Category: News

Julia Westfall: Women in STEM Wednesday

The Department of Mechanical Engineering- Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University is proud to present Women in STEM Wednesday! This week we’re featuring 3rd year student Julia Westfall.

Mechanical Engineering | 3rd Year

Marysville, Michigan

Julia Westfall at Michigan Tech: “You got this. It’ll be difficult.. but worth it!”

I like participating in STEM outreach, planning activities with friends, and doing anything that will get me up and moving!

Any place where there are waterfalls.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I heard it was a great school for engineering and Tech sent me birthday cards every year (so I thought I’d apply)

The opportunities available to students inside and outside of school. Specifically, for job/internship opportunities and extra curriculars.

Tech has shown me that with perseverance, determination, and a desire to succeed, anyone can pursue a STEM degree.

The problem solving aspect as well as the creativity and design you can incorporate into it. The ability to study something to understand how it works then using that knowledge to redesign it to make it better!

“Stop comparing yourself to your classmates and just keep trying your best,” says Julia Westfall.

Stop comparing yourself to your classmates and just keep trying your best. I was super scared that I would not be able to keep up with my classmates that came from STEM families or that aced all their AP exams. Doing the best you can do and being persistent in giving it your all can do more for you than you could ever imagine.


First—“High five!!”
Then—“You got this. It’ll be difficult.. but worth it!”

I just want to provide a sense of encouragement and energy in other people’s lives in hopes of inspiring them to be the best they can be and to pass that theme on for generations to come.

“Tech has shown me that with perseverance, determination, and a desire to succeed, anyone can pursue a STEM degree.”

Julia Westfall

Stephen Morse Selected as ME Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to Assistant Professor Stephen Morse for winning the 2022 Mechanical Engineering (ME) Teacher of the Year Award! Morse taught a double section of MEEM 2150 Mechanics of Materials for the 2021-22 academic year.

Morse has been with the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) since 2017, with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE). He earned his PhD from Texas Tech University in 2009, and he previously served as an assistant professor at Texas Tech in the civil, environmental and construction engineering department. Morse’s areas of research expertise include window glass strength and design, wind loads on structures, finite element modeling of brittle materials, large-scale data processing and data mining.

The ME Teacher of the Year Award is selected solely by mechanical engineering students and conducted by the Mechanical Engineering Student Advisory Committee (MESAC). It is a two-step process similar to the process employed by the University teaching award. The first stage is the selection of the top three, voted upon by ME students. In the second stage, MESAC students go into all the spring classes of the three finalists with a questionnaire, which contains several questions about the finalists’ teaching, including why students believe they should be the ME Teacher of the Year.

Morse received a certificate and his name on the ME Teacher of the Year plaque with past winners in the lobby of the R.L. Smith Building (MEEM).

The award was announced during ME-EM’s 2022 Order of the Engineer ceremony, which was held in the Memorial Union Ballroom on April 19. This year’s runners-up were ME-EM Senior Lecturer Jaclyn Johnson and ME-EM Lecturer Mary Zadeh.

By Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Cindy Wadaga and Karen Bess are Exceptional Staff Members

This year’s awardees for the Graduate Student Government (GSG) Merit Awards have been decided. A total of 37 nominations were received from departments all across campus. The decision process was not an easy one, as there was a very strong pool of nominations this year. We are very grateful to all of our nominees for all of the work they put in to improve and enrich the life of our graduate students.

Among the award winners in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics are Cindy Wadaga, coordinator of graduate programs, and Karen Bess, executive assistant.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you for all you have done for our graduate students.

By Graduate Student Government.

Cindy Wadaga
Cindy Wadaga
Karen Bess
Karen Bess

Seeking PhD Student Interested in Climate Change Impacts on Electrical Power Systems

PhD Funded Student Position—CLOSED

Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Seeking a motivated student interested in the impacts of climate change on electrical power systems (bulk electricity grid). Research may be related to the impacts of climate change on renewable and conventional energy, electricity transmission infrastructure, and electricity use and how those impacts interact with energy transitions to wind, solar, and electric vehicles on the grid. This work is primarily computational and may include using optimization software to model bulk electric power systems, modeling the performance of conventional and renewable power plants, managing large data sets, and visualizing spatial information.

Dr. Dyreson’s lab is in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. We collaborate with the Great Lakes Research Center, Keweenaw Energy Transitions Laboratory, Advanced Power Systems Laboratory, and departments across campus including civil, environmental, and geospatial engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and social sciences.

Applicants should therefore bring a strong fundamental engineering background along with interest in energy systems and interdisciplinary work.

Required Background

  • MS in Mechanical Engineering or related field
  • Solid programming skills
  • Introductory coursework in thermodynamics
  • TOEFL > 90 iBT or IELTS > 7.0 overall band score (international students)

Desired Background

Candidates should demonstrate at least one of the following strengths (academic
research or industry experience are accepted):

  • Wind or solar power modeling, resource estimation, or forecasting
  • Electrical transmission or distribution systems modeling, operating, or planning
  • Thermoelectric, renewable, or hydroelectric power plant analysis or operation
  • Energy efficiency, demand side management, or building HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning)
  • Energy-water nexus
  • Accessing and using climate data (general circulation models)

Michigan Technological University is located in Houghton, Michigan. This is a small rural town with abundant, year-round outdoor activities, access to National Parks and historic sites, and cultural activities centered on campus.

