Michigan Tech Rides the Rails into the Future

by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director

The closest railroad track is a narrow-gauge loop that transports tourists around the Houghton County Historical Museum grounds in Lake Linden. But Michigan Tech is betting on the future of rail transportation in this country and the world by establishing a Rail Transportation Program (RTP) within the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute (MTTI).

CSX Transportation, one of the largest freight railroad companies in North America, recently signed a partnership agreement with Michigan Tech, donating $33,000 in 2008 for the new program with continuing support in following years. “CSX recognizes the importance of rail engineering programs as the rail industry continues to flourish, providing unlimited opportunities for new engineers," said Lisa Weldon, CSX’s manager of professional recruiting. “It is an exciting time to join the industry, and I look forward to our new relationship with Michigan Tech.”

Negotiations with other companies, such as Union Pacific Railroad and several engineering consulting firms, are under way. All the companies share a goal: to train a cadre of technologically skilled employees with hands-on experience and a passion for the potential of rail transportation.

“The railroad industry is hungry for young people with training and interest in rail transportation,” said Pasi Lautala. A research assistant professor at MTTI who earned his PhD at Michigan Tech, Lautala has been named director of the new program.

He brought the railroad bug with him when he came to Michigan Tech from Finland in 1996 as an exchange student working on his master’s degree. The son of a locomotive engineer, Lautala had grown up in a culture that embraced rail transportation as a sustainable public transit alternative as well as an efficient way to move freight.

The United States “forgot” rail transportation for decades, but the rest of the world kept right on developing it, Lautala observed. “Rail transportation is about to enjoy a renaissance in this country,” he said. “It’s an alternative that makes sense, and it is something that this country is going to need.”

“The use of railroads to move freight in the United States has grown tremendously in recent years, and its growth is expected to continue,” said Professor William Sproule (CEE). “There is also renewed interest in passenger rail service, especially in urban areas, so there are exciting opportunities all over the rail industry.”

Growing numbers of Michigan Tech students seem to agree with them. In 2004, Lautala established an international summer program in railway engineering, called Summer in Finland. In its first four years, 62 students from six different disciplines have completed the intensive five-week program, a collaboration among Michigan Tech, the Tampere University of Technology, and the North American and Finnish railroad industry.

In 2005, enthusiastic students at Michigan Tech established a Railroad Engineering and Activities Club (REAC). It became the first student chapter of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association and now has more than 30 members. Last year, REAC hosted more than 100 students, faculty members and rail industry representatives at its second annual Railroad Night, and the club is expecting an even greater turnout at this year’s Railroad Night, scheduled for Feb. 19.

“My first REAC meeting was the result of a childhood obsession with trains,” said Bill Sawin, president of REAC in 2006-07. “Michigan Tech’s rail and Summer in Finland programs turned this old interest into a previously unforeseen career opportunity.” Sawin, a 2007 Michigan Tech graduate in civil engineering, works as a design engineer with Norfolk Southern.

The University has made a three-year commitment to help fund the rail transportation initiative. In addition to Summer in Finland, the University is offering three rail-related courses on campus: introduction to railroad engineering, track design and construction, and public transit planning and engineering.

Lautala hopes to see the initiative grow into a multidisciplinary certificate program in rail transportation. His enthusiastic vision for the future includes a Rail Transportation Enterprise or rail-related projects within the current Enterprise Program, where a student-run company tackles real-world challenges with funding from industry. He also foresees faculty research projects that cross departmental lines, internships and co-ops, and more support of many kinds from the railroad industry.

Frozen in Fear: Tech Heats Up for Winter Carnival

Snow has never been this scary.

Student groups at Michigan Technological University have been plotting since July to build the creepiest statues ever for Winter Carnival, bringing life to the theme "Frightful Creatures with Chilling Features."

The Winter Carnival recess begins officially on Wednesday, Feb. 6, the start of the All Nighter. Students work through the night, until 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in a frenzyof snow-statue building. Organizations entered in the month-long statue competition will complete masterworks begun in early January, while groups entered in the one-nighter competition will spend 10 freezing hours building their snow statues from the ground up.

Judging follows Thursday morning. Throughout the weekend, thousands of visitors will wander through campus in utter amazement at what can be created by students who seem immune to the effects of sub-freezing weather.

