Category: outreach

Simon Carn on the Eruption from a Fissure on the Reykjanes Peninsula

Pair of color maps of the peninsula, with a bright region in the right map.
Reykjanes Peninsula on December 18, 2023 (left) and December 19, 2023 (right). Visit NASA Earth Observatory for legend and labels.

Simon Carn (GMES) was quoted by NASA’s Earth Observatory in a story about the eruption of lava from a new fissure on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, which began late on Dec. 18. Carn interpreted a brightness temperature image comparison of the eruption area between Dec. 18 and 19, and commented on the reported risk to nearby infrastructure.

“If lava continues to flow north, it could eventually reach the key main road from Keflavík airport to Reykjavík.”

Simon Carn, professor in Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Carn’s current research focus is the application of remote sensing data to studies of volcanic degassing, volcanic eruption clouds, and anthropogenic pollution.

Letter from the Chair – December 2023

Northern Lights over the snow and ice with students and flashlight in the far right corner of the frame
Aurora Borealis, Waterworks Park, Calumet, Michigan

Dear GMES Alumni and Friends,

When I became the department chair, I stopped using ‘Professor of Geophysics’ in my title and email signature. Instead, I now simply refer to myself as ‘Professor and Chair.’ This change reflects the fact that the success of all our programs and the department as a whole is equally important to me. I aspire to see our four major programs complement each other, combining our traditional strengths while equipping our students with the skills and tools needed for success in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.

Aleksey Smirnov, Professor and Chair

Student enrollment remains the first priority for the Department. Currently, our undergraduate cohort is a healthy size, consisting of 73 students split between our four majors: Geology (28), Geological Engineering (23), Mining Engineering (16), and Applied Geophysics (6). Our nearly equal gender parity has consistently been one of the best within Michigan Tech. We currently have 34 MS students and 12 PhD students, with 12 more MS students joining us this spring semester 2024.

Even so, we have the capacity to accommodate still more GMES students and we work hard to bring them to Michigan Tech. Scholarships remain one of the most efficient tools to attract new students.  

We also recently started development of a new articulation agreement with Minnesota North College, just as we did with Northwestern Michigan College last year. These agreements allow community college students to transfer their two-year credits to Michigan Tech and receive their Bachelor’s degree in two years.

Our capable, dedicated, enthusiastic students continue to be very successful in their classes and professional development. Our award-winning student chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists attended the AIPG National Conference in Kentucky in September. Student success stories—such as  John Myyard’s and Brendan Harville’s—are always inspiring and rewarding for all us who strive to help students.  

Our alumni community is invaluable to our department’s success. We’ve been delighted to reconnect with many of you at various events, including the GMES social event at the Annual SME Conference and Expo in Denver, and the Michigan Colleges/Universities Joint Alumni Reception at the GSA Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh. We look forward to reconnecting with you at future events, including the upcoming Alumni Reception at the SME MineXchange Conference in Phoenix on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.

In October, it was a pleasure to welcome alumna Mary Herrmann-Foley, who returned to campus as a distinguished guest seminar speaker, sharing insights on the pivotal role of geological engineering in the energy transition. 

With your support, we can enhance our educational offerings, expand scholarship opportunities to benefit more students, and bolster their competitiveness in the job market. Your contributions also provide valuable support for student travel and professional development. For more details on how to make a difference, visit mtu.edu/geo/department/giving, or please feel free to contact me at asmirnov@mtu.edu.

Lastly, we are always glad to hear from you! Please share your thoughts on what and how we can do better, and update us on your own endeavors and achievements. 

Aleksey Smirnov

GMES Students Wow Houghton Elementary

We are delighted to recount the recent visit of two Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences (GMES) students to Houghton Elementary School, where the Rock Your School event sparked geologic wonder. Jhuleyssey Sanchez Aguila, an MS student in geological engineering, and applied geophysics undergrad student Brendan Harville took center stage as they masterfully conducted a captivating presentation on volcanic hazards, capturing the imaginations of the bright minds in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.

It was an immensely gratifying experience for all involved as the students exhibited an insatiable curiosity, inspiring questions that underscored their genuine interest in the particularities of geological science. The eagerness displayed by the young learners further reinforced the value of fostering scientific curiosity at an early age. This collaborative effort between our university and the elementary school enriched the children’s educational experience. It exemplified the profound impact that dedicated mentorship and knowledge-sharing can have on the budding scientists of tomorrow. TV6 gives a nod to Michigan Tech in the concluding comments of their news segment.

A special thank you to Jhuleyssey and Brendan!

Houghton Elementary School Principal Cole Klein introduces Jhuleyssy and Brendan to a group of 3rd, 4th, & 5th graders.
PC: Jennifer D’Luge

My story: John Myaard, MTUengineer

John sits at a table with brochures and MTU Geo Mining banners
Geological Engineering student John Myaard ’23
John and others wear hardhats and yellow shirts on a mining platfrom in an open air mine, surrounded by rock formations.
John Myaard (far right) in Roff, Oklahoma, during his summer internship with Covia.

