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Interesting stories about and for our students.

Nominee for 2018 CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award: Lauren Schaefer

Lauren Schaefer
Geological Engineering

Lauren Schaefer 2018Lauren N. Schaefer received both an MSc in Geology (International Geological Masters in Volcanology and Geotechniques, 2012) and a PhD in Geological Engineering as a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow (2016) at Michigan Tech under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Oommen. Her dissertation investigated the potential for large-scale debris avalanches at Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala to optimize future monitoring and mitigation efforts. A combination of experimental rock mechanics, field investigations, remote sensing, and numerical modeling not only detected, but revealed the nature and mechanics of the largest landslide surge witnessed in a single event at a volcano. Her dissertation provided rare insight into precursory deformation prior to a potential future catastrophic collapse at an active volcano. Such an event was witnessed at Mount St. Helens in 1980, and is known to have occurred at over 400 volcanoes worldwide.

Currently, Lauren is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she continues to research landslide and volcanic hazards.


Nominee for 2018 CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award: Erin Pischke

Erin Pischke
Environmental and Energy Policy

Erin Pischke 2018My dissertation research examines the public perceptions of socioecological impacts of oil palm production and the political ecology of environmental change in Tabasco, Mexico. I collaborate with natural, social and engineering scientists to study the impacts of bioenergy development projects to assess the sustainability of them. My work shows that past political and economic actions impact current environmental conditions and creates institutional and structural constraints in the region to which people are adapting. A multi-pronged, interdisciplinary approach tackles problems from various angles to, in a sense, make the problem smaller. My research also studies the challenges that international, interdisciplinary teams face when studying such impacts in international settings so that future research can be more successful.


Nominees for 2018 CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award

The Graduate School would like to congratulate and recognize Lauren Schaefer and Erin Pischke for being nominated for the Council of Graduate Schools / ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards, the nation’s most prestigious honors for doctoral dissertations.

Two awards are given annually in two different broad areas (mathematics, physical sciences and engineering; and social sciences; and the biological sciences; and humanities and fine arts). The winners of the awards will be announced during the Fall 2018 Semester.

The 2018 fields of competition are:

Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Engineering

Mathematics and Social Sciences


MAGS/ProQuest Distinguished Masters Thesis Award 2018 Nominee – Alexis Newton

Alexis Newton
Rhetoric, Theory and Culture

Alexis Newton 201708While in the Rhetoric, Theory and Culture Master’s program at Michigan Technological University, my thesis research focused on the relationships between hardware, software, and wetware – namely, looking at how video games virtually and physically effected the way we understand and engage with play. By defining and distinguishing between “gamespaces” (the virtual spaces players engage with to play a game) and “playspaces” (the physical spaces players inhabit while playing a game), I explored the various ways in which hardware constrains, encourages, and/or politicizes play. This research not only guided my work as a student, but also informs my work as an instructor of Rhetoric and Composition, where I focus on teaching students to be critical readers and writers of culture, both popular and otherwise. In the future, I plan to expand upon my thesis work and explore how these concepts apply to and flourish specifically in museum and gallery spaces.


MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award 2018 Nominee – Nadun Dissanayake

Nadun Dissanayake
Mathematical Sciences
Nadun Dissanayake 201801

I’m a PhD Student in Computation and Applied Mathematics at MTU. I am also a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Department of Mathematical Sciences teaching Pre-Calculus during fall and Calculus II during spring. Teaching is my favorite hobby because I enjoy being with students and helping them. Mathematics is a subject students often struggle with, and I love to teach mathematics in a way that makes sense to students. I interact with students in and outside of class and make them work hard. The students at MTU are very talented and smart, and I consider myself lucky to teach them. I want every student to reach their full potential. Teaching well raises the standards of my university and department, and I always keep that in my mind when I teach. We all have a responsibility to represent our university well and to produce successful students from our classes. I consider teaching to be not just a job, but the greatest service to the world.


Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Summer 2018 Recipient – Matt Kilgas

Matthew Kilgas
Integrative Physiology

Matt KilgasI am a Ph.D. candidate in Integrative Physiology at Michigan Tech. My line of research involves adapting new types of exercise to different clinical and healthy populations. I have worked on many projects including the development of a new exercise device for wheelchair users and creating a home-based rehabilitation program for those with ACL injury. I have been living in the Upper Peninsula for the past 9 years. When I’m not working on my research you can find me out exploring the Keweenaw with my wife and dog. We love hiking, skiing, and biking on the many trail systems in the area.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2018 Recipient – Janarjan Bhandari

Janarjan Bhandari
Atmospheric Sciences

Janarjan BhandariBefore joining the Physics Department as a Ph.D. candidate in Atmospheric Sciences, I earned my BS and MS in Physics from Tribhuvan University. My research with Dr. Claudio Mazzoleni focuses on the morphology and mixing state of absorbing aerosol particles in the atmosphere and their optical properties. The effect of absorbing aerosols on climatic forcing is large and highly uncertain. A detailed study on the morphology and mixing state of individual aerosols is necessary to reduce uncertainty in climatic forcing by these aerosols.

During my years at Michigan Tech’s Physics Department has provided me full support of my studies. I am thankful to the Michigan Tech Graduate School for the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship award that will help me finish my degree this summer. I am also very grateful to my advisor Dr. Claudio Mazzoleni, who not only mentored me since 2013 in research, but also allowed me opportunities to participate in a collaborative research campaign, and to participate in different conferences that provided a nice platform to interact with the community people and exposure to different instrumentations. I feel proud be a student in the Atmospheric Sciences program at Michigan Tech.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2018 Recipient – Shanshan Hou

Shanshan Hou
Chemistry
Shanshan Hou

I came to Michigan Tech in January, 2013 and work in the chemistry lab with my advisor, Dr. Lanrong Bi. I earned my BSc. Degree in Pharmacy in my home country, China. Currently, my research focuses on the design and synthesis of fluorescent dyes. These fluorescent dyes could target and label the organelles, thus shining light on cell’s inner workings. I learned and got a lot in my five-year PhD life, I feel so proud to be a student at Tech.

I want to give my sincere thanks to Graduate School for providing me with the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship. With this fellowship, I will be able to focus on my dissertation so that I could expect to graduate this semester. I am also greatly thankful to my advisor and department for their big support.

 


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2018 Recipient – Hans Lechner

Hans Lechner
Geology

Hans LechnerI first came to Michigan Tech as a Peace Corps Masters International student in 2005. After finishing my Peace Corps service in El Salvador I returned to MTU in 2010 to complete my thesis on volcano geodesy. I started down the PhD path in the Fall of 2011 in geology but wanted to put a stronger emphasis on “social geology.” My doctoral research focuses on volcano geodesy, risk communication and evacuation behavior. It straddles the interface of geophysics and social vulnerability in an effort to better understand magmatic systems, volcanic hazards, and risk behavior. Under the guidance of Dr. Greg Waite my research has been conducted at volcanoes Pacaya and Santiaguito, Guatemala and has employed both physical and social science methodologies. I use GPS geodesy to measure surface deformation and model magmatic storage locations and plumping systems in volcanoes. I also use structured questionnaire-surveys and statistical methodologies in an endeavor to better understand the causal relationships between volcanic eruptions and evacuation behavior. By integrating both physical and social sciences my aim is improve volcano monitoring strategies and hazard communication to vulnerable populations so that people in at risk communities can make more informed protective action decisions.

I would like to thank the Graduate School and all the benefactors for providing me with financial support through the Finishing Fellowship. This opportunity allows me to focus my energy on completing my dissertation without the stress and worry about where funding comes from. It is truly and honor and privilege to have this support.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2018 Recipient – Shadi Darani

Shadi Darani
Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Shadi DaraniI joined Michigan Tech as a Ph.D. student in 2015. My research interests include optimization and control algorithms. During my time as a student at MTU, I worked on an NSF project to develop novel optimization algorithms based on biology concepts. These algorithms can be used in various areas including optimization of spacecraft trajectories, wave energy converter design, energy-asset optimization in post-disaster power restoration, and robotic trajectory planning.
I would like to thank Michigan Tech for providing a great research and development environment. I am also very thankful to the Graduate School for recommending me for the Finishing Fellowship.