02/5/18

Alumni Spotlight: Brandon Taylor of UM-Flint Psychology

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor, 2017 UM-Flint Psychology alumnus

Brandon Taylor graduated from UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences in April 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Research Psychology and a minor in Substance Abuse Treatment. He was co-president of the Psychology Club, a member of the psychology honors society, a work study in the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice, and served as his class commencement speaker. After graduation he became a research assistant for the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Flint.

Brandon is fondly remembered by both his department faculty and those who were involved on his journey through UM-Flint.

Professor of Psychology, Terrence Horgan, PhD, reflected that Brandon, “was committed to excelling in school in a number of ways. He displayed a very positive attitude toward his education, and he always did his level best in class. His seriousness in class benefited his peers tremendously because it motivated them to demonstrate the same. Brandon was a role model in this regard because he elevated the quality of education that other students got in class.”

Jennifer Alvey, associate professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies (WGS) and director of the UM-Flint WGS Program added, “When I think of Brandon, I think of a very hard working and dedicated person – someone who gives his all to everything he does. He is kind, funny, and light-hearted, but he also has a serious side, is very committed, and truly patient. Brandon had to cultivate these qualities or perhaps confidence in them, but somehow he found the courage and even desire to do so, which inspires those around him to give it a try, too. He’s the kind of person who makes us and the work we do – whether in the classroom or in an office – better. I miss seeing him every day, but am so happy to know that he is pursuing his Master’s degree and enjoying his research-based work.”

Brandon Taylor (left) joins fellow UM-Flint Psychology alums at a career panel for current students

Brandon Taylor (left) joins fellow UM-Flint Psychology alums at a career panel for current students

Read on as Taylor reflects on his time at UM-Flint, gives an update on life after graduation, and shares advice for current students.

What are you doing now and/or where are you heading next?
I’m a full-time research assistant for MSU at The College of Human Medicine in downtown Flint. I’m part of the SPIRIT Study, which stands for Suicide Prevention Intervention for at-Risk Individuals in Transition. Essentially, we’re investigating whether or not a suicide prevention program is clinically effective and cost effective. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, we’re tracking suicidal ideation and behavior of people reentering the community from jail in Michigan and Rhode Island.

I’m also a part-time graduate student at MSU, pursing a master’s degree in clinical social work. Conveniently, my courses are held in the evening at Mott Community College, so I have the easiest work-to-school commute that I could hope for. After graduate school, my hope is to go wherever I feel I’m needed in the realm of social welfare, though I’d prefer to find initial employment doing clinical work in Flint.

How did your UM-Flint education prepare you for what you are doing?
UM-Flint was instrumental in giving me a space to explore my interests. Though I have love and appreciation for psychology, my heart resides in social work. Funny enough, my First-Year Experience course, Intergroup Dialogue, heavily influenced the trajectory of my interests. My professors always provided constant encouragement, support, and guidance that truly boosted my once-low self-esteem. This, in conjunction with the numerous opportunities they provided, empowered me to reach beyond my perceived limits.

Who made the biggest impact on your time at UM-Flint?
I can’t pick just one. Drs. Alvey and Laube [of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice] always provided praise and encouragement. Drs. Heinze and Stein [of Psychology] always gave positive feedback and introduced me to working with groups via peer facilitation. Dr. Horgan provided innumerable research opportunities, both in-class and in his lab. Dr. Kassel [of the Student Success Center] constantly challenged me to leave my comfort zone. Wendy Carpenter [of the Student Success Center] helped me find courage when I doubted myself. Lynne McTiernan [of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice] was always so kind, generous, and considerate when I was her work-study… I am forever indebted to the faculty and staff at UM-Flint for going above and beyond to help me academically and personally.

Brandon Taylor serving as UM-Flint commencement speaker in April 2017

Brandon Taylor serving as UM-Flint commencement speaker in April 2017

What value did you find in UM-Flint’s approach of including hands-on learning and applying lessons to real world situations?
I found this priceless. Both my clinical internship and my research involvement prepared me for this current job, which I consider to be the beginning of my professional career. I wouldn’t be where I am without these keystone experiences.

Describe a firsthand example of an engaged learning experience you had at UM-Flint:
My clinical psychology internship involved observing the therapeutic process for highly depressed and highly anxious individuals. Though this was extremely challenging at first, I walked away with finally knowing what I wanted to do as a career.

For more information on UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences and its many departments and programs, visit umflint.edu/CAS.

11/14/17

Faculty Spotlight: Daniel Hummel of Public Administration

Daniel Hummel, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts and Sciences in Fall 2017 as an assistant professor of public administration in the Political Science Department.

Daniel Hummel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at UM-Flint

Daniel Hummel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of public administration, or join him in one of his upcoming classes:

  • PUB 311: American State and Local Government
  • PUB 500: Politics, Policy, and Public Administration
  • PUB 502: Public Sector Management
  • PUB 518: Budgeting and Finance in the Public Sector
  • PUB 578: State and Local Public Finance
  • PUB 596: Intergovernmental Relations

Admitted students can register at sis.umflint.edu or find more information about upcoming semesters at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
Public administration is a central aspect of civilization. Despite the popularized hatred of government, it is hard to imagine any modern society functioning without one. I strive to understand the interconnections between local economic activity, the optimal functionality of government, citizen engagement and participation, the response of citizens to taxes and regulation and the response of government to human behavior. This is my passion.

This field is the nexus of multiple fields. There is economics, psychology and political science. I find myself reading journals from multiple fields to understand a phenomenon in public administration. It is for this reason that I have published in diverse journals. It is also the reason I have found myself on panels at conferences with historians and sociologists. I received my degree from the College of Design and Social Inquiry at FAU where I rubbed shoulders with scholars in public administration as well as planning. My dissertation was on fiscal health and right-sizing cities which combined public finance with planning practice. My first academic position was in the College of Arts and Letters at Idaho State University in a political science department and my last academic position was in the College of Business at Bowie State University in a management and marketing department. This field is vibrant and growing.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Interestingly, I had no interest in public administration before my final year of my Bachelor’s degree in International Politics. I was more into the study of religion and culture than how to balance a government’s budget. I wanted to study Central Asia and I wanted to work closely with Tom Gouttierre at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in their Center for Afghanistan Studies. Tom recommended that I get my MPA at UNO since the Center did not have a degree program. I was not enthusiastic about it, but I gave it a try.

