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Outstanding Awards – Spring 2024 Recipients

The Graduate School announces the recipients of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship and the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award for the Spring 2024 semester. Congratulations to all recipients.

Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship

The following recipients of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship have demonstrated academic or professional qualities that set them apart within their academic program.

Rishi Babu – Physics
Utkarsh Shailesh Chaudhari – Chemical Engineering
Komal Chillar – Chemistry
Felix Cottet-Puinel – Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
Austin DePottey – Materials Science and Engineering
Siyuan Fang – Engineering-Environmental
Gaurish Gokhale – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ujwal Goulikar – Mechatronics
Samuel Hervey – College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Brilynn Janckila – Rhetoric, Theory and Culture
Samuel Kinne – Business Administration
Revanth Mattey – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Abhishek Patil – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Mostafa Rezaeitaleshmahalleh – Biomedical Engineering
Peifeng Su – Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering
Morgana Wilke – Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award

The following recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award are recognized for their excellence in teaching. 

Harikrishnan Changarnkothapeecherikkal – Computational Science & Engineering
Reid DeVoge – Humanities
Tiff Degroot – College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
Gita Deonarain – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Larry Dilworth – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Thomas Draper – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Joshua Gindt – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Olivia Hohman – Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Abhishek Keripale – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Anandhu Krishnan – Chemistry
Miaomiao Li – Civil Engineering
Zongguang Liu – Computational Science & Engineering
Theresa Meyer – Applied Ecology
Anwar Mohammed – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Ukasha Mohammed – Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering
Ryan Munter – Physics
Abel Reyes Angulo – Computational Science & Engineering
Zazil Santizo Huerta – Mathematical Sciences
Goutham Viyyapu – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics
Brennan Vogl – Biomedical Engineering
Kyle Wehmanen – Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
Aimee Zimmerman – Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

MAGS / ProQuest Distinguished Masters Thesis Award – 2024 – Honorable Mention – Isaac Lennox

Isaac Lennox, M.S. in Kinesiology, 2023

I am grateful to be recognized as an honorable mention for the MAGS Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. The completion of my project: “Exercise Is Medicine® on Campus: A National Analysis and Assessment of Community Impact” would not have been able to happen if not for my advisor Dr. Steven Elmer, my committee members Dr. Kamm and Dr. Petushek, as well as support from my lab members and the KIP department. As I work towards my dream of earning a medical degree and becoming a rural physician, Michigan Tech and Houghton will forever have a place in my heart.

Dr. Elmer and his lab introduced me to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC) initiative, which calls upon colleges and universities to promote physical activity on their campuses as a vital sign of health. This immediately became the forefront of my master’s thesis, as I was able to perform a national analysis of the distribution and impact of this 15-year initiative, while concurrently promoting physical activity on Michigan Tech’s campus and the surrounding Houghton County. Collectively, the findings from my thesis may help direct EIM-OC efforts to combat physical inactivity and improve health on campuses and their surrounding communities.

I would like to thank Dr. Elmer and the KIP Department for supporting me as a graduate student and providing me with opportunity to travel across the country to disseminate my work at regional and national conferences, as well as on campus and within the local community. Furthermore, I would like to thank the Houghton community for allowing me to contribute to local youth initiatives by teaching junior golf at Portage Lake Golf Course, and volunteer assistant coaching for the Houghton Gremlins JV hockey team. These are memories that I will never forget and I will be forever grateful for.

MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award – Spring 2024 Recipient – Scott K Pomerville

Scott Pomerville in a grassy valley with mountains behind
Scott Pomerville, Computer Science

Learning is hard, and it takes effort, but it can be easier when you’re having fun and feel like there is someone there helping you along. My name is Scott Pomerville, and I’m a PhD candidate in the department of Computer Science working on Architectural design of computer processors under Dr. Soner Önder. I did my undergraduate degree here, and decided that I loved both the area of Computer Science and the University enough to continue getting my Doctorate here.

