Sunhusky.png Michigan Tech's Open Sustainability Technology Lab.

Contact Dr. Joshua Pearce
MOST: Projects & Publications, Methods, Lit. reviews, People, Sponsors, News
Updates: Twitter, YouTube


Solar photovoltaic technology represents one of the fastest growing industries and the open source hardware movement (particularly RepRap 3-D printers) is exploding. As the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab is on the cutting edge of two popular fields - entrance into the group is extremely competitive. We literally get dozens of email applications a week. That said we are always looking for highly-motivated excellent students that share our research interests. Competitive graduate students need to be in the top 10% in grades and test scores (GRE 90th percentile scores are above 162 for verbal, 164 for quantitative, and 5 or higher in analytical writing. For international students - TOEFL scores >100, IELTS scores >7.5). Ideal applicants have a history and a portfolio already built up in the areas of our research or closely related areas.

Potential Graduate Students

Dr. Pearce is seeking students at the Ph.D and masters levels for research in solar photovoltaic materials and open source appropriate technology. Interested applicants should have a strong academic background and a demonstrated interest in solar energy and/or open source hardware.

  • Ph.D. and masters students are generally fully funded, both tuition and monthly stipends. Only the highest quality students interested in a masters degree will be considered. Students are generally ranked in the top 10% of their class or higher at an internationally-reputable institution and have undertaken some major project in applied sustainability before joining the group (e.g. organized Engineers Without Borders chapters at their former schools) or open hardware/software (e.g. founded a hackerspace). Michigan Tech happens to be the most economically advantageous school to go to in Michigan.
    • Dr. Pearce sometimes advises students on non-fully funded projects and in these case students are funded via hourly work or for 'bounties' (e.g. lump sums for the completion of a clearly defined deliverable)

Group Application Process

All of the work that our group does is in part or whole "free and open source" - see our category of Appropedia here. Appropedia is a wiki (editable website like Wikipedia) and the largest user-edited site on the web that concentrates on sustainability, poverty reduction, and appropriate technology. We work on developing a wide range of appropriate technologies and the reasons we use Appropedia are outlined in this paper

If after reading about our work you would like to join, please do the following:

  1. Set up your own user account on Appropedia (click the upper right on any page on the site).
  2. Create a user page to describe yourself by clicking on the red link of your username in the upper right after you have logged in, write about your background and projects that are relevant to Appropedia and MOST. Then add your picture. If you haven't used a wiki before see . You can use these pages as examples.
  3. Use your page to experiment and learn wiki markup. After you know what you are doing with wiki editing - then I would like you to write up a formal page on Appropedia for your most relevant and useful project to date in solar or open source hardware with links back to your existing work. FOSS developers - just do a splash page for your best work and link to your github or similar account.
  4. When this is done - send Dr. Pearce ( an email with the links to your user page, project page and your unofficial application materials grades/test scores. If you are qualified and a good match for an open funded project you will be contacted.

We are both constantly looking for students and applying for funding - sometimes there is not match immediately - we are sorry that we do not always have positions.


Coming to MTU and a top student? You will be put up for some merit based scholarships:

New top scoring MTU undergrads can apply for Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology Sharing Award to get a 3D printer kit [1]

Undergraduates at Michigan Tech can apply for positions in MOST in the same way as graduate students above.

  • We have openings for paid undergraduate research positions through the McArthur Internship program both during the academic year as well as during the summers. Contact Dr. Pearce for details.
  • Summer research students should apply for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
  • In addition, we sometimes accept volunteers, visiting undergraduate student projects and also sometimes pay via hourly work or for 'bounties' (e.g. lump sums for the completion of a clearly defined deliverable)
  • We have paid co-ops
  • FAR program students are normally welcomed within the group if there is a good match between your interests and our funded projects. Fall Academic Research (FAR) Program is to increase the retention and graduation rate of first-generation and minority students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program is designed to give junior-level STEM majors a high-impact, high-engaging research experience - and that we can offer.
  • We are hosting Plastic Bank Internships See:MTU-Plastic Bank Internships.pdf
  • We encourage non-MTU undergrads to visit for the summer, but they will have to apply for their own funding.
  • Tech companies often prefer hiring those who have open-source experience — a preference that is only growing stronger.
  • All undergraduates should be considering graduate school. Consider the following graph:

