Tag Archives: CHEM-ENGG

New High School STEM Internship Program at Michigan Tech

Chris Adams working at a bench with Riley Stoppa
Biological sciences graduate student Chris Adams works in the GLRC fisheries lab with STEM intern Riley Stoppa.

A total of 13 high school students from throughout Michigan are participating in a 5-day internship at Michigan Tech July 15-19, 2019. Faculty and their graduate students voluntarily host the students in engaging research activities during the week. The faculty’s department, along with the College of Engineering and College of Sciences and Arts, together provide a $600 scholarship for the student that covers their transportation, lodging and meals.

The interns work with Michigan Tech faculty and graduate students in their research lab or doing field work outside. During the week, students tour the Michigan Tech campus and local area, ‘experience college living’ in a residence hall, and meet students from across Michigan and beyond!

In Dr. Parisa Abadi’s Mechanical Engineering Lab, students will be 3D printing nanomaterials. Dr. Tara Bal in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences (SFRES) will conduct invasive species monitoring and forest health assessments. Dr. Will Cantrell in Atmospheric Physics will have the intern investigating why some clouds rain, while others do not.

Dr. Daniel Dowden in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) has his intern investigating which technologies will allow buildings to sustain minimal damage and be easily repairable after large earthquakes. Four faculty–Drs. Deering, Waite, Oommen, and Gierke in Geological and Mining Sciences and Engineering are providing a broad introduction of mapping geological features, conducting geophysical surveys, and working to construct a 3-D model of a geological feature. Dr. Casey Huckins and graduate student–Chris Adams in Biological Sciences–are monitoring Pilgrim River and measuring the results of a fish survey in the lab. Dr. Daisuke Minakata in CEE and Dr. Paul Doskey in SFRES, along with graduate students, are researching innovative drinking water and wastewater treatment technologies.

Dr. Michael Mullins in the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) has his intern researching ways to remove PFAs contaminants from water. Dr. Rebecca Ong in ChE has her two interns investigating biofuel production from native grasses. Dr. Chelsea Schelly in the Department of Social Sciences and Dr. Robert Handler in the Sustainable Future Institute are measuring food, energy, and water consumption in residential homes and looking for ways to reduce household resource consumption. Dr. Kuilin Zhang and his graduate student Qinjie Lyu in CEE have their intern studying traffic data collection, traffic signal timing, eco-driving, and using traffic simulation software.

The program is coordinated by the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, in partnership with Summer Youth Program who provides logistical support and supervises the students in the residence halls in the evening.

Funding for the program is received from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, the College of Sciences and Arts, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, the Department of Chemical Engineering, the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, the Department of Biological Sciences, the Great Lakes Research Center, Youth Programs, and an anonymous donor.

The STEM internship program is coordinated by Joan Chadde at Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.


Mining Engineering Returns to Michigan Tech

A class of 14 Michigan Tech field geology students stand at the entrance of the Caledonia Mine, Ontonagon County, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Steve Chittick.
Michigan Tech field geology students stand at the entrance of the Caledonia Mine, Ontonagon County, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Steve Chittick.

Starting this summer, Michigan Technological University offers a new, multidisciplinary Mining Engineering degree program for graduate and undergraduate students.

Administered through the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, the multidisciplinary program includes core mining and geological engineering courses as well as classes from almost all of the departments in the College of Engineering.

“At Michigan Tech, it’s a part of our heritage, and it’s part of the future, too,” says Leonard Bohmann, associate dean of engineering. “There’s a definite need for mining engineers, now and into the future. We can help fill that need, which extends far beyond renewed local mining concerns,” he adds. “There’s a global need for mining engineers.”

Paige in the mine

“Complex endeavors require skilled people with the technical understanding and innovative mindset to design systems to safely address multifaceted challenges,” says John Gierke, GMES department chair. “To develop mineral resources in a socially and environmentally responsible manner, we need mining engineering professionals who are adept at solving complex problems.”

