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Mines student inspires future University Innovation Fellows

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 15:54

A Colorado School of Mines student spent nearly a week before Thanksgiving working to educate and inspire the next generation of University Innovation Fellows, including the four newest fellowship candidates from Mines.

Asya Sergoyan, a chemical engineering major, was one of 24 current fellows invited back to facilitate the UIF’s Silicon Valley meetup, which this November brought together 350 young innovators for immersive experiences at Stanford University’s and Google. Aspiring fellows also receive six weeks of training online, which has been described as similar to a four-credit course.

“It was interesting to be on the other side,” Sergoyan said. “It was a much larger group than ever before and very international—students from India, a lot of students from South America. It was really cool.”

Sergoyan facilitated a workshop about integrating music into K-12 education. She also delivered a four-minute “Ignite” speech about learning from failure, shifting one’s perspective and using what one has learned to succeed in the future.

For her presentation—15 slides at 15 seconds per slide—Sergoyan drew upon her experience attempting to translate her success with a nonprofit organization she cofounded in high school to Mines.

Grades for Change provided free science and English tutoring to K-8 students. As a freshman at Mines, Sergoyan hoped to do something similar and encourage fellow college students to promote STEM education at local high schools. “We hosted meetings, but no one was ever interested,” Sergoyan said. “Students were too busy, and they didn’t want to do it for free. I realized that this isn’t what the campus needs, but there are other things it does.”

Sergoyan emphasized three ideas in her speech: “You always learn more about yourself from failure; failure and success aren’t discrete; and recognizing failure is a success in itself,” she said.

Sergoyan was one of six Mines students named University Innovation Fellows in February 2016. Before that, only one Mines student had taken part in the program, which seeks to empower students to become agents of change at their schools.

That cohort’s accomplishments on campus include the creation of maker spaces, the innovation competition sponsored by Newmont and a section of freshman orientation devoted to innovation activities. They’re also organizing a regional UIF meetup on campus next September. “We want to fly a bunch of University Innovation Fellows in from all over the country, maybe the world, to see our campus and work with our students to brainstorm things around poverty and the needs of developing countries,” Sergoyan said.

Even though she was at the Silicon Valley meetup to help the newest fellows, Sergoyan found plenty of inspiration herself. “It was the most incredible time, and I’ve met the most incredible people—people who do the craziest jobs, who have started their own companies, who have gone through tragic events. I saw people with cultural differences who were focused on the same ideas.”
“Everybody was so willing to devote their time to help everybody with their speeches,” she said. “It was such a good community that I just want to go back there.”

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

Categories: Partner News

Researchers win NASA funding for small spacecraft technology

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 15:23

A pair of researchers from Colorado School of Mines was one of nine university teams selected for NASA funding to develop and demonstrate new technologies and capabilities for small spacecraft.

Qi Han, associate professor of computer science, and Christopher Dreyer, research assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will receive $200,000 in funding per year for two years through NASA’s Smallsat Technology Partnerships Initiative. Working with two collaborators from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, their focus will be developing and evaluating algorithms for dynamic spacecraft networking and network-aware coordination of multi-spacecraft swarms.

“This project aims to develop a framework for tight integration of communication and controls as an enabling technology for NASA to effectively deploy swarms of small spacecraft,” Han said. “This framework will make it possible for a network of self-organizing small spacecraft to be highly collaborative among themselves for the monitoring of time-varying and geographically distributed phenomena.”

Current deep-space missions face several challenges, including intermittent network connectivity, stringent bandwidth constraints and diverse quality-of-service (QoS) and quality-of-data (QoD) requirements, she said. 

“The use of a single platform creates non-optimal data-gathering conditions, thus requiring longer duration to meet science requirements,” Han said. “For example, during the NEAR [Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous] mission, the orbit was a compromise resulting in non-optimal data-gathering conditions for most instruments. Up to a third of the time, communicating with the Earth required maneuvering the spacecraft so that the asteroid was no longer in the instruments’ field of view.”

The distributed spacecraft network proposed by the Mines team would deploy a carrier spacecraft with larger storage and processing capabilities along with the swarm of small spacecraft in orbit about a near-Earth asteroid. 

“The carrier spacecraft is dedicated to data transfer, so it is responsible for sending data gathered by all the spacecraft to the deep space network,” Han said. “This setup will make sure that the spacecraft swarm can collect measurements uninterrupted in the shortest period of time.” 

As part of the project, researchers will also evaluate and demonstrate an integrated prototype system, using a team of unmanned aerial drones in the challenging wireless network environment of the Edgar Experimental Mine.

“The work nicely complements efforts at Mines to expand research and teaching in space-related fields, such as the Mines and Lockheed Martin software academy and the Space Resources Graduate Program,” said Dreyer, who works in the Center for Space Resources at Mines

Other universities to receive funding through NASA’s Smallsat initiative are Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Stanford University; Purdue University; Utah State University; University of Arizona; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and University of Washington. Proposals were requested in three areas – instrument technologies for small spacecraft, technologies that enable large swarms of small spacecraft and technologies that enable deep-space small spacecraft missions. 

