Tech Names Max Seel Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations

On Monday, Feb. 15, Max J. Seel was named provost and vice president for academic affairs. Seel, who has been acting as interim provost since January 2009, was one of three finalists for the position.

"The University community is extremely fortunate that Max has agreed to serve as provost and vice president for academic affairs," said Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz. "His extensive experience as a faculty member, department chair and college dean will serve us well. He is dedicated to Michigan Tech and has a vision for its future consistent with our strategic plan and long-term goals."

The provost is the chief academic officer of the University, responsible for all of Michigan Tech's academic programs and faculty. The provost is also responsible for development and implementation of strategic initiatives to raise academic programs to the highest level, as well as promote scholarship, expand Tech's research, and increase and enhance diversity.

"I am honored to be chosen as Michigan Tech's next provost and vice president for academic affairs," said Seel. "I will do my best to contribute to growing Michigan Tech as premier technological research university, to advancing the unity of teaching and research, and, together with all the other administrators and staff, to making faculty and students successful."

A native of Germany, Seel received a PhD in computational solid-state physics and theoretical chemistry from the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg and spent a postdoctoral year at the IBM research laboratory in San Jose, Calif. He taught and did research in quantum chemistry and computational physics at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg until joining the Michigan Tech physics faculty in 1986.

He was named interim dean of Michigan Tech's College of Sciences and Arts in 1989 and served as its dean from 1991 to 2008, when he chose to return to research and teaching.

"We were looking for a provost who could provide strong leadership in the academic mission of the University, who understands the goals of Michigan Tech and is willing to do what is necessary to help us reach these goals," said Alex Mayer, chair of the provost search committee and professor of civil and environmental engineering. "Seel easily fits those criteria. He had to compete against an excellent, diverse pool of candidates who had extensive experience in a wide range of academic positions. The search committee recognized Dr. Seel's intellectual vision, his demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service, and his impressive skills as an experienced administrator."

The new provost said, "My academic focus will be on new undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates; faculty development; research in key areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, atmospheric sciences, sustainability; computational science and engineering; communication; policy; and science/technology/society studies."

His research involves large calculations in various areas of physics, chemistry and biology, such as materials surfaces, polymers, nanotubes and biological molecules like proteins and DNA.

He is a member of the American Physical Society, the physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma, and Sigma Xi, a scientific research society. He is listed in "Who’s Who in Science and Engineering."

Mayer, the search committee chair, added: "I'd like to thank the search committee for their hard work during the process. They were easy to work with, but could be counted on to bring diverse viewpoints about the priorities for this position. I also want to thank the University community for their input into the process. We are grateful that so many students, faculty and staff attended the various forums during the candidates' campus visits and contributed comments via the search website."

Members of the search committee in addition to Mayer are Vice Chair Darrell Radson, Sarah Anderton, Mari Buche, David Flaspohler, Nancy Grimm, Randal Harrison, Amy Hughes, Jackie Huntoon, Theresa Jacques, Rudy Luck, Erik Nordberg, Ravi Pandey, David Reed and Tim Schulz.

Former Biological Sciences Faculty Member Dies in UAHuntsville Shooting

by Marcia Goodrich, senior writer

Gopi Podila, esteemed both for his science and his humanity, was shot and killed Friday, Feb. 12, at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Podila, 52, came to Michigan Tech in 1990 as an assistant professor of biological sciences. Twelve years later, he left to chair the UAHuntsville Department of Biological Sciences. According to news reports, police say Podila and two others were killed when a biology faculty member opened fire during a routine department meeting.

Among his colleagues and former students at Michigan Tech, he is remembered for his agile intellect and loving heart.

"He's one of the finest men I've ever known," said David Dixon, who worked under Podila’s direction as a visiting assistant research professor. "He was congenial, kind and had high expectations. It's unusual to have a boss that you can call a friend."

Dixon, now a microbiologist with the Western UP Health Department, recalled the family's hospitality. "He and his wife, Vani, would have us over for traditional Indian dinners. She would share the recipes, and he'd introduce it to us and explain the customs." The dinners were "delightful," Dixon said, offering both "scientific and cultural exchange."

Patricia Asselin, coordinator of the biological sciences department, concurred. "He was kind, sweet, a real gentleman. They taught me to cook Indian food," she said, adding, "This is so hard; we were friends."

Biological sciences professor John Adler, former chair of the department, was on the search committee that hired Podila in 1990. "He was one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet," he said. "He was very kind, considerate and focused on making things happen. He was very careful of people and yet could get them to do what needed to be done. That takes a special type of person, and I think that's why he was as successful as he was."

