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FALL 2018


INSIDE: Faculty tackle water quality >> Alumni clean up hurricane destruction >> Students mix water and technology >>


CSE dives into water research




innesotans have a special connection to water. With the Mighty Mississippi running through our state and 10,000+ lakes, Minnesota has 90,000 miles of shoreline—more than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined. About 13 million acres in Minnesota are covered by water or wetlands. We all have a personal connection to water, but we also have an economic interest in the health and sustainability of our water resources.

Unfortunately, about 40 percent of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers are polluted, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The National Academy of Engineering has identified access to clean water as one of its 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering. Lack of clean water is responsible for more deaths globally than war. About one out of every six people living in the world today does not have adequate access to clean water.

Photo by Rebecca Slater

Water connects our communities The good news is that faculty, students, and alumni in the College of Science and Engineering are literally diving in to take action. Among the many stories in this special issue of Inventing Tomorrow focused on water research, you will read about students and faculty research using underwater robots to study pollution and invasive species. You’ll also read about faculty research that led to a statewide ban, and an eventual nationwide ban, on an ingredient in antibacterial soaps that was ending up in our waterways. You will further learn about research to control harmful algae blooms and keep our oceans free of plastics.

last year’s Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Water research also connects communities. New faculty research working with Minnesota Tribal collaborators uses wild rice as a flagship for assuring clean water and equitable communities. Alumni from our college worked in clean-up efforts in

I am proud of the work of my colleagues who are employing the latest research techniques to study water, educating the next generation of water researchers, and connecting communities around this vital resource.

Q&A with the new CSE Dean

Mos Kaveh was named dean of the College of Science and Engineering in June 2018. He had served as interim dean since January. The following interview was excerpted from an article in our Fall 2018 CSE Alumni and Friends Enewsletter. To read the full conversation with the Dean, visit

What are the biggest changes you have seen in your 40+ years with the college? When I first came to the University of Minnesota as a faculty member in 1975, this was a commuter campus where people came and went only for classes. Today, our students are much more tied to campus through student groups, research, entrepreneurship opportunities, and other experiential learning opportunities. This has created a vibrant community that has helped us to attract top talent and increase our graduation rates to new highs. We’ve also been able to attract a more diverse student population. This year, our class of first-year students will have the highest percentage of women ever and is one of the most ethnically diverse.



What is your vision for the college’s role in our high-tech economy? By growing our college, we have a great opportunity to be part of the engine that drives Minnesota’s economy. Minnesota has truly been a miracle state when it comes to the STEM economy. But, I am concerned that the state’s momentum may have slowed. The Twin Cities failed to even make the first cut for Amazon’s second headquarters. The media said that the reason was that there was not enough technology talent to meet the workforce demand. This is a wake-up call for our entire state. The business community, state leaders, and the legislature must acknowledge the problem and recognize that the College of Science and Engineering can and should be a key piece of the solution for providing that top echelon of the high-tech workforce. We need to grow our programs. Now is the moment for us to make that case to the legislature—our state’s economy depends on it.


INVENTING TOMORROW Fall 2018 • Vol. 43, No. 2




Dean Mostafa Kaveh

Every Drop Counts / 6

Associate Dean, Academic Affairs Ellen Longmire Associate Dean, Research and Planning Christopher Cramer Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs Paul Strykowski

EDITORIAL STAFF Communications Director Rhonda Zurn Managing Editor Pauline Oo Designer Sara Specht Contributors Jenn Ackerman Richard Anderson Maja Beckstrom Greg Breining Tim Gruber Barbara Heitkamp Patrick Loch Susan Maas Brian McFatridge Patrick O’Leary Rebecca Slater

CSE engineers and scientists tackle water-quality threats from multiple fronts

Rain, Rain, Go Away / 14

Another hurricane season is ending, but clean-up and rebuilding efforts continue

Deep Analysis / 20

role in water-related projects


T  he flume that started it all— how one man’s vision weathered the years

Inventing Tomorrow is published by the College of Science and Engineering twice a year for alumni and friends of the college. The publication is available in alternative formats for those visually impaired by calling 612-624-8257.


Each month, Junaed Sattar, founding director of the Interactive Robotics and Vision Lab (, and his student researchers bring Minnebot to the rec center for pool trials. In addition to being an invaluable platform for underwater robotics research, the autonomous submersible could help protect our environment.

ADDRESS CHANGE? If you’ve moved, drop us a line:


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© 2018 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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Reading and sharing your favorite college magazine just got easier. This publication is available electronically, as both a web version with pages you can flip (with the click of a mouse!) and as a digital edition delivered via email. To view this or past issues, visit:

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TECH DIGEST Astrophysicists identify new type of stellar collision

New observations of a stellar phenomenon by a team of researchers, including University of Minnesota astrophysicists, have solved a 348-yearold mystery. The phenomenon is thought to be an explosive merger of white and brown dwarf stars—the first ever identified. Read more:

Photos courtesy National GeospatialIntelligence Agency

New maps show Antarctica in stunning detail Researchers from the University’s Polar Geospatial Center are part of a team that has released the most accurate terrain map of Antarctica ever created. The map uses high-resolution satellite images to show the continent in stunning detail and will provide new insight on climate change. Read more:

Photo courtesy ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/S. P. S. Eyres

International team to study fundamental science of waves An international collaboration, led by the University of Minnesota, has received an $8 million grant that will bring together top experts from around the world to study the fundamental science of waves. Read more:

New material could improve efficiency of computer processing and memory A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, has developed a new material that could potentially improve the efficiency of computer processing and memory. The discovery has received attention from the semiconductor industry and researchers have filed a patent. Read more:



Scientists discover new magnetic element A new experimental discovery, led by the University of Minnesota, demonstrates that the chemical element ruthenium (Ru) is the fourth single element to have unique magnetic properties at room temperature. The discovery could improve sensors and other devices using magnetic materials. Read more:

Genetic interaction map reveals the networks of cellular life

Photo courtesy Robert Schwarz

Researcher makes history at the bottom of the world University of Minnesota astrophysicist Robert Schwarz holds a place unique in history. Over the past 22 years, he has spent 14 Southern Hemisphere winters at the Pole—more than anyone else. Schwarz watches over the Keck Array, a cluster of microwave telescopes. Watch video:

A landmark new study, involving University of Minnesota researchers, is no longer looking at genes as loners but instead as a social network that interacts in groups. The new approach may ultimately change our understanding of the genetic roots of diseases. Read more:

Image by Anastasia Baryshnikova, University of Toronto

How does the caged molecule rattle and sing?

Photo courtesy McAlpine Group

Researchers 3D print prototype for ‘bionic eye’ A team of researchers have, for the first time, fully 3D printed an array of light receptors on a hemispherical surface. This discovery marks a significant step toward creating a “bionic eye” that could someday help blind people see or sighted people see better. Read more and watch video:

A team of energy researchers has discovered that molecular motion can be predicted with high accuracy when confining molecules in small nanocages. Their theoretical method is suitable for screening millions of possible nanomaterials and could improve production of fuels and chemicals. Read more: Photo courtesy Center for Transportation Studies

Team to study autonomous vehicles

Photo courtesy Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation

Researchers find natural product that could slow aging process In a new study, University of Minnesota researchers have found a natural product, called fisetin, that can reduce the level of damaged cells in the body, which can slow the aging process. Read more:

Could campus shuttles drive themselves in the future? Maybe. A team of researchers has received a new grant from the National Science Foundation to rethink transportation services using giant pools of shared autonomous vehicles. Read more and watch video:

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CSE engineers and scientists tackle waterquality threats on multiple fronts


ater touches everything—not just our physical environment, but also our cultural and spiritual worlds.

