Category: News

Interesting stories about and for our students.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Nazar Gora

I joined a PhD program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan Technological University in the fall of 2020. My passion lies in the field of chemical biology, which involves using chemical tools to gain insights into the complex interactions between biological molecules. It is fascinating for me to explore the ways in which chemistry can be applied to understand and manipulate biological systems.

While working in Tanasova Lab, I have had the opportunity to develop a diverse set of skills. Starting with organic synthesis to produce molecular probes, I then progressed to performing bioassays and molecular modeling. The multidisciplinary nature of my work allowed me to gain valuable experience in various fields of study. My research focused on small molecule targeting of fructose transport in cancer. Facilitative glucose transporters (GLUTs) play a crucial role in delivering sugars to cells, and their dysregulation is linked to various disorders. In my work, I designed fluorescently labeled sugars to explore the involvement of different transporters in live mammalian cells. By implementing novel small molecules specific to fructose transport, we can develop better targeting strategies for metabolically deprived cancers. My research has the potential to advance our understanding of cancer sugar metabolism and improve our ability to employ sugar transport to undermine cancer.

I am grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me Finishing Fellowship, which provides me with the opportunity to complete my studies for the final research projects and focus on writing my thesis. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my advisor, Dr. Marina Tanasova, and the Department of Chemistry at Michigan Tech for their support during my PhD journey.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Manpreet Boora

I am honored to receive the finishing fellowship in my PhD from Michigan Tech University, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my personal statement with the university’s blog. My fascination with the “why” and “how” behind everything led me to pursue Physics from an early age, and I have been fortunate to receive unwavering support from my family and friends throughout my academic journey. Being the first in my family to obtain a college degree is a milestone that I am proud of, and I am grateful for the opportunities that it has afforded me. As a Master’s student in Professor Jae Yong Suh’s lab, I developed an interest in studying chiral metamaterials using angle-resolved optical dispersions. This experience led me to pursue a PhD in the field of materials, particularly the synthesis, stacking, characterization, and study of the optical properties of 2D materials. During my doctoral studies, I had the privilege of acquiring advanced skills in cutting-edge tools and techniques, such as microfabrication, chemical vapor transport, and transfer of films with controlled twist angles. These experiences have been invaluable in shaping my research and personal growth. As an NSF-funded Resident Scholar Visitor at Penn State University’s Materials Research Institute, I was able to broaden my horizons by conducting high-end research in the field of 2D materials and forming collaborations with researchers from different backgrounds. This experience has enriched my research, provided me with diverse perspectives, and prepared me for a successful research career.

I am grateful to the graduate dean awards advisory panel for awarding me the finishing fellowship and to my department chair Dr. Ravindra Pandey for his unfailing support throughout my doctoral studies. I would also like to thank my advisor Dr. Jae Yong Suh for believing in me and fostering my personal and professional growth. Receiving the finishing fellowship is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and passion that I have poured into my research. It is a token of honor and I am excited to see where this journey takes me next.

Housing options for 2023-24

Michigan Tech has both on-campus and off-campus options for student housing.  The demand for housing both on campus and off is high in our region, and so we strongly recommend prospective students to begin exploring their options as soon as possible.  

On-campus housing is handled by our Residence Education and Housing Services. They provide affordable apartments in Daniell Heights and university-owned houses. Apartments and University-owned houses are on a first-come, first-served basis, so we highly encourage students to start looking at their options as soon as possible and apply for what meets your needs. 

Please know that the demand for Daniell Heights apartments is very high and outpaces supply, so make preparations early and apply for the waitlist.  It is typical for students to be on the waitlist for a year before receiving an offer of an apartment. You must be included on the waitlist for on-campus housing if you would like to be considered for any openings once they are full.  While we acknowledge many prefer to live on campus in Daniell Heights, we strongly encourage students to explore off campus options to ensure they have their housing secure.  Please contact the Residence Education and Housing Services if you have questions regarding on-campus housing at

You can also check out the Daniell Heights Residents group on Facebook.  This is a place where current Daniell Heights contract holders who have an apartment look for a roommate. 

While Daniell Heights on campus apartments cannot accommodate all students, many graduates find success living in off campus housing in the region.  We have a large range of off-campus housing options for students in the Houghton and Hancock area.  These spaces are independent of MTU and managed by landlords in the community. If you are interested in off-campus housing you will need to reach out to the individual listed in the advertisement for the rental unit. Each listing has an address, we highly encourage you to map how far the place is from campus, especially if you will not have a vehicle.  We also encourage you to be persistent looking for spaces in the area as housing comes available frequently throughout the year.  Additional privately managed rental units are listed below:

You can also check out the Michigan Tech Marketplace on Facebook, MTU Discord, or MTU Reddit for available subleases or openings for a roommate.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Laura Vidal Chiesa

I first joined MTU in Fall of 2017 as a Masters student in the Humanities Department. In Spring of 2019, I successfully defended my MS project and that following Fall semester, I rejoined the Rhetoric, Theory and Culture program as a PhD student.

