Category: Faculty

Happy Holidays: A Note from the Chair

Dr. Aleksey Smirnov, Professor and Chair, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Dear Alumni and Friends!

I hope that this newsletter finds all of you and your families healthy and safe. Winter is in full swing in Houghton County, with over 30″ of snow this season so far. The Tech Trails are groomed, the broomball fields are set, our students have completed final exams and many are celebrating their recent graduation. As the holidays approach, I am happy to share some exciting developments that happened at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences since we sent you our previous newsletter in early June.

Before all, I am thrilled to report that our recently-reinstated Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering program has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The meticulous accreditation process ensures that the program meets the strictest professional standards and provides the students with a solid educational foundation and posits them for successful and impactful careers. You can read more about it here.

Our faculty, staff, and students continued their diligent and productive work to move our department forward. 

Due to the previous year’s cancellations, this summer we offered two sections of our Field Geology and Field Geophysics courses each. Everyone was happy to get back in the field for experiential learning. And to add to the excitement, our Field Geophysics students were the first cohort to take the advantage of cancellation of the laboratory fee, thanks to the Carl G. Schwenk Field Geophysics Lab Endowment.

Our faculty, alumni, and students have been recognized for their contributions and hard work. Most importantly, we celebrated two of our colleagues being named inaugural faculty fellows. Dr. Snehamoy Chatterjee, Associate Professor, was appointed the Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering; and Jeremy Shannon, Principal Lecturer, was named the Carl G. Schwenk Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics. We are extremely grateful to Carl Schwenk and the Witte family for their generosity, which will have a tremendous and long-lasting impact on the academic and professional successes of our students and faculty. 

This fall, we congratulate Angela Hammond (BS ’00, MS ’02; Geological Engineering) who has been inducted into the Presidential Council of Alumnae.

Our students continue to be successful in their classes, participating in research, and presenting their work worldwide. These efforts have brought them much recognition. Most notably, our student chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) has been named the 2021 Student Chapter of the Year for the second year in a row! We also are very proud of Emily Street, a mining engineering senior, who won a prestigious nationwide 2021 Copper Club Lord Bagri Scholarship.

Last but not the least, our heartfelt congratulations go to our Summer and Fall 2021 graduates.

On behalf of our students, faculty, and staff, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all of you who have provided support to our department! Your support is more important for us than ever during these challenging times. As we head toward 2022, we are aware of the hurdles we face, and the opportunities ahead. We look forward to your continued engagement with GMES as we recommit to our mission and goals.

As always, I will be happy to hear from you at any time by email (asmirnov@mtu.edu), phone (906.487.2365), or in-person (Dow 631).

Wishing you a very happy holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous new year!

Aleksey Smirnov
Professor and Chair


Snehamoy Chatterjee Named Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering

Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee, Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering

Associate Professor Snehamoy Chatterjee  is the new Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering, named in July 2021.

“Dr. Chatterjee has been instrumental in developing Michigan Tech’s new interdisciplinary Mining Engineering program,” said Aleksey Smirnov, Chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES). “He teaches courses in the program, and very skillfully incorporates research into his instruction.”

Chatterjee’s position as Fellow is made possible through the generous support provided by Nancy Witte and her family, in memory of her late husband Richard C. Witte, who received a BS in Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Tech) in 1950. After graduating from Michigan Tech, Witte went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University School of Law in 1956, then worked for Proctor and Gamble as a patent attorney. Witte was admitted to the bars of Indiana and Ohio, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, and the US Supreme Court, and filed more than 1400 patents before he retired in 1992 as vice president and chief patent counsel for Proctor and Gamble Worldwide. 

“The future of the mining industry is transforming in the digital age,” says Chatterjee. “Our students need to understand the traditional mining engineering techniques that have dominated the industry for generations, but also be technically savvy enough to see how the newest digital innovations might fit into a better decision making or engineering design process. I am grateful to Nancy Witte and the Witte family for this endowment and the tremendous support it provides toward this important endeavor.”

