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New faculty at Montana Tech

Montana Tech welcomed 15 new faculty recently to its staff at a recent employee dinner:

Robert Pal — assistant professor, biological sciences; director of restoration ecology

Pal earned a doctorate in biology, botany and plant ecology at the University of Pecs in Hungary and a master’s degree in agriculture. He participated in long term study programs in Israel, Denmark and Australia. He taught 13 subjects in Hungarian and five in English.

Pal was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Montana in Missoula. He was a Fulbright Research Scholar in Montana in 2009. He has worked on several restoration ecology projects funded by national consortium research grants. Specifically, he worked on the restoration of open-cast coal mines, uranium tailing tips and tailing ponds and fly-ash slurry ponds of a power plant. He was responsible for the restoration of the uranium tailing ponds.

Pal researches invasive plant species in Europe and the U.S. He worked on spotted knapweed, leafy spurge, cheat grass, giant goldenrod, and common tansy invasion in the native and non-native ranges. He studies novel plant-microorganisms and plant-herbivore interactions.

Alysia Cox — assistant professor, chemistry, geochemistry

Cox received a bachelor’s in geological sciences with minors in biology and German from Arizona State. Her honors thesis investigated the limits of microbial photosynthesis in hot spring ecosystems. She received her doctorate in chemical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

She researched the interactions of heavy metals with marine cyanobacteria, involving trace metal analysis, metal uptake and proteomic studies. She did postdoctoral work at ASU and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Her research at Geobiochemical Engineering Laboratory combines geochemistry with biochemistry to determine active mechanisms of chemical reactions with wide application to the environment. She teaches college chemistry and chemistry literature environmental chemistry.

Phillip J. Curtiss — visiting assistant professor, computer science

Phillip J. Curtiss, who ran Siafu Technology Group and was instrumental in helping Butte get a fiber optic network, is a visiting assistant professor and research professor in the Computer Science Department. While teaching a full course load, he pursues research interests including high-performance computing, data science and data analytics, large-scale computational astronomy, next-generation network security with Hoplite Industries and next-generation medical modeling and simulation environments with the National Center for Health Care Informatics of Butte. He is active in many local economic development groups.

Kevin Negus — research professor, electrical engineering

Negus does wireless technologies research for delivery of 4G and 5G mobile broadband services to underserved communities in remote locations. He holds offices with several boards and start-ups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in California. A consultant on patent litigation matters, he previously worked on the FCC Technical Advisory Committee and the Wyoming State Telecommunications Council.

He holds 40 U.S. patents and has published more than 40 technical papers. Negus received a doctorate in engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada. He worked at the Fairchild Semiconductor Research Center, and held various management positions with Hewlett-Packard, where he led development of chipset solutions for telecommunications systems. As chief technology officer of Proxim Corporation, he was responsible for core technology strategy: silicon development, acquisitions, standards participation and intellectual property licensing.

Xufei Yang — assistant professor, environmental engineering

A first-year assistant professor at Tech, Xufei teaches two undergraduate courses. Drawn to Montana’s mountains, he plans to conduct research on regional air quality issues, particularly wildfires and smoke.

Xufei Yang was born and raised up in Sichuan, China. He received his bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering and his master’s degree in environmental science at Tsinghua University, where he was a staff researcher. He earned a doctorate in bioenvironmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2010. After graduation, he took a few postdoctoral research positions in the states of Illinois, Nevada and Delaware. During his stay at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, he worked on IMPROVE, a U.S. National Park Service and National Forest Service-sponsored air quality program to improve the visibility in national parks and forests.

Lei Wang — assistant professor, general engineering

Lei Wang was born in Shanxi, China. He received a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from China University of Geosciences, a master’s in geotechnical engineering from Tongji University in and a doctorate in civil engineering from Clemson University in 2013. The National Science Foundation supported his doctoral research on robust design in geotechnical engineering. He has published over 25 academic papers.

Lori Babcock — visiting instructor, geological engineering

Visiting from Montana State University, Babcock is completing her doctorate in earth sciences. She teaches teaching sedimentology and petroleum geology, carbonate petrology and sedimentology lab this semester at Tech.

