Author: Cynthia Perkins

Tammy Monette, (Van Pelt and Opie Library, Facilities)

A smiling woman wears a mask and a Michigan Tech polo shirt at the front of a Library desk where the toys she has collected are piled.

“The Cans for Kids–Toys for Tots idea started 10 years ago when I was working in Wadsworth Hall as a custodian on the second floor and just couldn’t believe all the cans and bottles being thrown away. I came up with the idea to collect them, and put some garbage cans out and signs up. The students were super receptive. I think we were all kind of shocked by how much we actually collected. I did the actual ‘returning’—and still do. 

The first couple of years, we donated the money to local charities. Seven years ago, we started partnering with Toys for Tots for fall semester and Husky FAN (food access network) for spring semester. That way our outreach included our local community and our campus. In the 2018-19 school year, we collected over $1,100 in cans! 

After working at Wads for 10 years, wanting a change but not wanting to leave the energy of the students, I transferred to the Library in May 2019. The Library staff were very supportive and the can collecting continued. Last holiday we collected a record-breaking $553!

In the midst of our 2020 Drop a Can–Be A FAN spring semester collection for the food pantry, COVID-19 hit and campus operations shut down. Can and bottle return centers closed. I had bags of returnables piled high in a corner of my garage and seriously thought about ending the chapter on this kind of fundraising. But in July, the return centers at local stores reopened the returnable section with a $25 daily limit and I started hauling them in again. 

This semester, campus is extremely different, to say the least. The usual hustle and bustle of the Library is replaced with quiet, masked visitors and a sadness of sorts. Can collecting continues at a snail’s pace compared to pre-pandemic. Thankfully, outside donations have fueled the project. Former co-workers, some Library staff, and random anonymous drop-offs have contributed to a surprising new record of over $650 for the Cans for Kids–Toys for Tots. Unbelievable!

The toys I choose are geared more toward the ‘believers’ as far as age goes. I usually have a cash donation as well to help cover any of the gaps that the Toys for Tots elves need to fill. The toys are picked up by Jim Mattson, the area Toys for Tots chairman and a retired Chem Eng professor from Tech! He’ll pick up this year’s collection on Monday, December 14.

My favorite part of working at Tech is the students. Throughout the past 15 years, I’ve been a cheerleader, mentor, therapist, mother, counselor, and friend. I have listened to countless stories, shared endless laughs, and offered up a whole lot of prayers for our students.

I may not be in one of the higher-paid positions at MTU, but dollar for dollar I have one of the most rewarding jobs—direct, daily contact with these young people. My hope has always been that I planted a seed with our students and someday they’ll see a Toys for Tots box or food pantry collection and donate!

For me, the holidays are about family, tradition, gratitude, laughter, and love. I am so blessed to have three grandbabies now. Through them I get to relive all the magic of Christmas again!”–Tammy Monette

#mtuhumans


Jeremy Wales, ’21, Biomedical Engineering

Six young people stand in front of a wall that says Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center
Jeremy Wales, third from left, and his fellow interns with their mentor in summer 2019.

“For me, the most exciting part about applying for a patent is the possibility of having my name associated with something I helped create that can help people.

I was introduced to the summer internship program that led to my first patent application by my uncle, who offered to get me a tour of the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center at the University of Minnesota through a former co-worker of his who works there. During the tour, the Center guides pointed out all the cool equipment and tech they have, as well as some of the work they did in the past. 

But the Bakken MDC Internship Program is what really got my attention. It lasts a little over 12 weeks, and it takes you through the entire process from start to finish of what it’s like to develop a novel medical device. The program is on a volunteer internship basis but with the possibility of ending up with something worth patenting. They had a display of over 16 patents resulting from this program, and I was hooked. I thought it would be an incredible way to spend a summer using my degree and gaining some valuable skills for my future. The possibility of a patent before I even graduated college was enough to get me to apply and become interested in the process.