Blue Key Honor Society organizes the event and selects a different theme every year. Some expressed concern that in 2008 frightful creatures might scare the very young, but Blue Key president John Aho, a senior from Rochester, Minn., studying actuarial science and bioinformatics, said the horror factor was probably overrated. "It's really hard to make a disembodied snow statue," he notes wryly.

Winter Carnival offers a variety of other events, many of them located comfortably inside. The Queens Coronation will be held at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Rozsa Center. The eight finalists who have completed the initial interview phase will perform the talent portion of the competition, and judges will announce the winner. The finalists include Caly Bodeis, sponsored by Alpha Gamma Delta; Crystal Buchanen, I-House and Tree House; Kristy Loomis, West Wadsworth Hall; Mairi Smith-Risk, Circle K; Elise Vertin, International Club; and Dana Volk, St. Albert the Great University Parish. Admission is $10.

Two Stage Revues are held Thursday, Feb. 7, at 5 and 9 p.m. in the Rozsa Center. Fraternities, sororities and other campus organizations present skits that can push the limits of college humor. Shows—especially the 9 p.m. Stage Revue—are recommended for adults only. Tickets are $10.

During the Beards Contest, set for 1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, in room 135 of Fisher Hall, male students will be judged in various categories based on the facial hair they have nurtured since December.

During the Banner Contest, at 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, in the MacInnes Student Ice Arena, students display 6-by-8-foot banners that are judged on how well they promote Winter Carnival.

Carnival also features ice bowling, broomball, human dogsled races, skiing "and other fun, wintry events," Aho said. The public is invited to stop by and enjoy the fun.

At the Winter Carnival ice fishing derby, competitors brave early hours—it starts at 8 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 2—and cold out on Chassell Bay in search of the biggest northern pike or walleye. The competition is divided into two categories, individual and team effort, and is judged based on the weight of the fish caught. Participants pay a registration fee that becomes prize money. The fish must be alive when weighed, or else they will not be considered for scoring.

Winter Carnival broomball, a street version of ice hockey that students take quite seriously, is held at Dee Stadium, in Houghton, at 10:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30; 9:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 31; and 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 5.

The human dogsled races are set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at the practice fields near the Student Development Complex.

Curling competitions are scheduled at the Calumet Armory at 6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1; 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 2; and 8 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 3.

Ice bowling, featuring students as the bowling balls, is set for 10:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30; 9:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 31; and 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 5. All games are in Dee Stadium.

Skating races will be held at 8 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 2, in Dee Stadium. Cross-country ski races are held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Michigan Tech Trails, and snowshoeing is set for 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 8, in the practice fields near the Student Development Complex.

Snow volleyball games are set for 10 a.m., Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, Feb. 2-3, 5 and 8, in the SDC practice fields.

On Friday, Feb. 8, downhill skiing will be held at 12:30 p.m. at Mont Ripley, followed by snowboarding at 3:30 p.m.

The Tug-o-War is set for 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 8, at the SDC practice fields.

Winter Carnival winds up on Saturday, Feb. 9. During the awards ceremony, at 3 p.m in Memorial Union Ballroom A, the student organizations earning the most points in carnival competitions will be honored.

At 8:30 p.m., the Torchlight Parade of skiers will light the slopes of Mont Ripley, followed by the fireworks display at 8:45 p.m.

The free Snowball Dance begins at 9 a.m. in the Memorial Union, with a disc jockey in the Keweenaw Commons and a jazz band playing in the ballroom.

For more information, visit the Michigan Tech Winter Carnival website, http://www.mtu.edu/carnival/ or contact Blue Key at 906-487-2818.

Reminder: Summer Youth Program Registration Blitz Today

A Summer Youth Programs Registration Blitz will be held for Michigan Tech employees today, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 4-6 p.m. in the Datolite Room of the Memorial Union.

Children and grandchildren of Michigan Tech employees and alumni are eligible for a discount of $50 off the live-in or commuter rate for any Michigan Tech Summer Youth Programs Exploration (one per participant, per summer).

Student Employment Opportunities Available through Summer Youth Programs

submitted by Summer Youth Programs

Do you know students who would be good candidates to work for Summer Youth Programs? We offer an exciting experience in a fun work environment for summer employment. Employment opportunities include

•activity counselors
•residential counselors
•office assistants

All interested candidates must attend one of our information sessions, to be held on Monday, Feb. 11, and Wednesday, Feb. 13, 8-9:30 p.m. in Memorial Union Ballroom A.