Visiting Graduate Students and Postdocs

  • We have openings for visiting graduate students and postdocs. Internships are unpaid (you must have your own funding) and must last at least 3 months. If interested, please send your CV and a statement of your research interests to Joshua Pearce (

Industry and Visiting Scholars

We are eager to collaborate with industry in our research and currently house three visiting scholar positions. If interested, contact Joshua Pearce (

Expectations for New Researchers

As the MOST research group, our goal is to perform world-class research to change the world for the better. We focus on open and applied sustainability, which is the application of science and innovation to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems. Specifically we are interested in exploring the way solar photovoltaic technology can sustainably power our society and how open-source hardware like open source appropriate technologies (or OSAT) and RepRap 3-D printing can drive decentralized local production and manufacturing. We have a strong open access policy - we want the world to use our work. MOST members have made a decision to make our research one of the top priorities in their lives. This has made the group very successful. We are consistently one of the most productive research groups at the University, our Appropedia pages are read more than 1/2 million times a year, thousands of academics read and cite our papers, our open hardware designs are downloaded tens of thousands of times and our work is regularly covered in the major international media and technical press. It also makes being a group member a more than "full time" job - particularly for graduate students. Expect to work long hard hours - this is how you succeed at world-class competitive research. However, it is not "work" like at McDonalds - but work for yourself. If you are only here to collect a paycheck this is not the right lab for you. Expect 4 hours/week in the lab for each research credit per semester.

If you ever feel that a member of the group (including Dr. Pearce) is not meeting the expectations in this page please let Dr. Pearce know asap. This is particularly important if you are unable to perform to the best of your ability or able to rapidly complete your project. All the members of the lab are committed to fixing problems that arise.

This document is not exhaustive and we are in debt to Prof. Steve Swanson [2] and Prof. Paul Sanders for many ideas that make a major research group successful. However, researchers often come to the group with radically different expectations and this list is meant to ensure we all understand our basic roles. You are expected to read all of it. If you have questions about it or think of things that should be added, please email Dr. Pearce.

This document is primarily aimed at graduate students pursuing a PhD or masters degree. If you are a staff member, undergraduate, visiting scholar, post doc, or volunteer, let me know if you have questions about how this list applies to you.

Dr. Pearce's Responsibilities

As your advisor and supervisor, my job is to help you develop as a researcher, help guide you through grad school, and, eventually, to help you obtain the type of position you want. In addition:

  1. I will do my best to help you become an excellent researcher, publish aggressively, and help position you to be a leader in your chosen sub-field.
  2. I will provide you with multiple opportunities to work on secondary projects with fellow group members to expand your skills and publishing record.
  3. I will provide honest, constructive feedback on the work you do in the lab.
  4. I will do my best to provide a supportive, safe, and fun work environment.
  5. I will provide honest and thoughtful advice on your progress toward your degree and professional decisions.
  6. I will work with you to set aggressive, but reasonable research goals for your core project.

Mutual expectations

Doing high quality research requires lots of hard work, and doing great research as part of MOST also requires that we work well together. The members of the lab expect the following from you (and you can expect the same from them):

  1. To treat all members of the group with respect and to help make all lab members feel welcome in the lab regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religious background, etc.
  2. To work as part of the team. Every group members success helps all of us - so you should be actively helping your fellow researchers succeed. There is no tolerance for any attempt to undermine another lab member's research or academic efforts. Such activities will result in immediate termination.
  3. To behave honestly and, in particular, to not plagiarize or fabricate data.
  4. To work hard to support the group's goal of doing world-class research.
  5. To generally be around during the work week in the lab and reachable. (If you work odd hours let me know)
  6. To make pursuing the lab's research goals one of your highest priorities. That is why you are here.
  7. To follow through on commitments you make.
  8. To show up for meetings on time. As you know our meetings are set as short as possible -- if you show up 5 min late -- it may be over. Never waste the time of the group to repeat information for you.
  9. To contribute to the general upkeep of the lab. Put back tools and supplies where they belong. Maintain lab computers and occasionally help to clean up the lab space and your areas.
  10. To provide thoughtful, constructive feedback on other lab members' work.
  11. To represent the lab favorably in professional situations and help recruit high quality group members. This includes not disparaging our work or lab members, and not behaving unprofessionally at conferences.
  12. To work with other lab members to resolve problems or conflicts that arise in the group.

