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  • May 18: Cup of Science: Perfecting the espresso experience

    Wednesday May 18, 2022

    Robert McKeon Aloe draws from his day job at Apple, his University of Detroit Mercy education and a passion for data science in creating a tiny cup of perfection.

    McKeon Aloe, a 2006 alumnus of Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Sciences, works as a manager for Apple in California, but when he’s not working for the innovative tech company, he’s using data science to experiment with espresso.

    “I fell in love with coffee while living in Paris for two years as a high school student,” McKeon Aloe said. “When I came to America, coffee was Starbucks coffee, but I didn’t want to drink a latte. I really liked a straight espresso shot, very strong.

    Robert Aloe McKeonRobert McKeon Aloe

    “I want my coffee to taste like I melted a piece of chocolate in my mouth. It’s not that you can’t have good coffee in other forms, but I’m not one to sit and drink a cup of coffee. So, I got a coffee machine and have been making my own espresso.”

    And two passions became one as his career in data science assisted in his pursuit of the perfect cup of espresso. McKeon Aloe bought an espresso machine and refurbished it as part of the experiments, to improve consistency and the brewing and drinking experience.

    “I started using the data sheet because it became very helpful. It just kind of took off as I started questioning — these are what I was told were the best variables or these were what I thought were the best variables, but are they really the best?”

    McKeon Aloe’s curiosity eventually percolated into writing articles that he’s been publishing on Medium.com. He produced article after article until he realized he had more than 1,000 pages of content that he could turn into a book on how to make better espresso.

    “I started writing articles back in 2018 because I realized that I have a lot of work from professional and school experience that may be interesting to people,” he said. “So, I started writing about it and then I wrote about a few coffee experiments that I thought were interesting or unique to someone with my background. Then I started to expand to where I now publish about two articles on coffee a week and I write less on other things.

    “I can identify, here’s your set of variables and here’s what you can change for each variable to get some improvement on your espresso. I didn’t intend to turn it into some big data science experiment,” he said. “It just kind of evolved into that.”

    Some of the variables he’s tested in his espresso experiments include variations on grind distribution and the ground beans themselves, the filters used, and sifting time and methods, just to name a few.

    McKeon Aloe’s goal is to have his book — “Engineering Better Espresso: Data Driven Coffee” — published this summer. He also releases many of his findings on social media, @EspressoFun on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

    He also uses data science for more than just espresso research.

    “Obviously, it’s what I use at work, but I also use it wherever there is a place to apply data,” he said. “I had to collect a lot of data while at Detroit Mercy to help evaluate how my algorithm was working and then in graduate school, it was the same for biometrics, it was how well was the system performing, how to improve the system and how the system would generalize to a larger population. It was all about getting more data and to look at it better.

    “So that bled into the rest of my life. I’ve used the same method for buying a car.”

    McKeon Aloe graduated from Detroit Mercy, where his grandfather went to school, with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Electrical Engineering in just four years and followed his education in Detroit with a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from Notre Dame.

    He said his education at Detroit Mercy has helped pave the way for where he is now.

    “What I really liked is the professors all had industry experience and the curriculum was really tied to helping you succeed as a generalist in the industry,” he said. “My feeling is that when I graduated, I could do any electrical engineering job at least in the auto industry and then it set me up to be able to learn any of the skills that I needed for other jobs. I appreciated that mindset and it just felt like a very holistic education.

    “The teachers really did care and I was friends with a few teachers outside of my department. It wasn’t just solely like the teachers in one department cared about you, but other professors were watching out. The level of instruction, the attention to detail that the professors made; I felt important and I saw that other people felt important too.”

    He pursued and “fell in love” with the field of computer vision and worked on a 3D face recognition system for his doctorate while at Notre Dame.

    McKeon Aloe’s first job took him to the east coast, but with few face recognition jobs in that part of the country, he eventually landed a job with Apple, moving across the country to work for the tech giant.

    “We came out west because we were limited in opportunities and then the field blew up,” he said. “The past couple of years it really has gotten big. It’s been interesting to see from my perspective.”