I have found my voice in the classroom in trying to be openly energetic, passionate, and excited to hear what students say. I want to let my personality and passion bleed into the classroom. By being relatable and demonstrating excitement over the material, I think I can help students connect with the same topics that I personally also find fun. My objective as a teacher isn’t to just convey information, but to also show how exciting the field can be, from my lectures down to the assignments I give them.

My mentors and fellow colleagues have been instrumental in shaping me as both a researcher and as a teacher, and I am very thankful to each and every one of them for helping inspire both a love of research and a love of teaching. I am thankful for the nomination, and I am humbled and honored to be representing the university for Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools Excellence in Teaching Award for 2024.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Abhishek Patil

Abhishek Patil standing in front of mountains
Abhishek Patil, Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics

I am deeply thankful to the Graduate School and the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me the Finishing Fellowship. This invaluable support will enable me to fully focus on completing my final research projects and dissertation.

I extend my gratitude to the Intelligent Robotics & System Optimization Lab and the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics for providing the essential resources that have greatly contributed to the success of my research. The collaborative and enriching environment has played a pivotal role in shaping the depth and quality of my work.

My research, centered on designing algorithms for the efficient coordination of multiple autonomous robots, is a passion that aligns with the complex challenges of this multidisciplinary field. The Finishing Fellowship presents a unique opportunity to further explore and expand my knowledge and skills in this area.

I want to express my sincere appreciation to my advisors, Dr. Jungyun Bae and Dr. Myuoungkuk Park, whose mentorship has been instrumental in guiding me through my research journey at Michigan Tech. Their support has not only influenced my academic pursuits but has also been a source of inspiration.

As I enter the final stages of my research, I am eager to leverage this opportunity to its fullest potential. I am committed to making meaningful contributions to the field of autonomous robotics, and I am grateful for the encouragement and support that have brought me to this significant juncture in my academic career.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Elizabeth Lehman

Elizabeth Lehman standing in front of a poster presentation at a conference

I have always been fascinated with psychology, particularly the way people think and make decisions. We make judgments about our experiences all the time – from everyday social interactions to big events on the news – so it’s an area that is relevant and potentially very impactful. As a lifelong Yooper, I feel lucky to be getting an amazing education from the Applied Cognitive Science & Human Factors program. It has really highlighted the importance of both basic research and how to apply it effectively to real-world domains.

My dissertation research explores the ways in which people question their theories of events – particularly in ambiguous situations. I believe studying strategies used to question theories can lead to effective methods for changing them. As a social cognition researcher, I combine theoretical perspectives like motivated reasoning and sensemaking in analytical domains to understand how people form theories about events and what causes people to rethink them. I am experimentally testing strategies to promote questioning one’s theory. These strategies can then be used in domains like hiring to mitigate decision-making biases.

I want to give a heartfelt Thank You! to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for granting me this award. I want to thank my advisor Dr. Beth Veinott for all of her support with my PhD research and preparing me for an academic career. Her enthusiastic and thorough guidance has been invaluable. Additionally, I thank the ADVANCE Initiative and everyone in the Cognitive & Learning Sciences department for their continued support.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Anne Inger Mortvedt

Anne Mortvedt wearing a backpack standing on a hillside with mountains and clouds behind

I am sincerely grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Dean for selecting me as a Finishing Fellowship awardee. Receiving this honor marks a joyous milestone in my PhD journey, and I am eager to embark on the final phase of my academic pursuit.

My academic journey began in Oslo, Norway, where I earned a BSc in Physiotherapy and a MSc in Sports Physiotherapy. Driven by a passion for promoting preventive health measures, I ventured into the field of Exercise and Sports Medicine. Through my Master’s thesis, I connected with my current advisor, Dr. Erich Petushek, who encouraged me to explore solutions beyond traditional Sport Medicine boundaries. This led me to a Ph.D. position in the Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) program at Michigan Technological University (MTU).

Choosing to specialize in Human Factors in Sports Medicine, I focused on preventative measures to reduce the risk of injuries and diseases. My research involves developing an exercise intervention usability scale to predict and identify barriers for intervention uptake and adherence, bridging the realms of Human Factors and Exercise/Sports Medicine.

