Category: Research

Paul van Susante Receives ASCE Outstanding Technical Contribution Award

Paul van Susante (ME-EM), assistant professor and Lou and Herbert Wacker Professor of Mechanical Engineering, is the recipient of the 2023 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s Outstanding Technical Contribution Award.

According to ASCE Aerospace’s website, “The Outstanding Technical Contribution Award and the Outstanding Professional Service Award are the highest awards offered by the Aerospace Division. These are awarded based on nominations from division committees, and selection by the Executive Committee.” The technical contribution award is “given to an individual who has contributed substantially to advancing the state of the art in aerospace engineering, sciences and technology, and space exploration and construction with application to civil engineering.”

Van Susante’s award for 2023 was announced at the ASCE Aerospace Division’s Biennial International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction and Operations in Challenging Environment. The 19th meeting of the conference, known as ASCE Earth & Space, was held in Miami, Florida, on April 15-18 hosted by Florida International University. Van Susante and other award winners are highlighted on page 19 of the conference program.

Van Susante advises two prize-winning NASA challenge teams and the Multiplanetary Innovation Enterprise (MINE) team at Michigan Tech. He heads the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL, or Huskyworks).

Professor L. Brad King, Orbion Space Technology Team Named to Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies 2024” List

Turning dreams into reality is all in a day’s work for Lyon (Brad) King and his entire team at Orbion Space Technology. Case in point: Orbion Space Technology has been named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2024 list. Companies that send satellites into space on a rocket can use Orbion’s thrusters to maneuver them precisely to their final destination.

Dr. King is an experimentalist interested in studying electric space propulsion systems, including Hall-effect thrusters, ion engines, and arcjets. King is the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Endowed Professor (Space Systems) with MTU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. As faculty advisor for the Aerospace Enterprise, King works with undergraduate students to provide hands-on aerospace education and experience. Aerospace Enterprise places an emphasis on space mission design and analysis, vehicle integration, systems engineering, and comprehensive ground testing and qualification. The idea for launching Orbion began taking shape here: King and co-founder Jason Sommerville realized they had not only the core technology, but an incredible network of talent in the form of aerospace and Isp Lab alumni to meet an urgent need in the new space economy. King (CEO of Orbion Space Technology) and Makela started the company in 2016.

Products under construction at Orbion Space Technology. The company is based in Houghton, Michigan and several members of the leadership team are graduates of Michigan Technological University’s doctoral program in mechanical engineering. (Image Credit: Orbion Space Technology)

In a previous article, author Cyndi Perkins tells us that “Orbion now employs more than 40 full-time engineers in its Houghton facility, with seven holding PhD degrees. You’ll find Huskies at the helm in several key positions—CTO Sommerville is a 2009 PhD graduate—but the company is more than just an outgrowth of Michigan Tech.”

Other MTU ME-EM alums holding positions with Orbion:

Michigan Tech alums from other programs include Kanwal Rekhi, PhD (MS, Electrical Engineering) and John Rockwell (BS, Business Administration).

The Michigan Tech-Orbion connection brings a wealth of opportunities for students to connect theory with practice. Michigan Tech’s Aerospace Enterprise teams have already launched three satellites into space.

Jeff Allen Presenting at CBPSS Spring Meeting

Jeffrey Allen
Jeffrey Allen

Jeffrey S. Allen, John F. and Joan M. Calder Professor of Mechanical Engineering, associate chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) and ME-EM’s director of undergraduate studies, was invited to present and participate in a panel session at the spring meeting of the Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space (CBPSS), held March 19–21, 2024, hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Allen’s panel session started at 1:15 p.m. ET. on March 20. It was livestreamed via Vimeo at the 3 h 21 m mark.

The CBPSS committee was eager to hear Allen’s insights on the key science questions surrounding the theme “Probing Phenomena Hidden by Gravity or Terrestrial Limitations,” with a particular emphasis on thermal physics in microgravity and its wide-ranging implications for space exploration. Allen contributed to a panel addressing unique scientific inquiries pertinent to space exploration.

The meeting is part of the 2024 Space Science Week, a joint meeting of the discipline committees of the Space Studies Board of the U.S. National Academies, in collaboration with the Board on Physics and Astronomy and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. These groups will convene at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., to discuss advances and challenges in space and Earth science and exploration.

By Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

Jeffrey Allen seated in a wired room with other participants.
Jeff Allen preparing to deliver his panel presentation “Perspectives on Thermal-Fluid Physics in Microgravity and Its Broader Applications to Space Exploration.”
Presentation slide with inset speaker view and Venn diagram described in the caption.
A presentation slide from Jeffrey Allen entitled “Thermal-Fluid Physics in Microgravity.” A Venn diagram shows a complex picture of needs and opportunities. Overlapping areas of NASA missions, design guides and engineering tools, CFD and submodels, technology development and deployment, science, and microgravity platforms lead to enabled science, enabling science for model development and computational design, and enabling science for engineering and design.

Greg Odegard leads $5 million Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) project

Professor Gregory Odegard, with his wealth of experience in guiding large multidisciplinary research teams, is preparing to undertake a promising new research project supported by AFRL. Greg Odegard’s team at Michigan Technological University will work with researchers at Florida State University, Columbia University, and Penn State to develop the next-generation of composite materials for hypersonic aerospace vehicles. These composites will have significantly improved manufacturability and thermo-mechanical performance relative to state-of-the-art composites. The material development will be driven by multi-scale computational modeling.

Professor Gregory M. Odegard on the Michigan Technological University campus.

Greg Odegard is John O. Hallquist Endowed Chair in Computational Mechanics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. Before joining Michigan Tech in 2004, Odegard was a researcher at NASA Langley Research Center (2000-2004). He has garnered multiple accolades throughout his career, including the Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award (2011), the Ferdinand P. Beer and E. Russell Johnston Jr. Outstanding New Mechanics Educator Award (2008), and the Michigan Tech Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award (2008). In April 2023, Odegard received the prestigious NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, recognizing the impact of his notable leadership accomplishments on the NASA Mission.

Odegard has authored or co-authored over sixty technical journal articles and four book chapters, and has been involved in over one hundred conference presentations. According to Google Scholar, his publications have been cited over 4,000 times in the technical literature. His research has been funded by NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, Southwestern Energy, General Motors, REL, and Titan Tires. As a PI and co-PI, he has been involved in externally funded research projects totaling over $21 million.

Naber and Worm on Cold Temperature Effect on EVs

Jeff Naber and Jeremy Worm (both ME-EM/APSRC) were quoted by WLUC TV6 in a story about how cold temperatures affect the range of electric vehicles, or EVs. Both researchers work at Michigan Tech’s Advanced Power Research Center. Director Jeff Naber says EV batteries are effective until 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Below that temperature, you’re going to have to have the battery heat it somehow.”

Jeff Naber, director of Advanced Power Systems Research Center

Associate Director Jeremy Worm says the center is working with Baraga-based construction equipment manufacturer Pettibone to create a hybrid loader for moving large pipes and lumber.

The machine uses battery and diesel power to maintain its effectiveness in extreme conditions.

Naber and fellow colleagues direct the Advanced Internal Combustion Laboratories (AICE) at the University. His research interests are in IC engines and after-treatment and the development and application of advanced experimental techniques, signal processing technologies, theoretical models, and embedded control to characterize the thermo-physical processes.

Worm’s research interests include high-performance engines, alternative fuels, and hybrid electric vehicles.

Read more at WLUC TV6, by Justin Van’t Hof.

December 14, 2023: Global Composites Experts Webinar by Dr. Gregory M. Odegard

Photo of the Composites Design and Manufacturing HUB logo with photos of a scientist, airplane and astronaut in space. Lower left shows photo of Dr. Gregory Odegard, the featured webinar speaker.

Current state-of-the-art composite materials are not light/strong enough for crewed missions to Mars and beyond. Structural components of deep space vehicles require lighter/stronger materials for fuel efficiency. The NASA Space Technologies Research Institute (STRI) for Ultra- Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) is focused on developing a new generation of composites for this purpose. US-COMP is using computational simulation to drive the material design in an efficient manner. By developing new simulation tools, experimental methods, and databases of material information, US-COMP is playing a central role in the national Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). The ultimate goals of US-COMP are to design, fabricate, and test composite panels that meet NASA’s requirements; and to train students to enter the advanced composite materials workforce.

