Tag: CEE

Audra Morse: Two Triangles Don’t Make a Right

Dr. Audra Morse is focused on water, especially the fate of microplastics in water. When she’s not busy leading the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University, that is.

Are you heading to college soon to study engineering, or thinking about it? Please join us tonight, Tuesday, July 28 at 6 pm EST for Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and a Dean, our free interactive Zoom short course. We’d like to show you all the tips and tricks we wish someone had shown us, back when we were all starting out. 

This week the focus is on triangles. Dr. Audra Morse, chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech will be talking triangles. “High school geometry topics you never knew you needed will be put into context to solve engineering problems,” she says. “I’ll provide more engineering survival tips along the way.”

Join us at FB Live on the College of Engineering FB page, or go to the Zoom session (so you can participate in the Q&A).

Grab some supper, or just flop down on your couch. Know someone who might be interested? Feel free to bring or refer a friend. Everyone’s welcome! Get the full scoop and Zoom link at mtu.edu/huskybites.

The Morse Family! They once lived in Texas. Now Dr. Audra Morse (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Dr. Steve Morse (Department of Mechanical Engineering) make their home at Michigan Tech.

Dr. Morse, when did you first get into engineering? What sparked your interest?

I chose to pursue engineering because I like science. I knew I did not want to be a doctor or a nurse. I did not think a biology or chemistry degree was for me. Engineering allowed me to combine my love of science with math, and make a difference in the world we live in.

Hometown, Family, Hobbies?

I grew up in Spring, Texas, which is just north of Houston. I attended Texas Tech and worked there before moving to Houghton. I have two boys and a wonderful husband. In my spare time I like to paint and walk my loving vizsla and a rowdy german short hair. My hero is Mary Poppins. 


Steve Kampe: Hey, there’s MSE in Your Golf Bag!

True or false: When it comes to golf, it’s not the swing that matters the most—it’s the materials used to make the club. (Ah, unfortunately, false.)


Steve Kampe shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 27 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

“The sporting goods industry has a history of using materials as an enticing means to market new products and breakthroughs,” says Steve Kampe, Franklin St. John Professor and Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech. “I’m always interested in what materials they uncover, and the marketing strategies they use.”

Kampe likes to use clubs in his golf bag as examples of how materials are designed, and how they work. “There’s fun in finding material science in everyday objects. Everything has to be made out of something,” adds Kampe. “The question is out of what—and how do we make it?”

“Where there are breakthroughs in new products and solutions, chances are an MSE is hard at work, often behind the scenes, at its root source,” says Steve Kampe, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Michigan Tech.

These are the questions engineers at Michigan Tech have been asking since the university’s founding in 1885, and the task that graduates from the (MSE) department have excelled at since its inception as one of the two founding departments at the Michigan School of Mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Back then, the department was known as Metallurgy, and its focus was on ways to extract valuable metals, such as copper or iron, from their naturally occurring states within minerals and underground deposits.  

Today, the discipline of materials science and engineering finds ways to use the fundamental physical origins of a material’s behavior in order to optimize its properties. “The invention of a new material could turn out to be a vital part of the solution to many of the challenges we now face,” notes Kampe.

“Since the beginning of recorded history, materials have been used to define our civilizations—and the evolutionary milestones associated with quality of life,” he explains.

“From the stone age to the bronze and iron ages, the materials and the human innovations that addressed the world’s challenges during those time periods, have been inextricably linked. Even today, our ability to address global challenges are heavily reliant on the materials that define our current generation,” he says.

“A lot hinges on the wisdom we possess in implementing in use of materials, and, increasingly, in their re-use.”

Contemporary materials science engineers (MSE’s) not only work with metals and alloys, but also with ceramics and glasses, and with polymers and elastomers. They work with composites, materials for electronic, magnetic and optical applications, and many other emerging materials and processes such as 2-D graphene, nanomaterials and biomaterials. Emerging materials include those for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing), smart materials, specialized sensors, and more.

A ceramic crucible in the Michigan Tech Foundry, containing molten
iron at approx. 1200°C.

“For example, MSEs are prominent in the conception and development of new battery technologies, as well as new lightweight materials that make cars and airplanes more fuel-efficient and reduce their CO2 footprint. MSEs are also involved in the development of new materials for the hydrogen economy, photovoltaics for sustainable solar energy, and materials that can convert kinetic energy into electrical and/or magnetic energy.

“The materials we use in our lives have a huge impact on our long term quality of life—and a huge impact on our ability to someday attain a circular economy and a sustainable world,” adds Kampe.

“Right now, today, we have the tools and data we need to make more intelligent decisions about the materials we use⁠ — to decide which materials, even some not yet invented, that would make the biggest difference. Our goal is to reduce or eliminate our dependence on unsustainable solutions.”

Despite its central importance to all engineering endeavors, MSE as a discipline is relatively small compared to other engineering disciplines such as mechanical, electrical, civil, and chemical engineering. 