I worked with a team of four other interns in summer 2019, as well as a mentor assigned from the university. Our sponsor, a current MD student at the university close to finishing his degree, asked us to come up with a solution to some of the current criticisms regarding vascular dopplers, a medical device that is used to detect blood flow.

We currently have disclosed the IP with the proper department at the University of Minnesota, as well as submitted a technical brief that was accepted to the 2020 Design of Medical Devices Conference. At this time, we are still in the process of IP and provisional patent applications pending.

Michigan Tech encourages its engineering students to not only understand how the things we make work, but to also think about how they could work better. It wasn’t my initial plan to use my degree in the research and development side of the field, but after getting the experience and seeing what it takes, I definitely would like to have a few more under my belt some day.” –Jeremy Wales, ‘21 #mtuhumans


Nicole Bonenfant ’16 (Scientific and Technical Communications)

A young woman in a Michigan Tech sweatshirt sits by a statue of Alexander Agassiz in Calumet Michigan outside

“As deputy clerk/assessor at Charter Township of Calumet, I help run all of the elections in Calumet Township, along with the head clerk. From now until Election Day, I will be in charge of sending out over 1,200 absentee ballots to voters who have requested them and checking them in once they have filled them out.

Once we get all of the ballots back from the voters, I check the signature on the ballot envelope and compare it to the signature we have on file. If it matches, their ballot is filed into our vault until Election Day. On Election Day, I’m in charge of making sure things go smoothly. If election workers have questions, they call me and I go to the precinct and help them solve the problem. 

My scientific and technical communication degree has been tremendously useful in this role. I’ve used my technical writing skills to write documentation for our election software, as well as instructions for other clerks in Houghton County to help them navigate the state’s Qualified Voter File. Most of our election workers have a hard time with technology, so I try to make their lives easier by making documents for them. The problem-solving aspect of technical communication has also come in handy.

There are a LOT of things that can go wrong on Election Day, and my education at Michigan Tech helped me navigate those challenges. Election Day can be very tense for some people and tempers can flare easily. Being able to communicate clearly and concisely, not only on paper but in person, has been important. It is a long day and anything can truly happen, so we have to be on our toes! But, we have a lot of fun. We always find time to joke with each other and make time fly. My mother is one of our election workers, so it is nice to work with her. Plus, I get to be her boss for the day!

Helping the community I grew up in exercise their right to vote is something I particularly enjoy about this job. Especially this year, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, it is extremely rewarding to assist in the democratic process. November 3 is going to be a very intense day for many different groups of people, so to help those who watched me grow up (and who I grew up with) make sure their vote counts is a great feeling. I try to do everything I can to help my community be heard, not only on the regional or state level, but at the federal level as well.” –Nicole Bonenfant ’16, deputy clerk/assessor Calumet Township

#mtuhumans


Daisuke Minakata, Civil and Environmental Engineering

A professor in a Michigan Tech lab with seven undergraduate students
Minakata in the lab with students. Many have had the opportunity to do undergraduate research with him—and many more have the chance to talk to him about his research in the summer webinar series Husky Bites.

I was born and raised in Japan. I came to the US for the first time as a high school exchange student, just for one month. I lived in Virginia, in a place called Silverplate, a suburb of Washington, D.C. I went to Thomas Jefferson Science and Technology High School, which was the sister school of my Japanese high school, and one of the nation’s top scientific high schools. And I did like it. This triggered my study abroad dream. I was impressed by the high school education system in the US. It’s one that never just looks for the systematic solution, but values process, logic, and discussion-based classes.
I loved watching a beautiful image of planet Earth, one with a very clear sky and blue water, during my high school days. However, as I began to learn how life on Earth suffers many difficult environmental problems, including air pollution and water contamination, I also learned that environmental engineers can be leaders who help solve the Earth’s most difficult sustainability problems. That is when I decided to become an engineer.
In my undergraduate curriculum, the water quality and treatment classes I took were the toughest subjects to get an A in. I had to work the hardest to understand the content. So, naturally, I decided to enter this discipline as I got to know about water engineering more. And then, there’s our blue planet, the image. Water makes the Earth look blue from space.