We seek students that want to be part of and promote an inclusive workplace. For more information on research activities in Dr. Dyreson’s lab see the faculty directory and faculty website.

To Apply

Send an email to adyreson at as follows:

  1. Use the subject line “Interest in climate impacts on power systems”,
  2. describe your interests and confirm one or more of the items listed under “Desired Background” above, and
  3. attach a C.V.

Note that applications to this position are separate from applications to the graduate program.

Ana Dyreson is an ISR Faculty Research Fellow

Ana Dyreson
Ana Dyreson

The Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience (ISR) is happy to announce the selection of two Sustainable and Resilient Communities Faculty Research Fellows!

Judith Perlinger is a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE) and an established scholar working in the realm of sustainability and resilience.

Ana Dyreson is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) who works in the realm of energy systems transitions and the energy-water-climate nexus.

Perlinger and Dyreson will both be relieved of one course for the fall 2022 semester in order to focus on developing and submitting research funding proposals that will enhance Michigan Tech’s leadership in impactful sustainability and resilience research.

Perlinger will be working on new proposals for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Coastlines and People (CoPe) program, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Dyreson will be working on proposal submissions for NSF programs, including the NSF CAREER award program, and for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

With this fellowship program, ISR aims to support researchers in developing new collaborations and opportunities to grow research activities that address contemporary research challenges in sustainability and resilience. This program will propel research leaders at Michigan Tech to pursue new opportunities and increase impactful research activities. ISR is delighted to support these dedicated scholars through the Faculty Research Fellows program.

For more information or with any questions, please contact Chelsea Schelly at

By Tech Forward Initiative for Sustainability and Resilience.

Pandemic Research and Scholarship Impact Mitigation Grants

Susanta Ghosh
Susanta Ghosh
Trisha Sain
Trisha Sain

The ADVANCE Initiative, Provost’s Office, Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Vice President for Research Office and University Marketing and Communications have been working together over the past year to identify and begin to mitigate some of the ways that scholars, creators and researchers have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. This collaboration resulted in a session to learn specific impacts and discuss solutions.

One of the primary results of our joint work is the COVID impact statement document faculty are requested to develop and add to Digital Measures. This group has also solicited and published an ongoing Unscripted research blog series where Tech employees share how the pandemic impacted their work. In addition, the VPR office recently solicited and received proposals for funding to help mitigate financial losses to research, creative and scholarly work associated with the pandemic. Many individuals experienced significant negative impacts and applied for the funds. Unfortunately, we were unable to fund them all.

The following individuals in the College of Engineering were selected to receive one of these grants:

  • Susanta Ghosh (ME-EM)
  • Trisha Sain (ME-EM)

By Associate Vice President for Research Development.

Karrar Takleef Alofari Presents Poster at 2021 Alumni Reunion

The Michigan Tech Graduate Student Government (GSG) organized a poster presentation at the 2021 Alumni Reunion in the Rozsa Center on August 6. Presentations are also posted virtually. Among the presenters was Karrar Takleef Alofari, a PhD Student in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Karrar Takleef Alofari
Karrar Takleef Alofari

Karrar Takleef Alofari

Area of Focus

Multi-phase Flow in Porous Media


The Impact of Relative Humidity on The Porosity and The Structure of PEM Fuel Cell Catalyst Layer

Project Summary

Understanding and modeling of mass transport limitations in the catalyst layers in PEM fuel cells remain a challenge despite decades of commercial development. That challenge has led to the development of a novel ex-situ test to characterize mass transport resistances in these extremely thin porous layers. This test characterizes radial percolation of gas and liquid at varying fluid injection rates and relative humidities. Liquid percolation exhibits a dominant capillarity influence at low injection rates with lower final wetted areas and saturation as compared to high injection rates. Changes in relative humidity have a significant effect on percolation behavior for both gas and liquid. There is a significant jump in resistance when the relative humidity exceeds 65%.

Play The Impact of Relative Humidity on The Porosity and The Structure of PEM Fuel […] – Karrar Alofari video
Preview image for The Impact of Relative Humidity on The Porosity and The Structure of PEM Fuel [...] - Karrar Alofari video

The Impact of Relative Humidity on The Porosity and The Structure of PEM Fuel […] – Karrar Alofari

Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professors Announced

The Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs is pleased to announce three Henes endowed appointments in the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM).

William Endres
William Endres

William Endres, associate professor, accepted an appointment as a Henes Professor effective July 1, 2021. Due to Endres’s leadership, the department’s Senior Capstone Design program is now a nationally recognized program. ME-EM Department Chair William Predebon noted, “As a former ASME VP and Chair of Engineering Education, which oversees the ME Department Chairs/Heads Committee and ABET, I can say our Senior Design Capstone program has become one of the premier programs under the leadership of Dr. Bill Endres.” As a Henes Professor, Endres will continue to develop the program through collaboration with other College of Engineering departments and securing new industry partners.

