Rolf Peterson and Craig Friedrich Named to Robbins Endowed Chairs

Two distinguished researchers at Michigan Technological University have been named to sustainability chairs endowed by Tech alumnus Richard Robbins and his wife, Bonnie.

Rolf Peterson, research professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, will hold the Robbins Chair in Sustainable Management of the Environment, formerly held by the late David Karnosky.

Craig Friedrich, associate chair and director of graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, was appointed to the Robbins Chair in Sustainable Design and Manufacturing.

These chairs and a third one in sustainable materials that was filled in August 2008 by David Shonnard, professor of chemical engineering, were made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Robbins.

“Dick and Bonnie Robbins recognize that our students’ understanding of the fragile nature of the world around them depends on their direct experience with today’s environmental challenges, both in the classroom and in research,” said Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz.

Robbins, who graduated from Michigan Tech in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, and his wife expressed confidence that the three sustainability chairs will “add impact to Michigan Tech’s interdisciplinary work to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.”

Peterson, who has taught at Michigan Tech since 1975, heads the University’s world-renowned wolf-moose predator-prey study at Isle Royale National Park. The longest continuous wildlife study in the world, the wolf-moose study celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. Peterson’s research focuses on the ecology of the wolf and its prey. Of special concern to him is the challenge of the recovery of wild carnivores, exemplified by the gray wolf.

“This is a challenge because these species compete directly with human interests, and we have typically persecuted them for centuries,” the wildlife ecologist said. “The School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech is strategically placed, geographically and in terms of faculty expertise, to play a key role in understanding the broad implications of carnivore recovery.”

Peterson earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a PhD in wildlife ecology from Purdue University. He has won Michigan Tech’s annual research award, the Isle Royale Institute Founders’ Award and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. A board member and secretary of the International Wolf Center’s Board of Directors, Peterson also is an expedition leader for Research Expedition volunteers studying the wolves and moose of Isle Royal. The US Fish and Wildlife Service appointed him team leader of the Recovery Team for the Eastern Gray Wolf.

Friedrich has taught and conducted research at Michigan Tech since 1997. He has been researching mechanical microtechnologies or microscopic technologies for 20 years. For the past seven years, he has focused on two types of nanotechnologies: bionanosensors that could allow non-invasive detection of normal and abnormal physiology—for example, blood glucose monitors that do not require a finger prick; and bionanomaterials that could scavenge sustainable energy from light.

His current research focuses in four areas: development of micromechanical insertion tools for cochlear implants; orthopedic implant rods with surfaces suitable for impregnation with drugs to promote bone regrowth and antibiotics to reduce risk of infection; a signaling mechanism based on a protein that converts light to an electrical charge; and manufacturing of optical micro-waveguides, similar to optical fibers, that can greatly increase the speed of communications on and among circuit boards.

“The first three help sustain the quality and security of life, and the fourth will help sustain technological leadership,” the professor of mechanical engineering said.

Friedrich holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma State University. He is director of Michigan Tech’s Multi-Scale Technologies Institute, involving interdisciplinary research by 30 faculty members from 12 departments. He also oversees the graduate program for nearly 200 graduate students in mechanical engineering.

Michigan Technological University is a leading public research university, conducting research, developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, computing, technology, business and economics, natural and physical sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.

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