Back to the Future

Although the Michigan Mining School was created to train mining engineers in 1885, dwindling enrollments led to shelving the program 15 years ago. “Thanks to strong engagement from our alumni, coupled with the advancing digital revolution that is changing how the industry moves into the next generation, the foundation for reintroducing the mining engineering program at Michigan Tech allowed for its reinstatement,” says Gierke. “Sometimes, one does not fully appreciate what they have until it’s gone.”

Today, 134 years since its founding, students can pursue a degree in mining engineering at Michigan Tech to gain an understanding of the technical aspects of the mining industry and an appreciation for mining as a business; and an awareness of social-environmental issues and how these issues affect their roles as future professional engineers working for the general benefit of society.

Matt Portfleet shows safe rock drilling practices to geology major Elana Barth in the Adventure Mine. Photo courtesy of Matt Portfleet.
Matt Portfleet shows safe rock drilling practices to Michigan Tech geology major Elana Barth in the Adventure Mine in Greenland, Michigan. Photo courtesy of Matt Portfleet.

Mining engineering students learn about health and safety best practices from practitioners. They are involved in multidisciplinary, hands-on, and field-based courses; learning and research opportunities in exploration and resource development; complementary coursework in mineral processing and business; advanced technologies for mapping, exploration, and education; and advanced computing and data science for optimizing mine design and operations.

Across the entire country, now, only 14 mining engineering degree programs exist in the US. Michigan Tech offers students several important advantages. “Students will learn about mining engineering in a collaborative academic department that is home to non only mining engineering, but also geological engineering, geology, geophysics, and volcanology,” says Gierke. “Our expert faculty work together in applying and developing new technologies to better understand geologic processes—and better understand how to safely develop and manage Earth resources from discovery to closure.”

Aeromagnetic survey, courtesy of Michigan Tech alumnus Benjamin Drenth, '03. An aeromagnetic survey is a common type of geophysical survey carried out using a magnetometer aboard or towed behind an aircraft. The principle is similar to a magnetic survey carried out with a hand-held magnetometer, but allows much larger areas of the Earth's surface to be covered quickly.
Aeromagnetic survey, courtesy of Michigan Tech geological engineering alumnus Benjamin Drenth, ’03. A magnetometer is aboard or towed behind an aircraft. It is similar to a magnetic survey carried out with a hand-held magnetometer, but allows much larger areas of the Earth’s surface to be covered quickly.

“Another great advantage for our students is Michigan Tech’s location in Michigan’s historical Keweenawan native-copper district,” notes Gierke. “Our students will have an abundance of hands-on, learning opportunities in working mines,” he says.

“The new way of mining is more data intensive. For instance, drone mapping makes it easy and possible to map a pit every day, versus mapping a pit once or twice a year via surveying,” adds Gierke. “Our students will become adept and experienced with new technologies. We’ll be educating mining engineers of the future.”

Want more info on mining engineering at Michigan Tech? Learn more online.

 


Michigan Tech Alum Sirak Seyoum Attempts Mount Everest

Sirak Seyoum stands in front of what seems to be a massive crevasse on his climb up Mount Everest
Sirak Seyoum admires the dynamic Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest

This past spring Michigan Tech ECE alumnus Sirak Seyoum, an electrical engineer living in San Francisco, took time off his professional position at Cargill to climb Mount Everest. His goal: to become the first Ethiopian to conquer Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

As a young boy, Sirak Seyoum grew up in Gondar, Ethiopia, idolizing sports legends like soccer superstar Pelé and Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila. After discovering his own passion 11 years ago, Seyoum has been climbing mountain pretty much nonstop ever since, some more than once, about 21 in all. (Scroll down to the end of this post to see the full list.)

Seyoum and members of his rope team started their trek from Lukla to Everett Base Camp on April 5th. Their bid for the summit took place 41 days later. Starting at Camp 4 at 9pm on May 15th, the team climbed throughout the night. By 9:54 AM the next morning, Seyoum was just 200-300 meters from the summit of Everest, at 28,210 feet. “I could literally feel the summit and how beautiful it was, but obeyed the order from my Sherpa, telling me to go back down.”

Check out Seyoum’s Everest Power BI chart, to see the live data gathered from his Gen3 satellite device throughout his climb.

