MTU to Double Testing Capacity with Gift from Portage Health Foundation

Thanks to a gift from the Portage Health Foundation (PHF), the COVID-19 Testing Laboratory at Michigan Tech will soon be able to process nearly twice as many tests in half the time and with less personnel. 

PHF’s gift includes a KingFisher Flex System RNA extractor, which will double testing capacity, and a Laboratory Information System (LIS) software package to streamline reporting of test results between the COVID-19 Testing Lab and the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center (UGL).

Caryn Heldt, a professor of chemical engineering, director of MTU’s Health Research Institute (HRI) and one of the COVID-19 lab’s technical leads, said the RNA extractor “has the capacity of processing 96 samples per run, which doubles the number of samples we currently do.”

With the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, the lab needs 12 people over the course of two shifts to process 200 tests a day. “Using the RNA extractor, we’ll be able to process 400 tests a day, with just four technicians over the same two shifts,” Heldt said. With the LIS software package, “the test results will automatically be logged to UGL rather than have to be manually entered.”

“PHF’s purchases for the lab were a pleasant surprise,” Heldt said, “and one we are all very grateful for having received.”

To date, the lab has run almost 14,000 tests. Of those, 63% were community samples and 37% were Tech samples.  

“I’ve rarely seen such a diverse group come together, solve an incredible range of problems, and work tirelessly to achieve a goal,” Dave Reed, Vice President of Research said. “We have to continue to tackle COVID-19 as a community. The Foundation’s purchase of the RNA extraction equipment and software helped to solve the current capacity problem our community was facing.” 

The $142,359 investment by PHF came from its COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund, which is a restricted fund specifically created to help the people in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties recover from the ongoing pandemic. 

PHF Executive Director Kevin Store said, “Most communities our size do not have the types of partnerships we have to be able to collaboratively respond in times of need. This collective effort ensures our community testing is expanded in a meaningful and appropriate way to keep our community and our economy safely opened.”

“COVID-19 created a need for Michigan Tech to harness our world class faculty and research capacity and an opportunity to collaborate with PHF, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, state and local healthcare systems, businesses and corporate partners to ensure the well-being of all Copper Country residents,” said Bill Roberts, Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Engagement.  

Other contributions to the COVID-19 lab and community testing efforts include:

  • 10,000 face shields and 50,000 face masks from Ford
  • $73,000 in powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) equipment for lab and hospital use, along with PAPR equipment training, from Dow
  • $4,300 in hand sanitizer (equal to 600 bottles) from Kimberly-Clark

UP Health System – Portage, Aspirus, MTEC SmartZone, UPPCO, and the Physiological Society have sponsored the UP COVID-19 Townhall Series hosted by Steve Elmer and Kelly Kamm, two of Michigan Tech’s Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology faculty and Health Research Institute members. For more information, visit the Health Research Institute website

“The equipment, funding, in-kind gifts, and collaboration from all of our partners has made an amazing difference for our community. Thank you to all,” said Roberts.

For more information about how to support Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 Testing Laboratory and community testing efforts, call 906-487-3325 or email

Voting Resources for Students

With Election Day here, staff from across the Division of Student Affairs is offering students a variety of election resources through Nov. 11.

Events and activities can be found on the Voter Information webpage, which also includes information on how and where to vote in Michigan, and guidelines for political engagement on campus.

If anyone is feeling the pressure and uncertainty of election season, be sure to check out the recommendations in this Unscripted blog post or reach out to a trusted friend or counselor. These are challenging and stressful times. Keep an eye on one another. #Community.

Nominations Still Open for 2020 Staff Making a Difference Awards

Staff Council invites the campus community to submit nominations for the 2020 Making a Difference Awards. Nominations are now open and regular full-time and part-time staff are eligible. All faculty and staff are invited to submit a nomination of a deserving colleague or write a letter in support of a nomination.

The categories are:

  • Above and Beyond
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Legacy Award
  • Outstanding Leader
  • Rookie Award
  • Serving Others
  • Unsung Hero

Award recipients will receive $500, after taxes. Past recipients are not eligible again until five years after their award year and are listed on the Staff Council webpage.