My first semester I met Dale Krane and John Bartle. Both professors were exceptional, especially Dr. Bartle. It was Dr. Bartle that showed me that public budgeting and finance is an amazingly interesting topic. When I finished my MPA I decided that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in the field. My time at Florida Atlantic University solidified my love of the field and my interest in public budgeting and finance. I also became increasingly interested in local government, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. I grew up in the shadow of industrial decline in northwestern Pennsylvania and, after reading about the Youngstown 2010 Plan, I decided that I really wanted to focus my research on declining cities. This entire experience has been immensely rewarding for me.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
My favorite course to teach is public budgeting and finance. I am teaching a class at UM-Flint called State and Local Public Finance (PUB 578). I am really looking forward to this class as it combines my dual interests of local government and budgeting / finance. I also enjoy teaching public policy. I am [also] teaching PUB 500 which is titled Politics, Policy and Public Administration. I will enjoy this class because half of it will be on the foundations of public administration in the United States and the other half will be on public policy.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
Currently, I have one paper in revision that is focused on the relationship between urban population and housing density and urban productivity. I am interested in this dynamic because one of the central assumptions of smart growth and smart decline is that urban productivity is a function of urban density. In shrinking cities this would mean consolidating the population in healthy centers which is a highly controversial thing to do. So far, my research is indicating that low density development is more closely associated with higher productivity values than high density development at least for the United States in the years selected.

In addition to this project, I am presenting a paper on the relationship between student debt levels and housing vacancy this year at the Northeastern Association of Business, Economics and Technology conference. So far, I am noticing that many neighborhoods in historically declining areas of cities are attracting recent college graduates for many reasons, reducing vacancy in these places. One of the reasons is the housing affordability in these places as recent grads are unable to afford homes elsewhere due to high debt-to-income ratios.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I want to make an impact not only in the classroom with my students, but on the community of Flint and the region. My research has implications for practice in declining regions and I want to be a part of that discussion. My hope is to continue building on my prior research in this area and defining myself within the field. I also want to see our MPA program continue to be successful as we plan for the future. Obviously, this entails the proper education of current and future public administrators who are increasingly subjected to more constraints along with higher expectations. Ultimately, my goal is to get tenure and be a permanent fixture of this program as I work with my colleagues within the department as well as across the university on important projects.

Why were you excited to join UM-Flint and the Flint community?
My research necessitates access to public officials in places like Flint. Being in the middle of my research provides me incredible opportunities to see these projects really bloom. In addition, the university and my Department are great. The people I have met along with the resources available indicate to me that this is a good place to call home.

What do you hope for students in your field?
My hope for our students is that they are personally successful, however they define that. Obviously, I want to see them achieve higher positions and higher pay as a result of completing the MPA degree. These are important indicators for a successful academic program in general. I also want them to feel fulfilled in their careers in public service. I want to provide them with out-of-the-box ways of thinking about public problems that will push them to think innovatively. I want them to do their jobs in ways that improve their own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the communities in which they work. I want people who work with our graduates to see the quality of our program through their actions.

What are three things you think people should know about you?

  • I am very friendly, but I am thinking about stuff all the time, so if you see me on campus and I walk by you without saying something please don’t be offended. If you see me grab my attention and I will definitely greet you.
  • I love spicy food. I can eat non-spicy food, but I usually do so only to survive. When I want to truly live I ask for the Ghost Peppers.
  • I have a little boy going to Kindergarten (first and only kid) this year. Big event!!
11/2/17

UM-Flint Chemistry Professor Visits Alumni, Presents Talk at Iowa State University

Professor Jie Song, of the UM-Flint Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, was invited to give a talk at the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Chemistry on October 27, 2017. Dr. Song did his postdoctoral research at Ames Laboratory US DOE from 2002 to 2004, located on the ISU campus, before he joined UM-Flint as a faculty member.

The talk was titled “Methods Applied in Studying Repellent-Attractant Interactions.” Besides talking to a small group of theoretical/computational chemists/physicists, Professor Song met with three UM-Flint alumni.

From left to right, Viet Nguyen ('17), David Poole ('16), Professor Jie Song, and Kristoper Keipert ('12)

Left to right: Viet Nguyen (’17), David Poole (’16), Prof. Jie Song, Kristoper Keipert (’12)

Since 2004, five UM-Flint undergraduate students who have done research with him have obtained or are studying for their Ph.D. in theoretical/computational chemistry at Iowa State University. They are:

  • Dr. George Schoendorff (Chemistry, ’06), Visiting Professor at Bradley University
  • Alexander Findlater (Chemistry, ’10)
  • Dr. Kristoper Keipert (Biochemistry, ’12), postdoctoral researcher at Argonne National Lab, US DOE
  • David Poole (Chemistry, ’16)
  • Viet Nguyen (Chemistry, ’17)

During the last 13 years, Dr. Song has supervised more than 30 undergraduate research students. Among them, seven have already obtained their Ph.D. in chemistry and three have obtained their MD.

For more information on the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit umflint.edu/chemistry.

03/22/17

Pursuing Passion: Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre & Dance

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working in the university's Costume Shop

Every UM-Flint Theatre & Dance production is a chance to teach something new. Adam Dill, lecturer and Costume Shop Supervisor for the department, specializes in connecting his students to each project while creating pieces that build their skill sets and portfolios.

The final theatrical production of the 2016-17 season is The Importance of Being Earnest—a classic satire set in Victorian England. Said Dill, “This production is set in the 1890’s, so we are constructing silhouettes we have not made in this shop before.” He also noted that special considerations have to be made in fabric choice and construction—so the costumes function for the actor while looking the part—and in adapting older styles to modern bodies.

“We used historical patterns that are actually from the 1890’s on this production,” added Theatre Design & Technology student Alli Switalski, “so it was definitely a learning experience to adapt the pattern of a teeny tiny garment from the turn of the century into garments that our actors could wear.”

A dress for the production is Switalski’s first large-scale project: she completed the garment’s entire drape, pattern, and construction process. And, she admits, it’s this start-to-finish project that she’s most excited to see on stage.

Dill is the production’s Costume Shop Manager and Lead Draper, and also charged with being the faculty advisor for the Wardrobe Crew. “As the shop manager,” said Dill, “it is my responsibility to budget and price out the show, to make sure all of the clothes are produced in a timely fashion, and the clothes are properly fit to each actor. Acting as the lead draper, I have taken on the creation of Miss Prism and Lady Bracknell.”

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working with a student in the university's Costume Shop

Adam Dill works on a bodice with UM-Flint Theatre Design & Technology student Alli Switalski.

Teaching in UM-Flint Theatre

Switalski transferred to UM-Flint to study with Dill—her previous institution didn’t provide a supportive teaching environment like the one she found on a visit to UM-Flint Theatre. “It’s like a little family in the theatre department,” she noted. “Collaboration makes our world go round, so I really love that we are all so close.”

When asked about Dill as a teacher, she said, “Adam has taught me to laugh. To ‘just do it’ and have fun in the process. He challenges me to push my limits as a designer and technician and to trust my instincts in the process.”

Lydia Parker VanTol, a senior Theatre Design & Technology student, echoed her sentiments, adding, “Not only have I learned how to pattern, drape, and sew, but I’ve also learned a lot of life lessons like how to handle working under a deadline and learning about a balance between perfection and time management. I love our sense of teamwork and community. It’s great to work with people who understand and respect your craft and who are also learning at the same time as you.”