Now back home in the Bay Area, Seyoum is already preparing for next year. He’s planning to climb Everest once again, but this time via the north side in Tibet, China—a more challenging and difficult route.

A head and shoulders photo of Sirak with yellow tent behind him, at Everest Base Camp for the first time, sitting in the dining room.
At Everest Base Camp for the first time, sitting in the dining room.

Q: When did you first start to climb mountains?
I began climbing in 2008 while living in Las Vegas, Nevada. It started out with a small hike up a 5,000 ft. mountain after declining a coworker’s repeated invites and then finally accepting. I was hooked right away and spent every weekend hiking and climbing.

Q: Does being an engineer help you as a mountain climber? And how does being a mountain climber help you as an engineer?
Interesting question. Being an engineer helps support part of my mountain climbing with the necessary funds needed to train for such climbs. Being a mountain climber helps me purge thoughts, and sometimes great ideas come to life during my climbs.

Q: This year especially, there were many news reports about overcrowding on Mount Everest. What was your experience, and how might the problem best be solved?
Overcrowding has always been an issue over the years but what makes this year stand out most is the amount of inexperienced climbers and Sherpas. The combination of both together is deadly. This year there were only a few days to plan the summit bid, due to bad weather. Our team went for the summit during the coldest period of the 2019 season which didn’t attract most climbers hence traffic was minimal. The temps were at -40 degrees. The winds were estimated at 35-45 km/hr.

Q: Is descending the mountain harder than climbing up? Is there a greater risk of falling?
Very true. Descending is more challenging because of muscle loss and fatigue due to not having enough calories during the entire climb.

Q: During your bid for the summit, while climbing at night at such a high elevation, how did it feel?
The stars are way closer and the sky seems to be running out of room for them. What’s also incredible is that at Everett Base Camp, during the day when the sun is out, we could hear the melting of the glaciers all around us, sounding like a tropical island with a nearby stream or waterfall. In the evening, melting stops and sounds of avalanche cascade one after another throughout the night. It was incredible.

Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned by attempting Mount Everest?
Never ever stop supplementing your body with electrolytes, water, and energy bars (Ollybars) during and after climbing, especially on the summit bid day.

Q: What was the best part?
The views from Lhotse Face. Reaching Camp 4 with ease and feeling the summit.

Q: What was the biggest challenge?
Lhotse Face. Standing just below Hillary Step, feeling the peak and deciding to turn back around.

Q: You plan to climb next year, via the North side. How will you prepare⁠—mentally, emotionally, physically⁠—for this more difficult route?
Though every step of climbing via the south side was challenging in every way, I have learned a lot about my abilities, and most of all nutrition. My tolerance for high altitude was much higher than I expected, which provides me with a huge boost of mental confidence. The rest will come in line because the hardest part of training is the mental confidence.

Q: Anything more to add?
I would like to recognize and thank my sponsors, Walia and Ollybars. I’d also like to thank Brenda Rudiger, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Engagement at Michigan Tech, for mailing my MTU neck gator and MTU stickers. I have one showing on my mountaineering suit, top left side.

Seyoum’s conquest of some of the most challenging mountains around the world is testament to his level of fitness. Visit Sirak Seyoum’s Facebook page to read posts and watch videos from his climb of Mt. Everest, and learn more about his second attempt.

Last, but not least: While a little anxious, Seyoum’s mother, Dr. Fantaye Mekbeb is his number one fan. Seyoum’s father, Dr. Seyoum Taticheff, passed away in 2011 but was always proud and supportive of his son’s mountain climbing ambitions.

