Category: News

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Aynaz Biniyaz

I started my journey at Michigan Tech by joining the Ph.D. program in Geotechnical Engineering in Spring 2019. Dr. Zhen Liu’s research group (LiuRG) provided me with an environment to grow and thrive in my future career. The current goal of LiuRG is to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning algorithms to solve geotechnical engineering problems more efficiently. My Ph.D. research focuses on the development of intelligent geosystems with AI, multiphysics, and system analysis to help mitigate natural hazards, especially landslides. An autonomous water pumping system in slopes exemplifies an intelligent geosystem. The objective of my study is to reduce the operational costs and enhance slopes safety by proposing an autonomous pumping system enabled by Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL), which is a subfield of machine learning for automated decision-making. Such a system can learn from past experiences like a human to improve the safety, resilience, and cost of the system. This system can benefit geotechnical practitioners during flooding and extreme weather events to prevent landslides and disasters.

I want to express my gratitude to my advisor, Dr. Zhen Liu, who supported me along the way. Also, I would like to sincerely thank the Graduate Dean Award Advisory Panel for awarding me the Finishing Fellowship. This will allow me to focus on completing my dissertation and defending it.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Zhuo He

I started my Ph.D. in 2018 and transferred to the Department of Applied Computing at Michigan Tech in the fall of 2019. I obtained my Bachelor’s degree from Central South University in China. 

At Michigan Tech, I work at the Laboratory of Medical Imaging and Informatics under Dr. Weihua Zhou’s supervision. We focus on the application of improving the treatment outcome of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) using artificial intelligence, which is a life-saving treatment for patients with failing hearts. Like any therapy, CRT is not suited for all patients, and patient selection is critical to achieving optimal performance. My dissertation work intelligently fuses mechanical dyssynchrony with electrical dyssynchrony to identify the right patient for CRT, thereby significantly improving the outcome of CRT.

I would like to thank the Graduate School, the Department of Applied Computing, and the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for providing me with the Finishing Fellowship award. This award will allow me to focus on wrapping up my dissertation and preparing for my defense.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Zhihong Wang

I began my Ph.D. study in 2017 and working with Dr. Xiaoqing Tang in the Department of Biological Sciences. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology from Northwest A&F University in 2016. 

My research focuses on the role of miR-483 in pancreatic beta-cells. Pancreatic β-cell dysfunction is central to the development and progression of type 2 diabetes. Dysregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs) has been associated with pancreatic islet dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. I found out that Loss of miR-483 could enhance high-fat diet–induced hyperglycemia and glucose intolerance by the attenuation of diet-induced insulin release. and I further demonstrated that the loss of miR-483 induces expression of Aldh1a3, a marker of β-cell dedifferentiation. My results suggest that miR-483 mimic would be a potential therapeutic target to revert β-cell dedifferentiation and be a treatment of diabetes. 

I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Xiaoqing Tang, for her support and guidance. And I would like to thank the Graduate School, Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel, and the Graduate School for providing me with the Finishing Fellowship award. This will allow me to focus on writing and defending my dissertation in Spring 2022.


KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Brittany Nelson

It started when I took a critical thinking class where I learned how irrational many of my, and most people’s decisions, are. Many hold a misconception that we are rational creatures that we weigh pros and cons of each choice and choose the option that has the most utility. I was immediately fascinated that this is not the case; decisions are influenced by biases, environment, emotions, fatigue, and more. As an undergraduate, I conducted a blind experiment that measured the impact of reading a free will philosophy pamphlet on behaviors such as stealing candy and donating money. (Those who read the pamphlet that suggests we don’t have free will are more likely to steal candy and not donate money!) After learning how little we make rational decisions —without even being aware— I understood the potential the field of cognitive science has for helping people.

My interest in teaching allowed me to take many powerful lessons from my Masters’ degree in Applied Cognitive Science and share them with students when I was a visiting professor at Finlandia University. This position opened my eyes to how instructors can empower students through teaching. From this experience, I gained a passion for and concrete skills in how to be a professor.

