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.

Doctoral Portage Health Foundation Assistantship Summer 2020 Recipient – Dylan Turpeinen

I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering. I have worked in the Heldt Bioseparations Laboratory for 6 years including undergraduate research and have thoroughly enjoyed working in a diverse group of incredible people. My research has focused on the detection of biomolecules with rapid biosensors and the purification of biomolecules. My main project was developing a continuous virus purification process for use in vaccine manufacturing. With an ever-increasing need for life-saving vaccines, my work has the potential to have a real impact on many people’s lives.

I am extremely grateful to have received a PHF assistantship for the Summer 2020 semester. With the assistantship, I have the financial support necessary to publish my virus purification work and complete my dissertation. By the end of the Summer 2020 semester, I will defend my Ph.D. and plan to continue purifying biomolecules in the biomanufacturing industry.

Doctoral Portage Health Foundation Assistantship Summer 2020 Recipient – Lavanya Rajesh Kumar

At Michigan Tech I have had an opportunity to learn about interesting fields like motor learning and human factors, which were quite new to me. I also engaged in various service related, entrepreneurial and leadership activites. In the four years that I have been here, I have had the good fortune to have met some wonderful people and participate in community related events. I had lots of fun volunteering for the regional Copper Dog 150 event,  the annual illuminary ski event at Maasto Hiihto chalet and the Houghton Portage Township school’s FIRST robotic regional competition.

My PhD program in the Aging, Cognition and Action Lab, under the supervison of Dr. Kevin Trewartha (in the department  of Cognitive and Learning Sciences) , is in the area of health, neuroscience, motor learning and aging. The overarching aim of my dissertation is to investigate the role of exercise and social-cognitive-affective processes in improving neurocognitive function and their connection to other related domains like motor learning and emotional intelligence. In the first study we looked at low-impact eccentric exercise as an intervention. In the second study we are applying motivational techniques like enhanced expectancies, external focus of attention, and autonomy support as short-term interventions to improve motor learning and performance in a novel sensorimotor task in both, younger and older adults. The rationale behind these studies is to provide evidence of novel intervention methods that are both effective and simple and that can be employed to enhance motor learning and performance in older and younger adults. We expect that the findings will pave way for future work on the application of these techniques across various fields including rehabilitation, therapy, training, education and sports across different age groups, populations and conditions.

I am extremely grateful to the Portage Health Foundation for awarding me this graduate assistantship, which provided me with the opportunity to exclusively focus on my dissertation and work towards publishing papers on our novel interventions to improve health, motor learning and cognitive abilities. I would also like to express my gratitude to my advisor and department for their support and encouragement.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient – Bethel Worku Tarekegne

Bethel Tarekegne is a PhD candidate in Environmental and Energy Policy at Michigan Technological University. She holds a Masters in Energy Policy from the School of Public Policy at University of Maryland, College Park and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Benedict College.

Bethel’s work focuses on examining the intersection of energy, development, policy, and governance. Her current research is motivated by the need to achieve universal energy access in developing economies – mainly in the sub-Saharan Africa region. As an energy access researcher, she focuses on modeling decision tools for electrification planning with a special emphasis on the integration of techno-economic and socio-technical perspectives, rural electrification and social development, energy security and justice, and energy governance and policymaking. Through her work, she tries to understand how electrification projects can be designed from the energy-poor’s perspective in order to have equitable socio-economic outcomes.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient – Kevin Nevorski

I came to Michigan tech in 2016 to pursue my Ph.D. with Dr. Amy Marcarelli studying nitrogen cycling in steams. The past 4 years have been filled with adventures learning about stream ecosystems, meeting other scientists n my field, and discovering myself. My research is geared toward achieving a better understanding of how different environmental factors in the stream and the surrounding watershed will influence different nitrogen cycling processes. This included regular year-round sampling trips to the Pilgrim River to study seasonal and daily variation in nitrogen cycling. During this sampling, I basked in the warm sun of summer days and shivered during the -20 degree winter blizzards. This sampling encompassed the Father’s Day Flood providing insight into how nitrogen cycles are affected by and recover from severe hydrological events. I was also lucky enough to travel visiting labs and scientists across the country to better understand how nitrogen cycling changes with different environments, watersheds, and ecoregions. From Massachusetts to Oregon, Florida to Alaska we traveled in our lab van often camping along the way. All that excitement can only last so long and I’m looking forward to a summer locked p with my computer and all the data I’ve gathered writing up my findings for publication and getting ready to defend.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Haitao Cao