Crossing the Geneva Spu with oxygen mask onr, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Crossing the Geneva Spur, on exposed rocky sections. Around the bend is Camp 4.
Seyoum at Camp 2 holding up a big blue flag that says Walia prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum's climbing sponsors.
Seyoum at Camp 2 prior to heading up to Camp 3, and higher. Walia beer, a product of Heineken primarily sold in Ethiopia, was one of Seyoum’s climbing sponsors.
April 2019: Sirak Seyoum at High Camp Lobuche, Nepal
Sirak stands with backpack at Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, "Way to Everest Base Camp".
At Gorakshep, a small Himalayan Village at an elevation of about 16,942 ft. Note the iconic sign, “Way to Everest Base Camp”.
Sirak with heavy backpack n the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the trail, shortly after leaving Hotel Everest View at about 13,000 ft.
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, Seyoum takes a final selfie
On the way back down, at one of the many suspension bridges, a final selfie
Sirak Seyoum with fellow climbers Keval Kakka and Avtandil Tsintsadze in Lobuche, Nepal.
A previous climb: Sirak in the lead on Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Sirak Seyoum waves the Ethiopian flag atop Mt Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)
Atop 93 Mt. Chopicalqui, Peru (2015)

All the mountains (excluding Everest at 8,848 meters) Seyoum has climbed to date:

UNITED STATES
Mt. Rainier, WA, 4392 meters
Mt. Whitney, CA, 4421 meters
Mt. Shasta, CA, 4321 meters
Mt. Wilson, NV, 2056 meters
Mt. Charleston, NV, 2289 meters
Griffith Peak, NV, 3371 meters
Black Mountain, NV 5092 meters
Bridge Mountain, NV, 6955 meters
Mummy Mountain, NV 2264 meters
Rainbow Wall, Red Rock Canyon, NV

MEXICO
Nevada de Toluca, 4680 meters

NEPAL
Mt. Kalapathar, 5644 meters
Island Peak, 6189 meters
Lobuche East, 6119 meters

PERU
Mt. Chopicalqui, 6345 meters
Mt. Pisco5752 meters
Mt. Urus, 5423 meters
Mt. Ishinca, 5530 meters

ECUADOR
Mt. Cotopaxi, 5897 meters
Mt. Chimborazo, 6263 meters
Mt. Antisana, 5704 meters

 


Expanded Online Engineering Programs, Certificates, and Course Offerings

Using computer simulation to design new materials and guide new processing methods, a student sits at a computer with code on one screen and microimages of metallurgical materials on a big screen above.
Using computer simulation to design new materials and guide new processing methods.

Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering is expanding undergraduate and graduate online course offerings. This will enhance learning opportunities for undergraduate students who are off-campus for an internship or coop experience, and also significantly increase graduate level opportunities for learning new skills.

Lifelong learning and professional development are desired by many employers. Get a leg up on your career advancement or take courses to fulfill continuing education requirements. Learn more about what online programs are currently available and to apply for regular admissions or non-degree seeking graduate student status.

Available online course offerings exist in civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics. A sample of courses offered this Fall 2019 include MEEM5650 Advanced Quality Engineering, MEEM5655 Lean Manufacturing, CEE5212 Prestressed Concrete Design, EE5455 Cybersecurity Industrial Control Systems, and MSE5760 Vehicle Battery Cells and Systems.

A series of new graduate certificate offerings are under development, to be launched in 2020, including topics in Manufacturing, Industrial Applications and Practices, and more. These graduate certificates will typically have 9 or 10 credits, and can be “stacked” with each other over time, leading to a master’s degree from Michigan Tech.

Learn more about what online programs are currently available and to apply for regular admissions or non-degree seeking graduate student status.

Questions? Please contact College of Engineering Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Leonard Bohmann.


Karl (’85 BSME) and Christine LaPeer (’85 BSMT) to Receive Humanitarian Award

Karl and Christine LaPeer, photo taken at the son's recent wedding standing in front of a waterfall
Karl and Chris LaPeer

Karl and Christine (Blood) LaPeer practice their humanitarian efforts at Michigan Tech, funding seven, four-year scholarships—and also around the world. The LaPeers are both 1985 Michigan Tech graduates, Karl with a BSME degree, and Christine with a BSMT degree. Michigan Tech’s Alumni Association will present them with the University’s Humanitarian Award at the upcoming Alumni Reunion on August 2.

The Michigan Tech Humanitarian Award is presented to those alumni and friends who, through their outstanding involvement and dedication, have made a significant contribution of volunteer leadership or service which has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity.

