A new summer research program connects biomedical, biological sciences and electrical engineering students to Indigenous communities, environmental health and technological solutions.
Research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) are programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and are paid summer research opportunities for students. TECH SCEnE, a new REU at Michigan Technological University, builds an interdisciplinary foundation in STEM and community engagement for students focused in science, technology, engineering and math areas. Each research project was designed in partnership with staff from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Natural Resources Department.
Apply to TECH SCEnE
Applications are due May 1, 2021. Learn more about the program and how it combines hands-on undergraduate research in the lab with outdoor adventure and service learning, with free housing and a stipend, too. All applicants will hear back by May 15, 2021. The program aims to recruit students from across the US and increase visibility for MTU and its research capabilities.
“Our research is directly addressing KBIC priorities,” said Valoree Gagnon, director of University-Indigenous Community Partnerships at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center. “While KBIC guides our work throughout the REU program, we are also contributing to a broader need in research — how to build and strengthen equitable university-community partnerships."
Gagnon, a research assistant professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech, will serve as a TECHSCEnE project mentor along with Smitha Rao.
"It is not often that students get the opportunity to directly address the needs of a community,” said Rao, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech. “For students who want to see how their contributions can make an impact, how application of science and technology can provide solutions to problems, this is an amazing program.”
A typical day in the TECH SCEnE REU program involves research, play and building connection. Rao urges students to apply for the program, which has room for about 12 students this summer: “Whether you are a student in community college or tribal college or a university, TECH SCEnE is an NSF REU program structured to help you both learn and apply your knowledge."
REU student researchers stay in the dorms at Michigan Tech for eight weeks in a dedicated TECH SCEnE learning community; the program kicks off June 7, 2021, and runs through July 30, 2021. All work in the lab, in the community and in the field is guided by a Michigan Tech faculty mentor like Rao and Gagnon as well as a KBIC mentor. Participating students will focus on one of five STEM research projects:
- Heavy metals in wild rice: Seek to understand the uptake and accumulation of toxic metals from mine tailings in an important Indigenous food, manoomin.
- Electrospun fibers in personal protection equipment (PPE): Synthesize nanofiber membranes for use in PPE and develop cost-effective manufacturing strategies.
- Underwater sensor networks: Create a low-cost underwater acoustic sensor network for continuous water quality monitoring in the waters surrounding the Keweenaw Peninsula.
- Smart adhesives: Design a smart adhesive for underwater acoustics networks that could be repeatedly activated and deactivated by applied electricity.
- Daylight simulation: Automate and install new lighting, feeding and monitoring systems in the KBIC fish hatchery to help narrow the spawning season and support Indigenous fishing.
In addition, each week students will go on a variety of service-learning outdoor field trips guided by the KBIC. Alongside Rao and Gagnon, Michigan Tech faculty mentors include Rupali Datta, Department of Biological Sciences; Chris Middlebrook, Nagesh Hatti and Zhaohui Wang, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Bruce Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering. Mentors from the KBIC Natural Resources Department include Natural Resources Director Evelyn Ravindran, environmental specialist Dione Price, wildlife biologist Erin Johnston, and wildlife coordinator David Seppanen.
Grants and Collaborators
TECH SCEnE is a summer research experience for undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Partners include the Michigan Tech departments of biomedical engineering, biological sciences, and electrical and computer engineering, as well as the Great Lakes Research Center, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) and KBIC Department of Natural Resources.
NSF funds a large number of REUs through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of 10 or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, working closely with the faculty and other researchers.
TECH SCEnE is research with impact. Apply and help make a difference in food sovereignty, health tech innovation and environmental monitoring.
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.