Decision-making under uncertainty, a research focus for Chatterjee, is one example, says Smirnov. “Students in one of Dr. Chatterjee’s courses, called Resource and Reserve Estimation, first learn how to quantify uncertainty based on spatial and temporal data. In his next course, Mine Planning and Design, they learn how to integrate that uncertainty into their mine plan using stochastic optimization methods.”

“Dr. Chatterjee’s outstanding achievements and contributions to our newly reinstated mining engineering program make him an ideal candidate for this faculty fellow position.”

Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering

In addition, Chatterjee works with undergraduate student researchers in his lab, and encourages them to present their findings at national or international conferences. Several have published their studies in peer-reviewed journals, as well.

“While at Michigan Tech working with Dr. Chatterjee, Alex Miltenberger ’17, a geophysics major, presented his SURF research work at Geostat, an international conference in geostatistics,” notes Smirnov. Miltenberger is now postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory & Stanford University.

“Another student working with Dr. Chatterjee, Katie Kring, published her SURF research in the International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences,” he adds. Before graduating from Michigan Tech with both a BS and MS in Geological Engineering, Kring interned at Freeport-McMoRan’s Chico Mine. She now works as a Civil Engineer at US Army Corps of Engineers.

Chatterjee also encourages his undergraduate research students to submit proposals for external funding. Current geophysics student Grace Ojala recently received a Michigan Space Grant Consortium (MSGC) grant to research mining slope movement using synthetic aperture radar data. 

Chatterjee has been recognized nationally and internationally through several professional and editorial awards, and invited presentations and seminar talks. Recently, Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed him to the Michigan’s Future Mining Committee. Chatterjee was chosen to represent current or former research faculty members who hold a master’s or doctorate degree in mining or geology at a university in Michigan.

Richard Witte, throughout his career and even after his retirement, served on numerous federal, state and local commissions, delegations and boards, addressing a variety of international diplomatic and intellectual property policies.

“Dr. Chatterjee’s appointment as Witte Fellow aligns perfectly with the objectives formulated by the Witte family and Michigan Tech,” said Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering at Michigan Tech. “Our shared goal is to retain and attract high quality faculty who are at the top of their profession, inspire students to think beyond the classroom material, and integrate their research into the classroom.”


Jeremy Shannon Named Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

Michigan Tech Principal Lecturer Jeremy Shannon is the Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics

Jeremy Shannon is the Carl G. Schwenk Endowed Faculty Fellow in Applied Geophysics, named in July 2021. 

“For more than a decade Dr. Jeremy Shannon has been a key faculty in field geophysics at Michigan Tech,” said Aleksey Smirnov, chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. 

“Dr. Shannon provides vital contributions to GMES instruction and advising, especially through the summer Field Geophysics course and specialized courses in the application of near-surface geophysics methods,” added Janet Callahan, Dean of the College of Engineering. 

The endowment was established by Carl G. Schwenk, who obtained a BS in both Geological and Geophysical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1962 and 1965, respectively. He worked as a Field Geophysicist with Kennecott Copper Corporation and was instrumental in the discovery of the Flambeau copper-gold Mine in Wisconsin. Later, he worked with the  large iron company Vale do Rio Doce exploring for base metals in Brazil. After his return to the US he was hired as Great Lakes District Manager for Noranda Exploration where he led a successful State Supreme Court challenge to Wisconsin’s Geologic Disclosure Law. 

“Carl lives in Colorado and remains closely involved with our department, providing tremendous support to our students,” said Smirnov.

Shannon is also a Michigan Tech alumnus, and took the Field Geophysics class as an undergraduate in the summer of 1992. He was honored to take over the class in 2007 and has continued and built upon the legacy of applied geophysics education at GMES created by professors Lloyal Bacon, Jimmy Diehl, and Charles Young to deliver a unique field experience for students.

