Category: News

Happy New Year, 2023!

Happy New Year from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

Campus Abuzz With Activity

large snow sculpture of building
Phi Kappa Tau’s winning sculpture from Winter Carnival 2022
Broomball player in the snow
Broomball under the lights

Despite the short, cold days, campus is buzzing with activity, both inside and out! Outside my office window, the broomball season just kicked off after a brief postponement due to some unfortunate rain that also wreaked temporary havoc on the ski hill. Scaffolding and plywood have invaded campus as the month-long snow sculpture competition is underway in advance of Winter Carnival 2023 February 9-11. This year’s theme is “Tasty foods for wintry moods”.

Our incredible Rosza Center for the Performing Arts had its first sold out show since before the pandemic. We were fortunate to welcome the national touring Broadway show Hairspray. We rely on donor and foundation support to help bring these national shows to the UP and keep ticket prices affordable.

Xiaoqing Tang
Associate Professor Xiaoqing Tang
Paul Goetch
Assistant Professor
Paul Goetsch
Stephen Techtmann
Associate Professor Stephen Techtmann

Biological Science Excellence

I want to highlight this month the amazing performance of our Biological Sciences department both in the classroom and in the laboratory. Last semester 70 instructors from across the university were recognized for having teaching evaluations in the top 10% of comparable sized classes. Out of these 70 spread across 25 departments, a whopping 12 came from Biological Sciences (better than 1-in-3!). Department-wide the average score was 4.47/5.

Meanwhile in the laboratory, three faculty scored big grants this month. Steve Techtmann received another $2 million from DARPA, bringing his total funding on the project to $6.6 million. Steve is an environmental microbiologist who is studying ways to use microbes to help turn plastic waste into edible proteins. Paul Goetsch received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. This approximately $1 million grant is the most prestigious award the NSF has for pre-tenure faculty. Paul is an expert in molecular genetics and biochemistry, including the use of the famous CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing tool. And finally, Xiaoqing Tang received her third large grant from the National Institutes of Health. Xiaoqing studies the role of MicroRNA with applications to diabetes research. We pride ourselves in CSA on excellence in both research and teaching, and biological sciences exemplifies that!

Alumni and Donors Key To Success

Critical to everything we do are our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. Thank you so much for supporting Michigan Tech! For CSA giving opportunities please visit: https://www.mtu.edu/sciences-arts/giving/

If you are ever back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or offer suggestions.

Best wishes,
David Hemmer
Dean- College of Sciences and Arts

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Happy Holidays 2022!

Happy Holidays from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

Students studying in the library at Michigan Tech
Michigan Tech students prepare for exams in the Opie Library.

Today is the final day of classes for the semester, and study spaces around campus are packed with students diligently studying for finals. Our library director reports that visits are exceeding pre-covid records, including to the library’s very popular 24-hour study space.
Next week will be final exams, culminating with graduation on Saturday morning. More than 100 students from the College of Sciences and Arts will join their peers walking across the stage in the wood gym.

Army ROTC Wins MacArthur Award

The ROTC building
Home of the MacArthur Award-winning Michigan Tech Army ROTC

Early Saturday morning is the always inspiring commissioning ceremony for our Army and Air Force cadets. We were just informed that our Army ROTC program won the MacArthur Award for being the top program out of 42 universities in its brigade. They advance now to compete against seven other regional champions to be the best program in the nation. Congratulations to Major Daniel Gwosch, who will be taking a well-deserved retirement after leading our program to such heights!

Blizzard skiing off a ski jump
Blizzard catches some air up on Mont Ripley

Mont Ripley Opens

Across the canal, Mont Ripley is planning to open tomorrow, a week earlier than planned. This is a testament to their snow-making capabilities and the cold weather, as we have seen very little snow so far this season (where “very little” in the Copper Country means a couple of feet!).

