Category: News

Interesting stories about and for our students.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2023 Recipient – Mehnaz Tabassum

Ever since my early days as an undergraduate student, I have been captivated by the potential of technology to revolutionize our daily lives. Michigan Technological University has provided an enriching environment for my research endeavors. The collaborative spirit among faculty members and the vibrant research community have fostered an environment for innovative ideas and cross-disciplinary collaborations. Engaging in stimulating discussions with brilliant minds and participating in cutting-edge projects have amplified my intellectual growth and fortified my passion for pushing the boundaries of knowledge in vehicular networking.

I am thrilled to share my remarkable journey as a doctoral candidate at Michigan Technological University. I started my PhD in Fall 2018 in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Throughout my doctoral journey, I have dedicated myself to unraveling the complexities of vehicular networking, exploring its intricacies one discovery at a time. By delving into areas such as intelligent transportation systems, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, and infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) interactions, I aim to contribute to the seamless integration of vehicles into our evolving smart cities.

I am immensely grateful for the support of my advisor, Dr. Aurenice Oliveira, whose guidance, expertise, and unwavering encouragement have been instrumental in shaping my research trajectory.

To all aspiring researchers and technologists, I urge you to embrace your passions and fearlessly pursue your dreams.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2023 Recipient – Komal Chillar

I joined the Chemistry program at Michigan Tech in Fall 2018. Prior to this, I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Miranda House, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India in 2016 and Master’s in Organic Chemistry from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, India in 2018. During the course of my Ph.D., I honed multiple skills needed for the organic laboratory work, and developed various interpersonal skills including communication, presentation, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, leadership qualities and many more. These skills have not only contributed to my research success but have also shaped me into a confident and capable professional.

As an organic chemist, to accomplish the research objectives, I successfully synthesized various small and macromolecules that served as a monomer for oligodeoxynucleotides. This process involved the utilization of various instrumental analysis techniques. During my research, I focused on the synthesis of sensitive oligodeoxynucleotides under mild deprotection and cleavage conditions. Sensitive oligodeoxynucleotides are the DNA nucleosides that are unstable to harsh deprotection and cleavage conditions. The results of my work have been published in the New Journal of Chemistry in 2023. Furthermore, I developed a method for the direct quantification of the oligodeoxynucleotides using the HPLC peak area. This method not only eliminated the need for additional steps in quantification and purification but also saved valuable time for the researchers. The details of this method were published in PeerJ Analytical Chemistry in 2022. Additionally, I was able to achieve the 49 bases long oligodeoxynucleotides which could retain the sensitive groups under mild deprotection and cleavage conditions. These sensitive groups are believed to be the modifications present in the human genome resulting in disease-cause. The manuscript on this accomplishment is under review in a prestigious Peer-Reviewed Journal.

I would also like to express my sincere gratitude towards the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Dean for providing me the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship for Fall 2023. This fellowship will help me to focus on my research goals while accomplishing all the degree completion timelines, including writing and defending my dissertation to graduate timely. Finally, I would like to sincerely thank my advisor Dr. Shiyue Fang whose unwavering support, guidance, and mentorship have been invaluable throughout my Ph.D. journey to help me to expand my knowledge and professional growth in the field.

Cloud Appreciation Day!

Cloud Appreciation Day 2023 is happening on Friday, September 15th! This is an internationally recognized day when people worldwide are encouraged to spend a few moments appreciating the beauty of the sky.

“On Cloud Appreciation Day, anyone anywhere will be able to upload their photograph of the sky to the Atlas for free. They can also leave some words about how the sky makes them feel. It will be an opportunity for us to encourage everyone to lift their attention, lift their spirits, and spend a few moments appreciating the simple beauty of the sky. The Memory Cloud Atlas was launched in 2022 as a place where anyone on Cloud Appreciation Day can share an image of their sky and write or record some words on how it makes them feel. The Memory Cloud Atlas will serve as a snapshot on a single day of our collective views on the most dynamic, evocative, and accessible part of nature: the sky. The Atlas will remain online as a record of a world looking up on Cloud Appreciation Day to the most dynamic, evocative, and poetic of nature’s displays.”

Check out all the details here:

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2023 Recipient – Ponkrshnan Thiagarajan

Growing up in a township full of scientists and engineers, I have always been curious about how things work. This led me to pursue a bachelor’s in engineering from Nehru Institute of Engineering and Technology affiliated with Anna University, Chennai. I then pursued a master’s from the esteemed Indian Institute of Technology, Madras where I delved into diverse research projects that captivated my interest. Fueled by this newfound interest, I started my journey as a Ph.D. student eager to tackle intriguing and fundamental challenges within the field of engineering.

