Michigan school eyes new complex for engineering, health tech

A new program in Michigan seeks to turn the state’s economically depressed Upper Peninsula region into a healthcare hub.

A new program in Michigan seeks to turn the state’s economically depressed Upper Peninsula region into a healthcare hub.

The initiatives aims to bring faculty, graduate students, researchers and undergraduate scholars together to do cutting-edge health technology research. Michigan’s legislature has authorized $29.7 million for the construction of a new engineering and health technology complex at Michigan Technological University in Houghton.

The university will raise another $15 million to support the program. The university’s existing chemical sciences and engineering building will be renovated, replacing dated research labs with student study spaces, teaching labs and classrooms—renovations are expected to be complete in 2022.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget says health-related professions will be among the most in-demand occupations though 2026, meaning the state will need a growing supply of well-trained health professionals.

Jacqueline Huntoon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Michigan Tech, says to compete for more significant grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, the university needs facilities to support high-quality research.

“Our vision for the future is for Michigan Tech to serve as a driver of economic development for the western (upper peninsula),” Huntoon says. “By working together, we can make this a hub for economic growth and workforce development, and healthcare is an area where we can make a real difference.”

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However, Michigan Tech is not working alone. Partnerships with Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, Central Michigan University and the UP health system are working with undergraduates interested in becoming physicians and physical therapists. Further, the Portage Health Foundation, which provides funding for collaborative and sustainable projects, is investing $6.7 million in health-related research for endowed professorships, as well as internships for undergraduates and student scholarships.

As leaders in the region are working improve the quality of life in the UP through new technologies and innovative approaches to healthcare delivery networks, the next challenge is to improve the program’s visibility, says provost Jacqueline Huntoon.

“I think sometimes people forget that we’re up here in the UP. They may not realize that there are a lot of really smart people here doing some very creative and innovative things. As our faculty start competing more and more successfully for larger dollar grants, people across the country will start paying more attention to Michigan Tech.”

Information on investing in the UP is available at www.investupmi.com.

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