Under the advisement of Dr. Erich Petushek, my current Ph.D. research at MTU involves identifying, measuring, and improving key factors that impact healthy lifestyle decisions. Lifestyle behaviors cause 60% of premature deaths and lead to 10 years longer life expectancy free of major chronic diseases. I hope that the long-term impact of this research is saved lives and a significant improvement in quality of life.

It is my goal to become a professor in psychology. As a professor, I can empower students to reach their potential and lead a lab devoted to helping people make good decisions. I am so grateful and honored to receive the King-Chávez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship. I know it will help pave my way toward my goal.


Spring 2022 Graduate Student Orientation

Welcome to the Graduate School at Michigan Tech! The Graduate School invites all new students to attend the Welcome to Graduate School session. The Welcome is an opportunity to meet the Graduate School dean, campus leaders and hear from your Graduate Student Government.

Welcome to Graduate School
Friday, January 7, 2022 | 2-4pm, Memorial Union Ballroom (2nd floor)
Meet the Dean, Graduate Student Government, Career Services, and more.


Orientation to Graduate Studies and Research
This required training program will be online for spring 2022. You will be introduced to the expectations for graduate students and the basics of responsible conduct for research. Enrolled students will be emailed specific information based on their degree program.


Please contact the Graduate School with any questions. More information about orientation can be found here.


Safety protocol changes

Because we are seeing an increase in cases, both on campus and in the local community, we are returning to the Health and Safety Level protocols that were in place at the start of the fall semester. Beginning Monday, October 25, face coverings will be required indoors on campus, with the exception of the SDC and Gates Tennis Center, where face coverings remain recommended for all. You are not required to wear a face covering when alone in an enclosed space. Please refer to our Health and Safety Levels for additional information. 


Vaccine requirements for graduate student employees

To comply with requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, all Michigan Tech student employees — including Graduate Teaching Assistants, Graduate Research Assistants, Graduate Teaching Instructors, and graduate hourly employees — must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved exception prior to January 10, 2022.

More detailed information regarding vaccination and exception requirements is included below and on the MTU Flex website. Please send your questions about any of these topics to mtuflex@mtu.edu

Vaccination Timing

All employees must be fully vaccinated or have an approved exception by January 10, 2022. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Please note that the Pfizer vaccine doses are given 21 days apart and the Moderna doses are given 28 days apart. Vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) are also acceptable under CDC guidance. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is free, and doses are available at most pharmacies and health care providers. Please visit the Copper Country Strong website for information about where and how to get vaccinated in the Western Upper Peninsula. 

Vaccination Documentation

Under the federal requirements, employees will need to show proof of their vaccination status. We are building a confidential process employees can use to provide this proof, either electronically or in person, and which Michigan Tech will use to review that documentation. We will provide more information as soon as we are able. 

Exception from Vaccination

Employees with documented medical reasons for being unvaccinated may be entitled to a disability accommodation excepting them from the vaccination mandate. Medical exceptions can be requested by contacting Michigan Tech’s ADA Coordinator at adacoordinator@mtu.edu. Information and a form will be sent to employees for completion, and documentation will be required from a medical provider.

Employees with a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance that prevents them from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine may be entitled to an accommodation excepting them from the vaccination mandate. Accommodation requests based on a religious belief, practice, or observance should be made using the religious exception form. When completed, this form should be submitted to Michigan Tech General Counsel Sarah Schulte at shschult@mtu.edu.

All accommodation requests are confidential. In the event that a request is granted, only those individuals who need to know of the accommodation will be informed of it. In the event that an accommodation request is denied, it will not be shared beyond those performing the review, except as requested by the individual seeking the exception. Employees who receive a vaccination exception may be required to comply with alternative health and safety protocols. 

All employees need to be fully vaccinated or have an accommodation in place prior to January 10, 2022. Human Resources will work with employees who have challenges with those requirements. 