Please follow these steps:

  1. Review and choose the award criteria
  2. Create your nomination letter
  3. Collect your letters of support (no more than three, one-page letters)
  4. Complete the nomination form

Please note that you will need to be prepared to upload your nomination letter and each letter of support as individual files in the nomination form before exiting it. Otherwise, it will be lost as the system will not automatically save it.

Nominations will be accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13.

Boosting Optical Nonreciprocity

There will be a seminar presented by Miguel Levy (Physics/MSE) at 11 a.m. today (Nov. 3) via Zoom.

This seminar will explain the physical and crystallographic origins of recently observed novel magneto-optical effects with applications to optical telecommunications.

Virtual Forum “Solar Panel Sizing 101” with Jay Meldrum, Sunday

With all the buzz about renewable energy, you may wonder what constitutes a solar panel and how many are needed for each installation. Jay Meldrum (KRC) who advices the Alternative Energy Enterprise will present highlights this Forum, at 10:30 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 8) via Zoom.

Students from all disciplines study solar, geothermal, wind, fuel cell and other forms of alternative energy and energy efficiency. All are welcome at our Forum and invited to stay afterward for lively conversations with Meldrum and members of the Fellowship. Meldrum is the director of the Keweenaw Research Center and the executive director of sustainability.

Among Meldrums responsibilities is overseeing the Sustainability Demonstration House where students live and explore ways to live more sustainably. The house is powered by a nearby solar panel array and students look for practical ways to recycle, compost, conserve water, grow food indoors over the winter with an Aquaponics system, and monitor their energy consumption. For information on the Zoom link send an email.

Huskies Emphasize Leadership Among Student Athletes

As part of a continuing effort to empower student-athletes and develop strong leadership throughout the Michigan Tech community, the athletic department has set up a leadership committee made up of participants representing all 15 varsity sports this fall semester. The committee meets weekly via Zoom and is hosted by Tech football alumnus Jaylyn Williams-Boone. Boone is a motivational speaker, whose company tailors programs for personal development to various audiences.

Boone's primary goals this semester in working with Michigan Tech student-athletes are to help them grow through an understanding of three main goals. The program is nicknamed "Build with Boone".

  1. Eradicate insecurity
  2. Introduce student-athletes to their gifts
  3. Teach student-athletes how to leverage their positions so they can create lifelong future opportunities

"Student-athletes can get caught in a trap where they dedicate their lives to their sport for so long that when their athletic career ends, they have failed to identify who they are outside of that," Boone said. "I want to liberate them to discover for themselves that they all have unique gifts they can use to help themselves and others. What they start to realize is that these four or five years of college often represent the greatest networking opportunities they will ever have. Some of my greatest mentors are from my days at Michigan Tech and my ability to come back and serve in this capacity would never have occurred if I didn't build those relationships and take on leadership roles back in college. Leveraging those connections has helped me to become who I am."

Michigan Tech Director of Athletics, Suzanne Sanregret, together with a group of athletics administrative staff and coaches invited student-athletes to join this semester's leadership committee. Each was observed to possess unique leadership capabilities or characteristics either on the field, in the locker room or in the classroom. Boone leads the program through a series of Zoom meetings and provides them with the tools to cultivate their gifts. Though he enjoys working with people face-to-face, he also acknowledged some real advantages of meeting in a virtual space during the global health crisis.

"I like to read the energy of the people in the meeting. On the screen, I can see if someone is connecting with something I said and I like to call them out and invite them to share their perspective. Another advantage is that all someone needs to join the meeting is a laptop and an internet connection. Participation has been very positive." 

Boone derives much of his ability to connect with people through his life experience. He grew up in Flint, Michigan and credits his high school football coach for empowering him to reach the collegiate level in athletics and eventually Michigan Tech. At Michigan Tech, he developed relationships inside and outside of sports and was invited to give a speech in February at Michigan Tech as part of a black history month celebration. He continues to look for ways to help people realize their potential as well as inspire and motivate them to embrace a purposeful lifestyle.