Polished surface of ductile cast iron. Micrograph by MSE graduate Dan Frieberg.

“It’s one of the best aspects of being an MSE,” says Kampe. “Class sizes are small, so students are able to build strong networks with classmates, faculty, staff—and with like-minded colleagues from other universities and companies from around the world. Our small size also enables collaborative environments with lots of personal interaction and one-on-one mentoring.”

Not only is Kampe a member of the Michigan Tech faculty, he is also an alumnus, earning a Bachelor’s, Master’s and a PhD in Metallurgical Engineering, all from Michigan Tech. He joined academia after working in the corporate research laboratory for a major aerospace company where scientists and engineers developed new products and technologies for the company’s future. He spent 17 years as an MSE professor at Virginia Tech, before coming full circle back to Michigan Tech.

Microstructure of demagnetized neodymium iron boron (Nd2Fe14B) alloy showing magnetic domain contrast within individual grains; an optical micrograph using polarized illumination. Micrograph by MSE graduate Matt Tianen.


At Michigan Tech, the MSE department manages the university’s suite of scanning electron and transmission electron microscopes, including a unique, high resolution scanning transmission FEI Titan Themis, which all students use, even as undergraduates.

Can you guess what this is? Hint: it’s not a snowflake. A dendrite in an as-cast Zn-Ag alloy. Micrograph by Ehsan Mostaed, post-doctoral research associate.


Have you ever put one of your own golf clubs under a high-powered microscope? Would you ever allow a student, a Michigan Tech alum, or even a community member to do something like that?

Sure. Bring one in. We’ll chop it up and take a good look at it.

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

I grew up in Williamston, outside of East Lansing, downstate Michigan. My dad had degrees in agricultural and mechanical engineering, so life on Trailmark Farm was pretty much a hands-on engineering operation. For as long as I can remember, getting an engineering degree was pretty much a given for me—I just didn’t know where it would be from. My two older brothers went to Michigan Tech for engineering and really liked it, so Tech became the obvious destination for me, too. My individuality was manifested by my choice to pursue metallurgical engineering, which has close ties to chemistry and the sciences, my favorite subjects in high school. Perhaps I was also influenced by all the fracture surfaces I created during my time growing up on the farm.

Family and Hobbies?

All four siblings in my family (two brothers, a sister, and me) went to Tech. From those original four, there have been eight additional Huskies from the Kampe clan—three spouses including Associate Provost Jean Kampe; our son, Frank (BS Marketing); a niece and nephew, and two first cousins.

I enjoy spending time outdoors hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and especially tending to the chores on the small farm up near Quincy Mine in Hancock where Jean and I live— growing flowers and harvesting the fruit. In winter, I follow the Huskies, both hockey and basketball. I also skate twice a week in (faculty-rich) hockey gatherings.

And yes, I enjoy golfing but have been denied this passion for the past few years due to a prolonged shoulder injury.

Read more

Universities the World Needs: Michigan Tech MSE
Keys to a Unique Nameplate
Advanced Metalworks Enterprise
MakerMSE


Remembering Roger Kieckhafer


By Glen Archer, Interim Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Roger cared deeply for his students, his family, and his profession. I think that may be the source we can draw upon to comfort our own sense of sadness and grief. The impact he had on hundreds of lives will shine on.

Professor Roger Kieckhafer was an inventor, engineer, researcher, educator, veteran and valued faculty member at Michigan Technological University. He died on Friday, July 17 in a tragic vehicle-bicycle accident. He was 69.

The loss to the faculty and staff in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the College of Engineering is immense. We will not recover quickly from the shock of his death.

Roger received his Bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1974 and earned his Master’s and PhD in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1982 and 1983, respectively. The years between were spent in service to the United States Navy as a Nuclear Officer aboard the Trident missile submarine USS Abraham Lincoln. He also supervised the construction of the USS Indianapolis. His time in industry was also well spent, producing several patents that were licensed to Allied Signal, now Honeywell Corporation.

Roger was fond of classical music, particularly opera, and sang in the Copper Country Chorale, often accompanied by his daughter, Maggie, on organ. He also sang in the prestigious Pine Mountain Music Festival, including the premiere of the opera Rockland, based on the story of the 1906 miner strike in Rockland, Michigan.

Roger was instrumental in creating the computer engineering degree program at Michigan Tech. Working with Linda Ott in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Sciences and Arts, he bridged the gap between two departments in two separate colleges, crafting a program that educated hundreds—a new breed of engineer steeped in both worlds.

Even after the development of the computer engineering program, Roger’s collaboration with the Department of Computer Science continued. “We worked together on a strategic hiring initiative, multiple curricular issues, reorganization discussions and countless other issues,” said Dr. Linda Ott, Chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Roger was always supportive. He clearly believed that we would have stronger programs working together rather than competing.”

Roger was a strong advocate for the ABET accreditation process in the ECE department. He led the initial ABET accreditation of the Computer Engineering program. The procedures and processes he set in place then are still in play nearly 20 years later, guiding the department’s subsequent accreditation for both its electrical engineering and computer engineering degrees.