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines team headed to programming world finals

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 11:28

A team from Colorado School of Mines is headed to the world finals of the ACM International Collegiate Programming Competition for the first time in school history. 

The SAMurai MASters – Sam Reinehr, Allee Zarrini and Matt Baldin – won the Rocky Mountain Regional on Nov. 11, besting more than 50 teams from Colorado, Utah, Montana, Arizona, Alberta and Saskatchewan to claim the region’s lone spot in the most prestigious collegiate programming competition in the world. 

The Mines juniors will face off against teams from Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America and Australia when they travel to Beijing, China, in April.

“All CS@Mines faculty are pumped about the first-place finish of SAMurai MASters in our region,” said Tracy Camp, professor and head of the Computer Science Department. “These types of events are such a great educational opportunity for our students, so we were thrilled to see 11 teams – 33 CS@Mines students – participate this year, a record. To have a team win the Rocky Mountain region is huge.” 

Reinehr, Zarrini and Baldin credited their victory to months of preparation – the three friends have been meeting up for four hours every Saturday since the summer and added some individual programming practice this fall. 

“We competed last year, but we didn’t prepare at all. We just did it for fun,” Baldin said. “We went in with no expectations but we thought we could win if we actually tried. It didn’t seem out of reach. So, we promised ourselves that we would practice a lot.” 

In the competition, teams earn points for each algorithmic problem they solve and for how quickly they come up with a correct answer. At regionals, the SAMurai MASters solved 9 of 11 problems – but they did it considerably faster than the only other team that managed to solve that many. 

Unlike many of the schools sending teams, though, Mines does not have a competitive programming club or class, from which the top performers can be curated into teams for regionals. The SAMurai MASters hopes that changes in the future.

“Overall what we hope to get out of this is for Mines, after seeing us place so well, to start developing a program for students to compete and do well in this competition in the future even after we graduate,” Zarrini said. 

“We put Mines on the map,” Baldin added. “We want them to stay there.”

At worlds, the SAMurai don’t expect a repeat performance of regionals – Russian teams have won six years running – but they’d be happy with placing in the top 60 and earning honorable mention. To help prepare, they’re doing an independent study next semester with Teaching Associate Professor Jeff Paone.

“We're all juniors – we've got next year, too,” Reinehr said.

Tech companies also recruit out of the competition, and the teammates have found that all that programming practice has been good prep for interviews. 

“Almost every technical interview question I’ve gotten has not been nearly as difficult as the questions we’re doing here,” Zarrini said.

“I wouldn’t say being good at competitive programming necessarily makes you the best software engineer, but it speaks volumes to someone’s problem-solving ability,” Baldin said. “We want to prove we are good problem solvers."

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines professors compose music for Parade of Lights float

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 14:57

The newest float in Denver’s 9News Parade of Lights has a Colorado School of Mines connection.

Keep your ears perked or you might miss it.

An electronic holiday carol written, arranged and mastered by two Mines professors will serve as the soundtrack for Sparkling Ice Castle, the brand-new parade float built and designed by Independent Electrical Contractors Rocky Mountain (IECRM) apprentices and members.

“Wind Carol,” written by Music Program Director Robert Klimek and arranged and mastered by Teaching Associate Professor Jonathan Cullison, was composed specifically for the float.

“The world needs to know that Mines has a music technology program,” Klimek said. “A lot of students, one of the first things their parents ask is, ‘Our students are very interested in music and they’re interested in technology. What do you have?’ We’re constantly trying to make connections out there internationally, nationally and locally so people know the skill set and training programs are here.”

The annual holiday lights parade will begin its festive march through downtown Denver at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and again at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Friday's parade will also be broadcast live on 9News KUSA-TV.

Composing a piece of original music for a parade float posed a unique set of challenges – so much so that Klimek and Cullison are planning to give a similar project to students in the Division of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences’ Music, Engineering and Recording Arts Minor Program. The minor offers students experience on both sides of the recording-room glass – music performance and music recording. 

“The float issue is a real issue – you get to view 15 seconds of this thing going by,” Cullison said. “We didn’t want people to stop listening and say, ‘Oh, it’s another float’ and return to their hot chocolate. It’s an absolutely gorgeous float. We want to do everything we can to draw the crowd into the passing float and make sure they’re getting the most impact out of it, a total audio and visual sensory experience.”

Learning as much as possible about the float’s speakers – how they projected, how far they projected, the width of their projection, their position on the float – was crucial, Klimek said.

“The idea was at every second of the recording to have something happen, to have them go, ‘Oh, I want to listen to more,’ ” Klimek said. “If it’s the same thing over and over again, they stop listening and move on to the next display.”

The composition itself drew inspiration from the winter wind and a child’s sense of awe, Klimek said. 