Geological engineering student John Myaard interviewed for an internship with Covia Corporation during a Michigan Tech Career Fair, and landed the job.

“Covia develops mineral-based and material solutions for the materials and energy markets. I spent a summer with Covia’s operations team at their mine and plant in Roff, Oklahoma. During my time there I learned a lot about operations as I worked in a variety of positions—from slurrying sand to loading railcars and everything in between. I also completed new miners training: MSHA Part 46 Certification, required by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“My time at Tech has been influential. I’ve met many good peers with whom I’ve weathered both the classroom and the elements.”

John Myaard

“Michigan Tech was always on my radar. I am from Michigan and grew up in Hudsonville, home to Hudsonville ice cream. I had family in the UP, so I’d already had a chance to see the MTU campus. Originally I was going to major in computer science, but after being exposed to some geology courses in high school and then experiencing a favorable tour of the GMES Department, I decided geological engineering would be a better fit.”

“I’m passionate about the interdisciplinary problem solving required in the field of mining. I see a lot of value in geological engineers getting involved with operations and mineral processing. We bring a diverse set of skills to the table.”

“There are more opportunities within the geological disciplines than most people are aware of. Especially now, as I am looking to graduate, many diverse career options exist, and the future of the discipline looks good.”

John is drilling in an underground mine.
John operates a drill in an underground mine. Hands-on learning is the norm for GMES students at Michigan Tech.

“The Career Fair is not only a great resource for students to find new opportunities, it’s a great place to receive professional development, as well. I took part in several callback interviews that helped me develop and improve my interview skills. The callbacks were instrumental in landing my internship, and hopefully in launching my future career.”

“There is no singular path for success. It is a journey, try your best.”

Advice for incoming students, from John Myaard

A Note from the Chair

Early spring rock hunting at McLain State Park

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Aleksey Smirnov, Professor and Chair

Warm greetings from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech!

I hope this newsletter finds you in good health and high spirits. The long winter in the Keweenaw has finally given way to the vibrant colors of spring. As the seasons change and spring breathes new life into Copper County, I am delighted to reconnect with all of you and share some latest updates from our department.

As always, our priority remains to provide the highest quality education and learning experiences to our students, ensuring their future success. Recently, we heartfeltly congratulated our Spring and Summer 2023 graduates on this significant milestone. We are immensely proud of their achievements and wish them the very best in their future endeavors.

Our students continue to engage in active research, exploring new frontiers and making valuable contributions to their respective areas of study. I was particularly impressed by the work of Natalie Sorensen, a talented freshman majoring in geological engineering who has shown great promise in the field of hydrological research. Her dedication and enthusiasm are truly inspiring. Another noteworthy mention goes to Addison Goecker, a senior in applied geophysics whose poster presentation at the AIPG meeting received well-deserved recognition. It’s remarkable to see the caliber of research being conducted by our students.

One of the hallmarks of our department is the research mentorship provided by our faculty to our students. This commitment to guiding and nurturing their research endeavors was recently showcased at the Institute for Lake Superior Geology (ILSG) meeting in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, attended by a group of faculty and students. Not only did they present their research findings, but they also had the invaluable opportunity to network with esteemed professionals in the field. This experience further solidifies our department’s dedication to providing our students with exceptional research opportunities and preparing them for successful futures in their chosen disciplines.

Our faculty and staff have been successful, too! In particular, I am thrilled to announce that Radwin Askari, associate professor of geophysics, has been honored with a prestigious NSF CAREER award in recognition of his innovative ideas for understanding the dynamics of a volcano’s magmatic cracks. This research can improve the forecast of volcanic eruptions and help to mitigate their attendant hazards.

The expertise of our researchers is highly sought around the globe. Notably, our experts in water resource management, Dr. John Gierke and Dr. Luke Bowman were solicited by AmeriCorps to share their knowledge in building rainwater collection systems in rural communities of Colombia.

Teaching excellence has been a cornerstone of our department, and we take pride in the accomplishments of our faculty members on this front. Chad Deering and Luke Bowman, in particular, have been recognized for their exceptional teaching abilities. Chad’s dedication and passion have earned him a nomination for the Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award  while Luke’s teaching prowess has been acknowledged in the Dean’s Teaching Showcase.

The support of our donors is instrumental to our success. Your generosity plays a crucial role in providing exceptional opportunities for our students and enhancing the quality of education we offer. We are always striving to provide the best opportunities for our students. The next few years promise even further expansion. However, we still have big needs in the areas of laboratory improvements and student scholarships. We would greatly appreciate any assistance in making these enhancements.

