Category: Alumni

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


Chris Wilson ’19 (Sound Design)

Chris Wilson ’19 at his home in Plymouth, Michigan. Wilson majored in sound design while at Michigan Tech and minored in music composition.

After graduation, I applied to nearly every cruise line and was hired by Norwegian Cruise Line as a lounge technician. My main task was to set up the musicians for performances in the shipboard lounges. 

The COVID-19 pandemic started affecting shipboard operations on our last cruise from Australia to French Polynesia, after which we were supposed to head to Alaska for summer. Before guests even got on board, some ports were closed to all cruise ship traffic so immediately our itinerary changed. We were no longer traveling to Samoa and no one would be allowed to get off in New Caledonia. This initial change angered some guests but the rest were understanding. Midway through a three-day journey in French Polynesia, the captain informed us that all of French Polynesia closed their ports and we were heading back to Fiji. This infuriated a lot of the guests, made some happy, and confused the rest. This would be a recurring theme.

Since the cruise had essentially been canceled, our main objective was to disembark the 2,400 passengers safely in New Zealand. A day later, New Zealand closed their ports as well. 

Our ship was bouncing around the Pacific Ocean with nowhere to go. It seemed like we were at the mercy of the sea with no one reaching out to help. No one knew how much fuel we had left and those that did were told to keep their mouths shut. Food and water are easy enough to ration, but without fuel we would have had no navigation, limited communications, no electricity, and no ventilation. 

Guests started contacting their own governments. I guess they thought their government would be able to overrule the local government’s rules and let them leave before the other guests. This didn’t happen. 

Through all this, on-shore operations worked tirelessly to convince governments to open up their ports so we could at least refuel. We got word that American Samoa would let us in to refuel, but, strictly no one was allowed off the ship. 

I cannot tell you how beautiful the island looked when we first caught sight of it. I almost cried when I saw land. It was just so surreal to finally be there after all the uncertainty. It was the first time that we had hope. 

Shoreside operations formed a very detailed plan for us. From American Samoa, we were to sail to Hawaii. Once we arrived, the guests would disembark and take chartered flights provided by NCL. Very specific procedures were in place to minimize all contact between guests and officials on land. 

After 12 days at sea and countless changes to our plans, we made it to Honolulu. We were docked for five days and disembarked all the guests. This was our main goal. Employees would be fine staying on the ship as long as there were no guests to tend to. We left Hawaii for a  six-day journey to Los Angeles. 

We closed down all the restaurants, lounges, and other guest areas in preparation for an unknown amount of time, which meant, we finally got something rarely seen on cruise ships—a break. 

When we arrived in L.A., lists were posted detailing which crew members would be going home. At this point, most countries were closed so a majority of the crew had to stay on board. Fortunately, most U.S. citizens were able to leave the ship.

The adventure that began Feb. 27 finally ended with I arrived home in Plymouth, Michigan April 6.


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


Gabriela Shirkey

Gabriela Shirkey

I‘m really excited [about the National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship]. The key to NSF applications is stressing how your pursuit of science and contribution to the scientific community is going to have a broader impact, particularly those not involved in your immediate research. You write a personal statement on how you build community and demonstrate leadership, as well as a research proposal, three letters of recommendation, and your transcripts. Thanks to Tech, I had STEM outreach examples from the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers’ Noche de Ciencias and prior research experience as an undergraduate in the social sciences department. With the NSF fellowship, I get three years of full funding and opportunities to have internships, so I am thinking of connecting with the Department of Energy or Argonne National Laboratories to work on biofuel research.


Tyler Shelast

 

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan Technological University, National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified strength and conditioning specialist. Professional Hockey Player — 2008-2013.

During the school year, my job is more like 6 to 6 instead of 9 to 5. Sometimes teams work out four days a week, sometimes they go to two or three, it depends on the season. Getting to work with Michigan Tech athletes is the best part of my day.

My job allows me to teach and educate young athletes on the shortcomings I experienced when I was an athlete. I had a tough road and went through a lot of pain and suffering. My goal is to help these athletes learn and understand that they can take anything that’s thrown at them. I learned more from my downfall than I did from my success, and ultimately, those are the lessons I want to share with Michigan Tech athletes — to help them grow out of darkness.

In a week it’s groups, office time, more groups, practices, and then during the hockey season, I go on the ice for hockey practice daily and am there for the team at all the games. I can’t coach, but I play an integral part in hockey due to my former playing. I really like to work out, that’s probably my favorite thing, so I try to work out once a day.

I have a lot of pride in everything I do that is Michigan Tech because I want it to excel. I want us to be the best at everything. We’re kind of like a hidden little snowglobe type place, but we need to embrace that because it’s what makes us special. Michigan Tech’s a very proud school, so I feel lucky to have a hand in shaping our culture. There’s so much that goes into seeing student-athletes grow, I mean, that’s ultimately why I’m in it, why I love being here. I’m very fortunate to work with great people.