We use it but never destroy it. We drink it and bathe in it. We wash cars and irrigate crops. Our factories consume and expel it. Rivers carry away our waste. But then we—and nature—clean it, and the people downstream use it again. The thin film of water enveloping our planet is constantly recycled, since time immemorial.

Drop Counts Written by GREG BREINING



But as human population has grown and uses of water have grown, so too has the demand for clean water. According to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2018, the worldwide demand for water has been growing about 1 percent a year because of increasing population, economic development, and changing consumption patterns. Industrial and domestic use will grow fastest, though agriculture will remain the biggest user. As global weather patterns intensify—wet regions becoming wetter and dry regions drier— half of the world’s population will live in areas of water scarcity that lasts at least one month each year. To make sure we have clean water when and where we need it, researchers in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering are studying water issues—tracking down pollutants, investigating aquatic ecosystems, and inventing new ways to clean water and protect this natural resource.

Lurking hazards of a germ killer Triclosan, an antimicrobial agent used in consumer products, sounds harmless enough. It kills germs, after all. And it has been used in soaps, cleaning supplies, and even toothpaste and mouthwash for 40 years without obvious health effects. But Bill Arnold, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and the Joseph T. and Rose S. Ling Professor in Environmental Engineering, found that triclosan has been building up in the sediments of Minnesota lakes for decades. Worse, it breaks down to potentially more harmful chemicals. “What we clearly showed is that the source of these compounds in the environment was triclosan,” he said. “So, we are washing our hands with a

compound to kill bacteria, and it was leading to compounds that are of a class that are known to be toxic.” First formulated in the 1960s, triclosan found its way into many everyday goods in the 1980s as shoppers sought out germ-killing personal products. The chemical first came to Arnold’s attention in 2001, when he was a newly minted assistant professor interested in chemical reactions driven by light that could break down human-made compounds. Triclosan seemed particularly interesting because it was both reactive and common. Triclosan has an easy route to waterways—down the sink, through the sewer, to a sewage treatment plant, and into a river or lake. As wastewater is treated with chlorine, Arnold discovered, several potentially toxic

Did you know?


of the earth’s surface water is drinkable.


Estimated bits of plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean Source: The Ocean Cleanup Foundation

The triclosan that doesn’t break down binds to suspended particles and sinks into the sediment of lakes and rivers. With funds from the National Science Foundation and the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, Arnold and colleagues examined and dated sediment layers from lakes around the state and found triclosan in every one except a small isolated lake in Superior National Forest. “There was nothing before 1965 because triclosan wasn’t invented yet,” Arnold explained. “And then throughout the ’80s and ’90s, levels

The average American family uses more than

300 gallons

Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours. Source: EPA

1,800,000,000,000 1.8 trillion

derivatives are formed. In sunlight, these compounds form four different kinds of dioxins, a class of toxic chemicals that bind to fatty tissues and are responsible for fish consumption advisories.

of water per day at home. Roughly 70% of this use occurs indoors. Source: EPA


In Minnesota water supply systems (53%) and crop irrigation (34%) are top ways water is used per year

Source: MN DNR

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Photo by Richard G. Anderson

Minnesota was the first state to ban the germ-killing chemical triclosan from soaps and bodywash after a two-year water pollution study by environmental engineering professor Bill Arnold and his research group.



Photo by Richard G. Anderson

There are millions of compounds that we can produce that might have use, but we need a balance between what’s useful and what’s sustainable.

of triclosan increased dramatically as it got incorporated into more and more consumer products.” The scientists presented the findings to the Legislature. “Pretty quickly Governor [Mark] Dayton put out an executive order that banned state agencies from buying triclosan-containing products,” Arnold said. “The rationale was essentially that here’s a chemical that isn’t necessarily needed to make these products function as they should. Washing with soap and water is fine.” The Minnesota legislative ban followed in early 2017. And soon after, the federal Food and Drug Administration ruled that companies wouldn’t be able to continue to use triclosan in many products without further review. Meanwhile, Arnold and colleague Timothy LaPara, a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, are looking at antibiotics as well as other common cleaning agents and their derivatives in the environment. “It’s a huge challenge, because there are new compounds constantly coming to market,” Arnold said. While companies test the safety of the compounds themselves, relatively little attention has been given to the


so-called reaction products as compounds break down.

The conundrum, he noted, is finding a balance between new chemistry and expensive and time-consuming testing. “I don’t know that there’s a single solution that’s optimal for both the environment and for business,” he said. “There are millions of compounds that we can produce that might have use, but we need a balance between what’s useful and what’s sustainable.”

Wild rice and cultural collaboration Wild rice conservation in the Great Lakes region is a complicated business. That’s what three College of Science and Engineering researchers, working on a two-year University of Minnesota Grand Challenges Research Grant with Indian tribes, state and federal scientists, and social scientists, are quickly discovering. First, wild rice depends on clean water. Even sulfate, an otherwise relatively benign pollutant, interacts with microbes in lake and stream sediments to form toxic sulfide, which severely limits wild rice growth. “We know that microbes play a really important role in the availability of nutrients and type of pollutants that are in the water, but we’re just starting

to understand how they may affect an entire ecosystem,” said Cara Santelli, a co-principal investigator and assistant professor of Earth sciences who recently earned a National Science Foundation CAREER award. “One of our goals is to think of wild rice habitats as an entire ecosystem.” Wild rice yield is also limited by water murkiness and temperature, water-level fluctuations, plus winter length and cold. What remains unknown: the effect of metals such as mercury, competing plants, and invasive organisms such as zebra mussels. “This project intrigued me because here was a problem that involved water, plants, contaminants, geochemistry,” said Earth sciences assistant professor Gene-Hua Crystal Ng, a McKnight Land Grant Professor who’s leading the project. “I saw this funding opportunity as a chance to assemble a team that could look at all these different factors.” Ng first thought their most important task was to untangle the many physical environmental factors that affect and potentially threaten wild rice production. But she soon discovered the issue was even more complicated than that. Even though wild rice is finicky about its physical environment, it also exists in a social and political ecosystem. While it is of casual concern to many Minnesotans, the grass is of vital cultural and spiritual importance to Great Lakes Ojibwe tribes who for much of their history have been sidelined in environmental decisions. Tribes are seeing declines in wild rice production on their lands and other areas in northeastern Minnesota and

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Wild rice is extremely, profoundly important for Native American communities throughout the Great Lakes region. So, protecting it is really much more than just a matter of a food resource. GENE-HUA CRYSTAL NG

Wisconsin where Indians and non-Indians gather it in late summer.

“Wild rice is extremely, profoundly important for Native American communities throughout the Great Lakes region,” Ng explained. “For the Ojibwe people, their migration story is linked to this food that grows on water. So, protecting it is really much more than just a matter of a food resource. It’s deeply, deeply tied to their identity.” As a result, the research, which is also funded by the Institute on the Environment, took on a new dimension— partnerships with many Native American bands who depend on wild rice. “The central tenet of this project is that we examine what our Native partners want us to examine,” said Amy Myrbo, a research associate in the University’s LacCore/CSDCO facility within the Department of Earth Sciences who has published on wild rice and sulfate with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “Not only do they have long histories in



the landscapes of Minnesota, but the Bands’ current natural resource organizations measure and manage lakes, rivers, and other ecosystems using both traditional and modern Western methods. In my experience, they are much more enthusiastic about using innovative methods than agencies and other resource managers.”

Cultural Enhancement Program. “I personally came to realize that the issues we’re facing and dealing with in Wisconsin are pretty consistent across the region.”

To gain trust and establish rapport with Indian tribes, the CSE researchers have spent weeks traveling to tribal leaders in wild rice country. “We just really needed to listen at first,” Ng said.

