Category: News

Interesting stories about and for our students.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Alejandra Almanza

I started my PhD in Materials Science and Engineering in Fall 2016 under the guidance of Dr. Paul Sanders. I have been working in the production and optimization of ductile iron, and it has been four great years full of challenges, achievements, and lessons learned. I feel passionate about research and learning new things every day, Michigan Tech has given me these experiences.

I want to sincerely express my gratitude to the Graduate School for awarding me with the Fall 2020 Finishing Fellowship. A big thank you to my advisor, who has given me positive feedback and encourage me throughout my degree. And finally, thank you to the Materials Science and Engineering department for all the support provided during my time here.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Sergio Miguel, Lopez Ramirez

I came to MTU in 2017 to pursue my Ph.D. with Dr. Alex Mayer in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. This has been a great experience because I learned a lot, but also because I collaborated with amazing people and made very good friends. My research focuses on hydrology modeling to assess the effects of the Payment for Hydrological Services program in Veracruz, Mexico. This is one of the longest operating payments for ecosystem services in the World and the scientific results produced by our research group contributes to better understand the connections between social and ecological systems and to make more informed decisions in terms of Water Resources Management. My thanks and gratitude to the graduate school and to the Michigan Tech Community for your support to complete my research. 


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Srinivas Kannan


I began my doctoral research in the Fall of 2016 in the Biomedical Microdevices lab under the guidance of Dr. Smitha Rao and Dr. Marina Tanasova (Department of Chemistry). My research focuses on understanding compromised metabolic processes in breast cancers and their impact on the local tumor environment and cancer metastasis using a microfluidic platform.  The overall objective is to better understand the nutrient microenvironment and impact from the nutrients available in the body on breast cancer, to improve cancer detection and therapy.  My doctoral work also includes developing three-dimensional in vitro models for understanding cancer microenvironment and metabolic differences, differential uptake of fructose among breast cancer phenotypes, and develop a platform for cancer diagnostics.

I thank the Michigan Tech Grad School for the fellowship and the Department of Biomedical Engineering for their support.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Esmaeil Dehdashti

Esmaeil Dehdashti is a PhD candidate who joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University in July 2017.  He holds a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tehran, Iran.

Esmaeil works in the Complex Fluids and Active Matter Lab, where they employ the tools of applied mathematics and simple experiments to fundamentally understand the interaction of fluid flows with dynamically changing boundaries at a wide range of length and time scales. Esmaeil’s research focuses on developing a number of computer simulations to fully capture and comprehend the interaction of fluid flows with moving objects at a wide range of length scales. Esmaeil has extremely broad scientific interests that range from hydrodynamics of flapping porous plates and swimming of robotic fish to droplet evaporation and transport phenomena in particulate systems.


Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Fall 2020 Recipient – Yuesheng Gao

Yuesheng Gao is a Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University. He obtained a Master of Science degree and a Bachelor’s in Mining Engineering at Central South University in 2016 and 2014, respectively.

Yuesheng joined Dr. Pan’s research group in 2017. Since then, he has been involved in multiple projects, including the development of the synchronized tri-wavelength reflection interferometry microscope (STRIM), dust control, oil extraction, graphite purification, and froth flotation. His work mainly focuses on revealing the interfacial interactions and the stability of thin films (TMs) between different materials in liquid/gas circumstances. The findings in his work provide new perspectives in understanding the fundamental mechanisms of diverse separation processes. His contributions to the mining industry and the interfacial science areas have been well recognized.

Yuesheng is grateful for this invaluable opportunity to receive the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship from the Graduate School of Michigan Tech. He also wants to express his appreciation to his advisor, Dr. Pan, for the relentless guidance and encouragement.


KCP Future Faculty/GEM Associate Fellow – Karen Colbert

Karen Colbert is a 2nd year PhD student in Computational Science & Engineering. Karen has received extensive training in Data Visualization, Social Network Analysis (SNA), and Predictive Analytics. She specializes in Race, Ethnicity, and Quantitative Methodologies. Currently, Karen incorporates all those skills in her role as a Research assistant with the MTU NSF ADVANCE team to help study and improve outcomes in diversity and equity efforts for MTU faculty.

Karen has over 5 years of experience working through different capacities to bridge the STEM equity gap for both faculty and students of color in the Tribal College community (TCU). She serves on TCU data assessment teams and as a faculty mentor to environmental science capstone students at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College (KBOCC). 

Karen also serves as an adjunct math faculty at KBOCC. In the most recent 3 years, Karen has worked with Carnegie Math Pathways, Achieving the Dream, and the American Indian College Fund to develop math curriculum with Indigenous contextual content using the Growth Mindset. As a result, KBOCC has seen drastic improvements in the retention and persistence of tribal college students in their math courses over the last 3 years. As she continues her work with TCUs, she incorporates SNA and other quantitative methods to develop assessment tools used for reporting to accrediting agencies.

Karen hopes to see her burden for bridging the STEM equity gap for people of color (POC) create amazing opportunities and results in the higher learning educational environment for years to come.


CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Nominee – Mayra Morgan

Mayra Sanchez Morgan completed a PhD in the Environmental and Energy Policy program in the Social Science department at Michigan Tech in 2019. Dr. Morgan’s research investigates how ecotourism empowers or disempowers women in rural Mexico. The first paper from her dissertation, entitled “The Third Shift? Gender and Empowerment in a Women’s Ecotourism Cooperative”, was published in the journal Rural Sociology in 2019 and has been recognized as one of the most downloaded articles of the journal. During her degree, Dr. Morgan organized two conferences and presented her research in more than 18 conferences, meetings, and as a guest lecture in national and international conferences and meetings. She served as a campus leader in diverse student organizations (such as GSG, ASPEN, and NOSTROS) and worked diligently to promote diversity and inclusion. Dr. Morgan received a Finishing Fellowship from the Michigan Tech Graduate School and a Dissertation Research Award from the Rural Sociological Society. Dr. Morgan enjoys dancing and warm and sunny days. 


CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Nominee – Ameya Narkar

I obtained my Master’s and PhD degrees in Biomedical Engineering at Tech under the guidance of Dr. Bruce P. Lee in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. My PhD dissertation was entitled “Reversibly switching adhesion of smart adhesives inspired by mussel adhesive chemistry.”

The motivation behind conducting this research was to develop smart adhesives that could be reversibly attached and detached from various surfaces by applying an external trigger. I synthesized a smart adhesive consisting of mussel-inspired adhesive groups and boronic acid protective groups. It showed strong adhesion in a wetted saline environment, while this adhesion was dramatically decreased by elevating the pH to a basic value. The adhesive could be reversibly attached and detached owing to the reversible pH-responsive complexation between the adhesive and protective groups.

Such a smart adhesive that can adhere and debond on-command can enable the repeated attachment of sensors and devices to underwater surfaces such as ship hulls and submarines. These sensors and devices can then be retrieved and re-deployed. A moisture-resistant smart adhesive which can be integrated with wearable electronic sensors that track human vital signs also bears tremendous implications in the biomedical field.

I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Syracuse University, where I am designing light-triggered biomaterials for examining cellular activity.


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.