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  • richardmitnick 11:24 am on June 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cindy Fiser, Michigan Tech,   

    From Michigan Tech: Women in Science – “”Michigan Tech Undergrad Wins EPA Research Fellowship” Cindy Fiser 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    Bees are dying, and Cindy Fiser wants to know why. Now the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is helping her look for answers.

    [NO IMAGE FOR CINDY FISER AVAILABLE]

    Fiser, a fourth-year applied ecology and environmental sciences major in Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, has been named a winner of the EPA’s Greater Research Opportunities Undergraduate Fellowship. The award provides financial support as well as a summer internship with the EPA at one of three locations.

    In Fiser’s case, Colorado will be her home for the next 12 weeks. There, she will get to lead her own research project, a study of bees, focusing on alternative treatments to pesticides and herbicides, such as native predators and grass buffers around areas of agriculture.

    “Pesticides and herbicides may harm the environment by potentially contaminating native pollinators or predators and their habitat on site, as well as the surrounding rivers and streams,” Fiser explains She is hoping alternative treatment approaches will help bring back the diminishing bee population.

    For the past three years Fiser has worked with Michigan Tech PhD student Colin Phifer as a research field assistant. She traveled with Phifer to Wisconsin and Brazil. Phifer also studies bees, more specifically how “land use change associated with bioenergy feedstocks impacts both birds and native bees.” This work prepared Fiser for her EPA research project.

    Graduate Student Mentor

    It was Phifer who suggested she apply for the EPA fellowship. “I’m very proud of her,” he says. “I brought the EPA fellowship to her attention and then mentored her in how to begin the application process. But Cindy did all the work: she worked very hard to draft, edit and revise a winning application.”

    “Cindy is bright and extremely focused,” Phifer continued. “She’s almost self-taught on insect identification, and she is well prepared for her own project. She has the skills to develop research questions and testable hypotheses, to design a project to test those ideas and to complete the research. I expect her to excel in her EPA position and beyond. I will soon be working for her.”

    Fiser spent a semester in Alberta Village near L’anse. The Integrated Field Practicum or “Fall Camp” brings students from various environmental disciplines together to work collecting data and writing a group final research paper. The experience allows students to learn from each other, providing an understanding of other fields of study.

    “Cindy is one of those rare undergraduates who possess a level of maturity, confidence and capacity for responsibility and leadership, that one sees only every few years in my position,” says David Flaspohler, professor of forest resources and environmental sciences and Fiser’s advisor. “She is a future leader in ecological and environmental science.”

    Environmental Problems, Research Solutions

    “I want to get out there and do something,” Fiser says. “This is the first time I get to go to the public with information on the environmental problems we face and find a potential solution. I am excited to head my own project, and hopefully the results will make a positive change.”

    Fiser hopes that other students interested in the environment to look into all the opportunities Michigan Tech has for them. “In the Forestry building we are like our own community,” she says. “Professors care about you and how you are doing. They make themselves available.”

    Fiser is especially grateful for the hands-on education she has received from Flaspohler and from Kathleen Halvorsen, professor of natural resource policy, and Christopher Webster, professor of forest resources and environmental science, as well as Phifer. She worked for the past two summers with Halvorsen, who is director of the Partnerships in International Research and Education (PIRE) program. She says this experience has provided her with a wealth of useful tools that she can now apply to her research project with the EPA.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on July 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michigan Tech,   

    From Michigan Tech: “Connecting People and Geology on Volcanoes” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    July 30, 2015
    Allison Mills

    1
    Eruptions are not the only danger on volcano slopes, landslides are a major geohazard as well. Credit: Jose Fredy Cruz

    In October 2011, heavy rainfall poured down the sides of El Salvador’s San Vicente Volcano, nearly four feet of water in 12 days. Coffee plantation employees, working high up on the volcano’s slope began noticing surface cracks forming on steep slopes and in coffee plantations. Cracks herald landslides—places where the wet, heavy upper layers, saturated with water, slide over the less-permeable rocky layers underneath. The workers radioed downslope, keeping close tabs on the rainfall gauge network.

    Luke Bowman was also there, helping direct radio calls and conducting fieldwork. Bowman, who recently defended his doctoral research in geology at Michigan Technological University, studies geohazards on San Vicente. The Journal of Applied Volcanology recently published some of his research, co-authored by Kari Henquinet, director of the Michigan Tech Peace Corps Master’s International Program and a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences. Their work combines traditional hazard assessments with social science techniques to develop a more in-depth understanding of the risks present at San Vicente Volcano in El Salvador.

    San Vicente

    Fire, brimstone and destruction dominate the portrayal of volcanoes around the world. But in reality, a number of people live on their slopes. For these communities, eruptions are only one of the risks—other geohazards like landslides (lahars) and flooding pose more frequent threats.