Boone has seen growth among the student-athletes involved. 

"I have learned not to prejudge success and failure in the moment because both of those things come as part of the learning process," Boone remarked. "That said, we are seeing tremendous progress with student-athletes based on the feedback I've received from them personally and also their coaches. It's my job to continue to help them learn and grow."

Most Michigan Tech athletic events have been suspended at this time for health and safety reasons, but the hard work of individuals developing as leaders continues.

Job Posting

Job Posting for Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Staff and faculty job descriptions are available in Human Resources. For more information regarding staff positions, call 487-2280 or email For more information regarding faculty positions, contact the academic department in which the position is posted.

Food Service Helper (9 months/40 hours/2nd shift), Dining Services. AFSCME posting 11/3/2020 - 11/9/2020. External applicants will not be reviewed until after all internal  applicants. Apply online.

Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer that provides equal opportunity for all, including protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. Accommodations are available. If you require any auxiliary aids, services, or other accommodations to apply for employment or an interview at Michigan Technological University, please notify the Human Resources office at 906-487-2280 or

In Print

Chelsea Schelly (SS) along with Emily Prehoda (EEP PhD Grad) and colleagues from The Nature Conservancy (Jessica Price) and Defenders of Wildlife (Aimee Delach and Rupak Thapaliya), have published "Ratepayer Perspectives on Mid- to Large-Scale Solar Development on Long Island, NY: Lessons for Reducing Siting Conflict through Supported Development Types" in Energies. doi:10.3390/en13215628.


Adam Wellstead (SS) published "Trusting Datification Through Labification," In: Sullivan H., Dickinson H., Henderson H. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

This chapter examines the trust and big data literature, describing the current state of play internationally. It then questions whether the trend of policy innovation labs (PILs) can provide new pathways forward for government in the management of data, and retaining citizen trust. PILs play a critical role in governments’ attempts to address big data issues. They often provide an experimental environment where innovative tools and techniques can be employed. Critically, they use tools and techniques that foster trust and collaboration, which means they may go some way to address the much-debated trust deficit around big data.

In the News

Heather Knewtson (CoB), was interviewed for the October edition of Innovation Sage Magazine. Knewtson provided her expertise on the FinTech revolution.


Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE) was quoted in the story "Thanks for Sharing: Reusable Open Source Hardware Respirators" published in Machine Design.


Former Michigan Tech hockey player Matt Roy was featured in the article "Matt Roy Is a Very Important Piece of the Kings’ Defensive Core," in The Hockey Writers.


An autonomous marine project at Michigan Tech was mentioned in the article "Q&A with Trevor Pawl: Mobility's new chief gets to work," In Crain's Detroit Business.

Today's Campus Events

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Walking Gallery Tour: Hero City: Documentary Photography by Meghan Kirkwood

Hero City: Documentary Photography by Meghan Kirkwood features a collection of silver gelatin and inkjet photographs made as part of a documentary project about modern...


Husky Hour- Surviving Life Off-Campus

Get tips for cooking, laundry, housing, time management, snow removal...the list goes on! Join us for Husky Hour presents "Surving Life Off-Campus" to ease your mind about...


Virtual drop-ins at the Library

Drop-in in at any point during the hour with your questions or to walk through a short overview of this week's topic. Sign up not required. For more info and a list of topics,...


Study abroad in Peru

Travel to Lima, Peru with Michigan Tech faculty and students and earn HU credits. Attend this virtual info session to learn more about the summer study abroad program. Zoom link


Adult Huskies Swim Clinic Session 2

Adult Huskies Swim Clinic provides additional attention and competitive guidance to swimmers ages 18 and up who are looking to improve their swimming skills and fitness levels...


Watch the Video Recording of KSO's "Trolls and Cowboys" Halloween Concert

Original air date: Sat, Oct 31, 2020 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM The Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra presents "Trolls and Cowboys" in a special streamed concert on Halloween (October 31)...