Tag: Alumni

All Those Hoods

Spring Commencement
Family and friends at this Spring Commencement ceremony noticed something interesting: many PhD and MS candidates were receiving their degrees and hoods.

It’s not by chance.

The Graduate School has been showing steady growth and has exceeded targets for enrollment, according to Dean Jackie Huntoon.

“Across campus, faculty and departments are on board with the Strategic Plan, and we are moving forward with increased graduate education and research,” she says.

The differences between Michigan Tech’s graduate education and other universities are myriad and include completion rate: 62 percent of Tech PhD students finish what they start here, compared to 50 percent nationally. Seventy-five percent of Tech’s master’s students also complete their degrees.

“We’ve always been known for hands-on, application-oriented undergraduate education, and the same is true at the grad level: our students are highly employable,” Huntoon says.

She also discusses how graduate students contribute to economic development and economic recovery.

“We don’t just put PhDs in academia,” she says. “We also place them in industry and government positions.” Some 53 percent of PhD graduates end up in industry, versus 41 percent at Tech’s peer high-research institutions.

R&D is also heavily impacted by Tech PhD graduates, says Jacque Smith, director of marketing for the Graduate School. “Our percentage of PhDs employed in research and development is more than double the national average,” he says.

Increases in graduate enrollment have other benefits.

The large number of international students brings diversity to the campus and area, enriching the lives of those who live and work here.

“We compete on a global scale,” Huntoon says. “And these people give us a global environment on campus.”

“So, when you get that first job in Shanghai,” Smith adds, “you’re prepared with cultural knowledge and tolerance. You know more about the world before you get out and work in it.”

Huntoon tells the tale of a recent reception with students from Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.

“It was fascinating to hear their perspectives and think we were having this discussion here in Upper Michigan.”

As for the future, a new master’s program in geospatial engineering is planned for the School of Technology, their first graduate degreee. And a new University Senate policy mixes bachelor’s and master’s course work to shorten the length of time it takes to complete both.

And Huntoon perceives more new areas being explored and boundaries being crossed.

“PhD programs will become increasingly fluid in the future,” she says. “We will still have departments and Schools, but we’ll also have many more cross-disciplinary collaborations that unite faculty from many traditional units in response to needs for cutting-edge research.”

“What we will preserve is our focus on being ready to do things that serve societal needs,” Huntoon adds. “Not hypothetical or made up, but real.”

Like technology transfer and job creation, Smith adds.

In other words, keeping it all relevant, just like Tech has always done.

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor
Published in Tech Today


Winners of Rath Award for Research Announced

Chee Huei Lee

For groundbreaking work in nanotechnology, Yoke Khin Yap and Chee Huei Lee have received the University’s Bhakta Rath Research Award.

The award, endowed by 1958 alumnus Bhakta Rath and his wife, Shushama Rath, recognizes a Michigan Tech doctoral student and advisor for “exceptional research of particular value that anticipates the future needs of the nation while supporting advances in emerging technology.”

Yap, an associate professor of physics, and then-PhD student Lee (he graduated in 2010) invented a technique for synthesizing boron nitride nanotubes. Compared to their carbon-based cousins, boron nitride nanotubes have alluring qualities but, before Yap and Lee’s pioneering work, had been notoriously difficult to grow.

The researchers created veritable nano-carpets of boron nitride nanotubes and discovered they possessed a number of interesting properties: They are perfect insulators, which means they could be doped to form designer semiconductors for use in electronics that operate at high temperatures. They are among the strongest materials known and can be dispersed in organic solvents, properties that could be useful in making high-strength composites and ceramics. Plus, they shed water like a duck’s back. This quality, known as superhydrophobicity, holds at all pH levels, which means they could be used as protective coatings to shield against the strongest acids and bases.

