Tag: Awards

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – Yuhuan Fei

I started my Ph.D. program in Materials Science and Engineering at MTU under the supervision of Dr. Yun Hang Hu in the Fall of 2018. My research is focused on synthesis and characterization of novel graphene materials and their applications in energy conversion and storage, which have been further extended to water desalination and heavy metal removal based on my research background in water treatment. It is always exciting to see a project completed and published, knowing that my efforts would finally make a slight contribution to the world.


I am sincerely grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for awarding me the finishing fellowship, which would allow me to focus on my dissertation and defense. My special thank goes to my advisor, Dr. Yun Hang Hu, for providing not only conceptional and technical training crucial for an individual researcher, but also continuous guidance and encouragement whenever I doubted myself. I would also like to express my gratitude to my committee members (Dr. Ranjit Pati, Dr. Gerard Caneba, and Dr. Shiyue Fang), my lab members, and my family and friends for their invaluable help and support throughout my doctoral journey.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – John Velat

I returned to Michigan Tech for graduate studies in 2000 and soon started working as a staff researcher for Michigan’s Local Technical Assistance Program and later director of the Eastern Tribal Technical Assistance Program, two federally sponsored transportation research and technology transfer programs in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. I eventually left Michigan Tech as an employee but have continued work on my dissertation while developing a successful freelance technical communicator career. For the last 22 years I juggled work and family while chipping away at a masters in Rhetoric and Technical Communication and PhD in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture. 

Working in transportation may seem like a long way from the humanities, but transportation is a truly human endeavor. Unfortunately, one impact of transportation systems on humans (and non-humans) is a staggering toll of injuries and lives lost due to motor vehicle crashes. In 2020, nearly 39,000 people were killed in crashes in the US, and over 1.3 million people die annually in traffic-related crashes worldwide. Those most affected in the US are young rural and tribal people: A young American Indian or Alaska Native is 2-5 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average American. Addressing this ongoing tragedy became my passion.

My research examines how we collect, analyze, and communicate risk, especially risk related to transportation. I have applied this research to help the most vulnerable populations—rural and tribal people in the US—understand transportation risk and safety in their own communities. By teaching people with few resources and knowledge how to evaluate and communicate risk in their own communities, local, non-experts can take steps to understand and mitigate risks from transportation and any other natural or anthropogenic causes. This work affected me so deeply that I even decided to become an EMT, firefighter, and EMT instructor so that I could directly apply this research and teach others how to understand and mitigate risk.

I am grateful to the many faculty and advisors who have worked with me in a decades-long education path at Michigan Tech, and especially thankful to my committee—Dr. Karla Kitalong, Dr. Andrew Fiss, Dr. Marika Seigel, and Dr. Melissa Baird—who have helped me stay committed to this work through a very difficult time for them and me in the past few years. I also thank the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for recognizing and supporting my unusual and drawn-out educational path with an award that will help me focus on completing my dissertation and degree. Last, but definitely not least, I thank my family for supporting me while I’ve always had too much on my plate! I look forward to continuing to learn and apply my education and research in our own community and to sharing this experience with others to help them live and thrive in communities large and small.

Laura Vidal-Chiesa Inducted Into AAC&U Future Leaders Society

Department of Humanities Ph.D. candidate Laura Vidal-Chiesa (rhetoric, theory, and culture) has been inducted into the American Association of Colleges and Universities Future Leaders Society. The honor was presented at the AAC&U Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, on Jan. 18-20.

According to AAC&U’s website: “The Inductees into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society share a profound commitment to high-quality teaching and learning, equity, and community engagement.” Membership includes access to “unique, cross-disciplinary opportunities for professional development, networking, and mentorship” as well as training and development resources for future educators.

Read more at the Humanities News, Features, and Other Updates blog.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – Nastaran Khademimoshgenani

I came to Michigan Technological University in August 2018 to pursue a PhD degree in chemistry. I became interested in analytical chemistry during my undergraduate studies in polymer engineering and color science at the Amir Kabir University of Tehran, where I trained to design, synthesize, and analyze various materials such as polymers and pigments with industrial applications. Currently, my research focuses on using analytical techniques such as fluorescence spectroscopy and mass spectrometry to elucidate the origins of fluorescence in complex organic mixtures such as dissolved organic matter (DOM). DOM is one of the largest carbon reservoirs in soil and water, which plays a major role in global climate change and significantly impacts nutrient cycling for different ecosystems and their living organisms. 

