Category: College of Sciences and Arts

Cacie Clifford, (third-year bioinformatics major, Blue Key Honor Society)

My decision to come to Michigan Tech was made superficially at first—I fell in love with the area, surroundings and how the campus looked—but as I started my freshman year I was drawn in by the classes and traditions at Tech. I am a bioinformatics major, with minors in computer science, psychology, and microbiology. Bioinformatics is at the intersection of statistics, biology and computer science, which is why I chose it. It’s an up-and-coming branch of science that will give me a great foundation for my career. Not many schools offer it and I’m thankful Michigan Tech does. One of the reasons I love being a coach in the Biological Sciences Learning Center (BLC) is that I can help others and teach my favorite subject: biology.

Involvement outside the classroom comes naturally to me. In high school I was active in most of the clubs and even helped start a couple. At Tech, in addition to the BLC I’m on the Blue Key E Board, I’m a mentor in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and I volunteer at the local animal shelter. There were so many people who helped me get to college and so many who have helped since I’ve been here. I really want to give my all to make them proud. Coming from a small community (and school) to a larger place like MTU, I want to do what I can to help others be their best. Huskies help Huskies.

Being active outside the classroom while pursuing my education helps take my mind off the hefty workload here at Tech. It helps me gain new perspectives and connect with other students and faculty. Activities outside of the classroom or lab also allow me to participate more deeply in Tech traditions, especially Winter Carnival.

As an MTU Blue Key Honor Society member, for the past two years I served as chair of Alumni and Membership Relations. Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival connects our alumni to their alma mater. It’s such a deeply rooted tradition and we try super hard to give people new experiences and stories to tell. I connected with EchoTrek, a local humane society fundraiser in memory of Blue Key member Alec Fisher, who died in an automobile accident in November 2018. Currently we’re working on gathering alumni donations to help make a small scholarship available to our members based on their leadership and volunteering service while serving with Blue Key.

Looking beyond Michigan Tech, my goal is to earn a master’s degree and become a genetic counselor, a person who meets with  people to determine their or their children’s risk of genetic diseases and other health care issues. I’ve had this plan for some time, as my father passed away from cancer when I was nine. I want to help people be less afraid and to do what they can do to prevent diseases. 

My Blue Key involvement, and all my other activities, give me the experiences I need to be a great genetic counselor and to be a great friend to people. –Cacie Clifford, future genetic counselor #mtuhumans


Sydney Skalski ’19 (BS Sports and Fitness Management)

I didn’t plan on transforming an ambulance into a tiny home, but I love living in it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m proud of it. The idea began when I made friends with a few “van-lifers,” who had gone to Tech and I became intrigued by the lifestyle. I liked the sustainability, minimalism, and frugality of it and especially the freedom that accompanied having a home on wheels.

I originally wanted a van for the project and looked at a variety in online market places. I came across an ambulance for sale and immediately thought, “Wow! This is luxurious. I could stand up in that, and it’s in my budget.” I looked at it the next day, took it for a test drive and soon made the decision that it was going to be my home. My goal was to be as self-sufficient as I could. That included building it pretty much by myself.

It took me all summer to complete, finishing the Sunday before the start of the fall semester. I had never built anything in my life before and I wanted everything to be just the way I wanted. My aim was to prove to myself and to those who thought I was crazy that I could make a beautiful home for myself and that I could live well in a non-traditional setting.

Google became my best friend throughout the process. I did almost everything myself, except for the foam insulation. My boyfriend taught me how to do the electrical wiring.  I learned so many useful skills like plumbing, setting up a solar system and how to use power tools.

I’ll admit that living in a portable home may not be as simple or as glamorous as people portray it to be. I heat with a woodstove so when I’m not home everything freezes, including my food. Not having a bathroom can be a little tricky at times but I have a sink and a travel toilet so I’m not fully without. I shower at the SDC and it works perfectly. Michigan Tech has been amazing and so supportive of my lifestyle. I could not have picked a better place to start my adventure.

Soon I’ll be moving to Rhinelander, Wisconsin (where I built my tiny home) and work at my summer job providing in-home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, before pursuing a graduate degree in Dietetics. I love the freedom of going wherever I get a job without question. I can be my own boss and won’t have to deal with landlords.

Without question, the coolest thing about living in an ambulance is the people I meet and their reactions to learning that I built it. To be honest, I really enjoy the shock factor. I only wish I had done it sooner.


