Author: ssvairo

Nominee for MAGS Distinguished Thesis Award – Erin Eberhard

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the nomination of two theses to the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 2020 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Competition. These theses represent the best in their discipline at Michigan Tech, and represented Michigan Tech in the regional competition.


Erin Eberhard represents the field of Biological/Life Sciences.  She earned a Master of Science degree in 2017 in Biological Sciences, and is continuing her work at Michigan Tech as a PhD candidate.  Her thesis was entitled, “Co-Occurrence of Nitrogen Fixation and Denitrification Across a Stream Nitrogen Gradient in a Western Watershed.” She was nominated by her advisor, Dr. Amy Marcarelli.  Erin’s work sought to address several long-standing assumptions about nitrogen (N) cycling in stream ecosystems.  According to her advisor, “Her MS research has transformed research in our lab and broadened our ecological understanding of N cycling processes in stream ecosystems.”  Her work can be accessed on Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech.


Nominee for MAGS Distinguished Thesis Award – Emily Simmons

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the nomination of two theses to the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 2020 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Competition. These theses represent the best in their discipline at Michigan Tech, and represented Michigan Tech in the regional competition.

Emily Simmons represents the field of Humanities.  She earned a Master of Science degree in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture in 2018.  Her thesis was entitled, “Accessing Library Space: Spatial Rhetorics from the U.S. to France and Back Again.” She was nominated by her advisor, Dr. Andrew Fiss. In his nomination, Dr. Fiss said that Emily’s work “…provided a framework for the development and implementation of a new evaluation tool that linked urban public libraries in Toulouse, France with those in the small, rural communities local to Michigan Tech.” Her work, “… strengthened both our opportunities for international, inter-university exchange and also the research profile of the Humanities department as a whole.”  Her work can be accessed on Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Hua Wang

I am a fourth year PhD Candidate on the program of Rhetoric, Theory and Culture in Humanities Department. My research focuses on the rhetoric of healthcare and medicine and technical communication, particularly in the Chinese context. To be specific, I study the relationship between the healthcare and medicine rhetoric and Chinese culture and how they shape each other with the advancement of communication technologies. In my doctoral dissertation, by rhetorical analysis, I examine the expression of rhetorical agency in the 2017/2018 No. 1 childbirth and pregnancy commercial app named Babytree to see to what extent the app spreads the information and knowledge of pregnancy and mothering to empower its users (Chinese women); how the users write their embodied experience of pregnancy into the online narratives and stories to respond to China’s dominant and hegemonic healthcare and medical discourse and practice; how the users who, having been excluded from labor markets or having limited choices in labor markets due to getting pregnant, use technological affordances of social media to enter those markets, become professional communicators, and achieve their rhetorical agency economically. My study expands our understanding of the rhetoric of health and medicine in an international context and extends the field’s conceptions of rhetorical agency by exploring how rhetorical agency can be asserted economically in a non-capitalist, non-Western context. To put it another way, my study on rhetorical agency is considered on a more global scale than previous studies. At last, I am extremely grateful to the graduate school for this generous financial support. I also would like to express my gratitude to my advisor Dr. Marika Seigel and my committee members Dr. Robert Johnson and Dr. Sarah Bell for their enlightening and intellectual guidance.


Doctoral The DeVlieg Foundation Fellowship Summer Research Award 2020 Recipient – Angela Walczyk

I am a second-year PhD student in Biological Sciences. I started at Michigan Tech in 2016 as a MS student, and I became a PhD student in 2018. My research focuses on how whole genome duplication (i.e. polyploidy) in plants influences adaptation to abiotic and biotic environments. I am specifically interested in determining if specific environmental conditions are correlated with polyploid advantages or disadvantages as a means of better understanding: how diploid versus polyploid populations are affected by environmental change and which environments may be at most risk for polyploid biological invasions.

I am very grateful that the DeVlieg Foundation and the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel has awarded me with support for the summer of 2020. This financial support will allow me to complete the second chapter of my PhD dissertation. This project will address whether polyploidy and/or post-introduction selection influences the expression of phenotypic plasticity in native and invasive populations of Solidago gigantea (Giant Goldenrod). I would also like to express my gratitude to the Biological Sciences Graduate Committee for their nomination and to my advisor Dr. Erika Hersch-Green for her mentorship and support of this project.


Doctoral Matwiyoff & Hogberg Endowed Graduate Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient – Wenkai Jia

It has been almost five years since I started the journey in MTU. The aurora in summers and the freezing -30 degree Celsius in winters are all my treasured memories. While most of my time was spent in Dr. Feng Zhao’s lab, which is also precious and it determined my future direction. My research focus is on engineering lymphatic and cardiac tissues by using cell derived extracellular matrix, which eliminates the use of artificial materials and augments the outcomes in improving tissue function. Hopefully, the engineered tissues can be used to replace and guide the regeneration of damaged tissues in patients with lymphedema and myocardial infarction.

I would like to thank my adviser Dr. Zhao and Dr. Goldman for their guidance and support. These works cannot be done without them. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the Graduate School for the fellowship, which gives me an opportunity to focus on my dissertation and put all my efforts toward completion of my Ph.D. degree.


