First Academic Year as Dean

David Hemmer and faculty putting a sash on a grad student at commencement.Greetings from the College of Sciences and Arts at Michigan Tech!

I completed my first academic year as Dean of Sciences and Arts at our graduation May 4, when more than 1000 graduates walked across the stage of a packed MacInnes Ice Arena on a beautiful sunny day. On May 3 our Board approved the new College of Computing, which goes live on July 1. While I am sad to see our wonderful Computer Science Department leave CSA, the new College will position Michigan Tech for growth and success in an era where computing and data science dominate so many aspects of our lives.

Things are much quieter on campus now, which leaves time to reflect on the past year and plan for an exciting year ahead. We will have at least eight new tenure-track faculty joining our College in the fall, with our Humanities chair search and biology search still underway. We are excited to welcome Adam Meckler as our new Jazz director, replacing the legendary Mike Irish. You can listen to his smooth sounds at

Freshmen deposits in the college are up 11% from last year, thanks in part to our exciting new Sustainability Science and Society degree. Thanks to all our alumni and friends who help with recruiting, and feel free to contact me if you’d be willing to help in your area.

Our student, Alyssa Smith, exercise science major, was recognized as the top undergraduate kinesiology student in the nation! Over in biology our superstar sophomore, Tessa Steenwinkel, won a prestigious Goldwater fellowship. Tessa has been working in the lab of Professor Thomas Werner since her first day on campus! Many of our undergraduate research opportunities on campus, both during the year and over the summer, are supported by alumni donations. Our faculty are busy too. Professors Roman Sidortsov and Tim Scarlett received national media attention for their grant to study the feasibility of using abandoned mines for hydroelectric pumped storage, essentially turning the mine into a giant battery!

I departed late on Easter for a wonderful week long trip along Interstate 10 from Pensacola to Mobile, Houston and Phoenix meeting many of our successful and generous alumni.

Planning is underway for our new H-STEM building. This beautiful laboratory building will be near the current Chemistry building, which will also be renovated to host our departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering. Groundbreaking should be in fall 2020.

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. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a “Dean’s Priority Fund”.

With state support representing only about 16% of MTU’s budget, your gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day. Thank you!  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 to share your MTU experience or make suggestions.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Lisa GordilloFor the Deans’ Teaching Showcase, Dean David Hemmer has selected Lisa Gordillo, assistant professor in Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).

Gordillo was nominated by VPA Chair Jared Anderson, who applauded the many interdisciplinary collaborations she has initiated to publicly exhibit student art, especially around campus.

Anderson highlighted a wide variety of projects,” ranging from artistic design for windows that would reduce bird-window collisions to carving and casting sculptures based on traditional models in partnership with the Materials Science and Engineering Department.”

Gordillo teaches a wide variety of courses including traditional sculpture, contemporary sculpture, art + design, scenic art and illustration, and advanced sculpture. All of these make important contributions to the general education program, the visual art minor and the major in theater and entertainment technology.

Lisa leads a very collaborative environment where students are encouraged to explore creative solutions to problems while creating beautiful art. Her curriculum uses gallery b in the Rozsa galleries as an interactive classroom space where students create art right where it will be installed for public exhibition.—Jared Anderson

In addition, barriletes (patterned after traditional Guatemalan barriletes) made by students in the Traditional Sculpture course are currently displayed in the Rozsa Center lobby.

Gordillo’s highly hands-on approach with a focus on exhibition is very popular with students as she was named a finalist for the 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award, her third time as a finalist in the last four years.

Gordillo also connects her teaching with a much broader artistic context in her role as director of the Rozsa Art Galleries.  Recently, the exhibition, Salon!, opened in Gallery A in the Rozsa Center. This show brought together work from more than 30 artists and writers from around the world. Gordillo worked with student painters to transform the gallery into a space that was inspired by the salons of the late 19th century.

Dean Hemmer summarizes Gordillo’s impact by saying,  “I am grateful to have colleagues like Lisa. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting two magnificent shows that she curated in the Rosza Art Gallery. For the many students involved in putting these together, learning extends far beyond the classroom. Faculty like Lisa enliven Tech every day.”

