Tag: Biological Sciences

Researcher Discovers Bacteria that “Fertilize” Copper-Contaminated Soil

When miners abandoned Michigan’s Copper Country, they left a lot of the red metal behind, and not in a good way. Waste from the mining operations still contains a high fraction of copper, so high that almost nothing can grow on it—and hasn’t for decades, leaving behind moonscape expanses that can stretch for acres.

Now, however, Assistant Professor Ramakrishna Wusirika (Biological Sciences) and his research team may have discovered how to make plants grow in the mine-waste desert and soak up some copper while they are at it.

Wusirika began his research using several species of Pseudomonas bacteria from the sediments of Torch Lake. In the region’s copper-mining heyday, the lake was used as a dump for mine waste. “We found bacteria that are resistant to high levels of copper,” he said. “We thought we might be able to use them to help plants grow better on contaminated soils.”

So Wusirika’s research team added copper to soil samples and then inoculated them with a copper-resistant strain of Pseudomonas. Finally, they planted the samples with maize and sunflower seeds and waited.

As expected, seeds planted in copper-free soil thrived, and seeds planted in the copper-tainted soil without bacteria were stunted. But seeds planted in the coppery soil enriched with bacteria did much better; some were nearly as vigorous as plants grown without the toxic metal.

“The bacteria seem to help with plant growth, and they also help maize and sunflower uptake copper,” said Wusirika. That means some kinds of naturally occurring bacteria could make soil more fertile and, in concert with the plants, remove at least some of the copper, a process known as rhizoremediation.

Their work, coauthored by PhD student Kefeng Li and Wusirika, was published online March 1 in the Journal of Hazardous Materials. For their next project, Wusirika’s team has been testing how well their technique might work in a real copper-mining desert. They are in the process of using these bacteria to promote plant growth in stamp sands collected near the small UP village of Gay, where the copper-processing byproduct covers about 500 acres.

Published in Tech Today.


Travel Grants Awarded

The Biotechnology Research Center has announced the recipients of its spring travel grants:

  • Graduate student Adam Abraham (Mechanical Engineering): $500 toward a poster presentation at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers–Summer Bioengineering Conference to be held in Farmington, Pa., in June.
  • Undergraduate student Emily Brown (Biomedical Engineering): $500 toward a poster presentation at the Society for Biomaterials Annual Conference held in Orlando, Fla., in April.
  • Graduate student Ning Chen (Chemistry): $500 toward a poster presentation at the 241st ACS National Meeting and Exposition held in Anaheim, Calif., in March.
  • Graduate student Stephanie Hamilton (Biomedical Engineering): $500 toward a poster presentation at the American College of Sport’s Medicine Annual Meeting to be held in Denver, Colo., in June.
  • Graduate student Weilue He (Biological Sciences): $500 toward a poster presentation at the 2011 Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in May.
  • Graduate student Connor McCarthy (Materials Science and Engineering): $500 toward a poster presentation at the Society for Biomaterials Annual Conference held in Orlando, Fla., in April.
  • Graduate student Kasra Momeni (Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics): $500 toward a podium presentation at the MRS Spring 2011 Conference held in San Francisco, Calif., in April.
  • Graduate student John Moyer (Mechanical Engineering): $500 toward a poster presentation at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers–Summer Bioengineering Conference to be held in Farmington, Pa. in June.
  • Graduate student Anahita Pakzad (Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics): $500 toward a podium presentation at the 241st ACS National Meeting and Exposition held in Anaheim, Calif., in March.
  • Graduate student Srinivasa Rao Sripathi (Biological Sciences): $500 toward a poster presentation at the 2011 Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in May.

Published in Tech Today.


Graduate Students participate in Nature Teacher Workshop

PhD students Tara Bal (SFRES) and Meagan Harless (Biological Sciences), along with Joan Chadde of the Western UP Center for Science, Math and Environmental Education, put on a Nature Teacher Workshop Tuesday at the Nara Nature Center. Thirty local teachers attended the session.

Bal talked about insects; Harless talked about streams and ponds. The session was based on “Hands-On Nature Activities,” a guide with information and exercises for outdoor and environmental education with children. All participants received a copy of the book.

The workshop was sponsored by the Western UP Center and the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative.

Published in Tech Today.


