Category: Research

PhD Funded Student Position Available in Automation in Smart Manufacturing

Michigan Technological University
Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Opportunity Summary

Dr. Vinh Nguyen is seeking applications for 2 PhD students in automation for smart manufacturing. The students will receive full tuition coverage and stipend support. Students will be investigating technologies to facilitate human-automation systems in the context of Industry 4.0 and develop machine learning solutions to address real-world manufacturing problems. Students will have hands-on experience working on a variety of manufacturing processes including robotic assembly, machining, and additive manufacturing. Furthermore, students will also have the opportunity to work with advanced robotic tools including AR/VR and motion capture systems.

Dr. Nguyen is an Assistant Professor under the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. Dr. Nguyen’s collaborators include industry, federal government agencies, and other academic universities.

Required Background

  • Master’s in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, or other related fields.
  • Experience in programming industrial automation (industrial robots, embedded hardware, PLC’s, etc.) and familiarity with manufacturing processes including machining and additive manufacturing.
  • Hands-on experience with wearables technologies, machine learning, and human-robot interaction is a plus but not required.
  • Strong communication and technical writing skills for presentation of work to collaborators and sponsors.

Desired Background

Candidates should demonstrate at least one of the following strengths:

  • Experience with robotics and controls
  • Experience with manufacturing processes
  • Experience with machine learning models

How to Apply

Interested candidates should send their CV (1–2 pages) to

PSTDL Advances in NASA Watts on the Moon Challenge

Assistant Professor Paul van Susante (ME-EM/MARC) and the Planetary Surface Technology Development (PSTDL) Lab, aka HuskyWorks, are one of seven teams advancing to Phase 2, Level 2 of NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge.

The advancement comes with a $200,000 award, building on the team’s previous Phase 2, Level 1 award of $100,000, and supports NASA’s Artemis I mission, the first in a series designed to enable sustainable human exploration of the moon and Mars.

Winners of the first stage of the challenge were eligible to compete for the second phase’s design competition, submitting technical documentation for their solutions. The seven winning teams will move on to compete for additional funding in Phase 2, Level 2.

“It’s really exciting because we’re developing new technology that will enable continuous human presence on the lunar surface,” noted Rob Button, deputy chief of the Power Division at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “Specifically, we’re addressing long distance power transmission and energy storage in very cold conditions.” 

Van Susante designed and leads HuskyWorks’ research facilities, one of eight academic facilities listed on NASA’s ARES Dust Testing Facilities webpage. The central piece of the PSTDL is a custom-built rectangular Dusty Thermal Vacuum chamber (DTVAC) that can be cooled as low as minus 196°C and heated as high as 150°C, reach a vacuum of 10-6 Torr (10-4 Torr with simulant) and contain a box with up to 3,000 pounds of regolith simulant. For more details on the lab’s capabilities, visit the PSTDL’s Facilities page.

By Donna Jeno-Amici, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

PhD Funded Student Position Available in Marine Renewable Energy

Michigan Technological University
Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Opportunity Summary

Seeking applications for 2 PhDs student in the area of marine renewable energy (e.g., offshore wind, wave) and control (or machine learning). The students will receive full financial support including a stipend and tuition coverage. The candidate will be working with the research group lead by Dr. Shangyan Zou investigating the modeling, control, networking, and swarm behavior of marine renewable energy systems to improve the economic index of marine renewables. In addition to the theoretical and numerical development, the candidate will also have opportunities to gain hands-on experience by working with the wave tank at Michigan Technological University. Furthermore, the candidate also will have the opportunity to work in Lake Superior and conduct experiments in the lake with the Research Vessel. You can expect a very productive working environment as well as a very effective personal mentorship from the PI in addition to academic support.

In general, the candidate will be responsible for supporting the initiative and contributing to the research projects through literature review, mathematical modeling, experimental testing, data organization, data collection, data analysis, preparing for research presentations, preparing manuscripts for journal submission, and other research-related duties as assigned.

Dr. Zou’s lab is in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. We have an interdisciplinary collaboration with universities (e.g., Oregon State University), national labs (e.g., National Renewable Energy Laboratory), and industries (e.g., OscillaPower) which will be a great opportunity for the candidate to work with people from a diverse background.