In my dissertation, “The Unappreciated and Disposable Wife”: Liminality, Emotional Labor and Feminization in Graduate Student Writing Program Administrators”, I explore the systemic, structural, and rhetorical factors that contribute to the marginalization, feminization, and emotional labor burden required for graduate students in Writing Program Administrator positions (gWPAs). My study has the following goals: First, by interviewing fellow graduate students, I aim to document and compile stories of those who have experience in Writing Program Administration (WPA) in order to model what that experience looks like in the US college context. Second, to understand what emotional labor means in this kind of position and its implications for those involved. Third, to understand the conditions of the precarity of this kind of labor, particularly in the context of feminization. Ultimately, I suggest interventions that would make WPA work more equitable for graduate students who seek to gain administrative experience prior to graduation. This work draws from and contributes to scholarship in disciplines such as rhetoric and composition, feminism and gender studies, and organizational communication.

My experience at Michigan Tech has been quite a journey, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my advisor, Dr. Marika Seigel, who helped me realize what my true passion was: teaching. I would also like to thank the rest of my committee, Dr. Patricia Sotirin, Dr. Laura K. Fiss & Dr. Laura R. Micciche, your feedback has been essential for my progress. This PhD degree wouldn’t have been possible without the support and encouragement of my family, my friends (in Houghton, Montevideo & Argentina), and my partner Kevin, thank you for being there unconditionally.

Last but not least, I am extremely 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.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Evan Lucas

I began my PhD journey in Fall 2019 in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department studying underwater acoustic communication systems. After taking a machine learning course, I decided I wanted to make machine learning and artificial intelligence a larger focus of my studies and ultimately joined a project focused on natural language processing (NLP) technologies for the summarization of dialogue.

My main dissertation chapters primarily focus on text summarization (how to concisely and accurately represent a large body of text with a small one) and segmentation (how to split up long chunks of dialogue into smaller ones). In my favorite chapter contained in the dissertation, I propose a text segmentation metric that goes beyond current segmentation metrics by scoring a segmentation set without requiring a human to provide a reference, which is currently required by all existing segmentation metrics. I continued this segmentation work by considering the case of fuzzy text segmentation, where the boundaries between segments are no longer solid and a sentence within a document can belong partly to multiple segments.

The papers on summarization are still in preparation, with one discussing a small model architecture modification to improve summarization quality and another exploring methods of demonstrating summarization model ownership by adding watermarks to generated content. As language models become more widely used, concerns about their use will continue to grow; one solution to this is to have ways of detecting or proving that the origin of text comes from a language model. In addition to these papers, I have also published on a technique for using limited human feedback in the form of a binary good/bad response to help improve model performance for classification models that contain more than two classes.

I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Timothy Havens, for his support, encouragement, and guidance throughout my PhD. The last two years of my work would also not have been possible without the support of Bob Friday and Paul Fulton from Visionyze; they have funded my research up until this point and collaborated with me on several projects. I’d also like to thank my committee and the ECE department for their support along the way. Finally, I am incredibly grateful to the Graduate School as well as the Graduate School Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me this fellowship, which will help me complete my dissertation and finish publishing the last papers of my PhD.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Shruti Amre

My research centers on the human factor aspects of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS). ADAS features are semi-autonomous features that enable drivers to relinquish operational control of the vehicle to automate part of the total drive. Features that use ADAS, like Tesla’s Autopilot (hands-on-wheel) or Cadillac’s Super Cruise (hands-free), are not entirely self-driving and require drivers to monitor their environment if the automation turns off or malfunctions. Drivers’ inconsistencies in monitoring the external driving environment and the automation status have led to several high-profile accidents involving these semi-automated features. While these features are currently commercially employed, little research to date documents their impact on their effectiveness in promoting driver attention while automation is engaged.

The objective of my work is to understand how the hands-on-wheel and hands-free driver supervision strategies differently affect situational awareness and takeover performance after automated driving. Moreover, my work explores how physiological performance metrics like eye tracking predict the drivers’ cognitive state and the likelihood of making errors. My work has already demonstrated that the hands-free driver supervision strategies fail to mitigate mind wandering and put drivers at higher risk of failing to detect safety-critical changes to the driving environment.

I thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me with this fellowship. This fellowship will enable me to complete data analysis from my most recent study and dissertation writing. I am deeply indebted to my advisor Dr. Kelly Steelman for her unconditional support in my research endeavors. Additionally, I would like to thank my committee members, Dr. Shane Mueller, Dr. Beth Veinott, and Dr. Joonbum Lee for their invaluable guidance. And last but not least, I would like to give a quick shout-out to the entire CLS department for their support throughout this process.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Samuel Opoku

During my master’s degree program, I worked as a Research Assistant at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Forestry Research Institute of Ghana under the supervision of Prof. Emmanuel Opuni-Frimpong. There, I worked on Clean Development Mechanism and Mahogany projects, funded by International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). The passion and zeal I demonstrated in the research activities made me realize I had an interest in a long-term career in ecological and forestry research. Though I joined the forestry industry upon obtaining my master’s degree, I always had my mind and heart fixed on returning to a research environment to contribute to finding solutions to numerous ecological challenges faced as a society.