Taylor Boes works on a boa for "The Importance of Being Earnest." She's also an actress in the production.

Taylor Boes works on a boa for “The Importance of Being Earnest.” She’s also an actress in the production.

 

Switalski and Parker VanTol are just the kind of students Dill enjoys teaching at UM-Flint. “I really appreciate that the average student has an open mind and a willingness to learn,” he said. “Regardless of background, upbringing, or circumstance—our students are constantly committed to pursuing their best self.”

Currently, Dill teaches Introduction to Stage Costuming, Patterning, and Draping, Textiles and Costuming, and a Stage Costuming Lab. His students often get a chance to assist on production costumes, adding finishing touches like hems and closures.

Bringing Experts to Campus

Part of Dill’s teaching philosophy involves bringing experts to campus. “I’ve previously hosted a tailoring workshop, a lighting technology workshop, and most recently a wig workshop,” said Dill. “For the future, I have workshops planned specifically for working with thermoplastics in theatrical costumes, a workshop on creating/recreating parasols, and hopefully a two-day workshop on working with theatrical millinery.”

The wig workshop, held on a Saturday in late February, brought Heather Fleming from the Custom Wig Company to campus. Seven UM-Flint Theatre students and one alum attended.

“In the workshop, we discussed how to properly style wigs using different roller sets, how to properly prepare the actor for wearing a wig, how to make/take a wig wrap, and how to ventilate and create our own custom wig products,” recalled Dill.

Participants in UM-Flint Theatre's recent wig workshop.

Participants in UM-Flint Theatre’s recent wig workshop.

 

“We decided to host this workshop so students could actively learn the art of wig styling on a practical application for one of our productions,” he continued. “Several of the students from the workshop are on the wardrobe crew for Importance of Being Earnest, so having direct access to the wig stylist benefits the wig work you will see in this very exciting production!”

Alli Switalski at the UM-Flint Theatre wig workshop.

Alli Switalski at the UM-Flint Theatre wig workshop.

 

Switalski was one of the student participants. When asked what she enjoyed most, she responded, “It’s a fascinating art form that most people don’t even know exists. I enjoyed diving right in and playing with wigs to get a hands-on experience of styling and maintenance techniques.”

A Life of Creativity

Dill is an excellent example for students who are unsure about pursuing a career in theatre. “I previously started my education in Pre-Dentistry,” said Dill. “One day while sitting in a molecular biology class, I realized how much I missed being in the theatre. I eventually withdrew from school, moved back home, and prepared myself for a life in the arts. After a few months at home, I enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington as an Acting major. I was assigned to the costume shop as part of my practicum. I was given the task of decorating hats. Once I realized that working in theatrical costumes was a viable career path, I changed my major again and have never looked back.”

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working in the university's Costume Shop

 

Switalski is ready to follow in his footsteps. “I have two semesters left before completing my degree,” she noted. “This involves my capstone project which will probably be a draping project, so keep an eye out for my name in next season’s programs. After graduation, I plan on moving to where the work is to get some experience before graduate school. I’ve also started my own business that I’d like to expand, taking more costume commissions for Halloween, Cosplay, and Renaissance Festivals.”

Dill hopes all of his students “leave here with a renewed sense of self confidence, and understanding of how to overcome challenges, and an open mind to potential that life presents to us!”

As for his future? Dill replied, “Right now, I am in the process of designing one of the dance pieces in our dance concert—A Midsummer Night’s Dream—choreographed by Adesola Akinleye. At the same time, I am remounting a previously designed production of Cat in the Hat for the Flint Youth Theatre. Because I don’t have enough going on, I am also managing the Colorado Shakespeare Festival costume shop this summer.”

After graduation, Parker VanTol will also be working at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, where she’ll no doubt continue learning from Dill.


Learn about creative opportunities for all majors, both on and off stage. Visit umflint.edu/theatredance.

10/25/16

Pursuing Passion: Stephanie Dean, UM-Flint Theatre

In the University of Michigan Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, faculty, staff, and students combine their passions with academic excellence as they participate in coursework, research, and creative pursuits. We are proud to spotlight some of these individuals in our new series: Pursuing Passion.

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

A Rock Musical with Feeling

Assistant Professor Stephanie Dean is the director of Next to Normal, an award-winning rock musical about a woman’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The show is the first production of the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department’s 2016-17 season and will run October 28-30 and November 4-6.

Next to Normal began as a ten-minute play called Feeling Electric that explored the medical field’s approach to mental illness. But, noted Dean, “they began to realize that they story they wanted to tell wasn’t about the treatment, it was about the people, and they began to morph it into the Off-Broadway production that opened in 2008.” By 2011, the musical had enjoyed three years on Broadway and earned numerous awards, including three Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The musical suited both the talent pool at the university and Dean’s desire for material that would challenge her students and herself.

She began work on the production long before students stepped on stage for auditions. Her spring and summer months were filled with research about the show’s sensitive subject matter. Recalled Dean, “I wanted to know: What is fact? What is fiction? And how was the production received by audiences when it came out? There was a lot of research that went into the research that [the writers] did.”

UM-Flint Theatre's Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of "Next to Normal."

UM-Flint Theatre’s Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of “Next to Normal.”

This is Not a Case Study

Dean wanted to be sure she was both respectful and accurate when representing the journey of someone being treated for bipolar disorder. The musical touches on a wide variety of topics related to the mental health field, including prescription drug use, electroconvulsive therapy, hallucinations, depression, and suicide.

“When I was doing the research, I read an interview in which the composer and lyricist had said they had not written the show to be  a case study,” said Dean. “Next to Normal takes dramatic liberties; everything that can happen to this woman does happen, and it not only affects her, but everyone around her. It’s important to understand that the writers wanted to create a story that people could relate to from many different viewpoints, depending on their own life experiences. Because of that, I truly believe that you cannot be an adult or even a teenager and not relate to something in this show.”

Dean consulted with Dr. Tom Wrobel of UM-Flint Psychology for insight on the script, and to learn about the validity of the portrayed treatments in today’s fields of psychology and psychiatry. She also talked with practicing therapists.

Stephanie Dean and the "Next to Normal" cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean and the “Next to Normal” cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Now that the show is in rehearsals, the preparation is paying off: “I feel like I have command of the material, and am well prepared to address the issues in the script in a way that is effective and within the scope of reality. I also feel prepared to work actors through these difficult topics and the emotions that come with that. Understanding the content and context at a deeper level allows me to find subtleties in the script and makes me better equipped to guide the actors to more nuanced performances and to speak to the designers about a unified vision.”

Working with a Student Cast

During the summer, Dean also spent time considering the emotional toll the production could have on its student actors and stage crew. “When you are working on a musical, it is not an exaggeration to say the music does not exit your head for the entire two months,” said Dean. “Between rehearsals, memorizing lines, working on music, etc., the actors and I are spending four to eight hours a day with this material. I had to ask myself, ‘how do I bring the students in and out of rehearsals in a way that is mentally healthy for them?'”

