Brian Barkdoll New Co-Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering PCMI

Associate Professor Brian Barkdoll (CEE) is joining Professor David Watkins (CEE) as co-coordinator of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Peace Corps Masterís International Program (PCMI). Barkdoll will replace Associate Professor Kurt Paterson (CEE), who is leaving Michigan Tech to head the Engineering Department at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

Paterson founded and built the Civil and Environmental Engineering PCMI program, the largest of Tech's eight PCMI programs and the first PCMI Civil and Environmental Engineering program in the nation. Barkdoll has been advising students in this program for some time, adding his unique perspective as a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Nepal.

"We are grateful to Kurt for his numerous contributions to our PCMI program over the years and look forward to working closely with Brian as the new department co-coordinator," said PCMI Campus Director Kari Henquinet (SS).

Onder, Werner Receive Distinguished Teaching Awards

by Travis Gendron, student intern

Success is all in the planning--just ask the 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients.

For assistant professor of genetics and developmental biology Thomas Werner, who won the award in the assistant professor/professor of practice/lecturer category, each semester starts an entire year in advance. "People think Iím crazy to start planning my courses so early, but I like to check all of the material to ensure that itís accurate," he said. "I spend about twelve hours preparing for each fifty-minute lecture."

Nilufer Onder, associate professor of computer science, won the award in the professor/associate professor category. She also tries to plan her courses far in advance.

"I always look at the semester as a whole so I can avoid surprises and navigate the busy points more easily. Itís a matter of looking for patterns and trying to evenly distribute the workload for students," she said.

Onder came to Michigan Tech in 1999, after receiving her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in the same year. The former Middle East Technical University systems programmer teaches Formal Models of Computation and Artificial Intelligence courses, and advises the Women in Computer Science and Upsilon Pi Epsilon computing sciences honor society.

Students in her Formal Models class wrote, "Dr. Onder really cares about her students. She frequently asks for student input during class to make sure we truly understand what she is trying to teach us"; "She promotes online and offline learning and gives every student great opportunities to succeed. You can tell she truly puts her heart into the course and wants everyone to succeed"; "She is far and away the best teacher I've had in my five years at Tech. She consistently goes above and beyond."

What earns her such acclaim? "I always try to be accessible," she said. "Sometimes that means acting like I have all the time in the world even when Iím rushing." She also makes a great effort to challenge students without overwhelming them. "People need to get stuck in order to learn, so I try to avoid spoon-feeding students the answers. That being said, I always make it clear that Iím there to help them through any problems."

Onderís favorite part about teaching is working with so many dynamic and motivated students. "Our motto here at Michigan Tech is create the future, and I get to teach the people who are going to do that," she said. "Everything relies on computers, and itís my job to enable my students to produce the most reliable, secure, and quality software that they can."

"My students are a motivated and diverse group of people," Onder added. "They all want to contribute to society in one way or another. Itís my job as a teacher to help them do that."

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Werner came to Michigan Tech in 2010, after serving as a postdoc in molecular biology University of Wisconsin Madison and completing his PhD at the UmeŚ Center for Molecular Pathogenesis. He teaches Genetics, Immunology, and Genetic Techniques.

His favorite thing about teaching is the energy that comes from working with the students. "Iíve found that in research you can give 100% and only get 10% out. With teaching, if you give your students 100%, theyíll return the favor," he said.

It appears his efforts pay off. Students in his Genetics course wrote, "Despite the large class size, he creates a comfortable atmosphere where I am never nervous to ask a question"; "He can joke, but at the same time teach. He is a gifted instructorĒ; ďHe can make a student go from hating a subject--like genetics--to genuinely enjoying it"; "He is by far the best professor that I have had in my three years at Tech. He is funny, kind, and very passionate about the subject that he teaches, and he is always ready to help students learn."

Trying to make learning fun not only helps his students, but also motivates him to be an even better instructor. "Once I notice that students like what Iím doing and are engaged, I really get fired up and try to surprise them by being even better," he said.

"My teaching style is that Iím an entertainer," he added. "Iím there to teach them, but more importantly to hold their attention and to make them want to learn." Werner has a slightly unconventional--yet effective--way of measuring his success. "My goal is to have students laugh one time in each class, otherwise Iíve failed," he said.

