For more than a quarter of a century, Dana Richter has been doing his dream job in Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. In honor of his body of work, the SFRES has bestowed upon Richter the Researcher of the Year Award.
In the 26 years Dana Richter has been a part of Michigan Technological University’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (SFRES), he has served in many capacities, from classroom teacher to researcher and advisor. And while his roles may have varied, one thing hasn’t changed—the passion he brings to everything he does.
That dedication, commitment and passion have not gone unnoticed by students and peers. The SFRES has awarded Richter, a research scientist and adjunct associate professor, the Researcher of the Year Award for 2016.
Terry Sharik, dean of SFRES, says despite what the name of the award may indicate, the honor is not bestowed annually.
“Actually, we haven’t given out the award in anyone’s recent memory,” Sharik says. “We use it to highlight the researchers who are our unsung heroes.”
Sharik said awarding the Researcher of the Year to Richter is a reflection of his outstanding career.
“It’s his body of work that we’re honoring. It’s a body of work that is impressive and worthy of recognition.” Sharik said the award was voted by the faculty, staff and students of SFRES.
Much of Richter’s research is for industry, such as testing for decay in wood products and testing new wood preservatives. A great deal of his research involves fungus and mold testing. “I do things in this lab, using sterile technique, that you’d do in a hospital,” Richter says.
"I can't say how fulfilled I am to be working in the field of forestry, with trees and with wood."Dana Richter
Sharik said of Richter, “He is our expert in forest pathology.”
Richter says he’s humbled by the School’s recognition. “I’m truly honored. I couldn’t have done it without the support of so many wonderful colleagues over the years To work in this department has been a joy.”
But working in his chosen field seems to be his greatest honor. “I can’t say how fulfilled I am to be working in the field of forestry, with trees and with wood.”
Richter supervises the forest microbiology laboratory. “It’s not a high-tech lab,” he says, noting that he utilizes many time-tested traditional methods and practices. He is the principal investigator on projects involving wood decay, wood preservation, tree diseases and related fungus issues.
Over the years, Richter has authored many research articles, especially with students who have studied and worked in his lab, including students from departments across campus.
“I take pride in working with students and especially showing them how to conduct fungus research and to write and publish research papers,” Richter says. His latest article, which has been submitted to an international journal, is on the survival of fungus cultures stored for 30 years. It was co-authored by Thomas G. Dixon, Richter’s work study student for the past four years and Jill K. Smith, a Forestry grad who did a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in Richter’s lab in 2011.
In addition to his University-related work, Richter conducts many workshops, field trips and presentations on mushrooms and the role of fungi in the ecosystem. The SFRES Award also cited his community service, including serving as president of the Copper Country Audubon, board member of the Friends of the Michigan Tech Library and years volunteering to help organize Michigan Tech’s annual used book sale.
The Researcher of the Year Award was presented April 22 at the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science Research Forum by Dean Sharik.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.