Michigan's Tech campus along the waterfront.

Department Updates

Michigan's Tech campus along the waterfront.

Greetings from the Department of Biological Sciences!

Shekhar Joshi Portrait

We have had a tremendously productive year. Our faculty, staff and students are actively engaged in diverse research topics ranging from vaccinology, diabetes, cancer, bioenergy, CRISPR/CAS9-mediated genome editing and ecology of the Great Lakes. Every year, hundreds of students are engaged in “hands-on” research from their freshman year. We are always striving to provide the best opportunities for our students, and the next few years promise even further expansion.

However, we still have many big needs in the areas of laboratory improvements and student scholarships. Your support will help us to get to where we want to be. Please stop by the department office (Room 740) on the 7th floor of Dow Building whenever you are in the campus vicinity. We would be very pleased to meet with you and arrange a tour of the teaching and research laboratories during your visit. We always welcome our Alumni and friends!

With best wishes,
Chandrashekhar Joshi, Professor and Chair, Department of Biological Sciences
Contact Dr. Joshi at cpjoshi@mtu.edu or 906-487-2738


What are some of the questions we are trying to answer?

Our faculty search for solutions to a variety of biological problems—from medicine to freshwater ecosystem health.

  • Rupali Datta’s research involves the use of phytotechnologies to degrade or remove pollutants from contaminated soil and water.
  • John Durocher is researching how can lifestyle strategies (fitness, sleep, mindfulness) improve cardiovascular health?
  • Karyn Fay teaches and mentors all the future Medical Lab Scientists that will soon be working in our hospitals and clinics.
  • Paul Goetsch’s research aims to understand how multiple cell types originate from one cell and one genome.
  • Mike Gretz is interested in studying algal extracellular polymers and Biocomposites.
  • Erika Hersch-Green is a plant community evolutionary ecologist who studies plants and their interactions with other community members including plants, herbivores and pests, and pollinators.
  • Casey Huckins’ research has focused on the conservation of native species, limiting the effects of introduced species and restoring systems such as rivers and the populations they support that have been degraded by the actions of humans.
  • Shekhar Joshi works on genetically engineering bioenergy crops and trees to improve biofuel production from woody materials.
  • Charles Kerfoot researches on various aspects of the Great Lakes and surrounding area. Recently he worked with several agencies for remediation of stamp sands in Grand Traverse Bay.
  • Amy Marcarelli is fascinated by the small things that are sometimes ignored or discounted - small streams and the Great Lakes, small biogeochemical fluxes, and small organisms. She studies the connections among these small things that make ecological systems more diverse and stable.
  • Brigitte Morin teaches classes in clinical health sciences and human anatomy and physiology.
  • Jill Olin is studying species- and food web-level responses to environmental stressors using combined dietary biomarker, ecological and modeling approaches.
  • Gord Paterson investigates how environmental pollutants can provide insight regarding how energy and nutrients flow through food webs and the potential consequences to ecosystems such as the Great Lakes.
  • Guiliang Tang has been working on setting up the MTU Blueberry Research Station (MTUBRS). He has propagated tens of thousands of blueberry seedlings of 16 different varieties to be planted at the Research Station.
  • Mark Tang is researching how can we inhibit cancerous tumor movement and invasion from one organ to another?
  • Xiaoqing Tang is researching pancreatic beta-cell growth to provide valuable therapeutic strategies for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  • Steve Techtmann is exploring how we can use bacteria in the Great Lakes to help clean up environmental contamination.
  • Ebenezer Tumban designs, develops and tests candidate vaccines against the HPV virus, Zika Virus and Chikungunya virus.
  • Thomas Werner studies fruit fly genetics to answer questions such as: How do animals get their diverse color pattern? How can eating deadly mushrooms be survived?
  • Traci Yu wants to understand the brain mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of Deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s disease

Faculty Promotions and Tenture

Congratulations to the following Biological Sciences faculty members who were promoted in the 2007-2018 academic year!

John Durocher Portrait

Dr. John Durocher, Assistant Professor

was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. John has done extensive work in the fields of applied human physiology and exercise physiology. Much of his research has involved the study of how the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system regulates arterial blood pressure at rest and during a variety of stressors. John’s other passion relates to the specificity of exercise testing and prescription, especially with hockey players and runners.


Ebenezer Tumban Portrait

Dr. Ebenezer Tumban, Assistant Professor

was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Dr. Tumban is a molecular virologist and vaccinologist; in the past, he conducted research studies aimed at understanding the molecular determinants of arboviruses (such as dengue and Langat viruses) mode of transmission. He also researched and developed antigens that could be used to develop immunodiagnostic kits for diagnosing infectious agents. Most recently, Dr. Tumban’s research has been focused on the development of next-generation vaccines against human papillomaviruses (HPVs)—the causative agents of some human cancers (cervical and anogenital cancers).


Faculty and Staff Changes

This year we welcomed many new professionals into our department.

Trista Vick-Majors

Dr. Trista Vick-Majors - Assistant Professor

Dr. Trista Vick-Majors will join the Department of Biological Sciences as an assistant professor in fall, 2019. She grew up in Calhan, Colorado and completed her BA in Biology at Colorado College in 2003. Vick-Majors spent two years studying the microbial ecology of hot springs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and graduated with her MSc from Montana State University in 2010. Vick-Majors earned her PhD in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Montana State University in 2016. Her current projects focus on the connections between microbial communities and the cycling of dissolved organic matter in boreal aquatic environments, nitrogen cycling in the oligotrophic North Pacific, and on microbial communities in alpine lakes.


raquel heitor

Raquel Heitor - Administrative Aide

Raquel joined the Department of Biological Sciences in fall 2018 as the new office assistant. She graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a biology degree, with a focus on ecology. Before coming to Michigan Tech, she was an intern at the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut working with wide range of species from the rainforest.


Travis Wakeham

Travis Wakeham – Academic Advisor

In July of 2019, Travis Wakeham accepted a new role in our department as the Academic Advisor. Travis has been with the department as our lab supervisor since December of 2016 and is one of our MTU Alumni as well. When we started looking for a new Academic Advisor we did not have to go far to find someone who could step into the role. We are very excited to have Travis on board in his new role!


John J Romanowski Jr

John Romanowski Jr. – Lab Supervisor

John Romanowski joined Biological Sciences in October, 2019. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a Master of Science in Biology. He has extensive background working in labs and before coming to Michigan Tech, he was a lab supervisor at Boston University


Department News | Fall 2017 Biological Sciences Newsletter ...

Marc Madigan – Academic Advisor

In July of 2019, Marc Madigan accepted a new role as the Director of Financial Aid at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, MI. An alumnus of Michigan Tech Biological Sciences, Marc served as the department’s Academic Advisor for 2 ½ years. Even though he is leaving Michigan Tech, he insists that the Keweenaw will always be home, and that he will always remain a Husky at heart.


Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.