Prof. Gregory Odegard is the John O. Hallquist Endowed Chair in Computational Mechanics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. He is the Director of the NASA Institute for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design, which
is focused on development the next generation of composites materials for manned deep- space missions. Before joining the faculty at Michigan Tech, Greg was a researcher at NASA Langley Research Center from 2000-2004. He received his PhD at the University of Denver in 2000. His research is focused on computational modeling of advanced material systems. He is the recipient of the NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal, is a Fellow of ASME, and an Associate Fellow of AIAA.

Tania Demonte Gonzalez receives Best Presentation Award at INORE’s 2023 European Symposium

Photo of Tania Demonte Gonzalez, who conducts research on wave energy converter nonlinear control.

Tania Demonte Gonzalez (PhD candidate, ME-EM) conducts research on wave energy converter nonlinear control and is part of the graduate student team using MTU Wave, the campus-based wave tank. She was awarded Michigan Tech’s Topping Teaching Fellowship in the Fall of 2022 and is a remote intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado.

Tania recently attended the International Network on Offshore Renewable Energy’s (INORE) 2023 European Symposium, a five-day meeting for researchers specializing in offshore renewable energy. The symposium provides many opportunities for early-stage researchers to come together, learn from one another, and establish new relationships that can greatly benefit their research and career journeys.

As part of the attendee research presentations, Tania gave a talk on “Time-Varying Hydrodynamic Modeling of a Variable Geometry Oscillating Surge Wave Energy Converter” and received one of two Best Presentation Awards. The presentation was a collaboration with NREL’s Dr. Nathan Tom and discussed the methods used to find a time-varying model for variable geometry surge wave energy converters. More details will be available in an upcoming publication.

Congratulations on this achievement, Tania.

Paul van Susante Named to Lou and Herbert Wacker Professorship in Mechanical Engineering

Paul van Susante (ME-EM) recently accepted an endowed appointment as the Lou and Herbert Wacker Professor in Mechanical Engineering. Van Susante joined Michigan Tech in 2012 as a lecturer (a role now called assistant teaching professor) before accepting an appointment as an assistant professor. Not only does Dr. van Susante meet or exceed all the criteria for this professorship, he also has a vested interest in teaching.

This endowed position was established to retain and attract high-quality faculty who are at the top of their profession, can excite students to think beyond classroom material, and who can effectively integrate their research into the classroom.

Involving students in his research is vital to van Susante. He’s been recognized in the Dean’s Teaching Showcase and as one of the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics’ (ME-EM’s) Teacher of the Year finalists four times. Paul is also the faculty advisor for the Multiplanetary Innovation Enterprise (MINE) team, solving challenges in the mining industry.

In addition to obtaining over $3 million in funding as a principal investigator, Dr. van Susante leads Michigan Tech’s Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab (PSTDL) team. The lab, also known as HuskyWorks, includes several students who advanced to the final round of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge in both 2022 and 2023. As part of these competitions, researchers from NASA and other robotics companies travel to Michigan Tech to meet with van Susante and his team.

Other projects include:

  • NASA Lunar Surface Technology Research (LuSTR 2020)
  • NASA Breakthrough Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge 2020: “Tethered permanently shaded Region Explorer (T-REX)” –power and communication delivery into PSR
  • NASA Break the Ice Challenge – the latest centennial challenge from NASA designed to develop technologies aiding in the sustained presence on the Moon
  • NASA ESI (Early Stage Innovation) to excavate rock gypsum for water production on Mars
  • NASA GCD MRE – Molten Regolith Electrolysis, or MRE, uses an electric current in a reactor to separate oxygen from lunar dust, also known as regolith. The scope of the project is to provide a regolith feeder and transportation system for the MRE reactor. Research into regolith properties, here on Earth, and in extreme environments like lunar gravity and vacuum are being conducted. Results from these experiments will be vital in choosing and developing these feeder and transportation technologies.
  • HOPLITE (Heavy Onboard Platform for Lunar ISRU and Terrain Excavation) is a modular robotic system built at Michigan Tech that enables the field testing of IDSRU technologies. Many payloads are currently being designed and implemented for lunar applications and there is a need for accurate, reliable, and safe mobility of these payloads during filed testing. Using a large sensor array, fine tuned control and autonomy, HOPLITE is designed to provide a solution to this need.