In the words of Computer Engineering faculty member Kit Cischke, “For Roger, it always boiled down to what was best for our students. The content of our classes. The things our students needed to know to get good jobs. The assignments. The kinds of things they needed to do in the real world. Students were forever contacting Roger after graduation, saying, ‘Thanks for teaching me that. I’m using it every day in my job.’”

Over the past few days, Roger’s former students have reached out to express their grief and sadness. They have shared how much Roger meant to them during their time at Michigan Tech and how well he prepared them for the success they enjoy today. One of those students was Joseph Rabaut. In his words, “I can’t tell you how devastated I am. Dr. Kieckhafer was an amazing person and one of the best professors at Tech. He helped me a lot throughout the past few years, giving me advice and recommendations, and helping me understand computer engineering. I don’t really know what else to say, because words can’t really describe losing him.”

Roger cared deeply for his students, his family, and his profession. I think that may be the source we can draw upon to comfort our own sense of sadness and grief. The impact he had on hundreds of lives will shine on.

As we move forward, his legacy will live on. As suggested by several people, a scholarship fund will be set up in Roger’s memory.

Roger is survived by his wife, Patricia Kieckhafer; son, Alexander Kieckhafer (Mallika Lavakumar) and thoroughly adored granddaughters, Ananya Kieckhafer and Ishani Kieckhafer of Cleveland, Ohio; daughter, Katherine Kieckhafer of Boston, Massachusetts; and Maggie Kieckhafer (Tahmoures Tabatabaei) of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Roger’s obituary can be read here.

If you have memories of Dr. Roger Kieckhafer, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.


Joe Foster: Through the Looking Glass! Geospatial Wizardry

Joe Foster shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, July 13 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

What if you had a high-tech job, but spent your work day outside, enjoying nature and fresh air each day? If you like computing, and the great outdoors, you need to learn more about what it takes to become a geospatial engineer.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech. He teaches courses in the elements of land surveying. He has served as a Principal for successful Land Surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects. “I’m also an old Michigan Tech alum, with a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, and a second Bachelor’s degree in Surveying, both from Michigan Tech,” he notes.

Joe Foster is a professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech.

Studying geospatial engineering is both an adventure and a learning experience, says Foster. A lot of learning⁠—and geospatial wizardry⁠—takes place outdoors, in the field.

“Surveyors are experts at measuring,” Foster explains. “A myriad of equipment have been used over the years to accomplish the task, tools of the trade, so to speak. Over time, Surveying has evolved to become more, known now as Geospatial Engineering.”

Surveyors, now known as Geospatial Engineers, measure the physical features of the Earth with great precision and accuracy, calculating the position, elevation, and property lines of parcels of land. They verify and establish land boundaries and are key players in the design and layout of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, cell phone towers, pipelines, and wind farms.

And they are in demand. “There is an ongoing need for Surveyors,” says Foster. “Jobs are open and can’t be filled fast enough. We have a great need for those with an interest and aptitude for the profession.”

All land-based engineering projects begin with surveying to locate structures on the ground,” says Foster. Numerous industries rely on the geospatial data and products that geospatial engineers provide. With advances in technology, the need is increasing, too⁠—from architectural firms, engineering firms, government agencies, real estate agencies, mining companies and others.

Geospatial engineering students at Michigan Tech use satellite technology GPS and GIS to determine locations and boundaries.

Out in the field, Geospatial Engineers peer “through the looking glass” using numerous tools. “Robotic total stations, GPS receivers, scanners, LiDAR, and UAVs only scratch the surface of what is available in the toolbox,” says Foster.

Three theodolites on campus at Michigan Tech

Advances in GPS technology have led to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for mapping, as well as geospatial data capture and visualization technologies. Geospatial engineers also use virtual reality integration, Structure from Motion (a technique which utilizes a series of 2-dimensional images to reconstruct the 3-dimensional structure of a scene or object, similar to LiDAR), and unmanned aerial vehicle systems (drones). At Michigan Tech, students learn to use these tools, too.

Geospatial engineering students choose from two concentrations, says Foster. “Professional Surveying prepares students to become state-licensed professional surveyors. Students learn to locate accurate real property boundaries, conduct data capture of the natural/man-made objects on the Earth’s surface⁠—and conduct digital mapping for use in design or planning.” 

Geospatial engineers use drones, too.

The second concentration is Geoinformatics. “Students learn to manage large volumes of digital geo-information that can be stored, manipulated, visualized, analyzed, and shared,” he adds. “Students use more Geographic Information Science (GIS) tools, remote sensing, big data acquisition, and cloud computing.”

Do you love math + computing+ the great outdoors? Geospatial engineering combines all those things.

Once you’re working as a geospatial engineer, you could end up using both concentrations. “Land surveying and geographic information systems (GIS) are complementary tools,” he says.

