Category: News

Interesting stories about and for our students.

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.

Nominee for MAGS Distinguished Thesis Award – Erin Eberhard

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the nomination of two theses to the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 2020 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Competition. These theses represent the best in their discipline at Michigan Tech, and represented Michigan Tech in the regional competition.

Erin Eberhard represents the field of Biological/Life Sciences.  She earned a Master of Science degree in 2017 in Biological Sciences, and is continuing her work at Michigan Tech as a PhD candidate.  Her thesis was entitled, “Co-Occurrence of Nitrogen Fixation and Denitrification Across a Stream Nitrogen Gradient in a Western Watershed.” She was nominated by her advisor, Dr. Amy Marcarelli.  Erin’s work sought to address several long-standing assumptions about nitrogen (N) cycling in stream ecosystems.  According to her advisor, “Her MS research has transformed research in our lab and broadened our ecological understanding of N cycling processes in stream ecosystems.”  Her work can be accessed on Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech.

Nominee for MAGS Distinguished Thesis Award – Emily Simmons

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the nomination of two theses to the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 2020 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Competition. These theses represent the best in their discipline at Michigan Tech, and represented Michigan Tech in the regional competition.

Emily Simmons represents the field of Humanities.  She earned a Master of Science degree in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture in 2018.  Her thesis was entitled, “Accessing Library Space: Spatial Rhetorics from the U.S. to France and Back Again.” She was nominated by her advisor, Dr. Andrew Fiss. In his nomination, Dr. Fiss said that Emily’s work “…provided a framework for the development and implementation of a new evaluation tool that linked urban public libraries in Toulouse, France with those in the small, rural communities local to Michigan Tech.” Her work, “… strengthened both our opportunities for international, inter-university exchange and also the research profile of the Humanities department as a whole.”  Her work can be accessed on Digital Commons @ Michigan Tech.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Hua Wang

I am a fourth year PhD Candidate on the program of Rhetoric, Theory and Culture in Humanities Department. My research focuses on the rhetoric of healthcare and medicine and technical communication, particularly in the Chinese context. To be specific, I study the relationship between the healthcare and medicine rhetoric and Chinese culture and how they shape each other with the advancement of communication technologies. In my doctoral dissertation, by rhetorical analysis, I examine the expression of rhetorical agency in the 2017/2018 No. 1 childbirth and pregnancy commercial app named Babytree to see to what extent the app spreads the information and knowledge of pregnancy and mothering to empower its users (Chinese women); how the users write their embodied experience of pregnancy into the online narratives and stories to respond to China’s dominant and hegemonic healthcare and medical discourse and practice; how the users who, having been excluded from labor markets or having limited choices in labor markets due to getting pregnant, use technological affordances of social media to enter those markets, become professional communicators, and achieve their rhetorical agency economically. My study expands our understanding of the rhetoric of health and medicine in an international context and extends the field’s conceptions of rhetorical agency by exploring how rhetorical agency can be asserted economically in a non-capitalist, non-Western context. To put it another way, my study on rhetorical agency is considered on a more global scale than previous studies. At last, I am extremely grateful to the graduate school for this generous financial support. I also would like to express my gratitude to my advisor Dr. Marika Seigel and my committee members Dr. Robert Johnson and Dr. Sarah Bell for their enlightening and intellectual guidance.

Doctoral The DeVlieg Foundation Fellowship Summer Research Award 2020 Recipient – Angela Walczyk

I am a second-year PhD student in Biological Sciences. I started at Michigan Tech in 2016 as a MS student, and I became a PhD student in 2018. My research focuses on how whole genome duplication (i.e. polyploidy) in plants influences adaptation to abiotic and biotic environments. I am specifically interested in determining if specific environmental conditions are correlated with polyploid advantages or disadvantages as a means of better understanding: how diploid versus polyploid populations are affected by environmental change and which environments may be at most risk for polyploid biological invasions.

I am very grateful that the DeVlieg Foundation and the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel has awarded me with support for the summer of 2020. This financial support will allow me to complete the second chapter of my PhD dissertation. This project will address whether polyploidy and/or post-introduction selection influences the expression of phenotypic plasticity in native and invasive populations of Solidago gigantea (Giant Goldenrod). I would also like to express my gratitude to the Biological Sciences Graduate Committee for their nomination and to my advisor Dr. Erika Hersch-Green for her mentorship and support of this project.

Doctoral Matwiyoff & Hogberg Endowed Graduate Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient – Wenkai Jia

It has been almost five years since I started the journey in MTU. The aurora in summers and the freezing -30 degree Celsius in winters are all my treasured memories. While most of my time was spent in Dr. Feng Zhao’s lab, which is also precious and it determined my future direction. My research focus is on engineering lymphatic and cardiac tissues by using cell derived extracellular matrix, which eliminates the use of artificial materials and augments the outcomes in improving tissue function. Hopefully, the engineered tissues can be used to replace and guide the regeneration of damaged tissues in patients with lymphedema and myocardial infarction.

I would like to thank my adviser Dr. Zhao and Dr. Goldman for their guidance and support. These works cannot be done without them. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the Graduate School for the fellowship, which gives me an opportunity to focus on my dissertation and put all my efforts toward completion of my Ph.D. degree.