“When you hear the ‘Wind Carol,’ you hear the wind blowing. It rises up and falls back down,” he said. “The first time my grandson heard the wind, we were walking on the trail along Clear Creek and he just perked up and his eyes widened. It’s invisible but for him it was the coolest thing in the world.” 

The Mines connection doesn’t end there, either. Golden’s Matsuo Engineering – owned by Allan Matsuo ’92 – consulted on the project, helping IECRM take its concept drawings through production and work with the acrylic fabricators, lighting companies and construction crews to forge the twinkling, color-changing float.

“It’s exciting to see it all come together,” said Matsuo, who plans to walk in Saturday’s parade. “Just like a building going up, it’s gratifying to see it come to fruition and know you were part of it.” 

And don’t worry: If you miss this year’s parade, you’ll get another chance to experience the Sparkling Ice Castle and its Mines-made soundtrack next year.

“Our job in the HASS Music and Performing Arts building is to say, ‘Those walls where you think I’m a math person or I’m an art major, those walls are self-imposed.’ There’s no reason an art major can’t understand physics and love math. There’s no reason a math major can’t dig art,” Cullison said. “If we can help facilitate that cross-communication, we’re creating a better student, a Renaissance student of the present day.”

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Proposed space resources program featured in Wired

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 13:08

Colorado School of Mines' proposed graduate program in space resources was the focus of a recent feature article in Wired. The program's pilot class, Space Resources Fundamentals, was launched in Fall 2017, taught by Christopher Dreyer, research assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

From the story:

"People from all over, non-traditional students, wanted to take Space Resources Fundamentals. And so Dreyer and Center for Space Resources director Angel Abbud-Madrid decided to run it remotely, ending up with about 15 enrollees who log in every Tuesday and Thursday night for the whole semester. Dreyer has a special setup in his office for his virtual lectures: a laptop stand, a wall of books behind him, a studio-type light that shines evenly.

In the minutes before Thanskgiving-week class started, students' heads popped up on Dreyer's screen as they logged in. Some are full-time students at Mines; some work in industry; some work for the government. There was the employee from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, an office tasked, in part, with making sure the US is obeying international treaties as they explore beyond the planet. Then there’s Justin Cyrus, the CEO of a startup called Lunar Outpost. Cyrus isn’t mining any moons yet, but Lunar Outpost has partnered with Denver’s Department of Environmental Health to deploy real-time air-quality sensors, of the kind it hopes to develop for moony use.

Cyrus was a Mines graduate, with a master’s in electrical and electronics engineering; he sought out Dreyer and Abbud-Madrid when he needed advice for his nascent company. When the professors announced the space resources program, Cyrus decided to get in on this pilot class. He, and the other attendees, seem to see the class not just as an educational opportunity but also as a networking one: Their classmates, they say, are the future leaders of this industry."

Categories: Partner News

Mines Ethics Bowl team qualifies for national finals

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 13:00

Students from Colorado School of Mines are going to the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl for the third year in a row.

The Mines Ethics Bowl team beat out student groups from six other schools to win the Rocky Mountain Regional Ethics Bowl on Nov. 11 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  

Mines and the second-place team from Macalester College will move on to the national competition, set to coincide with the 2018 Association for Practical and Professional Ethics Annual Meeting in Chicago in March. Also competing in the Rocky Mountain Regional were Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Denver, University of Colorado Denver and Simpson College. 

Earlier this year, Mines placed in the top 20 at the 2017 nationals. The school began fielding Ethics Bowl teams four years ago.

“I'm unbelievably impressed with this year's team – we have only one returning member from last year, so everyone pulled it together really quickly. Not only that, we faced serious competition from high-caliber liberal arts colleges,” said Sandy Woodson, teaching professor of humanities, arts and social sciences and Ethics Bowl coach. “Again, Mines students rise to the occasion, performing under pressure with intelligence and poise.”

Making up the team headed to the 2018 nationals are: Meghan Anderson (electrical engineering); Parker Bolstad (environmental engineering); Amara Hazlewood (chemical engineering); Blake Jones (chemical engineering); Nia Watts (computer science); and Daisy White (geophysics).

In Ethics Bowl, teams of three to five students face off to argue and defend moral assessments of the most complex ethical issues facing today’s society. Teams are judged on their ability to demonstrate understanding of the facts, articulate ethical principles, present an effective argument and respond effectively to challenges from the opposing team and judges. 

Around Labor Day, the teams received 15 cases, with brief narratives outlining some of the issues raised by each case. At regionals, 10 of those 15 cases were debated, but no team knew which would be chosen in advance. This year, the cases addressed in competition included the Dakota Access Pipeline, the U.S. Electoral College, the rise of fake news and the ethics of 13 Reasons, a TV show about teen suicide.

“As engineers, we benefit from being very logical and that shows in our presentations,” said Bolstad, a junior who was also on the 2016-2017 squad. “While we’re not always the most philosophy-driven, the community members who are judges at regionals appreciate the logic.” 

The Mines team will get the cases for nationals in early January, giving them about three months to prepare their arguments, he said.