Study Abroad/Away Expanding

Mountainside in Glacier National Park
Students look out at the mountains while hiking in Glacier National Park on the Amtrak Study Away Program

A recent focus for us in CSA is to encourage more of our students to join faculty-led study abroad and study away (i.e. domestic) programs. The additional costs are often an impediment to our students traveling. Our Social Sciences department has created a wonderful incentive, offering $2500 vouchers to their incoming majors for participating. They are funding this pilot with some departmental funds, but we could desperately use donations to support more students. Read about all the exciting options here. At some point in the future, we hope to offer faculty-led trips for our alumni, stay tuned!

Thank You, and Happy Holidays 2022!

Critical to everything we do are our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. Thank you so much for supporting Michigan Tech! Learn more about CSA giving opportunities and please give today.

If you are ever back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or offer suggestions.

Best wishes and happy holidays as you close out 2022,

David Hemmer
Dean- College of Sciences and Arts

Thanksgiving Message

Quincy Mine with colorful fall foliage
Spectacular fall colors!

Hello Again from the Copper Country!

Its been an interesting fall in the Copper Country. November only added to it. Election Day. My birthday: my new age is the smallest number with 10 distinct divisors, which makes it what mathematicians (like myself) call a “highly composite number”! Blood moon and lunar eclipse (the last for a few years). The first prolonged snowfall (thankfully not as significant as Buffalo’s). And now the mass exodus as students, faculty, and staff leave campus to spend Thanksgiving Day with family and friends.

It has been a magnificent Fall season in Houghton, with an epic leaf-peeping season and beautiful weather, sunny and not too cold, and barely any snow to be seen up until last week. Nevertheless, the crews on the lawn outside my Walker office were busy setting up three broomball courts for the upcoming season! You can view them in real-time on one of our many webcams live streaming from campus, like this one from Walker. Drop me a note. I’d love to hear about your favorite broomball memory.

Our CSA students and faculty continue to excel in the classroom and beyond. Dr. Sarah Green, our chemistry department chair, led a dozen Huskies to the 2022 United Nations climate change summit. Held November 6-18, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, these Huskies joined more than 35,000 participants at the 27th Conference of the Parties United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27). Based on their work in previous summits, they have secured badges granting them insider access to the “blue zone.” Our Visual and Performing Arts faculty are involved as well. Delegates in the VIP lounge listened to a piece, Melusina Calls to the Loon, written by our own composer and Teaching Professor Libby Meyer, with an additional soundscape from MTU Distinguished Professor Christopher Plummer! You can follow their adventures on the Huskies at the Climate Conference blog. We’ll be adding more stories in the coming weeks.

Kathy Huerta Sanchez stands in front of the COP27 sign in Sharm El-Sheik.
Environmental and Energy Policy graduate student Kathy Huerta Sanchez at the COP 27 UN climate conference.


Earlier my wife and I were honored to be formal “guests of the mess” at the Air Force ROTC Dining Out. The event gives the cadets an opportunity to experience a formal dinner but with a twist. The different groups of cadets combined to create a “grog” in a large punch bowl. Ingredients included spicy V8, pickle juice, sardine juice, crunchy peanut butter powder, etc… Throughout the night violations of the elaborate “rules of the mess” were punished by trips to drink from the grog. By the end of the evening, just about every cadet had imbibed at least once!

Dean Hemmer and Lieutenant Colonel  Zuniga stand at attention at Michigan Tech's Air Force ROTC Dining Out celebration.
Lt.Col. Benjamin Zuniga (left) hosts Dean Hemmer at Air Force ROTC’s Dining Out.

At this time of year, I am grateful for many things: family and friends; the hard work our faculty and staff put in throughout the year to educate our students and help them to create a future for themselves; the support from our alumni funding facilities, scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and more; the beauty of the Copper Country.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall 2022 Off to A Great Start

Greetings from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

Second Largest 1st Year Class Ever!