Doctoral Portage Health Foundation Assistantship Summer 2020 Recipient – Dylan Turpeinen

I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering. I have worked in the Heldt Bioseparations Laboratory for 6 years including undergraduate research and have thoroughly enjoyed working in a diverse group of incredible people. My research has focused on the detection of biomolecules with rapid biosensors and the purification of biomolecules. My main project was developing a continuous virus purification process for use in vaccine manufacturing. With an ever-increasing need for life-saving vaccines, my work has the potential to have a real impact on many people’s lives.

I am extremely grateful to have received a PHF assistantship for the Summer 2020 semester. With the assistantship, I have the financial support necessary to publish my virus purification work and complete my dissertation. By the end of the Summer 2020 semester, I will defend my Ph.D. and plan to continue purifying biomolecules in the biomanufacturing industry.


Doctoral Portage Health Foundation Assistantship Summer 2020 Recipient – Lavanya Rajesh Kumar

At Michigan Tech I have had an opportunity to learn about interesting fields like motor learning and human factors, which were quite new to me. I also engaged in various service related, entrepreneurial and leadership activites. In the four years that I have been here, I have had the good fortune to have met some wonderful people and participate in community related events. I had lots of fun volunteering for the regional Copper Dog 150 event,  the annual illuminary ski event at Maasto Hiihto chalet and the Houghton Portage Township school’s FIRST robotic regional competition.

My PhD program in the Aging, Cognition and Action Lab, under the supervison of Dr. Kevin Trewartha (in the department  of Cognitive and Learning Sciences) , is in the area of health, neuroscience, motor learning and aging. The overarching aim of my dissertation is to investigate the role of exercise and social-cognitive-affective processes in improving neurocognitive function and their connection to other related domains like motor learning and emotional intelligence. In the first study we looked at low-impact eccentric exercise as an intervention. In the second study we are applying motivational techniques like enhanced expectancies, external focus of attention, and autonomy support as short-term interventions to improve motor learning and performance in a novel sensorimotor task in both, younger and older adults. The rationale behind these studies is to provide evidence of novel intervention methods that are both effective and simple and that can be employed to enhance motor learning and performance in older and younger adults. We expect that the findings will pave way for future work on the application of these techniques across various fields including rehabilitation, therapy, training, education and sports across different age groups, populations and conditions.

I am extremely grateful to the Portage Health Foundation for awarding me this graduate assistantship, which provided me with the opportunity to exclusively focus on my dissertation and work towards publishing papers on our novel interventions to improve health, motor learning and cognitive abilities. I would also like to express my gratitude to my advisor and department for their support and encouragement.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient – Bethel Worku Tarekegne

Bethel Tarekegne is a PhD candidate in Environmental and Energy Policy at Michigan Technological University. She holds a Masters in Energy Policy from the School of Public Policy at University of Maryland, College Park and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Benedict College.

Bethel’s work focuses on examining the intersection of energy, development, policy, and governance. Her current research is motivated by the need to achieve universal energy access in developing economies – mainly in the sub-Saharan Africa region. As an energy access researcher, she focuses on modeling decision tools for electrification planning with a special emphasis on the integration of techno-economic and socio-technical perspectives, rural electrification and social development, energy security and justice, and energy governance and policymaking. Through her work, she tries to understand how electrification projects can be designed from the energy-poor’s perspective in order to have equitable socio-economic outcomes.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient – Kevin Nevorski

I came to Michigan tech in 2016 to pursue my Ph.D. with Dr. Amy Marcarelli studying nitrogen cycling in steams. The past 4 years have been filled with adventures learning about stream ecosystems, meeting other scientists n my field, and discovering myself. My research is geared toward achieving a better understanding of how different environmental factors in the stream and the surrounding watershed will influence different nitrogen cycling processes. This included regular year-round sampling trips to the Pilgrim River to study seasonal and daily variation in nitrogen cycling. During this sampling, I basked in the warm sun of summer days and shivered during the -20 degree winter blizzards. This sampling encompassed the Father’s Day Flood providing insight into how nitrogen cycles are affected by and recover from severe hydrological events. I was also lucky enough to travel visiting labs and scientists across the country to better understand how nitrogen cycling changes with different environments, watersheds, and ecoregions. From Massachusetts to Oregon, Florida to Alaska we traveled in our lab van often camping along the way. All that excitement can only last so long and I’m looking forward to a summer locked p with my computer and all the data I’ve gathered writing up my findings for publication and getting ready to defend.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Haitao Cao

Haitao Cao

I am a Ph.D. candidate studying Geophysics and Seismology in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. I started working under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Pennington and Dr. Askari for my master program in Fall 2014. My master project focused on numerical simulation on the ambient noise seismic interferometry with an application to CO2 sequestration monitoring. After finishing MS in summer 2016, Dr. Askari offered me an opportunity to continue my PhD program. In my PhD project, we developed optical and acoustic experimental apparatuses to visualize and analyze the behavior of a special seismic waves called crack waves that propagate in hydraulic fractures. Our laboratory experiment on the crack waves helps to better understand the physical properties of fluid-filled reservoirs undersurface.

I cannot express my gratitude and appreciation to the graduate school for awarding me the Finishing fellowship. It will give me peace of mind to finish my dissertation more effectively and publish more papers out of my research in the summer.