Tech Students Receive NSF Awards for Grad Study, Research

The National Science Foundation has selected three Michigan Tech students and a recent graduate to receive highly competitive awards that support their research and graduate study. Another student, now at Northern Michigan University, will use his award to pursue an advanced degree at Michigan Tech.

Master’s student Chris DeDene and recent graduate David Schaeffer have received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships. DeDene will pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech. Schaeffer will continue work on his PhD in Psychology at the University of Georgia.

Fellowship recipient Erich Petushek is completing his master’s at Northern Michigan University and will be coming to Tech, where he expects to pursue a doctorate degree in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors focusing on Biomechanics.

Graduate Research Fellowships support students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based degrees. Each fellow receives a three-year annual stipend of $30,000, a $10,500 cost-of-education allowance and access to the TeraGrid supercomputer network. The NSF selected 2,000 fellows from more than 12,000 applicants.

An additional 2,064 applicants received honorable mentions. Among them are Tech students Eric Peterson, a physics PhD student; Eric Wesseldyke, an environmental engineering PhD student; mechanical engineering student Andrew Tulgestke; and Jonathan Ebel, a master’s student in biological sciences. Anieri Morales of the University of Puerto Rico, who plans to pursue a graduate degree at Michigan Tech, also received an honorable mention.

Tech students Erin Thomas and John Lyons, who are earning PhD degrees in mathematical sciences and geophysics, respectively, were selected to participate in NSF’s East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes. The institutes place US graduate students in research labs throughout East Asia and the Pacific, to help students initiate scientific relationships that will lead to future international collaborations. The awards include airfare, lodging, living expenses and a $5,000 stipend.

Thomas will be conduct research in Beijing, while Lyons will travel to Japan.

To learn more about federal funding opportunities for graduate students, attend an information session at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 20, in Fisher 131. Faculty, advisors, undergraduates and graduate students are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact Jodi Lehman at 487-2875 or at jglehman@mtu.edu.

Published in Tech Today.


“South Pacific”: an Epic Musical Extravaganza at the Rozsa

The Tech Theatre Company, the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra and a large cast of local actors, students, faculty and production crew bring Rodgers and Hammerstein’s epic musical “South Pacific” to the Rozsa Center stage at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 14-16.

James A. Michener’s exotic “Tales of the South Pacific” come to life in this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. The musical takes audiences on a romantic journey to two islands in the South Pacific during WWII. The song “Bali H’ai” sets a mysterious tone, “Cockeyed Optimist” will charm one and all, and “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” will get everyone’s toes a’ tapping.

According to Patricia Helsel, production director, “This is the first large-scale musical we’ve done at Michigan Tech for some time.” Choral Director Jared Anderson is the vocal coach and music director. Assistant Professor Joel Neves will conduct the KSO pit orchestra. Students and faculty have committed their talents to the design and production of what promises to be a phenomenal musical spectacle.

Mark Oliver, a seasoned community actor, is playing Emile. Chemistry senior Tanya Johnson plays Nellie. Christopher Schwartz, PhD candidate in biological sciences (research area: exercise science), plays Lt. Cable. Michigan Tech student Kiersten Birando, also a graduate of Houghton High School, plays the role of Liat. Alesha Fumbanks, a chemical engineering major, plays Bloody Mary. Chip Rohrer, a theatre and electronic media performance major, takes the role of Luther Billis.

1940’s haircuts are courtesy of Hairsmiths Inc. Bicycle props are from the Bike Shop. Portage Health sponsors the Department of Visual and Performing Arts.

Ticket prices are $15 for the general public, $7 for students, and free for Tech students with ID. To purchase tickets, contact the Rozsa Box Office at 487-3200, the Central Ticket Office (SDC) at 487-2073, or go online at www.tickets.mtu.edu .

No refunds, exchanges or late seating, please.

submitted by Visual and Performing Arts
Published in Tech Today


World Water Day: Michigan Tech Helps Make a Difference

World Water Day was recently observed at Michigan Tech with a variety of events including a poster session.  Several graduate students were honored with awards including:

  • Ellis Adams, Environmental Policy
  • Jessica Billings, Environmental Engineering Science
  • Aleta Daniels, Forest Ecology and Managements
  • Jonathan Ebel, Biological Sciences
  • Danielle Haak, Biological Sciences
  • Laura Kangas, Applied Ecology
  • Mariah Maggio, Environmental Policy

Read more about the events and see photographs of the award recipients online.


