Category: News

Interesting stories about and for our students.

CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award – Summer 2024 – Betsy Lehman

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 have gotten 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 explored 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 experimentally tested several strategies to promote questioning one’s theory. These strategies can then be used in domains like hiring to mitigate decision-making biases.

I’m very grateful to the Cognitive & Learning Sciences department and Michigan Tech nominating my dissertation for the CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award, it’s truly an honor. I want to give a heartfelt thank you to my advisor Dr. Beth Veinott for all of her support with my PhD – her enthusiastic and thorough guidance has been invaluable. Additionally, I thank everyone in the CLS department and the ADVANCE Initiative for their continued support.

CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award – Summer 2024 – Xuewei Cao

I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I obtained my Ph.D. degree in the Department of Mathematical Sciences in Spring 2023. My advisor is professor Qiuying Sha. Prior to joining MTU, I obtained a Master’s degree in System Theory from the School of Systems Science at Beijing Normal University (2018) and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Heilongjiang University (2015).

My research is in statistical genetics. I focus on the development of novel statistical methods and efficient bioinformatical tools to find genetic variants or genes related to complex diseases and traits. My thesis title is “Statistical methods for gene selection and genetic association studies”. One of my main projects in my thesis is incorporating the genotype and phenotype association network to simultaneously analyze multiple phenotypes and multiple genotypes and improve the power to identify genes that are associated with complex diseases by using the constructed network. I also work on serval collaborative interdisciplinary projects falling in statistical genetics, RNA sequencing data analyses, clinical statistical problems, etc.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my advisors Professor Qiuying Sha and Professor Shuanglin Zhang for all of their valuable guidance and support through my PhD journey and beyond, and I am extremely grateful to the graduate program in Math Department for their constant help and generous support throughout my entire graduate school studies I also want to thanks to Dr. Kui Zhang, Dr. Weihua Zhou, and Dr. Hairong Wei for their endorsement and support with several professional projects in my thesis. Thank you all for your support and for endorsing this nomination.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Peifeng Su

Peifeng Su standing outside with Portage Lake Lift Bridge in background
Peifeng Su – Civil Engineering

First and foremost, I express my sincere gratitude to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for their recommendation for this esteemed award. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering for their unwavering support throughout my doctoral studies. Particularly, I am deeply thankful to my advisor, Dr. Qingli Dai, whose guidance and mentorship have been invaluable in shaping my academic journey and honing my critical thinking abilities. Without her steadfast commitment and insight, I would not have attained the level of proficiency I possess as a PhD candidate today.

My dissertation focuses on the evaluation and prediction of chloride ingress in concrete and its impact on reinforced rebars. Concrete stands as the most widely utilized construction material globally; however, due to the intricate nature of concrete composition and the variability in exposure conditions, accurately predicting concrete performance presents a significant challenge. Through a combination of laboratory experimentation and numerical simulations, my dissertation enhances the accuracy of predicting chloride penetration depth and rebar corrosion processes, offering valuable insights for concrete design and maintenance.

In addition to my dissertation, I have contributed as a graduate research assistant to two projects: “Build Sustainable and Durable Rubber-Modified Concrete Pavement” and “Evaluation of Conditions Causing Negative Environmental Impacts When Using Recycled Concrete Aggregate.” The former project resulted in the successful construction of the inaugural rubberized concrete pavement in Muskegon, Michigan. The latter project is still ongoing, focusing on evaluating how recycled concrete aggregate materials impact the surrounding environment. These practical project experiences provided valuable knowledge about the concrete industry, which is very beneficial for my future career.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Revanth Mattey

Revanth Mattey leaning against a table, indoors, wearing suit and tie
Revanth Mattey –
Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

I am deeply grateful and honored to receive the Finishing Fellowship Award from the graduate school and the graduate dean’s advisory panel.

My journey at Michigan Tech began in 2018 when I commenced my graduate studies. Working alongside Dr. Susanta Ghosh, I completed my Master’s thesis in 2021. The research I conducted during this time inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. I’ve since dedicated myself to exploring phase field modeling and its applications in computational fracture mechanics, as well as employing Machine Learning to solve these intricate mathematical models.