“I am humbled to receive this appointment and am extremely grateful to Mr. Schwenk and others who have made this possible,” said Shannon. “I look forward to using this gift to improve and advance educational opportunities in geophysics at Michigan Tech.”

“Shannon’s contribution to the department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences perfectly aligns with the purpose of the fellowship, which is to provide leadership in mentoring and teaching students at Michigan Tech in the practical use of geophysics for characterization and discovery of subsurface resources,” added Callahan.

In addition to instruction in the field of applied geophysics, which includes specialized courses in the application of near-surface geophysics methods, Shannon serves as the academic advisor for undergraduate students majoring in Geology and Applied Geophysics.

Shannon generously lends his expertise to students working on senior design projects, as well as graduate students whose research involves field work, notes Smirnov. “Dr. Shannon helps students develop both practical knowledge and intuition. As a result, they are able to find their own best academic and professional pathways, leading to impactful and rewarding careers.” 

In recognition of his contributions to teaching, Shannon was also recently honored in the Michigan Tech Deans’ Teaching Showcase


Chatterjee Wins $288,343 Research Grant from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Snehamoy Chatterjee, Associate Professor and the Witte Family Endowed Faculty Fellow in Mining Engineering in the Department of GMES, is the principal investigator on a two-year research project “Mine Health and Safety Big Data Analysis and Text Mining by Machine Learning Algorithms.” Now the project will be funded by a $288,343 research and development contract from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

Snehamoy Chatterjee, Associate Professor in GMES

“Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) collects mine inspections, violations, and accidents/injuries data. States also collect the workers’ compensation data related to mining accidents,” Chatterjee explains. “These data are massive and complex, with many underlying risk factors for mining accidents. This research will identify the underlying risk factors of mining accidents and injuries by analyzing the complex datasets by exploiting state-of-the-art machine-learning algorithms. It will develop a web-based tool for visualizing the risk factors and run what-if scenarios to understand the potential risks for a mine.”

The research award will support both a PhD and an MS student in Mining Engineering. Aref Majdara (ECE/ICC) is co-PI on this two-year project.


2020-2021 GMES Faculty Promotions

Dr. Gregory Waite, Professor

Congratulations to the Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) faculty members promoted in the 2020-21 academic year!

Dr. Gregory Waite, Associate Professor, was promoted to the rank of full Professor. Dr. Waite is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in seismology with particular emphasis on studies of fluid processes and modeling of volcano seismic and infrasound signals. Dr. Waite and his students conduct studies of active volcanic processes using field data, laboratory analog experiments, and computer modeling. This research is critical to monitoring and forecasting volcanic eruptions. Dr. Waite actively collaborates with scientists from Central and South America, Europe, and Japan. He has published many peer-reviewed articles in top-tier international journals. Dr. Waite is the recipient of a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award and has secured additional grants from NSF and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Dr. Nathan Manser, Senior Lecturer


Dr. Nathan Manser, Lecturer, was promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer. Dr. Manser provides vital contributions to GMES teaching and advising activities, including his instrumental role in the success of our newly reinstated program in Mining Engineering. He has substantial teaching and advising experience as well as extensive experience in the mining industry. He has published several peer-reviewed papers in environmental and mining engineering. Dr. Manser is a dedicated and effective instructor and adviser as well as an impactful and trusted mentor. Dr. Manser serves as the academic advisor for Mining Engineering and the Chair of the Mining Engineering Curriculum Committee. He also serves as faculty advisor for several student organizations, including the GMES Chapter of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) and the SME/NSSGA Student Design Team.

Both promotions were approved at Michigan Tech’s Board of Trustees meeting on April 30 and will be effective on August 16, 2021.


NASA Awards Funding to Simon Carn

Simon Carn is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $325,000 research and development grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The project is entitled, “Tracking Volcanic Gases from Magma Reservoir to the Atmosphere: Identifying Precursors, and Optimizing Models and Satellite Observations for Future Major Eruptions.”