“We came in this year with a better understanding of how to utilize what we’re good at,” Bolstad said. “We use this term, ‘Don’t name drop.’ There’s a lot of terminology we can use – the categorical imperative and Kant – but we try not to because that’s not our strength. It’s an Ethics Bowl, not a Philosophy Bowl.”

“I’m excited to take what we learned last year and try to apply that and see if we can do a little better this year,” he said.

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Kee celebrates 40 years of research at Mines

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 10:51

Friends, family, colleagues and current and former students from as far away as Saudi Arabia and Germany came together Nov. 11 to celebrate Colorado School of Mines professor Bob Kee.

More than 80 guests gathered at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in honor of Kee’s 40 years of research at Mines and his 70th birthday. Guests shared stories, photos and research posters and then toasted Kee and sang “Happy Birthday.”

Kee holds the George R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses primarily on the modeling and simulation of chemically reacting fluid flow. Applications are generally in the area of clean energy, including fuel cells, photovoltaics and advanced combustion.

The distinguished guest list included Bob Dibble (KAUST), Linda Petzold (University of California, Santa Barbara), Jim Miller (Argonne National Laboratory), Olaf Deutschmann (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), Uwe Reidel (DLR – Institute of Combustion Technology), Joe Shepherd (CalTech), Scott Barnett (Northwestern University), Wenhua Yang (Shell Global Solutions) and Kevin Walters (EtaGen, Inc.).

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Computer science program featured in The Denver Post

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 09:08

Colorado School of Mines' computer science program was recently featured on the front page of The Denver Post. Department Head Tracy Camp and freshman James Schreiner were interviewed for the article, which focused on the surge in computer science enrollments in Colorado and across the country. 

From the story:

"And it’s not just students with computer science-related majors who are filling up college classrooms. Students studying other fields are looking to hone their digital skills to compete in a technology-driven world.

That’s why Colorado School of Mines computer science professor Tracy Camp believes this is not a mere trend that will flame out with the next fluctuation of the economy.

'Everyone in our community feels this is something different from previous trends,' Camp said. 'Computing skills have become ubiquitous in our society. Just about every engineering and science discipline needs computer skills and now they are enrolling in our classes.' "

Categories: Partner News

Software to assess CO2 storage risk wins award

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:29

A Colorado School of Mines professor is part of a partnership that has been recognized for developing a computer software package to assess the environmental risk of geologic carbon dioxide storage sites.

The National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) Toolset was named one of the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace in the past year by R&D Magazine. Geophysics Assistant Professor Whitney Trainor-Guitton was part of the team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; other national labs in the partnership were Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley, Pacific Northwest and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The software package comprises 10 science-based computational tools that support industry and regulatory agencies as they design and implement safe and effective geologic carbon storage projects to sequester large volumes of human-made carbon dioxide.

Together, these 10 tools represent the most complete suite of models ever assembled to assess the geological integrity and environmental risk of carbon dioxide storage sites by quantifying potential fluid leakage and ground motion.

Trainor-Guitton was involved in uncertainty quantification for different monitoring techniques for drinking-water aquifers and reservoir seal integrity. “Specifically, I modeled and quantified how reliable several types of direct and indirect methods could be at detecting combined CO2/brine leakage into a heterogeneous, sedimentary aquifer,” she said. This helps determine the best strategies for implementing monitoring protocols for carbon sequestration sites.

Geologic formations found deep underground offer promising repositories for safe and effective storage of large volumes of carbon dioxide. However, unlike engineered reactors in surface operations, geologic systems are inherently variable and often poorly characterized, making it difficult to know with certainty how a system will respond to large-scale injection and storage of carbon dioxide.

To overcome these obstacles, developers and investors need robust, science-based tools to understand the range of potential environmental risk at carbon dioxide storage sites, over time.

Known as “the Oscars of Invention,” the R&D 100 Awards recognize 100 of the brightest and boldest technologies and services of the year across nine categories. Since 1963, the R&D 100 Awards program has identified revolutionary technologies newly introduced to the market. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items and high-energy physics spanning industry, academia and government-sponsored research.

Trainor-Guitton holds a bachelor’s degree in geophysical engineering from Mines and master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. She joined the Department of Geophysics in 2015.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines convenes 2nd summit on abandoned mine lands

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:51

Colorado School of Mines hosted its second summit focused on the environmental impacts of mine closure and remediation strategies on Nov. 14.

“A Framework to Manage the Environmental Reality of Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Lands” brought together non-governmental organizations, researchers, industry representative and other stakeholders for a daylong discussion on the Mines campus.

Panel participants and speakers shared ideas on best practices for navigating the complex environmental, political and social aspects of managing orphaned and abandoned mine lands, generating expectations for future stakeholders.

Mines hosted the first summit, “Reasonable Expectations for Mine Closure,” in 2016. The event highlighted the need to continue the conversation and develop collaborative strategies that lead to action.

