Tag: CEE

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. 

Mackinac Bridge drone footage

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.


Joe Kraft ’02 Takes the Helm at MineMax

Michigan Tech Geological Engineering Alumnus Joe Kraft ’02 is the new CEO of Minemax, a software and consulting firm with offices in Denver and Perth.

Joe Kraft, a Michigan Tech geological engineering alumnus, is the new chief executive officer of Minemax.

“Designed for mining people, by mining people,” Minemax specializes in mine planning and scheduling solutions and software, and has offices in both in Denver, Colorado, and Perth, in Australia.

Kraft earned his bachelor’s degree in Geological Engineering from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) in 2002. As a student, Kraft was in the Army Research Officer Training Corps, commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant at graduation.

Following graduation he served as the leader of a 29-person mechanized combat engineer platoon for a year in Iraq. He earned the bronze star medal and other honors for his combat leadership actions.

Kraft’s service in the Army culminated as the aide to the Deputy Commanding General, where he was responsible for the security, logistics, scheduling, staff and administrative requirements for a General Officer of the 7th Infantry Division, rising to the rank of Captain. 

Kraft went on to gain more than 15 years of experience in mine planning and mine operations, including time spent working at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and Cliffs Natural Resources before joining Minemax as a Senior Mining Engineer in January 2014.

Not long after joining the company, Kraft was appointed as Minemax’s General Manager-Americas. For five years Kraft managed all aspects of software sales and services for the company’s North and South American markets. Now, as Minemax CEO, he will lead Minemax worldwide.

“I am extremely confident in Joe’s ability to take Minemax to the next level,“ explained Jim Butler, Minemax founder and former CEO. “Joe is very competent, has deep knowledge of mine planning and understands our customer’s businesses. He has the respect of staff, customers and affiliate companies. I am sure all stakeholders in Minemax will benefit from his leadership.“

Says Kraft, “It really is a great privilege to be able to lead an established company which has such an exceptionally talented and loyal staff. As a former military officer, I learned early on how powerful a cohesive team can be, and I look forward to the many great things we will accomplish in the years to come.”

According to the company, Minemax solutions—which includes strategic and operational mine planning software and consulting—cover the whole spectrum of strategic and operational mine planning, and help mining companies achieve production requirements, maximize resource utilization and optimize business value.

Apart from the occasional wilderness adventure, Kraft spends time with his two young boys who keep him busy in any spare moments he might have outside his tight professional schedule.

“I am so very blessed to have a small, wonderful family,” he says. “My two young boys are keen little adventurers themselves. My wife is also a dedicated professional in her field. We have adapted to many changes over the past years to balance life and career.”


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.


Happy Engineer’s Week 2021!

Let’s imagine a better tomorrow. Join us!

This week, we’re celebrating National Engineers Week (Feb. 21-28). Everyone’s invited to special events on campus sponsored by Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society student chapter at Michigan Tech.

Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, Eweek is celebrated each February around the time of George Washington’s birthday, February 22, because Washington is considered by many to be the first U.S. engineer.

At Michigan Tech, the week is celebrated with special events on campus all hosted by student organizations. Everyone is welcome! Please feel free to stop by and check out Eweek events as your schedule allows:

Monday, Feb. 22
Brainteasers—give your brain a mini-workout, courtesy of Michigan Tech’s Systems Engineering Association (SEA), 11am-2pm in the Dow Lobby.

Some founders of SEA, Michigan Tech’s relatively new Systems Engineering Association.

Tuesday, Feb. 23
Build with Built World Enterprise, 6-7 PM
Online, Zoom: https://michigantech.zoom.us/j/88350890241

Built World Enterprise at Michigan Tech

Wednesday, Feb. 24
Michigan Tech Engineering Alumni Panel, hosted by Tau Beta Pi
4-6 PMOnline, Zoom: https://michigantech.zoom.us/j/89023074247
Submit your questions in advance: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdFvHtUjVrpO_iMmrQWel78S7D2BXjCNhROo4CoYLwSbJA5nw/viewform?usp=sf_link

Julia Zayan
Julia Zayan ’15, General Motors (Chemical Engineering)

Rebecca Mick
Rebecca Mick ’09, Amcor (Chemical Engineering)
Quinn Horn
Quinn Horn ’93, ’95, ’98, Exponent Consulting (Materials Science and Engineering)

Thursday, February 25
Metal foundry in a box with Materials United, 3-5 PMB, on campus, outside, between the M&M Engineering Building and Douglas Houghton Hall.