Mayra Morgan

One day I stopped at a grocery store in Merida, Mexico, and met a man who I would later find out was Dr. Richard Donovan of Michigan Technological University’s Sustainable Futures Institute. He was lost and needed directions. I took him where he needed to go. He asked me about my background and I told him I was completing my master’s in social anthropology while working for an NGO and teaching in a college. I told him I wanted to do my PhD in the environment and human rights someday and he said, “We should talk.” But, he was a stranger! I was just trying to help someone; it’s something I like to do—if a person or an animal needs help and I can do it, I do it.

Two or three days later I got an email from the man introducing himself. His email said, “I’m very impressed with your background. You said you wanted to do a PhD and Michigan Tech just opened this new program called environmental policy, so I would like to talk to you more about it.” I was shocked! We had a first interview and I remember he told me about a project he was working on and asked me what I thought about it. I was very honest because it was something I cared about. He said, “I’ll give you a recommendation letter.” That’s how I heard about Michigan Tech and I started my adventure here.

This summer I am completing my PhD in Environmental and Energy Policy. It has been a long and overall rewarding journey. I have had great professional and personal experiences at Tech, I have met great people here, I also met my husband here. He got his bachelor’s in computer science. We had our wedding in the MUB in 2016. Part of why I love Michigan Tech is because I have a family here. My friends are my family and they are from all over the world. You can feel the love and community here and that is significant.

My research is about ecotourism and women’s empowerment in rural Mexico. Currently, I am looking for full-time opportunities in academia and elsewhere. Because I have diverse experience, I know there are different paths I can do. Academia is one. But I also like nonacademic positions like working for an NGO that works with environmental conservation, community development and outreach, or women’s empowerment. Honestly, I would love to work in diversity and inclusion at a college. Since 2015 I have worked part time in the Graduate School processing applications and doing some outreach with potential students. I love that job. I also have been part of several student organizations in leadership positions and organized many events. I love salsa dancing, which I do on campus every week. I have also performed a few times on campus. I hope I can find a job opportunity soon. I’m just going to keep trying. Progress, not perfection. That’s what I remind myself. You aren’t always going to feel okay (that’s perfection); just move forward (that’s progress); that’s what I believe.


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.

I enrolled in the Straight-to-PhD program in Michigan State’s Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences in August 2017. Currently, I’m at the end of my second year and I’ll be done with most of my coursework before working full-force on my dissertation, “Integrating unknown socioeconomic processes into ecosystem carbon production.” 

I chose Michigan Tech because it’s kind of a family tradition. My two cousins, sister, and brother-in-law really sold me on Greek life and Winter Carnival. My sister, cousin and I are all Alpha Sigma Taus and I’m continuing with the alumni chapter down here in Lansing. So I have to admit, there weren’t really other colleges on my radar. 

I wasn’t an early bird when it came to being scholastic or a high achiever, but I knew Tech was where high achieving students go. I wanted to integrate into that kind of intellectual community and found a home with the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers, who persuaded me that I can succeed in graduate school and research. Just telling someone they can do it is really powerful. Kudos to them and I hope they’re still going strong!


Sarah Calvert

Sarah Calvert

I’m a sound design major and I’m minoring in music composition. This is my third year at Tech; I transferred from a community college downstate. My grandfather is an alumnus, and I saw the visual and performing arts department and thought, “These are the careers I want to do.” I applied, I was accepted, I drove up here in the fall, I saw an apartment, signed a lease, drove through town, and drove back home. I moved in December during a snowstorm. A nine-hour drive took us 12.

Sound design is really awesome because you get to be part of telling the story. Your influences in the sound touch the audience and having that power is really special. I competed and won at the Kennedy Center for American College Theatre competition. When I’m composing, I prefer to be at the piano, and I tend to do a lot of stuff on my computer. For sound design, I’m at the keyboard and a computer and listening to sounds.

I started a student chapter of sound girls—an international organization that is about bringing awareness and opportunities to women, girls, and minorities in sound, audio, and music production. I’m finding opportunities for newer students and students who are kind of interested in sound/music and getting them an opportunity to grow. Our department can be really challenging. I think by having these little opportunities ahead of time we’ll have more prepared students, hopefully. I’m thinking about going to grad school so I can teach at the college level. I found that that’s what I like to do. I’ve got a few options for grad school in LA.