This year’s discussions ranged from the technical aspects of successful mine closure and good and bad examples of mine remediation to partnerships and policy in the sociopolitical arena.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources sponsored the summit, in collaboration with the Department of Mining Engineering and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Mines hopes to host a third summit in 2018 to continue the discussion and generate tangible actions to begin systematic remediation of existing abandoned mines.

See photos event in the Flickr slideshow below.

Contact: Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |  
Categories: Partner News

Microbial hot spring structures offer clues into geological past

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 15:40

Orange, tree-like cone structures up to two centimeters tall found in a California hot spring were built by a rich and diverse community of microbes, newly published research shows.

These microbes, living in a California hot spring aptly named “Cone Pool” by researchers in the Long Valley Caldera, just east of Mammoth Mountain in California, built sturdy Christmas tree-like structures using calcium carbonate—the same mineral used by corals to form their skeletons.

John Spear, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, was part of the international team of researchers working on the project. Their findings were published Nov. 21 in the journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes.

“It is fascinating to observe these intricate structures under the microscope, and see that they bear strikingly similarity to those preserved in ancient rocks, built millions of years ago by ancient ancestors to the microbes in Cone Pool,” said James Bradley, co-lead author and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Southern California. “This means that we have found a new modern analogue for those ancient structures that might provide clues into the formation and preservation of ancient counterparts.”

The structures, resembling microbial filaments when viewed under an electron microscope, are made up of long threads, intertwined around tiny grains of calcium carbonate. The study suggests that they are the result of the activity of millions of different microbes, each with a metabolism that contributes to the cone-building process.

Characterization of the microbes’ DNA indicates that the community is highly diverse and capable of metabolisms including photosynthesis, which might encourage the formation of these never-before-seen structures.

“This type of insight would be impossible to achieve without the collaborative, multidisciplinary nature of the research,” said Bradley Stevenson, a microbiologist at the University of Oklahoma.

The international team of researchers included members from the University of Southern California; California State University, Fullerton; Colorado School of Mines; UES Inc. of Dayton, Ohio; University of Oklahoma; and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. They were brought together by the International GeoBiology Course at USC in 2015.

The annual course brings together scientists from a range of disciplines and levels of experience with the overarching aim to explore the co-evolution of the Earth and life on Earth. All results presented in the paper were generated from fieldwork and experiments conducted as part of the course, and lead authors Bradley, Leslie Daile and Chris Trivedi were students in the 2015 course.

“The best kinds of research can be done at the intersection of different kinds of science—here geology, geochemistry and microbiology come together to better reveal what is known about life and Earth’s history,” said Spear, the corresponding author who co-directed the course.

The project was funded by the Agouron Institute, the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) and the Zink Sunnyside Family Fund.

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines research into colloidal chains headed to space

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:54

Research by Colorado School of Mines faculty on the behavior of chains of colloidal molecules is headed to the International Space Station on a SpaceX flight scheduled for Dec. 4.

Professor David Marr and Associate Professor Ning Wu, both of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, have been researching colloidal molecules for medical and other applications for several years. Now, they have the opportunity to learn how chains of these beads just several microns wide behave in microgravity.

“We’re trying to understand the basic dynamics of these chains,” Marr said. On Earth, “they’re kind of heavy—they sink very quickly, which makes them very hard to study. In microgravity, they’re freer to do what they do and we can observe that.”

Mines’ experiment is one of three—all colloidal in nature—that will be delivered to the International Space Station by SpaceX CRS-13. The samples—which fit into three small glass tubes—will likely sit for a couple of months. After some simulations and plenty of video communication with scientists, the astronauts on board will conduct the experiments and observe them using microscopes already on the ISS.

After establishing a baseline for their behavior, Marr and Wu hope to conduct experiments with electric and magnetic fields in microgravity as well, although equipment for that could take years to bring up.

The upcoming delivery has been years in the making, with the Mines team proposing the experiments back in 2014. Marr plans to fly down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to witness the launch. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Previously, Marr and a team of researchers—Associate Professor Keith Neeves, postdoctoral fellow Onur Tasci and University of Colorado-Denver Associate Professor Paco Herson—developed a method for creating “microbots” that could be used to treat blood clots in humans. The tiny particles would be injected into the bloodstream and assembled into a wheel using a magnetic field. That same magnetic field directs the wheel to the site of the clot and spins to break it up.

Marr, Wu, Neeves, Tasci and PhD candidate Tao Yang are exploring using a similar technique to create “microlassos” that can pick up and transport medication and other substances throughout the body.

Wu is also conducting research into assembling nanoparticles using electric, as opposed to magnetic, fields.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

Categories: Partner News

Stefanie Tompkins named VP for research and tech transfer

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 10:01

The acting deputy director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will join Colorado School of Mines early next year as the university’s vice president for research and technology transfer.

Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, who has spent the last decade in leadership and program management roles at DARPA, will oversee all research activity at Mines, serving as the public face of the university’s diverse research portfolio as it pushes to expand the reach and impact of the projects it conducts for industry and government. She will begin her new role in February 2018.