Why Should You Apply

Dr. Zou’s lab seeks highly motivated, honest, self-driven individuals from a variety of backgrounds in our investigations. The research questions that we are trying to address including:

  • How to develop/apply new controls (as well as machine learning techniques) to improve the performance (optimality and robustness) of ocean renewable energy systems?
  • What is a good model to describe the behavior of Wave Energy Converters (both rigid body or deformable body) which is computationally efficient and has a good agreement with the experiments?
  • Can we use wave power for small non-grid applications (e.g., water desalination, UUV charging, oceanographic measurements)?
  • How can we introduce multi-agent system techniques to optimize the performance of a swarm of ocean renewable energy systems (as well as other devices like UUVs)?

If any of the research questions excite you, please reach out!

Required Background

  • MS (preferred) or BS in Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering or other related fields
  • Solid programming skills and some hands-on experience (e.g., 3-D printing, hardware communications). Hands-on experience with robotics or wave tank will be a plus but not necessary.
  • Introductory background in dynamic systems and control, fluid mechanics. Deep background of Fluid Mechanics will be a plus but not necessary.
  • Strong communication skills and used to a teamwork environment
  • Solid writing skills and experience with presentation or article writing

Desired Background

Candidates should demonstrate at least one of the following strengths:

  • Experience with modeling and control of ocean renewable energy systems (e.g., ocean wave, offshore wind)
  • Experience with wave tank testing, hardware communication, or sensor measurements
  • Experience with fluid-structure interaction
  • Experience with control theory, state estimation, or multi-agent systems
  • Experience with robotics (both numerical and experimental)

How to Apply

Send your CV and a brief statement of interest (1–2 pages) to In your statement of interest, please clearly highlight your strengths as one (or more) of the listed items. In addition, please send your application with the subject line: “Applying for PhD student position on marine renewables”.

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

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. 

Jason Blough is the 2021 Distinguished Professor

Jason Blough
Jason Blough

The Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs is pleased to congratulate Robert Nemiroff and Jason Blough, the new University and Distinguished Professors.

The University Professor title recognizes faculty members who have made outstanding scholarly contributions to the University and their discipline over a substantial period of time. The Distinguished Professor title recognizes outstanding faculty members who have made substantial contributions to the University and their discipline and are not presently recognized through an endowed position.

The confidential process for selecting University and Distinguished Professors spans the academic year and recipients for each award are notified late in the spring semester. Additional details regarding the awards and selection procedures can be found on the Provost’s website.

Blough, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, has been selected to join Michigan Tech’s Distinguished Professors. Since joining Michigan Tech in 2003, Blough has been recognized for numerous contributions in teaching, research and service.

Blough is a member of Michigan Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence and has received the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. He is identified as an international leader in the area of noise, vibration and harshness, having received the Blue Ribbon Coalition Scientist of the Year Award (2006), the SEM DeMichele Award (2021) and the SAE Arch T. Colwell Merit Award (1997). He is also a Fellow of SAE (2021).

Blough has had numerous publications in journals as peer-reviewed conference papers. He has given over 30 short courses to industry. Additionally, he has had over 100 funded projects, totaling more than $3.7 million as principal investigator (PI) and $2.3 million as co-PI.

Blough has also been extremely active in service, graduating both doctoral and master’s students, chairing an international conference in his field, serving on boards, editing papers and journals, and advising the SAE Student Chapter and Clean Snowmobile Challenge for over 15 years. SAE has recognized him multiple times as an outstanding faculty advisor.

Spring 2021 Research Excellence Fund Award for Yongchao Yang

Yongchao Yang
Yongchao Yang

The Associate Vice President for Research Development Office announces the Spring 2021 Research Excellence Fund (REF) awards. Thanks to the individual REF reviewers and the REF review panelists, as well as the deans and department chairs, for their time spent on this important internal research award process.

Among the recipients of a Research Seed Grant (RS) is Yongchao Yang, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. Yang’s expertise is in structural dynamics, experimental mechanics, and system identification.

More information about REF awards and the application process can be found on the Research Excellence Fund page.

By Associate Vice President for Research Development Office.

Jeffrey Allen Elected as an ASME Fellow

Jeffrey S. Allen
Jeffrey S. Allen

Jeffrey S. Allen, (ME-EM) the John F. and Joan M. Calder Professor in Mechanical Engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The award is in recognition for Allen’s research contributions in optical diagnostic development for investigating fluid and heat transfer phenomena, his engineering design contributions in microgravity while at NASA, and his leadership in engineering education.

The ASME certificate was presented to Allen at the ME-EM Faculty and Staff meeting earlier this month.