    The 2011 rainstorms in El Salvador are a case in point as well as a testament to the importance of expanding geohazards studies to include the people they affect.

    “In 2009, as heavy rains fell on San Vicente volcano, most people were waiting for civil protection to issue a warning—and that warning never came,” Bowman says, adding that a landslide crashed down the volcano that year, and many communities within the five municipalities that encompass the northern flank of the volcano were affected, with homes and properties destroyed, infrastructure damaged and lives lost.

    2

    “Now, after significant changes in monitoring and reporting hazards, local residents are the ones who gather the rainfall rate data, who measure the cracks and who report it around the community to each other,” Bowman says. “I think it gives people some say in the decisions being made.”

    Empowering communities is part of what Bowman hopes to do with his research, but he says it goes beyond just including local citizens in data gathering.

    “No matter how good the science is, or how well we can predict where a hazard could occur, there’s still a human component we shouldn’t ignore,” Bowman says, adding that local communities often have a stronger working knowledge of a place than outside researchers. He says researchers can be of greater help when they have a clearer understanding of the broader social and cultural context of geohazards.
    Social Geology

    Merging geoscience and social science research is called “social geology”—a term coined by Bill Rose, professor-emeritus in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech. The interdisciplinary work is a key part of the research conducted by both Rose and John Gierke, the chair of the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences.

    “Most people think of geologists as just going out and identifying rocks,” Gierke says, explaining that geoscience is much broader and that researchers try to understand how the earth works. “And there’s a growing interest in having a stronger connection between physical science work and the impacts on communities.”

    Gierke, who was Bowman’s PhD co-advisor with Rose, says bridging the social and physical worlds is a focus of the studies in Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program. Bowman, who served in the Peace Corps in Honduras before his graduate studies, is a model for other geoscience and Peace Corps students looking to broaden their physical science research.

    Ethnography

    Incorporating social science techniques—like ethnographic interviews and participatory observations of community meetings—is no easy feat for physical scientists, who have not been trained to think that way. Collaboration is important, and Henquinet worked with Bowman on his volcanology research to round out his social science data gathering methodology.

    “The ethnographic approach is immersion,” Henquinet says, explaining researchers have to learn in the field and adjust their work accordingly. “It’s an approach that’s exploratory, grounded in reality and the context that people live in, so you’re not isolating or manipulating an experiment in a lab.”

    For the San Vicente studies, Bowman analyzed quantitative physical data—everything from rainfall to slope stability calculations—along with qualitative social data from one-on-one interviews, community gatherings and key documents. As a result, he and Henquinet were able to delve deeper into the socio-economic limits that forced people to live in active landslide zones. That also enabled them to suggest more realistic evacuation plans and emergency protocols because the local communities were invested participants in the work, plus social vulnerability was accounted for in addition to geophysical vulnerability.

    “At the end of the day, there are a lot of political issues that have to be considered in understanding vulnerability and inequalities,” Henquinet says, explaining that the San Vicente research is a small step across a big gap in socio-economic conditions. “Countries like El Salvador are rich with people with ideas—if we want to give these ideas a chance in combating poverty, then give people who live there more voice to work in partnerships.”

    Although small in the world’s grand scheme of politics and volcanoes, San Vicente is an example of how people can make a difference. Henquinet and Bowman both say they hope their research has contributed to those changes and that more physical scientists are inspired to collaborate with social scientists too.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:20 am on June 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Michigan Tech   

    From Michigan Tech: “Clues to the Earth’s Ancient Core” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    June 4, 2015
    Allison Mills

    1
    Aleksey Smirnov drills into an outcrop in Australia’s Widgiemooltha dike swarm.

    Old rocks hold on to their secrets. Now, a geophysicist at Michigan Technological University has unlocked clues trapped in the magnetic signatures of mineral grains in those rocks.. These clues will help clear up the murky history of the Earth’s early core.

    The journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters published a paper on the subject earlier this year. Aleksey Smirnov, an associate professor of geophysics and adjunct associate professor of physics at Michigan Tech, led the study. The work is a part of a large research program led by Smirnov and supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), including his CAREER Award, a prestigious NSF grant. Through this work, he has traveled the world seeking rocks that provide insight into the ancient earth’s core.

    Earth’s Ancient Geodynamo

    The magnetic field comes from the earth’s core: The solid inner core, made of iron, spins and powers convective currents in the liquid outer core. Those currents create the magnetic field, and the system is called the geodynamo.

    “At any point, the field can be described by its direction and strength,” Smirnov says, adding that the modern magnetic field is weaker than that of a refrigerator magnet and that intensity has changed throughout geologic time. “What we call paleointensity in our paper refers to the field’s strength,” he explains.