Yap said Lee played an important role in their collaboration. “I enjoy working with Chee Huei, as he is willing to listen, think and work hard on an idea, and then he comes back to tell you much more than what you were expecting,” said Yap. “My initial ideas mature and flourish with his feedback.”

Lee has authored or coauthored 12 peer-reviewed journal papers on their nanotube research, as well as three chapters and review articles and three papers in peer-reviewed proceedings. As recipients of the Rath Award, Yap and Lee will share a $2,000 prize. Their research work is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

To find out more, visit the Michigan Tech News Site .

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer
Published in Tech Today


Alumni Association Recognizes Outstanding Alumni and Friends

One of the most important activities of the Michigan Tech Alumni Association is the recognition of the achievements and contributions of our many outstanding alumni and friends.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented to alumni who have made outstanding contributions both in their careers and to Michigan Tech over a number of years. The 2011 recipient is Bhakta Rath, MS Metallurgical and Materials Engineering ’58.

See Tech Today for the complete article and list of award recipients.


A Christmas Carol at the Calumet Theatre

A ballet/dance performance of  “A Christmas Carol,” featuring a cast of many Tech students, will be at the Calumet Theatre at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3, and at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4.

Donna Armistead, of International Programs and Services, is the choreographer.

These students will perform:

  • Paige Borel (Business Management)
  • Allison Strome (Business Management)
  • Jared Berryman (Exercise Science)
  • Josh Stuempges (Chemical Engineering)
  • Joseph Massoglia (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Cassi Warsinski (Biomedical Engineering)

Scrooge will be played by John Griebel ’09 (MS, Industrial Archaeology).

As well, the dance will feature children of faculty and staff.


Two Tech Authors Win Historical Society Awards

Two Michigan Tech book authors won 2010 State History Awards from the Historical Society of Michigan. Larry Lankton, professor of social sciences, received an award in the University and Commercial Press category for “Hollowed Ground,” a history of the copper mining industry in the Upper Peninsula. Gary Kaunonen’s “Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in Michigan’s Copper Country” won an award in the same category. Kaunonen is a PhD student in industrial archeology.

The society presented 15 awards at its 136th Annual Meeting and State History Conference Oct. 15-17 in Frankenmuth, including a Lifetime Achievement award, which honors men and women who have dedicated themselves to preserving Michigan’s history over a significant amount of time.

The Historical Society of Michigan, which administers the State History Awards, is the state’s oldest cultural organization. Founded in 1828 by Lewis Cass and Henry Schoolcraft, it is an independent nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and presentation of Michigan’s historical story. The State History Awards are the highest recognition presented by the state’s official historical society.

Published in Tech Today


Alumni to Share Insights at Entrepreneurship and Technology Symposium Thursday

Former Intel executive Dave House ’65 will moderate the Entrepreneurship and Technology Symposium, set for 4 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 30, in the M&M U115. All members of the University community are invited to ask questions and listen to the insights of a stellar panel made up largely of Michigan Tech alumni.

The panelists include eight entrepreneurs and technology leaders from health care, software, clean technology and solar energy. They will share their thoughts on the direction of technology and how Michigan Tech can leverage its talent and capabilities to capitalize on those trends through research and technology transfer.

Included in the panel is Shankar Mukherjee, an alumnus of the Graduate School.  Below is a brief biography:

Shankar Mukherjee ’86 is president and CEO of Dhaani Systems Inc. of Cupertino, Calif., which he founded in 2008 to produce energy-saving technologies for electronic systems. In 2000, he founded TeraBlaze, a company that provided switch fabric subsystems, and sold it four years later to Agere Systems. Previously, Mukherjee was an engineer and project leader with National Semiconductor and the vice president for engineering of LAN at Enable Semiconductor, a company that was acquired by Lucent.

For more information on the event, visit Tech Today.


Michigan Tech Names 2010 Sports Hall of Fame Class

by Wes Frahm, director of athletic communications and marketing

Michigan Tech will induct seven new members into its Sports Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1.

