Kettering University helped student Michael Russell develop many paths for his life. The senior from Tunkhannock, Penn., will pick up his Chemical Engineering degree at Commencement on June 9.
Academic preparation in one of Kettering's newest majors, mixed in with an outstanding co-op job in alternative energy research at General Motors, were all a good start. His co-op was in GM’s Corrosion Engineering, Fuels and Lubricants, Fuel Cell and Battery Division. Most recently, he examined the impact of cellulosic ethanol on engine durability in GM’s Milford, Mich., facility.
Then, there is his passion for wanting to help people -- like the at-risk youth he has met through Kettering's Kagle Leadership Initiatives. Russell is part of the team providing mentor support at Flint's Richfield Charter School every Thursday. "We role model for the students, teaching them how to avoid peer pressure and hopefully showing them beneficial ways to improve their study and life skills for high school and eventually college," Russell said. "Our goal is to help improve Flint's graduation rate, especially with at-risk youth."
Russell's initial idea of turning his Chemical Engineering degree into an alternative fuels job took “a huge turn” in 2010 when his father, Dr. Gary Russell, invited him to travel to Haiti with him. The Russells were among the many dedicated volunteers who joined the Haiti Medical Mission after a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the poor country that is no stranger to natural disasters. "It was the trip to Haiti that changed everything," he said. "The emotional draw to medicine was too great to resist. I am passionate about working with youth and my Kettering experience has provided so many options for me."
So career goals once aimed at energy research now point to medical school ... but, first, another opportunity.
Russell will join a team of 10 American students who will travel around Israel starting in July in an intensive education and relationship building experience to educate future leaders on the changing world. He'll spend three weeks touring the country, then after a brief break, Russell will start a one-year teaching experience. "I will teach the Physical Sciences to seventh and eighth grade students in Israel, and I'll also coach youth soccer," Russell said. "It's really a chance of a lifetime and I'm so excited."
At Kettering, Russell has been actively involved with a number of on and off campus activities. Some of these have included Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, Inter-fraternity Council, Campus Crusade for Christ, Pre-Med Club, Student Ambassadors, The Robot Society, Real Service, and various student mentoring opportunities through his local church and the Kagle tutoring initiative.
He'll return to the United States next June to start the next phase of his life plan. "I plan to go to medical school at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, which my Chemical Engineering degree also supports," he said. "My ultimate intention is to prepare myself for overseas medical mission work. I'm aimed at helping people," he added. "It's my passion.”
As Russell ends his college years, he does so with honors. Russell is recipient of the Outstanding Thesis Award for Spring 2012. His thesis titled, "Evaluation of Cellulosic Ethanol's Fuel Quality and its Effects on Automotive Intake Valve Deposits and Fuel Injector Plugging" was conducted at his co-op employer GM Powertrain in Pontiac. His faculty advisor is Dr. Ali Zand from Chemistry/Biochemistry. Russell will be presented with a medallion and certificate at the President's Honors Breakfast on the morning of the June 9 Commencement. The medallion was designed and machined on campus by Kettering staff member Daniel VanCura.