In particular, we have a pressing need to upgrade our Mining Engineering computer lab, and also to fund additional scholarships for geology and applied geophysics students.

As I reflect on our shared journey, the importance of our alumni community is clear: You are an invaluable part of our department’s history and success. We were happy to see quite a few of alumni and friends at Michigan Tech’s GMES social event, held at the recent 2023 Annual SME Conference and Expo in Denver. We intend to have more such events at other professional meetings.

Meanwhile, if you ever find yourself in our neck of the woods, I sincerely hope you’ll consider stopping by to say hello and share your stories. Your experiences and achievements are a great inspiration to our students and faculty alike.

Wishing you all the best in your endeavors, and may our paths cross again soon.

With warmest regards,

Aleksey Smirnov
Professor and Chair
Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Gierke and Bowman on Building Rainwater Collection Systems

Group of locals and two researchers standing outside
Fundación Cartagena Nuevo Amanecer project partners celebrating the completion of another phase of their demonstrative community garden in Magangue, Colombia. Image courtesy of Damaris Guerra.
Man standing near a tank holding a sticker with  mining picks and a Husky illustration.
Foundation’s lead technician Jesus Fandiño with a GMES sticker to be placed on the main rainwater catchment/irrigation supply tank.

John Gierke and Luke Bowman supported Fundación Cartagena Nuevo Amanecer, with Dr. Gierke serving as Small-Scale Irrigation Systems Expert and Dr. Bowman serving as Water Capture (Hydrology) Specialist.

The two assisted the Fundación in the design of a small-scale water catchment and irrigation system for FCNA’s school garden beds as well as local backyard gardens.

In addition to designing and building functional systems during 10 days of work, Gierke and Bowman provided community partners with user-friendly, Spanish-language, spreadsheet tools to explore design considerations for sizing, purchasing components, and building new systems.

Read more at Partners of the Americas Economic Development & Health, by Farmer.to.Farmer.POA.

Simon Carn on the Tonga Eruption

Simon Carn (GMES) was a guest on a BBC Science In Action podcast episode on January 5, 2023, titled “One year on from the Tonga eruption.”

The episode discussed what made the January 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano so powerful and unpacked its long-lasting impacts.

“Amongst all the material ejected by Hunga Tonga was a huge amount of water. The massive water vapour cloud is still present in our atmosphere, as Professor Simon Carn from the Michigan Technological University tells us.”

BBC Science in Action

A Note from the Chair

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Alumni,

Greetings from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech! I hope that this newsletter finds you well and in good spirits.

The second half of the year 2022 has brought our Department new challenges, but also achievements and successes. 

Professor Aleksey Smirnov, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

First and foremost, I am proud to report that, after some hiatus, we inducted eight (!) new members to our Academy of Geological and Mining Engineers and Scientists. I hope you will join me in congratulating David Adler ‘82, Daniel Farrell ’60, Mary Herrmann-Foley ’83, Terre Lane ’82, Julie (Varichak) Marinucci ’02, Richard Saccany ’71, Brian Schwanitz ’77, and Todd Stone ’85! The Induction Ceremony, held on October 14, was a success and well-attended. In particular, we were happy to see the current academy members Catherine Aimone-Martin, Suzanne Beske-Diehl and Jimmy Diehl, William Brice, Karl Burgher, Gerald Carlson, Richard Gray, Catherine Dummer McRae, and Bill Rose. The festivities continued the next day with a Director’s Tour of the Mineral Museum and apple pressing at Professor John Gierke’s farm. Everyone had a good time. I would like to praise Brittany Buschell, our Department Coordinator, whose diligent work was instrumental in the success of this event. I intend to preserve the biennial cycle of the Academy from now on.

The success of our department is ultimately measured by the success of our students, and it is no secret that we’ve been blessed with more than our fair share of capable, dedicated, enthusiastic individuals who’ve been very successful in their classes and professional development. Just to give you a small sampling of these successes—our student chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists won the nationwide Student Chapter of the Year Award, not just one time, but three times in a row! Our mining engineering senior, Jake Maxon won the highly prestigious national Lord Bagri Scholarship Award from the Copper Club. It’s the second time in a row the award goes to our students.

In addition, our geology majors, Elliz McClelland and Samuel Johnson received the DeCleene Memorial Scholarship awarded by the Copper Country Rock and Mineral Club (CCRMC). Our graduate students get awards, too. For example, Beth Bartel was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) and the prestigious Smithsonian Institute Fellowship. Beth was also featured in the book, Quake Chasers: 15 Women Rocking Earthquake Science—check it out!

Increasing undergraduate and graduate enrollment to full capacity is one challenge that remains. We have been active in our recruitment efforts. We recently developed an articulation agreement with the Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) for our Geology and Applied Geophysics programs. We plan to complete similar agreements for our Geological Engineering and Mining Engineering degree programs soon. I am especially grateful to Luke Bowman, research professor and recruitment director, for his meticulous and efficient work in developing these initiatives. So far we have been able to withstand national enrollment trends, even slightly increasing our numbers this year. But much more remains to be done. 