Gordillo will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with other showcase members and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning 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

2018-19 Songer Award Recipients. Pictured Left to Right: Abby Sutherland, Billiane Kenyon, Jeremy Bigalke, Rupsa Basu, Matthew Songer, and Laura Songer.

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. This is the second year of the competition.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. In the Spring of 2019, the Songer’s gift will support one award for undergraduate research ($4,000) and a second award for graduate research ($6,000). Matching funds from the College may allow two additional awards.

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. Students are encouraged to propose original, stand-alone projects with expected durations of 6 – 12 months. The committee also encourages applications from CSA students who seek to continue research projects initiated through other campus mechanisms, such as the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, Pavlis Honors College activities or the Graduate Research Forum (GRF).

Funds from a Songer Award may be used to purchase or acquire research materials and equipment needed to perform the proposed research project. Access to and research time utilizing University core research facilities, including computing, may be supported. Requests to acquire a personal computer will be scrutinized and must be fully justified. Page charges for publications also may be covered with award funds, as will travel to appropriate academic meetings. This award may not be used for salary or compensation for the student or consulting faculty.

To apply:

  • Students should prepare a research project statement (up to five pages in length) that describes the background, methods to be used, and research objectives. The statement also should provide a detailed description of the experiments planned and expected outcomes. Students must indicate where they will carry out their project and attach a separate list of references/citations to relevant scientific literature.
  • The application package also should provide a concise title and brief summary (1 page) written for lay audiences.
  • A separate budget page should indicate how funds will be used.
  • A short letter from a consulting faculty member must verify that the student defined an original project and was the primary author of the proposal. The faculty member should also confirm her/his willingness to oversee the project. This faculty letter is not intended to serve as a recommendation on behalf of the student’s project.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 22. Applications may be emailed to

The selection committee will consist of Matthew Songer, Laura Songer, Shekhar Joshi (BioSci) and Megan Frost (KIP). The committee will review undergraduate and graduate proposals separately and will seek additional comments about the proposed research on an ad-hoc basis from reviewers familiar with the topic of the research proposal. Primary review criteria will be the originality and potential impact of the proposed study, as well as its feasibility and appropriateness for Michigan Tech’s facilities.

The committee expects to announce the recipients by early May of 2019. This one-time research award will be administered by the faculty advisor of the successful student investigator. Students will be expected to secure any necessary IRB approval before funds will be released. Funds must be expended by the end of spring semester 2020; extensions will not be granted. Recipients must submit a detailed report to the selection committee, including a description of results and an accounting of finds utilized, no later than June 30, 2020.

Any questions may be directed to Megan Frost (, David Hemmer ( or Shekhar Joshi (

Semester Updates

Campus Mall

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

Winter has been unrelenting! When I arrived last July I was told that Tech “never closes!” We have been shut down for three days this semester. A recent blizzard dumped almost two feet of snow and 68 mph winds were recorded at the airport; it took two full days to get the snow drifts cleared off the road. My kids have not had a full week of school since mid-December, I believe they are at 9 snow days for the year. Mont Ripley has seen 255” of snow so far! I and my two oldest kids signed up for beginning ski lessons and have been enjoying our newest hobby.

Meanwhile, this has been an extremely busy time in the dean’s office. Twenty of our faculty in the College were up for either tenure or promotion to full professor. Reading their dossiers, I was blown away by the teaching excellence and scholarly success of my colleagues, many with worldwide reputations.

Hiring season is well underway. Faculty candidates are visiting on an almost daily basis (when their flights manage to arrive…). We are doing national searches for chairs of three departments: Chemistry, Humanities and Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology. Six other departments are running regular faculty searches. Hiring, retaining and promoting outstanding faculty is among my most important jobs as dean.