To sign up, contact Debbie Maki at 487-2219 or damaki@mtu.edu . Additional information and complete job descriptions can be found at http://www.youthprograms.mtu.edu/employment.html .

Blue Cross Delayed in Entering Employee Health-care Changes

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) has been having problems with its computer system.

As a result, not all changes in employees' 2008 medical, dental and vision plans have been entered into the system.

BCBSM has promised that all information should be loaded by the end of this week.

If you are experiencing problems, please call either the Blues service center in Marquette at 1-800-562-7884 or the Benefits Office at 487-2517 or email Renee Hiller, coordinator of benefits, at rlhiller@mtu.edu .

"Thank you for being so patient," said Benefits Director Ingrid Cheney.

Vote Teslak for the Hobey Baker

Fans are encouraged to vote for Michigan Tech junior Michael-Lee Teslak for the Hobey Baker at http://www.hobeybaker.com . Voting ends March 9.

Teslak's accomplishments include

•WCHA leader and fourth in the nation goals against average (1.73);
•fourth in the nation save percentage (.934);
•three-time WCHA player of the week;
•Michigan Tech's top freshman in 2005-06; and
•leading the Huskies to their first WCHA Final Five in 11 years by shutting out Colorado College.

Recycle Your Paper Feb. 4

Recycle your paper from home at the first-Monday-of-the-month collection Feb. 4, 3:30-5:30 p.m., at the Dow sixth floor loading dock off the main lobby (just west of where the Dow extends over Cliff Drive). Next month's collection is tentatively scheduled for March 3.

Please take this opportunity to recycle your paper when there are volunteers to help. If you miss the collection, contact Bill Mitchell, wmitchel@mtu.edu or 487-1636, or email recyclinginfo-l@mtu.edu to make alternate arrangements. Please do not empty paper from home into the blue recycling bins or carts on campus because it increases the likelihood of contamination and creates more work for the custodial and grounds staff.

As always, departments or offices that have a large amount of paper to recycle at one time should contact recyclinginfo-l@mtu.edu to arrange a special pickup. If you're not sure what can be recycled, see the guidelines at http://www.esc.mtu.edu/WhatCanIRecycleAtMTU/Default.htm .

This recycling collection is sponsored by the Michigan Tech Environmental Sustainability Committee and Circle K, in cooperation with Facilities Management's Building Operations and Grounds staff.

For more information, see http://www.esc.mtu.edu/ , contact your departmental recycling liaison or email recyclinginfo-l@mtu.edu . To receive information and announcements related to environmental sustainability issues and activities at Michigan Tech and on other campuses, subscribe to greenmtu-l@mtu.edu .

Call for Abstracts: GSC Research Symposium March 25-27

submitted by Graduate Student Council

Graduate Student Council is holding a research symposium March 25-27. All undergraduate and graduate students are invited to participate in a poster competition and a 15-minute presentation.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is March 3.

This is an opportunity for students to share their research with the University community and gain experience in presenting their ideas. Prizes of up to $250 will be awarded for the first place entries in each category.

Graduate Student Council invites faculty to join in the events of the symposium as well as encourage their students to submit an abstract.

The event schedule and location will be posted soon.

For updated information, please visit http://gsc.students.mtu.edu/symposium.html .

At this time we are also seeking Tech faculty to present at our Lunch and Learn lectures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at noon (March 25-28). The purpose of these lectures is to promote research on campus, as well as inspire students to consider research and advanced education in their future endeavors.

SBE Research Seminar Series Thursday

Associate Professor William Breffle (SBE) will present his research paper "The Optimal Design: A Guide for Choice Experiment Practitioners" Thursday, Jan. 31, Academic Offices 101.

This paper is a primer for environmental economists who are developing a statistical design for a choice experiment application. While it will provide ideas for seasoned practitioners, it is especially for researchers who are new to the process. Using this paper as a guide, practitioners can avoid pitfalls early in the design stages, or at least be aware of their presence.

The Michigan Tech research community is invited to attend to learn about current research efforts in the School of Business and Economics.