Podila was committed to both to teaching and research. "The reason we have the BS in Bioinformatics is because Gopi believed in it," Adler said. "And through his research he interacted with people across campus, including [former SFRES faculty members] Dave Karnosky and Chung-Jui Tsai, and with colleagues in France and Italy. He was good at building bridges."

Professor Chandrashekar Joshi (SFRES) met Podila 20 years ago at Ohio State, where the two were postdocs. "This is horrific," Joshi said. "He was a brilliant scientist, and he contributed so much. Destroying someone who was so kind, so generous, so loving . . . you can't imagine anything like this."

"Do faculty members need to wear bullet-proof vests?" Joshi asked rhetorically. "I think we need training. We know how to teach, but we're not trained to deal with human relations."

Podila's research focused on microbiology and the genetics of trees. In particular, he was interested in developing trees for energy production and in the relationship between trees and symbiotic fungi. His lab helped coordinate the first genome-sequencing project on a fungus that has a beneficial relationship with tree root systems.

"He was a major force in Michigan Tech's biotechnology research," said Joshi. "He touched the lives of so many of us."

Provost Max Seel provided a letter of recommendation for Podila when he applied for the UAHuntsville postion, in which he wrote, "Dr. Podila has clearly distinguished himself as an internationally recognized leader in his field of molecular genetics and genetic engineering."

"Gopi had my strong support; he had all the attributes and potential to make him a good chair," Seel said later. "He was a good man. My heart goes out to his family."

Trisha Colling met Podila shortly after he came to Michigan Tech, when she was an undergraduate. "He was one of those rare people who changed my life," she said. "I went to him to talk about classes, and he invited me to work in his laboratory." She joined a research team that included undergrads, grad students and research faculty. "That was a big privilege," Colling said. "He treated us with the utmost respect and kindness. He was like a father to us; he and his wife, Vani, had us over all the time." When Colling decided to enter Tech's master's program in 2005, "he was cheering me on, checking with my professors to see how I was doing.

"He was a good, kind, caring man, and very humble," said Colling, now an adjunct faculty member at both Finlandia University and Gogebic Community College. "This is so heartbreaking."

Podila earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from Nagarjuna University, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and, in 1983, a master's degree in plant pathology from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. In 1987 he received a doctorate in molecular biology from Indiana State University.

He was an editorial-board member of the journals "Symbiosis," "New Phytologist," "Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants," and the "Journal of Plant Interactions."

He is survived by two teenage daughters and wife Vani Podila, who earned a BS in Business Administration from Michigan Tech in 1994.

"This is a real loss for the community," Adler said. "He had friends everywhere, including many friends here that he still communicated with. That tells you something about him. He was a great colleague and a great friend."

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Berryhill Funeral Home, 2305 Memorial Parkway NW, Huntsville, AL 35810. Open visitation is scheduled from 10 a.m. until noon, Thursday, Feb. 18. A private memorial for the family follows at noon.

Nominations Sought for Williams Award

The Center for Teaching, Learning and Faculty Development solicits nominations for the Fredrick D. Williams Instructional Innovation Award.

Nominations from faculty, department chairs and deans will be reviewed by a panel of prior award recipients and center personnel.

This award recognizes the extraordinary efforts of faculty members who develop innovative approaches to instruction or implement instructional innovations developed by other educators.

The award is not given each year, rather, only when a nominee's contribution is deemed to be truly noteworthy by the reviewing committee.

Nominees will be recognized at the Academy of Teaching Excellence Award Banquet on Sunday, April 11. The deadline for nominations is Monday, March 22. The nomination form is available on the center's website at: http://www.admin.mtu.edu/ctlfd/awards/williams_nomination_form.php .

The CTLFD initiated the Williams Award in 2005. It is named after Fred Williams, a renowned chemistry professor, an educational innovator and a former director of the Center for Teaching Excellence.

In part, the CTLFD seeks to recognize outstanding faculty independent of student evaluations.

Undergraduate Scholarships Available

submitted by the Financial Aid Office

Please inform your students of the following available scholarships.

* Sons and Daughters Scholarships--Michigan Tech Employee Sons and Daughters Scholarships, valued at $100 each, will be available for the 2010-11 academic year. Applicants must be children of Michigan Tech employees. Application submission deadline is Sunday, Feb. 28. Applications are available online by clicking "Sons and Daughters Scholarship" above.

*Leann Becia Family/AFSCME Scholarships--Two $250 Leann Becia Family/AFSCME Scholarships are anticipated to be available for 2010-11. Applicants must be the son, daughter or spouse of a current AFSCME Local 1166 member. Application deadline is Sunday, Feb. 28. Applications are available by clicking "Leann Becia Family/AFSCME Scholarships" above.