This is a potential three-year project.


NASA Project Funding For Simon Carn

Simon Carn
Simon Carn

Simon Carn (GMES/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $27,883 research and development grant from the University of Maryland-The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The project is titled “Extending NASA’s EOS SO2 and NO2 Data Records from Auro/OMI to Suomi NPP/OMPS.”

This is the first year of a potential three-year project totaling $96,614.

By Sponsored Programs


Dean’s Teaching Showcase: Chad Deering and Bob Barron

by Michael Meyer, Director, William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and LearningPrint

This week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase selection, made by Dean Wayne Pennington of the College of Engineering, is a unique teaching partnership. Assistant Professor Chad Deering and Lab Manager Bob Barron were selected for “deftly leading our students for the past three summers” through the field course in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.

GMES Chair John Gierke explains the unique demands and challenges of teaching the field geology course. “While most of us hold a fondness to participate in fieldwork, the glamour wears off when conditions get tough or if the work turns out tedious. Field geology starts a few days after Spring Semester. In addition to the rapidly changing and variable weather, UP fieldwork in May and June is accompanied by hordes of mosquitoes and black flies. The glamour evaporates by the second day. Moreover, field geology is fraught with uncertainty and figuring out the geological setting is tedious. Frustrations with the weather, bugs, and unknown are pervasive. It takes special people to lead students through the five week, all-day, every-day course.”
In addition, Michigan Tech’s field course has non-traditional timing which creates unique learning opportunities, but might make the teaching even more demanding. Pennington explains, “In most institutions, the ‘field course’ in geology is the final course, often following all other coursework. At Michigan Tech, it is usually taken after the second year. This enables students to have a better understanding of the basis for nearly all their subsequent courses … but only if the field course is taught in a way that encourages self-discovery and insight. For many years, Bob and Chad have taken the field course to new levels of integration with the concepts students are exposed to in their courses, helping the students to better master the concepts as well as the practices involved in the various disciplines that are based on these experiences. This approach to field experience is one of the things that makes Michigan Tech unique, and our students more successful upon graduation.”
Deering and Barron’s co-nomination for the Dean’s Showcase is based not on one particular innovation but their collective skills for success in developing students’ field skills in geology. Their complementary styles and knowledge have been an ideal pairing for leading the course, and student evaluations of instruction confirm their effectiveness. They approach each new site with a sequence that includes background literature, field observations, measurements and sampling, then further study in the microscopy lab.
They find ways to reinforce the mineralogy, petrology and structural geology skills developed in prerequisite courses, and insist on frequent individual and small-group interactions in the field to help the students persist, guiding them to an appropriate explanation for each site.
Intermingled through the learning experience are barbecues, brief periods of shooting the breeze in picturesque locales and other recreational activities. The fieldwork activities culminate with students creating geological maps and reports describing their findings. At this point in their studies, students span a spectrum of abilities for scientific writing and creating maps, which require artistic skills along with technical competence.
Gierke articulates the unique teaching challenges of the field course, saying “Achieving a balance of being critical of quality and yet maintaining morale is a knack that I have never mastered—I, unfortunately, excel at the being-critical part. Yet Bob and Chad have somehow figured out how to take students who are exhausted, sunburned and fly bitten and keep them sufficiently motivated to produce maps that could be framed (for some) and develop writing skills that help them through the rest of their curriculum.”
Deering and Barron will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members, and the team is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside-the-classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.


Black and White and Red All Over

sandstoneThe Keweenaw Peninsula shoreline tells a billion-year-old story forged in fire, sculpted by ice. Geoheritage tours teach visitors and residents how to read the variegated cliffs, long-tailed tombolos and shifting sands. To see where volcanoes, glaciers and humans irrevocably altered topography. Bill Rose, a Michigan Tech professor emeritus of geology who developed and leads the tours, calls it “geopoetry.” View full story here.