MSE Seminars Friday

Two graduate students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will hold seminars Friday, Feb. 1, in M & M 610. From 3:05 to 3:25 p.m., Xihui Yin will present "Colloidal Force Microscopy: Novel Technique for Mapping Charge-mosaic Surfaces in Electrolyte Solutions," and Nicholas Nanninga will present "Effect of Die Line Roughness on the Fatigue Life of Extruded AA6082" from 3:30 to 3:50 p.m.

Biological Sciences Seminar Friday

Graduate student Karl Walczak (MEEM) will present "Functionalizing and Immobolizing Purple Membrane on a Transducing Substrate" Friday, Feb. 1, 2 p.m. in Chem Sci 101 as part of the Biological Sciences Seminar Series.

Refreshments will be provided.

Physics Colloquium Thursday

Graduate students in the physics department will present a colloquium Thursday, Jan. 31, 4 p.m. in Fisher 139.

Parimal Kar, advised by Professor Ulrich H. E. Hansmann, will present “Enhanced Implicit Solvation Model for Bio-molecular Simulation,” and Chee Huei Lee, advised by Associate Professor Yoke Khin Yap, will present “Boron Nitride Nanotubes: Synthesis, Characterization and Functionalization.”

For more information, contact Yoke Khin Yap, ykyap@mtu.edu or 487-2900, or Ranjit Pati, patir@mtu.edu or 487-3193.

Cultural Competence, Hate Crime Training Sessions to be Held April 21, 22

Two professional development training sessions, "Building Cultural Competence" and "Hate Crime 101," will be held on campus by the Student Affairs Professional Development Committee in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, in partnership with the Department of Community Health, Crime Victim Services Commission, on Monday, April 21, and Tuesday, April 22.

Topics covered in "Building Cultural Competence" include cultural protocols, cross-cultural communication, definition and name evolution, the impact of significant historical civil rights events, cultural characteristics and dispelling myths and stereotypes that lead to bias and discrimination. This four-hour presentation concentrates on embracing cultural diversity in the workplace and will be offered at the following three different times in Memorial Union Ballroom A:

•Monday, April 21, 8 a.m.-noon
•Monday, April 21, 1-5 p.m.
•Tuesday, April 22, 8 a.m.-noon

"Hate Crime 101," a two-hour training session, is designed to assist crime victim service providers and law enforcement to better understand how to define and respond to bias incidents. Participants will specifically learn the definition of a hate crime and how to use available resources, including hate crime laws, to respond effectively within the community. It will be held Tuesday, April 22, 1-3 p.m. in Memorial Union Ballroom A.

If you would like to participate in one of these free training sessions, please visit the Student Affairs Professional Development website at http://www.sa.mtu.edu/vp/prof_dev/prof_dev.html for details and to register. The maximum number of participants at each session is 50, so register early to ensure your participation.

Funding for these sessions has been provided by Affirmative Programs and the Office of Institutional Diversity.

Free Fax Machine in Facilities

Facilities Management is giving away a Kyocera Mita KM-F650 fax machine that works great. The instruction manual plus one toner cartridge are included. If interested, email Sue Sergey at sjsergey@mtu.edu .

University property may only be transferred between departments. It may not be given or sold to individuals.

Job Postings

Staff job descriptions are available in the Human Resources Office or at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/hro/postings . For more information regarding staff positions, call 487-2280 or email jobs@mtu.edu .

Faculty job descriptions can be found at http://www.admin.mtu.edu/hro/facpers/facvac.htm . For more information regarding faculty positions, contact the academic department in which the position is posted.

Staff Job Postings


Office Assistant 4
Financial Aid
Regular, full-time position
UAW internal and external posting

Office Assistant 4
University Career Center
Regular, full-time position
UAW internal and external posting


Manager, Housing Facilities
Housing and Residential Life

ExSEL Coordinator
Educational Opportunity

Senior System Administrator
School of Business and Economics

Michigan Technological University is an equal opportunity educational institution/equal opportunity employer.

New Funding

Jason Carter (Exercise Science) has received $211,490 from the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, for a three-year project, "Fish Oil and Neurovascular Control in Humans."

New Staff

Renee Hiller has joined Human Resources as a benefits coordinator. She was previously employed by Benefit Planning Consultants as a benefits team leader. Hiller holds a bachelor's degree in human resources from Central Michigan University and a master's in HR development from the University of Illinois. She is married to Jake, has two children, Nate (4) and Ben (2), and lives in Houghton.