The success in his research has translated to van Susante publishing 82 papers while at Michigan Tech and giving 37 invited talks. He is currently an associate editor for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Journal of Aerospace Engineering.

(reprinted from October 25, 2023 Tech Today.)

Research Opportunity in Applied Computational Fluids: Vortex Genesis in Uranus’s and Neptune’s Atmospheres

Composite of three images of the surface of Nepture, with one feature boxed.
Figure 1: left: Neptune’s Dark Vortices GDS-89 and DS-2, Voyager-2 Flyby 1989. right: Uranus Dark Spot 2006. bottom: Neptune Dark Spot 2018.

Summary of Project – POSITION CLOSED

Dr. Shawn Brueshaber (ME-EM) is seeking applications for 1 PhD student interested in researching the fluid dynamics of Uranus’s and Neptune’s atmospheres starting as early as Spring 2024 if the right candidate is found. Uranus and Neptune, the ‘Ice-Giants,’ are the least explored planets of our Solar System yet thought to be one of the most common types of planets in the Galaxy. The National Academies has recently identified Uranus as the highest priority destination for a new “flagship” class spacecraft mission. Atmospheric science will undoubtedly be a major component of such a mission. The atmospheres of the Ice Giants are quite unlike those of Earth and similar ‘terrestrial’ planets (Venus, Mars, and the moon, Titan), and also unlike those of its larger cousins, the Gas-Giants (Jupiter and Saturn). Uranus, and especially Neptune, occasionally form large dark vortices (Fig.1) but what causes them is unknown.

The successful candidate will dive ‘under the hood’ to modify and use the EPIC General Circulation Model (a type of computational fluid code; Dowling et al. 1998) to determine how dark anticyclonic vortices are formed. This NASA funded project seeks to test the hypothesis that deep moist convection (e.g., thunderstorms) is the primary mechanism that forms these enigmatic vortices. An alternative hypothesis is that a non-convective hydrodynamic instability is responsible. Dr. Brueshaber has funding available to support the PhD student for a minimum of three years.

Your Qualifications

  • A strong interest in fluid mechanics and meteorology. A strong interest in planetary science is a plus.
  • Coursework in fluid mechanics, atmospheric dynamics, or similar. Coursework in computational fluid dynamics (previously, or planned).
  • Good programming skills (e.g., Python and/or Matlab, C is a strong plus). Experience with Linux commands are a plus.
  • A willingness to learn, modify, and apply a General Circulation Model (GCM).
  • Good written and verbal communication skills.
  • A Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Atmospheric Science, Physics, or other closely-related field. Graduate standing in any of the above disciplines will be considered.
  • Strong oral and written communication skills.
  • US Citizenship is NOT a requirement.

How to Apply

Interested candidates should send their CV (2 pages max) and a cover letter explaining how the candidate’s qualifications match to the research project description to

This position is closed.

Cross-disciplinary Research Team and Carbon Nanotube Forests

Two carbon nanotube substrates with a nanotube zoom and a sterilization step.
Detail from a schematic illustration of the process from CNT forest growth to cell seeding.

A cross-disciplinary research team of MTU undergraduate students, graduate students and professors are co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Materials Research.

The article, titled “Conductive 3D nano-biohybrid systems based on densified carbon nanotube forests and living cells,” appears in the journal’s Early Career Scholars in Materials Science issue, 2024.

The research team worked with carbon nanotube (CNT) “forests,” groupings of carbon nanotubes on which conductive biohybrid (cell-material) systems can be developed. Working with fibroblasts or cardiomyocytes, the researchers integrated the cell cultures with the CNT forests coated with gelatin. The novelty of the work lies in the use of the 3D structure of CNT forests as the main part of the scaffold and the development of a conductive, porous, and 3D cardiac scaffold with high cytocompatibility. The results show that the scaffold could be used in applications ranging from organ-on-a-chip systems to muscle actuators.

Congratulations to the research team:

Bagheri, R., Ball, A.K., Kasraie, M. et al. Conductive 3D nano-biohybrid systems based on densified carbon nanotube forests and living cells. Journal of Materials Research (2023).

The original article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.