“Manoomin has no state or county boundaries on where it will grow and provide sustenance,” Chapman noted. “We recognize it as an indicator of healthy niibii [water] and hope this project educates our future generations.”

In fact, for a while, Ng wondered if they would even be able to do any real fieldwork. But several tribes have proffered research and monitored sites on tribal land. “Ojibwe tribes in manoomin [wild rice] country are enthused to be given the opportunity to work on a collaborative research project of this type,” said Eric Chapman, a treaty resource manager from Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. “We appreciate the research team listening to some of our oral teachings and respecting what they do not yet understand.” The groundwork coalesced into a conference earlier this year with researchers and nearly 40 tribal representatives from 12 bands and four inter-tribal organizations in Minnesota and Wisconsin who are committed to, or interested in, the study. “The project has been very rewarding thus far, and there was lots of good discussion at the conference,” said William Graveen, a technician with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Wild Rice

New information on wild rice habitats, he added, can better protect this important resource.

Promising polymers Here’s the problem with plastics— they’re strong, durable, and convenient. Doesn’t sound like a problem, does it? But because of those qualities, plastics are ubiquitous and hang around forever. Unfortunately, much of it ends up in our waterways or circling endlessly in mid-oceanic gyres. Marine animals become entangled in this persistent trash and even choke on it. Sea birds on Lord Howe Island near Australia were discovered to be so filled with plastic they couldn’t eat. A sperm whale that washed ashore in Spain was packed with 64 pounds of plastic. “The durability of plastics is both their strong suit and their Achilles’ heel,” said chemistry professor Marc Hillmyer, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Sustainable Polymers. Hillmyer and his students are determined to develop new polymers that can serve an environmentally sustain-

Photo by Patrick O’Leary

CSE researchers Crystal Ng (left), Amy Myrbo (center), and Cara Santelli are partnering with Great Lakes tribes on a University Grand Challenges initiative that uses wild rice as a flagship for clean water.

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Photo by Patrick O’Leary

At the Center for Sustainable Polymers, director Marc Hillmyer (left) heads a team of students and post-docs who are finding new ways to make better plastics—ones that are easier to recycle and won’t clog up our waterways.



able economy and solve some of the water pollution concerns that plastics themselves currently create. Most plastic is derived from petroleum—five to 10 percent of the oil we pump from the ground is used for plastic. The first complication is that the oil feedstock itself is not renewable. The second is that these petroleum-based materials, while durable, are difficult to recycle and take nearly forever to break down in the environment. At the Center for Sustainable Polymers, researchers are discovering and refining renewable raw materials— such as plant-derived sugars and oils— for durable plastics that will be easily recycled or even composted when we’re done with them so they don’t end up in lakes, rivers, and oceans.

new polymers help blend the disparate plastics into a usable product.

be more effective than present-day commercial water filters.

A second class of new renewable polymers are stretchy “elastomers” that perform just as well as petroleum-based products and could be useful for rubber bands, gaskets, clothing, and sporting goods but can be composted. The center is also developing bio-based foams, such as those found in chair cushions, that can replace oil-based products.

“It acts as a colander for very small things,” Hillmyer said. “Our basic research efforts have allowed us to move the science in a direction that we think will allow us to efficiently manufacture these. That’s where the research is still ongoing.”

With further development, such a polymer filter might be used to filter drinking water—in something as com-

The durability of plastics is both their strong suit and their Achilles’ heel.

“If you start from corn or some plant and you turn it into a degradable plastic, when it biodegrades it turns back into carbon dioxide and water, which are the building blocks for the plant. That’s related to the circular economy idea,” said Hillmyer, also a McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair and Distinguished University Teaching Professor. “This is a big challenge in our field, and it’s going to take the modern tools of chemistry to solve that challenge.”

In addition to making plastics easier to recycle, Hillmyer and his students are finding new ways to make polymers (i.e., the molecules of plastics) that can help the environment. For example, postdoctoral fellow Thomas Vidil and Nicholas Hampu, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, engineered “block polymer” molecules to self-assemble into a membrane full of holes that are only about 10 nanometers across— smaller than most viruses.

The center is making progress on several fronts. For example, renewable polymers being developed there can boost the recycling rate of plastics. (Less than 10 percent of plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled.) A big worry is the mixing of incompatible plastics in consumer recycling. The

Vidil and Hampu used a process called the order-disorder transition to create a membrane with uniformly tiny passages from one side to the other that is both highly permeable but also effective in trapping small particles. The result is an efficient nanoporous “ultrafilteration membrane” that could


pact as a hand-held pump for camping or as large as a municipal water system. It might also be used in wastewater treatment, to filter out bacteria, heavy metals, and even chemical toxins.

“We’re looking for both industrial partners and research grants to be able to continue to push the fundamental science to a point where we’re confident we can go into a development or manufacturing stage,” Hillmyer explained. Hillmyer said scientists have an obligation to develop new plastics to solve water pollution concerns because, while water is vital to a modern society, so are plastics. “We’re not going to get rid of plastics anytime soon,” he noted. “I see the research that we’re doing contributing in a positive way to sustainability issues.”

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Rain, Rain, Go Away...


Another hurricane season is ending, but clean-up and rebuilding efforts continue


very fall, we turn on the news and see high winds, lashing rains, and swollen rivers ravaging coastal residents in the United States. Hurricane season peaks between August and October—and this year we’ve met Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Florence, Michael... But who can forget the deadly storms of 2017? Houston suffered record rainfall, floods, and deaths from Hurricane Harvey. Puerto Rico, which was slammed by two Category 4 hurricanes in less than a month, is still in ruins. We look back a year to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria with three College of Science and Engineering alumni.



Kenton Spading: Restoring infrastructure to rebuild lives When the flood waters recede, Kenton Spading (Civil Engineering ’84) comes to town. Spading, a hydrologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Paul, helped communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The storm dropped torrential rain on Texas coastal cities in August 2017. Four feet of water fell in Houston. A record-setting five feet dropped on towns east of the Louisiana border. Floods wiped out cotton fields, shut down oil refineries, and inundated hundreds of thousands of homes.

DID YOU KNOW? “Harvey”

was retired from the hurricane name list in April 2018 because of extensive destruction.

$215 billion

Total damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, both Category 4 storms.

3 Days

Consecutive time Hurricane Irma held on to Category 5 status in the Atlantic, but even more impressive was that it kept its peak intensity—185 mph—for 37 hours and set a world record.


of New Orleans was underwater after Hurricane Katrina broke the city’s levee system.


Number of commercial flights canceled when Florence hit the East Coast this September.


Year of the Great Galveston Hurricane—it remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killing at least 8,000 people. The Weather Bureau, predecessor to the National Weather Service, was only 10 years old.

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Three months after the deluge, the Corps sent Spading to inspect the damage to public infrastructure. He assessed roads, culverts, parks, public buildings, and schools. One focus was water and sewage systems. “Eight hundred towns in Texas were without sewer or water after the hurricane,” said Spading, who lived and worked out of Beaumont, Texas for two months. “Almost 600 towns were still being advised to boil water as of Thanksgiving. We’d go out and say, ‘Show us your damage.’ And they’d say, ‘Here’s where the [water treatment plant] was.” Spading has a lot of experience helping rebuild after floods. After Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the Army Corps sent him to Florida, where he identified sites to set up mobile homes and met families living in the backs of their cars. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he headed to Mississippi to reopen courthouses so flooded homeowners could access property titles and apply for loans to rebuild. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) team brought in refrigerated trucks to freeze records and prevent mold until the documents could be salvaged.