During his time at Tech, Karl vividly remembers the second day of classes as his most memorable, saying “I met my future bride (now wife of 32 years) on the second day of classes in a calculus class. I would have to say that was the best thing that ever happened to me at Michigan Tech.”

After graduation, Karl joined Fanuc Robotics to design industrial robots for the automotive industry. He returned to his studies, in business this time, at the University of Michigan where he became a Henry Ford Scholar, graduated first in his class, and earned his MBA in 1993. After a few years working in the business world, Karl helped start Peninsula Capital Partners, an investment company, where he works to this day. His diverse background in engineering and business allows him to assess both the financial and operational aspects of an investment opportunity. He is a licensed professional engineer, speaks fluent German, and is a member of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute, a global association of investment professionals. He is also an active member in his church and frequently serves as a lay minister.

Over the course of the last decade Karl and Chris have helped fund one of the largest mission movements in history, and funded ministries ranging from Christian bands to missionaries and evangelists.

Between 2013 and 2014, the LaPeers and their children, working through the Angel House initiative, funded the building of three Angel House Orphanages (25 children each) and two freshwater wells in India. Angel House is a focused rescue initiative for abandoned orphans and trafficking victims throughout India and Southeast Asia. In May 2013 Karl, Chris, and their daughter, Elayna, dedicated an orphanage. In December 2013 their daughter, Heather, dedicated an orphanage and village well; in December of 2014 their son, Nate, dedicated another orphanage and village well.

The LaPeers served as part of the 1Nation1Day (1N1D) 2015 mission outreach in the Dominican Republic as part of a team of over 2,000 foreign aid workers providing pairs of shoes to children, distributing meals, training business leaders, and providing clean water. During this time Chris also worked in medical clinics around the country treating patients for free, while Karl and their daughter Elayna led the campaign’s University Forum program where 5,600 university students were empowered in 38 forums led by 33 business leaders from around the world.

In Nicaragua in 2017 (1N1D) Karl and Chris were part of a team of 2,800 foreign aid workers in which 8,941 people were treated for free at eight medical clinics, 270,000 meals were distributed, 438 small homes were built, 1,220 business leaders were trained, 16,000 people were provided with clean water, over 100,000 primary school students were given hope in school assemblies, 6,111 women were empowered at conferences, and 3,600 attended pastor conferences. Karl and Chris also headed the 1Nation1Day team in the department (state) of Boaco.

Most recently, the LaPeers traveled to Peru for 1N1D Un Solo Peru 2019, joining the team in Tarapoto, in the Amazon Region of Peru. They co-led the state, working with the 150 foreign missionaries. Chris ran a medical clinic with over 30 medical professionals that treated, at no cost, nearly 1,500 patients in five days. Karl gave lectures at universities, spoke at leadership and business conferences, churches, press conferences, and also gave media interviews.

Their son, Nate (25), daughter-in-law Elizabeth (25), and two daughters, Heather (29) and Elayna (12) also made the trip. “They spent the week in the schools, helping kids understand that they are special and uniquely designed to make a difference in the world by a personal God,” says Karl. “Along with our coworkers, we helped fund two clean-water projects, as well—one in Tarapoto and one in Cusco—that are now providing clean, safe water to people who have never had a drink of safe water in their lives.”

Their goal now, as a family, says Karl, is to “dig deeper to reach more people with a message of hope, purpose, and eternitynot just on foreign mission trips, but each day where we live and work,” says Karl.

The LaPeers are already planning future trips. First, a return trip to India to visit the four orphanages and two water projects they dedicated five years ago. Next summer a trip to Los Angeles, California to join with 20,000 missionaries from around the world. “We’re also being tugged back to Tarapoto, in Peru, to do some follow-up work with business leaders, university students, and churches—and there is an invitation to visit both Cambodia and Pakistan with organizations we know.” Adds Karl: “We can’t see how we can do it all, but we’ll see.”


College of Engineering Welcomes New Faculty Staff, Students, and Alumni

The Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology maintains a machine shop with comprehensive facilities available to Michigan Tech students. The shop also offers machining and fabrication services for the university research community. Students and a faculty member examine a large drill in the machine shop.
The Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology at Michigan Tech, recently joined College of Engineering. MMET maintains a machine shop with comprehensive facilities available to Michigan Tech students. The shop also offers machining and fabrication services for the university research community.

