Pasi Lautala Named CoE Associate Dean for Research

Pasi Lautala has been named College of Engineering (CoE) associate dean for research. He is a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering (CEGE); director and founder of Michigan Tech's Rail Transportation Program (RTP); and director of the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute.

In his new position as associate dean, Lautala will support faculty and staff engagement with agencies that fund research projects — ranging from one-year, single-investigator projects to complex multidisciplinary projects involving several institutions, spanning years.

"Dr. Lautala will work to further expand the University's mission of discovering new knowledge through research, and launching new technologies through innovation," said Audra Morse, interim dean of the College of Engineering. "He has a strong track record of working with faculty members to form highly competitive research teams. He's going to continue doing that work, and also expand his efforts to help others lead large, collaborative research proposals."

Under Lautala's direction, Michigan Tech developed one of the largest multidisciplinary rail transportation research and education portfolios in the nation. RTP projects include improving grade crossing safety through improved inspection techniques and data analytics that utilize drones, communications research between automated and connected highway/railway vehicles, and better understanding of driver behavior at crossings. 

Michigan Tech researchers are involved in additional rail projects, including development of a life cycle analysis framework for rail infrastructure, rail transportation resiliency and lowered environmental footprint through locomotive emissions analysis, and predicting track vulnerabilities for short- and long-term natural disruptions.

Lautala serves as chair of the Rail Group on the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a unit of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS).

"It has been a great experience to work with the Rail Transportation Program, the Michigan Tech Transportation Institute, and colleagues in the CEGE over the last 15 years," he said.

"I'm really looking forward to this new adventure. For me, the most exciting part of research has always been identifying opportunities that allow our greatest minds to cross-pollinate and use their expertise to address the variety of issues facing us on a daily basis. It's going to be a steep curve to learn all the facets of research that take place within and beyond the College of Engineering, but I'm excited about the opportunity. I will do my best to help continue the expansion of our research in new directions."

Lautala joined the Michigan Tech faculty in 2007, and soon after established the RTP to advance rail education and research across disciplines. He first came to Tech from Finland in 1996 to earn an M.S. in Civil Engineering. After his graduation, he worked for five years as a railroad and highway engineering consultant in Chicago before returning to Michigan Tech for a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering – Transportation.

Materials Science and Engineering Professor Emeritus Larry Sutter was the previous associate dean for research. He retired in July 2022.

Graduate Research Assistant Position in Marine Autonomy

The Pattern Recognition and Intelligent Machines Engineering (PRIME) Lab, directed by Tim Havens (CC/ICC/GLRC) is seeking applications for a three-year graduate research assistant (GRA) position in marine autonomy.

The project addresses a concern of the broad artificial intelligence and autonomy communities: As autonomy is pushed into complex and unstructured environments, the vulnerabilities of sensing, processing and decision-making must be better understood and addressed.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens.

Read more on the Computing News Blog.

Subsidy Credit Adjustment

Some benefits-eligible Michigan Tech employees may notice a slight increase in their subsidy credit in biweekly 14 and biweekly 15. This is a result of life insurance rate changes that occurred for the year 2023.

PhD Defense: Niusen Chen, CS

Ph.D. candidate Niusen Chen will present a final oral examination (defense) on Tuesday (July 18) at 2 p.m. in Rekhi 101 and virtually. Virtual attendees are invited to join via Zoom.

The title of Chen’s defense is "Ensuring Data Confidentiality via Plausibly Deniable Encryption and Secure Deletion."

Chen is advised by Associate Professor Bo Chen.

Read the paper abstract on the Computing News Blog.

ChE Research Seminar Speaker: Saad Sharief

Saad Sharief will present as part of the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE) Research Seminar Series on Wednesday (July 19) at 10 a.m. in person in Chem Sci 404 and virtually via Zoom.

Sharief will present "Glycan-coated magnetic nanoparticles for food safety and security."

Read the abstract on the University Events Calendar.

Sharief is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University.

New Funding

Lori Weir (FM) is the principal investigator on a project that has received a $41,422.50 other sponsored activities grant from the Michigan State Police.

The project is titled "Updated Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan."

This is a potential three-year project.