The fall semester is off to a wonderful start on our campus! The arrival of the second largest first-year class in 35 years (2nd only to last year!) left us scrambling to find housing for everyone. Our new international graduate student numbers have also returned to pre-pandemic normal. The weather has been mostly beautiful. Fall colors are starting to pop. And the main campus mall was lined each day with tents hosting employers eager to hire our students. Our first fully in-person career fair since before the pandemic followed, and a record 370+ employers recruited on campus.

Academy of Sciences and Arts Inducts Two New Members

Image of Michigan Tech alumnus and Academy of Sciences and Arts Inductee Sarah Carlson
2022 Academy of Sciences and Arts Inductee Dr. Sarah Carlson

Thursday, September 15th, was our annual induction ceremony for the Academy of Sciences and Arts. You may recall the Academy recognizes our most distinguished alumni. I was honored to induct two amazing Tech alums. The first, Dr. Sarah Carlson, is a 2003 graduate of our chemistry department. She is now a vascular surgeon and Associate Chief of Surgery for Operations at the VA Boston Medical Center. Dr. Carlson completed prestigious research and training appointments at both Harvard and Dartmouth earlier in her career.

The second, Steve Yang, is a 1991 graduate of Biological Sciences. He is now co-CEO of WuXi AppTec, a leading global pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and medical device R&D capability and technology open access platform company with operations in China, the US, and Europe. While Sarah is a native of the UP, this was Steve’s first visit back to campus since graduation. We were honored that Steve could make the stop in Houghton while traveling between Europe and Asia. Both gave gracious and inspiring remarks at the ceremony.

Image of Michigan Tech alumnus and Academy of Sciences and Arts Inductee Steve Yang
2022 Academy of Sciences and Arts Inductee Steve Yang

Undergraduates Continue to Amaze

There is no shortage of students here at Michigan Tech choosing to follow Sarah and Steve on the path to improving patient health outcomes. Two that come to mind are Jenna and Colleen. Jenna Disser ’22 completed her BS in Medical Lab Science and Minor in Pre-Health Professions in April. Her experience doing research at Tech as an undergraduate led her to pursue an MS in Biological Science, and continue her research. Hear her talk about her experiences in research, the community she found at Tech, and her love for the outdoors.

Colleen Toorongian ’20 graduated from Tech with a BS in Exercise Science. Colleen did research in the Clinical and Applied Human Physiology Lab, volunteered in hospice, worked as a Student Athletic Trainer, shadowed various healthcare providers, and assisted with outreach projects. She recently completed an MS at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), in the Biological Sciences department. Her next stop is New York to start the Cardiovascular Science and Perfusion Medicine program at Hofstra University. Read more about Colleen and her journey.

And our social sciences students worked over the summer engaged in fieldwork documenting everyday buildings and their cultural meanings for people in the Keweenaw—past, and present. Dr. Sarah Scarlett and her students are working on publishing a 2024 Vernacular Architecture Forum conference guidebook featuring local architecture and conference tour sites. Themes include exploring cultural identity, environmental change, industrial communities, and contemporary heritage practice. Read more about the fieldwork school on the Social Sciences blog.

External Research Funding Record and Academic Program Growth!

Finally, in late September we hosted our annual college-wide faculty and staff meeting and social. And we had much to celebrate. CSA faculty smashed the previous record, with $12 million in new external research funding in the past fiscal year! The physics department led the way with $5 million, much of it in support of our amazing cloud chamber on campus. The College launched several new degree programs too, including a BS degree in Policy and Community Development, an MS degree in Sustainable Communities, and a BS degree in Business Analytics, in partnership with the College of Business. And we now offer fifty different minors and eight certificates.

Come Visit

If you are ever back in town I hope you will stop by, say hello, and share with me your MTU story. Please do not hesitate to email me any time at djhemmer@mtu.edu to share your MTU experience or offer suggestions.