Foundry in a Box. Make something small, come pick it up later, after it cools!

Nationwide, Eweek is a formal coalition of more than 70 engineering, education, and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies. This year’s theme: Imagining Tomorrow. Dedicated to raising public awareness of engineers’ positive contributions to quality of life, Eweek promotes recognition among parents, teachers, and students of the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science, and technology literacy.

One important goal: to motivate youth to pursue engineering careers in order to provide a diverse and vigorous engineering workforce.

Due to the pandemic, some E-Week events won’t be possible this year. One thing we’ll greatly miss is the traditional Michigan Tech E-Week cake, offered to all on campus by the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. The cake will be back, though: We look forward to E-Week 2022!


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. 


A Note to Our Students

Dean Janet Callahan stands in front of the summer gardens on campus at Michigan Tech
Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering, Michigan Technological University

Your journey is unique: Each person here comes from a different background, and has had different experiences across their life.

The lived experiences of each of us are different; they are not equal, and they are certainly not equitable. My experience, as the daughter of an engineer and a nurse (guess which one was my mother!) is an example—I was exposed to the best of school districts, played with toys as a child that taught me 3d spatial skills, and I was indulged by my parents when I showed an interest in photography. And then found myself one of about four women in a class size around 40, as I studied engineering in the 1980s—and truly—at my alma mater there were only male-gendered bathrooms on every floor, and one I could use on one floor only. Things have changed now, but my point is, this was my journey, and it was my unique journey.

I have heard from many students, especially in this new year, who have reached out to me directly, to share experiences, concerns, and frankly their outrage as well. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have ideas about how we can improve your experience as a student and as a member of our community. And, I would love to hear your story—your journey to Michigan Tech, your experiences here, and your dreams. Just send me an email and we’ll have a zoom meeting: Callahan@mtu.edu And if you are in a student club or organization and would like me to stop in during a meeting, to listen, I would be honored to do so.

I would love to hear your story—your journey to Michigan Tech, your experiences here, and your dreams.

Dean Janet Callahan

This is a true statement: diversity in an equitable and inclusive environment is essential for the development of creative solutions to address the world’s challenges. Across your educational experiences you have probably learned that when we design solutions, we must have a diverse team with multiple perspectives in order to develop the best solutions. Without a winning team, we can’t win. Our own perspective is not enough — we don’t know what we don’t know.

Finally, I assure you that we are fully committed to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness

Janet Callahan, Dean
College of Engineering
Michigan Tech



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 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.”


Russ Alger: Snow 101

Russ Alger shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, February 8 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.

Snowy crop circle of some sort? No, it’s part of the test course at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

What are you doing for supper this Monday night 2/8 at 6 ET? Grab a bite with Dean Janet Callahan and Russ Alger, Director of the Institute of Snow Research at Michigan Tech.

Alger knows about snow. He’s one of the world’s top go-to guys on cold climate roads and driving, with 45 years of experience and counting. During Husky Bites, he’ll talk about the natural properties of snow as well as some of the ways that snow can be used for engineering purposes.

Russ Alger: “Growing up in the Copper Country helped to make me like snow for sure.”

Also joining in will be Toby Kunnari, Test Course Manager at the Keweenaw Research Center. The KRC’s test course is spread out over 1,000 acres just a few miles away from campus at Michigan Tech.

Ever since earning his BS and MS in civil engineering Michigan Tech, Alger has been working with vehicles and terrains. If there’s a way to alter strength and friction parameters on the surface of a terrain to enhance mobility, Alger can make it happen.

Whether it involves mobility in snow, or the development of pavements made entirely from snow, Alger and other Michigan Tech engineers and scientists at the Institute of Snow Research are ready to tackle the problem. They are also experts in winter maintenance of roads and runways—both anti-icing and deicing.

A tank makes its way through a custom test course at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

“The unique weather conditions on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, coupled with our large array of equipment and facilities, makes the Institute the right place to bring your research questions,” he says.

Alger studies the deformation of soil and snow particles under vehicle loads. He has characterized these terrains using standard physical property measurement techniques as well as through the use of bevameters, automated penetrometers, calorimeters, high speed imaging, and a number of other methods to extract data in harsh environments. (He’ll explain his toolbox during Husky Bites).

Alger holds a patent on a method he invented to “manufacture” snow pavements by mechanically altering the internal snow properties and developing high strengths in the snow pack.

