical Engineering

Graduate students
Aiden Truettner, Chemical Engineering
Iuliia Tcibulnikova, Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences
Rajat Gadhave, Mechanical Engineering
Ranit Karmakar, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sreekanth Pengadath, Mechanical Engineering
Fnu Vinay Prakash, Electrical & Computer Engineering

Professor Tony Rogers, Michigan Tech

Eminent Engineer
Dr. Tony Rogers, Department of Chemical Engineering


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!”


Above and Below the Mackinac Bridge: Kim Nowack and Amy Trahey

Mackinac Bridge Steeplejack. Photo by Tim Burke, MDOT

Amy Trahey and Kim Nowack share their knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, March 8 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 3/8 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and two extraordinary fellow civil engineers and friends who each know the Mackinac Bridge, aka Mighty Mac—one of the world’s leading suspension bridges—like the back of their hand. Together they’ll share just what it takes to properly care for such a huge gem, the single greatest asset of the state of Michigan.

Kim Nowack is executive secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Amy Trahey is president and founder of Great Lakes Engineering Group. Both are graduates of Michigan Tech, too: Nowack earned her BS in civil engineering in 1985, and Trahey earned hers in 1994.

Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge at Sunset

Nowack is ultimately responsible for its safety, operation and maintenance. Putting it mildly, Nowack has vast experience and familiarity with the Mackinac bridge, nearly 20 years worth, and then some.

Prior to her tenure at the bridge, Nowack held several positions with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), including stints as a general engineer with the department’s construction division in Kalamazoo; project design, construction and assistant resident engineer in St. Ignace; and delivery engineer at MDOT’s Newberry Transportation Service Center (TSC).

Kim Nowack

In 2002, she became chief engineer for the Mackinac Bridge Authority, and was appointed to the position of Executive Secretary/CEO of the Mackinac Bridge in 2019. She is the first woman to hold either of these positions in the Bridge Authority’s 60-plus year history.

Nowack frequently gives presentations about the bridge to fellow engineers, aspiring engineering students, and middle and high school students interested in the STEM fields. Recently in recognition of that effort, Nowack received the 2021 Felix A. Anderson Image Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Michigan, noting her contributions to enhancing the image of the engineering profession. 

Joining in will be Audra Morse, professor and chair of Michigan Tech’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Morse is also a Fellow of ASCE, The American Society of Civil Engineers.

“I’m thrilled to have been selected for the Anderson award,” she said. “It’s amazing to be the first female honored this way. It’s been so rewarding to be an ambassador for the bridge and the civil engineering profession throughout my years at the Mackinac Bridge Authority.”

Trahey nominated Nowack for the award. “Kim is the epitome of why civil engineering is so awesome,” she said. “Kim has been an inspiration to me personally as a fellow civil engineer and to many others in the industry, too.”

At age 28, Trahey founded Great Lakes Engineering Group (GLEG), a civil engineering consulting firm. GLEG’s core business: everything bridges. The firm has been successful in providing bridge design, bridge inspection, and bridge construction engineering services for state and local governmental agencies as well as private clients. Trahey has worked on some of the largest and most complex bridges in the state of Michigan including I‐75 over the Rouge River, the Belle Isle Bridge, the Gross Ile Bridge, the International Bridge, and the Houghton-Hancock Lift Bridge.

In 2012 Trahey, along with other engineers and divers at Great Lakes Engineering Group, performed their first underwater safety and structural inspection of the Mackinac Bridge. 

Amy Trahey

“This opportunity was a defining moment in my career,” she said. “It brought my journey full circle and provided a true sense of fulfillment. If you can dream it…you can do it!”

In 2017 Trahey earned her SPRAT certification (Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians), which means she can use ropes to inspect difficult to access bridges and climb bridges. “It was the most physically and mentally challenging training I have experienced to date,” she says.

In 2019 Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Trahey to the Mackinac Bridge Authority. Amy is now vice chair of the Mackinac Bridge Authority and chair of the Finance Committee—a responsibility that Trahey takes very seriously, and enjoys even more.

“A bridge is a structure that spans obstacles, providing safe passage over something that is otherwise difficult or impossible to cross. It’s a soaring metaphor that captures my spirit.” she says. “I try to see obstacles not as obstacles, but as opportunities to solve problems and connect people. “To me, the Mackinac bridge is not only an iconic structure that resonates with all Michiganders—it proves that engineering has no limits, and it’s all about connecting people.”

An avid diver, Amy Trahey inspects Michigan bridges as part of her profession.