During my journey as a PhD student, I have had many excellent learning opportunities while working as a teaching and research assistant. I collaborated on a research project with the department of natural resources and published a research paper titled “Insights on Dissolved Organic Matter Production Revealed by Removal of Charge-Transfer Interactions in Senescent Leaf Leachates” in the Water journal in August 2020. Also, I was fortunate to complete a 12-week co-op opportunity last summer, which helped me gain expertise in analytical techniques such as mass spectrometry, chromatography, and their applications in manufacturing and environmental studies. One of our most recent projects focuses on developing extraction methods and characterizing fluorescent compounds in animals to help us understand these species and their ecosystems more deeply. These natural fluorescent compounds can have various biological, medicinal, and industrial applications. 

I am immensely grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Dean for granting me this finishing fellowship award. I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Sarah Green for being a great mentor and offering her continuous support and encouragement throughout my journey.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – Niusen Chen

I started my PhD life in the Department of Computer at Michigan Technological University with Dr. Bo Chen. My research interests mainly focus on securely deleting data in flash devices and implementing Plausibly Deniable Encryption (PDE) to fare against coercive attacks in flash devices.

Due to the nature of flash memory, some special functions such as garbage collection and wear leveling are performed in flash devices. These functions will generate several duplicates of the content. A regular delete operation from the user level can not remove those duplicates, therefore, privacy may be compromised. In this work, I experimentally verify the existence of those duplicates and propose a method to remove them. Implementing PDE in flash devices is also a topic I am focusing on. Existing PDE work is implemented either in the block device layer or Flash Translation Layer (FTL). I build a PDE framework such that the block device layer and FTL layer can work cooperatively with each other. This is because the block device layer is more user-friendly and the FTL layer can handle the special nature of flash devices. In this way, PDE will work more efficiently.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Department of Computer Science and the Graduate College of Michigan Technological University for their continuous support in achieving my PhD goals. I am also grateful to my advisor Dr. Bo Chen and my committee members, for their guidance and help during my PhD life.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – Sodiq Waheed

I commenced my PhD program in Chemistry here at Michigan Tech in the Fall of 2018 under the direction of Dr. Christo Z. Christov and Dr. Tatyana G. Karabencheva-Christova. Before joining Michigan Tech, I obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Industrial Chemistry and Physical Chemistry, respectively, from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Also, I received the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree (EMJMD) in Theoretical Chemistry and Computational Modelling (TCCM) from the University of Porto, Portugal, and the University of Valencia, Spain, in summer 2018.

My doctoral research focuses on the use of computational modeling approaches to understand the structure-function relationships, conformational flexibility, collective motions, catalytic mechanisms, and the electronic structures of non-heme Fe(II) and 2-oxoglutarate dependent enzymes, such as AlkB, AlkBH2, TET2 and KDM4E that are involved in DNA repair, epigenetic regulation, and histone demethylation. 

During my PhD program, I worked on an NIH-funded project on matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) enzyme, where I explored the early catalytic events of the enzyme necessary for its collagenolytic activity. In this project, I studied the processes of formation of the catalytically productive enzyme-substrate complex of MMP-1 and the associated changes in the coordination states of the catalytic Zn(II) site during the conformational transition to the productive complex. Moreover, I have worked on applying external electric fields (EEFs) to enhance the specificity of KDM4E enzyme for C—H activation over N—H activation during the histone N-methyl arginine demethylation. I was also involved in a collaborative project on artificial metalloenzyme with experimental groups at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, where we studied the use of YfeX hemoprotein, naturally a peroxidase, as a carbene transferase to mediate some organic reactions.   

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my co-advisors, Dr. Christo Z. Christov and Dr. Tatyana G. Karabencheva-Christova, PhD committee members (Dr. Tarun Dam, Dr. Haiying Liu, and Dr. Stephen Techtmann), and the Department of Chemistry for their continuous support. I am grateful to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel and the Dean for awarding me the Doctoral Finishing Fellowship. This fellowship will afford me the opportunity to focus on completing my PhD dissertation and preparing for my defense.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2023 Recipient – Xuewei Cao