    Having spent more than seven years with Apple, he’s learned to maintain a healthy work-life synergy, with espresso being one of his interests away from his career. When he’s not engineering good espresso, he’s also got three young children that keep him busy.

    “Part of my interests now lie in helping newer engineers develop their career and develop a good culture where people can have some balance and solve these challenging problems,” McKeon Aloe said. “I’ve found a great interest in how to cultivate a good work-life balance.

    “I think it’s good to have hobbies. My interest in coffee, there’s something outside of work that I really want to do to where if work is my entire life, then it’s hard to have anything else.”

    Like that perfect cup of espresso.

    — By Adam Bouton. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

  • May 17: PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, July 28-31

    Tuesday May 17, 2022

    A promo image for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which features large, white letters, a golf ball and tee that spell out Detroit.Get your general admission or cabana/suite tickets for the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic today before they sell out.

    Prices for general admission range from $60-$80 per ticket. For an exclusive experience, you can join Detroit Mercy in a private cabana/suite near the 17th green, including food and open bar for only $500. A portion of the ticket price for the cabana/suite is a tax-deductible gift to Detroit Mercy Student Scholarships.

    Register for tickets.
  • May 16: Retirement reception for Mark Denham, May 19

    Monday May 16, 2022
    Natalia Grasso with CLAE Dean Mark Denham, wearing a mask, during the 2021-22 school year.

    Titan faculty, staff and administrators, you are cordially invited to a retirement reception in honor of College of Liberal Arts & Education Dean Mark Denham.

    The reception is set for Thursday, May 19 from 3-5 p.m. in the College of Health Professions Building, room 124.

    Denham joined the University as dean of CLAE in 2013.

    Natalia Grasso with CLAE Dean Mark Denham, wearing a mask, during the 2021-22 school year.Mark Denham (right) poses with Detroit Mercy student Natalia Grasso after she receives an award at the 2022 Honors Convocation.
  • May 16: Class of ’22: Valedictorian’s love for literature fuels dental dreams 

    Monday May 16, 2022
    Mehar Soni sits on the piano bench while resting her arm on the piano at St. Ignatius Chapel.

    Mehar Soni sits on the piano bench while resting her arm on the piano at St. Ignatius Chapel.To mark the graduation of the Class of 2022, Marketing & Communications is profiling several students who were nominated by staff and faculty for their contributions to the University and their potential to make a difference after graduation. For more information about 2022 commencement exercises, please click here.  

    When Mehar Soni gives her valedictorian speech at University of Detroit Mercy’s 2022 commencement ceremony May 14, she’ll look into the crowd, reflect on her three years at the University and acknowledge all the people who have impacted her.

    One of those people is her grandmother. 

    Soni, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a minor in Literature, grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories and being read to. Quality time with her grandmother as a child had a big impact on the Detroit Mercy valedictorian’s life, helping her develop a love for literature.

    “It was a way for me to connect with her and her stories,” Soni said. “She would tell me about India, she would tell me about how she immigrated here and how it was so difficult to mesh into society. Being a child and just spending time with your grandparents through stories and books was very valuable to me. I was always drawn to listening and reading because of that reason.” 

    Soni came to Detroit Mercy to follow her dream of becoming a dentist as part of the 7-Year Dental program. But literature first sparked the Hamilton, Ontario, native’s interest in science and medicine at an early age.

    Soni says she was about 6 years old when she grabbed an interactive biology book off the lowest shelf at her library. Fascinated, she renewed the book, which detailed the human body, “so many times.” Volunteering at the cancer hospital where her grandmother was a patient, as well as conversations with her dentist, helped solidify dentistry as Soni’s medical path. 

    Mehar Soni sits on a piano bench in the St. Ignatius Chapel.“I shadowed and realized dentistry had the personal element of connecting with patients,” she said. “I don’t have to deal with severe illness and I can really be involved with patients’ lives. I can also work with my hands to create art and do good.” 