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

I was born and raised in Lansing, Michigan and lived in the Upper Peninsula for 4 years while attending college at Michigan Tech. I knew I wanted to be a civil/structural engineer, after the years driving to the U.P. over the Mackinac Bridge, seen in all its glory when we would take the ferry rides to Mackinac Island, as well. Chicago also inspired me with its movable bridges along the Chicago River and its soaring buildings. I feel grateful and fortunate to have found my passion (bridges) so early in my career. As a result I have realized my goal to climb to the top, and dive to the bottom of many of Michigan’s most iconic bridges. From the Houghton‐Hancock lift bridge and the Zilwaukee bridge to the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, the Blue Water Bridges, and the gem of the state of Michigan–the Mackinac Bridge.

The Trahey Family

Family and hobbies?

Rialato Bridge, Venice, Italy one of the oldest bridges over the Grand Canal, in a City that has over 600 bridges!

I’ve been married to my husband, Brian for 22 years and we have 2 sons, Ty and Quinn. We live in Grand Ledge, and share a family cottage on Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula. I like to hike, ski, dive, bike, travel, and practice yoga and meditation. I also serve on the Michigan Department of Education, Special Education Advisory Committee, a committee that is near and dear to my heart and advocates for the rights of students with disabilities such as my son, Quinn, who is Autistic. In 2012 Quinn started planning family trips to iconic locations across the world. Seeing the world through his unique lens is inspiring and we are grateful for his perspective. He has quite literally, opened up our world. 

Kim on the tower!

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

My high school teachers lead me into engineering based on my abilities in high school.  I’m so thankful I had forward looking teachers that thought females should pursue whatever they were interested in.  I didn’t know what kind of engineering to go into, but was coached that I had an aptitude to go down the engineering path. I wanted to find a career that used my knowledge and skills to their maximum advantage. And my Mother was very supportive for me to reach as high as I could in life (my father died when I was 11). 

Kim with her daughter, Angela: “Good times!”

Family and hobbies?

I grew up in Grand Rapids and now live in Ignace, close to the bridge. I’m an avid reader, in several book groups. I knit, and I’m in a quilt group, too. I have a daughter, Angela, and two toddler granddaughters. I love spending time with them as much as possible. One of my best memories is with Angela. She was my little cheerleader and traveled with me to Houghton when I taught at summer youth programs. I will never forget her sitting in the lecture hall with the students and giving me a thumbs up before my show when she knew I was nervous. 

MDOT photographer Tim Burke recently assisted a Japanese production company shooting a documentary about one of the Mackinac Bridge Authority’s steeplejacks. Here is some of the footage shot using a drone.


Monique Wells is New Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DTE Energy

Monique Wells, Michigan Tech Chemical Engineering Alumna, is the New Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DTE Energy.

Monique Wells, a Michigan Tech chemical engineering alumna, is the new director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at DTE Energy.

DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide.

Wells is responsible for accelerating DTE’s progress in building a workplace where everyone feels valued and able to contribute their best energy toward serving customers, communities and each other.

“This is a critical time in history for us to work together toward unity and equity,” Wells said. “I’m excited to be part of a team at DTE who are so passionate about the company’s shared core values and about celebrating people’s diverse voices, perspectives and ideas.”

Wells earned a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Tech, and a Master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from the University of Toledo. She has experience as a production engineer at Dow and an instructor at Toledo Technology Academy.

Wells serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board at Michigan Tech, and servers on the Spring Arbor University’s Engineering Advisory Board, as well.

“Monique’s deep knowledge of diversity, equity and inclusion, along with her engineering and teaching experience, will build on our progress within our company and in our communities,” said Jerry Norcia, president and CEO, DTE Energy. “She will be a great resource for our company and the communities we serve, and I look forward to supporting Monique’s leadership and seeing the collective impact our efforts will make.”

Read a Q&A with Wells here.


Michigan Tech’s NSBE Student Chapter Will Reach 1,850 Detroit Middle and High School Students (Virtually!) During their 10th Annual Alternative Spring Break

Andi Smith is leading Alternative Spring Break 2021 for Michigan Tech Chemical Engineering student

Eleven members of Michigan Technological University’s student chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Pre-College Initiative (PCI) plan to present to EVERY science class at Chandler Park Academy in Detroit—a total of 74 classes and 1850 students—during their 10th Annual Alternative Spring Break in Detroit from March 8-10. 

Their mission is twofold: encourage more students to go to college, and increase the diversity of those entering the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) career pipeline.