Foster is excited about the growth of opportunities in the profession. During his own career, Foster worked as a principal for successful land surveying companies in both Minnesota and Michigan, directing and overseeing a wide range of projects, including boundary, county remonumentation, and cadastral (USDA-FS) retracement surveys; topographic, site planning, and flood plain surveys; mine surveys (surface and underground); plats and subdivisions; and both conventional and GPS control surveys. He’s managed contracts with the USDA-Forest Service, mining companies in Northern Minnesota, the State of Michigan, and more. 

Foster is also a member of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS). At Michigan Tech, he’s advisor to the Douglass Houghton Student Chapter of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (DHSC). Last year the group continued their tradition with the annual General Land Office (GLO) Workshop. Sponsored by DHSC and conducted by Pat Leemon, PS, retired U.S. Forest Surveyor from the Ottawa National Forest, it is a search/perpetuation of an original GLO corner. “That’s a once in a lifetime experience for a Surveyor,” says Foster.

Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County. Getting there will take you on the highest above sea-level drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. The peak is the highest point in Michigan.

When did you first get into surveying? What sparked your interest?

I first got interested in Surveying while studying forestry at Michigan Tech.  Surveying was one of the courses in the program. That’s where I learned there could be an entire profession centered on surveying alone.  I was hooked.  It incorporated everything I had come to enjoy about forestry; working outside, using sophisticated equipment, drafting, and actually putting all the math I had learned to practical use. After earning my first bachelor’s degree in Forestry, I decided to get a second bachelor’s degree in Surveying and to pursue that as my career.  

Tell us about your growing up. What do you do for fun?

I was born and raised in Michigan and have worked in the forest product industry and surveying profession for over 25 years. Work has taken me to just about every corner of Northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Copper Country. I came to know my wife, Kate at Fall Camp at Alberta, at Michigan Tech’s Ford Forestry Center. We made our home in the Keweenaw, where we both have strong family ties.

Lake Superior is our first love, and one that we share. Here’s a little known fact….Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area in the entire United States, with 541 square miles of land and 5,425 square miles of water. Nearly 90 percent of Keweenaw County is under the surface of Lake Superior!


Janet Callahan Named ASEE Fellow

Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering and professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Technological University, was initiated on June 24, 2020 as a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education.

A global society founded in 1893, ASEE is the preeminent authority on the education of engineering professionals, advancing innovation, excellence and access at all levels of education for the engineering profession.

Callahan was cited for contributions to ASEE and the engineering education community via outstanding leadership, educational scholarship, teaching effectiveness and championing diversity and inclusion within the community. Callahan has (co)authored over 50 ASEE and education publications. She has served in numerous positions in the society, contributes to multiple divisions, and currently serves as Chair of the Women in Engineering Division. 

“I am pleased and honored to join a distinguished community of ASEE Fellows who support engineering education and who have dedicated their careers in support of that purpose,” said Callahan. 

Callahan is among 9 fellows selected this year. The grade of fellow in ASEE is reserved for members with extraordinary qualifications and experience in engineering or engineering technology education or an allied field who have made important individual contributions. No more than one-tenth of one percent of individual ASEE membership may be elected fellow in any given year.


Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and Dean

Embarking soon on your college career? Or, still pondering embarking? Then this is for you. A free, interactive Zoom short course , “Tips and Tricks from Three Chairs and a Dean,” starts this Tuesday (July 7).

“We’ve added an extra chair, so now it is technically “Tips and Tricks from Four Chairs and a Dean,” says Janet Callahan, dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University. “We’ve created this short course for future college students. Both precollege students, and anyone who might be still be just considering going to college,” Callahan. “We want to give students leg up, and so we’re going to show all the tips and tricks we wish someone had shown us, back when we were starting out. That includes helpful strategies to use with your science and engineering coursework, as well as physics, chemistry, and math.”

The first Tips and Tricks session began on Tuesday, July 7 via Zoom at 6pm EST. If you missed it, no problem. Feel free to join the group during any point along the way. Catch recordings at mtu.edu/huskybites if you happen to miss one.

Each session will run for about 20 minutes, plus time for Q&A each Tuesday in July. The next is July 14, then July 21, and July 28. You can register here.

The series kicked off with Dean Janet Callahan and Brett Hamlin, interim chair of the Department of Engineering Fundamentals (July 7 – Tips and Tricks from Three, no, Four Chairs and a Dean).

Next up is John Gierke, past chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (July 14 – Reverse Engineering: How Faculty Prepare Exam Problems).

Then comes Glen Archer, interim chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (July 21 – Tips for the TI-89).

Last but not least is Audra Morse, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (July 28 – Two Triangles Don’t Make a Right).

“Even some middle school students, eighth grade and up, will find it helpful and useful,” adds Callahan. “Absolutely everyone is welcome. After each session, we’ll devote time to Q&A, too. I really hope you can join us, and please invite a friend!”

Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.


Jeremy Bos: What’s next after FIRST?

“This could be you,” says Michigan Tech ECE assistant professor Jeremy Bos. “Our AutoDrive team brought home the second most trophies at competition last year.”