    Soni chose to attend Detroit Mercy for a variety of reasons. Her dentist, a graduate of the University, first recommended its 7-Year Dental program, but what set Detroit Mercy apart was the institution’s values and community. Soni enjoyed developing relationships with College of Engineering & Science Assistant Dean for Academics and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Elizabeth Roberts-Kirchhoff, as well as the Chair and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Matthew Mio while touring the McNichols Campus.

    “I already felt like I had belonged, even though I was in high school,” Soni said. “I felt like this is such a natural place for me to go, I already feel like a member of the community.” 

    Although it took some time for Soni to find her place on the McNichols Campus, she feels she was able to grow at the University and became quite involved as her undergraduate career progressed. Her roles included serving as the Chemistry Club’s vice president of speakers and tours, a content editor for the student arts journal [sic] and working as an ambassador for the 7-Year Dental program. She also did research with Detroit Mercy faculty. 

    “I think the most important thing I’ve learned at Detroit Mercy is the power of community and family,” Soni reflected. “College isn’t all about getting good grades – that’s the mistake I was making in my first year. I thought I could just come, get As and go back home. But that’s not what it’s about, that’s not what this University is about. They want you to be involved on campus, to meet people, faculty, find mentors and friends.” 

    It was also important for Soni to give back to others through volunteering, a trait instilled in her at an early age by her grandmother.

    “We come from a community where not a lot of people had a lot of opportunities,” Soni said. “Being a person of color and being in a new country, my parents really had to struggle to get everything that they had. My grandmother always said ‘you have the privilege of going to a wonderful institution, you should always incorporate giving back in every stage of your life.’”

    Mehar Soni, left, holds her grandmother's hand on her first day of kindergarten.Creative outlets led to memorable experiences for Soni at Detroit Mercy. This spring, she won the  annual Dudley Randall poetry contest with her submission “The Crown Jewel,” a personal poem she says is about her family and background. The piano in the University’s St. Ignatius Chapel also brought great joy to Soni, who started playing when she was 3.

    “I’ve spent so many hours playing it between the services that are there,” she said. “The room is just beautiful. The stained-glass windows and the light coming into the room, it’s kind of my happy place.” 

    The hard work and discipline it took for Soni to play the piano at a high level is something she uses in all areas of her life.

    “I couldn’t immediately play something perfectly; it took hours and hours of dedication, questioning and listening to other people play the song,” Soni said. “Some people have a natural talent for music, but personally, I don’t. It took a lot of effort to get to where I am today. And that has carried into every aspect of my life. When I go to school, I don’t just go and take notes. I take detailed notes, I ask questions, I go to office hours. I question everything I learn because of music.”

    The next step in Soni’s educational career is dental school, which she will start this fall at the University of Pennsylvania. There, she is eager to explore a passion she discovered at Detroit Mercy through literature: narrative medicine. Soni worked with Associate Professor of English Rosemary Weatherston, who teaches a narrative medicine course at the University, to research chemistry in narrative medicine.

    “It involves understanding the stories of illness instead of just the medical symptoms and scientific aspect,” Soni said. “Really understanding that illness is a narrative; it’s a very big part of who you are.” 

    Soni fulfilled a longtime dream by becoming Detroit Mercy’s valedictorian. Despite being sick with COVID during the application process, she earned the coveted distinction, following in the footsteps of her friend Nurzahan Rahman, who was the University’s valedictorian last year.

    When Soni steps on the Calihan Hall stage to give her speech on Saturday, she’ll reflect on her three years at Detroit Mercy and deliver messages of hope for her fellow Titans. She’ll talk about the friends, mentors, faculty and alumni who have influenced her, as well as how becoming involved on the McNichols Campus impacted her life.  

    More importantly, Soni will thank her family, who accompanied her along her journey from its start. 

    “My family was just really proud, because they just didn’t expect something like this to happen,” Soni said. “I’m the oldest child in my family, my dad never had these kinds of opportunities that I’ve had. He’s just really proud that I could make the best of them. It’s just unreal. My grandma’s the most proud, though. 