I started working on my Ph.D. in the Fall of 2019 at the Computational Mechanics and Machine Learning Lab led by Dr. Susanta Ghosh at Michigan Tech. The focus of my research is on understanding the uncertainties associated with the predictions of computational and machine-learning models. Any model, computational or data-driven, is a representation of a physical phenomenon. We develop such models to understand the world around us better. However, predictions of such models are not always reliable due to the uncertainties associated with them. These uncertainties could arise for various reasons such as natural variability in the systems we study, assumptions in developing these models, numerical approximations, lack of data, etc. In order to use these models in real-life scenarios, quantifying these uncertainties is crucial. My research involves developing novel techniques to quantify the uncertainties, use these uncertainties to improve the model’s performance, and explain the reasoning behind the uncertainties. In my first project, we developed a Bayesian neural network-based machine-learning model that can reliably classify breast histopathology images into benign and malignant images. In addition, the model can quantify uncertainties associated with the predictions. We further developed techniques to explain the uncertainties and use them to further improve the model’s performance. In my second project, we developed novel loss functions for Bayesian neural networks and showed their advantages over the state-of-the-art in image classification problems. I am currently working on quantifying uncertainties in computational models that are used to characterize material behavior and extending the first two projects for several other applications.

I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Susanta Ghosh for giving me the opportunity to carry out this exciting research as well as for his immense help and guidance throughout the process. I thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the dean for recommending me for this award. It is an honor. I thank the graduate school and the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics for their constant support.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2023 Recipient – Chen Zhao

I started my Ph.D. journey at Michigan Tech in the fall of 2019 by joining the CS&E Ph.D. program at the Department of Applied Computing. Throughout my time at Michigan Tech, I have had the privilege of working at the Laboratory of Medical Imaging and Informatics under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Weihua Zhou. My Ph.D. research has been dedicated to the development of medical imaging analysis algorithms using deep learning techniques. Specifically, my research has focused on areas such as medical image segmentation utilizing prior knowledge, multiscale information fusion, and topology-based image semantic segmentation through graph neural networks. These algorithms and models that I have developed have been successfully applied to the analysis of coronary artery angiograms, contributing to computer-aided diagnosis and treatment of coronary artery disease.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Department of Applied Computing for providing me with an exceptional research environment and the resources necessary for my research. I am especially grateful to the Graduate School and the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for recognizing my research efforts and granting me the Finishing Fellowship award. This award allows me to dedicate my time and efforts to the completion of my final research projects and the writing of my dissertation.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2023 Recipient – Hanrui Su

In the fall of 2019, I embarked on my Ph.D. program in Environmental Engineering at MTU, working under the guidance of Dr. Yun Hang Hu. My research focus revolves around environmental pollution control technology, functional materials, and energy conversion systems. Throughout my doctoral journey, I have dedicated my efforts to developing an ultrafast alternative to the sluggish oxide ion transfers observed in conventional solid oxide fuel cells.
Our research endeavors led us to the discovery of a new type of fuel cell, known as a carbonate-superstructured solid fuel cell, which exhibits enhanced efficiency and performance by utilizing hydrocarbon fuel directly. This technology offers numerous advantages, including fuel flexibility, improved durability, and increased energy conversion efficiency at relatively lower operating temperatures. Presently, I am actively engaged in improving the fuel cell performance and exploring the underlying mechanisms. My goal is to contribute to the advancement of sustainable technologies that can shape a greener future and generate a positive impact on society.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me the finishing fellowship. This award will afford me the invaluable opportunity to dedicate my full attention to completing my dissertation and preparing for my defense. I am sincerely appreciating my advisor, Dr. Yun Hang Hu, whose invaluable guidance, conceptual insights, and technical expertise have been instrumental in shaping me into an independent researcher. I also extend my gratitude to my committee members, Dr. Miguel Levy, Dr. John Jaszczak, and Dr. Kazuya Tajiri, as well as my lab members, family, and friends, whose unwavering assistance and support have been integral to my success throughout my doctoral journey.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Fall 2023 Recipient – Tauseef Ibne Mamun

I am proud to have been awarded the finishing fellowship for my Ph.D. at Michigan Technological University; my journey has shaped me into a versatile human factors specialist (human factors, in simple terms, involves bridging the gap between humans and field ‘X’ to make that field more accessible and user-friendly for humans) with expertise spanning artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, rail safety, and public health. Drawing on my computer science background, I have always been captivated by the advancement of powerful AI systems and their potential to become more accessible, trustworthy, and dependable for humans. My primary research focus centers around explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) and its significance in comprehending the cognitive dynamics between humans and AI in autonomous vehicles.

Beyond my dissertation on XAI and human-AI team cognition in autonomous vehicles, I have actively engaged in research within the transportation and health sectors. This active involvement has substantially enhanced my comprehension of the human factors associated with these domains.

The advent of commercially available AI systems in autonomous vehicles represents remarkable progress. However, similar to other state-of-the-art AI systems, understanding these new AI systems within the context of autonomous vehicles can pose challenges for both vehicle occupants and individuals outside the vehicle. Instead of solely concentrating on explaining ‘why’ AI systems have made specific decisions, I firmly hold the belief that providing explanations on ‘how’ AI systems ‘may behave’ in specific patterns can be more effective. By making these behavioral patterns more understandable for users and drivers, we can elevate human-AI team cognition. To address these research questions, I have adopted a mixed-method approach for my Ph. D. dissertation that combines simulated quantitative behavioral studies with cognitive task analysis methodologies.