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of "Next to Normal."

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of “Next to Normal.”

Part of Dean’s work to answer that question took place during the summer in North Carolina where she studied a method of evoking emotion using breathing, posture, and facial expressions, rather than actual emotional stimuli. Dean has used this to inform her work with students, when she has had to help them be comfortable with difficult emotions like anger, fear, and sadness. She hopes it will also help her student cast process the heavy emotions that come with the Next to Normal script. “I’m interested in focusing the actors energies in rehearsals,” said Dean. “It is important to step into rehearsal as a group, leaving personal problems at the door, and to develop a supportive ensemble that can talk about problems if this story is hitting too close to home. Likewise, the actors have to be able to leave the characters and their problems in the theatre to avoid having an ’emotional hangover’ when they leave rehearsal.”

“Maybe the songs will be stuck in our heads, and some days it will be harder than others to put the show away outside of rehearsal; I recognize that,” continued Dean. “Alice Ripley, the actress who played the lead role in this musical on Broadway, talked in her interviews about having a very difficult time living this story night after night and not feeling it during the day.”

Dean hopes that what students are learning as UM-Flint Theatre performers will serve them well after graduation. “Part of my job as a teacher and as an acting teacher is to teach students to be physical and vocal vessels for the tough emotions their characters experience on stage without tying that too closely to their personal lives. Theatre reflects humanity. Humanity is messy. Therefore, the actors face this challenge throughout their entire professional career. I’m excited for this challenge.”

Her cast has responded very well to Next to Normal, and embraced its difficult themes. “On the first night I asked each of the cast members why this show was important to them,” remembered Dean. “I got some really interesting answers about how they each related to the material. Lots of stuff I wasn’t expecting. They each bring a lot of insight to this show.”

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Connecting with the Audience

“It’s important to me to help people understand that theatre doesn’t always have to be about entertainment. It can make you think about life and help you to relate to others and still be an incredibly wonderful, fulfilling, and positive experience that you want to have again.”

Because of its relatable material and high entertainment value, Dean hopes that Next to Normal can entice audiences to the UM-Flint Theatre. “This show has a profound and immediate purpose. It’s a show that invokes conversation about a topic that our society is afraid to address, and yet mental health effects everyone to different and varying degrees on a daily basis.”

During the October 28-30 and November 4-6 weekends, performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online or at the UM-Flint Theatre box office (please arrive early if purchasing tickets at the door). The Sunday, November 6, performance will feature a talk-back session with the cast, crew, and director. All are invited to attend.


For more information on showtimes, ticket sales, and performances, visit umflint.edu/theatredance/season-information or call (810) 237-6522. To reach Director Stephanie Dean, email scdean@umflint.edu.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Physics and Hubble Telescope Research

Dr. Rajib Ganguly of UM-Flint Physics

Dr. Rajib Ganguly of UM-Flint Physics

In late June, 2016, Dr. Rajib Ganguly, Associate Chair of UM-Flint Physics and Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Sciences, Engineering and Physics, received some exciting news: his proposal to use the Hubble Telescope to observe eleven objects in deep space was approved.

Dr. Ganguly’s research will claim 19 of the spacecraft’s orbits during the next year. Over 891 proposals, requesting 25,600 orbits, were submitted this year–while only 3764 total orbits are available.

Dr. Ganguly’s successful proposal was a first for him and for UM-Flint.

In the UM-Flint Physics and Astronomy programs, Dr. Ganguly is known for his research on quasars–or, as he describes them, growing super-massive black holes that reside in the center of galaxies.

Read below as Dr. Ganguly shares more information on his upcoming work with the Hubble Telescope and other areas of research:

In everyday terms, what is your field of research and study?
I’m interested in the understanding the biggest, most massive black holes in the Universe, how they grew to be that size, how that growth affects its surroundings, their relationship to the galaxies in which they reside. To do that, I combine both an empirical and a theoretical approach, using data from a wide variety of telescopes (including Hubble!) and computer simulations.

What do you find fascinating about this work?
That’s a loaded question that could be answered in a many ways! I once posed a somewhat related question to an group at a recent outreach event: What do you think is the most awesome thing about space? I got lots of interesting answers mostly naming specific objects, like black holes, or phenomena, like the expansion of the Universe. Then I told the audience my answer. I find it completely amazing that, using only information encoded in the light that we get here on Earth, and our own ingenuity, we can figure this out about things in space. It is striking that the Universe appears to obey certain rules and that we humans can have the audacity to try to figure out what those rules are. That might be a more generic answer for any us doing research in the physical sciences.

Without getting too esoteric, the current research effort is interesting on several levels. We (the astronomy community) are trying to tell the story of how structure emerged in the Universe, how galaxies formed from that structure, and how they evolve. The growth of supermassive black holes in the nuclei of galaxies appears to have a connection with that evolution. Furthermore, we observe that, in some of these actively growing black holes, there is a substantial amount of matter being expelled from the system, which seems counter-intuitive. How does matter escape from the vicinity of a black hole? There is interesting, and extreme, physics that is needed to explain what is going on.

By testing our ideas about how those rules of nature work in the extreme environment of a black hole, we can hope to improve our understanding of those rules. And with greater understanding comes a greater power to help ourselves.

Dr. Ganguly working with UM-Flint Physics students

Dr. Ganguly working with UM-Flint Physics students

What is your history with the Hubble Telescope?
I have a long history with the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble was launched in 1990 and I began graduate school at Penn State in 1996. My first task before classes even started in my first year was to help my to-be-advisor finish preparing proposals for, if I recall correctly, the fourth cycle of Hubble observations. (We’re heading into the 24th cycle now.) By the time I was in my fourth year of grad school, I was writing my own Hubble proposals. I actually wrote one to fund my PhD dissertation research which repurposed existing Hubble data. I defended my PhD in 2002, and my first post-doctoctoral position was as a research scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. That is basically ground-zero from where Hubble is operated, and the data are archived.

There are many divisions at the institute: a division for each of the instruments, a division for archiving the data, a division for conducting outreach, etc. My supervisor was connected to one of the instruments that was to go up with the fourth servicing mission. Of course, 2003 saw the tragic loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and the astronauts on board, which then grounded the remaining shuttle fleet, and the cancellation of that mission. That was not a happy time, and many of us had to reinvent our research goals/methodology, which I did during my second post-doctoral position at the University of Wyoming. Fate can be rather twisted, though. Eventually, the shuttle fleet was brought back for a time, Hubble was serviced again and those instruments brought new life to the observatory. My then-supervisor, Ken Sembach, is now the director of the Institute. And the new proposal that will see UM-Flint’s first Hubble observations will be taken with the very instrument that we were going to use back in 2003.