My friend Allen got me into powerlifting and bodybuilding two or three years ago. I go to the gym four times a week. I lift some pretty heavy weight for someone my size. I listen to a lot of rock, hard rock, and metal while working out. My dad listens to that music; it’s what I grew up with, but I also really like the new progressive metal bands such as Periphery. The higher energy music really helps me focus on the act of lifting heavy weight, which somewhat transports me to another world where there isn’t stress and worries. It is just me, the weights, and music. 


Lucas Grulke

 Lucas Grulke

Somebody who knew someone, who knew someone, convinced me to come to Michigan Tech and here I am — and almost graduated. During O Week I thought I had made the worst decision of my life. The only reason I got up every morning was Army Physical Training (PT).

Coming in, I only had the money to afford one year of college. After that, I either had to pull out a lot of student loans, drop out and go into the military, or figure something out. Army ROTC (AROTC) has a three-year scholarship you have to compete for, and in order to compete, you have to have a good PT score, good grades, and in general, show you participate in activities. So that really became the only driver to keep me in college. I had a semester and a half to be awarded the scholarship and I needed to make sure I could secure it. It was a grind. I kept trudging through it and in February of my second semester, I was awarded the scholarship and it was instant relief. And honestly, from there, it’s been the normal path. I’m not a believer in luck. I think a lot of it is what you prepare for.

We’re in the Third Brigade. There are eight brigades in the USWe’re the gritty cadets because we don’t train in the nice warm weather, we train in the frozen tundra. We do everything in snowshoes. While I’m here, I’m focused on doing all I can to be a top candidate and a leader. AROTC has given me a lot of opportunities like going to Chile for Cultural Understanding and Leadership Proficiency for a month and being Battalion Commander. From June 16 to July 19, I’ll attend Sapper Leader Course.

I had to compete against the entire Third Brigade for the spot and it’s not guaranteed I’ll pass [it’s called tabbing, actually; he’d earn a sapper tab for his uniform] when I complete the course. I told my buddy, “Either I’m coming out with that tab or I’m coming out on a stretcher.” Also, I have a little brother, Caleb; he’s a first-year student here. I will not let him hold [my not tabbing] above me the rest of my life. He’s also in ROTC, an engineering management major, and he’s actually—him and my good friend, Greg, are helping me with all the training. They PT with me five days a week. They keep me accountable. That way I don’t slack off. My parents don’t really know why Caleb and I were so inclined to do the military. I say it’s because no one ever plays navy; instead, they played soldiers. I don’t know if that’s what it was, maybe we just like a challenge and hard work. That’s just kind of how it panned out. I guess it’s a good thing, especially knowing that Caleb came here means I might have done something right. He sees it as a good thing. The cadre lets me know every day that he’s doing better than I did as a first year. And I like to think if he wasn’t that means I didn’t do my job.


Jarett McClanahan

There are going to be times where you are going to need to try to figure out how to make ends meet financially, or figure out how you are going to save time to do homework, or just take care of your own mental health and well-being. One of those things you always have to put on the back burner and it can get really exhausting. But if you remember it’s only a couple of years, it can be hard in the moment, but as long as you work through it, it will be okay. I work as a student custodian in the ME-EM. I really like my job. I work 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. I don’t have to clean bathrooms. I just go around and vacuum rooms, wipe whiteboards off, and other stuff. Other than that, I TA a few classes and I’m the vice president of the Society of Medical Laboratory Scientists club. So when I get home, I make food, shower, go to sleep, wake up, and start it all again. I have to wake up super early, but I have weekends and nights off. And I get to listen to music and podcasts while I’m working. I also do work study for the biology department, so I work on average about 30 hours a week.

My degree has a required fifth-year practicum, if you want to take the board exam to be certified to work in a hospital. I’ll be doing my practicum in July at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in my hometown of Iron Mountain, Michigan. Then I can sit for my boards and go on to work in a hospital. For our senior capstone, we meet twice a week to prepare to take an old version of the board as the final exam. Jobs for my major after graduation typically entail working in a hospital lab, doing research, or working for a corporation in the private sector; but it’s mostly doing patient sample testing to diagnose diseases. A lot of microscopes and machines.

I remember my senior year of high school, I was looking around at different schools and there was nothing super specific about Tech that drew me in, but I liked the location (two hours from home), and I had heard that it was a really good school. A lot of my friends told me it was too expensive and too hard, which made me want to go here even more.


Tanna Windham and the Women’s Rugby Club at Michigan Tech

Five women in rugby shirts pose for a group photo.