From 2008 to 2011, Spading lived one week each month in New Orleans, managing construction of a section of the flood wall that Congress voted to build around the city. The system has already kept out one storm, he said, but it won’t protect against a big one.

In Texas this past year, he supervised a team for the FEMA public assistance program, which distributes federal money to local governments and tribes to rebuild following a Presidential disaster declaration. His team took photographs and submitted reports that were used to determine eligible projects and cost estimates. In the case of Hurricane Harvey, the federal government is paying for 90 percent of reconstruction. Spading’s team also documented ways to reduce damage in future storms by diverting water or putting in levees. Another suggestion? Replace existing sewage pumps with submersible pumps that can run underwater. “There isn’t enough slope in the land to have gravity flow for the sewers,” Spading explained. So everything is pumped—pumped to the street, then pumped down the block. A small town will have 500 pumps or more, and when you get that much rain

Photo courtesy Acara

We’d go out and say, ‘Show us your damage.’ And they’d say, ‘Here’s where the [water treatment plant] was.

water, all those pumps burn out and the entire system goes down.” The Texas eastern coast will always be flood prone, he said. It’s the consequence of flat and swampy terrain that traces its origins to ancient geology. When the glaciers melted they created a massive river flowing south. “It spread out across Texas and Mississippi and Louisiana and created a monster delta,” said Spading. “From Corpus Christi, Texas, all the way to Biloxi, Mississippi, that’s one, huge ancient river delta, full of muck and mud. You’ve got Houston and all these cities sitting on top of that. That’s the challenge.” After working for the Corps in St. Paul for 30 years, Spading officially retired in 2015. For the past three summers, he’s advised students in the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment’s multidisciplinary Acara program and traveled with them to India for a three-week course in sustainable development. He also joined a Corps cadre of retired

employees who are hired for specific projects. In that capacity, he was tapped to be lead project manager for the Environmental Impact Statement and the Corps’ Clean Water Act wetland permit review of the PolyMet NorthMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. Spading says he was glad to be sent to Texas, where his skills could help people. He recalled one person who invited his team over to chat. Without sewer and water service, the family was using an outdoor portable toilet and sterilizing water on the stove because buying bottled water had become too expensive.

Jay Axness: Addressing a different sense of urgency When hurricanes hit Texas, our oil supply is affected. The Gulf Coast is the center of the U.S. refining industry and nearly a dozen refineries were forced to halt operations in Corpus Christi, Houston, and Port Arthur/ Beaumont. The closures took out 20 percent of the U.S. refinery capacity. University of Minnesota alumnus Jay Axness (Mechanical Engineering ’08) helped get gasoline flowing again. Axness was a section supervisor overseeing 20 engineers at ExxonMobil’s Baytown Area facilities just east of Houston, one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world. Baytown Refinery itself processes 580,000 barrels of crude oil daily

Photo by Patrick Loch/U.S. Army corps of Engineers

“This guy was trying to dry out family photos on his dining room table, and scraps of memorabilia he’d saved from the flood,” said Spading. “Meanwhile the place where he worked had been under five feet of water. So, he was also looking for a new job.”

Restoring infrastructure helps rebuild lives. “I really, really adore that kind of work,” he said.

Kenton Spading (second from left) and colleagues from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2009 observe work on a levee surrounding St. Bernard Parish, Louisana.

and several chemical and plastic plants nearby produce other products, ranging from butyl used in car tires to polyethylene found in shrink wrap. For safety, almost everything had to be shut down when the storm hit. “You can’t just flip a switch,” Axness said. “It takes a long time to shut down and even longer to start up. It’s not like an assembly line where you can turn the conveyor belt off and then back on again.” While a small crew worked and slept on air mattresses at the refinery during the storm, Axness worked from home, keeping tabs on the engineers who reported to him. Amazingly, none suffered major flooding, even though many buildings in Houston stood in more than four feet of water. The city’s drainage system was overwhelmed by the deluge and many streets became a secondary drainage system, making travel impossible. By the time Axness returned to the refinery, the flood had receded. The first priority was to repair the refinery’s docks and clear debris from the Houston Shipping Channel so gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel could be brought in by tankers from facilities not affected by the hurricane. Panicked consumers were stockpiling fuel and prices had gone up. “People were going to gas stations and filling up their vehicle and then filling several five-gallon containers,” he said. “They were doing gas runs, like a run on a bank. People were creating a gas shortage where we may not have otherwise had one.”

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Once enough gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel was flowing to meet immediate needs, teams turned to the refinery. Axness worked in an incident response room dispatching engineers to make inspections and repairs wherever they were needed. “It felt a little like a call center,” he said. “I was lead for all engineering. I sat right next to operations and

mechanical and it was basically find out what needs to get done and find someone in the right discipline who wasn’t dealing with flooding at home and get them there.” During the several weeks it took to get the refinery back up, off-duty ExxonMobil employees volunteered with the American Red Cross and other relief efforts. In Beaumont,

where the storm knocked out the city’s water system, engineers from the offline Beaumont refinery used their expertise to help the city build eight temporary pipelines to pump water from the Neches River. By the time the hurricane hit, Axness had worked nine years in the oil industry. He began his career with an internship through the University’s co-op program with ExxonMobil in Houston. “I enjoyed the work and the team and challenges, so I decided to come full time,” he said. He’s always worked with “fixed equipment,” which includes valves, pipes, storage tanks, reactors, distillation towers, and pretty much anything that doesn’t have rotating parts. The oil industry also divides itself into upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. Upstream explores and drills for crude oil or natural gas. Midstream focuses on transporting it, in pipelines or trucks.

Jay Axness worked at the ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery during Hurricane Harvey. The petrochemical facility, which produces 580,000 barrels of crude oil daily, was shut down after the hurricane.



Photo by Brian McFatridge/ExxonMobil

Downstream, which is where Axness works, takes crude and turns it into something useful, “whether it’s motor gasoline or jet fuel or the chemical products that go into making plastic or rubber or wax,” said Axness. “People don’t realize it, but almost anything you use on a daily basis is impacted by oil and gas.” Axness’ regular duties involved overseeing fixed equipment during scheduled maintenance “turnarounds,” when a portion of the refinery is shut down for inspection and repairs. Restarting Baytown after Harvey involved similar tasks and long hours. But being part of the broader recovery effort made it feel different.

Ruben Otero De Leon: Puerto Rico flashback When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico last year, it knocked out power to the entire island. Nearly threeand-a-half million people were left without electricity, some for months, including the family of Ruben Otero De Leon (Electrical Engineering M.S. ’15, Ph.D. ’17). “Everybody was worried,” said Otero De Leon, who couldn’t reach his parents for a week. Now, more than a year later, the CSE alumnus, who grew up in Puerto Rico and works for an energy technology company in North Carolina, may play a role in improving the reliability of the island’s electrical grid. Following the storm, Otero De Leon’s father ran a small diesel generator every morning to charge a car battery that powered essentials, including lights, a refrigerator, and cell phones. It wasn’t strong enough to run the washing machine, however, so his mother washed clothes by hand, just as she had as a child. “She said she was going back in time,” Otero De Leon recalled. “But they were among the lucky who got power [back] in January.” Others, especially with medical concerns, weren’t so fortunate. They

Photo courtesy Ruben Otero De Leon

“In the middle of the hurricane recovery we had multiple sites shut down and not producing gasoline for people’s cars, not producing jet fuel,” he said. “Ultimately, I was doing what we do every day, but this had a different sense of urgency and perspective.”