Who are you working with on this project?
For my sabbatical this past Winter semester, I went back to my old stomping grounds at Penn State. There, I continued working with my dissertation advisors, Professors Jane Charlton and Michael Eracleous. They are my primary collaborators on this project. I am also collaborating with Professor Charlton current graduate student (my academic brother), Chris Culliton, as well as Professor Eracleous’ post-doctoral researcher Dr. Jessie Runnoe. Dr. Runnoe actually did her PhD at the University of Wyoming, and worked with me while I was there. She will recently moved to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

How will the data from the Hubble help advance your particular research?
There are a number of questions regarding the matter that is being ejected by black holes that are growing in the cores of galaxies. How much is there? How does that compare with how much is falling in? How does it get ejected? The inflow likely takes the form of a thin disk accreting onto the black hole. What shape does the outflow take? What governs that shape?

In a previous study, we identified targets in the existing archive of Hubble observations that were also luminous in the radio band. Radio emission arises from jets of material travelling at relativistic speeds along the rotation axis of the black hole. As a by-product, we can use radio maps to gauge the orientation of these systems. We found two things from that study: (1) nearly all of the radio-luminous objects are viewed with the jet pointing roughly toward us, and (2) none of them show evidence for outflowing material. So, the question is: Are these two things related? Is this telling us something important about the geometry of the outflowing gas? Or is there something more fundamentally, and subtly, heinous about growing black holes with jets that prevent them from having the types of outflows we observe in other objects. [I should note here that the jet itself does not include a sufficient amount of material to provide an explanation for the ejected matter that we observe.] So, we identified a sample of radio-luminous objects where the jets are not directed toward us and convincingly proposed to observe them to test the hypothesis that this is just an orientation effect, that we are getting at the actual geometry of the outflowing gas. A “null” result – that we don’t find any outflows in the proposed sample – will indicate the latter option, which might be even more interesting in terms of understanding what physics is important in driving outflows.

How will UM-Flint students be involved in this research?\
There are a number of aspects of this particular project that my students will assist me with. As the data are collected by Hubble and transmitted down the Earth and archived, we will need to download the data, and to process it so that we can make measurements of it. (The processing has to do with accounting for the ways in which the telescope and camera behave, and calibrating the data.) Since our primary goal is a fishing expedition, our first step will be to count the fish and to compare the statistics of outflows with other samples of objects. Furthermore, for any outflows that are detected, we want to use the high resolution afforded by the Hubble Space Telescope to make measure how much gas there is, and the characterize its physical conditions. This will shed clues as to the nature of the outflowing gas, and the relevant physical processes that affect/drive it.

What value can the general public find in attending your outreach events?
Science is fun, and exciting, and important, and necessary. There isn’t really a price tag on the scope of human knowledge about how nature works, and the rigorous means we use to expand both the breadth and depth of that knowledge. Our primary vehicle for public outreach is a massive event that we call AstroNite, offered once during each of the semesters (October for Fall, April for Winter).  During those events, we have activities that cover how we use information that is encoded in light to learn things about the Universe, what kinds of tools and machinery (e.g., telescopes, Mars Rovers) we use to explore other places, and how we can use observations to infer the story of planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe as a whole.

This is the boldest and most audacious application of scientific principles – learning about no less than the entire Universe with just what we have figured out here on our tiny, precious Earth–and we use it to help inspire the next Carl Sagan, or Richard Feynman, or Stephen Hawking.


For more information on UM-Flint Physics, visit umflint.edu/physics.

08/24/16

Women of STEM: Samantha Grathoff

The College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint is proud to recognize some of the exceptional women of our STEM disciplines. As leaders, mentors, and educators, these women bring passion and talent to our students, classrooms, and the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.


A Leader in the Curiosity Academy

Samantha Grathoff is a lab coordinator, community engagement liaison, and adjunct lecturer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences. She’s also one of the directors of the Curiosity Academy: a community club that engages middle school girls, mostly 6th to 8th graders, who have an interest in STEM subjects.

The Academy aims to reignite the girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math at an age when they may be moving away from such disciplines. Through fun projects and activities, the students are connected to educators and professionals in various STEM fields. Noted one recent student, “Curiosity Academy has been an amazing experience and I love that I got to do cool science projects with my friends. My favorite activities were sending the remote controlled cars down a zipline, doing the plant scavenger hunt, and, of course, going on cool field trips!”

Sam Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Samantha Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Grathoff works “in all aspects of the program, from writing grant applications, developing lesson plans, advertising, and recruiting students, to recruiting speakers, coordinating field trips, developing a peer mentorship program, and, of course, working with the girls during their time with us.” She shares duties with fellow program directors Monique Wilhelm and Essence Wilson.

The Curiosity Academy’s mission closely aligns with Grathoff’s personal interests. Said Grathoff, “I believe that far too many people are intimidated by science, think that it’s only for ‘nerds’, or think that it’s a secluded community. I love to break those stereotypes by providing fun and interactive activities that explain scientific concepts and engage people.”

Grathoff’s desire for an inclusive community and increased confidence for her students is already being realized. Fifteen-year-old Alexis was asked what she likes about Curiosity Academy. She replied, “The sense of community it provides for all those in the program.” Her mother echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s not about the exclusion of boys, that has not been an issuse for Alexis, she can and does speak out in class. It’s more about my daughter learning a sense of community with other females. . . I found a program that embodies that.”

Added Grathoff, “Curiosity Academy has transformed girls from being reserved and quiet to outspoken and confident. It’s incredible that a program that meets only two hours per week can so strongly influence the participants.”

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

A Love of Learning

When asked how she knew a career in STEM was right for her, Grathoff replied, “I was interested in math and science by elementary school. I recall doing workbooks for fun during the summers and having my parents quiz me on math at stores. It wasn’t until high school, however, that my true passion developed. I enrolled in physics, honors chemistry, and almost every biology class my high school offered. The material didn’t come naturally to me, but I loved learning it.”

Grathoff credits both her high school teachers and her parents for fostering her love of the STEM disciplines: “My high school science teachers shared their passion and enthusiasm with me and developed wonderful projects that really engaged me. I loved to see how much they enjoyed their careers, and how much fun STEM could be. My parents also inspired me. They helped me pursue my interests and gain experiences that would help advance my education.”

Grathoff’s role in the Curiosity Academy as a mentor is one that’s appreciated by both her students and their parents. Angie, one of the Academy parents, noted, “I think that the time and energy that these women put into our young women is remarkable and ‘grateful’ is really the best word to describe my feelings. The role models and examples they are [is] truly a blessing for my daughter and all of the girls.”

Sam Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Samantha Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Connecting with the Future

The Curiosity Academy is open to its participants for a small but important window of time in their lives. “My hope is that after Curiosity Academy, the girls’ perseverance, passion, and enthusiasm for STEM continues, regardless of roadblocks that they may encounter,” said Gratthoff. “Even if they decide that STEM isn’t the career for them, I hope that they can take what they’ve learned from Curiosity Academy and apply it to their personal and professional lives.”

