In 2021, Michigan Tech researchers tackled big issues on Earth and beyond.

In this issue of Research, our feature stories showcase audacious, propulsive work blazing trails to technological advances and entrepreneurial success.

Origins of Orbion highlights a Houghton-based startup company steered by Huskies and specializing in orbital propulsion technology. To the Moon — and Beyond visits the Planetary Surface Technology Development Lab, where ideas for lunar tech are winning NASA funding.

Sequence of Events tells the story of how our COVID-19 testing lab put the University’s capabilities on the state’s radar, leading to a partnership in infectious disease surveillance. And Turning Trash Into Treasure introduces a Michigan Tech researcher who led development of a globally significant achievement — the successful conversion of plastic waste into edible protein powder.

The researchers in Awards and Honors celebrate major career successes while Beyond the Lab salutes student excellence along with the research impacts of autonomous data collection and solar energy.

Research in Brief explores the breadth of Michigan Tech research, from a graduate student – ​​run wellness program to using tree genetics to adapt fruit- and nut-bearing trees to climate change.

Michigan Tech recorded research expenditures of $ 81.9 million in 2021 — see a breakdown of funding through Research Data and Tracking — and researchers secured major grants and partnerships:

Michigan Tech’s AutoDrive Challenge fully autonomous vehicle, “Borealis Prime,” parks on campus in fall 2021. Its autonomous technology was designed, built, and tested by MTU students.

  • Michigan Tech’s globally renowned cloud chamber, the Pi Chamber, has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a community facility. The chamber joins a very limited number of these facilities across the country open to use by all US scientists.
  • Raymond Shaw, director of MTU’s Atmospheric Sciences program, received a $ 2.9 million grant from the NSF to design and build a new cloud chamber: The Aerosol-Cloud-Drizzle Convection Chamber.
  • The University launched a research workspace in Traverse City, Michigan, to advance work in aerospace communications, manufacturing simulations, and renewable energy, among other areas. The research hub offers opportunities for research, talent development, and educational outreach at both K-12 and postsecondary levels.
  • Michigan Tech joined the Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) —a collaboration of university and industry members addressing key challenges in creating a modern electric energy infrastructure. Teaming up with other institutions and industry partners will catalyze transdisciplinary research and advance national grant competition.
  • The AutoDrive Challenge — a four-year challenge to develop a Chevrolet Bolt into a Level 4 autonomous vehicle — concluded in 2021. Michigan Tech team Prometheus Borealis was the top US team, finishing third overall behind Canada’s University of Toronto and University of Waterloo. MTU also earned the second-highest number of trophies over the four-year competition.
  • Michigan Tech, together with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, local Indigenous communities, and partner organizations, received NSF funds for the 2021 Build and Broaden Indigenous Agriculture and Food Sovereignty Symposium. The symposium, a gathering focused on revitalizing Indigenous food traditions, is one of only a few regularly occurring conferences in the nation dedicated to Indigenous food sovereignty.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.

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