    Smirnov and his co-author, David Evans of Yale University, examined the paleointensity measurements of rocks more than two billion years old. Rocks that old record a magnetic field from a rather mysterious geodynamo.

    That’s because the core didn’t always have a solid center — it used to be all liquid. And being liquid would make for a weak, chaotic magnetic field.

    “What happened at some point, because the earth is constantly cooling, the center formed a small, solid inner core,” Smirnov says. “But this event is uncertain in terms of timing.”

    A number of models analyze what this timing could have been, but they estimate any time between half a billion years ago and three billion years ago — which is like saying an adolescent will hit puberty sometime between ages 8 to 30. To better pinpoint the timing of the inner core’s formation, Smirnov scours the world for old Precambrian rocks.

    Magnetic Records in Rocks

    Smirnov focuses on rocks that are not just old, but magnetic, and he tests the samples in the Earth Magnetism Lab at Michigan Tech. Within the lab is a room, built above the concrete floor and boxed in with a special steel alloy — it’s a metal-free zone. Inside the room, Smirnov uses a magnetometer: a device that measures magnetic properties in rocks and, more specifically, their iron-rich minerals.

    2

    Magnetite is an iron oxide with magnetic properties, and when it crystallizes in a rock, it records the strength and orientation of the earth’s magnetic field. Some rocks record this better than others; an ideal rock cools fast and is well-preserved.

    “Because of the rarity of well-preserved extrusive Precambrian rocks,” Smirnov writes in his paper, “relatively quickly cooled shallow intrusions such as mafic dikes and sills represent an attractive alternative target for paleointensity studies.”

    The rocks Smirnov and his team sampled in Australia’s Widgiemooltha dike swarm are the best available, considering the cluster of intrusive rock formations has been eroded, buried and baked over the past two billion years. The dike swarm is important because the Widgiemooltha rocks, collected from 24 different field sites, contain key magnetite grains. After some time in the lab’s magnetometer, the minerals begin to reveal their long-held magnetic secrets.

    Basal Mantle Ocean and Beyond

    Given the rocks’ age and the chaotic nature of the early magnetic field, Smirnov predicted the paleointensity recorded in the magnetite grains would be weak. However, he and his team found the paleointensity readings were relatively strong.

    “This contradicts the models that show a young solid inner core — and right now, that’s a mystery,” Smirnov says. Although, he adds, there is a new theory that is consistent with this data.

    In the basal mantle ocean theory, the boundary between the solid mantle — the bulk of earth’s interior — and the early earth’s core could have been swaddled in a dense layer of partially melted rock. The difference in composition and density could have been enough to jumpstart a stronger magnetic field.

    Delving deeper into the core’s evolution has significance beyond the earth’s interior, too. The magnetic field helps protect life on earth from cosmic radiation. Understanding the ancient geodynamo could also expand our knowledge of earth’s earliest life. Smirnov plans to study that connection — and more exceptionally old rocks — in the next leg of his research.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:33 am on January 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michigan Tech,   

    From Michigan Tech: “Flashes from Faster-than-Light Spots May Help Illuminate Astronomical Secrets” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    January 12, 2015
    Jennifer Donovan

    If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light. Anyone can do it.

    At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Wash., today, Robert Nemiroff, a physics professor at Michigan Technological University, reported that this theoretical curiosity may turn out to be practically useful out in the cosmos. When a superluminal sweep occurs, it typically starts with a flash that may reveal previously unknown three-dimensional information about the scattering object.

    Flashes, dubbed “photonic booms” because they are directly analogous to sonic booms, may be detectable on the Moon, on passing asteroids, on fast moving shadows cast on reflecting dust clouds near variable stars, and on objects illuminated by the rapidly rotating beam of a pulsar, said Nemiroff, author of a study accepted for publication by the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, with a preliminary version available online. “And if detected, we could learn more about all of these objects,” said Nemiroff.

    “The concept, although not proven in practice, is quite intriguing,” said Rosanne Di Stefano, a leading researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    To reveal the size and surface features of asteroids passing near the Earth, a laser beam might be swept across the rock’s surface thousands of times a second, with each sweep forcing a harmless but telling photonic boom. The flashes could be recorded with high-speed cameras attached to large telescopes, potentially mapping out major features on the asteroid.

    Photonic booms could also be seen much farther out in the universe. An example occurs in Hubble’s Variable Nebula in the constellation of Monoceros. There, shadows cast by clouds moving between the bright star “R Mon” and reflecting dust move so fast that they might create photonics booms visible even for days or weeks.