The Blue Planet. (NASA image)


While in college, during my graduate studies, I took a one-year leave from Kyoto University in Japan and studied at University of Pennsylvania as a visiting graduate student. Then I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in order to get a PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology. I accepted my position at Michigan Tech in 2013.
I’m now a father of two. Both are Yoopers, born here in the UP of Michigan. My wife and I really enjoy skiing (downhill and cross country) with the kids each winter. I do like all the cities I have lived in. The place I am currently living is our two kids’ birthplace, and our real home. Of course it’s our favorite place, after our Japanese hometown. –Daisuke Minakata, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering #mtuhumans


Tony Pinar, Electrical and Computer Engineering lecturer and researcher, MTU grad

I was raised near the small town of Trout Creek, Michigan. I’ve always been obsessed with figuring out how things work. I was also interested in electricity from a young age, thanks to my dad, an electrician, who had me help him wire houses. These led me to pursue electrical engineering at Michigan Tech, where I learned EE was so much more than power distribution.
I had the opportunity to work on many interesting projects as a student, both applied and research-based. As an undergrad I contributed to projects such as a solar-tracking solar panel, a Tesla coil, and an industry-sponsored project concerning wireless power transfer. In graduate school I worked on projects involving autonomous underwater gliders, 3D metal printers, and explosive hazard detection using ground penetrating radar; my dissertation focused on the algorithms I developed and used for much of the explosive hazard detection problem.
What I like most about teaching electrical engineering is that teaching is like a puzzle where one may have to take a difficult concept, reduce it to digestible pieces, and deliver them to fresh minds in a way to maximize understanding and insight. That challenge is what drives me to be a better teacher. It keeps me on my toes, forces me to constantly identify holes in my knowledge, and drives me to continuously strive to learn new things.
I live in Hancock with my wife, Noelle, and our two boys. If I’m not spending time outdoors in the Keweenaw with my family, you’ll probably find me playing guitar or tinkering with a side project. –Tony Pinar, lecturer, researcher, and electrical engineering graduate (BS, MS, and PhD), Michigan Tech Electrical and Computer Engineering Department #mtuhumans


Guy Meadows, research professor, Marine Engineering Laboratory director

I was born and raised in the City of Detroit, and attended Detroit Public Schools. When I went to college I had to work to make ends meet. I got a job as a cook in the dorm, and eventually worked my way up to lead cook. I was cooking breakfast for 1,200 people each morning. One of my fellow classmates was studying engineering, too. He had a job working for a professor doing research on storm waves and beaches. I had no idea I could be hired by a professor and get paid money to work on the beach! I quit my job in the kitchen and went to work for that professor instead. I had been a competitive swimmer in high school, and the beach was where I really wanted to be.
When I graduated with my degree, I went to work for Ford. I have to thank my first boss for assigning me to work on rear axle shafts. After about two months, I called my former professor to see if I could come back to college.
My advice for students just starting out is to spend your first year exploring all your options. Find out what you really want to do. I had no idea I could turn a mechanical engineering degree into a job working on the beach. Turns out, I could⁠—and I’m still doing it today.
Because I grew up in Detroit, I had the opportunity to live, work, and grow in a very diverse community. While a faculty member at the University of Michigan, I was part of a great team that started the M-STEM Academies and became its founding director. The M-STEM mission is ‘to strengthen and diversify the cohort of students who receive their baccalaureate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with the ultimate goal of increasing the number and diversity of students who are well prepared to seek career opportunities or to pursue graduate or professional training in the STEM disciplines in the new global economy.’ This effort has been a very important part of my journey. –Guy Meadows, Director, Marine Engineering Laboratory, Robbins Professor of Sustainable Marine Engineering, and Research Professor, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics #mtuhumans


Rebecca Ong, assistant professor, chemical engineering

Rebecca Ong preps a switchgrass sample in the lab.