Please send your questions about any of these topics to mtuflex@mtu.edu


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2021 Recipient – Erin Eberhard

Erin Eberhard came to Michigan Technological University in June 2015 after earning her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. She earned her Master’s degree from Michigan Tech in summer 2017 with the thesis, “Co-occurrence of nitrogen fixation and denitrification across a stream nitrogen gradient in a western watershed,” as part of Dr. Marcarelli’s lab NSF CAREER project looking at the dynamics of nitrogen fixation and denitrification in streams – read more about it in Biogeochemistry (Eberhard et al. 2018). She has continued her PhD studies on the same project, focusing on small-scale factors that facilitate the co-occurrence of N transformations and how they are related to microbial assemblages in streams and also across wetland-stream-lake interfaces of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in a federal or state agency working to conserve and protect freshwater ecosystems and communicate science with the public.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2021 Recipient – Geeta Sachdeva

When I was in high school, my father once told me that he was very inspired by all the professors in his Lab, where he worked as a lab assistant. He always wished one of his children would study science and become a professor. I first realized that I adored Physics when I scored the highest marks on the Physics exam among all the other students. With the encouragement of my parents and my favorite science teacher, who recognized that I would excel in the challenging environment of like-minded students, I pursued my further studies in Physics. My love for physics has increased exponentially ever since. I used that fire inside me, pushed myself throughout this Ph.D. program, and am now ready to graduate with the finishing fellowship award and a cumulative GPA of 3.9.

Growing up in an underprivileged community, I never imagined that I would go to the United States of America, especially at Michigan Technological University for my Doctorate study. Coming from such a community had not only offered financial and academic challenges but had also helped me realize the true value and potential of a college education. I have a long-held fascination with the inner workings of the universe, which I feel are best learned from the study of physics. My primary area of interest is Quantum Mechanics. Although I understand enough of it mathematically, there is always more and more to learn. Normally, when things are separated in space, we view them as independent entities. However according to Quantum Mechanics, in certain circumstances, things that are separate in space can be viewed as a single entity. One particle can cause a change in another even though they have no direct relationship. This phenomenon seemed very fascinating to me and I decided to pursue my research in this field.

My experience of pursuing a Ph.D. at Michigan Technological University has been incredible. On my first day at Tech, I knew I had a long way to go, but I am very fortunate that I had a mentor like Dr. Ravindra Pandey, who was always patient. He guided me to conduct professional and analytical research and taught me several aspects of life by setting up great examples by his deeds. I have worked with Dr. Pandey on multiple projects where I could investigate how constituents of one material can affect the properties of another material and how combining them will result in an extended material with enhanced properties and applications. I have been working on a project in collaboration with the NASA team on various polymer molecule interactions with graphene and BN monolayers, and have investigated the structure-property relationship among such complex systems.

I have been in Houghton for four years now and it has been a life-changing experience; summers were always the most beautiful and winters had shown their extreme. I got several opportunities to participate in events and organizations at MTU and have always tried my best to help others. I am thankful to MTU for allowing me this chance to pursue a Ph.D. in my area of interest. I am grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Graduate School for awarding me the Finishing Fellowship during the final period of completing and defending my dissertation. Lastly, I am thankful to my Professor, my committee members, and my friends who have supported me in this wonderful journey.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2021 Recipient – Morteza Shaker Ardakani

I began my journey at Michigan Tech as an incoming PhD’s student in fall 2017 in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. During my studies, I have completed a couple of research projects in which the mechanical properties of zinc (Zn) based alloys, as a new class of biodegradable metallic implants (BMIs), have been tailored.

Ideally, BMIs will be designed to be absorbed and metabolized by the body after successfully completing their tasks as structural supports. The structural demands for BMIs necessitate a careful balance of the alloy chemistry and material processing. My PhD research involves the development of alloying and processing strategies to address deficiencies in the mechanical behavior of Zn-based alloys.  My project serves to establish workable balances among the mechanical characteristics without compromising the required underlying alloy’s biocompatibility and corrosion rate.

I would like to sincerely thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Graduate School for providing me with the Finishing Fellowship Award. This will allow me to focus my efforts on defending my dissertation in fall 2021. I am particularly thankful to my advisors, Dr. Kampe and Dr. Drelich, whose mentorship and encouragement has been invaluable