Chung-Jui Tsai has helped sequence the first tree genome and recently received a $2.1 million biotech grant.
Chung-Jui Tsai has helped sequence the first tree genome and recently received a $2.1 million biotech grant.
Wayne Pennington (right) demonstrates seismic imaging equipment for a student.
Wayne Pennington (right) demonstrates seismic imaging equipment for a student.
Inventor Russ Alger at the snow test facility at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center.
Inventor Russ Alger at the snow test facility at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center.
“So, if we incorporate information on age-of-onset in our analysis, we should be able to better identify which genetic markers are linked to a given disease.”

Research Briefs

US News: Tech Among Top Universities

Michigan Tech continues to rank among the top tier of universities in the US News & World Report college rankings. In addition, three of the university's undergraduate engineering programs ranked among the top 25 in the country and four graduate programs have ranked among the best in the country.

Among undergraduate programs, environmental engineering ranked 16th, materials science and engineering was 18th, and mechanical engineering was 25th. Michigan Tech's graduate programs enrolled a record 801 students during 2003-04 and attracted more than $30 million in research funding.

Researchers Help Sequence First Tree Genome

A team of Michigan Tech researchers has played a key role in an international effort to sequence the first tree genome. They were part of a consortium that has deciphered the genetic code of the black cottonwood.

Chung-Jui Tsai, director of Michigan Tech's Biotechnology Research Center and an associate professor of forest resources and environmental science, led the effort. Using gene amplification technology, Tsai's team fished out more than 13,000 gene fragments known as expressed sequence tags, or ESTs, that are represented throughout cottonwood's 480 million letters of genetic code. Hidden in these letters, now placed in order by the international research effort, are about 40,000 genes, which underlie all aspects of the tree's growth and behavior.

NSF's $800,000 Funds Electrical Engineering Projects

Assistant Professor Seyed "Reza" Zekavat, of Michigan Tech's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has received two National Science Foundation grants totaling more than $800,000.

With a $350,000 grant, he aims to conduct fundamental research on wireless local positioning systems. With a $462,000 award, he will develop a new multidisciplinary version of the traditional course, "Introduction to Electrical Engineering for Non-Electrical Engineers."

The wireless local positioning systems project will support a new lab and three graduate students and will involve about 15 undergraduates.

Biotech Researchers Receive $2.1 Million

Michigan Tech researchers have been awarded a $2.1 million grant to study a critical mechanism for trees' survival. Associate Professor Chung-Jui Tsai (School of Forestry and Environmental Science) will investigate the genetic underpinnings of phenolic glycoside production and how it relates to plant growth. This family of compounds plays a key role in plant health, making many plants tough and disease-resistant.

Nanotech Research Receives $3.7 Million

Michigan Tech's Center for Nanomaterials Research has received $3.7 million in federal funds to study nanoelectronics and communication nano-devices, connecting nano-devices with micro-devices and integrating protein sensors with nanoelectronics to develop complete sensing systems.

Craig Friedrich, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the center, says the research could have implications for the military and beyond. The research team includes a broad range of faculty and researchers, including Paul Bergstrom and Ashok Goel from electrical and computer engineering, Miguel Levy from physics, and Owen Mills and Peter Moran from materials science and engineering.

Tech to Share in $350 Million Hydrogen Research Initiative

A team led by Michigan Tech researcher Jim Hwang has received a $1.7 million grant from the Department of Energy as part of the Hydrogen Research Initiative. The program will fund science and research projects designed to establish a hydrogen economy.

Hwang will focus his efforts on a novel class of materials known as metal perhydrides. The goal is to develop substances that can safely and cheaply store hydrogen chemically and then release it as fuel.

Chen Gets NIH Grant to Help Find Genes Linked to Disease

Associate professor of math, Huann-Sheng Chen, has received a $142,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging to search for disease-causing genes. He aims to develop a statistical model that will take a major factor in disease, its age of onset, into account, as well as genetic causes.

"Some people may have the gene for a disease but die before they develop it," he says. "So, if we incorporate information on age-of-onset in our analysis, we should be able to better identify which genetic markers are linked to a given disease."

Researcher Earns NASA Grant

A researcher at Michigan Tech has received a $255,000 grant from NASA. His work in developing computer models for tiny materials could result in stronger, lighter aircraft. Greg Odegard, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, creates these models to predict the strength of nanomaterials. One nanometer is equal to one-billionth of a meter.

Oil Hunt Garners $750,000 Grant

Faculty members in geological and mining engineering have received a $750,000 grant to continue to develop a technique used for seismic imaging. The US Department of Energy has provided the funding to professors Wayne Pennington and Roger Turpening.

Using a technique known as crosswell seismic imaging, the researchers will lower equipment deep into two dry wells, one on either side of an ancient reef. One side will send out seismic waves, and the other will receive them. This way, the scientists expect to get a much clearer view of the reef's composition, including whether it contains gas or oil.

Physicist Receives Nanoscience Support

Nanoscience research lead by Yoke Khin Yap, assistant professor of physics, has been selected as a project in the new Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, currently under construction at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Just 42 projects were selected nationwide through a merit-reviewed, competitive process. Yap's research theme is "Controlling Nanostructures of CVD-Multiwall Carbon Nanotubes" and is the only project selected from Michigan.

Cargill Licenses Pavement Coating Invention

Cargill has signed a licensing agreement with Michigan Tech to market an anti-ice coating for roads and bridges.

Russ Alger, a research scientist at the university's Institute for Snow Research, developed the blend of epoxy and aggregate that is applied to highway surfaces just once during the fall. It slowly releases de-icing chemicals all winter. The product, called SmartLane, has been tested on US highways in Wisconsin and at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.