2022 Academy of Sciences and Arts Inductees Continue Tradition of Improving Patient Outcomes

Michigan Technological University’s Academy of Sciences and Arts inductees have a long history of improving patient outcomes. 2019 inductee Laura Barrientos identified treatment for the deadly Ebola virus. 2001 inductee Mathew Songer founded Pioneer Surgical Technology, a leading developer and manufacturer of surgical instrumentation and spinal and orthopedic implants. 2021 inductee Jeffrey Haskins was involved in the discovery and development of pharmaceuticals such as Lipitor, Lyrica, Nipent, Accupril, and Penetrex. So it comes as no surprise that 2022’s Academy of Sciences and Arts inductees, Sarah Carlson and Steve Yang continue the tradition. They were unveiled last week to an audience of over forty attendees on September 15.

Dr. Sarah Carlson, Vascular Surgeon and Educator

Sarah Carlson
Doctor Sarah Carlson

Sarah J. Carlson is Associate Chief of Surgery for Operations at the VA Boston Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Boston University. Dr. Carlson graduated magna cum laude from Michign Tech with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2003 and then attended the University of Michigan Medical School, where she earned a master’s degree in clinical research and an MD in 2008. Dr. Carlson next completed a residency in general surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard teaching hospital, in Boston in 2016. During residency she spent three years researching omega-3 fatty acids in liver metabolism, brain development and reproduction at Boston Children’s Hospital and was awarded two NIH-sponsored research grants for her work.

In 2018 Dr. Carlson completed subspecialty training in vascular surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and joined the surgery faculty at Boston University and staff at Boston VA as a vascular surgeon. Her clinical interests include cerebrovascular disease and aortic pathology, with special interest in complex endovascular techniques for repair of aortic aneurysms. She is honored to provide state-of-the-art vascular surgical care to United States veterans and train the next generation of talented young surgeons. Dr. Carlson has published numerous peer-reviewed publications and earned recognition for teaching of medical students and residents, including Harvard Medical School’s surgery clerkship medical student teaching award. In 2018 she was honored to be recognized as one of Michigan Tech’s “Five Under 35” awardees for MTU alumni.

Originally from Iron River Michigan, Dr. Carlson thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to return to Houghton when she visits family in the Upper Peninsula. Her favorite activities include playing the violin, playing cards and board games with her UP family, and traveling the world. In September 2021 she earned her favorite title to date: “Mom” to son Lynx Carlson Gordon.

Dr. Steve Yang, Advancing Discoveries and Delivering Groundbreaking Treatments

Dr. Steve Yang

Dr. Steve Yang is the Co-CEO of WuXi AppTec and a member of its board of directors. He is also WuXi AppTec’s Head of WuXi Biology and Head of WuXi Testing businesses. His responsibilities include the management of multiple business units and commercial operations. WuXi AppTec provides a broad portfolio of R&D and manufacturing services that enable companies in the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device industries worldwide to advance discoveries and deliver groundbreaking treatments to patients.

Dr. Yang is a pharmaceutical industry leader recognized for building R&D and service capabilities, delivering research and early development portfolios of drug candidates, and establishing R&D partnerships in the US, Europe, China, and other Asian and emerging markets. Before joining WuXi AppTec, Dr. Yang was Vice President and Head of Asia and Emerging Markets iMed at AstraZeneca. Previously, Dr. Yang served as Vice President and Head of Asia R&D at Pfizer and as Executive Director and head of Pfizer’s global R&D strategic management group.

Dr. Yang received his Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of California, San Francisco. He started his undergraduate study at Fudan University, China, and completed his BS Summa Cum Laude in biological sciences from Michigan Technological University. He co-founded the BayHelix Group, a non-profit global professional organization of Chinese life science business leaders, and served as the board’s chairman for two terms.

Michigan Tech Opens COVID-19 Testing Lab

Researchers in a lab doing covid-19 testing.

Starting this week, Michigan Technological University will begin testing patient samples for COVID-19, working alongside regional health care providers. With delays in testing across the nation, rural and remote regions like the Upper Peninsula have been hard pressed to get enough tests for patients. But there is hope.