Ruben Otero De Leon believes microgrid generators can help Puerto Rico weather future power failures caused by hurricanes.

couldn’t operate vital respiratory equipment or refrigerate medicines such as insulin. The loss of life is still being calculated and it’s forced Puerto Rico to assess its electrical infrastructure. Today, most transmission and distribution lines have been repaired, but the grid remains fragile and just as likely to get knocked down again by another big storm. Otero De Leon, and others in his field, believe decentralizing and diversifying power generation may help the island weather the future. Microgrids—small, self-sufficient power grids that incorporate renewable sources— are one solution. When he was an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico–Mayaguez, Otero De Leon spent a summer at the University of Minnesota researching power electronics with Professor Ned Mohan. This led to graduate studies in CSE, where he was a Carl and Ethel Swanson scholar. Ultimately, Otero De Leon landed his present

job as an energy storage engineer with PowerSecure. He’s installed a microgrid battery storage system on a North Carolina pig farm that collects electricity generated by methane gas and worked on a demonstration housing development in Alabama, which includes several hundred kilowatts of solar panels, battery storage, and a natural gas generator as backup. Most recently, he installed a system at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. Now Puerto Rico is soliciting bids to create microgrids. Companies such as Tesla and Sonnen are designing projects. PowerSecure, which repaired power lines on the U.S. territory, may also get involved, said Otero De Leon. “That would be very exciting,” he said. “Some sections of the island could keep drawing power from the microgrids even if the main public grid collapsed. And maybe people could manage a little better.”

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Three students talk about their role in water-related projects

Students who jump at the opportunity to partner with faculty typically end up learning more—about themselves and their areas of interest— than they expect. They also get to turn research into conference presentations, journal publications, and entrepreneurial ventures. What isn’t as common is finding themselves, on top of everything else, recalibrating a robot in Barbados, thwarting mischievous geese while combating algae blooms, or simulating how bubbles form in turbulent flows to protect national security. Three CSE students recently boiled down their faculty-led research endeavors for us.



Michael Fulton: Tinkering in different buoyancies What has six legs, lives at the University of Minnesota, and spends time at the pool once a month? The answer: Minnebot, the amphibious robot that ultimately could help improve our knowledge of water quality in the state—and beyond. Michael Fulton, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, “met” the robot in September 2017, a few months after its arrival to the Interactive Robotics and Vision (IRV) Lab on the Twin Cities campus from Independent Robotics Inc., a startup

in Montréal, Canada. In the year since, Fulton said, the autonomous submersible has changed a lot. “I don’t think it had even hit the water when it got here, except maybe a test in a small bath,” Fulton said. Since then, the IRV Lab team—five Ph.D. students plus about five undergrads at any given time—has worked constantly on Minnebot: testing, adjusting, upgrading. “Water quality, pollution control, and aquatic invasive species are really interesting to me,” Fulton said. “Municipal water monitoring, for example, is one application I’m studying. I’ve read a lot of DNR

Photo by Ackerman + Gruber

water quality reports, which are based on human measurements. If we could use Minnebot to do that same job, we could potentially increase the number of readings and improve the state of our waters.” But there’s plenty to do before Minnebot is ready to fulfill its purpose. “It’s definitely a work in progress,” Fulton said. “There are always new innovations happening. I think everyone in robotics, to a certain extent, is a tinkerer—that’s just the way our brains work. We’re never fully satisfied.” Much of the group’s work revolves around IRV lab director Junaed Sat-

tar’s studies involving human-to-robot communication, or enabling humans and Minnebot to communicate with each other. For instance, one student in the lab has developed a hand-gesture interface, where you make gestures to the robot and control it that way. Fulton, on the other hand, is doing the reverse. “I’m working on robot-to-human interface—using the robot’s motion, starting with having the robot nod its head or shake its head and moving on to more complicated things, like pointing,” he said. “It needs to be efficient, it needs to be natural, and it needs to be foolproof—especially underwater.”

Another challenge that’s unique to underwater robots is vision—being able to obtain usable images to collect data (for instance, on water quality). “The trouble is that underwater, most images are distorted,” Fulton said. “You have turbidity, you have varying light conditions, you have algae. But we’ve done some fantastic work on improving underwater image quality.” The group brings Minnebot to the University Recreation and Wellness Center monthly for a full day of pool trials. That entails hours of packing up before and after, Fulton said. In June, they also brought it to Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis for

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Photo by Ackerman + Gruber

CSE graduate student Michael Fulton (right) and his faculty advisor Junaed Sattar are using the Aqua 8 Minnebot to better understand how robots can detect water quality, marine pollution, and aquatic invasive species.

more of a real-world experience. And in February, Fulton and Sattar, his faculty advisor, along with other IRV Lab colleagues, will bring Minnebot on its second trip to Barbados for trials at the Bellairs Research Institute. While Barbados is a great place to be in late winter, Fulton said, the week is a “marathon” of 16-hour workdays.

Watch to learn more about the IRV Lab in the new Gemini-Huntley Robotics Research Laboratory.



“But [the 2018 trip] was a really great experience because, up until that point, it hadn’t been in saltwater. Salt and freshwater have entirely different buoyancies,” he explained. “We have lead plates and small anodized weights that we screw onto it to weigh it down. Our first day, we spent the entire time just doing that.” Later the group discovered that the hand-gesture communications they’d been using back on campus weren’t working. “You try something in the pool and it works fine, then you take it out to the ocean and it doesn’t work,” he said. “So you recalibrate. You stay up late

fixing things, and you try again the next day.” Overall, however, “our field trials have gone pretty well,” he added. “Our work on underwater robotics has resulted in collaborations with, and visits from, other labs in spite of us being a young lab.” Fulton is grateful to have followed Sattar, his undergraduate professor and mentor at Clarkson University in upstate New York, to the Twin Cities. “I applied to other schools, but I knew: If I get into the University of Minnesota, I’m going,” he said.

Maria Camila Merino Franco: Letting nature do its work Like many Minnesotans, Maria Camila Merino Franco spent a good portion of her summer out on the water. Unlike most, she spent that time taking drone pictures, measuring native wetland plant growth, and building goose-deterrent fencing. Merino Franco, a senior in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering (BBE), earned an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grant that allowed her to work with BBE research professor Joe Magner on a novel project aimed at improving water quality in Minnesota ponds and lakes. From May to November, she managed several specially designed “floating wetland” islands at two different sites. Excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen are a problem across the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Resulting mostly from fertilizer and agricultural runoff, they fuel algae blooms that endanger freshwater fish, form attachment sites for pollutants, turn the water an unsightly green, and even jeopardize human health. The floating island concept—also called Floating Treatment Wetlands (FTWs)—revolves around a buoyant matrix structure made of recycled plastic and covered by various native wetland plants.

“The roots grow below the matrix, so they’re just floating in the water,” Merino Franco explained. They gather algae and microbes and “absorb a lot of phosphorus and nitrogen,” thereby helping clean the water around them. The microbes hosted by the roots also provide a food source for aquatic wildlife. “It’s such a simple idea—letting nature do its work,” said Merino Franco. And it embodies the kind of work she hopes to do as a BBE graduate. Merino Franco, whose family moved to Minnesota from Colombia eight years ago, has always been concerned

about ecology—and specifically, water. “My grandmother didn’t have running water,” said the first-generation college student, who received the University’s Thomas W. and Lynn B. Rusch Scholarship. “And I remember when I was in first grade, our school mascot was a drop of water.” The recycled, BPA-free plastic structures are produced by a company called Floating Island International, whose subsidiary, Midwest Floating Island, is based in St. Paul. So far, the matrices seem to survive Minnesota winters just fine. Each island is anchored more or less in place by cement barrels. “That way it can move

Bioproducts and biosystems engineering majors Sydney Peyerl and Katelyn Younger worked with Maria Camila Merino Franco to launch floating wetlands in Lake Fleming, Minn.

