Tag: Portage Health Foundation

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.

Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Spring 2019 Recipient – Samerender Nagam Hanumantharao

Samerender Nagam Hanumantharao
Biomedical Engineering

I received my Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Michigan Tech with the thesis titled “A 3D Biomimetic Scaffold using Electrospinning for Tissue Engineering Applications”. Under the guidance of Dr. Smitha Rao, I have continued my research effort in the field of tissue regeneration focusing on biophysical cues in the micro- and nano- scale that impact tissue growth. Tissue regeneration is a complex process that involves a myriad of biological pathways working in tandem. When this harmony is disturbed, it leads to complications which can be fatal. The healing of wounds caused by diabetic foot ulcer is one such disease that prevents complete healing, and involves time-consuming and expensive rehabilitation. My research focuses on identifying the biophysical cues involved in tissue regeneration for wound healing applications and developing a bandage that accelerates the wound healing process using the native cells of the body. The bandage functions by mimicking the physical characteristics of local tissues providing a framework for the cells to attach and proliferate thereby closing the wound.

I look forward to utilizing this opportunity to develop improved scaffolds and enable technologies to enhance our understanding of the various signaling pathways involved in wound healing. I will continue to identify commercial applications and develop my skills both as a researcher and an entrepreneur. The PHF assistantship will be invaluable in my pursuit. I want to thank the Portage Health Foundation, the department of biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech and my advisor Dr. Rao for the help, support and guidance.

Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Fall 2019 Recipient – Srinivas Kannan

Srinivas Kannan
Biomedical Engineering

I began my doctoral research in the Fall of 2016 in the Biomedical Microdevices lab under the guidance of Dr. Smitha Rao. My research is focused on breast cancer and understanding breast cancer cell metastasis using a microfluidic platform. The compromised metabolic processes in breast cancers impact the local tumor environment. This is supported by the enhanced uptake of fructose and expression of GLUT5 (fructose specific transporter membrane proteins) in breast cancer cells compared to healthy cells. The overall objective is to better understand the nutrient microenvironment and impact from the nutrients available in the body on breast cancer, to improve cancer detection and/or therapy. Towards this end, I have contributed by testing the GLUT5 specific fluorescent fructose mimics (ManCou probes) developed in Dr. Tanasova’s lab. My doctoral work also includes developing a three-dimensional in vitro model for understanding cancer microenvironment and metabolic differences, differential uptake of fructose among breast cancer phenotypes and develop a platform for cancer diagnostics.

I thank the Portage Health Foundation for awarding me the assistantship and the department of Biomedical engineering at Michigan tech for the financial support. I am grateful for the continued guidance from my advisor Dr. Smitha Rao and my co-advisor Dr. Marina Tanasova.


Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Fall 2019 Recipient – Christina Welch

Christina Welch

In 2015, I joined Dr. Tarun Dam’s lab where the research is centered around Glycobiology. This field of study highlights the importance of glycoproteins in human health. Currently, we are focused on the discovery and characterization of a plant-derived bioactive molecule that has the potential to target pathogenic cells. This molecule can also help in drug delivery processes. In addition, we are studying the biological functions of a prominent heart failure and cancer biomarker.

My experience in Dr. Dam’s lab has been exceptional and I am truly grateful for all of the guidance and growth I’ve received over the years. I would also like to thank the Chemistry department and the graduate school for their never-ending support. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Portage Health Foundation, with their help I am able to continue my research with the hope of concluding my research projects soon.

Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Summer 2019 Recipient – Zainab I. Alshoug

Zainab I. Alshoug
Chemical Engineering

In 2013, I graduated from MTU with a master’s degree under Dr. David Shonnard supervision. My master’s research was on biofuel production. Working with Dr. Shonnard was one of the valuable experiences at MTU. Dr. Shonnard’s research group not only strengthened my research skills but also provided me a hand-on experience of working in a lab.

In order to pursue my aim of getting a doctorate degree in Chemical Engineering, I joined Dr. Adrienne Minerick’s M.D.-ERL research group which provided me an opportunity to work on the design of lab-on-a-chip device to measure the level of lipids in human blood by using different art-of-the-state techniques, such as Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). It is a great experience working with Dr. Minerick in many different projects include measuring the effect of consumption of different teas in lipid levels in human blood. She is always a source of encouragement and motivation for me.

I am incredibly grateful for the support of my advisors Dr. Adrienne Minerick, chemical engineering program, and the MTU graduate school. I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Portage Health Foundation, which has supported me to focus on my research and to publish my research in the coming summer. With the help of my advisor Dr. Minerick and the support of the Portage Health Foundation, I will be able to accomplish my publication goals and defend my Ph.D. dissertation by the end of December.

Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Summer 2019 Recipient -Bhaskar Halami

Bhaskar Halami

In the past semesters I have developed procedures and protocols to study the antisense properties of modified DNA strands. Also, I tried my best to develop an oligo anticancer drug mimic. The other graduate students in our lab are continuing the work. The project is most likely to yield great results in coming days. I feel really accomplished as my research is acknowledged by the highly reputed organization like you. The financial assistance included in the award will help me complete my Ph.D. degree in summer 2019. This would not have been possible without a vision of the Portage Health Foundation, an initiative by the Michigan Tech, and the support from my adviser Dr. Shiyue Fang and the chemistry department.


Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantship Fall 2018 Recipient – Xue Mi

Xue Mi
Chemical Engineering
I am a Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering and has been working on my Ph.D. project in Dr. Caryn Heldt’s lab since 2015 fall. My research has focused on creating methods to remove, detect, characterize, and purify viruses. Virus removal explored cheaper and easier ways to purify water; detection of viruses can be used to determine the cleanliness of surfaces from viral contamination and also possibly as a quick way to screen blood donations for viral contamination in underdeveloped countries; characterization studied viral surface properties to stabilize vaccines; purifying viruses can create less expensive vaccines and other viral therapies and bring them to market faster. All of these projects and applications can help improve both the health of our local population, but also health worldwide.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Portage Health Foundation for financial support. It allows me to focus on my paper and dissertation writing for the summer of 2019. I also want to thank my advisor Dr. Heldt for her constant help and generous support throughout my entire graduate school studies.

Summer 2019 PHF Graduate Assistantship Nominations Open

Applications for summer 2019 PHF Graduate Assistantships are being accepted and are due no later than 4pm, February 28, 2019 to the Graduate School. Instructions on the application and evaluation process are found onlineAn information session to discuss how to prepare a successful application will be held on February 6, 2019 at 1pm in Admin 404.

Students are eligible if all of the following criteria are met:

  1. Must be a PhD student participating in health-related research that is aligned with the PHF’s mission.
  2. Must be eligible for or in Research Mode at the time of application.
  3. Must be 2 years after starting the graduate program at the time of application.
  4. (New for summer 2019) Must not be a prior recipient of a PHF Graduate Assistantship.

Priority will be given to students originally from Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, or Ontonagon counties. Non-resident students and international students are encouraged to apply if their health research is applicable to health needs and job shortages of our local community (obesity research, rural health, medical informatics, drug delivery and lab testing, physical therapy, etc.).

These assistantships are available through the generosity of the Portage Health Foundation. They are intended to recognize outstanding PhD talent in health-oriented research areas. Applicants should be a catalyst for promoting and improving the overall health of Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, and Ontonagon communities through one of the following:

  • health research and technology development
  • health education or preventive and wellness initiatives
  • rural healthcare access, informatics, and assessment of care

Students who receive full support through a PHF Graduate Assistantship may not accept any other employment. For example, students cannot be fully supported by a PHF Graduate Assistantship and accept support as a GTA or GRA.