As of July 1, the College of Engineering welcomes the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and advisory board members associated with the degree programs of Surveying Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Construction Management, and Integrated Geospatial Technology.

The surveying engineering and integrated geospatial technology programs join the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE). The construction management program will be jointly administered by the School of Business and Economics and CEE.

The mechanical engineering technology (MET) program will be housed in a new department in the College of Engineering, which will be named the Department of Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology (MMET).

Dean of the College of Engineering Janet Callahan has appointed Materials Science and Engineering Professor Walt Milligan to serve as interim chair effective July 1. Professor John Irwin will continue to support the MET program as associate chair. The MMET main office will be in the former School of Technology office (on the fourth floor of the EERC). Staff members Pam Washuleski and Danise Jarvey will continue in their roles as Office Assistant and Director of Academic Services, respectively.

In addition to advising for MMET, Danise will take on a college-level role in support of study abroad for undergraduate majors in the College of Engineering, working to identify, promote, and support study abroad programs that fit seamlessly into students’ plans of study.


Outstanding Alumni and Friends to be Recognized at Alumni Reunion Dinner August 2019

Reunion DinnerEngineering alumni will be among those recognized at the Alumni Reunion Awards Dinner on campus August 2, 2019.

Outstanding Young Alumni

Distinguished in their careers before the age of 35; achieved a position or some distinction noteworthy for one so recently graduated

Outstanding Service

Significant contributions to the success of the Board of Directors and/or the University

Distinguished Alumni

Outstanding contributions in both their careers and to Michigan Tech

Humanitarian Award

Volunteer leadership or service that has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity, and whose accomplishments reflect admirably on or bring honor to their Alma Mater


Lift Bridge Wins Award, Snags Trailer⁠—Built to Last 

Portage Lake Lift Bridge is a double-deck, vertical lift bridge, the only one of its type in Michigan. Here shown with a blue sky and summer day in the background.
The monumental Portage Lake Lift Bridge—a double-deck, vertical lift bridge—is the only one of its type in Michigan.

The Portage Lake Bridge, or more commonly known as the Lift Bridge, was designated in May, 2019 as an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Michigan State Historic Civil Engineering Landmark of the Year. Built in 1959, the bridge provides a key role in connecting the Keweenaw’s local industries to the nation, and uses a first-of-its-kind intermediate lift span position. It also was an early example of accelerated bridge construction. 

The Lift Bridge is a double-deck vertical lift bridge⁠—the only one of its type in Michigan and uncommon nationwide. While the lower deck was originally used by trains; these days, snowmobiles roar through the lower deck in winter. This riveted steel bridge was built to support the Keweenaw’s copper mining and logging industries and to serve the nation’s need for copper and timber. So you might say, it’s built to carry heavy loads!

the Caterpillar motor in the boat Janet was in
One of two Caterpillar engines on Don’s boat.

I was invited one recent Friday to meet one of our civil engineering alumni from the class of ‘66, Donald R. Anderson. He was docked in Hancock, just east of the Lift Bridge, traveling with his son, up from Grand Haven. They were in town waiting for the extended family, to arrive and spend a few weeks together on the boat as they worked their way through the Apostle Islands area. We were chatting, taking a look at the engines, and enjoying some local cider when BAM! A very loud boom sounded from the Lift Bridge. We all turned to watch as a tandem trailer loaded with trailers pulled to a halt. Over the next hour, inspections of the rig, and bridge seemed to happen while we looked up from below with high-tech binoculars and speculated about the impact. We figured that being in tandem, one of the trailers rocked up just as the truck pulled through and snagged that edge a bit. The truck eventually pulled down and around and took time to do a safety check just behind the marina.

