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Lisa Gordillo, Visual and Performing Arts


Trained as a sculptor, with a background in theater and opera, Lisa Gordillo leads “Keep ‘Em Flying,” a project aimed at reducing bird-window collisions on Michigan Tech’s campus and beyond. Key Tech buildings include the Great Lakes Research Center, the Skywalk between Van Pelt and Opie Library and Rehki Hall, and the Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building, where an average of six birds die each day from window strikes during migratory season.

Keep ‘Em Flying is a long-term collaboration between Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Pavlis Honors College.

Gordillo wants her students to find ways to say “yes” to big solutions, and aims to demonstrate that beginning students can solve large-scale, real-world problems in a dramatic fashion across art, sciences, and engineering.

Since many of her students are new to this creative world, she works with them to create collaborations across campus with disciplines not traditionally known for working in the arts—transforming a STEM school into a STEAM school.

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L. Syd Johnson, Humanities

On Our Minds

Crunching tackles. Punishing hits. These are central elements of football and hockey. But more on the radar now is the cumulative effect concussions and brain injuries have on these athletes. A spate of suicides has led to studies on brain tissue and has discovered some recently retired athletes with mental decay decades beyond their actual age.

Syd Johnson sees this as not only a biological issue, but an ethical one as well: since concusioins have a cumulative effect, concern should sthart when the dreams of high school games are forming for kids. Johnson syas the solution is changing the way kids play sports. By reducing the risks of concussions, the cumulative effects of concussions are delayed until kids can make more informed decisions.

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Erin Smith, Humanities

41 North

Houghton isn't on the way to anywhere. And while the remote location has its benefits, it means fewer venues that feature new independent artistic work.

Erin Smith believes it’s important that Michigan Tech and the local community have access to films that people in urban and cultural centers across the country are viewing.

That's why she curates and directs the 41 North Film Festival—an annual event where people come together to learn, question, discuss, find inspiration, and be entertained.

Smith looks for films that intersect with areas of Michigan Tech's curriculum, the University's mission, the extracurricular interests of students and faculty, and regional interests.

"It’s important to me, though, that the festival does not just reflect the community back to itself," Smith says. "One of the beautiful things about the intensive experience of a film festival is the opportunity to be immersed in many different experiences and ideas.

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Raymond Shaw, Physics
Will Cantrell, Physics
Lynn Mazzoleni, Chemistry
Claudio Mazzoleni, Physics

High in the Sky

A Brocken spectre—also known as a “glory”—is a tight, tubular rainbow formed around a shadow, the Sun projecting the image onto the clouds below. The conditions and timing have to be just right. What if we can make atmospheric conditions just right, here in the Keweenaw, any time we want?

Atmospheric science researchers at Michigan Tech no longer have to cross their fingers for cooperative weather. The University’s cloud chamber allows them to make their own. The lab is one of only a handful in the world and the only one capable of sustaining clouds for hours.

But why is this study of clouds so important? Understanding clouds means understanding climate and the processes that drive our weather. The chamber is modular, allowing for instruments to be added or subtracted as needed. This means it can stay on the cutting edge long into the future.

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Matt Seigel, Humanities

PANK Magazine and Tiny Hardcore Press are based in the Walker Arts and Humanities Center, on the campus of a STEM-centric research university in a secluded corner of the country. And that is exactly what has put them on the map, at the vanguard of articulating what's next.

"We aren't Brooklyn," says M. Bartley Seigel. "Or San Francisco or Iowa City. We're in a different place, and that's given us a lot of power and space to try something different. We aren't battling anyone already entrenched, we aren't threatening anyone's turf. I mean, Houghton, Michigan… where's that?"

Launched in 2006, Seigel describes PANK's beginnings as "part hubris and part ignorance. We had no idea how to do this." Flash forward seven years, and PANK has hit a niche at just the right time.

"When we launched, online magazines were just starting to be taken seriously," he explains. While also a print publication, PANK publishes more frequently online. "We established print first for the old guard and to build our credibility. But three-quarters of what we do is online."