My research aims to harness machine learning techniques to streamline computationally intensive simulations across various fields such as mechanics, phase separation, and weather prediction. These models hold tremendous potential for accelerating simulations of complex material failures and other physical systems described by partial differential equations.

I express my heartfelt gratitude to the graduate school for recognizing me with the Finishing Fellowship Award. This acknowledgment serves as a driving force as I enter the final phase of my Ph.D. journey, reflecting the university’s confidence and support in my work. I extend my sincere thanks to Dr. Ghosh for the invaluable opportunity to be part of his research group. His trust and encouragement have been instrumental throughout my Master’s and Ph.D. endeavors. I’d also like to acknowledge the unwavering support of the faculty and staff of the MEEM department during my academic journey.

Once I complete my PhD I will be joining Idaho National Laboratory as a post-doctoral researcher. I am eagerly looking forward to completing my doctoral research and continuing to advance in my academic career.

Copper Shores Community Health Foundation Assistantship – Summer 2024 – Libia Hazra

Libia Hazra leaning against a tree
Libia Hazra – Environmental Engineering

With sincere gratitude I extend my heartfelt thanks to Copper Shores Community Health Foundation (CSCHF) for providing me with the opportunity to receive the Graduate Assistantship in Summer 2024.

I am Libia Hazra, a 3rd year full time Ph.D. candidate of Environmental Engineering at the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE), Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, USA. I work with Dr. Judith A Perlinger and Dr. Noel R. Urban at the Environmental engineering Department. My current research focuses on determining contaminant concentrations of Polychlorinated biphenyles (PCBs) and Mercury (Hg) in fish from Lake Superior and adjacent inland lakes, home to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), a federally recognized Ojibwe tribe, deeply connected to the land. I am trying to understand the factors such as food web structure and resource availability leading to variations in contaminants concentrations in different lakes by using ecological tracers like Stable Isotope Analysis, e-DNA Metabarcoding. Additionally, I am working on the health for people and fish. Amidst numerous environmental concerns, the difficulties encountered by aquatic life, especially fish, are often overlooked. This transdisciplinary research conducted in partnership with social scientists and tribal members and governmental units will provide critical data about persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in fish. These findings will assist in planning stocking and harvesting practices, reducing exposure to pollutants, ensuring the nutritional and socio-cultural benefits of fish consumption, ultimately improving the public health of the local communities.

I am originally from Kolkata (WB), India. I joined Michigan Technological University in 2022, spring. I stay here with my husband and 6 years old daughter. Before I moved to Michigan Tech, I completed my M.Sc. in Environmental Science at GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, India and worked on toxic analysis in bird and fish tissue from an eminent institute-Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), India. I served as a lecturer in an undergraduate college, where I taught Environmental Studies. I also have experience working as an administrative assistant in the Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia. My long-term goal is to contribute significantly to the field of environmental engineering and become a leader in building a sustainable environment and society, by the practical application of scientific and technological solutions. I grew up in a rural part of India and have witnessed firsthand the environmental degradation in all sectors (e.g., air/water/soil pollution) and thoughtless misuse and abuse of natural resources. My state West Bengal, eastern part of India, the cherished cultural connection between fish and humans is facing a formidable challenge due to increasing contamination of aquatic environments. The profound cultural significance of fish, deeply embedded in Bengali traditions and cuisine, is now strained as environmental pollutants jeopardize the health of fish populations. Rampant industrialization, discharge of pollutants, and the presence of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants in water bodies raise alarming concerns about the safety of consuming fish. This contamination not only poses a threat to the nutritional value of fish, a staple in the Bengali diet, but also undermines the livelihoods of fishing communities and breaks the intricate link between fish and ceremonial practices. In future, I would like to extend my research in my country and contribute significantly.

At Michigan Tech, I am not only gaining valuable knowledge and skills through coursework, literature review, and research endeavors but also emphasizing the importance of effective communication. I firmly believe that fostering community awareness and engagement is essential for promoting environmental health and sustainability. This fellowship provides me with the opportunity to further expand my research and engage in meaningful community outreach efforts. I am eager to leverage this assistantship to advance my research objectives and contribute positively to both academia and society.