A section of the lift bridge is shown with a tandem trailer loaded with trailers inside
A tandem trailer loaded with trailers comes to a halt on the Lift Bridge

On my way home, pedaling across the bridge I stopped and took a few images. You can see how there is a bit of battered metal at the leading edge on the Houghton side. No easy way to tell what marks are new or old from down on the ground (and I am a metallurgist). My assessment⁠—that bridge was built to last. I bet it will still be in use for its 100th anniversary. They build things to last up here in the Keweenaw. And remember your metallurgy: steel can plastically deform and even strengthen as a result of the increased number of dislocations.

underside of Portage Lake Lift Bridge
Lift Bridge wear and tear 

Dr. Tess Ahlborn, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan Technological University, working with two recent civil engineering masters of science graduates Emma Beachy and Michael Prast, submitted the application of Lift Bridge for Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Award at both the state and national levels. While Lift Bridge has now won the state ASCE Landmark of the Year award, the jury’s still out on the national level award. You can read more about the Lift Bridge here.

Thank you Tess, Emma and Michael, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, for the 300 pages of historical content that supported the nomination.

Dr. Tess Ahlborn, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Center for Structural Durability at Michigan Tech

Mining Engineering: The Best of Both Worlds

Julie (Varichak) Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2002. She is now Mineral Development Specialist at St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department in Hibbing, Minnesota.
Julie (Varichak) Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Michigan Tech in 2002. She is now Mineral Development Specialist at St. Louis County Land and Minerals Department in Hibbing, Minnesota.

After a 15-year break, Mining Engineering officially returns to Michigan Tech, with BS, MS, and PhD degree programs and cutting-edge research. Learn more online

Julie Marinucci earned her Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering from Michigan Tech in 2002. She knew early on that mining would enable her to work globally, but also return home someday to northern Minnesota and have a good career there, too. Turns out, she was right.

What fostered your own path to studying and working in mining?
Mining Engineering kind of landed in my lap. I knew I wanted to be an engineer of some type and that I wanted to work outdoors. Civil Engineering seemed like the most likely choice, but then I met Murray Gillis, a mining engineering instructor at Michigan Tech. Murray was at a local college fair and he sparked my curiosity, not just in Michigan Tech, but also in Mining Engineering. My campus visit, and spending the summer after high school working in a mine, sealed the deal!

Describe some challenges that you face in your work.
The biggest challenge is the general misunderstanding of the mining industry. Many people do not understand the amount of care that goes into extracting minerals for the conveniences and protections we as a society have come to expect. Mining considers the full lifecycle of the land, careful consideration of the environmental conditions prior to mining, efficient extraction of the minerals of interest, and thoughtful reclamation with the next generation of land use in mind. I have always thought a big part of my job is to ensure the general public understands the efforts taken in developing a mine.

What has changed the most in mining engineering over the course of your career?
The continuous evolution of technology in mine planning has been fun to watch. Operations are now utilizing drone technology and laser scanning to manage pit operations, blast efficiency, ore grading, and more. I had the opportunity to work with engineers early in my career who had the large map tables and boxes of colored pencils. Fast forward now to laser scanners, drones, remote equipment monitoring, and more!

What changes do you expect to see in the future of mining?
I expect to see the way we work in mining to evolve, and look to more flexible work arrangements that will bring in a more diverse workforce. The days where you must be at your 1950’s steel desk working from 6 am to 6 pm will evolve into the ability to work remotely. It will allow for a different type of operational accessibility while providing for better balance in life.

What is your most surprising experience as a mining engineer to date?
When I started down the journey to become a mining engineer, I envisioned working my way through an operation in a very technical role. Through the years, I found that my degree has allowed me to reinvent myself many times over.

I started my career with Caterpillar in a marketing position. It was completely unexpected, but Cat was looking for someone who could understand the equipment, understand the mining industry, and effectively communicate with clients. What a great job! I went on to enjoy many roles at Cleveland Cliffs iron mining operations, where I learned to be an engineer, manage operation crews in the pit, and had the great learning experience of working at a greenfield operation in Canada (with a language barrier!). When I decided to leave Cliffs, I discovered the contacts I had made, along with understanding of mining operations, positioned me well for a career in consulting. My time with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. working in business development for mining and heavy industry taught me how to assemble a team to help solve problem and deliver a successful project.  Then came my current role, with St. Louis County—a brand new position created to ensure that the vast mineral wealth held within the county was protected. The chance to define the job and lay out the mining and mineral strategy for the county was too good to pass up. St. Louis County holds world class iron, copper and nickel deposits, to name a few, and has a long mining history of over 130 years. As Mineral Development Specialist, I work closely with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and local mining and exploration companies and communities, to ensure we are responsibly moving mining forward for the benefit of the region and the Tax Forfeited Land Trust.