Wildlife Conservation Award

The Safari Club International (SCI) Michigan Involvement Committee (MIC) is a non-profit corporation composed of representatives of each of the Michigan chapters of SCI.  The Committee coordinates collaboration between SCI, its Michigan chapters, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR); provides scholarships and grants to graduate students; and supports other wildlife conservation and education activities deemed appropriate by the organization.

The Award

Goal: To preserve and perpetuate the right to hunt and the commitment to conservation within the wildlife profession and potential future leaders of the DNR.

Purpose: To provide financial assistance to a graduate student, preferably one working on a DNR-funded university research project associated with the preservation of hunting.

Fund Financing: A minimum annual fund of $3,000 has been established by SCI MIC to finance the grant program.  Additional grants may be awarded if funding is available.  Grant amounts may vary depending upon the number of awards and the fund balance.

Award Duration: The grant will be available for use for one year between September 1 and August 31 of the next year.  An award recipient can compete for additional grants in subsequent years with other applicants.  If invited by participating chapters, each selected student will be required to visit the chapter at least once during the year of the award.

How to Apply

To Be Eligible:

1)    Student must be accepted or enrolled in a Wildlife or related discipline graduate program at a college or university in Michigan.

2)    Must be planning a career in the Wildlife Management field.

3)    Student must be familiar with hunting, hunting ethics, the role of hunting in wildlife management, and hunting’s role in society.

4)    If enrolled in a MS or MA program, it must be a thesis-based degree.

Application: There is no separate application form.  Please send a resume which outlines your background, along with three reference letters from individuals knowledgeable of your field skills and experience.  Include your name and graduate institution where enrolled on all materials submitted.  In addition, in 500 words or less, provide a response to the questions:  “Twenty years from now, what should the elements of wildlife management be, and what role do you see yourself playing in this profession?”

Selection Process: An SCI MIC committee will review application materials and select finalists.  A subcommittee will interview finalists and select the award recipient(s) by September 1, 2011.

Send all materials, by June 15, 2011 to Paul Royce, SCI-Lakeshore  Chapter, 9881 84th Avenue, Zeeland, Michigan  49464


A Good Night’s Sleep: If Only . . .

It’s more than a bit ironic that Jason Carter, chair and associate professor in exercise science, health and physical education, has a touch of insomnia, since he is studying sleep deprivation in his lab. Carter’s malady may partially stem from having a new child at home; some 90 million Americans have such reason (for the most part) for such suffering. As part of a $400,000 National Institutes of Health grant, Carter and his research team are looking at sleep deprivation’s links to hypertension, among other issues, and differences by gender.

“We are trying to figure out why women are more susceptible to developing hypertension as a result of reduced sleep, and it may relate to reproductive hormones,” Carter says.

“In the women, we are looking at levels of estrogen and progesterone and if they relate to the sympathetic nervous system [the fight vs. flight response],” Carter says. “We don’t know why women respond more dramatically to sleep deprivation from a cardiovascular perspective, but we aim to find out if an overly active nervous system is partially responsible.”

The research focuses on differences in the nervous system’s response to stress. Researchers can measure this response using a specialized technique called microneurography. This invasive procedure includes inserting a microelectrode into the peroneal nerve just below the skin surface in the lower leg. This provides them with direct measures of sympathetic traffic that can be quantified several ways.

This inquiry aims to compare male and female subjects with a normal night’s sleep and those who have been awake for twenty-four consecutive hours. For the keep-awake crowd, that means no coffee or food for the entire night, as the tired men and women camp out in the SDC under the watchful eye of students and researchers.

Master’s student Robert Larson of Chassell assists Carter in the lab and focuses on “how sleep deprivation affects blood pressure and anxiety, and how your body responds to changes in blood pressure.” Sometimes this work gets comical. “The subjects can get loopy,” Larson says. “We ask them to count backwards by fours, for example, and they can’t do it.” Larson ultimately aims to obtain a PhD and work with people in research labs in a hospital or academic setting.