Photo courtesy Maria Camila Merino Franco

“Our work in the IRV lab is very exciting. You learn anything and you pass it on. I’ve had a few experiences trading ideas with professors, and it’s great—I’m so glad I decided to come here.”

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around a little, but not too much,” Merino Franco said. What’s planted on them varies depending on what grows easily and naturally in a specific region. “Because you’re using native plants, these islands look different in different areas,” she said. “You want them to come back every year, and you want them to support pollinators and provide habitat.” The islands Merino Franco managed and monitored are in a stormwater


The first concern was replanting. To spare the expense and logistics of hauling all new plants up to Aitkin, the team decided to try starting from seeds the second time around. The next issue was preventing the geese from wreaking havoc again. The team tried planting bamboo poles at intervals around the islands, but “they just used them as an obstacle course,” Merino Franco said. What did work was a simple fence, made of posts and one strategically placed wire, around the island perimeter. “They trip over it,” she laughed. Problem solved.

You can offer a solution, but if the people who live there don’t want to implement it, it’s not going anywhere. MARIA CAMILA MERINO FRANCO

retention pond in Vadnais Heights, a Twin Cities suburb, as well as Fleming Lake in northern Minnesota’s Aitkin County. They’re planted with bulrush, ironweed, wool grass, swamp milkweed, and common rush. Last year, a problem emerged that she was able to help solve when her UROP tenure began.

This summer, the Fleming Lake islands proved popular hangouts for blue herons and otters—which thankfully don’t share the destructive habits of Canada geese. Merino Franco spent much of her time in Aitkin monitoring the plants’ growth, often using a borrowed drone to capture photographs at different intervals.

“The geese pulled out a lot of our plants on Fleming Lake—about 80 percent of them! And the [human] residents around the lake weren’t happy about that,” Merino Franco said.

She even came to work closely with one landowner, a retired engineer who offered the use of his pontoon boat, and she earned the approval of another local who initially opposed


the islands. “We invited him to come out on the boat with us, and after we [showed him] and talked to him more about it, he was very interested,” Merino Franco said—even offering to “adopt” an island next year. Merino Franco loved the experience of combining research, working with a professor, collaborating with a private enterprise, and interacting with local residents to build support for the project. “You can offer a solution,” she said, “but if the people who live there don’t want to implement it, it’s not going anywhere.”

Mrugank Bhatt: More to bubbles than you think Mrugank Bhatt is immersed in bubbles. Specifically, the Ph.D. student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (AEM) studies cavitation—the formation of vapor bubbles in liquid. Cavitation typically happens when a liquid is exposed to a rapid drop in pressure. “If you have a container of water and you heat it up to 100 degrees Celsius, the water becomes vapor and you have bubbles. The same can happen if you drop the pressure significantly without changing the temperature,” Bhatt explained. “The latter is why you see bubbles forming on rapidly rotating marine propulsors.” His research aims to yield a better understanding of when this process starts and how it develops. Cavitation is significant in several contexts. In marine applications, it’s

Photo by Pauline Oo

Bioproducts and biosystems engineering senior Maria Camila Merino Franco spent the summer managing 20 “floating islands”—four in Vadnais Heights and 16 in Fleming Lake

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Photo by Patrick O'Leary

Aerospace engineering graduate students (left to right) Filipe Brandão, Mrugank Bhatt, and Aditya Madabhushi are part of a multi-year cavitation study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. Their faculty advisor Krishnan Mahesh is the project’s lead investigator.



Photo by Patrick O'Leary

typically problematic. It’s a cause of noise, vibrations, and material damage. Finding a way to predict precisely when and how cavitation will occur—thereby helping design efficient marine propulsion systems—is the purpose of this project Bhatt’s been working on for the past year, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI). “What we learn here can be applied in many other fields,” he explained. “For instance, in biomedical contexts, we can use ultrasound to form and direct the collapse of these cavitation bubbles to break up kidney stones. And sonoporation—using bubbles to increase the permeability of cell membranes—can be used for directed drug delivery to a particular organ.” The MURI project is led by AEM Professor Krishnan Mahesh, a recipient of the college’s George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Research and Guillermo E. Borja Award. The University of Minnesota team is collaborating on it with researchers from Caltech, UC Santa Barbara, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and the Australian Maritime College. In Minnesota, Bhatt said, their focus is on computational modeling—conducting simulations on supercomputers. Their numerical work fuels and complements the experiments performed by team members at Michigan, Johns Hopkins, and the Australian Maritime College, who

What we learn here can be applied in many other fields. For instance, in biomedical contexts, we can use ultrasound to form and direct the collapse of these cavitation bubbles to break up kidney stones. MRUGANK BHATT

are working on the experimental side, Bhatt said. AEM graduate students Aditya Madabhushi and Filipe Brandão are also part of the study. Madabhushi is exploring cavitation inception in vortex interaction, while Brandão is working on how non-condensable gas can influence bubble formation. Most of what’s known about cavitation, Bhatt said, has only been learned in the past century, starting with the work of British physicist Lord Rayleigh. “The majority of the computational work has been done in the past two or three decades,” he explained, with the advent of supercomputing. “It really speeds up the calculations—you get results much more quickly. “Part of my work is taking the current base code and enabling it to do a higher time step. I’ve worked on something called implicit time marching, which can allow faster calculation of cavitation equations,” Bhatt said. “It’s much easier when you have a single phase in the flow— either just water or just vapor. When you have a mixture of both, interest-

ingly the sound speed drops significantly, which makes the problem more challenging.”

Although the MURI project is just over a year old, Bhatt’s been studying cavitation with Professor Mahesh for nearly four years. He’s enjoying the chance to collaborate with researchers from different universities and different disciplines. “We have people from chemistry working on this, looking at the molecular properties that then can be used for computations at macroscopic level…people from computer science using the latest machine-learning algorithms, people from mathematics, and so on,” he said. They “meet” biweekly via WebEx, with faculty and students from various universities taking turns presenting, and the whole team gathers in person once a year, Bhatt said. “I like that people with expertise in different areas are coming together and sharing their knowledge.”

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Investing in Tomorrow

KIM DOCKTER Senior Director, External Relations GET CAMPAIGN UPDATES AT To make a gift or learn more, call me: 612-626-9385

You’ve heard the adage “Pay it forward,” right? Instead of paying back the person who did something for you directly, you pass it on to another person instead. Last spring, our Class of 2018 graduating seniors in the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) and Civil, Environmental and Geo- Engineering (CEGE) decided to do exactly this. These two inspiring classes recognized that every CSE student benefits in a variety of ways from the gifts of time, talent, and treasure given by our alumni and benefactors— whether through scholarships, renovated labs and facilities, mentoring, interview coaching, and more. In recognition of the many ways alumni and friends help CSE students, the graduating seniors decided to “pay it forward” and help future undergraduates by establishing the College’s first senior class gift program.

No matter the purpose—scholarships, fellowships, faculty support, facilities—every gift counts... KIM DOCKTER

Proceeds from the CEMS class gift campaign— led by 2018 alumni Alec Logeman, Elizabeth Nessim, and Nicholas Volkenant—will be used to upgrade the undergraduate student lounge and increase department scholarships. The faculty in CEMS jumped on board to help the class reach its goal by matching $26 per student donor. More than one-third of the class participated in the effort by making a philanthropic gift.