The Board of Trustees was in town last week, and I was proud that our own Professor Richelle Winkler, from Social Sciences, was selected to present to them on her community based solar project in L’Anse and Baraga. I enjoyed telling board chair Brenda Ryan about the many exciting happenings in our college, and taking her through the recently opened gallery show “Salon!” in the Rosza Center. Professor Lisa Gordillo curated the show, which features art and poetry from around the world, including some from several of our own faculty members. Up the hill our Kinesiology department awarded its first PhD. Matthew Kilgas defended his dissertation “Acute and Chronic Responses to Exercise with Blood Flow Restriction.” He is now a tenure-track faculty member at Northern Michigan.

As May 1 rapidly approaches all our departments are hard at work on initiatives to increase our freshman class next year. Gone are the days of calling students (they don’t answer their phones!) Instead we set up “texting events” where prospective students can chat with our current faculty and students in their preferred mode of communication!

Critical to all of this is our alumni and friend donors. All your donations to our departments, scholarships, and the general fund are vitally important to our success. For those interested in supporting the greatest needs of the College, we have established a “Dean’s Priority Fund”.

With state support representing only about 16% of Michigan Tech’s budget, alumni gifts make a huge difference in the lives of our students and faculty every day and we thank you!  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 to share your MTU experience or make suggestions.

Best wishes,

David Hemmer

Dean- College of Sciences and Arts

Dean’s Showcase

Paul CharlesworthCollege of Sciences and Arts Dean David Hemmer has tapped Paul Charlesworth, Associate Professor of Chemistry, as this week’s showcase member.

Chemistry Interim Chair John Jaszczak, says Charlesworth “has been teaching and innovating in CH 1150 (University Chemistry I) so long that he is likely to be the “Doc Berry” to scores of Michigan Tech alumni when they think back to their days in chemistry as undergraduates.”
Charlesworth often teaches “U-chem 1”, which includes some of the very largest sections on campus with fall enrollments of more than 700 students. The large scale, however, doesn’t keep him from trying new ways to meet the instructional challenges of engaging, challenging, and assisting students in learning chemistry. Charlesworth’s lectures have multiple components that help keep the students engaged and actively learning by interspersing lectures with opportunities to work out short problems, collaborate with neighbors, respond with iClickers and contextualize concepts with live demonstrations.
After visiting one of Charlesworth’s classes for peer evaluation last fall, a fellow faculty member found himself inspired by what he saw, writing: “I found Dr. Charlesworth’s teaching method simple, gimmick-free, effective and easy to follow. The level of classroom engagement was evident from the high number of students answering his [iClicker] questions…..After visiting Dr. Charlesworth’s class I now believe that dissemination of knowledge is possible is an extra‐large classroom.”
Since CH1150 students are usually first‐semester, first‐year students, it’s important to Charlesworth to help students develop broader academic skills for their subsequent academic experiences at Michigan Tech. According to Jaszcak, Charlesworth  provides “a very clearly structured curriculum and a wide variety of different opportunities for engagement in learning, including making them easily available on Canvas.”
In fact, Charlesworth was an early adopter and champion of Learning Management Systems like WebCT and Canvas and has been known to experiment with a wide variety of technologies and collaborate with others to organize and ensure diverse learning opportunities are available to students.
But innovation for its own sake is not Charlesworth’s goal. He works toward improved student learning in chemistry. Thus, he routinely assesses student learning through a variety of means, including participating with the University’s outcome assessment for his students in regard to Undergraduate Student Learning Goal 2: Knowledge of the Physical and Natural World.
He also realizes that not all course innovations work out as he might have hoped. Many students, for example, are able to score well on iClicker questions and online homework, and yet score poorly on exams. Humbly. Charlesworth continues to make changes, saying  “It looks like there is still plenty of work to be done.”
But it’s clear that this constant examination is paying off. Hemmer summarizes Charlesworth’s contribution when he says
Placing outstanding instructors in introductory science classes is critical for Tech’s effort to improve student retention. Paul’s dedication and engagement in the classroom is reflected in the impressive outcomes for his students over many years. He is an incredible asset to Michigan Tech.
Charlesworth will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with the other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom  teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Deans’ Teaching Showcase

John JaszczakDavid Hemmer, dean of the College of Sciences and Arts has selected John Jaszczak, professor of physics and interim department chair of Chemistry as our third spring showcase member.