Michigan Tech has partnered with local hospitals to begin receiving and testing patient samples on campus to save doctors and health care providers at least 24 hours, and up to a week, of waiting for COVID-19 test results. The lab has the capacity to run 40 samples per hour on two machines, and the team has plans to expand with more equipment and staffing.

Read the full story on Michigan Tech News.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Kette Thomas

Our final Deans’ Teaching Showcase member, selected by Dean David Hemmer from the College of Sciences and Arts, is Kette Thomas, associate professor in Humanities. Dean Hemmer provided an extraordinary nomination letter written by Interim Humanities Chair Patricia Sotirin, most of which is preserved here intact.

Thomas regularly teaches large lecture classes (~50-75 seats) including HU3502 “Mythology: World Myths” and HU2324 “Introduction to Film: History of Cinema” (a General Education Core course); she helped develop the undergraduate English BA degree program in Humanities; and she has contributed to curricula and assessment at the University level.

Sotirin sees Thomas as a truly engaging teacher whose deep passion for her subjects and commitment to interactive teaching is evident in all her courses including her large lecture classes. Indeed, in a large lecture setting, one might assume that collective conversations about non-Western mythological themes or cinematic German Expressionism would not happen. Yet Thomas nurtures such interactions as the heart of her humanistic teaching approach. She invites her students to collaborate in “thinking out loud” with her by modeling what it means to risk expressing ideas and to take differing perspectives seriously. She shows students how becoming intellectually vulnerable can be empowering and she creates safe conversational and writing environments for them to do the same. This approach to teaching with vulnerability characterizes even the large online versions of these courses. Thomas has put online tools to work by recording brief video lectures that can be reconfigured within Modules to provide more dynamic and responsive adaptations to the needs and interests of the particular students and she makes use of the Discussion Boards and Zoom office hours.

Like all teachers at Tech, Thomas transitioned her large lecture Mythology course to an online version during Spring Break. Her approach to teaching with vulnerability and empowering student voices has resonated with her students. As one student volunteered, “I’ve come to really look forward to hearing you in [online] lectures; your enthusiasm is matched with a desire to be precise, you have a dynamic personality, and your drive to understand humanity is admirable.” Another student responded to a video Thomas published to the class acknowledging the difficulties they face in this moment, emailing, “I’ve been catching up on the lectures and I saw the ‘A note for today’ video and I just wanted to tell you that these times will pass and we’ll move on to a brighter day, I was just really touched by the video and it helped my anxiety go down a little.”

“…innovative, passionate, and engaging teacher committed to empowering students through intellectual vulnerability, collective conversation, and critical thinking.”

-Patricia Sotirin, interim humanities chair

A third student wrote, “I wanted to reach out after watching your video on Canvas yesterday. Thank you for the encouraging words during this difficult time especially when it seems like there are not any right answers. . . . You have really shown me a way to look at things differently in the world of myth and in other ways beyond.” As we struggle to support our students in the current climate of uncertainty and disruption, Thomas’s empathy, responsiveness, and willingness to express her own vulnerability offer a model of teaching that is not only about quality instruction but also about connecting with students’ lives in ways that can both reassure and inspire them.

The list of courses that Thomas teaches evidences her commitment to a pedagogy of diversity: “Literature Across Borders”; “Topics in Diversity”; “Cultural Diversity in American Literature”; “Rhetoric of Alterity/Difference” (graduate seminar). Her course, HU3400 “Topics in Diversity: Freaks,” illustrates her innovative pedagogical strategies for engaging students with issues of diversity. Given that diversity often inspires defensiveness, Thomas draws students into this topic by looking at embodied difference through carnivalesque figures so that students can deconstruct the dynamics of marginalization and otherness. Eventually, the course turns to the ways similar criteria and ways of looking and naming can marginalize more familiar embodied differences (gender, race, sexuality). The approach empowers students to find their own preconceptions and habits of mind interesting without becoming defensive and encourages them to critically “think out loud” about socially prevalent processes of categorization and marginalization. Teaching students to be vulnerable about their experiences with and defensiveness about diversity is an example of teaching with courage as well as vulnerability.