“The class gift represents our recognition of the hard work and rigor that future graduating classes will put in,” said Nessim (Chemical Engineering, Chemistry). Nessim understands the significance of philanthropy. During her years at CSE, she received three alumni-funded scholarships—the Ed and Cora Remus Scholarship, the Christie John Geankoplis Scholarship, and the Carl and Eloise Pohlad Scholarship. The CEGE class leaders are striving for a 50 percent participation rate among their classmates. Their class gift—led by Kade Kearney, Michael DeMars, Sami Kinnunen, and Lee Werner—will help establish a scholarship for one deserving CEGE student each year. “Not many students understand the importance of alumni donations, as we just assume our tuition pays for every luxury offered to us in the department,” said Kearney (Environmental Engineering), also a recipient of several scholarships. Many of you have already joined Driven: The Campaign for the College of Science and Engineering by making a gift—thank you! As the work of our enterprising and dedicated recent alumni demonstrates, gifts of every size matter. I invite you to join our students in paying it forward. No matter the purpose—scholarships, fellowships, faculty support, facilities—every gift counts toward our $250 million campaign goal. Together, you help us to achieve our goals of providing a world-class education to the next generation of scientists and engineers, and finding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Please join us today.

If you’d like to support a project you read about in this magazine, or are curious about department-specific opportunities, contact us today: Courtney Billing

Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

612-626-9501 • Jennifer Clarke

Industrial and Systems Engineering Mechanical Engineering 612-626-9354 • Anastacia Davis

Electrical and Computer Engineering Institute for Math and its Applications 612-625-4509 • Raechelle Drakeford

Corporate Partnerships

612-626-6874 • Kathy Peters-Martell

Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Chemistry 612-626-8282 • Emily Strand

Computer Science and Engineering Medical Devices Center School of Mathematics

612-625-6798 • Shannon Weiher

Biomedical Engineering Earth Sciences School of Physics and Astronomy

612-624-5543 • Shannon Wolkerstorfer

Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering History of Science, Technology, and Medicine Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory

Land O’Lakes gift for student learning and industry studies Photo by Marcos Hernandez


The Department of Mechanical Engineering has a new wind tunnel. The gift— an 8-foot-tall, 11.5-feetwide, and 23-feet-long wind tunnel—arrived from WinField United, a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes.

The low-speed subsonic wind tunnel, capable of producing wind speeds of up to 15 miles per hour and simulating the tiny droplets from boom sprays in Steven Fredericks (center), a post-doctoral associate in farm fields, will help both Professor Chris Hogan’s lab, manages most of the windundergraduate and gradutunnel activities. ate students gain valuable skills and experience in high-tech agriculture research. It also enables CSE researchers—namely Chris Hogan, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Bernard Olson, director of the Particle Calibration Laboratory—to partner with WinField United on better understanding how to target crop-protection products and prevent over-spraying. Olson’s former lab assistant, Daniel Bissell (Aerospace Engineering ’10), was responsible for making the corporate gift possible. Bissel, a senior research engineer at WinField United, had suggested his alma mater. Within days, he was tasked with developing and executing a plan for the long-term collaboration. “Land O’Lakes and WinField United have long recognized the scientific expertise at the University of Minnesota,” said Bissell. “My hope with this wind tunnel donation is that Dr. Hogan, Dr. Olson, their colleagues, and students will advance agriculture and enable farmers to get the most out of each acre.” Land O’Lakes has invested nearly $930,000 in the College of Science and Engineering since 1992. This includes a three-year sponsorship of the Center for Sustainable Polymers to find new uses for skim milk powder.

612-625-6035 •

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92 and counting

Written by PAULINE OO

Faculty emeritus finds joy in supporting students through philanthropy

Wayland Noland was the macebearer for the spring 2008 commencement ceremony.

For many people, retirement means flying off to faraway lands and never stepping foot in the office again. Wayland Noland isn’t like most people.

What kind of student were you? When I was at the University of Wisconsin, I graduated with a cumulative GPA of 4.0. I really lucked out.

The 92-year-old professor emeritus of chemistry still spends the bulk of his days in his Smith Hall office. If he’s not reading or writing a paper, he’s consulting with the 9 or 10 researchers in his four labs on the Twin Cities campus. In fact, since he officially retired in 2016—64 years with the same employer—Noland has “been working harder than I ever have before,” he said. “And the motivation is to get a bunch of papers published on research that we’ve already done or are doing.”

So, how did you end up here? I grew up in Madison, but I came to the University of Minnesota because they gave me a job. Minneapolis was like a big version of Madison—a green, nice city with lakes.

Philanthropy is another activity close to his heart. Noland has six endowed funds that support both undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Science and Engineering. He made his first gift to the University of Minnesota in 1984. He endowed his first fund, the Wayland E. Noland Fellowship in Organic Chemistry, in 2000 and started giving to the general college fund in 2004. The following are edited excerpts from a conversation with him.

Recipients of the Wayland E. Noland Award for Academic Excellence in Chemistry

“This scholarship allows me to dedicate more time to classes, research, and student groups.” —Kathleen Wang, Class of 2019



“Professor Noland’s generosity helps me to offset the cost of my education.” —Annika Page, Class of 2019

Did you get financial help in college? I did. A major help at the start was veteran’s benefits. I was drafted near the end of World War II and served for 11 months. I was trained as a medic and surgical technician in preparation for the invasion of Japan. But I never went over because of the atomic bomb. How do you decide to give money? The field of philanthropy is very large. You have people who give a little bit of money to a whole lot of different things, on the one extreme, and you have people who give a large amount to a few things. I have probably been within the 10 percent on the latter side. There are so many things that deserve financial support. I made the decision to support education primarily at the schools I have attended and taught at, including scientific causes to a considerable extent. Any advice for someone considering a gift to CSE? You can’t take your money with you. So then the question is: Where can you do the most good before and after you’re gone?

SHOP Roger Haxby, above in 2017, with his scholarship recipients Eric Inderieden and Abigail Wolters.

His legacy continues… Outstanding engineering skills plus honesty, reliability, and focus earned Roger Haxby (ME ’58) the respect and confidence of many. Haxby, who died on July 24, played an important role in the college’s direction. He served on the CSE Dean’s Advisory Board for more than 30 years; was an active volunteer fundraiser, serving on the CSE campaign committee; and was a generous donor.

for the Holidays CSE clothing and accessories are just a click away. Surprise a loved one with a gift. Or buy yourself a college souvenir.

Haxby, a native of St. Cloud, Minn., joined Ingersoll-Rand after graduating from CSE. He led the company to unprecedented sales records as its western Canadian branch manager. When oil was discovered in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay in the 1970s, he moved to Anchorage and formed the Waukesha Alaska Corporation—now led by his son, John. Since 2006, the Roger and Mary Haxby Scholarship Fund has helped 12 students pursue their education in CSE. “I consider it payback time for the good fortune that we’ve enjoyed over the years,” he once said. “I credit much of my own success to the University.”

In Memoriam: Earl Bakken Earl E. Bakken grew up in Columbia Heights, Minn., and was fascinated with the movie "Frankenstein." For Bakken—who received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1948 and, shortly after, founded Medtronic Inc.—the movie “inspired me to bring people back to life with electricity,” he often said. Bakken died on Oct. 21 at his home in Hawaii. He was 94. Over the course of his career, Bakken worked closely with numerous University scientists, engineers, and healthcare providers, including C. Walton Lillehei. The late surgeon was pioneering procedures to help babies born with often-lethal heart defects. Lillehei asked Bakken to find a

solution. He responded by building the world’s first battery-operated, wearable pacemaker. In 2017, the University named the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center in his honor. “Our center wouldn’t be possible without the foundation he built in Minnesota,” said director Arthur Erdman. “We are committed to continuing to live up to his charge, to create new technologies to improve health.” Ironically, Bakken himself had several implanted medical devices, including stents, insulin pumps, and a Medtronic pacemaker. >> Read more about Bakken’s life’s work:

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SAVE THE DATE Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Dec. 6-8, 2018 5:30, 6, and 6:30 p.m.

