Michigan Tech, Sweden Work Together on Biofuels

by Jennifer Donovan, public relations director

The Swedes have a goal: to make Sweden petroleum-independent. They are well on their way already, and Michigan Tech’s expertise in biofuels will help them accomplish that goal—and help the University and the economy of Michigan in the process.

During August, a team of three from Michigan Tech visited Sweden as part of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s investment mission. David Reed, vice president for research, and David Shonnard, professor of chemical engineering, toured biofuel plants and a university in northern Sweden. President Glenn Mroz attended the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneurial Days, where Governor Granholm was the keynote speaker.

Mroz also attended a reception at the American Embassy in Stockholm, where he met Michael Wood, the US ambassador to Sweden. Wood, who grew up in Michigan, is devoting himself to connecting people who are working on biofuels in Sweden and the US.

During their visit, the Swedish biofuels firm Chemrec AB and Ohio-based NewPage Corporation signed an agreement to explore development of renewable biofuels from paper mill waste products at NewPage’s paper mill in Escanaba. Michigan Tech and Michigan State biofuels experts will act as advisors to the project.

Reed and Shonnard visited the Chemrec facility in Pitea, where the biofuels company is conducting a pilot effort to turn “black liquor”—a waste product from the paper-pulping process—into a biofuel they call “syngas.” While there, they also toured Umea University, where a lot of agricultural and forestry research is conducted, including plant biotechnology—a research focus at Michigan Tech—and robotic harvesting systems.

Then they went to Ornskoldsvik, where the Sebak corporation is processing spruce chips into cellulosic ethanol. Sebak partners with towns in the area and a local bus company that manufactures biodiesel buses that the towns use, Reed said. The Sebak plant can produce 37,500 gallons of ethanol per year, and a plant that can produce 15 million gallons is being developed.

“It was exciting to see how aggressively they are pursuing biofuels,” Shonnard said. “Sweden is ahead of us in pilot energy experiments,” said Reed. “But,” added Shonnard, “if the Escanaba plant works out, Michigan will be ahead of Sweden because we will be producing biofuels commercially.”

During his visit to Stockholm, Mroz met with faculty from Vaxjo University. Like Michigan Tech, the Swedish university offers a variety of engineering programs and is involved in many high-tech start-up companies. Also like Michigan Tech, Vaxjo just launched a service systems engineering program, a specialty that will play a key role in the bioenergy industry.

“The Governor’s message was that Michigan is a good place to do business, that Michigan wants to take the lead in developing bioenergy, and that Michigan’s universities have the necessary expertise,” Mroz said. “Here at Michigan Tech, we certainly have the resources to do that.”

Flags Lowered for Sept. 11

Flags will be flown at half staff in observance of Patriot Day, Tuesday, Sept. 11, in accordance with federal law and Executive Order 2006-10.

United Way Chili Challenge Tuesday at Michigan Tech

The Copper Country United Way will launch its $150,000 annual campaign Tuesday, Sept. 11, at its Fourth Annual Chili Challenge. The event will start at 5 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Residents will have a chance to sample both chili and soup from some of the Keweenaw's best eateries and learn all the good their donations do from the 15 local agencies who receive funding from the Copper Country United Way.

CCUW President Karin Van Dyke said area restaurants this year will be offering soup in addition to the traditional chili available for sampling. “We now have a great alternative for guests who might not be up to the Chili Challenge,” she said.

Van Dyke said Finlandia University President Phillip Johnson is chairing this year's campaign under the banner “Because We Care.” Van Dyke said that it's also important to remember that what's given here stays here to make this a better place for all of us.

A $2 donation is requested to help cover costs, but Van Dyke said the real purpose of the event is to have fun and give contributors real insight into the good their gifts bring to the Copper Country.

Organizations receiving United Way funding include the American Red Cross, Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Catholic Charities of the U.P., Child and Family Services of the U.P., Dial Help, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Keweenaw Family Resource Center, Phoenix House, Salvation Army, U.P. Library for the Blind and People with Disabilities, U.P. Emergency Medical Services, and Vocational Strategies.

New Staff

Martin Ferguson has joined the Department of Biological Sciences staff as a user support specialist. He was previously an office manager at Natural Health Solutions and a student worker in System Administration Services. Ferguson holds an associate degree in general studies from Finlandia University and will receive a bachelor's degree in computer network and system administration from Michigan Tech in May of 2008. He lives in Hubbell and is interested in photography.

Jingwei Yin has joined the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science staff as a research associate. She holds a master's degree in cell and molecular biology from Purdue University and lives in Houghton.