To ensure that students are getting the most out his classes, Werner consistently seeks feedback from his students and tries to adjust his teaching to meet studentsí needs. "After the first week or two of the semester, I routinely pass out feedback forms to see what students are thinking. I sort and group all of the comments and send out an email to the class summarizing whatís working and what isnít," he said. "When I do that, they know Iím paying attention to their expectations and can hopefully see that Iím trying to meet or exceed them."

Putting forth so much effort to be in tune with his studentsí needs stems from Wernerís teaching philosophy. "People donít always remember what you say, but they never forget how you make them feel," he said. "My goal isnít to have students look back ten years from now and recite my lecture. I want them to think about my class and how it made them feel good about genetics."

A course covering such a complex topic can turn many students off, but Werner has a strategy for dealing with the often-confusing content. "I admit that the topics are complicated right up front. Then I try to break it down with the students and let them know that itís ok if they donít understand it all right away," he said.

He doesnít want his students to view genetics as strictly business. ďItís important to let students have some fun because it helps them learn,Ē he said. ďThey need to enjoy the material in order to really want to engage with it. I treat my classes with a sort of Ďwork hard, play hardí mentality,Ē he added.

DeVlieg Recipients Announced

The Graduate School is pleased to announce that two students have earned fellowships from The DeVlieg Foundation. The DeVlieg Foundation has generously provided support for graduate students pursuing research in engineering, wildlife and biology at Michigan Tech.

The recipients this year are Anthony Matthys, a PhD candidate in biological sciences and Renee Oats a PhD candidate in civil engineering. Photographs and details of awards and fellowships coordinated by the Graduate School can be found online.

Five Tech Students Win International Scholarships

Four Michigan Tech undergraduates applied for Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships this year, and all four received the competitive awards. A fifth Tech student received a Whitaker International Undergraduate Scholarship for study abroad.

Andrea Bowen, Warren Kesti, Eugene Kim and Christopher Trevino received Gilman Scholarships for international study. Bowen is a management major. She will study in China. Kesti is majoring in management information systems. He and Kim, a chemical engineering major, will study in South Korea. Trevino is a sound design major who will study in Japan.

Mitchell Kirby, a biomedical engineering major, received a Whitaker grant for study in New Zealand in the fall.

The Gilman Scholarship program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad by supporting undergraduates who otherwise might not participate in international study due to financial constraints. The grants to Michigan Tech students total $18,000.

The Whitaker program encourages undergraduates in biomedical engineering to study abroad to gain an international perspective on their field. Only 40 recipients were chosen nationwide.

Proposals in Progress

GLRC director Guy Meadows (VPR/GLRC) and co-director Robert Shuchman (MTRI/GLRC), "Advanced Underwater bottom classification and Change Detection Utilizing Combined Acoustic and Satellite Remote Sensing," University of Michigan.

Facilities Engineer Tim Griffin (FAC), "Lakeshore Walking/Bike Trail," Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Associate Professor Carol MacLennan (SS), "Oral History of Torch Lake Copper Reclamation, 1940-1970," Keweenaw National Historical Park.

Associate Professor Nancy Auer (Bio Sci/GLRC) and Professor Noel Urban (CEE/GLRC), "Spatial distribution of stamp sand impacts on benthic macroinvertebrates around Gay, MI," State of Michigan Environmental Quality Department.

Associate Professor Timothy Scarlett (SS), Associate Professor Samuel Sweitz (SS) and Associate Professor Fred Quivik (SS), "2013 Public Archaeology at the Cliff Mine," Keweenaw National Historical Park.

Associate Professor Audrey Mayer (SS), "Protecting the Great Lakes from Invasive Species: Science to Support Policy," University of Michigan.

Associate Professor Hugh Gorman (SS/GLRC) and Assistant Professor Adam Wellstead (SS/GLRC), "Evaluating the Role of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Enhancing the Policy Capacity of Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPS)," University of Michigan Water Center.

Assistant Professor Amy Marcarelli (Bio Sci/GLRC) and Associate Professor Casey Huckins (Bio Sci/GLRC), "Monitoring stream ecosystem function responses to stamp sand stabilization in tributaries of Lake Superior," University of Michigan.