Tag: College of Sciences and Arts

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2022 Recipient – Priyanka Kadav

I completed my bachelor’s in science (2012) and master’s in science (2014) both in Microbiology from India.  I worked as an intern in the Department of Molecular Biology, Bhabha Atomic Research Center, one of India’s premier nuclear research institutes. There my interest in research grew stronger, and I decided to pursue doctoral research. I moved to the US in 2015 to obtain a second master’s degree in Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology. I joined the Department of Chemistry in 2017 to begin my Doctoral studies in the Laboratory of Mechanistic Glycobiology under the guidance of Dr. Tarun Dam. My doctoral research focuses on a novel protein purification technique that we developed in our lab. My other research project is based on the structure-function relationship of a mutated cancer-related protein Galectin-3. Wet-bench research, scientific journal publications and presenting my work at several conferences groomed me to become a better scientist and expanded my knowledge in the field of Protein Biochemistry and Glycobiology.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my advisor for his guidance and having faith in me and am also thankful to the Department of Chemistry for giving me this opportunity to conduct my doctoral research. I am grateful to the Graduate School for awarding me a Finishing Fellowship, which will be immensely helpful to finish up my doctoral studies.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Summer 2022 Recipient – Jared Edwards

Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula, I started my journey in Manistique, MI and since then have slowly migrated an hour and a half northwest every handful of years. The first time was after high school where I then attended undergraduate studies at NMU and discovered I enjoyed research under some wonderful professors. The second time was to come here to MTU and conduct my doctoral research under Dr. Tarun Dam in the Lab of Mechanistic Glycobiology. We perform biochemical studies on therapeutically promising plant biomolecules as well as human proteins associated with diseases. We carry out fundamental investigations into the behavior of molecules in living systems. This has led me to learn a multitude of incredible techniques and instrumentation skills, foremost being electron microscopy here on campus which is now a passion of mine. I believe we do fascinating work while striving to always put our best foot forward. I would like to thank Michigan Tech and our graduate school for awarding me with the Finishing Fellowship, it is a great assistance to myself and our lab.

Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Summer 2022 – Lamia Alam

I come from Dhaka, the heart of beautiful Bangladesh where I obtained a BS in computer science and engineering from the Military Institute of Science and Technology. I was very keen to understand how to make human-system interaction more efficient, and therefore I started my journey for graduate studies in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Tech in the summer of 2018. I completed my master’s degree in Applied Cognitive Science and Human factors in 2020 and currently, I am pursuing my Ph.D. in the same department under the supervision of Dr. Shane T. Mueller. I recognize myself as a human factors researcher working closely in the interdisciplinary area of public health, artificial intelligence (AI), and cognitive psychology.

I am exploring the human factors issues in patient-AI interactions within the context of diagnostic healthcare. Working on my master’s thesis, I found the empathetic aspects are important in physician-patient communication and it may have some prospects within AI-patient communication as well. While it is very challenging to incorporate cognitive empathy elements within an artificial agent, I started thinking about how this issue can be addressed and chose these research questions to pursue my dissertation, I have extracted cognitive empathic elements of patient-physician communication by interviewing first-time mothers to understand their interactions with their physicians and midwives. Currently, I am examining the effectiveness of these elements within the context of patient-AI communication. My research objective is to bridge the gap between patient and AI using cognitive empathy elements, develop common ground in patient-AI communication, and help people trust the available AI resources.

I am extremely grateful to the Portage Health Foundation (PHF) for acknowledging my work with patient-physician communication by awarding me the graduate assistantship for Summer 2022. I would also like to express my gratitude to my advisor Dr. Shane T. Mueller for guiding me at every step in the last 4 years. I thank the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) for supporting my research, also each and everyone in the department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences for providing me with a wonderful and friendly environment to grow as a person and a researcher. With this assistantship, I believe I will make good contributions to the health research for the community by developing resources for expecting mothers based on my research so that they may build a rapport with their providers. The assistantship will also help me to exclusively focus on my dissertation and work towards achieving my goals.