Between 1994 and 2016 Alger took six trips to Antarctica, as part of a team that successfully scouted and created the first trail to the South Pole, needed as an alternative to flying in supplies. Every crevasse they discovered in the route had to be exposed and filled so tracked vehicles could safely pass over.

Alger took this image during one of his research trips to the South Pole. Pictured above: project leader John Wright works on the snow bridge above a crevasse nicknamed “Mongo”. The South Pole traverse team discovered the crevasse, and later filled it with snow. Mongo measured 32 feet wide, 82 feet deep with a snow bridge 25 foot deep.

During his last trip to Antarctica in 2016 Alger went to make one snow road better—a fifteen-mile stretch from Scott Base (New Zealand’s research center) to the Pegasus runway, where supplies and people arrive in cargo jets.

He used a special groomer he and his colleagues developed at the KRC. Called a snow paver, it has the near-magical ability to turn snow into solid roadway.

“The paver works by first chewing up the snow with a miller drum, which smashes the ice crystals so they will stick together,” Alger explains. “Then comes a vibrating compactor, to get all the air out of the snow. That action compresses it enough to make a pavement.”

At Michigan Tech Alger also invented a product called SafeLane, an epoxy-aggregate mixture that is applied to roads, bridge decks, walkways and parking lots to improve traction and safety during hazardous winter conditions. Now marketed by Cargill, the product is widely used.

It’s busy season at the Institute of Snow Research, but Alger took time from his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for us in advance of Husky Bites.

Have any snow questions of your own? Alger will answer questions live via Zoom on Monday Feb. 8 during his session. Join early at 5:45 for some extra conversation, or stay after for the Q&A.

Q: Are there any best practices for preparing roadways in winter?

A: Road supervisors and crews rely heavily on the weather forecast. Air temp, pavement temp, temperature trends, precipitation rates and total amounts, wind, time of day, and more all play into the decision making process. For example, if it is going to be below 15 degrees F, it is likely that crews would consider adding something like calcium chloride to the mix since it is better at colder temps. They might just use sodium chloride above that temp since it works well and is much cheaper. The amount of deicer needed also increases as temperature decreases and there is a point where it doesn’t pay to use deicer at all except for maybe as a “kicker” for sand applications.

Imagine doing your job on a snowmobile! That’s a pretty typical day for Russ Alger, director of Michigan Tech’s Institute for Snow Research.

Here in the UP, combining salt and stamp sands seems to work pretty well to help us get around amid all the snowfall. In most of Houghton County, stamp sand is used. It’s abundant, and the County owns some stamp sand property. On top of that, stamp sand is actually a pretty good ‘grit’ for this purpose. The grain size is right to result in traction, which is the purpose of sand. It isn’t too dusty, and most importantly, it is crushed rock, so it is angular. That means it has sharp edges that help it dig into icy pavements and grip tires.

The addition of a small amount of deicer helps the stamp sand piles from freezing up. It also helps the sand particles melt into the surface of the road and stick, making a layer that acts like a piece of sandpaper. This is a pretty effective way to increase grip of tires on the surface, which is the end goal of this operation.

Russ Alger knows snow. Join us at Husky Bites to learn from one of the world’s top experts.

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

A: I became interested in engineering at a very young age and have always loved my job and profession. My father, George Alger, was a civil engineering professor at Michigan Tech for many years. His expertise was in ice-covered rivers and cold regions engineering in general. Growing up in Dollar Bay and working with him on outdoor projects, as well as being an outdoorsman myself, pointed me down that path at a young age. In 1976, my Dad, along with Michigan Tech civil engineering professors Ralph Hodek and Henry Sanford established a new curriculum at Michigan Tech, Cold Regions Engineering. I started with them that very first year. Growing up in the Copper Country helped to make me like snow for sure.

Q: Hometown, hobbies, family?

A: I have lived outside of Dollar Bay, Michigan for most of my life. I love being outdoors and especially love hunting, fishing and cooking outside. I live with my wife and one of my sons—and enjoy doing things with all of my sons, daughters and grandchildren.

Read More

Snow Going for Road-Building Engineers in Antarctica


Jeremy Goldman: Stents—How to Stunt Stenosis

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

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

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

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

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

Dr, Jeremy Goldman

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

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

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

Dr. Roger Guillory II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any hobbies?

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

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

Dr. Goldman almost became a medical doctor.

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

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

What do you like to do in your spare time?

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

Read More

Doing Fulbright Research in a War Zone

The Healing Stent