“Mines has always been a go-to place for solutions and knowledge, especially where our deep expertise in earth, energy and environment was needed,” said Mines President Paul C. Johnson. “In the future, we want our ideas, inventions and graduates to have even greater impact and value to people around the globe. Dr. Tompkins, with her unique background as a senior leader in what is arguably one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial federal R&D agencies, knows what is needed to get there. The Mines community is enthusiastic that Stefanie will be our new vice president for research and technology transfer at this pivotal time.” 

“The world seems to be growing more complex every day, and we need new tools for the challenges posed by that complexity,” Tompkins said. “Many of those tools will come from universities like Mines—filled with people who like to really roll up their sleeves and stitch things together, from basic discovery to technology transition. I’m especially excited about Mines’ history of working with complex, multidisciplinary problems and getting new research discoveries into use in the broader world.” 

A geologist by training, Tompkins has spent much of her professional career developing new technology capabilities. Before becoming DARPA’s acting deputy director in January 2017, Tompkins led the agency’s most exploratory unit, the Defense Sciences Office, accelerating research into new technologies for national security in fields as diverse as atomic physics, biochemistry and materials science. As a DARPA program manager, she initiated, led and managed the research and development of disruptive technology in navigation, manufacturing, optics, solar energy and body armor.

Tompkins began her technology career in the private sector, first with a small business and then as a senior scientist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), where she conducted and managed research projects in planetary mapping, geology and imaging spectroscopy. She was a NASA principal investigator and on the science team for the Moon Mineralogy Mapper on India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, and later, as an SAIC assistant vice president and line manager, developed and successfully executed a multiyear plan for quadrupling the research revenues of a science and technology center. 

Tompkins earned her master’s degree and PhD in geology from Brown University and holds a bachelor’s degree in geology and geophysics from Princeton University. She also served as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. 

“Dr. Tompkins’ breadth of experience managing science and technology and in-depth knowledge of several federal agencies that provide support for university research will be welcomed by Mines’ faculty as we continue to develop national reputation in innovative solutions to societal needs in earth, energy and environment,” said Wendy Harrison, chair of the faculty search committee and interim vice president for research and technology transfer. 

Tompkins said she envisions Mines as a place where both curiosity-driven and use-inspired research thrive, cross-disciplinary conversations about new ideas are routine and entrepreneurship is embedded into the fabric of the research community. 

“I’ve spent the majority of my career working with scientists and engineers and technologists across a wide variety of fields, from mathematics to materials science to autonomous systems. I also have lived in the world of research funding for a decade now—I think I have a good understanding of how people make their decisions on where to invest. I hope to use that experience to create new bridges between Mines researchers and opportunities for research funding and technology transition,” Tompkins said. 

Specific opportunities will likely take time to emerge but Tompkins said one of her first steps will be to meet with every faculty member at Mines. On a personal note, she’s also looking forward to coming back to “a world where geology is a big deal.”

“I have not been around that for at least the last decade,” Tompkins said. “It feels like coming home.”

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines receives $4M NSF grant to study artisanal gold mining

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 15:28

A five-year, $4 million National Science Foundation grant will put Colorado School of Mines at the center of efforts to tackle the public health and environmental challenges posed by artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

About 30 percent of gold produced worldwide – for use in jewelry, electronics, currency and more – comes from artisanal and small-scale mining operations, a broad categorization that ranges from subsistence miners with a shovel and gold pan to small outfits equipped with basic machinery. 

The practice, which provides a livelihood for an estimated 100 million people directly and indirectly, also comes at a cost: large-scale deforestation, air and water contamination and chronic human diseases, particularly from the mercury used to process the gold ore. 

“Artisanal and small-scale mining is the No. 1 anthropogenic cause of mercury pollution in the world, but most people don’t pay attention to it,” said Juan Lucena, professor and director of the Mines Humanitarian Engineering Program. “It’s invisible to the minds of most people, because it’s hidden in the mountains and jungles of Latin America.”

Starting in January, a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by Lucena will work hand-in-hand with mining communities and universities in Colombia and Peru to develop not simply improved techniques and technologies but social organizations that make artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) cleaner, safer and more sustainable. 

“Existing efforts to introduce sustainable practices, primarily through mercury-free processing technologies, have not achieved long-term sustainability because they are believed by miners to be inefficient or uneconomical. And many well-intentioned technical experts in this area lack the training to know how to work with and engage ASGM communities,” Lucena said. “This project will break the trend by educating U.S. engineers to co-design, implement and evaluate sustainable and culturally appropriate ASGM technologies and practices with miners and affected communities in Colombia and Peru.” 

The Mines-led project was one of 14 nationwide to receive Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) awards from the NSF, funding collaborative research with international partners in 24 countries. Established in 2005, PIRE leverages and supports international relationships to address critical science and engineering questions and to develop a cadre of U.S. scientists and engineers with a global outlook capable of working across cultures.