Michigan Tech gratefully acknowledges support from the Portage Health Fountain for the PHF Graduate Assistantship.

MTU Students Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Two Michigan Tech graduate students, Tessa Steenwinkel and Tyler LeMahieu, have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, and one undergraduate student, Jenna Brewer, has been given an honorable mention.

The oldest STEM-related fellowship program in the United States, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is a prestigious award that recognizes exceptional graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines early in their career and supports them through graduate education. NSF-GRFP fellows are an exceptional group; 42 fellows have become Nobel Laureates and about 450 fellows are members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The fellowship provides three years of financial support, including a $34,000 stipend for each fellow and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for the fellow’s institution. Besides financial support for fellows, the GRFP provides opportunities for research in national laboratories and international research.

The Graduate School is proud of these students for their outstanding scholarship. These awards highlight the quality of students at Michigan Tech, the innovative work they have accomplished, the potential for leadership and impact in science and engineering that the country recognizes in these students and the incredible role that faculty play in students’ academic success.

Tessa Steenwinkel

Steenwinkel is a biochemistry and molecular biology M.S. student under advisor Thomas Werner (BioSci). She has been studying the influence of nutrition on the interplay of fertility, fecundity and longevity in Drosophila. In the long term, she plans to focus on medicinal research and how genetic regulation plays a role in infertility

Werner writes: “Tessa is the best student I have ever had the pleasure to mentor in my lab. During her undergraduate and accelerated M.S. years, she won nine research awards and published 10 research papers and two books with me. I am extremely happy (but not surprised) that she won the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Her newest success proves that I was not mistaken in my choice to name a new fruit fly species in her honor last year, which is named ‘Amiota tessae.'”

Tyler LeMahieu

LeMahieu is an environmental engineering M.S. student under advisor Cory McDonald. LeMahieu’s proposal was titled, “Understanding Wild Rice Site Suitability in a Changing Climate.”

LeMahieu writes: “I plan to dedicate my career to bridging gaps between the scientific body and land managers. I would like to manage public and rural lands for the farmer, the logger and the hunter while managing those same lands for improved water and ecological health into perpetuity. Because fundamentally, rural land managers have the same goal in mind as those studying the environment — a useful, productive and sound ecosystem which will support and be supported by the next generation. That common ground is not always evident to both parties, but I am equipped to act as an intermediary with a foot in both worlds.”

Jenna Brewer

Brewer is a senior undergraduate student from Grand Rapids studying wildlife ecology and management under advisor Jared Wolfe. She plans to continue her education at Michigan Tech, pursuing a graduate degree this fall. Her research aims to develop an acoustic signal to deter birds from potential collision hazards such as city buildings during flight, effectively mitigating bird deaths. After graduate school, she hopes to become an avian ecologist, contributing to projects that focus on migration science.

Wolfe writes: “Jenna’s enthusiastic study of songbird ecology and conservation has long been recognized by her supervisors and peers; now that same passion has been recognized by the National Science Foundation. Faculty at CFRES are incredibly proud of Jenna’s accomplishment!”

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Chathura Adambarage

I joined the Department of Chemistry at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Fall/2017 as a graduate student in chemistry. Before joining MTU, I obtained my BSc (Hons) in chemistry from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka and in parallel to that I completed my second BSc in chemistry at the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon, Sri Lanka. I had a strong desire to follow a Ph.D. in physical chemistry therefore, I joined Dr. Kathryn Perrine’s surface science research group. The reason why I decided to select surface science to pursue my Ph.D. is, it is an interdisciplinary subject area that connects several disciplines such as chemistry, vacuum technology, physics, and engineering. My Ph.D. research mainly focused on studying the influence of the chemical environment on interfacial corrosion at air/electrolyte/iron interface using surface sensitive infrared spectroscopy. I was able to develop a method to investigate interfacial corrosion and mineral formation at air/liquid/solid interfaces with the guidance of my research advisor. Also, I completed MS in chemistry on the way to my Ph.D. I was fortunate to obtain a lot of experience in vacuum science and technology as a part of my Ph.D. career. Furthermore, I gained knowledge and experience in studying chemical reactions of simple halogenated gas molecules on single crystal metal surfaces under in situ and operando conditions.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Department of Chemistry and the Graduate College of Michigan Technological University for giving me an invaluable opportunity to join the MTU community as a graduate student and for their continuous support for achieving my Ph.D. goals. My special thank goes to my research advisor Dr. Kathryn A. Perrine and also to all the graduate committee members (Dr. Loredana Valenzano, Dr. Rudy Luck, and Dr. Lei Pan) for their invaluable guidance and mentorship extended for me throughout my journey to the Ph.D.