I express my gratitude to the graduate dean awards advisory panel for selecting me as the recipient of the finishing fellowship. I am also deeply appreciative of the guidance and support provided by my mentors, Dr. Shane T. Mueller, and Dr. Elizabeth Veinott, as well as the other esteemed members of the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department at MTU. Their contributions have made Houghton feel like a second home to me. I would like to extend my gratitude to Dr. Robert Hoffman for his unwavering support throughout this journey. Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to my wife, Dr. Lamia Alam, and my other family members for their unwavering support and understanding throughout the challenging phases of my Ph.D. journey. Their patience and encouragement have been invaluable to me.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Soheil Sepahyar

I began my PhD journey in the spring semester of 2019, focusing on the subject of distance perception in virtual reality under the supervision of Dr. Scott Kuhl. My research investigates how people perceive distance in VR, an increasingly popular technology due to its widespread availability and recent advancements. I’ve always been interested in the Virtual Reality and Computer Graphics world since I was 12 years old.

Despite its growing popularity, numerous questions remain about how human perception interacts with virtual reality (VR). Many VR applications either require or benefit from users perceiving and interacting in virtual environments that closely resemble the real world. One of the primary challenges my research addresses is the tendency for people to underestimate distances in VR, as opposed to accurately perceiving them in real-world settings. Distances in VR are often reported as being underestimated by 20-30%, a discrepancy that is significant for many everyday tasks. These issues can lead to serious complications in various applications. For example, homebuyers using VR to virtually tour properties may struggle to accurately assess room sizes. People might also face difficulties in navigating and engaging with virtual worlds effectively. Furthermore, accurate distance perception is crucial for training and education programs involving students and even essential workers, such as astronauts. As a result, my research aims to examine how some of the procedural details might impact the results of previous VR studies regarding distance perception. One detail involves giving participants practice in blindfolded walking prior to the study to gain trust in the experimenter and experience walking while blindfolded. Additionally, to better understand this phenomenon, I have developed a program compatible with modern head-mounted displays (HMDs) that accurately tracks users’ locations and provides valuable data on participant behavior. This enables in-depth analysis of their walking behavior and perception during experiments.

I am extremely grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for granting me the finishing fellowship. I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to my incredible advisor, Dr. Scott Kuhl, for his unwavering guidance, support, and encouragement throughout my PhD program. Finally, I extend my appreciation to the Computer Science Department and the College of Computing for their exceptional programs and the opportunities they have provided for us.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Roya Bagheri

Growing up as a teenager, I always wanted to become a person who could help people around the world. I got the opportunity to start my academic life in health research, which brought me closer to what I have always wanted. As a mechanical engineer with a background in biomedical engineering and biomaterials, helping people and sharing the multidimensional point of view of these fields would be a fantastic opportunity to develop solutions for health-related problems worldwide.

I started my PhD in Mechanical Engineering in the Spring of 2020 at Michigan Technological University. Being part of the MTU family has been an exceptional experience for me. I am very fortunate to work in Dr. Abadi’s lab, who has guided me through research and several aspects of life. My research includes four different projects related to cardiovascular diseases and disorders (i.e., those related to the heart and blood vessels). Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Nanomaterials, with their unique morphologies and properties, have great potential for advancing cardiovascular engineering to treat diseases and disorders. My research is in three main categories, ranging from tissue engineering to robotics and medical devices.

Despite being far from my hometown, I feel at home in Michigan Tech. I have had several opportunities to participate in different organizations and competitions. This incredible journey will always hold a special place in my heart. I am so glad that I am close to my dream of obtaining a PhD and being able to help people around the world on a small scale in health.

I am grateful to the Graduate School for awarding me this doctoral finishing fellowship; this fellowship means a lot to me and motivates me to work harder to finish my PhD journey! I am thankful to the people who have supported me on my journey.

Distinguished Dissertation Award – Summer 2023 – Marina Choy

I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Toulouse Jean Jaures, in France, before joining the Rhetoric, Theory and Culture doctoral program at Michigan Tech in 2017. During the last stages of my dissertation in Fall 2022, I began working as a full-time faculty member and Writing Center manager at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology near Albuquerque, NM. I am now in the midst of moving to Baltimore, MD to start a new position at Johns Hopkins University in Fall 2023.

My dissertation, “Articulating Nationalism through the “Problem of Immigration:” the Case of Foreign Unaccompanied Minors in France” examines how far-right nationalist logics and discourses permeate and articulate the system of protection of foreign unaccompanied minors in France, in the recent context of the so-called European “migrant crisis.” In-depth interviews with child welfare social workers revealed that the very structure and design of the system of protection of foreign minors, articulated through cultural and political perspectives hostile to (im)migration, compromises the protection and chances of integration of this group from the get-go. This case study illustrates national institutional responses to contemporary migration events, and explores the articulation of the question of immigration as a driving force of contemporary nationalism.

I am deeply grateful for my dissertation advisor, Dr. Patricia Sotirin, who has mentored and supported me through my PhD journey and beyond. I would also like to thank my co-advisor Dr. Jennifer Slack, whose feedback was always immensely helpful and critical to my progress, and Dr. Andy Fiss, for his endorsement and support with several professional projects. Thank you all for your support and for endorsing this nomination.