    1
    Hubble’s Variable Nebula. Image: William Sparks (STScI), Sylvia Baggett (STScI) et al.,
    & the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA)

    The physics that creates the photonic boom is tied to the faster-than-light sweep speeds of the illuminating spots and cast shadows. Specifically, a flash is seen by an observer when the speed of the scattered spot toward the observer drops from above the speed of light to below the speed of light. The phenomenon is possible only because the spots contain no mass and so cannot only move faster than light, but decelerate past the speed of light without violating Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

    Details of the effect hinge on the interplay between the time it takes for a sweeping light beam to cross an object, and the time it takes for the light beam to traverse the depth of the object. Therefore, measuring photonic booms gives information about the depth of the scatterer. Were the Moon just a flat disk on the sky, for example, no photonics boom would occur.

    “Photonic booms happen around us quite frequently — but they are always too brief to notice,” says Nemiroff. “Out in the cosmos they last long enough to notice — but nobody has thought to look for them!”

    The light flash from a photonic boom is quite different from well-known Cherenkov radiation, light emitted when a charged object breaks the speed of light inside transparent matter, he notes.

    2
    Cherenkov radiation glowing in the core of the Advanced Test Reactor.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus
    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.
    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:02 pm on January 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Michigan Tech   

    From Michigan Tech: “Flashes from Faster-than-Light Spots May Help Illuminate Astronomical Secrets” 

    Michigan Tech bloc

    Michigan Technical University

    January 8, 2015
    Jennifer Donovan

    h
    Hubble’s Variable Nebula. Image: William Sparks (STScI), Sylvia Baggett (STScI) et al.,
    & the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA)

    If you sweep a laser pointer across the Moon fast enough, you can create spots that actually move faster than light. Anyone can do it.

    At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Wash., today, Robert Nemiroff, a physics professor at Michigan Technological University, reported that this theoretical curiosity may turn out to be practically useful out in the cosmos. When a superluminal sweep occurs, it typically starts with a flash that may reveal previously unknown three-dimensional information about the scattering object.

    Flashes, dubbed “photonic booms” because they are directly analogous to sonic booms, may be detectable on the Moon, on passing asteroids, on fast moving shadows cast on reflecting dust clouds near variable stars, and on objects illuminated by the rapidly rotating beam of a pulsar, said Nemiroff, author of a study accepted for publication by the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, with a preliminary version available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.7581. “And if detected, we could learn more about all of these objects,” said Nemiroff.

    “The concept, although not proven in practice, is quite intriguing,” said Rosanne Di Stefano, a leading researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    To reveal the size and surface features of asteroids passing near the Earth, a laser beam might be swept across the rock’s surface thousands of times a second, with each sweep forcing a harmless but telling photonic boom. The flashes could be recorded with high-speed cameras attached to large telescopes, potentially mapping out major features on the asteroid.

    Photonic booms could also be seen much farther out in the universe. An example occurs in Hubble’s Variable Nebula in the constellation of Monoceros. There, shadows cast by clouds moving between the bright star “R Mon” and reflecting dust move so fast that they might create photonics booms visible even for days or weeks.

    The physics that creates the photonic boom is tied to the faster-than-light sweep speeds of the illuminating spots and cast shadows. Specifically, a flash is seen by an observer when the speed of the scattered spot toward the observer drops from above the speed of light to below the speed of light. The phenomenon is possible only because the spots contain no mass and so cannot only move faster than light, but decelerate past the speed of light without violating [Albert] Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

    Details of the effect hinge on the interplay between the time it takes for a sweeping light beam to cross an object, and the time it takes for the light beam to traverse the depth of the object. Therefore, measuring photonic booms gives information about the depth of the scatterer. Were the Moon just a flat disk on the sky, for example, no photonics boom would occur.

    “Photonic booms happen around us quite frequently — but they are always too brief to notice,” says Nemiroff. “Out in the cosmos they last long enough to notice — but nobody has thought to look for them!”

    The light flash from a photonic boom is quite different from well-known Cherenkov radiation, light emitted when a charged object breaks the speed of light inside transparent matter, he notes.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Michigan Tech Campus

    Michigan Technological University (http://www.mtu.edu) is a leading public research university developing new technologies and preparing students to create the future for a prosperous and sustainable world. Michigan Tech offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering; forest resources; computing; technology; business; economics; natural, physical and environmental sciences; arts; humanities; and social sciences.

    The College of Sciences and Arts (CSA) fills one of the most important roles on the Michigan Tech campus. We play a part in the education of every student who comes through our doors. We take pride in offering essential foundational courses in the natural sciences and mathematics, as well as the social sciences and humanities—courses that underpin every major on campus. With twelve departments, 28 majors, 30-or-so specializations, and more than 50 minors, CSA has carefully developed programs to suit many interests and skill sets. From sound design and audio technology to actuarial science, applied cognitive science and human factors to rhetoric and technical communication, the college offers many unique programs.

     
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