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

FIRST®. You might know it as First Robotics—an international organization dedicated to motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology. Founder and inventor Dean Kamen describes FIRST as “using robots to build kids. “It’s not about the robots,” he said. “FIRST is transforming the way kids see the world.”

FIRST now has more than 67,000 teams around the world, and has given over $80 million in college scholarships. At Michigan Tech, at last count, there are close to fifty FIRST scholarship recipients.

So, for high school seniors now embarking on their college careers, what’s next after FIRST? How do you enter the field of robotics?

What’s more, how do you know if robotics could be the right career for you?

Jeremy Bos: “When I have time I bike, ski, hike, kayak, and stargaze. I spend time with my dog, Rigel, on the Tech Trails nearly every day.”

“Many first year students considering engineering, science, and technology are introduced to these fields from FIRST robotics and similar high school competitions,” says Jeremy Bos, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. “In fact, one of the most common questions I hear from new students is ‘What is there at Michigan Tech that’s like FIRST?’ and ‘What major should I choose to have a career in robotics?’”.

Bos is a Michigan Tech alum, having earned his BS in Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2000 and his PhD in Electrical Engineering and Optics in 2012. He worked at GM on short range wireless product development, and spent several years at the Air Force Research Laboratory on Maui before coming back to Tech as an assistant professor.

Like most things in life there is no one answer that applies to everyone, says Bos. He helps students take their FIRST-inspired passion for robotics and find a place for it Michigan Tech. “What are your affinities? Knowing those, I can help point you in the right direction,” he says.

“One thing I can do is to share an overview of careers in robotics.” says Bos. Hint: it involves the “M’s” the “E’s” and the “C’s”. (Listen to the overview during his live session on Husky Bites to learn more, or catch the Zoom video later.)

Bos is advisor and manager of several robot platforms on campus, including the Robotic Systems Enterprise team, part of Michigan Tech’s award-winning Enterprise program. “It’s one of the best places on campus to learn robotics,” says Bos.

The team’s many projects come in many shapes and sizes, from designing a vision system for work with a robotic arm, to an automatic power management system for weather buoys. Clients include Ford Motor Company and Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.

In 2010, as an electrical engineering PhD student at Michigan Tech, Bos organized the investigation of the Paulding Light mystery, working with students in the University’s student chapter of SPIE, the international society of optics and photonics. “We were looking for a project that would be both fun and educational. I thought, ‘What about the Paulding Light?’”

“We use more than just the skills and talents of computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering majors,” adds Bos “All majors are welcome in the enterprise.”

The team’s main focus is the SAE AutoDrive Challenge, where college teams compete to develop and demonstrate a fully autonomous driving passenger vehicle. Michigan Tech is one of eight universities selected to participate in the 3-year AutoDrive Challenge, sponsored and hosted by GM and SAE International.

Bos mentors the AutoDrive team of 40 undergraduate and graduate students along with Darrell Robinette, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics.

The team out started with a Chevy Bolt, named it Prometheus Borealis, and then turned it into a competition vehicle outfitted it with sensors, control systems and computer processors so that it could navigate an urban driving course in automated driving mode.

The team took Prometheus Borealis on a trip to GM’s Desert Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona in 2018 for an on-site evaluation in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge.
A closer look at some of the LiDAR hardware atop Prometheus Borealis. LiDAR = Light Imaging Detecting and Radar
Snow tires + winter weather = data for the Michigan Tech SAE AutoDrive Challenge team. “Roughly, this is an overhead perspective shot of the what the LiDAR mounted on Prometheus Borealis ‘sees’. The car is not visible but is at the center of the image heading north on US-41 from the Houghton Memorial Airport towards the town of Calumet,” Bos explains. “The clutter visible on the left of the image near the center/car is caused by snow. The ‘V’ notch in the center/top of the image is a dead zone caused by ice build up on the front on the LiDAR unit, a problem we’ve been working to solve.”


Bos accompanies students to the SAE AutoDrive Challenge competitions.
The next one is coming up this October in East Liberty, Ohio. Teams are judged in a variety of areas—Object Detection, Localization, MathWorks, and Simulation, to name a few. His expertise in autonomous vehicles and vehicular networks, as well as industrial automation and controls makes Bos an ideal mentor for the students.

My own contribution to this effort is called ‘Autonomy at the End of the Earth.’ My research focuses on the operation of autonomous vehicles in hazardous weather. Specifically, the ice and snow we encounter on a daily basis between November and April.

Jeremy Bos


Bos says he is excited about the brand new Robotics Engineering degree program at Michigan Tech. It will be offered for the first time this fall in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Robotics Engineering will cover all the skills you need for developing autonomous vehicles. It’s a unique set of skills now in heavy demand, with a little bit of everything—all the letters (M’s, E’s and C’s) and a little bit more—with a focus on learning the cutting edge.”