Haitao Cao

I am a Ph.D. candidate studying Geophysics and Seismology in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. I started working under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Pennington and Dr. Askari for my master program in Fall 2014. My master project focused on numerical simulation on the ambient noise seismic interferometry with an application to CO2 sequestration monitoring. After finishing MS in summer 2016, Dr. Askari offered me an opportunity to continue my PhD program. In my PhD project, we developed optical and acoustic experimental apparatuses to visualize and analyze the behavior of a special seismic waves called crack waves that propagate in hydraulic fractures. Our laboratory experiment on the crack waves helps to better understand the physical properties of fluid-filled reservoirs undersurface.

I cannot express my gratitude and appreciation to the graduate school for awarding me the Finishing fellowship. It will give me peace of mind to finish my dissertation more effectively and publish more papers out of my research in the summer.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Shahab Bayani Ahangar

I have joined Dr. Choi’s research group in Fall 2015 to pursue my PhD studies in Mechanical engineering. In my Ph.D. studies, I have worked on the development of an automated surface plasmon resonance imaging system to visualize dropwise condensation. Our developed microscope can measure the evolution of water film with the thickness as low as 1 Å at 10,000 frames per second. We have shown experimentally the existent of a monolayer thin film between distinct droplets during dropwise condensation for the first time. Our next step would be to understand the effect of this thin film in droplets (nuclei) growth and heat transfer from the surface. I would like to thank the Graduate School for financial support during the last stage of my research.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Eassa Hedayati

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in Computational Science and Engineering living in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department.  The multidisciplinary nature of my field of study is imposing a special kind of variation in my research area. However, I tried to keep my research around finding sparsities light-field (LF). In doing so, I have been involved simulating LF and compressing it. In pursuing my research, I have used machine learning techniques to further enhance the quality of my research. My research heavily involves computation and use of algorithms, therefore, I had to devote some parts of my time to obtain a Masters in Computer Science.

I am extremely grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and dean for recommending me for the Finishing Fellowship for the summer 2020 semester. Furthermore, I am obliged to the Graduate School for providing this generous support. I will make use of the extra time in summer to finish writing my dissertation and add to my publication records. I am looking forward to defending my dissertation in the summer of 2020. I am also grateful to Dr. Jeremy P. Bos for his guidance throughout my Ph.D. studies and to the ECE Department for supporting my academic efforts since I joined the Department in 2017.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Elizabeth Barnes

I am compassionate about forest resource conservation, and came to Michigan Tech to pursue a doctoral degree in Forest Science to gain skills in ecological field research, geospatial technologies, and forest management. My studies center on ecological succession in northern forests, and the dual influences of natural disturbance and resource management on shaping the future of maple-dominated hardwoods stands. I specifically carry out research to assess the effect of wind disturbance on canopy openness, understory microclimate, and tree species recruitment and replacement. In addition, I am involved in research to model pathways of forest carbon sequestration, particularly the transfer of carbon from down dead wood to the soil matrix. During my three years at the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, I also attained a two-year professional degree in Forestry, endowing me with the technical skills needed to support a career in forest resource management. 

Words cannot express my gratitude for the opportunity provided to me by the Graduate School to complete my Ph.D. in Summer 2020 with the Finishing Fellowship award. I look forward to graduating and entering the fields of forestry, resource conservation, or ecological restoration in the northern Great Lakes.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship Summer 2020 Recipient- Pratik Umesh Joshi

I started my journey at Michigan Tech in Fall 2015. My Ph.D. research has focused on understanding the behavior of viruses (coded in nature and not in computers!) and developing methods for vaccine and biotherapeutic manufacturing. Prevention against the spread of viral diseases has been one of humankind’s foremost challenges. The current vaccine manufacturing strategy to separate target viral products from the contaminants necessitates an upgrade to increase production capacity using low-cost methods. My research is geared towards characterizing viruses to generalize a method to purify various viral-based biotherapeutics. In these graduate school years, perceiving the complexity of viral interactions has intrigued me to pursue a research career to keep investigating in-depth the nature of viruses and other biotherapeutic agents. These answers will help in developing better technologies to process such intricate moieties.

I consider myself very fortunate to be mentored by Dr. Caryn Heldt who guided me to develop an advanced, scientific thinking process. I am very thankful to be awarded with the Finishing Fellowship for summer 2020 and for the support to focus on my degree completion.