Winter Light Show

It sure gets cold in Minnesota, but Tesla Works knows how to make the season fun! Catch 250,000 LED lights syncing to music on the Civil Engineering Plaza.

>> Dec. 7: Alumni Open House RSVP at

May 9-10, 2019

Class of 1969 50-Year Reunion


At Google, our work gets used on a daily basis by more than a billion people. That’s very satisfying.

— Jeff Dean (CompSci ’90) was recently appointed the company’s new head of artificial intelligence. He previously co-founded the Google Brain team and will continue to lead it in his new role. In 2014, Dean and his wife, Heidi Hopper (Psych ’90), established the HopperDean Scholarship in CSE to honor Vipin Kumar, his undergraduate thesis advisor.

Alumni will enjoy a full day of activities, then on Friday will receive commemorative medallions and lead the 2019 commencement procession.

More info:

May 9, 2019

Golden Medallion Society Reunion All alumni who graduated 50 years ago or more are invited to catch up with classmates, reconnect with faculty, meet current students, and enjoy a full day of activities.

More info:

LIGHTNING LECTURES Short on time but serious about issues related to science and engineering? Then don’t miss our free Curiosity Drives Progress Lecture Series. Top CSE faculty discuss their research TED style—about 15 minutes each. >> Watch past talks:

Next event: April 9, 2019 Topic: Sustainability & the Environment



CSE alumnus leads 3M When Mike Roman (EE ’82) joined 3M Co. as a senior design engineer, he was six years out of college and looking for his next challenge. Little did he know that three decades later, he would lead this $32 billion global technology company. “I always knew I wanted to do something where I could learn and grow as a leader and help others succeed,” said Roman, who became chief executive officer this past July. “When I joined 3M, I found myself doing just that, learning a lot—like my time at the University of Minnesota—and enjoying the challenge of being part of a global business and working with outstanding people.” Prior to assuming his new role, the Wisconsin-born Roman served as chief operating officer with direct responsibility for 3M’s five business groups and international operations. Previously, he led 3M’s industrial business group, which accounts for roughly one-third of its worldwide sales. “What an honor it is to be chosen as the next CEO of 3M,” said Roman, a former treasurer on the University of Minnesota Foundation Board of Trustees. “We have extraordinary technology, market leading capabilities across the globe, one of the top brands, and an incredible team of people. I’m committed to doing my best to build on that foundation.”

The 2018 Alumni Awards go to... The CSE Alumni Society Board was named Outstanding Society of the Year by the University of Minnesota Alumni Association “for exceptional programming efforts that strengthen the University community.” Over the past year, the 23-member volunteer group has focused on creating engagement that advances the college’s mission. New efforts included the “Curiosity Drives Progress” lecture series (page 32) and an “open house” for alumni at the annual student-produced Winter Light Show. The board also organized educational tours of the Bell Museum, St. Anthony Falls Lab, and the wind energy research center at UMore Park. Kaushik Bhattacharya (Mechanics Ph.D. ’91) and John Guider (EE ’69) received the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award for their leadership and “unusual distinction in their chosen fields.”

Martenson, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, has served on the Department of Civil, Environmental, and GeoEngineering (CEGE) Advisory Board, 50-year Reunion Committee, and CSE Mentor Program—in addition to connecting more than 370 industry experts with students in CEGE’s capstone design course. In 2014, he endowed a scholarship with his wife, Catherine, that supports future environmental or civil engineers. McDonald, a partner at the intellectual property law firm Merchant & Gould, has held a wide array of leadership positions over the past 20 years with the boards of CSE’s Alumni Society, the U of M Alumni Association, and the U of M Law School. His efforts continue to shape curriculum and strategic direction across the University. >> To learn more about these winners, read the full story:

Guider, retired chief operating officer of Compellent Technologies, pioneered the development of technologies that led to the initial PC superserver architecture and paved the way for cloud storage. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded three companies that introduced game-changing technologies to the data storage landscape. Dennis Martenson (CivE ’67, M.S. ’68) and Daniel McDonald (EE ’82, JD ’85) both earned the Alumni Service Award, which “recognizes the service of a volunteer who has had a major impact on the University, its schools, colleges, departments, or faculty, or to the University of Minnesota Alumni Association or any of its constituent groups.”

Photo by Justin Cox

Bhattacharya, vice provost and professor of mechanics and materials science at Caltech, revolutionized the study of phase transformations, the shape-memory effect, and the behavior of functional materials. He wrote the standard textbook in his field and edited the Journal of Mechanics and Physics of Solids for 10 years. He also mentored many to positions of prominence in academia, industry, and national laboratories.

CSE’s Society of the Year winners (left to right): Dean Mos Kaveh, Alyssa Hennen, Steve Savitt, Kim Dockter, President Eric Kaler, Joelle Larson, Mary Kurth, Greg Twaites, Rob Graber, David Holt, Jerry Sosinske, and Kari Vokes

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Up to 300 cubic feet per second of water from the Mississippi River is diverted through the lab for studies involving sediment transport, hydraulic modeling, and marine hydrokinetic research.


The main channel is six feet deep and nine feet wide.


ing in favor of engineers learning the “laws of similitude” as part of their professional training.

The current motorized, data collection carriage was built in-house. It is capable of repeated sub-millimeter resolution topographic scans.


In 1936, four years following this article, Straub began directing the construction of the St. Anthony Falls Hydraulic Laboratory—now the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory—on Hennepin Island in downtown Minneapolis. He established

Once the water exits the channel, it is routed back to the Mississippi below St. Anthony Falls. Sedimentsettling basins here remove materials added during experiments.


An entire fourth floor and wind tunnel was added in the 1980s as lab research evolved to also include the flow of air.

Written by PAULINE OO

that started it all How one man’s vision weathered the years Two years after he arrived at the University of Minnesota, associate professor of hydraulics Lorenz Straub published an article about the importance of using physical models and experiments to analyze water flow when designing structures to manage it. In that four-pager for the Minnesota Techno-Log, Straub told readers how to tackle scaling issues between models and prototypes, argu-





“There are, of course, numerous other applications of the principle of similarity,” Straub wrote in his article. “The success of the isolated experiments performed under the direction of capable investigators points definitely to the remarkable possibilities of this method of design.” With that, Straub heralded the future.

Straub built this portable flume in the 1930s, and it’s still used to teach visitors and students fluid mechanics concepts. Photo by Sophie Hoover

The main channel, a 275-foot-long flume spanning the length of the lab’s first floor, is his creation (original blueprint below). Another Mississippi River supply channel is located one floor up. It routes water to various small- and large-scale experimental flumes and basins within the building.

Photo courtesy University Archives

a long-lasting and adaptable floor space for hydraulic modeling. But why stop at designing an innovative building? Straub had a hand in all the equipment that went into it as well.

The lab, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, has diversified beyond river hydraulics. Visitors on the free public tours will find all manner of studies showing an interdisciplinary approach to fluid mechanics, including delta restoration, wind energy, and even the flying patterns of fruit flies. For lab tours, visit; search “SAFL.”



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Spark young minds and fuel their curiosity The world needs more scientists and engineers to tackle the planet’s biggest challenges, including water availability, food scarcity, and climate change. Driven: The Campaign for the College of Science and Engineering sets a path to prepare tomorrow’s high-tech workforce. Generous donors fuel this journey.

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Inventing Tomorrow Fall 2018  

In this water-themed issue, students and faculty at the College of Science and Engineering use the latest research techniques to study water...

Inventing Tomorrow Fall 2018  

In this water-themed issue, students and faculty at the College of Science and Engineering use the latest research techniques to study water...