Award-Winning MTU Research Duo Creates New Method for Measuring Chemistry Reactions at Complex Interfaces

A researcher demonstrates her surface measurement technique in a Michigan Tech lab.

Assistant Professor Kathryn Perrine (Chem) and her mentee, former research assistant Chathura de Alwis ’20 ’22, have received the 2023 Michigan Technological University Bhakta Rath Award for their work leading to a new technique for measuring complex reactive processes at the interface of liquids, solids and gases.

The accomplishments of Perrine and de Alwis resulted in new insights into the chemical mechanisms of oxidation-reduction — or redox — reactions on iron and other earth-abundant metals and materials. The findings are important to current and future industries and energy applications.

Hear from the award-winning researchers in a Q&A — and find out what nominators said in their letters of support — at Michigan Tech News.

Transitions in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Wayne Gersie, who has helped accelerate Michigan Tech’s institutional diversity, equity, inclusion, and sense of belonging (DEIS) efforts over the last three years, has been named vice president for equity and inclusion at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Gersie will continue in his role as Michigan Tech’s vice president for diversity and inclusion through Aug. 25, after which Michael Blanco, senior director of diversity and inclusion operations, will manage the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Additionally, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) will report to Student Affairs beginning in August and the DEIS Alumni Advisory Board will report to the president.

“It’s been an honor to work alongside Wayne in his role as inaugural vice president for diversity and inclusion at Michigan Tech,” said Rick Koubek, president. “He has done a tremendous job advancing the University’s diversity efforts and we are grateful for his leadership.”

“Accepting this position brings me closer to my family on the East Coast,” said Gersie. “My decision was bittersweet, filled with a deep feeling of thankfulness for the University’s support since my arrival. Being part of this Husky family these past three years is one of the greatest privileges of my career.”

Building Enduring Success

Under Gersie’s leadership, Michigan Tech has launched six unit-level diversity and inclusion strategic plans and initiated relationships with historically Black colleges and universities as well as other minority-serving institutions, executing a memorandum of understanding with the University of the District of Columbia. Gersie also helped to establish the DEIS Alumni Advisory Board and was principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on external research awards totaling $10 million, including $1.3 million from the U.S Department of Education to fund the prestigious Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program at Tech.

“Over the course of my time at Michigan Tech, I have had the privilege of working with an exceptional team of individuals who are deeply committed to student success, equity and belonging,” said Gersie. “Together, we have achieved significant milestones, implemented impactful initiatives and strived to make a lasting difference in the lives of our students, faculty and staff. It has been truly inspiring to witness the positive changes that have taken place, and I have full confidence that the momentum will continue under the leadership of my capable colleagues.”

Blanco joined Michigan Tech in 2021 after working for 28 years in Penn State’s Multicultural Resource Center and the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity. During this time, his efforts were focused on student counseling, grants administration and diversity strategic planning. His work in the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion centers on helping Michigan Tech become a more welcoming university for all.

“I have complete confidence that Mike will continue the forward trajectory of Michigan Tech’s diversity and inclusion efforts during this transition,” said Koubek.

Casey Huckins Named BioSci Interim Chair

Casey Huckins has agreed to serve as interim chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. He officially started July 1, taking over from former chair and faculty member Chandrashekhar Joshi.

Huckins is a professor of biological sciences and previously served the department as associate chair and graduate director. As an ecologist in the Great Lakes Research Center, he is actively engaged in education, research and program development in biology with specific expertise in ecology and evolutionary biology, conservation and restoration.

"The department is in an enviable position on the Michigan Tech campus, excelling on all fronts: teaching, research and service. In the last 10 years, our faculty brought in over $28 million for doing research, winning seven teaching and research awards (one was a statewide recognition), three highly prestigious NSF CAREER Awards and several other accolades typical of a successful academic unit. I know Casey will do a great job and help accelerate this upward trajectory as we search for the department's next
chair,” said Joshi.

“I have served the University for 25 years and am fortunate to have the opportunity to further serve as interim chair of Biological Sciences,” said Huckins. “Our department is a diverse and productive unit with a strong record of excellence in the three pillars of teaching, research and University service. We have an excellent team and we will continue to strive for excellence in all three.”

Joshi came to Michigan Tech in 1996 from Texas Tech to pursue tree biotechnology research in the then School of Forestry and Wood Products. After a successful career in cell wall biotechnology for bioenergy production research and teaching, he moved to the biology department in 2012 to serve as chair. After retirement, he will continue his research at Michigan Tech as a research professor and professor emeritus.