The ramifications of sleep deprivation can go beyond the lab, Carter says. If his work can lead to treatment for the sleep-deprived women and men, that could in turn lead to lower health care costs, since many other health factors are impacted by a lack of sleep.

“Sleep medicine is really only a twenty- to thirty-year-old science,” says Carter. “We are just beginning to realize the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. There is a cumulative effect from not getting enough sleep.” And that seven to eight hours of sleep is becoming more elusive to Americans, he says, hence the urgency for his research and the NIH grant.

“We spend one-third of our lives asleep, and we still don’t know the real physiological purpose.”

Published in Tech Today.


National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) F31 Predoctoral Fellowships

Deadline: 2011 deadlines: 4/8, 8/8, and 12/8

The objective of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards programs is to help ensure that a diverse pool of highly trained scientists are available in adequate numbers and in appropriate research areas to address the Nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs.

The purpose of the predoctoral fellowship (F31) award is to provide support for promising doctoral candidates who will be performing dissertation research and training in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes during the tenure of the award. The Kirschstein-NRSA for Individual Predoctoral Fellows will provide up to five years of support for research training which leads to the PhD or equivalent research degree, the combined MD/PhD degree, or another formally combined professional degree and research doctoral degree in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences.

Applicants for the Kirschstein-NRSA F31 award must propose a dissertation research project and training program that fall in a research area within the scientific mission of the participating Institutes. The proposed predoctoral research training must offer an opportunity to enhance the fellow’s understanding of the health-related sciences and extend his/her potential for a productive, independent research career. The training should provide the applicant with the opportunity to interact with members of the scientific community at appropriate scientific meetings and workshops (including NIH-sponsored meetings, where available). The application should document the need for the proposed research training and the expected value of the proposed fellowship experience as it relates to the individual’s goals for a career as an independent researcher.

Each NIH Institute and Center (IC) has a unique scientific purview and different program goals and initiatives that evolve over time. Prospective Fellowship Applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant NIH staff for IC-specific programmatic information: Table of Institute and Center Contacts.

Citizenship: By the time of award, the individual applicant must be a citizen or a non-citizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

Degree Requirements: A Fellowship Applicant must have a baccalaureate degree and be currently enrolled in a PhD or equivalent research degree program (e.g., EngD, DNSc, Dr PH, DSW, PharmD, PsyD, ScD), a formally combined MD/PhD program, or other combined professional/clinical and research doctoral (e.g., DDS/PhD) in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical sciences at an accredited domestic or foreign institution. With the exception of the combined degree programs described above, the Kirschstein-NRSA F31 may not be used to support studies leading to the MD, DDS, or other clinical, health-professional training (e.g., DC, DMD, DNP, DO, DPM, DVM, ND, OD, AuD). Neither may these awards be used to support the clinical years of residency training.

Students seeking support for pursuit of a combined degree program (e.g. MD/PhD, or DO/PhD, or DDS/PhD) may be eligible to apply for the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral MD/PhD Fellows (F30) (PA-09-207).

Duration of Support: Individuals may typically receive up to 5 years of aggregate Kirschstein-NRSA support at the predoctoral level.

Participating Institutes & Centers:

National Institute on Aging (NIA), http://www.nia.nih.gov/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), http://www.niaaa.nih.gov
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), http://www.nida.nih.gov/
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), http://www.nimh.nih.gov
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), http://www.ninds.nih.gov
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), http://www.nccam.nih.gov
Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), http://ods.od.nih.gov/

Estimated Stipend: $21,180.  (Note: The sponsoring institution is allowed to provide funds to the fellow in addition to the stipends paid by the NIH in accordance with its own formally established policies governing stipend support.)

Application Procedure: To submit an application, applicants should access the FOA via http://www.grants.gov/applicants/apply_for_grants.jsp and follow Steps 1-4.  Applications must be submitted electronically.

Application Guidelines: SF424 (R&R) Individual Fellowship Application Guide

Contact Information: Applicants should refer to the Table of Institute and Center Contacts to obtain participating NIH Institute scientific/research contact information.

Url: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-09-208.html



New Theses and Dissertations Available in the Library

The Graduate School is pleased to announce the following programs have new theses and dissertations available in the J.R. Van Pelt and Opie Library:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Industrial Archaeology
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics
  • Rhetoric and Technical Communication