Mines researchers will be collaborating with faculty and students at four universities in Colombia and Peru – Facultad de Minas of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Peru and Peru’s University of Technology and Engineering – as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy and University of Colorado closer to home. 

By working closely with affected communities, researchers hope to overcome a major challenge faced by existing efforts to introduce sustainable ASGM practices -- a belief by many miners that the alternative practices are inefficient or not economical.

“The crux of the grant is working with artisanal miners and affected people to design technology and social practices that are more sustainable – you can’t do that if you don’t understand the local context,” said Jessica Smith, associate professor of engineering, design and society and one of four co-principal investigators on the project.

The technologies, practices and social organization of artisanal and small-scale mining can vary greatly site to site and miner to miner, said Nicole Smith, a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor in mining engineering. Smith, a co-principal investigator on the project, has studied ASGM in Africa and South America throughout her career, including two separate State Department-funded projects in Peru to implement cleaner and safer ore-processing technologies

“Even within Peru, there are many people doing all different kinds of things – there's the real small-scale guy and then there’s the larger-scale guy who has lots of equipment. There are women and there are youth playing different roles in the gold supply chain,” Smith said. “What we're trying to do is get a site-specific understanding of these systems – where they’re mining, why they’re mining, questions related to geology, how miners decide where to mine. We’ll use that data to inform the interventions.” 

Small-scale gold miners around the world have been using mercury to process ore for centuries, including here in the U.S. during the days of the Gold Rush, said Elizabeth Holley, assistant professor of mining engineering and a co-principal investigator on the project.

Mercury amalgamates with gold – add it to gold-containing ore and the mercury will bind to the gold, leaving everything else behind. Miners then burn the mercury off, often over an open fire, to obtain the gold.

“The problem is, mercury is very persistent when it enters the environment. It’s reactive. It doesn’t degrade, and it bioaccumulates in the food chain,” Holley said. 

Holley, who specializes in ore deposits and the geochemistry of mine wastes like mercury, will be analyzing the geological and geochemical characteristics of the various sites in Peru and Colombia. Geology plays a major role in how individual deposits are mined, what techniques are used and how damage spreads into the broader environment, she said. 

Researchers will also study environmental monitoring and remediation, applying an approach that relies less on data and modeling and more on local knowledge to address mercury pollution, said Kate Smits, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-principal investigator on the project. 

“Many remediation strategies have been developed to remove or trap mercury in soil and water, but the implementation of such strategies is often limited by cost, material availability, and the knowledge and skill sets of the local communities,” Smits said.  

The grant will support five undergraduate researchers and six graduate students every year, with the goal of graduating at least three PhD candidates over the five-year program.

“We’re really trying to focus on educating engineers about the concepts related to human-centered design,” Nicole Smith said. “What does that mean? It means getting into the field and interacting with the people who will be using these designs.”

Large-scale mining companies are in need of employees who understand the complexities of artisanal and small scale mining, said Jessica Smith, an anthropologist who also teaches courses on corporate social responsibility and participatory fieldwork methods at Mines. In many countries, ASGM and large-scale mining happen in close proximity – often on the same land – leading to potential conflict.

“This is the biggest challenge facing hard-rock mining not just in South America but Africa and other parts of the developing world,” Smith said. “This is an opportunity to help large-scale companies think about how they can most effectively engage that challenge while creating shared social, environmental and economic value with the communities closest to their operations."

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Wilcox cited as expert on negative emissions strategies

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:12

A Colorado School of Mines associate professor has been prominently featured in several scientific and general-interest publications for her research into removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Jen Wilcox, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, was quoted extensively in the cover story of the latest issue of The Economist, “What they don’t tell you about climate change.”

The article details how simply lowering emissions of greenhouse gases is not enough—taking existing CO2 out of the atmosphere is a crucial element in meeting climate targets. Wilcox explained how capturing CO2 from open air, as opposed to directly from exhaust gases, is the technology with the second-highest theoretical potential for reducing emissions.

Unfortunately, the concentration of CO2 in the air is low—0.4 percent—compared to the 10 percent or more in exhaust from power plants and other industrial processes. The costs are much higher as well, according to a review Wilcox contributed to.

Wilcox was also interviewed for an article about carbon capture and storage in the October issue of Nature. She explains that while negative emissions must be part of the solution to climate change, it should not be a replacement for mitigation of CO2.

“At this point, to achieve these targets, which scientists believe are safe, we will need to do everything and now, i.e., increasing renewable penetration, fuel switching, afforestation and preventing deforestation, increased energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage, and negative emissions strategies,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox made the same points in an interview with Environmental Research Web published Nov. 9.

“Energetically, it is much more difficult to separate carbon dioxide from the air than from flue gas—in fact, it is on the order of 300 times more difficult,” Wilcox said. “However, it will take a portfolio of options to prevent 2°C of warming by 2100, if the indications from climate models are correct.”

