TECH SCEnE: Technology, Science and Community Engagement in Engineering

A new summer research program connects biomedical, biological sciences and electrical
engineering students to Indigenous communities, environmental health and technological
solutions.

Research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) are programs sponsored by the National
Science Foundation (NSF) and are paid summer research opportunities for students.
TECH SCEnE, a new REU at Michigan Technological University, builds an interdisciplinary
foundation in STEM and community engagement for students focused in science, technology,
engineering and math areas. Each research project was designed in partnership with
staff from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Natural Resources Department.

Apply to TECH SCEnE

Applications are due May 1, 2021. Learn more about the program and how it combines hands-on undergraduate research in the lab with outdoor adventure
and service learning, with free housing and a stipend, too. All applicants will hear
back by May 15, 2021. The program aims to recruit students from across the US and increase visibility for
MTU and its research capabilities.

“Our research is directly addressing KBIC priorities,” said Valoree Gagnon, director
of University-Indigenous Community Partnerships at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research
Center. “While KBIC guides our work throughout the REU program, we are also contributing
to a broader need in research — how to build and strengthen equitable university-community
partnerships.”

Gagnon, a research assistant professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental
Science at Michigan Tech, will serve as a TECHSCEnE project mentor along with Smitha
Rao.

“It is not often that students get the opportunity to directly address the needs of
a community,” said Rao, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan
Tech. “For students who want to see how their contributions can make an impact, how
application of science and technology can provide solutions to problems, this is an
amazing program.”

A typical day in the TECH SCEnE REU program involves research, play and building connection. Rao urges students to apply for
the program, which has room for about 12 students this summer: “Whether you are a
student in community college or tribal college or a university, TECH SCEnE is an NSF
REU program structured to help you both learn and apply your knowledge.”

REU student researchers stay in the dorms at Michigan Tech for eight weeks in a dedicated
TECH SCEnE learning community; the program kicks off June 7, 2021, and runs through
July 30, 2021. All work in the lab, in the community and in the field is guided by
a Michigan Tech faculty mentor like Rao and Gagnon as well as a KBIC mentor. Participating
students will focus on one of five STEM research projects:

In addition, each week students will go on a variety of service-learning outdoor field
trips guided by the KBIC. Alongside Rao and Gagnon, Michigan Tech faculty mentors
include Rupali Datta, Department of Biological Sciences; Chris Middlebrook, Nagesh
Hatti and Zhaohui Wang, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Bruce
Lee, Department of Biological Engineering. Mentors from the KBIC Natural Resources
Department include Natural Resources Director Evelyn Ravindran, environmental specialist
Dione Price, wildlife biologist Erin Johnston, and wildlife coordinator David Seppanen.

NSF funds a large number of REUs through its REU Sites program. An REU Site consists of a group of 10 or so undergraduates who work in the research
programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research
project, working closely with the faculty and other researchers.

TECH SCEnE is research with impact. Apply and help make a difference in food sovereignty,
health tech innovation and environmental monitoring.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than
7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than
120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering,
forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and
social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway
and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Rosa G. Rose

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