NSBE Pre-College Initiative 2021 Alternative Spring Break will be virtual this year.

The following NSBE students are participating:

Andi Smith – Chemical Engineering
Jasmine Ngene – Electrical Engineering
Jalen Vaughn – Computer Engineering
Kylynn Hodges – Computer Science 
George Ochieze – Mechatronics
Catherine Rono- Biological Science
Christiana Strong – Biomedical Engineering
Trent Johnson – Computer Engineering
Meghan Tidwell – Civil Engineering
Oluwatoyin Areo – Chemical Engineering
Kazeem Kareem – Statistics

The NSBE classroom presentations are designed to engage and inspire diverse students to learn about and consider careers in engineering and science by interacting with role models from their home town (most of the participating NSBE students are from the Detroit area).

Their effort is designed to address our country’s need for an increased number and greater diversity of students skilled in STEM (math, science, technology, and engineering). This outreach is encouraged by the NSBE Professional Pre-College Initiative (PCI) program which supports and encourages K-12 participation in STEM. 

At Michigan Tech, NSBE student chapter outreach is funded by General Motors and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Effort is coordinated by members of the NSBE student chapter, with assistance from Joan Chadde, director of the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.

High school students are informed of scholarships available to attend Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Programs, as well high school STEM internship opportunities at Michigan Tech.

For more information about the Michigan Tech NSBE student chapter’s Alternative Spring Break, contact Joan Chadde, Director, Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, Michigan Technological University, email jchadde@mtu.edu or call 906-369-1121.


Simon Carn: Sniffing Volcanoes from Space

Lava Lake on Mount Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo credit: Simon Carn

Simon Carn shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 15 at 6 pm ET. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/15 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Volcanologist Simon Carn, Professor, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES).

Also joining in will be GMES Research Professor Bill Rose, one of the first in volcanology to embrace satellite data to study volcanic emissions and is a well-recognized leader in the field. 

Professor Simon Carn in the field at Kilauea volcano (Hawaii) in 2018 (with lava in the background).

Prof. Carn studies carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanoes, using remote sensing via satellite.

His goal: improved monitoring of volcanic eruptions, human health risks and climate processes—one volcanic breath at a time.

“Volcanology—the study of volcanoes—is a truly multidisciplinary endeavor that encompasses numerous fields including geology, physics, chemistry, material science and social science,” says Carn.  

Carn applies remote sensing data to understand the environmental impacts of volcanic eruption clouds, volcanic degassing, and human created pollution, too.

“Sulfur dioxide, SO2, plays an important role in the atmosphere,” he says. “SO2 can cause negative climate forcing. It also impacts cloud microphysics.” 

Professor Bill Rose

Many individual particles make up a cloud, so small they exist on the microscale. A cloud’s individual microstructure determines its behavior, whether it can produce rain or snow, for instance, or affect the Earth’s radiation balance.

“During Husky Bites I’ll discuss volcanic eruptions and their climate impacts, he says. “I’ll describe the satellite imagery techniques, and talk about the unique things we can measure from space.”

Carn was a leading scientist in an effort to apply sensors on NASA satellites, forming what is called the Afternoon Constellation or ‘A-Train’ to Earth observations. “The A-Train is a coordinated group of satellites in a polar orbit, crossing the equator within seconds to minutes of each other,” he explains. “This allows for near-simultaneous observations.”

Volcanic glow in Ambrym, volcanic island in Malampa Province in the archipelago of Vanuatu. Photo credit: Simon Carn

The amount of geophysical data collected from space—and the ground—has increased exponentially over the past few years,” he says. “Our computational capacity to process the data and construct numerical models of volcanic processes has also increased. As a result, our understanding of the potential impacts of volcanoes has significantly advanced.”

That said, “Accurate prediction of volcanic eruptions is a significant challenge, and will remain so until we can increase the number of global volcanoes that are intensively monitored.”

Carn is the principal investigator on a project funded by NASA, “Tracking Volcanic Gases from Magma Reservoir to the Atmosphere: Identifying Precursors, and Optimizing Models and Satellite Observations for Future Major Eruptions.”

He is a member of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, and the American Geophysical Union. He served on a National Academy of Sciences Committee on Improving Understanding of Volcanic Eruptions.

Here’s another look at Ambrym. Photo credit: Simon Carn

Carn has taught, lectured and supervised students at Michigan Tech since 2008 and around the world since 1994 at the International Volcanological Field School in Russia, Cambridge University, the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and at international workshops in France, Italy, Iceland, Indonesia, Singapore and Costa Rica.