She earned a bachelor’s in geological sciences from Michigan State University and a master’s in science from the University of Georgia, where she studied carbonate rocks and their significance to past climate and hydrocarbon reservoirs. Since 2012, she has investigated the role of fractures and faults in transporting fluids through carbonate rocks. Recently she worked in the oil and gas business in Houston, Tex., on similar hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Dan Autenrieth — assistant professor, occupational safety & health

Autenrieth teaches an undergraduate industrial toxicology course and a graduate-level noise class in the Montana Tech Safety, Health, and Industrial Hygiene Department. Originally from Colorado, he received his doctorate in environmental health from Colorado State University. Autenrieth worked as an instructor in the Environmental Health program at CSU while completing his graduate studies. He researches occupational noise evaluation and control, occupational health and safety management systems and ergonomics. He worked for several years as an industrial hygiene consultant primarily serving the agriculture, manufacturing and health care sectors.

David Nugent — assistant professor, petroleum engineering

Nugent brings over 35 years of diversified oilfield experience to the classroom. Most of his career has been spent in the areas of drilling, including work for operating companies, service companies and working as a consultant. David has drilled vertical, directional, reentry, and single and multilateral wells. His completion and workover experience includes singles, duals, triples, selectives, single and multilateral horizontals, frac packs and acidizing.

Geographically, his experience included projects in the United States (Louisiana, Texas, and Alaska), Nigeria and Republic of Congo. He has a bachelor’s in petroleum engineering from University of Southwestern Louisiana and a master’s in engineering management from the University of New Orleans.

Mohamed Ahmed Khalil — assistant professor, geophysical engineering

Khalil has a doctorate from Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Germany post-doctoral work at University of Lisbon, Portugal. Having participated in many exploration projects, is background includes a variety of electrical methods, plus hydrochemistry, isotope hydrology and petrophysics. He has published internationally.

Isabel Sobral Campos — assistant professor, liberal studies

A poet, Sobral Campos teaches liberal arts at Tech. Originally from Portugal, she moved to Butte from Brooklyn. Her research interests include film studies, 19th century French poetry and modern and contemporary American poetry and poetics. She is currently working on a book project about the intersection of ecology, poetry, and religion. No, Dear and Small Anchor Press recently published her debut chapbook, Material. Her scholarly work is forthcoming in The Emily Dickinson Journal and The Quarterly Review of Film and Video.

Erica Asano — visiting instructor I, mathematical sciences

Asano received a bachelor’s in physics from Eastern Washington University, then she worked as an engineer in Japan. She also has two bachelor’s in biology and applied and computational mathematical sciences from University of Washington and a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Tennessee. Asano researches mathematical modeling of biological and ecological processes.

Wai Yuen Chan — instructor I, mathematical sciences

A Hong Kong native, Wai Yuen teaches calculus I and II and math for business and social sciences II. He has a doctorate in applied mathematics from the University of Louisiana. He researches nonlinear differential equations and mathematical modeling, equations that can describe a thermal explosion. Previously, he taught at the University of Oklahoma, Southeast Missouri State University and Gonzaga University.

Lee Richards — assistant professor, petroleum engineering

Richards graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering, and received a doctorate in chemical engineering from Montana State University. He worked as a drilling fluids engineer for Halliburton Energy Services Baroid division. He also worked on wildcat and development wells in Wyoming and North Dakota. He worked in Wamsutter, Wyo., as a member of the BP Well Site Leader of the Future and Subsea Wells programs.

Richards researches biological interactions within drilling muds, the characterization of existing microorganisms found in drilling fluids and biological organisms in establishing buffered drilling fluid systems.

Paul Hart — visiting instructor II, trades & technical, Highlands College

Hart earned a degree in historic preservation and a certificate in construction technology from Highlands, Tech’s south campus. He will teach in the construction technology department.

Retired from the Air Force, he lives in Great Falls. He served as an anti-terrorist specialist and security specialist for 20 years. He has degrees in political science, public administration and a law enforcement minor. Most recently, he worked in historic preservation and interpretation for the National Park Service. He was a Yellowstone Park ranger, worked at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah and performed French & Indian War and American Revolution living history at Fort Stanwix National Monument in NY. He also worked as a ranger with the U.S. Forest Service at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center in Great Falls.

This article was written by Renata Birkenbuel from The Montana Standard, Butte and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.