At the program level, Thomas participated with other humanities faculty to develop the undergraduate English major. The program is a unique response to the role of writing and literature on a STEM-dominant campus. The program also mounts outreach events that bring literature to the campus community including an open-mic reader’s café and a speaker series coordinated with the core literature courses. Thomas will be program Director in 2020-21 and her egalitarian, dialogic approach to leadership is highly valued by her colleagues. At the university level, Thomas serves on the General Education Goal 8 Assessment Committee addressing Social Responsibility and Ethical Reasoning. She also participated in the Michigan Pathways curriculum review for English programs around the state to coordinate a statewide transfer protocol for core English courses.

Thomas’s extraordinary work in all areas highlighted by the showcase motivated Hemmer to summarize his selection by saying, “I am so impressed how quickly and effectively Kette has transformed her very successful classroom style into an online setting under very difficult circumstances. Hearing about Kette’s passion in the classroom and her wide selection of fascinating courses makes me want to sign up for a class from her.”

Thomas will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series (to be determined this summer) recognizing introductory or large-class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Call for Applications: Songer Research Award for Human Health Research

Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) have generously donated funds to the College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) to support a research project competition for undergraduate and graduate students.

Remembering their own eagerness to engage in research during their undergraduate years, the Songers established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students. The College is extremely grateful for the Songers’ continuing interest in, and support of, Michigan Tech’s programs in human health and medicine.

Any Michigan Tech student interested in exploring a medically related question under the guidance of faculty in the College of Sciences and Arts may apply. Students majoring in any degree program in the college, including both traditional (i.e., biological sciences, kinesiology, chemistry) and nontraditional (i.e., physics, psychology, social science, bioethics, computer science, mathematics) programs related to human health may propose research projects connected to human health. 

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4 p.m. Monday, March 30. Applications may be emailed to djhemmer@mtu.edu.

Read more about the Songer Research Award here.

Copper Country Math Circle Spring Session

little boy standing in front of a large blackboard writing a long equation

The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) Dean’s Office is once again partnering with the Copper Country Intermediate School District to host the Copper Country Math Circle.

Students in grades two through five who are excited about mathematics are invited to attend. The first meeting of the Spring semester is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30. Meetings will be held one Thursday evening per month thereafter, including Feb. 20 and March-May dates TBA.

David Hemmer, CSA dean and professor of mathematical sciences, will host the event, together with Cindy Lysne. Math Circles are informal gatherings where students work on interesting problems or topics in mathematics.

Through problem-solving and interactive exploration, students develop an excitement and appreciation of mathematics. Math Circles are not intended to accelerate the traditional school curriculum, but to explore interesting topics not normally seen in the classroom. There is no charge, but registration is required. Students already registered for the Fall session do not need to reregister. New students may sign up using this form.

LinkedIn Learning Training Platform Available to Staff and Faculty

Linkin Learning logo

As we begin the new semester, all Michigan Tech staff and faculty are encouraged to take advantage of their access to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), an on-demand training platform designed to help you gain new skills and advance your career. From leadership training, to SQL programming, to Microsoft Office essentials, you’re sure to find a training course to meet your needs and interests.

To access the LinkedIn Learning platform:

  • Visit the website
  • Select the “sign-in” button at the top
  • Choose the option to “sign in with your organization account”
  • Enter your Michigan Tech email address
  • Enter your standard MTU ISO credentials to gain access

Review this article, Accessing LinkedIn Learning, for more information.

The LinkedIn Learning platform is sponsored by the Accessible Technology Working Group (ATWG) and Michigan Tech IT for the 2019-20 academic year. All University faculty and staff are encouraged to take advantage of this valuable resource. For more information, contact Jeff Toorongian.