For some of the girls, the Academy has already made a difference in their plans. Seventh grader Madison said, “Curiosity Academy has really changed my ideas on what I would like to major in college or what I would like to do for my career. I now would like to possibly go for a chemistry major or maybe even math!” She’s also found that it’s had a positive effect on her time in school: “Curiosity Academy really expanded my knowledge of science. I learned a lot more about plants, fossils, robotics, and so much more… Because of it, I learned a lot before it was even discussed at school, which helped me understand the topic a lot more.”

Madison has also absorbed the example of mentorship that Grathoff shows every day: “I love being a girl who loves STEM! it helps other girls at school see that girls can love topics like science and math, too!”

Whether they are interested in STEM disciplines or not, Grathoff believes “young girls should do what they enjoy doing, not what others think they should do.” She advises students to “try activities that you’ve never tried before. Put effort into every subject in school, even if you don’t think you like it. You never know what you’ll end up liking. Finally, don’t stop exploring. Ask questions, foster new friendships, and stay busy! It’s never too late to explore a new interest, whether it’s academic or for fun.”

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

Join the 2016-17 Curiosity Academy

Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Curiosity Academy class. The deadline is October 10, 2016. Admission is based solely on program interest and is limited to 24 participants. Partial and full tuition assistance is available.


To learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM-Flint, and their opportunities for students of all ages, visit their website at umflint.edu/chemistry. To connect with Samantha Grathoff, email sgrathof@umflint.edu.

06/1/16

2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

UMF_2016Art1

Janice McCoy, student artist at UM-Flint

The Greater Flint Arts Council (GFAC) Gallery is currently filled with a wide variety of artwork created by UM-Flint students. The exhibit opened in May with a an awards ceremony and reception honoring the student artists. It will remain open until June 6.

This annual exhibition gives UM-Flint students a chance to not only display and sell artwork, but, as a juried show, it allows them to receive critiques and praise from an expert in the field.

Chris Waters, Professor of Art and the Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at UM-Flint, was instrumental in starting the first Student Art Exhibition years ago. When asked about the importance of such an event, she said, “The ability for students to show their work is vital to their Visual Arts education. It is also vital they understand art as a communication and learn if their work is effective in this regard. 
Having work selected for the exhibition, and then having an independent juror select awards helps students develop critical thinking skills about their own work and that of others while also preparing for what they will be asked to do in their professional careers in art.”

In addition to the juried awards that recognize individual pieces of art at the show, the students are eligible for “choice” awards if their pieces are selected by state government officials or university administrators, and department awards that take into consideration the students’ larger body of work and academic performance.

Senior Janice McCoy, pictured above, is pursuing degrees in Visual Arts Education (B.S.) and General Studio Art (B.F.A.) and a minor in Art History. She is also a member of the University of Michigan-Flint Honors program. McCoy won two awards this year: “I was not only recognized for Exceptional Merit for ‘Carousel in Motion’ by guest juror Donovan Entrain, but I was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement in the Visual Arts by the faculty of the visual arts [program]. Both of these awards were extremely exciting and humbling to receive. All of our students are talented and hardworking, so to be recognized as exceptional among this talented group is something really special. I am overjoyed that my hard work this year has led to this recognition from my instructors and the local art community. Being acknowledged in this way only motivates me to further develop my skills and strive to create more exceptional pieces of art.”

UMF_2016Art7

“Carousel in Motion” by Janice McCoy received an award for exceptional merit at the 2016 annual student art exhibition.

Continued McCoy, “I was inspired to create ‘Carousel in Motion’ by a photograph I took during a study abroad program with Dr. Sarah Lippert last year to Paris, France, and surrounding areas. The photograph was of a display mimicking a carousel in the Château de Chantilly’s Museum of the Horse, located in their Great Stables. I loved the drama and movement created by the dynamic poses of the carousel horses, bathed in flickering lights. Additionally, I have some fond memories of riding the carousel repeatedly as a child. These experiences inspired me to research and create an original composition driven by an exciting combination of movement, light and color, divided between two canvases. I love this piece because of my nostalgia attached to the carousel and the trip to France, and the movement that draws the viewer’s eyes across the canvases.”

Pieces at UM-Flint's 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Pieces at UM-Flint’s 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

2016 Juried Award Winners:

  • Best in Show: SARAH COULTER “Map” Cast Glass
  • Exceptional Merit: JANICE McCOY “Carousel in Motion” Diptych, Oil on Canvas
  • Artist’s Voice: EMILY LEGLEITNER
  • Patty Morello Memorial Award: NICOLE FENECH “Octavia” Mixed Media Sculpture
  • Best Art-Historical Recreation Award: KERRY ANN MOREY “Cleopatra Recreated” Oil on Canvas

2016 Choice Award Winners:

  • The Arts in the Legislature Award: BREANNA KERRISON “Bits and Pieces” Digital Print
  • Chancellor’s Choice Award: RACHEL PAPPAS “Magical Forest” Stained Glass and Wood
  • Provost’s Choice Award: WENDY BROWN “Imagine, Believe, Achieve” Digital Print Collage
  • Dean’s Choice Award: LINSEY CUMMINGS “Lego Logan” Digital Print
  • Library Collection Choice Award: SARAH COULTER “Map” Cast Glass

2016 Academic Award Winners:

  • Achievement in Research (Symposium Presenters): ANGELA WHITLOCK, LEON COLLINS, MARY KELLY, MARTA WATTERS
  • Excellence in Art Education: CHEYENNE SERRATO
  • Excellence in Civic Engagement: MARY KELLY and LENA GAYAR (tie)
  • Outstanding Overall Achievement: JANICE MCCOY
  • Excellence in Art History Award: TAYLOR FRITZ
  • Excellence in Ceramics: SYMANTHA FOREMAN
  • Excellence in Drawing: KERRY ANN MOREY
  • Excellence in Graphic Design: HEIDI HALS
  • Excellence in Media Design: ALEXANDER THEODOROFF
  • Excellence in Painting: ASHLEY THORNTON
  • Excellence in Photography: ALICIA MUSIC SHAVER
  • Excellence in Sculpture: RACHEL PAPPAS
  • Martin Anderson Excellence in Printmaking: EMILY LEGLEITNER
Pieces at UM-Flint's 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Pieces at UM-Flint’s 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Graduate student Mary Kelly received awards for Excellence in Civic Engagement and a Certificate of Award for Research for her work “Overlooked Ornamentation: Italian Devotional Art as Images of Power” that was presented at the Art & Art History Student Symposium at the Flint Institute of Arts in April 2016. Kelly also works with the Visual Arts faculty to promote department and student work through social media and the Art Scene blog she created.

Said Kelly, “I came to UM-Flint intending to complete a degree that had been delayed through interruption in my education.  Once here, I accomplished not only that goal with my BFA in Painting & Drawing, but I added a second degree with my BA in Art History. The offerings at UM-Flint inspired me to approach art from both of these perspectives and to continue my education with the Arts Administration [graduate] program with the goal of using my knowledge to aid other artists to navigate the many options available to them as professional artists as a bridge between these artists and institutions organizations and venues.”

