Day: May 8, 2012

A Michigan Tech Education Pays Off

Is a college education a good investment?

No question about it, according to a report just issued by the website In its 2012 Return on Investment (ROI) rankings, PayScale reports that a bachelor’s degree from Michigan Tech can be expected to yield more than $450,000 over a high school diploma in 30 years.

Michigan Tech placed 102nd among 850 US colleges and universities ranked in PayScale’s latest ROI report. According to the report, a Michigan Tech bachelor’s degree provides a return on investment of 9.6 to 11.1 percent.

“You would have a difficult time getting 11 percent every year going forward in the stock market without taking on a lot of risk,” said President Glenn Mroz. “And this is an investment people make in themselves that pays dividends beyond a simple ROI, since it affects a person’s quality of life and that of their family, often for generations.”

The ROI report also compared the cost of a degree at each of the colleges and universities ranked. It reports that a degree from Michigan Tech costs an average of $103,200, including tuition, fees, room and board, and books and supplies, with 91 percent of students receiving financial aid. At the top 10 schools on PayScale’s ROI list–all private–a degree costs between $203,500 and $212,900.

“The top of the list is dominated by expensive private schools and public universities with a strong STEM focus, demonstrating the value of STEM degrees,” Mroz pointed out.

Graduate School Dean Jackie Huntoon agreed. “I think this is a more rational ranking than the US News report, since it is based less on other academics’ perceptions and more on student outcomes,” she said.

by Jennifer Donovan, director, public relations
Published in Tech Today

Bi, Yapici Honored for Research to Reveal Cells’ Inner Workings

Lanrong Bi and Nazmiye Yapici are shining new light on the hidden processes within cells. For their groundbreaking research, Bi, an assistant professor of chemistry, and PhD candidate Yapici have received the Bhakta Rath Research Award.  The Rath Award recognizes research by faculty and doctoral students to meet the nation’s needs and contribute to emerging technologies.

Inside our cells are processes that make or break us. They are tied to tiny organelles, such as mitochondria, nuclei and lysosomes. To get a glimpse of those organelles, technologists infuse tissue samples with special dyes and observe them under powerful fluorescent microscopes.

When the dyes work, you can see a glowing image of the organelle. That image may someday be able to tell you if a cell is about to become cancerous or the patient is coming down with Alzheimer’s disease. Until now, however, those dyes had certain limitations.

Working together, Bi and Yapici have developed fluorescent dyes with powerful new properties: they work in acidic conditions, and they can trace hydroxyl radicals (also known as free radicals), very unstable molecules that are associated with a whole range of pathologies, from heart disease to AIDS.

“It’s difficult to monitor a cell’s interior pH, because if a cell goes acidic, the commercial dye breaks down,” said Bi. “But we have developed two dyes that become fluorescent under acidic conditions, which would make it much easier to monitor cells in a diseased state.”

This property makes these dyes especially useful in imaging lysosomes, which serve as the cell’s waste disposal system and have an interior pH of about 4.5. And there’s a good reason to look at lysosomes. “Their morphology changes as cells become cancerous,” Bi said. “This could be used for very early diagnosis, when it’s difficult to tell if a cell is cancerous or not.”

Using a different type of fluorescent dye, Bi and Yapici have also been able to verify the presence of free radicals in mitochondria–organelles that generate most of the cell’s energy–within colon cancer cells. “We do more than label mitochondria,” said Bi. “We are focusing on detecting oxidative stress, which is characteristic of many pathologies, including Parkinson’s, stroke and cancer.”

The fluorescent dyes could be used for quick, safe, inexpensive diagnostic tests, Bi said. “Just put a cell sample on a slide, add the dye, and wait 30 minutes for it to go to the specific organelles,” she said. Then look at it under a microscope.

“These novel fluorescent probes will have great potential for biomedical applications,” said James Russo of Columbia University in supporting their nomination for the Rath Award. “This project is especially exciting because the new compounds already show a dramatic improvement over a probe that is currently on the market.”