The Finishing Fellowship is pivotal in providing the necessary support to conclude my Ph.D. journey. I express my gratitude not only for the financial support but also for reaffirming the value of the work I am passionate about. Special thanks go to my advisor, Dr. Erich Petushek, for unwavering support and guidance, my committee members, and the faculty and friends in the ACSHF program.

As I look to the future with excitement, I am eager to make meaningful contributions to the field. This fellowship reinforces my commitment to advancing research at the intersection of Human Factors and Exercise/Sports Medicine, and I am enthusiastic about the opportunities that lie ahead. Once again, thank you for this invaluable support in my academic pursuit.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Shashank Pathrudkar

Indoor studio headshot of Shashank Pathrudkar

I am honored and grateful to accept the Finishing Fellowship Award and would like to express my sincere appreciation to the graduate school committee for this recognition.
My academic journey at Michigan Tech began in 2018 when I started my MS in the MEEM department . Immediately, I started working with Dr. Ghosh, whose guidance and mentorship have been invaluable throughout my academic career at Michigan Tech. The inherent potential and the learning opportunities presented by my Master’s thesis inspired me to extend my academic pursuit to a Ph.D. I have since been working at the intersection of Machine Learning, Mechanics, and Material Sciences.
The overarching goal of my research is to leverage machine learning models to bypass computationally expensive materials research methods. These models hold the promise of accelerating materials research, opening avenues for groundbreaking discoveries. The application of artificial intelligence in materials science has demonstrated remarkable potential in discovering novel materials that could revolutionize critical sectors such as energy harnessing, aerospace, electronics, and medical devices.
I am sincerely thankful to the graduate school for bestowing upon me the Finishing Fellowship Award. This recognition serves as a motivating force as I enter the final semester of my Ph.D. journey, encouraging me to give my best to the culmination of my research efforts. It is a testament to the support and belief the university has in my work.
I extend my deepest gratitude to Dr. Ghosh for providing me with the opportunity to be a part of his research group. Working on exciting research topics under his mentorship has not only enhanced my technical competence but has also played a pivotal role in my growth as a capable researcher. I am grateful for the trust and encouragement he has provided throughout the journey of both my Master’s and Ph.D. Additionally, I would like to express my thanks to the faculty and staff of the MEEM department for their unwavering support through my Ph.D. and Master’s.
I am excited to conclude my doctoral research and further advance my career.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Siyuan Fang

Indoor headshot of Siyuan Fang

I started my Ph.D. journey in Environmental Engineering at Michigan Tech in Fall 2019 under the supervision of Prof. Yun Hang Hu. My research is focused on heterogenous catalysis, carbon materials, and waste biomass valorization. Under the guidance of my advisor Prof. Hu, I developed a series of thermo-photo synergetic catalytic processes for hydrogen production, conversion of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane), and degradation of aqueous pollutants (antibiotics), and deeply investigated the underlying mechanisms of these processes. In addition, I explored the synthesis, properties, and applications of cutting-edge carbon nanomaterials (atomic carbon chain and carbon ring) and advanced the scientific understanding of their molecular behaviors. Furthermore, I exploited the approaches to converting waste biomass (particularly dead leaves) into high-value multifunctional materials and applied these materials to solve the critical issues in the realms of energy and environment. I sincerely wish that my research could provide new answers towards sustainable development for creating a greener future.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship that affords me the precious opportunity to dedicate my full attention for my dissertation and defense in my final semester. My special appreciation goes to my advisor, Prof. Yun Hang Hu, whose continuous guidance, support, and encouragement have shaped me into not only an independent researcher but also a positive and ambitious individual. I extend my gratitude to my esteemed committee members, Prof. Loredana Valenzano-Slough, Prof. Ranjit Pati, and Prof. Stephen Hackney, as well as my labmates, family, and friends for their unwavering help and support throughout my doctoral journey.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Utkarsh Shailesh Chaudhari

With a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from India and my commitment to never stop learning, the journey of my Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering began in August 2017 at Michigan Technological University (MTU). My passion and eagerness to learn new things led me to work voluntarily on multiple sustainability-related research projects during my Master’s degree, which also helped me in earning a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability in 2019. I soon realized that there are still a lot of things to explore and learn more about while contributing my efforts to ensure a sustainable world. With this idea in mind, the journey of my PhD in Chemical Engineering started in the Summer of 2019 in Dr. David Shonnard’s research group.