It was, therefore, refreshing when I was awarded a graduate scholarship to study PhD in Forest Science at Michigan Technological University under the advisement of Dr. Andrew J. Burton. Since joining MTU, I have been working on the Face Wood Decomposition Experiment (FWDE) project funded by NSF, where logs of trembling aspen, paper birch, and loblolly pine with distinct isotopic signatures were deployed across nine diverse forest sites of the conterminous United States to monitor wood decomposition and carbon transfer to soil. On this project, I have worked to improve our understanding of terrestrial carbon cycling by analyzing soils collected beneath the decomposing logs and quantified the proportions of the logs’ carbon moved into soil carbon pools. I have also examined the mechanisms (e.g., site, log species type, and termites) that drive the logs’ carbon incorporation into soil pools. For the first time, my doctoral research is providing this important information critical to advancing terrestrial carbon modeling and as well improve soil carbon sequestration management options in response to management practices and climate-related impacts.

I sincerely thank my advisor Dr. Andrew J. Burton, who has been unrelenting in his support and guidance throughout my PhD journey. My sincere gratitude to my committee members and the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science for their support throughout my stay in the program. I am also grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel, the Dean and the Graduate school for awarding me the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship. The Fellowship would let me stay focused on completing my PhD dissertation during the coming summer

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Thusitha Divisekara

I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. In the fall of 2018, I started my PhD in chemistry at Michigan Tech and joined the research group of Dr. Lynn Mazzoleni. The group’s primary research focuses on using ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry to study the chemistry of organic aerosols in the atmosphere.

In my research, I have developed a new post-data processing approach for liquid chromatographic high-resolution mass spectrometric data. The need for this approach arose from the requirement to effectively analyze complex mixtures in the environment. Mimicking ambient BBOA is one of the significant challenges scientists face in atmospheric research. Therefore, I improved liquid smoke to simulate the ambient BBOA by mixing them with different environmental species. This significantly impacts aerosol research as it provides an option for environmentally relevant lab studies.

I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Lynn Mazzoleni for her guidance, support, and encouragement during my research journey. Her mentorship has been invaluable to me and has played an integral role in helping me with my accomplishment. Also, I sincerely thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for selecting me as a recipient of the finishing fellowship, which will allow me to focus on finishing my dissertation and publishing my work.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Claudia Bartlick

I started my PhD journey in 2019 and currently work with Dr. Julia Burton and Dr. Christopher Webster at the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. My research is part of the “Northern Hardwood Silviculture Experiment to Enhance Diversity,” where I investigate how plant species in managed northern hardwood forests respond to different environmental factors and silvicultural practices. Forests provide crucial economic and ecological services, and my work aims to develop sustainable management strategies that balance profitable forests and the conservation of forest services in the future. With the arising challenges posed by climate change, it is essential to address the risk of losing biodiversity and explore ways to maintain and enhance the species composition in managed forests. In addition to my research, I have a passion for teaching. As a former teaching assistant at Michigan Tech, I have found sharing knowledge to be rewarding and plan to include it in my future career. 

I am deeply grateful for being awarded the Finishing Fellowship. Receiving the Fellowship is an incredible honor and allows me to focus on completing my degree and publishing my research. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my co-advisors, Dr. Julia Burton and Dr. Christopher Webster, and the members of my advisory committee, Dr. Robert Froese, Dr. Yvette Dickinson, and Dr. Chelsea Schelly, for their constant support and guidance. Further thanks also to the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science for creating an encouraging community and an exceptional academic environment, contributing to both my personal and professional growth.

I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to finishing my dissertation and taking on new challenges.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2023 Recipient – Yasasya Batugedara

I started my PhD in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Michigan Tech in the Fall of 2018, with a discrete mathematical background. But, my enthusiasm grew for Applied Mathematics, especially for the research problems to which I can relate real-life Scenarios.

Therefore, under the tutelage of my advisor Dr. Alexander Labovsky, I started to study incompressible flows, especially in turbulent regime.

Turbulence is a wonderful area of research. While the Navier-Stokes Equations are used to study the flow, one can only simulate the flow in turbulent situations. When simulation methods are used, there is always the need for new high-accuracy methods.

Moreover, in the presence of a magnetic field, the characteristics of the flow will change, leading to the Magneto-Hydrodynamic system to simulate the flow. Therefore, my area of research interest includes the study of Navier-Stokes Equation, Magneto-Hydrodynamic Equation, Large Eddy Simulation, and high-accuracy methods that can be developed separately, or along with turbulence modeling.

I’m grateful to my advisor for the kind guidance and support. I’m really honored to be his student. Also, I thank the Department of Mathematical Sciences for nurturing me to excel in both research and teaching.

Finally, I’m grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Graduate school for considering and awarding me this fellowship which will be a great support.

Michigan Tech gratefully acknowledges support from The Dr. Donald Dawson Endowed Finishing Fellowship for this award.