Yapici has been key to this research, Bi said. “She is an absolutely outstanding student,” she said. “She works very hard; to demonstrate one fluorescent dye, she will test it under 2,000 experimental conditions. And we will meet at two or three o’clock in the morning to do our work, because not many people are working on the fluorescent microscope at that time.”

Yapici has also been a willing collaborator, working with colleagues at Columbia and Northwestern universities on recent papers as well as with faculty in other departments at Michigan Tech.

Bi expressed her appreciation to her department chair, Professor Sarah Green. “A paper Sarah wrote back in 1990 in this area inspired me,” she said. “She is a pioneer in this field.” And she also thanked Bruce Seely, dean of sciences and arts, for his assistance, saying, “He gives pre-tenure faculty a great deal of support.”

As recipients of the Rath Award, Bi and Yapici will split a cash prize of $2,000.

Published in Tech Today.

Student earns AAUW International Fellowship

Taile Leswifi, a graduate student from South Africa, has been named a winner of an American Association of University Women (AAUW) international fellowship.

The prestigious fellowship is highly competitive. International fellowships are awarded for full-time study or research to women who are not US citizens or permanent residents. Recipients are selected for academic achievement and demonstrated commitment to women and girls. The overwhelming majority return to their home countries to become leaders in government, academia, community activism, the arts and science.

Studying environmental engineering at Michigan Tech, Leswifi is researching new ways to produce a sustainable, renewable, low-cost source of hydrogen energy from water and sunlight–energy that does not add to the pollution of the environment. She is also preparing herself to teach at Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa, where she plans to work with a South African Fulbright group to take the promise of success through education to children in remote reaches of her country.

“In a graduate school filled with interesting and hard-working students, Taile Leswifi stands out as a leader,” said Jacqueline Huntoon, dean of the Graduate School. “While she has been active in promoting civic-mindedness on campus, her dedication doesn’t stop there–she can often be seen volunteering time and talent for community programs. Whether on or off campus, her passion for research, global stewardship and education is beyond impressive–it is inspirational. Taile Leswifi is a strong female role model who will undoubtedly return to South Africa and be a leader in shaping new initiatives in academia, community activism and science.”

Sullivan to Address Graduates at Spring Commencement

Martha Sullivan, the president of Sensata Technologies, will address more than 1,000 graduates during Michigan Tech’s Spring Commencement.

The University will honor the achievements of 854 undergraduates and 199 master’s and PhD candidates during ceremonies on Saturday, April 28.

Sullivan, who earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1983, was named president of Sensata in 2010, in addition to her role as chief operating officer and director of several of the company’s subsidiaries. Previously she was executive vice president and chief operating officer, a position she had held since Sensata was purchased by Texas Instruments in 2006.

Sullivan joined Texas Instruments in 1984 and rose through the ranks, attaining the post of vice president of Sensors in 1997. During her tenure, sensors revenue grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 11.2 percent with 10 consecutive years of growth, while profits increased by 23 percent annually.

Sensata Technologies is one of the world’s leading suppliers of sensing, electrical protection, control and power management solutions. The company, with revenues of $1.8 billion, has manufacturing and technology development centers in 11 countries and employs 11,500 people.

Sullivan is a member of the Presidential Council of Alumnae and the Academy of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech and serves on the University’s Generations of Discovery Capital Campaign. She and her husband, Michael, have two children and live in Westport, Mass.

Published in Tech Today

Graduate School Announces Summer Seminar Series

Summer Seminar Series
Summer Seminar Series

The Graduate School is pleased to announce its summer seminar series, where graduate students can learn new skills in an hour.  Register online to reserve your seat and receive confirmation of the time and location.


  • Learn how format a thesis or dissertation and submit it to the Graduate School


  • Learn tips and tricks for using Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF of a thesis or dissertation


  • Learn about current technology that can digitize notes
  • Use the power of an iPad for research


  • Join a panel discussion of faculty as they share their secrets to research success

For more information, email Debra Charlesworth in the Graduate School at