Graduate Research Fellows
Graduate students are the faculty of the future and something in short supply, when it comes to science and engineering. Prestigious programs, like those funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Highway Institute, can help students decide to pursue their interests.
Michigan Tech has a number of students win these competitive fellowships each year. Their interests vary widely, as you can tell by these four examples.
Nothing Cloudy About Fugal’s Goals
He’s heard all of the jokes, including having his head in the clouds. He admits that’s right where he wants to be.
Jacob Fugal is a PhD candidate specializing in atmospheric physics.With the help of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, he has turned a childhood interest in clouds into a career.
“I am interested in basic research of clouds,” he says, “specifically, how precipitation forms in clouds.”
Last summer, Fugal had the chance to help build a probe that takes holograms of cloud droplets. His advisor, physics professor Raymond Shaw, led the project. “We call it HOLODEC I,” Fugal said. “From these holograms, we can find out how cloud droplets are spaced in three dimensions.”
The team built the probe in three months, took it to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and flew it on a dozen flights.
“Now we are busy figuring out how to analyze the holograms to get the information we need—droplet spacial coordinates,” he said. “We’re also preparing to build HOLODEC II for use next summer.”
Fugal plans to earn his PhD by August 2006 and hopes to find a faculty position, “but more likely will go to a postdoc program and continue to do research on clouds,” he said. “I like having my head in the clouds.”
Jennifer McConville: Water Systems in Africa
With her graduation, Jennifer McConville has turned her attention from frozen water to the liquid variety.
Michigan Tech’s academic all-American cross-country skier has become a water sanitation extension agent in Mali.
“I plan on looking at potential correlations between waterborne disease and watershed characteristics such as rainfall and land use,” she said. “I have done extensive background research and formulated how I might approach a case study while I am overseas.”
McConville holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support her master’s research. She is also part of the Peace Corps Master’s International Program through Michigan Tech’s civil and environmental engineering department.
Through the Michigan Tech/Peace Corps program, she will spend two semesters on campus and two years in the Peace Corps.
She says a PhD is probably in her future, too. “I have always been interested in water treatment because of its link to human health,” she said. “Looking at the effects of the whole watershed is a relatively new approach to water quality management. I am interested in exploring that further.”
Angela Arpke: Water Consuming Fixtures and Appliances
Angela Arpke’s research interests go way back.
“I first became interested in buildings and recycling as a child when I helped my dad with remodeling projects and various scrap metal projects,” she said.“There were numerous summers when I would help my dad and brother take apart old lawnmowers, snowmobiles and various other metal items to be recycled.”
With the help of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Michigan Tech master’s student has turned her attention to helping designers and engineers make environmentally sound decisions.
She is working on a computer software tool that will help engineers compare capital costs and the environmental impact of devices using water in commercial buildings, including toilets, faucets, showerheads and water heaters.
“The tool will qualitatively and quantitatively classify environmental impacts such as smog formation potential and acidification potential,” she said.
Arpke plans to test her project on a real project close to home. The university is renovating its largest residence hall, Wadsworth Hall (home to 1,100 students). She will do a life cycle analysis on the hall as a case study.
Kristina Fields: Trail Development
Kristina Fields has certainly seen her share of trails. The civil engineering PhD student did her master’s research on snowmobile trail design. This led to a job in (where else?) Phoenix, Arizona.
Since Phoenix lacks snowmobile trails, she turned her attention elsewhere. As the City of Phoenix traffic engineer, she worked with engineers and developers, did traffic impact studies and developed on-street bike facilities.
“I was lucky enough to become the city’s bicycle coordinator,” she said. “This experience opened up the opportunity for me to work with pedestrian, bicycle and multi-use trails. I realized this would be an excellent research area if I wanted to go back to school for my PhD.”
Fields holds an Eisenhower Graduate Fellowship, funded by the National Highway Institute.
“I am interested in the pedestrian, bicycle and multi-use trails research area because I love exercising and the outdoors. I wanted to find a way that I could apply my civil engineering degree to my interests.”
Given that trails and trail development take time and funds away from other projects, she is particularly interested in looking at how cities with smaller populations, and those with winter weather issues, can recognize the attractiveness of trail development.
“An emerging area of research is the relationship between pedestrian/bicycle activity and personal and community health,” she said. “In the past few years, government has realized the benefits of non-motorized transportation and is funding the research and development of pedestrian, bicycle and trail facilities.”