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

My Dad ran a turn-key industrial automation and robotics business throughout most of my childhood. In fact, I got my first job at age 12 when I was sequestered at home with strep throat. I felt fine, but couldn’t go to school. My Dad put me to work writing programs for what I know now are Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs); the ‘brains’ of most industrial automation systems.

Later, I was involved with Odyssey of the Mind and Science Olympiad. I also really liked these new things called ‘personal computers’ and spent quite a bit of time programming them. By the time I was in high school I was teaching classes at the local library on computer building, repair, and this other new thing called ‘The Internet’. A career in STEM was a certainty. I ended up in engineering because I like to build things (even if only on a computer) and I like to solve problems (generally with computers and math).

Tell us about your growing up. What do you do for fun?

I was born in Santa Clara, California just as Silicon Valley was starting to be a thing. I grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan where I graduated from high school and then went to Michigan Tech for my undergraduate degree. I liked it so much I came back twice. I now live in Houghton with my wife, and fellow alumna, Jessica (STC ’00). We have a boisterous dog, Rigel, named after a star in the constellation Orion, who bikes or skis with me on the Tech trails nearly every day.

When I have time I also like to kayak, and stargaze. I’ve even tried my hand at astrophotography at Michigan Tech’s AMJOCH Observatory. It’s a telescope, but hopefully, soon it will be a robot, too.

Learn more:

Look Ma, No Driver

Huskies Hit the Road

Creativity and Cool Gizmos: Dean Kamen at Michigan Tech

Just in time for Halloween, Michigan Tech Students Solve the Mystery of the Paulding Light

It’s Out There, Return of the Paulding Light


Aleksey Smirnov is the new Chair of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Aleksey Smirnov is the new chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that Aleksey Smirnov has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, beginning July 1, 2020.

Smirnov joined Michigan Tech as an assistant professor of geophysics in 2007, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Plate Tectonics and Global Geophysics, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, and Fundamentals of Applied and Environmental Geophysics. 

His research interests include the long-term evolution of the Earth’s magnetic field and its geological and geodynamical implications. Deciphering the early history of our planet—including the early history of its geomagnetic field—represents one of the great challenges in Earth science.

Smirnov seeks to substantially increase the amount of reliable data on the Precambrian field by applying new experimental approaches to investigate the fossil magnetism of well-dated igneous rocks around the globe. He also investigates geodynamics and global plate tectonics, magnetism of rocks, minerals, and synthetic materials, environmental magnetism, and develops new techniques and instruments for paleomagnetic and rock magnetic research. His work on the early magnetic field history has been supported by several NSF grants including a 2012 CAREER award. 

“I am delighted that Dr. Smirnov will be Chair of GMES and looking forward to him joining the leadership team of the college,” states Dean Janet Callahan. “His experience as a faculty member and long-term perspective of the department will be something he can strongly leverage as he works to grow the research profile of the department and student enrollment.”

Professor John Gierke led the department as chair for two terms, or six years. “We are grateful for Dr. Gierke’s leadership,” says Callahan. He is also a tremendous teacher and researcher, and is looking forward to giving both his full attention once again.”

After receiving his BS in Geophysics from Saint-Petersburg State University (Russia) in 1987, and his PhD in Geophysics from the University of Rochester in 2002, Smirnov conducted postdoctoral studies at the University of Rochester, and at Yale University. At Michigan Tech, he is also affiliated with the Department of Physics.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

Our University has been renowned for its geophysical research, including my own field of paleomagnetism, for many years. The opportunity for collaboration with such an accomplished academic community played an important role in my decision. In addition, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the surrounding regions have a rich geologic history with some of the oldest rocks on Earth. This makes it a prime geological location to study the evolution of the early Earth’s geomagnetic field, which is one of my main research interests. After 13 fruitful years at Michigan Tech, I know I made the right choice. 

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

I have established a robust research program that involves worldwide collaborations and has yielded some important results. However, the most enjoyable part of both my scientific research and classroom teaching at Michigan Tech has been my interaction with students. My research activities provide excellent opportunities for student research and academic instruction, and I have been able to work together with very talented graduate and undergraduate students. 

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair?

I envision a vibrant and diverse department that is nationally and internationally recognized for its excellence in education and research. I intend to assure our position as a proactive, efficient, and respected participant in the efforts of both the College and the University as we strive towards our shared strategic goals, including student enrollment, research, diversity, and external recognition.

Our department has evolved over time to meet the needs of our ever-changing world, but it has been and remains an integral part of Michigan Tech since its foundation in 1885. As chair, I will be honored to uphold this legacy of excellence and distinction into the future.


John Irwin is New Chair of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech

John Irwin stands at the front of a class with white board in the background. He wears a red and white checked shirt, and he is smiling at the class.
Professor John Irwin, new chair of the MMET department at Michigan Technological University, teaches a course in Product Design and Development on campus last fall.

The College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University is pleased to announce that John Irwin has accepted the position of chair of the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology beginning July 1, 2020. 