Both scholarships require that applicants be full-time Michigan Tech undergraduates in their first four years of study or high school students planning to enroll for fall 2010. In addition to being available online, applications for these scholarships are also available in the Financial Aid Office, Administration/Student Services Room 160.

Update on the Parking Survey Process

The Parking Task Force has made considerable progress on its charge, but they need current data on parking lot usage in order to make informed recommendations. Based on feedback from the campus community, the survey process has been adjusted to make it easier for respondents to complete.

The survey is intended to gather information regarding the current parking needs for faculty, staff and students. Respondents can choose to provide their vehicle information (make, model, license plate number) at this time, which will allow them to expedite the new vehicle registration process that is expected to take place later this year. To complete the form before Feb. 18, visit http://www.aux.mtu.edu/parking/ .

The task force will host an open forum for the campus community on Tuesday, March 2, to share the results of the survey and receive comments and suggestions.

The task force was established by President Mroz in fall 2009 to review and evaluate the current University parking registration and enforcement system. To date, the committee has created a fair and equitable parking citation appeals process and is reviewing new technology options for the parking lots and for processing citations.

To review Professor Bill Sproule's parking task force presentation to the Senate on Nov. 19, 2009, click "task force presentation" above.

Club Indigo Presents Czech Film, "Closely Watched Trains"

The Czech film, "Closely Watched Trains," meant to be shown last November, will now show Friday, Feb. 26.

"Closely Watched Trains" is a comic satire that took many awards including the 1966 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It's about a young station guard who longs for two things: to keep out of World War II and to lose his virginity. The other station workers are equally eccentric. One man raises exotic birds while another continually seduces young ladies--prosecuted not for sexual misconduct, but for improperly using the German language. All await the arrival of a German train loaded with war munitions while local militants plot to blow it up.

The movie begins at 7:15 p.m., preceded at 6 p.m. with a Czech buffet provided by Chef Cormac of The Irish Times restaurant in Laurium. The Irish Times also sponsors the film.

Cost is $18 for both food and film; $5 for film alone. Call the Calumet Theatre at 337-2610 for reservations by Thursday, Feb. 25, for seating at the buffet.

Reminder: Travel Back to the 80s with "The Wedding Singer"

submitted by the Rozsa Center

The Wedding Singer is bringing back the 80s when it dances into the Rozsa Center at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17. This musical comedy will take audiences back to a time when pastel was in, hair was big, and the wedding singer was the coolest guy in the room. Based on the hit film starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, the Wedding Singer is crammed with 80s pop culture and familiar songs.

Don't miss this chance to see the musical Newsday called "One Big Party! A good-natured, high-energy musical." Put on your leg warmers and head over to the Rozsa Center to see the Wedding Singer, which is sponsored by the Student Entertainment Board (SEB) and the James and Margaret Black Endowment.

Ticket prices for the general public are $25 and $20; Tech student prices are $20 and $15 (student ID required). To purchase tickets, contact the Rozsa Box Office at 487-3200, the Central Ticket Office at 487-2073, Tech Express at 487-3308 or go online at tickets.mtu.edu .

No refunds, exchanges or late seating.

Tech's Symphony Orchestra Presents "Night at the Opera"

submitted by Visual and Performing Arts

Michigan Tech's symphony orchestra says "Come to the Rozsa" to enjoy a midwinter "Night at the Opera" at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20. Soloist Lara Neves will sing selections from two all-time favorite operas, Bizet's "Carmen" and Verdi's "Otello," as the orchestra, directed by Joel Neves, adds selections drawn from the world of opera.

Tickets are $15 for general public, $7 for K-12 students, and free to Michigan Tech students as part of the Experience Tech program. Tickets are available from the Rozsa Box Office at 487-3200 or at tickets.mtu.edu .

Lara Neves, a professional soloist and voice teacher who moved to Houghton last summer, was a featured soloist in Handel's "Messiah" in the Rozsa Center in December. She has performed in productions of "The Magic Flute," "Die Fledermaus," "Tales of Hoffman," and "The Marriage of Figaro," as well as the "Carmen Suites," in Arizona and Utah.

Saturday's "Night at the Opera" is certain to prove once again that nothing is better than live performance, as Lara and Joel Neves, with the 60-member KSO, bring us a scintillating evening of some of the world's best loved music.

ME-EM Graduate Seminar

Professor Silvia Salinas Blemker from the University of Virginia will be the ME-EM Graduate Seminar guest speaker at 3 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18, in ME-EM 112. Her presentation is "Multi-scale modeling as a framework for uncovering the relationships between skeletal muscle structure, function, and injury."

For more information on this guest and the ME-EM Graduate Seminar Series, visit http://www.me.mtu.edu/seminar/ .