Once again, thank you very much CSCHF for your generous support and confidence in my research endeavors. I am tankful to my advisors for their valuable support. I am also thankful to my husband and my daughter for their constant support and love.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Natalie Nold

Outdoor portrait of Natalie Nold in front of a brick wall
Natalie Nold – Chemical Engineering

I am a rising PhD candidate in Dr. Caryn Heldt’s lab researching how to make virus-based pharmaceutical manufacturing more cost-effective and time-effective. Gene therapeutics, a ground-breaking new class of pharmaceuticals that can cure genetic diseases and cancer, often depend on a viral vector to deliver the therapeutic gene. Unfortunately, these therapies often cost over $1 million per treatment and are a financial burden to patients. My research has shown that liquid-liquid extraction can be used to purify multiple viral vectors and could reduce manufacturing costs by over 50% at production scale. We have recently filed a provisional patent for this technology which could significantly reduce the cost burden of gene therapeutics.

I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Caryn Heldt for her technical, professional, and personal mentorship. Her guidance helped me not only to succeed in my projects but also to grow as an independent researcher. I would also like to thank my research lab for their support and friendship. I would like to thank the Graduate School for this finishing fellowship as well as the Chemical Engineering department, the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization program, and the Cottrell Foundation for their previous financial support. I am excited to take the technical and leadership skills I have gained during this degree and continue working to further research in the gene therapy industry.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Seyedmostafa Rezaeitaleshmahalleh

Mostafa Rezaeitaleshmahalleh standing outdoors under a tree
Mostafa Rezaeitaleshmahalleh – Biomedical Engineering

As a final-year PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Michigan Tech, my research revolves around understanding complex blood flow patterns and their implications for aneurysm development and rupture. Specifically, I focus on two types: intracranial aneurysms and abdominal aortic aneurysms.

In my dissertation, I utilize computational fluid dynamics to simulate blood flow within 3D vascular models extracted from medical imaging data of patients with aneurysms. By applying innovative computational methods, I analyze velocity and wall shear stress characteristics within the aneurysm. This approach has led to the development of new metrics that enhance our ability to distinguish between ruptured and unruptured aneurysms, shedding light on flow conditions indicative of potential rupture. Moreover, I’ve devised a systematic method for assessing the composition of intraluminal thrombosis (ILT). Using deep learning algorithms, I identify the ILT region within the vascular model and employ radiomics to analyze its structural properties. This analytical framework provides novel insights into the ILT region, thereby enhancing our ability to identify abdominal aortic aneurysms at heightened risk of rupture. The final aspect of my doctoral research is to develop a nearly automated pipeline to run CFD simulations with minimal user interaction. This automated workflow aims to eliminate time-consuming and labor-intensive steps, making the process more efficient and user-friendly.

My hope is that this work will one day eliminate the current barrier to integrating CFD simulation into clinicians’ workflow and help doctors leverage CFD simulation in their decision-making process. The quantified measures of flow characteristics and ILT composition may be utilized in the clinical setting to better identify which aneurysms are at high risk of rupture. This could 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 the patient’s health.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Graduate Dean Award Advisory Panel for granting me this award. I also want to thank my advisors, Dr. Jingfeng Jiang, and my committee members, Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick, Dr. Hoda Hatoum, and Dr. Weihua Zhou, for their invaluable guidance and expertise throughout my time at Michigan Tech. Their mentorship has been crucial in shaping my research and academic journey.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Udit Sharma

Udit Sharma, standing smiling on a beach
Udit Sharma – Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics

Early in my academic journey, I developed a keen interest in mechanical systems, which led me to pursue a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Technological University from 2015 to 2017. During this time, I focused on heat transfer, fluid dynamics, and materials science. Continuing my academic pursuits, I decided to pursue a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, guided by the esteemed Professor Jeffrey S. Allen. Under his mentorship, I delved into the fascinating world of phase change materials (PCMs), particularly the impact of nanoparticles within these materials. I explored various aspects such as thermophoresis, non-equilibrium heat and mass transport, and particle distribution under different temperature gradients. Understanding supercooling in PCMs became a significant focus of my work, thanks to Professor Allen’s insightful guidance and unwavering support.