John Irwin is a professor and served as associate chair of the MMET department this past year with Materials Science and Engineering Professor Walt Milligan, who was interim chair during the department’s transition from the School of Technology to the College of Engineering.

“I am looking forward to Dr. Irwin’s leadership in the department of MMET. This is one of our strongest hands-on programs, graduating strongly qualified, highly sought graduates,” stated College of Engineering Dean Janet Callahan. “Dr. Irwin’s extensive experience with continuous improvement of academic programs through ABET is a strong asset he brings to the department.”

Irwin has taught many courses in the MET program. Most recently, courses in Parametric Modeling, Statics and Strength of Materials, Product Design and Development, CAE and FEA Methods, Computer-aided Manufacturing, and Senior Design. 

His research interests include problem-based learning methods applied in the areas of CAD/CAM, static and dynamic model simulation, and product and manufacturing work cell verification. Dr. Irwin is also an affiliate professor with the Department of Cognitive Learning and Sciences, and Director of the Research and Innovation in STEAM Education (RISE) Institute at Michigan Tech. 

Irwin earned an AAS Mechanical Design Engineering Technology from Michigan Tech in 1982, a BS in Technical Education at Ferris State University in 1984, an MS in Occupational Education at Ferris State University in 1992, and a EdD in Curriculum and Instruction at Wayne State University in 2005. 

Irwin is a former collegiate cross country and track & field letter winner, and later competed as a company sponsored triathlete. Later he continued his athletic interests as a cross country coach for Mott Community College. John continues to run, swim and bike as an activity.

What first brought you to Michigan Tech?

I came to Michigan Tech from Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, where I was a professor of design engineering technology. After earning a doctorate, I was interested in seeking a University position in engineering technology and/or STEM education. Fortunately, at that time there was a faculty opening in Michigan Tech’s School of Technology. As a graduate of Michigan Tech I had ties to the UP, and also family close to Houghton. Both things impacted my decision, but the high quality reputation of a Michigan Tech education is mainly what brought me here.

What are you hoping to accomplish as chair of the MMET department?

I’ve got an in-depth familiarity with the faculty and staff, having been an MET faculty member since 2006. We want to create a sustainable approach to funding capstone projects through industry relations, seek out advanced manufacturing research opportunities, facilitate the development of faculty-led multidisciplinary research projects, support continued program assessment accreditation procedures, and increase degree options for students. Maintaining the quality and services of the MMET Machine Shop is integral to reaching our goals.     

What do you enjoy most about your research and teaching?

Working with students in their senior capstone design sequence courses provides me with an instant reward as a faculty member. I greatly enjoy advising and facilitating the engineering problem-solving process. For many students, the senior project is their first opportunity to manage a project budget, work in a team for more than just a few weeks, and attempt to provide the project deliverables. Most rewarding of all is to hear from students after they’ve graduated, and find they are well established in successful careers as engineers. 

My research is very interconnected with my teaching. Specifically, I enjoy studying the use of simulations to better understand difficult-to-describe concepts, those that will benefit teaching and learning, and have a positive impact on industry in the long term. It is also especially wonderful to introduce many K-12 teachers to engineering concepts, and then see them apply those concepts in their classrooms.


Daisuke Minakata: Scrubbing Water

Daisuke Minakata shares his knowledge on Husky Bites, a free, interactive webinar this Monday, June 29 at 6 pm EST. Learn something new in just 20 minutes, with time after for Q&A! Get the full scoop and register at mtu.edu/huskybites.

Do you trust your tap water? It’s regulated, but exactly how is tap water treated? And what about wastewater? Is it treated to protect the environment? 

Daisuke Minakata, an associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University, studies the trace organic chemicals in our water. He’s also developing a tool municipalities can use to remove them.

Dr. Daisuke Minakata: “In high school I learned that environmental engineers can be leaders who help solve the Earth’s most difficult sustainability and environmental problems. That’s when I decided to become an engineer.”

“Anthropogenic chemicals—the ones resulting from the influence of human beings—are present in water everywhere,” he says. And not just a few. Hundreds, even thousands of different ones. Of particular concern are Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), an emerging groups of contaminants.

Most water treatment facilities around the country were not designed to remove synthetic organic chemicals like those found in opioids, dioxins, pesticides, flame retardants, plastics, and other pharmaceutical and personal care products, says Minakata.

This affects natural environmental waters like the Great Lakes, and rivers and streams. These pollutants have the potential to harm fish and wildlife—and us, too.

To solve this problem, Minakata investigates the effectiveness of two of the most widely used removal methods: reverse osmosis (RO), and advanced oxidation process (AOP).

PFAS foam is toxic and sticky. If you happen see it, do not touch it, or if you do come in contact, be sure to wash it off. Keep pets away from it, too.

“RO is a membrane-based technology. It separates dissolved contaminants from water,” Minakata explains. “AOPs are oxidation technologies that destroy trace organic chemicals.” Both RO and AOP are highly advanced water and wastewater treatment processes. They are promising, he says, but not yet practical. 