PANK's mission is to broaden the literary perspective. That's not some abstract mission or vision statement, either. PANK pushes the envelope, whether it's in form or in content. It takes risks. It's risque. "Publishing is conservative," Seigel explains. "They make their bank on safe, middle of the road stuff."

"That's not us."

Instead, the focus for PANK is a place for voices new and established to try to make words do something new, to hit us from directions we don't expect. A trip through the contributor notes of any given issue yields fellowships and editorial positions galore. The names might not be familiar. Not yet, at least.

Tiny Hardcore Press, a small publishing house under the same umbrella, sits in much this same place. It, too, can fly under the radar, thanks in large part to this unique placement in Michigan Tech's ecosphere. "I mean, we're a place that sometimes doesn't even appear on its own state's maps," Seigel says. "There's a mythology around us."

"We're such outsiders, and people love it."

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Tim Scarlett, Social Sciences

It wasn't a door to anything in particular anymore. Rusted, warped, with cracks repaired some time in the distant past, the old iron stove door was dug from the ground near the old settlement of Clifton on the Keweenaw Peninsula. For Tim Scarlett, behind this door is a story, one that connects physical objects to their environment. More than anything, however, objects like the stove door tell a uniquely human story. From this door Scarlett is able to pull details like the stove's expense, where it was probably installed, and how it came to have parts of it in a field.

The past they study physically and philosophically connects people with each other and their surroundings. Ultimately, that means the industrial archaeologist has to be a bit of an intellectual dilettante, bringing together knowledge from a variety of fields to build wisdom, but it also requires being aware of what there is to know, what knowledge there can be.

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Jared Anderson, Visual and Performing Arts

The Republic of Ragusa was a maritime state centered on the city of Dubrovnik. Their citizens were renowned as skilled diplomats and ambassadors: the city made a name for itself through the connections it forged.

Jared Anderson and the Concert Choir from Michigan Tech fostered connections on their tour of the region as well, a new generation of diplomats in the spirit of Dubrovnik, tucked at the far southern tip of Croatia. From nearby Mostar to Trebinje to Ljubljana, the choir acted as ambassadors, exchanging their musical experience for the wash of history and culture throughout the region.

For many of us, these are places we only know from the news, from reports of conflict in the last few decades. To have these places become performance spaces, to forge musical connections to place and time, is much more positive, much more representative of life there.

"These wouldn't necessarily be the first places students would go in Europe," Anderson explains. "It has such a rich history as well as recent conflict, it's so important for us to understand. We needed to be here."

The choir only tours every three or four years, and the members vote on where to go. On previous excursions, they've gone to places like China, Brazil, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Mexico. In 2017 the choir traveled to South Africa.

"When we approach touring, we try to find places that interest the choir. Some of the community members of the choir had been to the region spoke very highly of it, and we do enjoy being off the beaten path."

For many of their concerts, in fact, American choir groups were rare to unheard of. Anderson attempted to select music that reflected both the diversity of the choir and its travels as well as the legacy of the regions in which they performed. Music ranging from regional folk songs to selections from composers such as W. A. Mozart, Arvo Pärt, and Morten Lauridsen were featured throughout the tour.

More important, though, is connecting with these places, experiencing the people and culture, roots that we know better than we realize.

"There was a real warmth for our singing, and we had a real warmth for the region by the end of the tour."

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Myounghoon (Philart) Jeon, Cognitive and Learning Sciences

A Symphony of Technology

Technology acts like a kind of progressive symphony, adding feature after feature; the options in a modern automobile would have been simply overwhelming only a few decades ago. Technology can work wonders, but technology that is immersive, that brings us together, that makes our lives better, is what is most profound. The question we literally face is how to keep up with all of this input.

In lab spaces all across campus, Myounghoon (Philart) Jeon works to make technology engage all of our senses by better understanding the human factors within technological interaction; his research touches a bit of everything and everyone at Michigan Tech. With the help of a driving simulator, his work in the Mind Music Machine (Tri-M) Lab focuses on developing a new generation of sound technology in cars. The results of his research could help drivers pay better attention, regulate their emotions while driving, and drive their cars in a more eco-friendly manner. And this makes driving a safer, more harmonious experience.

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