“After finishing my PhD in the UK, I worked on the island of Montserrat (West Indies) for several months monitoring the active Soufriere Hills volcano. This got me interested in the use of remote sensing techniques for monitoring volcanic gas emissions. I then moved to the US for a postdoc at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, using satellite data to measure volcanic emissions.

Dr. Carn during a research trip to Vanuatu in 2014. The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean, home to several active volcanoes.

While there, I started collaborating with the Michigan Tech volcanology group, including Dr. Bill Rose.”

Rose, a research professor in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech, was once the department chair, from 1991-98.

 “Houghton, where Michigan Tech is located, is really an important place for copper in the world,” he says. There is a strong relationship between the copper mines here and volcanoes. We live on black rocks that go through the city and campus, some jutting up over the ground. Those rocks, basalt, are big lava flows, the result of a massive volcanic eruption, a giant Iceland-style event.”

“Arguably, Michigan Tech owes its beginning to volcanic activity, which is ultimately responsible for the area’s rich copper deposits and the development of mining in the Keweenaw,” he says.

“I was very much aware of the volcanic context when I arrived in Houghton as a young professor,” adds Rose. “I had a dual major in geography and geology, but the chance to work in an engineering department sounded good to me. It gave me a chance to go outside, working hands-on in the field.”

Rose did everything he could to get his students to places where they could be immersed in science. For many geology graduates, those trips were the highlight of their Michigan Tech education.

“This is a view of our helicopter landing in the crater at El Chichon, Mexico,” says Prof. Bill Rose. “Simon asked me to share this image and talk about it during Husky Bites.”

“I always took students with me on trips,” says Rose. “That was my priority. After all, the best geoscientists have seen the most rocks. We went all over the world, looking at volcanoes, doing research, and going to meetings,” he says. “I usually took more students with me than I had money for.”

“Back in the late 1980s, this photo was taken in the field in Guatemala (note the chicken!). I was talking to a witness from and eruption in 1929, and showing him photos I had of that event,” says Rose.

Not all students could afford to travel, however. So when Bill (partially) retired in 2011, he decided to do something about that. “My dream was to create a quarter-million- dollar fund for student travel,” he says. He launched the Geoscience Student Travel Endowment Fund with a personal donation of $100,000.

Students take part in one of the hundreds of field studies led by Dr. Bill Rose.

In 2004 Rose started the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at Michigan Tech, now  a graduate degree in Mitigation of Geological Natural Hazards, a program with strong connections with Central American countries and Indonesia. He also developed Keweenaw Geoheritage, in hopes of broadening geological knowledge of the region and of Earth science in general.

His work during his 50 years at Michigan Tech includes volcanic gas and ash emission studies, including potential aircraft hazards from volcanic clouds.

Prof. Rose and then graduate student Taryn Lopez, now Assistant Research Professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Prof. Rose, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

“My students. I treasure the time I have spent with them. I am laid back. I have been able to work with wonderful students every day of my 45 years at Michigan Tech, thousands of students. My style with these fine people is to give them hardly any orders. I encouraged them to follow their nose and network with each other.”

Last winter Dr. Carn and his kids built a ‘snowcano’ in their yard!

Professor Carn, when was the moment you knew volcanology was for you?

“The first active volcano I encountered was Arenal in Costa Rica during my travels after finishing high school. However, I think the point that I first seriously considered volcanology as a career was during my MS degree in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The first field trip was to Italy to see the spectacular active volcanoes Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius.”

Simon Carn on Yasur volcano, Vanuatu in August 2014. “We were measuring the volcanic gas emissions from Yasur, one of the biggest sources of volcanic gas on Earth.We were specifically interested in measuring the emissions of carbon dioxide from the volcano, to improve estimates of global volcanic CO2 emissions”

What do you like most about volcanology?

“Studying volcanoes is undeniably exciting and exotic. We are lucky to visit some spectacular locations for fieldwork and conferences. New eruptions can occur at any time, so there’s always something new and exciting to study. We are also fortunate in that it is relatively easy to justify studying volcanoes (e.g., to funding agencies), given their potentially significant impacts on climate, the environment and society.”

Q: Tell us about this photo of your grandfather. Was he a volcanologist, too?

“My grandfather (John Gale) at Vesuvius in 1943.”

“My grandfather is standing at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. He wasn’t a volcanologist, though he was a high school science teacher and a conservationist. The photo of Vesuvius was always one of his favorites, from a time when photographs were quite rare, and he often showed it to me in my youth.”