Capital Collaborations: MTU Researchers Meet and Greet DC Colleagues

Researchers from two universities sit at a table and gather in groups around a room where food is set out, getting to know each other and envisioning collaborations.
Researchers from two universities sit at a table and gather in groups around a room where food is set out, getting to know each other and envisioning collaborations.
Whether it was their first research trip to Washington, D.C., or their eighth, researchers who participated in the annual Michigan Tech-supported event experienced a new component: connections with faculty at the University of the District of Columbia. (All images by Sarah Atkinson)

When two universities with similar missions, differing backgrounds, contrasting environments and diverse faculty come together, great collaborations can happen.

More than 20 faculty from Michigan Technological University visited with faculty at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) during a May 2023 research-focused trip to Washington, D.C. The networking event on UDC’s campus laid the groundwork for potential collaborations as part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Michigan Tech and UDC in February 2023. In addition to mutual research endeavors, the MOU’s scope includes student exchanges, graduate study articulations, visiting professorships, joint funding proposals and philanthropy, and cross-mentorships in which each institution shares its unique capabilities with the other.

Faculty from both universities broke bread, discussed research and began the process of forming meaningful connections. Some researchers identified immediate collaboration opportunities; others set the stage for collaborations to come or simply learned more about their newly partnered institution. 

A Research Road Trip

Supported by Michigan Tech in order to advance knowledge and understanding of governmental funding agencies, the annual trek to Washington, D.C., provides faculty with multiple networking and learning opportunities. The trip, which typically includes 30 or more faculty, also maintains and strengthens the University’s connections for successful future funding at a myriad of agencies ranging from the U.S. departments of agriculture, defense and energy to NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Visiting researchers hear from funding agency leaders, talk to program officers and tour national facilities.

Faculty Explore New Possibilities

The event at UDC offered faculty from both universities face-to-face time in an informal setting.

Tao Liu, an assistant professor in Michigan Tech’s College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science whose background focuses on geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, engaged in a productive dialogue with Ricardo A. Brown and Tolessa Deksissa. Brown is associate dean of UDC’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Science (CAUSES) and founding director of the School of Health and Clinical Sciences, while Deksissa is director of the Water Resources Institute. During their conversation, they identified research collaboration opportunities to use geospatial techniques to map the distribution of green infrastructure in Washington, D.C., and investigate its impact on air quality, water quality and human health. Explore the photo gallery for more takeaways from the meet-up:

Sarah Atkinson, an associate with the office of Michigan Tech Research Development, was among staff accompanying the Michigan Tech research group to Washington, D.C., and coordinated the UDC event. Stay tuned for more highlights of the D.C. trip in an upcoming Michigan Tech Unscripted.


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, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 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.