The induction class of 2010 includes former hockey player Russ Becker, former men’s basketball and tennis player David Cvengros, former football coach Jim Kapp, former football player Walter Kyes, former volleyball player Rhonda Pruitt (Lockhart), former hockey player Jamie Ram and former men’s basketball player Matt Trombley.

The seven inductees will join the 179 members already in the Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame, which was started in 1985.

Below is a brief biography of Russ Becker, an alumnus of the Graduate School.

Russ Becker

Becker played defense for the hockey team from 1984-88. He played in 83 career games. The Virginia, Minn., native was part of a fourth-place team in the WCHA as a senior with a 19-15-1 record. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, Becker remained with the hockey program as a graduate assistant coach and gained a master’s in civil engineering. Since leaving the University, he has remained heavily involved in Tech hockey. His contributions to Michigan Tech have been significant, and his gift in 2004 allowed Tech to purchase a hockey treadmill. Becker made another pledge in 2009 to aid in other improvements to the Student Ice Arena. Becker resides in St. Paul, Minn., and serves as president and CEO of APi Group, Inc.

More details about the other inductees can be found in Tech Today:

    Excerpt from Tech Today.


    Mark Rowe to represent Michigan Tech for the 2010 Distinguished Dissertation Competition

    Mark Rowe will represent Michigan Tech in the 2010 CGS/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation competition.
    Mark Rowe will represent Michigan Tech in the 2010 CGS/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation competition.
    The Graduate School is pleased to announce that Mark Rowe is Michigan Tech’s nominee for the 2010 CGS/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering division. Dr. Rowe was advised by Dr. Judith Perlinger, and was awarded a PhD in Environmental Engineering in 2009.

    His dissertation, “Development of Measurement and Modeling Techniques to Quantify Atmospheric Deposition of Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic Chemicals in the Great Lakes” developed an improved method, analysis technique, and model, for measuring the concentrations of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic compounds in the atmosphere.  These compounds impact the health of our ecosystem, and the safety of our food supply. Accurate measurements of these compounds in the atmosphere could yield better solutions to improve the environment.  The measurement technology developed by Rowe and Perlinger is currently under consideration for patenting, with the potential for commercialization.  Dr. Rowe is currently employed as a post-doctoral fellow for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and is based in lower Michigan.

    Mark Griep was selected as a finalist in the competition.  Dr. Griep was advised by Dr. Craig Friedrich and was awarded a PhD in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics in 2009.  His interdisciplinary research examined the properties of quantam dots coupled with an optical protein with potential uses as a biosensor in medical applications.  Dr. Griep is currently continuing his research as an Associate Fellow at the US Army Research Laboratory.

    The committee to evaluate the nominees consisted of graduate faculty representing a broad range of graduate programs:  M. Neuman (Biomedical Engineering), S. Martin (Social Sciences), R. Froese (School of Forestry Resources & Environmental Science), X. Wang (School of Technology) and G. Campbell (School of Business and Economics).  The next competition for Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering or Social Sciences will occur in 2012 and will consider applicants who have completed their degrees between July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012.  In 2011, the competition will accept nominations from candidates who completed their dissertations between July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 in the fields of biological sciences or humanities and fine arts.  Please consider nominating your PhD graduates next year.


    Grad Student Writes about Finns, Labor Unrest and a Radical Heritage; Book Signing Scheduled

    by John Gagnon, promotional writer

    There is an old story about soft-spoken, reticent Finns.

    A Swede and a Finn stand at the bar, drinks in hand.

    “Cheers,” says the Swede.

    “Did we come to talk or drink?” says the Finn.

    Gary Kaunonen, a graduate student in the rhetoric and technical communication program, is of Finnish heritage but definitely doesn’t fit that proverbial mold. Indeed, he is effusive–in speech and writing–about a subject that is dear to his heart and mind: Finnish immigrant labor and political activity in the Keweenaw.

