Author: ssvairo

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Qing Guo

I have joined Prof. Pandey’s research group at Michigan Technological University since Fall 2015 to pursue my Ph.D. degree in Physics.

My Ph.D. research is focused on an investigation of the novel properties of materials using first-principles density functional theory (DFT) method and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. It can be divided into two parts. In my first project, I have systematically studied the electronic properties of vertically stacked heterostructures composed by graphene and SnO. In this study, we found a finite bandgap is opened for graphene and the outmost SnO monolayers could protect the bandgap from high external electric field (up to ≈ 0.3×10^9 V/m). This result could provide clues for the practical application of graphene in nano-level electronic devices design. The second project is related to the Li-S battery system which has been considered as a promising energy storage system due to its high theoretical energy density and relatively low cost in terms of main reactants (e.g. sulfur). My research is related to the characterization of Li polysulfides solid phases to predict their mechanical stability and electronic nature (i.e. metal vs semiconductor) which will help understand the reaction path and advance the design of a functionalized cathode in the Li-S battery system for energy applications. This project is still ongoing, and I would like to thank the Graduate School for financing my last stage of research. 



Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Kevin Sunderland

I am a PhD Candidate in my final year with the Biomedical Engineering department at Michigan Tech. My research focuses on the study of complex swirling blood flow patterns and how analyzing their characteristics can help to better understand the development, growth, and rupture of cerebral aneurysms. In my doctoral dissertation, I have utilized computational fluid dynamics to simulate blood flow patterns in 3D vascular models taken from medical imaging files of patients with cerebral aneurysms and applied a novel computational analytic method to identify areas of complex swirling flow and measure their changes over the cardiac cycle. This has led to novel quantified metrics that can improve statistical models to predict areas of aneurysm development, and improve models capable of differentiating ruptured and unruptured aneurysms giving new insights into flow conditions suggestive of aneurysm rupture that are often overlooked in other studies. The final aspect of my doctoral research is to use a specialized flow chamber to expose human vascular endothelial cells to multiple areas of swirling flow, with each area having varied spatiotemporal characteristics. These cells will be analyzed to see if varied swirling flow characteristics lead to differing levels of cellular changes indicative of aneurysm rupture: expression of cell-to-cell adhesion proteins, inflammatory markers, and levels of cellular apoptosis (death).

My hope is that this work will one day help doctors further understand the complex nature of aneurysms, and that the quantified measure of swirling flow characteristics will be utilized in the clinical setting to better identify which aneurysms are at high rupture risk. This could help guide clinical decision making to determine if aneurysm surgery prior to rupture is worth the risk, or if an aneurysm is likely to remain stable, posing minimal risk to patient health.

I am extremely grateful to Michigan Tech’s graduate school for this financial support, allowing me the opportunity to finish my research. I also would like to express my gratitude to my advisors Dr. Jingfeng Jaing and Dr. Feng Zhao (now faculty at Texas A&M), as well as my committee members Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, Dr. Gowtham, and Dr. Min Wang for their expertise and guidance throughout my research at Michigan Tech.


The DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications!

Dear Colleagues,

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science is pleased to announce that the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications for the 2020 Solicitation 2.  Applications are due 5:00pm Eastern Time on Thursday, November 12, 2020.

We would like to bring to your attention 4 new transdisciplinary research areas for encouraging graduate training activities at the convergence of multiple disciplines and communities, including Microelectronics, Data Science, Conservation Laws and Symmetries, and Accelerator Science. We strongly encourage applications in these areas.  Detailed information about the program, including eligibility requirements and access to the online application system, can be found at: https://science.osti.gov/wdts/scgsr/.  

The SCGSR program supports supplemental awards to outstanding U.S. graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory/facility in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months—with the goal of preparing graduate students for scientific and technical careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission.

The SCGSR program is open to current Ph.D. students in qualified graduate programs at accredited U.S. academic institutions, who are conducting their graduate thesis research in targeted areas of importance to the DOE Office of Science. The research opportunity is expected to advance the graduate students’ overall doctoral thesis/dissertation while providing access to the expertise, resources, and capabilities available at the host DOE laboratories/facilities. The supplemental award provides for additional, incremental costs for living and travel expenses directly associated with conducting the SCGSR research project at the DOE host laboratory/facility during the award period.

The Office of Science expects to make approximately 95 awards in 2020 Solicitation 2 cycle, for project periods beginning anytime between June 14, 2021 and October 4, 2021.

Since its inception in 2014, the SCGSR program has provided support to over 580 graduate awardees from 141 different U.S. universities to conduct thesis research at 18 DOE national laboratories/facilities across the nation.

The SCGSR program is sponsored and managed by the DOE Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS), in collaboration with the six Office of Science research programs offices and the DOE national laboratories/facilities, and program administration support is provided by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).

For any questions, please contact the SCGSR Program Manager, Dr. Ping Ge, at sc.scgsr@science.doe.gov.

U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science


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.