Research Magazine Cover 2002


While primarily known as an engineering school, Michigan Tech's teaching and research expertise actually encompasses a wide range of subject matter. It is engineering, to be sure, as demonstrated by the accomplishments of John Gershenson in mechanical engineering and Richard Honrath in environmental engineering—both featured in these pages.

But if you look at the impressive list of faculty members with the prestigious National Science Foundation Career award, you will find physicists and computer scientists alongside the engineers.

One of the largest research programs on campus is in our School of Forestry and Wood Products, which boasts international leaders in plant genetics and other areas of study.

Michigan Tech has a strong tradition in working with corporate and industrial partners to solve real-world problems. Faculty involve students—both graduate students and undergraduates—in much of their work. We hope you will enjoy reading about some of their efforts.

Dr. David R. Reed

 Vice President for Research

Richard Honrath

Richard Honrath (center) in his lab with students.

Azores Volcano Tracks Pollution Path

by Marcia Goodrich

If you want to measure air pollution drifting across the North Atlantic, there's just one place on earth to do it.

Thus, it was on top of a volcano, Pico Mountain in the Azores, that Richard Honrath (associate professor of civil and environmental engineering) and his research team lowered a laboratory the size of an ice- fishing shanty, with considerable assistance from a Portuguese Air Force helicopter crew.

Honrath and his research team assembled the lab and its instrumentation at Michigan Tech before trucking it 350 miles to Milwaukee. The U.S. Air National Guard then flew the half-ton structure plus six tons of additional cargo to the Azores in a C130 transport plane, landing at Lajes Air Force Base on the island of Terceira.

FACE Test Plots Ozone

The circular areas in the photo are the FACE experiment test plots. Researchers pump in elevated levels of ozone and carbon dioxide to determine the effects on trees.

Greenhouse Gas Research Funding Continues

Michigan Tech researchers have received nearly $3 million in federal funds to continue their study of the effects of two greenhouse gases on northern forests.

The three-year, $3-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research supports research led by David Karnosky and Kurt Pregitzer, of Michigan Tech's School of Forestry and Wood Products. In cooperation with colleagues from several agencies and universities, they are exposing large, open-air plots of forestland in northern Wisconsin to elevated levels of ozone and carbon dioxide. Major funding for the project has also been provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

Worldwide, the amount of carbon dioxide has been rising throughout the atmosphere for many decades, while ozone is a more regional pollutant. While the individual effects of these gases on trees have been well-studied (for example, carbon dioxide enhances growth while ozone suppresses it), how forests respond to a mix of the two gases has been unknown.

Since the study began in 1998, researchers have discovered significant differences . . . 

Kurt Pregitzer

Kurt Pregitzer

University, Forest Service Now Share Roots

by Dean Woodbeck

It was time for the U.S. Forest Service and Michigan Tech’s forestry school to come in out of the woods.

The two entities, with buildings located side-by- each, as they say in the U.P., had taken divergent paths in the last 30 years. In a classic case of gaining a value greater than the sum of the parts, the units are drawing closer together with research relevant to such diverse questions as global warming and exurban sprawl.

The School of Forestry and Wood Products and the U.S. Forest Service North Central Research Station have signed an agreement to formalize their relationship. Kurt Pregitzer, forestry professor at Michigan Tech, now directs the lab in Houghton and continues as a Tech faculty member.

John Gershenson

John Gershenson (standing by computer) and students in a user-friendly lab.

"Doing the Right Thing" Focus of Coatings Research

by Dean Woodbeck

It is all about doing the right thing. At least, that is what John Gershenson and his fellow researchers believe as they help engineers deal with the environmental impact of coatings.

"Design engineers care about function and cost," Gershenson says. "All things being equal at the end of the day, they would also like to do the right thing and minimize the environmental impact. But they don't really want to learn about that, because they have enough things going on in their heads."

Enter Gershenson and his colleagues, who plan to create a painless method for engineers to use to choose coatings—like paint. "If they tell us the performance they need from a coating, we will tell them which choice has the lowest environmental impact," he said.

Michele Miller

Michele Miller (mechanical engineering)

Jumpstarting a Career

by Laura Walikainen

The National Science Foundation's prestigious Faculty Early CAREER Development Program supports and encourages new faculty members by providing funding for their research interests.

Michigan Tech has seven faculty members currently receiving funding from this program. Four other faculty members have received this award in the past. The CAREER program focuses on educators who are most likely to be future leaders in their field. The award selection is based on a new faculty member's career- development plans and how these plans combine research and education in their university setting. CAREER Award winners are given a strong base from which they can begin a successful, lifelong career.