    A native of Minnesota, Kaunonen has written a book, “Challenge Accepted: A Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in Michigan’s Copper Country,” which was just published by Michigan State University Press. The book is his master’s thesis in Tech’s industrial archaeology program.

    The Michigan Tech Archives will host a presentation and book signing by Kaunonen at 4 p.m., Tuesday, August 17, in the East Reading Room of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

    Kaunonen calls the book “a honed-in look” at Finnish immigrants and their living and working conditions–and often radical union activities–in the years 1904-14. The backdrop of this history, Kaunonen says, was a “lopsided distribution of prosperity” that led to “proletarian consciousness” and a “struggle for the betterment of lives.” All of it was “a powder keg” that exploded into violence on the copper range in the 1913-14 Copper Strike and the infamous Italian Hall disaster, in both of which Finns had “a huge and significant role.”

    “The upstart Finnish immigrants,” he writes, “often stumbled and stammered in awkward directions, but for a time that took a back seat to working class solidarity. They seldom wavered in their bold attempt to shape their lives into what they perceived to be a more just and equal existence.”

    These immigrants had marked reputations. “Finns were respected workers,” he says, “but they were also suspected agitators. They had a big impact on labor relations in this area. They resisted company dictates and mandates. They challenged the inequalities of the traditional mining and industrial society.”

    His research led him to the archives at both Michigan Tech and Finlandia University, where he sought material culture–what he calls the “hard evidence” of historic circumstances. He notes, for instance, that Hancock’s leftist newspaper, Tyomies (The Worker), moved to bigger and bigger buildings and bought bigger printing presses to accommodate a burgeoning readership and a growing business. Tyomies would become a communist organ.

    Kaunonen can tell the story of immigrant Finns without championing any specific cause. “I’m not casting aspersions on the mining,” he says. “But you had these huge mining companies and the vast amount of wealth and inequality they created—and then you had this little ethnic group trying to make a place for themselves. I have a soft spot in my heart for the underdog. Not that I wholly agree with everything they did, but they should certainly have a place at the table, so to speak, in telling their story.”

    He went to college just to play baseball. He quit because of injuries, poked around, and worked in factories. Then the drifter became a father. “I decided I was wasting my life. I thought, well, my daughter is here, and how can I lecture her on working hard and using your gifts if I don’t do that myself. So I decided to go back to school.”

    That proved to be a purposeful enterprise. He earned three bachelor’s degrees from Minnesota State University-Mankato, his IA master’s at Michigan Tech, and is now a PhD student here. Previously, he was an archivist at Finlandia. It’s been “a winding road” that has become a quest. He has now written two books on Finnish immigrants. An earlier one, “Finns in Michigan,” also was published by Michigan State University Press.

    In his endeavors, Kaunonen is grateful for what he calls “a slew of good professors” in social sciences and now humanities. “They inspired me by what they did and currently do.”

    As did his family.

    “I write because I have an admiration for my parents and grandparents. All of them were members of the working class”—both grandfathers worked on the Minnesota iron range–“and I’m kind of honoring them and their contributions to American labor.”

    Published in Tech Today.


    Alumna Presents on the Common Loon

    Alumna Keren Tischler, who graduated in 2004 with a master’s degree in forest ecology, will present, “The Common Loon,” from 6:30-7:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 16, at the Portage Lake District Library.

    Few wildlife species enjoy as much admiration as the common loon, yet much of their behavior remains a mystery. In this family-friendly presentation, Tischler will share images and stories to demonstrate what careful observation has taught us about loons: Where do loons migrate? What do those haunting calls mean? Why are loons a good indicator of the health of our lakes?

    Tischler has been involved in loon research for over 15 years, first through the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute while a student at Northland College. She works for Common Coast Research and Conservation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to loon studies in Michigan.

    Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, contact the library at 482-4570 or visit www.pldl.org .

    Published in Tech Today.