    “That pride of being able to see my family in the crowd and talk about them in a speech and give my thanks to them, it’s powerful.” 

    — By Ricky Lindsay. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.

  • May 16: The Future of Internationalization in Jesuit universities, May 24-26

    Monday May 16, 2022
    A graphic promoting The Future of Internationalization in the Jesuit Universities. Call for proposals extended.

    Detroit Mercy faculty, staff and administrators, you are invited to be part of a virtual conference, The Future of Internationalization in the Jesuit Universities, set to run for three days from May 24-26, 2022.

    A graphic promoting The Future of Internationalization in the Jesuit Universities. Call for proposals extended.Each day’s round tables begin at 9 a.m. ET or 8 a.m. locally in Mexico City. Registration to be a panelist or a member of the audience begins on Wednesday, May 11. Audience spots are reserved for the first 300 people who register (see link below).

    Day one on Tuesday, May 24 features keynote speaker Dr. Francisco Marmolejo, President of Higher Education for Qatar Foundation (QF).

    Roundtables include:

    • Concept of Internationalization and Global Citizenship for Jesuit Universities — To share the concept of Internationalization among the Jesuit Universities and how it responds to each institution’s goals and visions. Likewise, to reflect about the concept of Global Citizenship: meaning, characteristics and how to achieve it.
    • Communication Technologies for Internationalization (Virtual Collaboration, invited faculty, etc.) — To share the strategies, good practices and lessons learned after the pandemic and the use of communications technologies to guarantee the continuation of academic activities.
    • Challenges in the academic cooperation between Jesuit institutions — To share ideas to improve the liaison among Jesuit Institutions. What can we do to enhance cooperation and work together to solve common problems?
    Registration for panelists (March 11-15). Registration for audience (March 11-20).
  • May 16: Submit proposals for Ford grants, earn support for creative service-learning project

    Monday May 16, 2022

    A second round of proposals has opened for the Ford Community Corps Partnerships (FCCP) grants. It’s a great way for Detroit Mercy students to earn grants to provide support for creative service-learning projects.

    The deadline for the next round of proposals is Friday, June 10, 2022.

    With these mini-grants from the Ford Fund, students can get leadership training and a generous salary to coordinate these projects. Faculty partners also get a stipend and money for materials.

    In the past, Detroit Mercy has provided funds for projects, such as:

    • Students from a Political Science class give support for an agency that helps people facing eviction.
    • Student from a Business Writing class creates Canva templates to help a non-profit organization enhance their social media presence, as well as many others.
    • Students from a Nursing course provided people facing homelessness with a health resources list.
    • Law students provided info to youth in a foster care facility about their legal rights.

    Take a look at all previous projects.

    If you are interested or if you’d like to stay up-to-date with the most recent developments, please email Fr. Tim Hipskind, S.J., at hipskijt@udmercy.edu.

    More information.
  • May 13: Titans Together: COVID-19 data update, May 13

    Friday May 13, 2022

    University of Detroit Mercy is posting active and cumulative cases of COVID-19 for 2021-22 academic year on the Titans Together page. These figures will be updated weekly and each week’s numbers will be included in the weekly Campus Connection email.

    As of Friday, May 13, 2022, there were 20 active cases of students or employees who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 since May 6, 2022; they are in isolation. There were 650 total cases for the 2021-22 academic year since Aug. 31, 2021.

    New and cumulative case counts include individuals who were not on campus throughout their infection. New cases are included in the cumulative total. The total number of known cases among students or employees since March 2020 is 997.

    Visit the Titans Together website at udmercy.edu/titanstogether.

    Titans Together Logo

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Monday May 16, 2022

Professor of History and department co-chair Roy E. Finkenbine co-presented in an International Underground Railroad Month webinar on May 11, 2022. The webinar promoted how communities and states could be involved in International Underground Railroad Month in Sept. 2022. It was sponsored by the National Park Service, the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission, the Maryland Division of Tourism and US/ICOMOS.

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