I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mathematical Sciences starting in the Fall of 2018. My advisor is professor Qiuying Sha. Prior to joining MTU, I obtained a Master’s degree in System Theory from the School of Systems Science at Beijing Normal University (2018) and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Heilongjiang University (2015). My research is in statistical genetics. I focus on the development of novel statistical methods and efficient bioinformatical tools to find genetic variants or genes related to complex diseases and traits, such as type II diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, et al. One of my main projects is incorporating the genotype and phenotype association network to simultaneously analyze multiple phenotypes and multiple genotypes and improve the power to identify genes that are associated with complex diseases by using the constructed network. I also work on serval collaborative interdisciplinary projects falling in statistical genetics, RNA sequencing data analyses, clinical statistical problems, etc.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for the support, which allows me to focus on such cutting-edge research here at Michigan Tech and prepare the thesis/manuscripts for publication in the coming spring. I also want to thank my advisors Professor Qiuying Sha and Professor Shuanglin Zhang for all of their valuable guidance and support over the last four years, and I am extremely grateful to the graduate program in Math Department for their constant help and generous support throughout my entire graduate school studies.

Xuewei’s Finishing Fellowship was generously supported by the Neil Hakala Endowed Fellowship.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Tim Raymond

Ever since my early teen years I have been involved in teaching. At 13 years of age I was leading martial arts classes for even younger students. Although the techniques were still quite rudimentary, I found a passion within teaching that has continued to evolve. My teacher as he taught me had enough insight into how much I enjoyed teaching that he began to teach me how to teach. Instead of just throwing concepts or techniques at me, he made sure I understood them all at a deeper level with the intention I continue teaching them. 

I can’t say that academia has always been a major concern for me. Due to unforeseeable reasons, I dropped out of high school when I was 17 years old to help out with the family business. I never thought I would return to a school setting but after many bumps in the road, I eventually found my way back.

The most amazing part about being an educator or at least aspiring to be one is that we are continuously humbled every day through our interactions with colleagues and people above us. These interactions can lead us to new and unique paths that we would have never imagined. My time here at MTU has brought me to psychology and eventually grad school where under my current advisor, Elizabeth Veinott, I have recently been exposed to research regarding the railroad industry. 

While on this new journey through academia I have been able to find ways to combine the knowledge I am receiving from Michigan Tech with my knowledge of the ‘real-world’ and I endeavor daily to become an educator that teaches not just the concepts or ideas but how we can use them within industry and alongside our daily lives.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Jessica Czarnecki

While working on my B.S. in Chemistry at William Paterson University of New Jersey, I had taken part in an REU program with Maryland SeaGrant. That summer is when I realized I wanted a career in biogeochemistry and soil science. I continued on with my studies, receiving my M.S. in Marine Studies from University of Delaware in 2020, and after graduating, I worked for a year and a half in Alaska, where I fell in love with boreal ecosystems. I am now in my second year of pursuing a PhD in Forest Science, working with Evan Kane, conducting research in biogeochemistry of peatlands. When I finish my degree, I want to continue to conduct research in biogeochemistry of wetland environments of boreal systems. I also want to be a mentor to the next generation of scientists who may have come from a non-traditional background or who have struggled with differences in learning that a traditional education may have overlooked.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Alyssa Abbas

I had my first introduction to the biological sciences during my sophomore year of high school in 2015. While I found most of what we learned interesting, I had a fascination with how changes in DNA could cause cancers. It wasn’t until my teacher brought in a cancer researcher to speak to the class that I decided I would want to do my own research one day. Little did I know the journey this curiosity would take me on.

After graduating high school in 2018, I continued my education at Mid Michigan College. I had been taking dual enrollment classes through Mid during high school and had the opportunity to take both General Biology and Microbiology at this time. I still loved biology and was planning on pursuing a career within the sciences. Right before the Fall semester began, I was contacted about being a Supplemental Instructor (SI), as one of my professors had recommended me to the program. I had always enjoyed helping my fellow classmates and decided to take on this role. During my time as an SI, I found that I had a love for teaching and at this point knew that I would one day want to be a professor myself.

By the Fall of 2019, I had transferred from Mid to Michigan Technological University to pursue my Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in Microbiology. My interest in cancer research had not faded and by the Spring of 2021, I was working in the Cancer Metabolism and Functional Genomics lab led by Dr. Xiaohu (Mark) Tang. During my master’s I will continue my work in Dr. Tang’s lab where I will be performing the knockdown and knockout of specific genes within pancreatic cancer cell lines. The goal here is to see how the pancreatic cancer cells’ resistance to drug therapies will be changed. I hope that by doing this research I can help make a difference in how cancer is treated and learn more technical lab skills to teach to my future students.

Once I have completed my master’s I plan to become a professor to help build the foundation for future scientists. I look forward to the rest of this journey and hope to one day inspire others to follow their own dreams the way so many of my own professors have supported and inspired me.