Jaszczak’s contributions touch large-class teaching, curriculum development and assessment, three key areas the showcase tries to recognize. He has been a key contributor to the assessment process not only within his department, but also at the college and university level.

In the Department of physics, Jaszczak has led the effort in coordinating and communicating assessment data for PH 2100- University Physics I, with the goal of trying to identify and then assist students at risk of underperforming and getting off track on their degree schedule.

This effort has led to a campus-wide consensus on the proactive development of a new physics course, PH 2110 University Physics 1 Workshop. This workshop was developed by Senior Lecturer Katrina Black and piloted for the first time in fall 2018 by Physics Instructor Amanda Shaw.

As a new dean I have been blessed to have a colleague like John Jaszczak. He cares deeply about student learning. As associate dean, he spearheaded efforts to improve teaching and assessment in the College. More recently he has done a marvelous job leading the Chemistry Department during a transitional year while we search for a new chair. Even while leading chemistry, he is working tirelessly on efforts to improve outcomes in Physics 2100.—David Hemmer

On a broader scale, Jaszczak has been chair of the University’s Goal 2 committee since its inception in fall 2014. In this role, he has led efforts to help faculty think about and assess student learning in courses on the General Education Mathematics and Science Course Lists. Jaszczak has been instrumental in helping instructors pilot several different assessment methods, including a methodology to efficiently utilize electronically graded exams for students in large-enrollment classes. The method allows assessment without sampling, potentially providing statistically significant data that can be insightful for instructor-initiated action.

At a University level, Jaszczak has met frequently with faculty across many departments, led  well-attended Coffee Chats, and compiled, discussed and reported on assessment results. Hemmer  concludes, “It’s clear to me that Jaszczak has been and continues to be one of the key people at Michigan Tech helping to advance student learning in STEM.”

Jaszczak will be recognized at an end-of-term luncheon with 12 other showcase members, and is now eligible for one of three new teaching awards to be given by the William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning this summer recognizing introductory or large class teaching, innovative or outside the classroom  teaching methods, or work in curriculum and assessment.

Greetings from the new Dean

New CSA Dean David Hemmer with wife Ginny and children Meghan, Ben and Adam.
New CSA Dean David Hemmer with wife Ginny and children Meghan, Ben and Adam.

This will be my inaugural communication as the new Dean of the College of Sciences and Arts. I join Michigan Technological University after eleven years in the mathematics department at the University at Buffalo, SUNY; the last six as department chair. I am joined by my wife of 18 years, Ginny, and our children Meghan (13), Benjamin (9), and Adam (7).

I marveled from afar in June at the resiliency of the Copper Country residents pulling together to recover from the disastrous Father’s Day flood. We were fortunate that our new house, high up on Agate Hill, escaped unscathed. Our new friends and neighbors have been so very welcoming to our family.

This is an exhilarating time to arrive at Michigan Tech. We have a new president and four of the five colleges/schools have new deans. Everyone is full of ideas on how to maintain and build on the great momentum the departing leaders built.  Four of our 10 departments will be searching for new chairs this year.

IMG_20180711_111625946I have been touring the CSA departments and am so impressed by the commitment of our faculty to excellence in both teaching and scholarship. I visited our beautifully renovated chemistry teaching labs. I hope we will secure the funds to renovate the remaining labs. I toured the sleep center where Professor Jason Carter of our Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology department is supported by Michigan Tech’s only NIH R01 grant, studying “Alcohol and Neurovascular Control in Humans”.

I attended a beautiful performance of the opera “Carmen” in front of a packed house at the Rosza center. Visual and Performing Arts Chair Jared Anderson directed the chorus and his colleague Joel Neves conducted the orchestra.

I want to thank outgoing Dean Bruce Seely for his dedicated 10 years of service and to wish him all the best in retirement. Bruce has been extremely generous sharing with me his time and wisdom, both before I arrived and since I started.