We are dedicated to providing students with the greatest possible opportunity to succeed—something we can only do with the best faculty, staff, equipment, facilities, and scholarship opportunities. Your generosity makes our goal of providing truly excellent undergraduate and graduate experiences a reality, as we educate the scientists and engineers of the future, while still meeting the needs of today’s employers.

We especially need your help to support incoming and current students. This can be done in a variety of ways:  funding undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships; helping us to incorporate modern instrumentation and software in the classroom and field; developing new opportunities for the professional development of our students; and extending our efforts to offer a cutting-edge, quantitative, digital-age curriculum. You can find more information here, or contact me via email, at asmirnov@mtu.edu.

On behalf of all of our students, faculty, and staff, I want to express our deepest gratitude to those of you who have provided support to our department, by sharing your experience and expertise, providing professional opportunities to our students, or offering monetary and logistical support. As always, we welcome all new ideas and inquiries, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Alumni and friends are always welcome in person, too! Feel free to stop by the department office (room 630) on the 6th floor of the Dow Building whenever you are in Houghton. We would be very pleased to meet with you and arrange a tour of the teaching and research laboratories during your visit. Meanwhile, I invite you to stay connected to the department via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and our website.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!

Aleksey Smirnov
Professor and Chair
Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Pictured here: Canyon Falls, L’Anse, Michigan

Erika Vye Presents on Geoheritage Education in the Keweenaw

Erika Vye (GLRC/GMES) delivered an invited presentation (virtually) titled “Place, Partnerships, and Practice – Geoheritage Education Initiatives in Michigan’s Keweenaw Region” during the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GS), held October 9–12, 2022.

Vye and co-author Bill Rose (GMES) were invited to present as part of a Pardee Keynote Symposia titled “Geoheritage: Connecting Our Stories to Earth’s History.”

Pardee Keynote Symposia are special events of broad interest to the geoscience community. Examples of topics include those on the leading edge in a scientific discipline or area of public policy and those that address broad fundamental problems, provide new interdisciplinary insights, or focus on global problems.

Abstract

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan sits at the heart of the Midcontinent Rift and is renowned for the world’s largest accessible native copper deposit and Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake on Earth. The geologic underpinnings of the Keweenaw have fostered relationships with land and water for millennia and has imbued our place with significant sites that provide opportunity to broaden both Earth science and cultural literacy. Geoheritage offers opportunities to learn from the many stories, the issues impacting our community, and opportunities for sustainable economic development – all rooted in Earth systems processes.

Read more at GSA Connects 2022, by Erika Vye and Bill Rose.

A Note from the Chair

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Alumni,

Greetings from the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences! I hope that this newsletter finds you well and in good spirits.

The long Keweenaw winter is finally over and so is another fruitful academic year at Michigan Tech. We continue to thrive in the strong pursuit of our research and educational missions. 

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

With most pandemic-related restrictions lifted, our GMES faculty and students alike enjoyed in-person interaction in both the classroom and the lab, and also resumed their travel to fieldwork, conferences, and other professional activities. 

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to fund student participation in professional meetings. One particular highlight: our faculty and students were honored and recognized for their contributions and hard work at the 2022 SME Annual Conference & Expo in Salt Lake City. 

Our central priority is to enrich the learning experiences of our students and ensure their future success. At the end of April we wholeheartedly congratulated our Spring 2022 graduates, wishing them godspeed in their future endeavors. We also celebrated the well-deserved promotions of Dr. Radwin Askari to Associate Professor of Geophysics with tenure, and of Dr. Nathan Manser to Professor of Practice in Mining Engineering. Dr. Manser also received the Robert W. Piekarz award from the Industrial Minerals and Aggregates Division of SME.

Our faculty, staff, and students have been actively engaged in a wide range of research and engineering problems, working around the globe from Central America to India. Funding for this research comes from various agencies including NSF, NASA, USGS, NIOSH, and others. I am especially proud to report the success of our students who won no less than six Michigan Space Grant Consortium awards this year!

Many of these achievements are made possible through your ongoing encouragement and support. Thank you! We strive to provide the best opportunities for our students. As we work toward our goals, with your continued support, I am certain we will get where we want to be. 

While this letter is mainly intended to share our news with you, I hope that you will in turn share your own news and achievements with our Department, so that we can celebrate the impact each of us has on the wider world.

And, if your travels bring you to Houghton, please stop by–we are always happy to see you.

Best wishes,

Aleksey Smirnov
Professor and Chair
Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Pictured here: a portion of the Keweenaw Boulder Garden on campus at Michigan Tech, a dream fulfilled for geoscientist and GMES Professor Emeritus Bill Rose.