Brad King
Brad King

Brad King, professor and director of the Space Systems Research Group, has been reappointed as a Henes Professor. As a Henes Professor, King will continue to lead a nationally recognized research program in electric space propulsion systems. King is the faculty advisor for Michigan Tech’s nationally recognized Aerospace Enterprise student team, which was selected by NASA to launch their Oculus satellite in lower earth orbit on June 25, 2019 and recently selected to launch a second satellite, Stratus, in December 2021.

Jeff Naber
Jeff Naber

Jeff Naber, professor and director of the Advanced Power Systems Research Center (APSRC), has been reappointed as a Henes Professor. As a Henes Professor, Naber will continue to lead a nationally recognized research program in autonomous and connected hybrid electric vehicles. Naber led the recently completed ARPA-E NEXTCAR I research project on light-duty multi-mode hybrid electric vehicles and was selected in March 2021 to lead the ARPA-E NEXTCAR II research project to increase the range of partially to fully autonomous light-duty multi-mode electric and hybrid electric vehicles, both of which were multi-million-dollar projects.

By the Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Katy Pioch Interviewed by Xena Workwear for Women

Katy Pioch

An interview with Katy Pioch, a mechanical engineering student and former Society of Women Engineers (SWE) section president, was featured in a XENA Workwear for Women blog post titled “The Engineering Process.” 

In addition to her SWE involvement, Pioch is a resident assistant (RA) and was elected president of the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge Enterprise.

I think the secret sauce for getting an internship are connections and passion. I had a few connections at the defense company from career fairs and from my personal network. They boosted my confidence while applying and helped me get my foot in the door.

Katy Pioch

MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio Grants for Ezra Bar-Ziv

Ezra Bar-Ziv
Ezra Bar-Ziv

The Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Innovation Hub for AgBio at Michigan State University recently highlighted two grants awarded to a Michigan Tech researcher.

Ezra Bar-Ziv (ME-EM) received his first MTRAC AgBio grant in 2018 through a competitive grant proposal submission. This $50,000 matching fund grant supported his research that uses biological materials as feedstocks for petroleum refineries. In 2019, he submitted a proposal for a second technology that resulted from previous MTRAC awarded research. This new technology is able to remove chlorine from solid plastic waste streams. Chlorine is an undesirable byproduct of burning plastics, and by removing it, the plastic can be cleanly used for combustion energy. The chlorine is recycled, as the system uses the chlorine gases to heat itself. Bar-Ziv was awarded a larger $100,000 MTRAC AgBio match grant for this second project.

MTRAC grants are awarded to assist with the commercialization of new technologies. Bar-Ziv’s research looks at environmentally friendly solutions to combustion energy, in which materials are burned to produce heat energy. He is specifically researching ways waste materials can be utilized in this manner. Instead of sending plastic waste material, such as food wrappers, to the landfill, they can be sent to facilities with Bar-Ziv’s technology.

“Feedback from the oversight committee through the MTRAC process is extremely encouraging,” Bar-Ziv said. “They have one thing in mind: They want you to focus and bring a product to the market. Without the MTRAC support, it would have been hard to do the commercialization.”

Convergen Energy, an energy company in Wisconsin, wants to commercialize Bar-Ziv’s design. Together, they are working on the pre-design, which will help the company determine how to move forward with the technology. They are exploring what the system will look like, the cost of the system and the business benefits. The system will then be used to create this clean combustion energy.

“One of the key objectives of the MTRAC statewide program is to support technology commercialization within all of our universities, hospital systems and nonprofit research centers,” said Denise Graves, university relations director at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). “This project is a great example of that collaboration — using the expertise of the AgBio Innovation Hub at Michigan State to support research and commercialization activities at Michigan Tech.”

The MSU Innovation Center MTRAC team has been working with Bar-Ziv since he was awarded the first MTRAC grant. “Dr. Bar-Ziv and the team have set a great example of how to use scientific rigor and technical ingenuity to deliver high-value solutions to real customers,” said Joseph Affholter, the commercialization program director for the MTRAC AgBio Innovation Hub, which runs under the MSU Innovation Center.

This is the spirit of translational research, Affholter explained. “They have navigated a complex innovation process. Their curiosity, flexibility and commitment to value creation has delivered a commercialization-ready technology to customers and is a timeless example to other academic researchers seeking to solve practical problems through innovation.”

“There is the so-called ‘Valley of Death’ between discovery and user adoption,” said Jim Baker, associate vice president for research at MTU. “Equally as important is the feedback from the MTRAC oversight committee as well as the program management to accomplish the core goals. MTRAC fills an essential gap between laboratory research and use.”

The MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio at MSU is dedicated to the commercialization of technologies that advance the competitiveness of Michigan’s food, agriculture and industrial bioeconomy. The program is co-funded by MSU and the MEDC through the Michigan Strategic Fund.

The AgBio hub is part of a network of statewide innovation hubs — including the MTRAC Advanced Applied Materials Innovation Hub at Michigan Tech, which announced funding for projects in May. Located strategically at universities strong in the sector, each hub further increases the quality and quantity of resources available.