Pieces at UM-Flint's 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Pieces at UM-Flint’s 2016 Annual Student Art Exhibition

Senior Breanna Kerrison’s digital print “Bits and Pieces” received the Arts in the Legislature Award. Said Kerrison, “I feel very honored to receive an award like this, the past semester has really pushed me into becoming the artist that I want to be and I am ecstatic to have it recognized!”
Breanna Kerrison stands with her photograph "Bits and Pieces"

Breanna Kerrison stands with her photograph “Bits and Pieces”

 When asked about her experience as a UM-Flint Visual Arts student, Kerrison replied, “My experience as a UM-Flint art student has been challenging, engaging, and an incredible journey. There will never be anything else like it and for that I am grateful. The  art professors at U of M not only teach you, but inspire you to become something the world will never forget.”

For more information on UM-Flint programs in Art and Art History, visit the visual arts website or call (810) 766-6679.

The Annual Student Exhibition will be on display at the GFAC Gallery through June 6. The gallery is open to the public and free of charge. They are located at 816 Saginaw St, Flint, MI 48502. Visit their website or call (810) 238-2787 for hours or more information.
05/4/16

CAS Faculty Join UM-Flint Celebration of Teaching

Shelby Newport of Theatre & Dance and Amy York of Physical Therapy discuss peer observation at the 2016 UM-Flint Celebration of Teaching.

Shelby Newport of Theatre & Dance and Amy Yorke of Physical Therapy discuss peer observation at the 2016 UM-Flint Celebration of Teaching.

Throughout the year, UM-Flint’s Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching (TCLT) acknowledges and advances excellence in teaching throughout campus. This spring they put a spotlight on that excellence with their annual Celebration of Teaching. The event marks the end of another academic year while fostering conversation and connections between faculty from around the university.

The 2016 event opened with a welcome by Tracy Wacker, director of the TCLT. She applauded the gathered faculty for the ways in which they are advancing teaching at the university.

The keynote address was given by Dr. Tom Wrobel of Psychology on the theme of the “Multiple Identities of a Teacher.” He talked about all of the facets of a teacher’s soul: a journeyman to the student apprentice, exposing them to the richness of each discipline; a salesperson, selling each area of study to students; an actor, putting on an excited face for the explanation given dozens of time before—remembering that the content is fresh for each batch of students; a lens, encouraging students “not just to see, but to see through”; and in some ways a parent.

He closed by noting that students also affect each faculty member’s identity, for “in trying to become a better teacher, you can’t help but become a better person.”

Learning from Peers

Tracy Wacker of the TCLT discusses the upcoming conversation with the Celebration of Teaching panel

Tracy Wacker of the TCLT discusses the upcoming conversation with the Celebration of Teaching panel

A faculty panel, made up of individuals from the College of Arts & Sciences, SEHS, and SHPS, spoke on “Advancing Teaching Excellence at UM-Flint.” Members included Scott Caddy of English, Jessica Camp of Social Work, Seung-Jin Lee of ERS and CSEP, Shelby Newport of Theatre & Dance, Joyce Piert of Mathematics, and Amy Yorke of Physical Therapy.

Newport and Yorke opened the discussion together, talking about their experiences with peer observation.

They discussed the unexpected ways in which their disparate disciplines, theater and physical therapy, gave surprising insight into each other’s teaching spaces and methods.

For example, Newport offered feedback on use of space that reflected her experiences with staging plays. From that, Yorke learned to stage her students and classrooms for more effective communication.

Yorke, while giving a lesson on touch in her physical therapy course, inspired Newport to think about the ways in which she talks to students about applying stage makeup. For both, a softness of touch was needed to convey expertise and confidence.

Both were surprised by the amount of common ground they found in observing each other’s teaching methods and disciplines. Newport said she loved finding, “connections from unlike sources,” and Yorke added, “as teachers, we have so much in common.”

Emily Feueherm of English at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Emily Feueherm of English at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Seung-Jin Lee spoke on his experience of being brought to campus to “bridge the gap between environment and engineering.” To do so, he’s established a course that will help engineering students think about sustainability, “not just performance, but the consequences of design.”

His goal with the course is to help his students not only make products that have a sustainable design, but also come from sustainable systems. He hopes to inspire the students to be more “aware of making the world a better place.” For example, how do you redesign a computer so that its components and the energy it uses are not negatively impacting the world in which it works?

Panel member Joyce Piert of Mathematics speaks at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Panel member Joyce Piert of Mathematics speaks at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Joyce Piert of Mathematics discussed Teaching Circles on campus, and the ways in which they have enhanced her time in the classroom. Teaching circles bring together educators from many disciplines for conversations on their personal experiences in the professional world. She noted that, surprisingly, the sessions became a place of healing for her and others as they discussed shared moments.

Jessica Camp of Social work presented on her redesign of a senior capstone course as a new faculty member, and its expected and unexpected outcomes. The new course structure allows for senior projects to be student driven and community focused. Camp noted that she wanted her students “to be able to recognize social justice issues that need to be addressed,” and then to “research and apply action.” The capstone ends with an annual event at which the students present their research projects to the community and campus.

Camp noted that having the freedom to identify and drive their own research builds important and individual skills. It “helps students identify where their passion lies and move forward in this incredibly diverse field.”

She hopes the new student-driven model will help her students stand out when entering the job field after graduation, saying “[the] industry is looking for self-sufficient and self-motivated individuals [who can] think intentionally and critically about these issues.”

Associate Dean Roy Barnes of CAS at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Associate Dean Roy Barnes of CAS at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Scott Caddy teaches English 111 and 112, courses required by nearly every student at the university and ones in which he learned a great deal about being a teacher. While helping his students learn that making mistakes is okay, and that it will lead to stronger writing, he found that the same is true for being an educator.

Said Caddy, “It’s important to create a space where ‘failure’ is acceptable and you find ways to evolve and change your approach.”

Caddy’s powerful message about giving yourself permission to fail resonated with the faculty in the audience. It led to intense discussion about the importance of sharing both successes and failures with peers, and utilizing campus resources like the TCLT to have such conversations and gain feedback and support.

Powerful Conversation

Following the panel discussions, the Celebration of Teaching audience broke into small groups for a discussion on Teaching Moments. The TCLT staff prompted discussion by asking the groups to discuss the 2015-2016 academic year and the best thing that happened, the most surprising thing, and a powerful realization they had as teachers.

Faculty members share ideas on Teaching Moments at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Faculty members share ideas on Teaching Moments at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Audience members reflect on the 2015-2016 academic year at the Celebration of Teaching.

Audience members reflect on the 2015-2016 academic year at the Celebration of Teaching.

After the groups had come back together and shared their findings, Scott Johnson, Dean of the School of Management, noted the small groups’ findings shared “the common theme of self-awareness, learning as a person, and being honest that you have vulnerabilities.” He added, “it’s a really special thing to be a teacher, but this applies to all walks of life.”