“The very idea of using an RO and AOPs for each trace organic chemical is incredibly daunting. It would be extremely time consuming and expensive,” he says. 

Instead, Minakata and his research team at Michigan Tech, along with collaborators at the University of New Mexico, have developed a model for predicting the rejection mechanisms of hundreds of organic chemicals through different membrane products at different operational conditions. Their project was funded by the WateReuse Research Foundation

“The rejection mechanisms of organic chemicals by RO are extremely complicated—but the use of computational chemistry tools helped us understand the mechanisms,” says Minakata. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a tool that can predict the fate of chemicals through RO at full-scale, so that water utilities can design and operate an RO system whenever a newly identified chemical becomes regulated.”

Reverse osmosis (RO) at a water treatment demonstration plant in California. Credit Daisuke Minakata
Advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) at the same California water treatment demonstration plant, above. Credit: Daisuke Minakata.

To understand and predict how trace organic chemicals degrade when destroyed in AOPs, Minakata works with a second collaborator, Michigan Tech social scientist Mark Rouleau. They use computational chemistry, experiments, and sophisticated modeling.

Water reuse, aka reclaimed water, is the use of treated municipal wastewater for beneficial purposes including irrigation, industrial uses, and even drinking water.

“Solving this problem is especially critical for the benefit of communities in dry, arid regions of the world, because of the urgent need for water reuse in those places,” says Minakata. Water reuse, aka reclaimed water, is the use of treated municipal wastewater for beneficial purposes including irrigation, industrial uses, and even drinking water. It’s also the way astronauts at the International Space Station get their water. (Note: Minakata will explain how it works during his session of Husky Bites.)

Dr. Daisuke Minakata does a lot of work in one of the nation’s top undergraduate teaching labs, the Environmental Process Simulation Center, right here on campus at Michigan Tech.

Over the past few years Minakata’s research team has included nine undergraduate research assistants, all supported either through their own research fellowships or Minakata’s research grants.

In his classes, Minakata invites students to come see him if they are interested in undergraduate research within “the first two minutes of my talk.” For many, those first few minutes have become life changing and in the words of one student who longed to make a difference, “a dream come true.”

By encouraging and enabling undergraduate students to pursue research, Dr. Minakata is helping to develop a vibrant intellectual community among the students in the College of Engineering.

Dean Janet Callahan, College of Engineering, Michigan Tech

Minakata is a member of Michigan Tech’s Sustainable Futures Institute and the Great Lakes Research Center. In addition to being a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, he is also an affiliated associate professor in both the Department of Chemistry and Department of Physics. Be sure to check out Dr. Minakata’s website, too.

“I never get tired of looking at this image,” says Daisuke Minakata, an associate professor of environmental engineering at Michigan Tech.

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

I loved watching a beautiful image of planet Earth, one with a very clear sky and blue water, during my high school days. However, as I began to learn how life on Earth suffers many difficult environmental problems, including air pollution and water contamination, I also learned that environmental engineers can be leaders who help solve the Earth’s most difficult sustainability problems. That is when I decided to become an engineer.

In my undergraduate curriculum, the water quality and treatment classes I took were the toughest subjects to get an A. I had to work the hardest to understand the content. So, naturally, I decided to enter this discipline as I got to know about water engineering more. And then, there’s our blue planet, the image. Water makes the Earth look blue from space.

Tell us about your growing up. What do you do for fun?

I was born and raised in Japan. I came to the U.S. for the first time as a high school exchange student, just for one month. I lived in Virginia, in a place called Silverplate, a suburb of D.C. I went to Thomas Jefferson Science and Technology High School, which was the sister school of my Japanese high school, and one of the nation’s top scientific high schools. And I did like it. This triggered my study abroad dream. I was impressed by the US high school education system in the US. It’s one that never just looks for the systematic solution, but values process/logic and discussion-based classes.

So, while in college, during my graduate studies, I took a one year leave from Kyoto University in Japan and studied at U Penn (University of Pennsylvania) as a visiting graduate student for one year. Finally, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in order to get a PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology. I accepted my position at Michigan Tech in 2013.

I’m now a father of two kids. Both are Yoopers, born here in the UP of Michigan. My wife and I really enjoy skiing (downhill and cross country) with the kids each winter. 

Summing it all up, so far I’ve lived in Virginia (1 month), Philly in Pennsylvania while going to U Penn (1 year), Phoenix in Arizona to start my PhD (3.5 years), and Atlanta in Georgia to complete my PhD and work as a research engineer (5 years). Then finally in Houghton, Michigan (7 years). I do like all the cities I have lived in. The place I am currently living is our two kids’ birthplace, and our real home. Of course it’s our favorite place, after our Japanese hometown.


Dr. Minakata: in Husky Bites, Dean Callahan will ask you to tell us about your dog!

Learn More:

Engineers Capture Sun in a Box

Break It Down: Understanding the Formation of Chemical Byproducts During Water Treatment

The Princess and the Water Treatment Problem