I’m a born Yooper who grew up in a small town in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan and came back to the UP for school. I love the Copper Country and MTU students so much, I managed to persuade my husband to come back to Houghton five years ago. Now I live near campus with my husband, daughter, our Torbie cat and our curly-haired dog. We read science fiction and fantasy stories; play board games; kayak on the canals and lakes while watching for signs of wildlife; make new things out of yarn, fabric, wood, and plastic (though not all at the same time) and practice herbology and potions in the garden and kitchen.
I first became interested in engineering in high school when I learned it was a way to combine math and science to solve problems. I loved math and science and thought that sounded brilliant. However, I didn’t understand at the time what that really meant. I thought “problems” meant the types of problems you solve in math class. Since then I’ve learned these problems are major issues that are faced by all of humanity, such as: How do we enable widespread access to clean energy? How do we produce sufficient amounts of safe vaccines and medicine, particularly in a crisis? How do we process food products, while maintaining safety and nutritional quality? As a chemical engineer I am able to combine my love of biology, chemistry, physics, and math to create novel solutions to society’s problems.

One thing I love about MTU is that the university gives students tons of hands-on opportunities to solve real problems, not just problems out of a textbook (though we still do a fair number of those!). These are the types of problems our students will be solving when they go on to their future careers. –Rebecca Ong, assistant professor, chemical engineering

#mtuhumans #mtugrad


Brad King, Professor in Space Systems, Aerospace Enterprise Advisor

A man in a blue shirt with blurred background of equipment in a mechanical engineering aerospace lab smiles at the camera.

I have always been interested in building things—long before I knew that was called “engineering.” I don’t recall when I became fascinated with space but it was at a very early age. I have embarrassing photos of me dressed as an astronaut for Halloween and I may still even have an adult-sized astronaut costume somewhere in my closet—not saying.
The desire to explore space is what drives me. Very early in my studies I realized that the biggest impediment to space exploration is propulsion. Space is just so big it’s hard to get anywhere. So I dedicated my professional life to developing new space propulsion technologies. There is other life in our solar system. That is a declarative statement. It’s time that we find it. The moons of Jupiter and Saturn hold great promise and I’m determined to see proof in my lifetime.
I was born and raised just north of Houghton (yes, there actually is some habitable environment north of Houghton). I received my BS, MS, and PhD from the University of Michigan. I spent time traveling around the country working at NASA in Houston, NIST in Boulder, and realized that all of my personal hobbies and proclivities were centered around the geography and climate of northern Michigan. I returned in 2000 and began my career as a professor at MTU. I enjoy fishing, boating, hockey, and spent more than 15 years running my dogsled team all over the Keweenaw Peninsula. –Brad King, Henes Endowed Professor in Space Systems, MTU Aerospace Enterprise Advisor #mtuhumans


John Schneiderhan (Van Pelt and Opie Library technologist)

A man wearing a Michigan Tech Huskies face mask and a plastic shield working at a 3D printer in a library.

What I miss most of all are the students and their energy. We see many aspects of the students’ lives here as the weeks pass each semester. The year has a flow. The library is a safe space, an oasis where students come to find solace, dedicate time to their research and study, eat, sleep, or collaborate on group projects.

One of my responsibilities is scheduling and coordinating 3D prints for students and patrons. I can see the 3D printers and scanner right outside my office door. Normally, I have a group of regular students that navigate to the devices with curiosity or interest in being creative or innovative.

Today it is just David Holden and myself here in the library with the occasional facilities staff member doing their part and helping wherever they can. There is a glimpse of normalcy within our social distance collaboration with the incredible materials sciences and engineering students working on the 3D-printed personal protection equipment (PPE) project. They bring so much value and energy to the production. They deliver insight, technical innovation, compassion, and conservation to the cause. The atmosphere is completely different without the students, without the staff, without people. It’s not the library. It’s just a building. It’s a building where David and I have been coming to work on production, to do our best to help and support the health of the community. #mtuhumans