In the News

Sigrid Resh (CFRES/ESC) was interviewed by the Daily Mining Gazette and WILX News 10 of Lansing in stories about the Glossy Buckthorn Control Project, a research project investigating different methods of controlling the invasive plant at Swedetown Trails. The project is testing hungry goats as a way of dealing with the plants. The public is invited to meet the goats and learn more on Saturday (July 15), according to the DMG.


Kathryn Perrine (Chem) and Chathura de Alwis '20 '22 (M.S. Physical Chemistry, Ph.D. Surface Science and Physical Chemistry) were mentioned by UPWord in a story about their receipt of Michigan Tech's 2023 Bhakta Rath Award. The award is given to a graduating Michigan Tech Ph.D. student and faculty advisor in recognition of work benefiting American industry and society. The story was picked up from Michigan Tech News.


A book recommendation by Mari Buche (COB) was published by AACSB Insights as part of an article titled "7 Books to Help You See the World Differently." Buche recommended "Contagious Culture: Show Up, Set the Tone, and Intentionally Create an Organization That Thrives" by Anese Cavanaugh.


Professor Emeritus Stephen Roblee (Math) was quoted by ABC 10 in a story previewing his presentation, "The Bon Voyage Packet Steamer," hosted by the Keweenaw County Historical Society yesterday (July 12). The steamer is remembered for a fire that broke out onboard in 1901. Roblee's presentation investigated the vastly different survivor and media accounts of the incident.


The University of North Carolina Wilmington mentioned Michigan Tech in a story about Gabriel Edzordzi Agbozo '21 (Ph.D. Rhetoric, Theory and Culture) receiving the National Council of Teachers of English's 2023 Early Career Educator of Color Award. Agbozo is an assistant professor in the Department of English at UNCW.


Plastics Decorating mentioned Michigan Tech in a profile of Kevin Pageau '81 (B.S. Mechanical Engineering), the recipient of the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.


MS Defense: Alyssa Abbas, BioSci

M.S. in Biological Sciences candidate Alyssa Abbas will present a final master's defense today (July 13) from 12-1 p.m. Attendees are invited to join via Zoom.

Abbas' defense is titled "Dissecting the Role of Selenoprotein P and Thioredoxin Reductase in Pancreatic Cancer Metabolism."

From the abstract:
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the fourth leading cause of US cancer-related deaths, has a stark 5-year survival rate of 9%, emphasizing an urgent need for effective therapies. A well-established characteristic of cancer, metabolic dysregulation, presents an opportunity for developing therapies that target specific metabolic susceptibilities inherent in cancer cells. Our recent studies have discovered a susceptibility in PDAC; deprivation of cystine or blocking its uptake by erastin (a cystine transport inhibitor) triggers significant lipid peroxidation, thereby inducing ferroptosis specifically in the mesenchymal subtype of PDAC, but not in the epithelial subtype. This study aims to elucidate the roles of Selenoprotein P (Sepp1) and Thioredoxin Reductase (TrxR) in epithelial PDAC. Using RNAi and CRISPR-CAS9 methodologies, we found that the activity of TrxR2 is responsible for drug resistance in epithelial PDAC, while Sepp1 and TrxR1 are unnecessary. These findings could significantly contribute to novel therapeutic developments.

Today's Campus Events

To have your event automatically appear, please submit them to the University Events Calendar.

Biological Science Seminar/MS Defense - Alyssa Abbas

Alyssa Abbas Accelerated MS Student Biological Sciences Michigan Technological University Dissecting the Role of Selenoprotein P and Thioredoxin Reductase in Pancreatic...


Master's Defense: Alyssa Abbas

Biological Sciences Advisor: Xiaohu Tang Dissecting the Role of Selenoprotein P and Thioredoxin Reductase in Pancreatic Cancer Metabolism Attend Virtually:...


Hockey Camp Group 1

Gain fundamental skills and broad knowledge of the sport for all age levels. Co-ed camps and clinics focus on team play, positional play, defensive play, strengthening...


Hockey Camp Groups 2 and 3

Gain fundamental skills and broad knowledge of the sport for all age levels. Co-ed camps and clinics focus on team play, positional play, defensive play, strengthening...


Michigan Tech Alumni Golf Outing

Michigan Tech alumni and friends are invited to a golf outing on the scenic Wolverine Course at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa on Thursday, July 13, 2023. Golfers will compete...