For more information on the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching, and the ways in which they work to advance educators at UM-Flint, visit their website: umflint.edu/TCLT.

 

 

04/25/16

UM-Flint’s 2016 Engineering Design Day

Each year, graduating UM-Flint Engineering students design, fabricate, and present Senior Design Projects as a culmination of all they have learned. This year they were able to present their work to the campus during Engineering Design Day and also to their Industrial Advisory Board later the same week.

To decide on projects, each student in the capstone course presents an idea relevant to their personal interests and skills. The class votes and the winning ideas are adopted as final projects. The students break into teams based on project choice.

The projects can be inspired by academic competitions, improvements to existing industry equipment, and social or community needs. Two of this year’s projects were responses to needs or issues at the students’ jobs.

With the projects, the students gain experience in working with clients, staying on budget and schedule, and managing both test results and expectations—all in addition to demonstrating their considerable knowledge of engineering practices and equipment use.

Dean Susan Gano-Phillips of the College of Arts & Sciences attended Engineering Design Day and spoke with students from each of the project teams. She noted, “Engineering Design projects are the culmination of students’ experience in the Engineering Program. It is exciting to see the innovative and creative ideas of our students brought to fruition in these collaborative projects.” Gano-Phillips was impressed to learn that all of the graduating students who were ready to enter the workforce already had jobs lined up.

Following are the 2016 Senior Design Projects:

Gear Test Fixture

UM-Flint Engineering students discuss their senior design project.

UM-Flint Engineering students discuss their senior design project.

Students: James Pung and Brendon Stokes

This project was directly related to student work at Nexteer Automotive. Much of the product development was done on site in Saginaw, MI.

According to the students’ abstract, “The scope of this project is to develop a gear test fixture that will test strength of a weld joint to attach a worm gear to a drive shaft. The worm gear and shaft assembly are used to drive an electric power steering system at Nexteer Automotive. The fixture must be capable of evaluating the reliability and strength of the weld joint to avoid failure. The fixture was designed to apply load on the gear assembled on the shaft. In the event of weld failure with an applied load, the load will decrease and the gear will stop rotating. The applied load and displacement of the gear will be recorded throughout the test in order to compare the load and number of cycles at which failure occurred.”

They concluded that the “new test fixture was able to perform the test efficiently and was able to meet the requirement specified by Nexteer Automotive.”

Portable Water Filtration System

Professor Mojtaba Vaziri of UM-Flint Engineering examines a senior design project.

Professor Mojtaba Vaziri of UM-Flint Engineering examines the portable water filtration system.

Students: John Gagnon and Nathan Calvert

This group set out to create a water filtration system that was suitable for a wide variety of users, from hikers trying to lighten their loads to children in developing countries who need clean water. The group considered “ease of use, weight, size, rate of flow, capacity, and FDA approval” in their design decisions.

The group notes, “Engineering analyses were performed to determine pressure drop, sterilization time, power consumption, and stress due to impact. Most of the components were designed and developed using a 3D printer technology with ABS plastic materials. The filtration system was tested using environmental protection agency guidelines for drinking water quality.”

To meet all of the standards proposed, the project underwent several adjustments during the design process, including material changes, choosing a different pump, and overall design modifications.

Human-Powered Vehicle (HPV)

Members of the Human Powered Vehicle group pose with the UM-Flint Engineering Senior Design Project

Members of the Human Powered Vehicle group pose with the UM-Flint Engineering Senior Design Project

Students: Xingyu Chen, Aleah Pavlicek, Terence Staples, and Brandon Walker

This project was inspired by the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge, an annual competition held by the the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. The competition challenges students to think of new ways to provide feasible transpiration options to rural, underserved, or developing populations.

The UM-Flint students considered maneuverability, stability, load-bearing and cargo space, and speed/stopping in their design choices.

Five Speed Manual Transmission System

Dr. Quamrul Mazumder, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, operates the transmission project.

Dr. Quamrul Mazumder, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, operates the transmission project.

Students: Kenneth O’Brien, Liwei Zhao, and Yang Zhou

Per this group, “The objective of this project was to design, develop, manufacture and test a five-speed transmission system that could be used for teaching and modeling in engineering classrooms. The gearbox was designed with several clear plastic viewing panels to observe the operation of the system. Furthermore, the components were designed for visual demonstration while running at lower speeds. Finally, a flywheel was added to the gearbox to measure rotational speeds. Most of the gearbox components were designed and manufactured using a 3D printer and computer aided design software. Material properties were verified using a tensile tester, the prototype assembly that was tested has met design specifications and required performances.”

This educational model will “demonstrate features, such as shaft, gear, keyed shafts, bearing, and the interaction of different components in the transmission system. Students will be able to measure the input power, input speed and output speed by using speed sensors or tachometers. The transmission model will also aid classroom labs, as students will be able to make predictions and test maximum speeds of the output shaft.”

The group declared the project a success and a “great learning experience.”

Inspection and Rescue Robot

One of the Rescue Robot group members speaks with Dean Gano-Phillips about their final product.

One of the Rescue Robot group members speaks with Dean Gano-Phillips about their final product.

Students: Erik Leaske, Joshua Wakefield, and Yufei Fan

Students in this group wanted to address the number of employee deaths each year that result from the need to inspect confined or hazardous spaces. Their answer came in the form of a small robot that could traverse pipes and other closed environments like heating or ventilation ducts and sewer pipes.

The robot was built on an aluminum frame with consideration given to protecting the camera and electrical components in places that may be wet. The group explored both Wi-Fi and autonomous capabilities as they tried to prepare for the wide variety of uses for their project. Although future improvements could include a plastic frame, “the robot was successfully tested for mechanical performance and design criterion.”

Tugger Cart for Powder Coating Process

UM-Flint Engineering students pose with their tugger cart project.

UM-Flint Engineering students pose with their tugger cart project.

Students: Dan Larson, Zach Stevenson, and Sandeep Solanki

According to this group, “There are many hazards associated with the industrial powder coating process. Powder coating operations require the use of curing ovens at high temperatures. The high temperature environment exposes employees to many hazardous situations when they remove carts from the oven. The objective of the project was to develop a system to eliminate the need for an employee to enter the oven. The previous system wasted large amounts of energy due to repeated heating and cooling of the oven to allow employees to enter the oven. A remotely controlled tugger cart would eliminate the need for cool down resulting in an increase in productivity while reducing employee risk. The cart was designed to travel under the racks to move the rack out of the oven. Critical performance requirements included safety, reliability, ease of operation and long battery life. The cart design used a modular concept that is versatile for use in different applications. Additional tests were required to test for the robustness of radio communication to ensure reliability. The proposed cart also had to be cost effective compared to similar systems available in the market.”

As with other projects, this one answered a real-world issue at a student’s employer and also has the potential to greatly increase safety for workers.


For more information on the UM-Flint Engineering, visit umflint.edu/engineering.