Despite my passion for research, my heart was in teaching. As the Lead Teaching Assistant (TA) for MEEM 2911, I enjoyed delivering lectures, simplifying complex concepts, and witnessing students’ “aha” moments. In 2023, I was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Fellowship, followed by a nomination for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) award from the department. I credit these achievements to the supportive environment at Michigan Tech, which has played a crucial role in shaping my career.

Outside of academia, I found solace and camaraderie at the Keweenaw Brewing Company (KBC), a local brewery where I could relax, exchange ideas, and celebrate life’s victories with colleagues.

I am deeply grateful for my journey, shaped by the nurturing environment and rugged landscapes of Michigan Tech. As I look towards the future, I am inspired by the legacy of those before me and the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Miaomiao Li

Miaomiao Li standing in formal attire with the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in the background
Miaomiao Li – Civil Engineering

My connection with MTU dates back to my undergraduate years at Chang’an University, where my first advisor, Dr. Yu Liu, a distinguished graduate of MTU, ignited my passion for civil engineering. After seven years of focused study in civil engineering, especially pavement, I am thrilled to have gained admission to the same Ph.D. program as Dr. Liu in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

Throughout my academic journey, my interests have extended from pavement engineering to infrastructure risk analysis. Recognizing the increasing threat of extreme weather events and natural disasters, my research focuses on evaluating the fragility, failure, and risk of various infrastructure systems. By quantifying hazards and conducting thorough analyses of structural components, I aim to contribute to the development of strategies for pre-event evaluation, regular maintenance, and rapid recovery of critical infrastructure.

I am sincerely grateful to the Graduate School for awarding me this prestigious fellowship. With this support, I can fully dedicate myself to completing my remaining research projects and dissertation. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Qingli Dai, my committee members, the faculty, and friends in the CEGE department for their unwavering support and encouragement.

As a female engineer, reaching this milestone fills me with pride and empowerment. Reflecting on my journey, I am reminded of a quote to express my aspirations for myself and fellow women in engineering: “I wish you high-spirited. I wish you a clank. May you break free from shackles to break the ceiling. May you take root in the earth and straighten your spine.”

With gratitude and determination, I eagerly embrace the opportunities ahead, committed to making meaningful contributions to the field of civil engineering and beyond.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2024 Recipient – Jeff Kabel

Jeff Kabel in formal attire standing in front of a brick background
Jeff Kabel – Applied Physics

I entered the field of nanotechnology rather unexpectedly. During a casual conversation at my undergraduate institution, a professor asked me if I was looking for a job, and with my background I was in no position to say no. A week later I was in lab, and I haven’t looked back since. The Department of Physics at Michigan Tech welcomed me in the Fall of 2018, and I began structuring my dissertation work shortly after. Originally my research was solely on two-dimensional materials, however, through some serendipitous discoveries, my scope has broadened to include many other van der Waals materials.

One of my favorite aspects of nanotechnology is that it is fundamentally interdisciplinary. Nanomaterials have such wildly varied properties that they have found applications in many fields. Through my studies I’ve been allowed to peer into the windows of various fields, including energy production, electronics, photovoltaics, chemical sensing, and bioimaging. A significant portion of my dissertation is centered on the synthesis of an easily-made, cost-effective, high-brightness fluorophore – it is unfortunate that I can not disclose much more until the patent is finalized. One project I can discuss is the internal functionalization of boron nitride nanotubes; I have been taking very small tubes – about 50,000 times thinner than the average human hair – and filling them with different materials (I’ve often described my research goal as “making the world’s smallest cannoli”). The applications of these filled nanotubes thus far include novel transistors and photostable fluorophores, and we hope to test their capabilities in solar technology soon.

As my time here comes to a close, I would like to express gratitude for the opportunities provided to me at Michigan Tech. Dr. Yoke Khin Yap has been an invaluable mentor, and his unwavering patience through my academic pursuits has been much appreciated. The support I have received from the King-Chávez-Parks Initiative and the Henes Center for Quantum Phenomena has enabled me to progress this far, and I am deeply grateful that Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel has granted me the opportunity to expeditiously conclude my dissertation.