As a part of my research, we developed a systems analysis framework to identify the major plastic supply chain processes starting with production of plastics to the end-of-life management of waste plastics in the U.S. Furthermore, it expands on evaluating and optimizing the supply chain processes to minimize the environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of the entire system. My research also identified different types of commercially existing and newly emerging advanced or chemical recycling technologies for waste plastics and estimated their environmental and economic feasibility to compare against fossil-based traditional technologies that produce plastics. Additionally, our research also addressed the socio-economic impacts such as employment, revenues, and annual wage generation across the entire plastic supply chains due to increased recovery and recycling of plastics. I am incredibly grateful to work with various collaborators from national laboratories, industry partners, and different universities.

I would like to thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel as well as the Dean for their kind recommendation to approve my Finishing Fellowship application for the Spring 2024 semester. This fellowship would allow me to dedicate my time and efforts to prepare better and achieve my final PhD research goals. I would also like to thank my advisor Dr. David Shonnard for his continuous support and guidance throughout my PhD journey. His timely advice has not only helped me to develop critical research skills but has also contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth. I also extend my gratitude to all the faculty and staff in the department of Chemical Engineering for their teachings and assistance. Additionally, I would like to thank my family members for their never-ending support, motivation, love, and blessings. Finally, I am extremely excited about the next steps in my professional career to help build a more sustainable, circular (waste-free), and safer world!

“Passion. Hard work. Consistency. Struggle. Patience. Sky is the limit.”- Self.

Key research areas: Systems analysis, Plastics supply chain, Recycling, Life Cycle Assessment, Techno-economic Analysis, Sustainability, Circular Economy

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2024 Recipient – Kyle J. Schwiebert

Indoor headshot of Kyle Schwiebert

I am in my fifth year of a PhD in the Mathematical Sciences Department at Michigan Tech, but my time with Tech begins in 2015. I graduated with a dual degree in mathematics with an applied and computational concentration and chemical engineering in spring of 2019. I then began the applied and computational mathematics master’s program at Tech in the following Fall.

Through chemical engineering training, I developed a fascination with fluid dynamics and related transport phenomena. In my mathematics courses, I learned how much I enjoy programming and analyzing numerical methods for approximating the solution equations that model these phenomena. I count myself extremely fortunate not only that these interests overlap, but that our department has researchers in this field. Thus, I almost immediately began research work with Dr. Alexander Labovsky.

Fluid flow can be one of two main regimes, which each have important applications: turbulent and laminar flow. Turbulent flow, which is characterized by fast, chaotic motion, is crucial in many real-world applications from wing and autobody design to climate and weather modeling. Physical experiments, while vital, are incredibly expensive to perform. Thus, there is a need for numerical simulation to reduce the number of simulations required in a development cycle. Unfortunately, turbulence is famously difficult to simulate on a computer: For example, in order to resolve the flow around a whole airplane wing, one needs to resolve the motion of the fluid down to the tenths of an inch.

Thus, there exists a class of turbulence models which aim not to approximate the fluid flow exactly, but to approximate the main features of the flow without resolving the flow on such a fine scale. However existing turbulence models are often either 1) take too long to compute or 2) are not accurate enough. Building on the work of my advisor, I have investigated a novel (as of 2020) class of turbulence models which are much more accurate while being only slightly more expensive to compute. We have also applied these models in more complicated situations such as fluids which are interacting with one another or fluids which are also subject to electromagnetic forces.