New Funding

Richard Honrath (CEE) has received $504,271 from the National Science Foundation for a three-year project, "Collaborative Research: A Synthesis of Existing and New Observations of Air-Snowpack Exchanges to Assess the Arctic Troposhperic Ozone Budget."

Ann Maclean (SFRES) has received $34,827 from the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Region 5 for "Ecological Unit Mapping for the Pacific Southwest Region."

Alex Mayer (GMES) received a five-year, $1,078,322 award from the National Science Foundation for "Collaborative Research: Modeling and Analyzing the Use, Efficiency, Value and Governance of Water as a Material in the Great Lakes Region Through an Integrated Approach."

Margaret Gale (SFRES) has received $125,400 from the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station for "Interactions of Fungi, Plant Nutrition and Growth."

Teaching at Tech: Everybody’s Doing It and You Won’t Get Caught

by William Kennedy, director, Center for Teaching, Learning and Faculty Development

Countless surveys, including one from Educational Testing Service, report that the percentage of American college students who admit to cheating in high school has risen from 20 percent in the 1940s to over 75 percent of current students. More distressing are reports that many students who admit to cheating in high school don’t see these behaviors as significant breaches of moral conduct. Many say occasional cheating is simply the means by which they will achieve admission to a good college where they can then get the grades necessary to get a good job. Student comments on surveys suggest they cheat, plagiarize and collaborate inappropriately because such practices have become the campus norm and because there’s little or no chance of getting caught.

We live in a culture where some cheating seems almost OK. When I ask students if they would cheat on their spouse, they almost always say no and look indignant. When I ask them if they might cheat on an insurance claim form, fail to declare income from a side job, or illegally copy music, computer programs or DVDs for a friend, most students say they just might.

If it’s true that cheating has become a campus norm and if students believe that there’s little chance of getting caught, then it seems clear that we need to do something to reverse this corrosive trend. First, we should openly and repeatedly attack the idea that because cheating is frequent, it is, in any sense, normal. One suggestion I favor is having all incoming students sign an honor code as a condition of admission. This symbolic act transmits an unambiguous message to all students that academic integrity is the prerequisite foundation of all work of the academy and gives fair warning to students that, in spite of declining cultural mores, the Michigan Tech academic community expects more. Course syllabi should explicitly describe when and how students can collaborate and when they need to do their own work. In our classes, we must model the behaviors we want our students to emulate.

Second, we should make it much more difficult for students to cheat and much more likely that instances of cheating will be identified and dealt with fairly, consistently and formatively. Instructors can make cheating more difficult by requiring students to submit drafts of written work, using plagiarism detection software, varying assignments from term to term and producing new exams. If the plagiarism software strongly suggests wholesale use of unattributed material when a student submits a draft, the instructor has the opportunity to clarify what is expected from the student in terms of original work. To be fair, some students are so habituated to doing their research by surfing the Net that issues like attribution and proper citation are the last things on their minds as they cobble together assignments in the wee morning hours. If a student doesn’t understand when and how to cite others' work or that paraphrasing doesn’t eliminate the need for attribution, it may be time to refer that student to the Writing Center for a refresher course.

Many students report that the temptation to cheat is great because some instructors make it so very easy for them to cheat with little or no fear of getting caught. For example, Michigan Tech students routinely report to me that some unsupervised online exams allow students to get a passing grade in a class by Googling their way to the right answer. Instructors who reuse exams term after term based on the naïve notion that they don’t allow students to have copies of the exam are fooling themselves, as well. Students tell me that a little teamwork goes a long way in virtually reproducing an entire exam by using notes or items committed to memory during the exam period. Other students spoke up and argued that getting a copy of such an exam out of the classroom is child’s play if the class has forty or more students. “We’re short one over here,” is all that it takes.

If students submit plagiarized work for a grade or if two or more students submit work that was assigned as individual work but was clearly completed collaboratively, then it’s time to involve the Judicial Affairs office. Last year, Pat Gotschalk processed nearly 200 cases of breaches of academic integrity. Because a student who cheats in one course might likely be cheating in others, it’s important to have a centralized place where these behaviors are discouraged.

Trust is essential to honest and open inquiry in and out of the classroom. I tell my students that trust takes a lifelong effort to build and maintain and one stupid mistake to destroy. Like most issues in college teaching, encouraging academic integrity requires a sense of balance and restraint and an overarching desire to create a climate where honesty and personal and professional integrity can thrive.

On Sept. 27, at noon, we’ll have a faculty luncheon to discuss academic integrity. You can register by calling the center at 487-2046 or by visiting http://www.admin.mtu.edu/ctlfd/workshops/ .