I’m president of the Michigan Tech Women’s Rugby Club and I’m a third-year exercise science major minoring in psychology. Before I came to Michigan Tech, I participated in cross country and track, both for about seven or eight years. But at Tech, I wanted to expand my viewpoint on different sports and join a club team. I first heard about the rugby club through the Orientation Week packet given to incoming students. The team was putting on their annual cookout. Once I was able to meet the team, I instantly fell in love with the people on the team and how welcoming they were. I have officially been on the team for two years and have loved every minute of it.

Our team began in 2012 with only a small handful of girls. We would play games with Northern Michigan University’s women’s team. Once the club grew, we became part of the Great Waters Women’s Rugby Conference in 2016. We vary to having between 12 to 20 girls on our team and are always looking for more. Last year we had about 18 girls when we went down to NashBash, a rugby tournament in Nashville, bringing rugby teams from around the country.

Our biggest season is in the fall, which is when we compete against teams in our conference—Northern, and University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, LaCross, Platteville, and Stout. During both our fall and spring seasons, we practice two times a week for a total of about four hours each week. Outside of practices, our team continues to keep the family atmosphere by having team dinners before games and hanging out with each other as much as we can.

If I hadn’t joined the rugby team here at Tech, I don’t know where I would be, and I know many of the other girls would say the same thing. We all would be lost without this wonderful sport. 

Follow the Michigan Tech Women’s Rugby Club on Instagram.

#rugby #mtuwomensrugby #mturugby#ladyruggers #mtuwc2019 #mtuwc#michigantech #rugger #rugby🏉


Adam Loman

A young man in a Captain America shirt stands in a fitness center.

I chose Michigan Tech because it is close to home—I’m from Ishpeming—and the Air Force ROTC program offered something other schools didn’t. I like being close to my mom and five sisters. I came in knowing I wanted to do Air Force ROTC because I have a lot of service members in my family and I want to do something I care about. Right now I’m kind of in the dark about where I’ll go after I graduate and commission into the Air Force. It’s exciting I guess. It’s hard to say if I’ll be career (military); career is typically 20 (years), but I’m 22, so I can’t really fathom that right now. I have a four-year commitment and I’ll see what happens after that.

I run a Physical Training (PT) program five days a week to prep other cadets for Phase I and Phase II exercises (Air Force programs). Exercises, like a Phase I, prepare airmen for battlefield positions. It takes a much more capable individual to be qualified for those positions. I like training people. I like pushing people and helping them become the best versions of themselves; a lot of times, people won’t push themselves until they get a little exposure to training at that level and then they’ll just fall in love with it. Most people don’t enjoy being at that level of discomfort but some do. I like getting people to that point, and you know once they hit that point because I don’t have to check in with them and make sure they’re coming to PT in the morning because they’ll be there five minutes early; that’s my favorite thing to see—somebody that’s killing it all the way. I picked exercise science (as my major) because I was an athlete in high school and I always enjoyed physical fitness. Exercise science is really useful. I’m able to help out a ton of my friends, the cadets come to me for health programming, and I’ve made a bunch of programs for them to help them prep for different PT tests and that sort of thing.

#afrotc #mtuhumans #exercisescience #tenacity


Adewale Adesanya

A man sits behind a drum kit.I like making an impact. I got my BS in industrial and production engineering; as an engineer, I always wanted to do something new, something innovative. And as the fourth of six children, I looked to what my older siblings were doing to make sure what challenged them, didn’t challenge me.
After graduating, I worked in oil and gas, which is serious business in Nigeria. But I started having different feelings about environmental pollution, the global temperature increasing, the vulnerability of some highlands, and the damage being caused by conventional energy, so I felt I couldn’t continue to be a part of that anymore—I don’t want to be part of the problem in energy, I want to go to green energy—so I started reading about that and doing some certificate courses online.

My interest in renewable energy is how I hope to make an impact. I know my strengths and boundaries, and things that really concern me I try to go for. So I think that’s why I care so much about energy policy and sustainability. Perhaps another factor is my religious background. I’m a Christian and am motivated by my faith.

I came to Michigan Tech from Germany where I did my master’s in energy and environmental management; I was involved in several renewable energy projects in Scotland, Germany, Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda. I saw that Michigan Tech faculty were interested in a broader view of environmental policy and so am I.

My family and I moved to Houghton in the summer of 2018. My kids like playing in the snow and eating snow. I’m passionately into music: I play the drums (drum set and local drums), bass guitar, and I sing, too. I play in bands, with locals, and I played at Africa Night. I also attend salsa dancing class where I network with other MTU students and faculty.

Adewale is an environmental and energy policy PhD student.