Why do you think it was important to reinstate the mining engineering degree program at Michigan Tech?
Michigan Tech was founded as a mining engineering school and the demand that was created in 1858 still holds true today. Michigan Tech is positioned strategically near two large mining districts with growing interest in mineral development. The need for qualified mining professionals to move these project forward is great. The alumni network is willing to support these students through their education to ensure they have the best start possible.

Why should a student enter the field of mining engineering now?
The need for skilled mining engineers that love our region and want to stay, work and raise a family is strong, while the nationwide and global demand continues to grow. Mining in not for the faint of heart, but if you can weather the storm it’s a fulfilling career with many ways to leverage a mining engineering degree.

What are the greatest rewards and challenges mining engineers face now, and will face in the future?
Mining engineers should be proud to know that they are part of the fabric that maintains our quality of life, helps to grow our food, provides the materials for our ever-expanding tech advances, and keeps our families safe. This role in our modern life is not well-understood, but it’s a very important role. The future has great potential to continue to move our industry into next levels of efficiency, safe production, beneficial reuse of waste streams—and maybe mining the moon! The stars are the limit!

What’s next in your career?
I look forward to continuing to explore the opportunity to manage the land for mineral development, while planning for beneficial reuse of the land and the residuals. The ability to make an impact in my backyard is exciting and I look forward to evolving the role and myself over the years.


Free Scientific Excursions at the Chassell Strawberry Festival on July 13

Michigan Tech Research Vessel Agassiz on Portage Canal in Houghton MI with children and adults aboard.
Michigan Tech Research Vessel Agassiz

How do scientists investigate the health of the Great Lakes? Why not come find out? Go on a free scientific excursion on the Agassiz, the Michigan Tech research vessel, in conjunction with the annual Strawberry Festival in Chassell Michigan, 12:30-6 pm, Saturday, July 13, departing at the Chassell Marina.

The public is invited to reserve a space by using this link or call the Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach at: (906) 487-3341, or go to the Center’s webpage.  The public is also welcome to come to the Chassell Marina dock on Saturday from 12:30 to 5 pm, to get on the excursion list. Spaces go quickly. Each excursion has room for 18 participants. Half of the available spaces will be saved for onsite participants.

On each scientific excursion, Dr. Cory McDonald, a Michigan Tech scientist in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the Great Lakes Research Center, will show how data is collected on water clarity, temperature, and turbidity and explain what that tells us about the health of Lake Superior and Chassell Bay. Dr. McDonald will explain the link between land uses and the health of the Great Lakes.

Space is limited to 18 persons per excursion (children must be at least 7 years of age and accompanied by an adult). Life jackets are available for all passengers. All must wear closed toe shoes.

“Copper Country residents and visitors are encouraged to learn how scientists study the Great Lakes and which  measurements indicate a healthy lake,” explains Joan Chadde, director of the Center for Science & Environmental Outreach, who has coordinated this program as part of Strawberry Festival since 2006.

“These scientific excursions for the public have been extremely popular. Youth and adults enjoy the opportunity to interact with Great Lakes scientists and get their questions answered,” adds Chadde.

The event is funded by the GM Ride the Waves Program, which puts 600 Copper Country youth and adults on the water each year to learn about the health of the Great Lakes and Lake Superior, and to promote STEM careers. Financial support for the Agassiz at the Strawberry Festival is also provided by the Chassell Lions Club.

For information on Lake Superior Day festivities and the Agassiz in Copper Harbor on Sunday, July 21st, contact Lloyd Wescoat at lwescoat@mtu.edu  or call the Center at: (906) 487-3341. Center for Science& Environmental Outreach

Learn more here:

Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach
Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center
Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative