Author: Brittany Buschell

Dr. Xiang Li, an incoming Assistant Professor of GMES, publishes his research on predicting landslides

Xiang Li

Dr. Xiang Li, who will join GMES as an assistant professor of geological engineering in August, has published a paper as the lead author in the prestigious journal Geophysical Research Letters. Dr. Li is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The paper, titled “Exploring the Behaviors of Initiated Progressive Failure and Slow-Moving Landslides in Los Angeles Using Satellite InSAR and Pixel Offset Tracking,” reveals that the Rolling Hills Estates landslide, which destroyed 12 homes in California on July 8, 2023, could have been predicted within a three-day time lag using Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) observation data. These findings provide strong evidence that satellite remote sensing data can significantly contribute to landslide early warning systems and help understand the impacts of climate change on landslide hazards.

Dr. Li’s publication was featured in the LA Times and, underscoring the importance and relevance of his work.

This research illustrates how geological engineering can contribute to innovative solutions for predicting natural disasters and potentially saving lives.

An animation depicting the land movement on Peartree Lane in Rolling Hills Estates before the July 2023 landslide (by Xiang Li).

Former Professor and Department Head Jorma “Joe” Kalliokoski Remembered

Jorma “Joe” Kalliokoski

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Jorma “Joe” Kalliokoski, a professor emeritus and former Head of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) at Michigan Tech. He passed away on Monday, June 3, 2024, at the age of 100.

Dr. Kalliokoski received his B.S. degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1947 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University in 1951. He was a faculty member at Princeton from 1956 to 1968, when he came to Michigan Tech to become the Department Head. He served in that capacity for 13 years (1968-1981) and retired in 1988. During his tenure as head, the department expanded, the geophysics program joined our department, and the commitment to research and the graduate program was greatly strengthened. Dr. Kalliokoski made significant contributions in the fields of economic geology, Precambrian geology, and mineral deposit research, on which he published multiple papers and reports. He was the Business editor of Economic Geology Publishing Company from 1971-77.

Dr. Kalliokoski was inducted into the Academy of GMES in 1995.

Read Kalliokoski’s obituary and leave a memory if you wish. A memorial service for Joe will be held at Portage Lake United Church on Saturday, June 29, at 11 am. The burial will be in the Forest Hill Cemetery of Houghton.

Inspiring Stories: GMES Students Featured in Prestigious AIPG Magazine

Exciting news from the GMES department! Our talented students, Anton Smirnov, and Natalie Sorensen, have been featured in the latest issue of Professional Geologist, a publication by the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG).

In her insightful undergraduate essay on page 29, Natalie Sorensen (geological engineering) shares how her geohydrology research has been a game-changer, helping her connect classroom concepts with real-world applications. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in seeing how academic studies translate into practical experiences!

Meanwhile, on page 50, MTU AIPG Student Chapter President Anton Smirnov (geology) discusses the fantastic networking perks of being an AIPG student member. His piece highlights the valuable connections and opportunities that membership has brought him, making a strong case for why every geology student should consider joining.

Check out their stories and get inspired!

Anton Smirnov explores hands-on learning with nature as his guide at Mammoth Cave National Park

Department of GMES Attends the 2024 Annual SME Conference & Expo in Phoenix

A large group of students and faculty from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) attended the 2024 Annual Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME) Conference & Expo, held in Phoenix, Arizona, from February 25-28. The group included seven BS students, eight MS students, one Ph.D. student, and three faculty members (Chatterjee, Manser, Smirnov). This annual conference provides an excellent opportunity for our students to gain exposure to the latest advances in mining engineering research and practice, network with industry professionals, and explore future career paths. The Department provided full or partial travel support to all student participants thanks to the generosity of the Richard Saccany Mining Program Fund, the Robert Hendricks Mining Endowment Fund, and our friends who have supported the Mining Engineering program.

The students in attendance were Cassie Burch, Aiden Harmon, Lucas Maxon, Ian Repic, Nathan Seidel, Anton Smirnov Grady Williams, Theo Asumah, Alfred Yeboah, Rapheka Targbwe, Maxwell Yeboah, Jhuleyssy L. Sanchez Aguilar, Angela Amoh, Isaac Donkoh, Conor Large, and Abid Danish.

This year, our AggCelerate student team made it to the top six nationally in the final phase of the SME/National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association (NSSGA) Student Design Competition! This annual competition is a demanding two-phase, team-based, problem-solving activity involving a technical design and an oral presentation. The problem highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with operating a sand and gravel quarry, developing an overall design plan, and optimizing the operating methods and economics. Students work on the problem from the perspective of an engineering consulting team responsible for developing the pit and mineral processing plant configuration.

The AggCelerate team at SME: (left to right) Ian Repic, Cassie Burch, Nathan Seidel, Grady Williams, Aiden Harmon, and Lucas Maxon

The interdisciplinary Michigan Tech team included mining engineering majors Aiden Harmon, Lucas Maxon, Ian Repic, Nathan Seidel, Grady Williams, and geological engineering junior Cassie Burch. “Under the expert guidance of Dr. Nathan Manser, Professor of Practice at GMES, the team has demonstrated exceptional skill and knowledge in their field,” said Aleksey Smirnov, Department of GMES Chair, who attended the conference. Although our team did not make it to the podium, the judges complimented the novelty of their design solutions.

On the research side, Associate Professor and a Witte Family Faculty Fellow in mining engineering, Dr. Snehamoy Chatterjee, delivered an oral presentation titled “Developing a Recourse Action to Survive Low Commodity Prices in Open Pit Mine Planning.” This research develops a recourse action strategy under an uncertain environment to revisit the mine production planning when metal prices decline.

Dr. Chatterjee’s Ph.D. student, Abid Danish, presented a talk titled “Enhancing Workplace Safety in the Mining Industry: A Data-Driven Approach through Unstructured Accident Narrative Analysis and Clustering.” He analyzed MSHA accident/injury data narratives using natural language models and unsupervised machine learning algorithms to understand the risks associated with mining accidents.

PhD student, Abid Danish presents his talk.

The GMES department co-sponsored and hosted an alumni engagement event. The two-hour social event was well-attended by alumni from several MTU departments, such as GMES, Chemical Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, and other programs and current MTU faculty and students. The event was a great opportunity for everyone to network and catch up with old friends. Overall, the alumni engagement event was a success, and plans for the next meeting in Denver are already underway. We are grateful to all the alumni who attended and look forward to seeing even more of them at future events. This year, the event was co-sponsored by the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Associate Professor Dr. Chatterjee welcomes guests.
The GMES alumni event.

Congratulations Spring 2024 Graduates!

Spring 2024 Grads
Spring 2024 Commencement Ceremony

Bravo, graduates! Here’s to your endless potential and the adventures awaiting in your future.

Degrees Awarded

Master of Science in Geological Engineering
Clayton H. Donajkowski
William T. Webster

Master of Science in Geology
Hayden M. Chaisson

Master of Science in Geophysics
Sunday Joseph
Aimee Zimmerman
Morgan Wilke

Master of Science in Mining Engineering
Emmanuel Wolubah
Alfred Yeboah
Enoch Nii-Okai

Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering
Karina K. Constant
Braxton J. Murphy

Bachelor of Science in Applied Geophysics
Brendan Harville

Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering
Ian G. Repic
Olivia K. Rouleau
Nathan J. Seidel
Maxx D. Tartamella

Award Recipients

AIPG National Student Scholarship – Natalie Sorensen
Outstanding GTA Award Spring ‘24 – Aimee Zimmerman
Outstanding GTA Award Fall ’23 – Dakota Locklear
Outstanding Scholarship Award Sp’24 – Morgan Wilke
Outstanding Scholarship Award Fall ‘23 – Ian Gannon
Department Scholar – Sam Jensen
Field Geophysics Spiroff Book Award – Clarissa Gordon
Field Geology Spiroff Book Award – Anton Smirnov
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) – Sam Jensen
Estwig Rock Hammer Award – Max Stange

Certificate Graduates

Geoinformatics – Oluwatosin O. Ayo, Clayton H. Donajkowski, Sunday Joseph,
Ashish Mahaur, Eli A. Paulen, William T. Webster, Morgana M. Wilke, Emmanuel L. Wolubah
Natural Hazards & Disaster Risk Reduction – Hayden M. Chaisson, Ryan M. Cocke,
William T. Webster, Morgana M. Wilke

GMES Spring 2024 Graduates

Rumbling Recognition: Volcanology Professor Achieves Dual Honors

Dr. Simon Carn

In a stunning display of ‘when it rains, it pours,’ Dr. Simon Carn, a Professor at the Department of GMES, has bagged two prestigious awards within a month—a feat as rare as spotting a double rainbow. On April 5, Dr. Carn was honored with the Michigan Tech Research Award, recognizing his outstanding achievements in research. Just weeks later, on April 18, he was bestowed the title of Distinguished Professor, an accolade awarded to faculty members who have made substantial contributions to the University and their discipline.

Dr. Carn has made seminal contributions to both applied and fundamental aspects of volcanology, remote sensing, and meteorology. Recognized as a world authority on multi-sensor remote sensing of volcanic clouds, he uniquely blends advanced knowledge of remote sensing, volcanology, and atmospheric science. His research is noted for its innovation, collaborative spirit, and versatility, focusing on employing remote sensing data in studies of volcanic degassing, eruption clouds, and anthropogenic pollution. Dr. Carn excels in translating theoretical understanding into practical solutions, significantly impacting volcanic hazard prediction and mitigation and enhancing aviation safety. This blend of academic and practical prowess has earned him broad international recognition, including the American Meteorological Society Special Award and the NASA/US DOI William T. Pecora Award.

Dr. Carn has secured substantial external funding to support his research, with contributions from prestigious agencies such as NASA, NSF, and NOAA, underscoring the scientific community’s strong confidence in his work. His external expenditure ranks among the highest at MTU. His scholarly output is both prolific and collaborative, featuring 133 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, many co-authored with his students. He is also among the most cited researchers at the university.

An inspiring mentor and instructor, Dr. Carn has guided four postdoctoral researchers, 22 PhD and 36 MS students. He led our successful dual International Master in Geology (INVOGE) program from 2009 to 2015 in collaboration with Université Blaise Pascal, the University of Buffalo, and the University of Milan Bicocca. His students have found employment in the public, government, and academia worldwide.

Dr. Carn has made significant contributions to his professional community, serving as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Geophysical Research and as Secretary of the Remote Sensing Commission of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) since 2008. Additionally, he has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Improving Understanding of Volcanic Eruptions, the AAAS Review Committee for the U.S. Geological Survey Volcanic Hazards Program, and various scientific committees for international conferences and workshops.

Importantly, Dr. Carn has been very active and efficient in outreach and promotion of science. He is a frequent and long-term contributor to NASA’s Earth Observatory educational website and other outlets such as Scientific American and National Geographic. He conducted TV, radio, and newspaper interviews with BBC World Service, The Weather Channel, Wall Street Journal, Weather Underground, and others. Finally, he has actively promoted his research on X (formerly Twitter) with more than 7000 followers as of today.

Congratulations, Simon, on these well-deserved awards!

GMES Awards Seven Degrees in Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony

The Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences is pleased to award five bachelor’s, and two master’s degrees this December.

Two graduate degrees awarded:
Breen, Dillon MS Geology
Advised by Dr. Luke Bowman
Metts, Isabella MS Geophysics
Advised by Dr. Greg Waite

Five undergraduate degrees awarded:
Hawes, Jack W. BS Geological Engineering
Johnson, Samuel A. BS Geology
McClelland, Elliz E. BS Geology
Myaard, John S. BS Geological Engineering
Verran, Maria E. BS Mining Engineering

Congratulations, and best of luck on all future endeavors!

John Myaard, Elliz McClelland, Samuel Johnson, Maria Verran, and GMES Department Chair Aleksey Smirnov.

Elliz McClelland Interns for EarthScope and Presents at the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting

This summer, Elliz McClelland interned in the URISE (Undergraduate Research Internships in Seismology) program, funded by EarthScope (formerly known as IRIS). This internship experience gave them professional research experience, guidance about graduate schools, and the opportunity to work with an institution they’d like to work at during their career. As part of their internship experience, they will also present at the annual national American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in December 2023, a completely new experience for them.

During Elliz’s internship, they conducted research into a volcanic caldera using geophysics in New Mexico. Elliz worked under the mentorship of the United States Geological Survey and spent part of their summer working in the USGS office in Denver, Colorado. This internship was a multi-faceted experience where they had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling. Elliz spent their first couple of weeks performing fieldwork in New Mexico in their study area, then moved into Denver to work at the USGS office. They were also lucky enough to work on a separate USGS project where they traveled to Hawaii to help their mentor conduct field research. Their summer was full of new experiences and cultures!

Elliz preparing to get on a helicopter for field work in Hawaii.

The URISE internship was highly targeted toward providing research experience and preparation for graduate school. While Elliz intends on taking a least one gap year before attending graduate school, the information the internship coordinators provided them about graduate school was instrumental in making their decisions about furthering their education. 

When reflecting on the value of the URISE internship, Elliz says, “For my needs, this internship was also immensely useful in determining my career path. I ‘put my boots on the ground’, so to speak, working directly with the USGS under a position I might like to hold myself in the future. My summer experience really confirmed for me that I love doing field work and I would enjoy working for an institution like the USGS.”

In December, Elliz presented their work at the AGU national conference in San Francisco, California. This conference is one of the biggest Earth Science conferences in the nation and is an excellent opportunity for students to meet potential employers, experience the professional research conference environment, and network with fellow geoscientists. For more details about Elliz’s internship experience and the research they conducted, you can visit their summer blog at URISE. Elliz would also like to highly recommend this internship to any geoscience students with an interest in research and geophysics. Anybody can apply and prior geophysics experience is not required! You can stay updated about internship applications at URISE.

Elliz and their USGS mentor Paul setting up a field station in New Mexico.

Murchek Successfully Defends Geophysics Ph.D. Research Proposal

Jacob T. Murchek presented his doctoral research proposal defense on Friday, December 1, 2023. Advised by Dr. James DeGraff, with Dr. Benjamin Drenth, Dr. Jeremy Shannon, and Dr. Aleksey Smirnov serving as committee members. 

Murchek pictured collecting geophysical data across the Keweenaw Fault using the Lacoste Romberg Model G Gravity Meter and the Trimble differential GPS unit to create better constrained models of the subsurface geology crucial to refine the history of the Midcontinent Rift System and copper mineralization.

Title: Integration of Geophysical Data with Geologic Constraints to Infer Tectonomagmatic Controls on Mineral Systems in the Yukon-Tanana Uplands, Alaska, and Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

Abstract: Critical minerals are necessary for the everyday needs of modern human society and are paramount for the advancement of technology. Lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite are some examples of critical minerals used in cell phones, military equipment, vehicles, batteries, and other essential products. To increase domestic production of critical minerals, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seeks to identify areas favorable to host deposits of such minerals through the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative. In collaboration with the USGS, the proposed research aims to identify tectonomagmatic controls of mineral systems in the Yukon-Tanana Uplands (YTU), Alaska, and along the Keweenaw Peninsula (KP), Michigan, using geophysical and geologic data to better understand the distribution and origin of such systems and to judge critical mineral potential in the two areas.

Both the YTU and KP have the potential to host critical mineral deposits, however, mineral systems in these areas are not completely understood. Critical minerals in the YTU are most likely to occur as secondary minerals associated with precious metal mineral systems. Aeromagnetic data will be interpreted, modeled, and integrated with regional geology, magnetic susceptibility measurements, and geochemical data to aid in delineating the boundary between the parautochthonous North American Basement (NAb) and allochthonous Yukon-Tanana Terrane (YTT) that underlie the YTU. Establishing a firm boundary for these terranes has major implications for understanding the origin and distribution of mineral systems across the YTU (e.g., porphyry Cu-Au, orogenic Au) and, consequently, the potential for such systems to host critical minerals. The research will emphasize developing geophysically mappable criteria for these and other mineral systems and the plutonic suites that may be associated with their deposition and enrichment. Along the KP copper district and its southwest extension, gravity and magnetic data, and possibly seismic reflection data, will be acquired to model the structure of the Midcontinent Rift System (MRS), thereby testing published cross-sectional models for the rift and the Keweenaw fault system (KFS). Better definition of the KFS is relevant to understanding migration pathways of copper-bearing hydrothermal fluids that produced economic deposits of copper and silver in the region. Quantitative geophysical modeling in the region can be tightly constrained by bedrock outcrops and rock property measurements (e.g., density, magnetic susceptibility). A better constrained subsurface model across the southeast margin of the MRS will establish a stronger tie to offshore geophysical data previously collected across Lake Superior. Such models should also improve the definition of known faults in the KFS as well as identify new faults beneath Jacobsville Sandstone, thus helping to infer mineralization pathways for copper and other elements associated with the MRS.

GMES Alumni Social at the 2024 SME Annual Conference

row of students standing in front of Caledonia mine entrance
Join us for an alumni social in Phoenix!

You are invited! The Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) is hosting an alumni social in conjunction with the MineXchange 2024 SME Annual Conference in Phoenix, AZ, from 5:30-7:30 PM on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.

Plan to attend and network with MTU alumni from all facets of the SME community, plus take the time to meet the newest huskies as they embark on their professional careers in the industry.

Michigan Tech’s AggCelerate team, advised by Dr. Manser, has advanced to the top six nationally in the SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition. The second phase of the competition will take place during the SME Conference.

Michigan Tech will be competing against runner-up teams from the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, University of Arizona, West Virginia University, and Missouri University of Science and Technology. Student teams will have one weekend to solve a design problem and present their findings to a panel of judges. The competition is designed to simulate an engineering project prepared by an engineering group for a company.

Michigan Tech team members, listed in alphabetical order, are:

  • Cassie Burch (Junior, Geological Engineering)
  • Aiden Harmon (Junior, Mining Engineering)
  • Lucas Maxon (Sophomore, Mining Engineering)
  • Ian Repic (Senior, Mining Engineering)
  • Nathan Seidel (Senior, Mining Engineering)
  • Grady Williams (Junior, Mining Engineering)

Event and Student Travel sponsorship opportunities are available at this time for 2024 in Phoenix and 2025 in Denver; please contact Nathan Manser ( for more details.

Photo: MTU participating at the 2023 MineXchange in Denver.