Wilcox also advocated for giving consumers more options, such as offering fuel made by reacting carbon dioxide extracted from the air with hydrogen derived from renewable sources. “Some consumers may be willing to pay the additional cost compared with conventional gasoline, and I think this could be an interesting space to explore,” Wilcox said.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

Categories: Partner News

Wilcox featured in The Economist

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 08:32

Jen Wilcox, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Colorado School of Mines, was recently interviewed by The Economist for an article on negative-emissions technology. The article, "Greenhouse gases must be scrubbed from the air," was featured on the cover of the Nov. 18 edition of the international news magazine.

From the story:

According to Jennifer Wilcox of the Colorado School of Mines, and her colleagues, the technology with the second-highest theoretical potential, after BECCS, is direct air capture (see chart 2). This uses CCS-like technology on the open air, rather than on exhaust gases. The problem is that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, while very high by historical standards, is very low by chemical-engineering ones: just 0.04%, as opposed to the 10% or more offered by power-plant chimneys and industrial processes such as cement-making.

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Pei featured in The Architect’s Newspaper

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 15:44

Shiling Pei, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, was recently interviewed by The Architect's Newspaper for a story on cross-laminated timber (CLT). Pei is the lead researcher on a National Science Foundation-funded project that this past summer put a two-story CLT structure through a battery of seismic tests on the world's largest shake table.

From the story:

Engineers specializing in cross-laminated timber (CLT) see its future less in boutique prototype towers, requiring case-by-case demonstrations for approval, than in a meat-and-potatoes mid-rise market. While, according to Colorado State University’s John van de Lindt, “some of those pioneering early CLT buildings are really almost like a partial R&D project in disguise,” he and colleagues predict that the field’s maturation depends on the incorporation of research-driven CLT standards into building codes.

“If you’re going to just do a two-story residential home, you have a perfect design code pathway to do it,” said Shiling Pei of the Colorado School of Mines, chief investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported study of seismic design methods. “But if you want to go taller, especially [if] you want to go above 85 feet— that is currently IBC [International Building Code] for Type IV, heavy timber—then you have to do something else…a lot of testing to try to convince the local building-code officials.” He views CLT beyond about 20 stories skeptically, on economic grounds: “In my projects, I say it’s tall wood; it’s not high-rise wood.”

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Liu recognized for paper on welding metallurgy

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 09:44

A Colorado School of Mines professor has been honored by the American Welding Society for a paper deemed the greatest contribution to the understanding of welding metallurgy published in the Welding Journal in 2016.

Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Professor Stephen Liu received the Warren F. Savage Memorial Award on Nov. 7 in Chicago, at AWS FABTECH, North America’s largest forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event. Liu’s paper, “Laser weldability of 21Cr-6Ni-9Mn stainless steel: Part II - Weldability diagrams,” appeared in the November 2016 issue of the journal’s research supplement.

Savage, also known as “Doc,” served on the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for 40 years and was known as the “Father of Welding Metallurgy” in research circles, Liu said.  Savage died in 1988.

“Our program at Mines is actually patterned against his program,” Liu said.

Liu, who earned his PhD in metallurgical engineering from Mines, has taught at the university since 1987. He holds the American Bureau of Shipping Endowed Chair in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and is director of the Center for Welding, Joining and Coatings Research.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines Residence Life staff win major conference awards

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:37

Colorado School of Mines residence life staff took home multiple major awards from the Intermountain Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls Regional Leadership Conference, held Nov. 3-6 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mines received the Program of the Year award for bringing members of the U.S Paralympic goalball team to campus to teach students how to play the game and then organizing a campus tournament. Goalball, designed for athletes with impaired vision, has teams competing to throw a ball with bells inside into their opponents’ goal.

Chase Schumacher, an engineering physics major and a second-year resident assistant in Weaver Towers, was named Student Staff Member of the Year.

Mary F. Elliott, Mines’ director of housing and residence life, was named Advisor of the Year.

Mines students were also honored for presenting two of the top 12 programs at the conference. Brandon Bakka, a chemical engineering student, was recognized for “How LGBTQ+ People Navigate the Jungle of College Campuses.” Schumacher and Keenan Urmann, a mechanical engineering student, were recognized for “Miracle Gro Fer(Tea)lizer, a weekly Tuesday Tea program in the residence halls.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

Categories: Partner News

Camp contributes to national report on CS enrollment surge

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:12

A Colorado School of Mines professor served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee that recently released a report urging action to address the current surge in undergraduate computer science enrollments.

Tracy Camp, professor and head of the Computer Science Department, was one of 15 members on the national ad hoc committee tasked with examining the growing popularity of computer science courses at four-year institutions. 

According to the report, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information science across the U.S. has increased by 74 percent at not-for-profit institutions since 2009, versus a 16 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees overall. 

Institutions are struggling to keep up with the rising demand, with many reporting having too few faculty and instructors and insufficient classroom space and administrative support. More than half of new PhDs in computer science have taken jobs in the private sector in recent years, posing additional challenges to faculty recruitment, according to the report. 

The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. For more information, go to

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News