My Expectations of You

As your advisor, I have several additional expectations of you.

  1. Commit to becoming an excellent researcher. Frankly, I expect you to be awesome - and well above the productivity of average students at your level both nationally and within the Department. While you are in my group, I am committed to training and advising you and securing the resources necessary to support your work (e.g. supplies for your experiments and in most cases your salary). This takes a lot of work that I am happy to undertake as long you are doing your best to be successful.
  2. Listen to the advice I give you. If you do not understand why - ask. You do not always need to do what I suggest, but if you consistently ignore my advice, it doesn't make sense for me to be your advisor.
  3. Make research a higher priority than course work. While you are expected to do well in your classes, you excel in graduate school by doing great research, not by getting perfect grades.
  4. Minimize the time wasted on mandatory training for anything that will not benefit your research directly.
  5. Get my permission before undertaking any projects outside the group either at school or otherwise. There are two reasons for this: 1) I am legally accountable for how researchers funded on my grants spend their time and 2) by default, I expect that you will devote all of your research time to projects in MOST, regardless of how you are funded. This is particularly the case for working outside of the group or starting a business.
  6. Follow our methods for literature reviews
  7. Document all of your methods on Appropedia openly.
  8. Use all equipment with care, and do not use any equipment for which you have not been trained. (Also do not use other researcher's 3-D printers without permission).
  9. Follow the protocol for paper writing
  10. Help publicize MOST research successes
  11. Write a "manuscript based thesis" (Your thesis will be made up of several published - or submitted papers -- normally 3X for MS and 5X+ for PhD)
  12. Do your best to only utilize free and open source software and libre hardware to complete your research.
  13. Each graduate student should attempt to mentor at least one undergraduate research assistant. The undergraduate assistant’s research will be related to the research of the graduate student and you should have a symbiotic research relationship.
  14. Keep track of important graduate program deadlines. It is your job to keep track of deadlines for your advancement through the graduate program (e.g., completing your comprehensive exam, courses, and advancement to candidacy). You should let me know when one of these is coming up at least 2 quarters in advance, and then follow up as needed after that point. I do not track these dates for you. If you have questions about the deadlines, please contact the graduate school.
  15. To not divulge non-public information about the group without Dr. Pearce's permission. This includes information about ongoing research projects and "insider" information that I may share with you about our partner companies or other organizations. This is true EVEN if you know we will open source it eventually.
  16. Do not sign up for conferences, submit abstracts or submit papers for review without my permission.
  17. Do not submit your thesis to your committee without my permission.
  18. Never make up data. We have never had an academic honesty problem and we want to keep it that way. In research, the reputation of our lab and of each of us is critically important.
  19. Never plagiarize. Always cite your sources. The prohibition against copying material from papers, etc. from outside our group without proper attribution is absolute. However, within the group we often reuse text and figures on an individual student's theses, slide decks, etc. As members of a research group, we are all collaborators, and at one time or another we will all use materials created by another group member. For papers and student talks, I will typically be aware of the reuse, and will ensure that it acceptable. For theses and dissertations, the university will require you to obtain signatures to allow the use of others' work in your thesis. If you ever have a question about whether borrowing slides or text from another lab member's work is acceptable, ask me and ask them.
  20. Time off (for Grad students only). You get 2 weeks (10 working days) off during the year in addition to university holidays and significant events. Ask permission before you plan time off. In general you will receive it as long as you are making good progress towards your degree. However, before purchasing tickets you MUST have your work done (e.g. papers or abstracts for conferences written for a deadline). Michigan Tech observes nine paid holidays: Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, and Memorial Day