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SCSE Highlights for November 2018

UMD Greenhouse surrounded by snow-covered trees
December 7, 2018

Highlighting Swenson College of Science & Engineering faculty and staff achievements from October and November of 2018.


Dr. Manik Barman, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, presented a webinar entitled “Structural Fibers in Thin Concrete Overlays” to a target audience of pavement designers, materials staff, project programmers and road and street supervisors/managers from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming offered by the North Dakota State University Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.

Dr. Ben Dymond, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, presented two talks at the UMN Center for Transportation Studies Transportation Research Conference: “Anchorage of Epoxy-Coated Rebar Post-Installed Using Chemical Adhesives” and “Deterioration of Mixed Rebar and Fiber-Reinforced Concrete Bridge Decks.”

Dr. Julie Etterson, professor in the Department of Biology, published a paper with M. A. White, L. C. Kavajecz, and M. W. Cornett entitled “Embedding Research into Restoration: A Case Study Illustrating the Value of Applied-Academic Partnerships” in Tree Planter’s Notes.

Dr. Joe Gallian, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, served on an NSF grant panel in November.

Undergraduate student Blake Fauskee working with Dr. Amanda Grusz, assistant professor in the Biology Department, was recently awarded $2,500 in sequencing-related costs from the University of Minnesota Genomics Center as part of the Genopitch North competition. As one of four invited pitches, Fauskee competed with faculty from the Medical School and the Department of Biology—ultimately being chosen by the audience and UMGC to win the $2,500 prize. The award will defray costs of DNA/RNA sequencing for the project – “Does Specialized RNA Editing Shape Evolutionary Rates in Land Plants?”

Dr. Marshall Hampton, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, spent October on an invited trip to China, speaking and staying at Sichuan University in Chengdu, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, and Chongqing University in Chongqing. He also spoke at the McGehee Fest/Midwest Dynamical Systems Conference at the U of M Twin Cities campus in November.

Dr. Imran Hayee, professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, was invited to speak at the Center for Transportation Studies annual research conference in Minneapolis, Minn., and presented “Development of a Cost Effective Lane Departure System Using Standard GPS Receiver.”

Dr. Randall Hicks, professor in the Biology Department, presented a seminar entitled "Rusting Away: Water Quality, Bacterial Communities, and Antifouling Coatings to Reduce Biocorrosion of Maritime Infrastructure" in October at Michigan Technological University’s Department of Biology in Houghton, Mich.

Dr. Arshia Kahn, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, was invited to present her research on how wearable sensors can be used to detect very early symptoms of dementia at the INNOV'inMed conference in Marseilles, France. She has also raised funds to bring the two-day MinneWIC conference to UMD in February 2019, a conference for women in computing sciences in the upper Midwest.

Dr. Bethany Kubik, assistant professor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department, was invited to give talks at two national conferences. One of the talks took place at the Women in Mathematics session at the national Society for the Advancement of Native Americans and Chicanos in the Sciences (SACNAS) conference. She also presented at the Commutative Algebra session at a sectional American Mathematical Society (AMS) conference on "Tau-factorization."

Dr. Eil Kwon, professor in the Civil Engineering Department, was featured in an ASCE Smartbrief article about his recently completed research for the Minnesota Department of Transportation that automatically determines the 'normal condition regain time' during snow events. The computer system developed from this research uses traffic-flow data and is designed to assist MnDOT's snow maintenance operations and planning.

Dr. Nathan Johnson, associate professor in the Civil Engineering Department, was awarded a grant by the Norwegian Water Research Institute to study contaminant sources in an industrial area in Norway using stable mercury isotopes. He also had a paper published in Biogeochemistry with WRS PhD student Sophie La-Fond Hudson, John Pastor, and Brad Dewey entitled "Iron Sulfide Formation on Root Surfaces Controlled by the Life Cycle of Wild Rice (Zizania palustris).”

An undergraduate student in Dr. Allen Mensinger’s lab with the Biology Department, Alayna Mackiewicz, has received two travel grants to attend the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference in Tampa Florida in January. She is one of seven students selected to compete for this year’s Marlene Zuk Award for Best Student Presentation based on the submission of her extended abstract.

Dr. Elizabeth Austin-Minor, professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is a co-author on two papers in a special issue of Biogeochemistry (December 2018, Issue 3) that has just become available on-line. This special issue was based upon a Chapman Conference of the America Geophysical Union for which Dr. Austin-Minor was one of the organizers. The papers are: “Watershed ‘Chemical Cocktails’: Forming Novel Elemental Combinations in Anthropocene Fresh Waters” and “The Impact of Flooding on Aquatic Ecosystem Services.”

Dr. Cody Shiek, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, was invited to attend a Deep Life meeting in Shanghai, China, to celebrate the establishment of the International Center for Deep Life Investigation. The meeting was marked by talks and breakout sessions on microorganisms that live in deep Marine and Terrestrial environments. Dr. Shiek presented a workshop detailed here.

Dr. Debao Zhou, professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, was invited to write an editorial for the journal of Digital Medicine. After peer review, his editorial was accepted in November and will be published soon.


Stacey Stark, director of the Geospatial Analysis Center, received an award from the MN Department of Public Safety to work with several counties to update their hazard mitigation plans using spatial data.

SCSE Staff Awards were announced for the fall semester to recognize exceptional service in leadership on the job, customer focus, and quality of service.  The award winners are Valerie Coit, communications specialist in SCSE Administration; Cindy Gustafson, office and administrative service supervisor in the Mathematics and Statistics Department; and Mae Siljendahl, executive office and administrative specialist in SCSE Administration.


Dr. Tracy Bibelnieks and Aaron Shepanik from the Department of Mathematics & Statistics are the advisors for a group of award-winning students. Undergraduate and graduate students from their department competed in the Minneanalytics Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MinneMUDAC) and finished near the top. The undergraduate team took second place and the graduate students placed in the top three (final results are still being determined). The competition is a month long and students had to collect and analyze data to predict the midterm elections.

The Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Indianapolis, Indiana featured two presentations from UMD. One, a poster on “Mastodons (Mammut Americanum) and the Late-Glacial Vegetation of the Eastern USA”, was the culmination of a seminar course last spring that focused on proboscidean adaptation and extinction. All students in the class are co-authors and the poster was presented by Earth & Environmental Sciences graduate student Jackie Drazan. The second was a talk given by Diana Dalbotten from UMTC and Rachel Breckenridge, instructor from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, entitled “Azhegiiwe Bagwajaya’ii (He/She Returns to Nature) – Implementing Earth Systems Science at Leech Lake Tribal College.”

Dr. Cody Shiek, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, and Dr. Latisha Brengman, assistant professor in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department, were featured in an article entitled “Geobiology: Slime Through Time” in Earth Magazine about science underground. They invited a science writer to tag along on a class field to Soudan iron mine in northern Minnesota to look at 2.8 billion year old banded iron formations and the microbes that are living deep in the mine.


If you would like to share news of an award, research, publication, presentation or successful funding proposal, contact Valerie Coit, Communications Specialist at vcoit@d.umn.eduto be added to the next update. These stories will be shared at the beginning of each month during the fall and spring semesters.

Learn more about the Swenson College of Science and Engineering.