Scheduled Network Upgrade on Friday

On Friday (July 7), starting at 6 p.m., Michigan Tech IT will be upgrading the network switches across all campus buildings except for EERC, DOW, DHH, GLRC and Portage Lake Golf Course.

Each building will be offline for approximately 30 minutes while switches reboot. Network, phones and WiFi will be offline during the reboot process.

If you have any questions or concerns, we can help. Contact us at or call 7-1111.

GLRC Invited Campus Talk with Andrew Whetten

Please join the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) next Thursday (July 13) from 3-4 p.m. in GLRC 202 for an invited campus talk by Andrew Whetten titled "Data Science Practice and Theory in the Environmental and Biological Sciences."

From the abstract:
Data collected in the environmental and biological sciences regularly challenges existing quantitative methods and practices. Towards supporting pressing conservation and sustainability efforts, the study of complex biological processes requires timely, pragmatic, and accessible methodology. I will discuss ongoing and planned efforts of my research program to provide such methodology, guidelines, and support for federal and academic researchers. I will also present a broad summary of my research in conservation of threatened and endangered bird species (e.g., lesser prairie-chicken), animal interaction, and management of disease in animal populations (e.g., chronic wasting disease). I will also summarize my work promoting the use of unsupervised machine learning and feature engineering to enhance the analysis of animal movement and satellite derived vegetation data.

Job Postings

Job Postings for Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Staff and faculty job descriptions are available on the Human Resources website. For more information regarding staff positions, call 906-487-2280 or email For more information regarding faculty positions, contact the academic department in which the position is posted.

Assistant Research Engineer, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. Apply online.

Business Systems Analyst, Information Technology. 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 for an interview, at Michigan Technological University, please notify the Human Resources office at 906-487-2280 or

In the News

Tim Scarlett (SS) was a guest on the Customers First! Coalition’s Electric Wire podcast. The episode discusses mine storage, a form of pumped hydro energy storage being explored in a partnership between Dairyland Power Cooperative, MTU and Sweden-based Mine Storage. Last year, Scarlett co-authored a Keweenaw Energy Transition Lab report about pumped hydro that identified roughly a thousand potential sites for facilities across the U.S. The report was covered by an August 2022 Michigan Tech News story and featured in 2023's Michigan Tech Magazine.


Dave Reed (VPR) was quoted by Radio Results Network in a story about Michigan’s state budget for fiscal year 2024. The state has set aside $5 million for a critical mineral recycling research hub and will partner with Michigan Tech on the project. $870,000 was also allocated to the University to support the relocation of the former Finlandia University nursing program, as covered by Governing and the Iron Mountain Daily News.


Michigan Tech was mentioned by ExecutiveGov and autoevolution in stories about NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge — a competition to design new technologies for bringing electrical power to the moon. MTU’s team was announced by NASA last week as one of four finalists advancing to the final stage of the competition: Phase 2, Level 3.


Yahoo! News mentioned Michigan Tech in a story picked up from the Traverse City Record-Eagle about $15 million in state funding being put toward the Freshwater Research and Innovation Center, a facility planned for the Discovery Center & Pier property on West Grand Traverse Bay. Michigan Tech is a partner on the project. The funding was also covered by UpNorthLive and the Ticker.


Michigan State University’s Spartan Newsroom mentioned Michigan Tech in a story about Muskegon, Michigan, approving a road project to be done using concrete mixed with recycled rubber material. Michigan Tech was named as the provider of the crumb rubber.


Michigan Tech cross country/track and field student-athlete Clayton Sayen’s selection as a Third Team Academic All-American was covered by the Daily Mining Gazette and BVM Sports.


RSVP Open Enrollment

The Retirement Supplemental Voluntary Program (RSVP) is a voluntary retirement program offered to eligible Michigan Tech employees. The enrollment period during which an employee may sign their RSVP election began July 1 and ends Oct. 31.

Employees electing the monetary retirement option must retire on or before June 30, 2024. The monetary retirement option provides a benefit equal to 20% of the eligible employee’s annual salary (nine-month salary for faculty), up to the cap amount of $55,000 at the time of their actual retirement date.

For further clarification, please see the RSVP policy and the RSVP matrix, which explains the gradual phase-out of all RSVP options.

Prior to electing RSVP, employees must meet with Joanne Chalgren, manager of benefits, for a confidential meeting to verify eligibility. RSVP program information may be found online.

RSVP questions may be directed to Benefit Services at 906-487-2517 or