Doctoral Finishing Fellowship – Spring 2022 Recipient – Dhananjani Eriyagama

I obtained my BSc degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and I moved to Houghton in 2015 with my husband. I am fortunate to be enrolled in the Chemistry Ph.D. program at Michigan Tech in 2017 spring, and I joined Dr. Fang’s research group. As a student researcher, I learned the skills needed in the laboratory and improved skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, mentoring junior researchers, communication, and leadership. It is a privilege to collaborate with colleagues in our laboratory on many research projects with different disciplines.

One of my research projects is the development of non-chromatographic method for synthetic oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) purification, and another is the automation of polyethylene glycol (PEG) synthesis. Synthetic oligonucleotides have applications in various fields. Even though ODN synthesis has improved significantly in the past decades, the purification of synthetic ODN still has many challenges. The most widely used HPLC purification is expensive and not suitable for large-scale and high throughput purification, and purification of long ODNs. We developed a non-chromatographic ODN purification method suitable for large-scale, high throughput, and long ODN purification. This method does not involve expensive reagents, solvents, or instrumentation, and it can significantly reduce the cost of synthetic ODN purification. Polyethylene glycols (PEGs) have found applications in many fields, including the pharmaceutical industry. Due to the high labor demand of current synthesis and purification methods, it is expensive to obtain monodispersed PEGs. The method that we developed does not require purification of intermediates, and more importantly the entire synthesis is automated. As a result, we can obtain pure PEGs for a significantly lower cost.

I would like to convey my gratitude to The Graduate Dean Awards Advisory Panel for providing the finishing fellowship award at a critical moment in my graduate study. The fellowship is important for me to focus on writing and defending my dissertation, and to graduate timely. I would also like to thank my advisor Dr. Shiyue Fang, and Dr. Marina Tansova for their indispensable guidance throughout the program.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Brittany Nelson

It started when I took a critical thinking class where I learned how irrational many of my, and most people’s decisions, are. Many hold a misconception that we are rational creatures that we weigh pros and cons of each choice and choose the option that has the most utility. I was immediately fascinated that this is not the case; decisions are influenced by biases, environment, emotions, fatigue, and more. As an undergraduate, I conducted a blind experiment that measured the impact of reading a free will philosophy pamphlet on behaviors such as stealing candy and donating money. (Those who read the pamphlet that suggests we don’t have free will are more likely to steal candy and not donate money!) After learning how little we make rational decisions —without even being aware— I understood the potential the field of cognitive science has for helping people.

My interest in teaching allowed me to take many powerful lessons from my Masters’ degree in Applied Cognitive Science and share them with students when I was a visiting professor at Finlandia University. This position opened my eyes to how instructors can empower students through teaching. From this experience, I gained a passion for and concrete skills in how to be a professor.

Under the advisement of Dr. Erich Petushek, my current Ph.D. research at MTU involves identifying, measuring, and improving key factors that impact healthy lifestyle decisions. Lifestyle behaviors cause 60% of premature deaths and lead to 10 years longer life expectancy free of major chronic diseases. I hope that the long-term impact of this research is saved lives and a significant improvement in quality of life.

It is my goal to become a professor in psychology. As a professor, I can empower students to reach their potential and lead a lab devoted to helping people make good decisions. I am so grateful and honored to receive the King-Chávez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship. I know it will help pave my way toward my goal.