MSE Seminar

Jon Stinson, manager at R&D Materials Analytical Lab, Boston Scientific Interventional Cardiology Division, will present the MSE seminar from 10 to 11 a.m., Thursday, Feb. 18, in M&M 610. His presentation is "Metallurgical Investigation of Medical Device Titanium Alloy Wire Fracture During Forming."

CEE Graduate Seminar

Professor Catherine French from University of Minnesota and ACI and PCI Fellow, will speak on "Structural Health Monitoring of Bridge Systems" at 4 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18, in Dow 642.

For more information, contact Tess Ahlborn at 487-2625 or at tess@mtu.edu .

CEE Department Seminar

Professor Catherine French from University of Minnesota and ACI and PCI Fellow, will speak on "Seismic Design Principles and Role of Experimental Research in Advancing Performance-Based Engineering" at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18, in Dow 642.

For more information, contact Tess Ahlborn at 487-2625 or at tess@mtu.edu .

Biological Sciences Seminar

Director Emeritus Robert A. Andersen, Provasoli-Guillard National Center for Culture of Marine Phytoplankton, of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and senior research scientist, at Friday Harbor Laboratories, of the University of Washington, will present "The Heterokont Algae: Their Origins, History and Current Phylogenetic Relationships." His presentation is from 2 to 3 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19, in Chem Sci 101.

Biomedical Engineering Candidate Seminar

Xiaohua Liu of the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences at the University of Michigan will present, "Biomimetic Nano-fibrous Scaffolds and Bioactive Molecules Delivery for Bone Tissue Engineering," at 2:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19, in EERC 226. Liu is a faculty candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Sports in Brief

What's Happening This Week
by Wes Frahm, director of athletics marketing and communications

Wednesday, Feb. 17
Huskies Drive Time, 7:30-8 a.m., Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM

Thursday, Feb. 18
Women's Basketball at Findlay, 5:30 p.m. (Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM)
Men's Basketball at Findlay, 7:30 p.m. (Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM)

Friday, Feb. 19
Hockey at Denver, 9:37 p.m. (Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM)

Saturday, Feb. 20
Nordic Skiing hosts Central Region Championships
Women's Basketball at Hillsdale, 1 p.m. (Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM)
Men's Basketball at Hillsdale, 3 p.m. (Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM)
Hockey at Denver, 9:07 p.m. (Live Radio, Mix 93.5 FM)

Sunday, Feb. 21
Nordic Skiing hosts Central Region Championships

All times Eastern. Home events are italicized.

Last Week's Results

Nordic Skiing
Feb. 13-14--Michigan Tech men first of eights teams, women third of nine teams at Central Collegiate Ski Association Championships (Ishpeming)

Men's Basketball (6-15, 5-11 GLIAC)
Feb. 11--at Michigan Tech 70, Ferris State 67
Feb. 13--at Michigan Tech 53, Grand Valley State 46

Women's Basketball (22-1, 17-1 GLIAC)
Feb. 11--at No. 4 Michigan Tech 64, Ferris State 41
Feb. 13--at No. 4 Michigan Tech 68, Grand Valley State 47

Hockey (5-22-0, 4-18-0 WCHA)
Did not compete

Men's Tennis (3-1, 0-0 GLIAC)
Feb. 12--at Michigan Tech 8, Lake Superior State 1
Feb. 14--Lewis 5, at Michigan Tech 4

Women's Tennis (11-3, 7-2 GLIAC)
Feb. 12--at Michigan Tech 6, Lake Superior State 3
Feb. 14--at Michigan Tech 5, Lewis 4

Top News of the Week

Men's Nordic Skiing Wins CCSA Title
The Michigan Tech men's Nordic ski team claimed the overall men's team title at the Central Collegiate Ski Association championships over the weekend. The team finished five points ahead of Northern Michigan who finished second. Senior Oskar Lund placed first in the 10-kilometer classic and second in the 20-kilometer freestyle. Senior Henna Riikonen-Purtsi recorded a pair of top-10 finishes to lead the women on the weekend. She finished eighth in the five-kilometer classic and seventh in the 15-kilometer freestyle. The women finished third out of nine teams on the weekend.

Sweepsville at the SDC Gym
The Michigan Tech basketball teams wrapped up a four-date homestand last Saturday by sweeping Grand Valley State. The Huskies finished the home streak a combined 8-0 in men's and women's. The ladies have won 12 straight games and own a 22-1 overall record. The men are on a four-game winning streak and have an 8-15 overall slate. Both teams will head to Findlay and Hillsdale this week for their final two road games of the regular season.

New Staff

Kevin A. Endsley joins the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) as an assistant research scientist. Previously, he earned a bacehlor's degree in applied geophysics from Tech, was a teaching assistant, and had two interships with MTRI.