Alumni

This story appears in the Summer 2014 issue of Mines Magazine.

By Debra Melani and Nick Sutcliffe

Much of Mines’ 140-year history is recorded in its architectural landscape, telling a story of exploration, war, economic depression, philanthropic largesse and technological innovation.

Fine architecture has been associated with Colorado School of Mines since its earliest days, from the work of 19th century Colorado designer Robert S. Roeschlaub, creator of the Central City Opera House, to Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, designers of the iconic glass-cube Fifth Avenue Apple Store in New York City. To mark Mines’ 140th anniversary, we use architecture to retrace the institution’s journey from a small, one-building technical school on the American frontier to the globally respected university of applied science and engineering it is today.

The private years
Mines was first conceived in the 1860s when a man with a vision rode into town from Boston. Set on taming the silver-and-gold-crazed Wild West, Bishop George Randall’s dream of bringing education and religion to the frontier included building a small, three-building campus in Golden.

Architecture on a grand scale was part of the reverend’s strategy to communicate the significance of the educational enterprise. Three buildings were constructed, each with a discrete purpose: Jarvis Hall, a preparatory/military school; Matthews Hall, a divinity school; and the School of Mines.

“Bishop Randall was truly a visionary,” says Richard Gardner of Golden-based Gardner History and Preservation. “He thought all three of these schools were important to the future of the territory, especially the School of Mines.”

During construction of the first building, Jarvis Hall, Randall learned that it took more than architectural beauty to withstand Golden’s powerful winds. “The wind lifted the roof off and dropped it back down, crushing the walls,” Gardner says. Undeterred by the setback, Randall soon had hammers swinging again, and on September 3, 1873, three years after Jarvis Hall had opened its doors, all three buildings were operational for the first time. Aged 63, Randall had seen his vision realized, but he had almost no time to enjoy it, dying three weeks later on September 28.

Meanwhile, a political ruckus had broken out, with opinion pieces in the Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Transcript decrying the fact that public funds were being used to support the School of Mines, then owned by the Episcopal Church. The controversy was brought to a close in 1874 when the territorial government acquired the school, creating the Territorial School of Mines, Colorado’s first public institution of higher education.

Operating independently, the three schools continued to share the campus until 1878, when fires burned Jarvis and Matthews halls to the ground—the first by accident, the second by arson. With their campus decimated, Gardner explains, all three schools took refuge in the building now occupied by Golden’s Old Capitol Grill on Washington Avenue. A decision was made to merge Jarvis and Matthews halls and move to Denver, and plans to establish the School of Mines in Golden were put into action.

Read the rest of the story on the Mines Magazine website.

This story appears in the Spring 2014 issue of Mines magazine.

Are Women the Mining Industry’s Most Underdeveloped Resource?

Once legally barred from working in mines, women have spent decades battling for a place in the industry. Today, mining companies are finding that in addition to bringing valuable skills, female leaders are good for the bottom line.

 

By Lisa Marshall

In 1969, Betty Gibbs ’69, MS ’72 graduated from Mines armed with the third mining engineering degree the school had ever granted a woman (the first since 1920). She’d toiled nine years for it, juggling her studies with a part-time job and raising her daughter, but as she began to show up for job interviews, she was greeted with superstition and hostility.

Colorado, Wyoming and many other states still had laws on the books expressly prohibiting women from working underground. Myths that they were too fragile or brought bad luck abounded. On two occasions, Gibbs was refused entrance to mines due to her gender. “I know for a fact that most miners would walk off the job if a woman entered their mine,” a spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Mines told the Rocky Mountain News in a story referencing Gibbs’ graduation.

Nevertheless, she persevered, becoming the first woman to work underground at Colorado’s Climax mine and quietly opening doors for generations of women to come. “I wasn’t out to prove anything,” says Gibbs, now executive director at the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America. “I just did my work, and eventually I was appreciated for it.”

Fast-forward to today when the mining industry not only is more accepting of women, but—in the face of mounting research showing that companies with more gender diversity enjoy greater profitability, improved safety records and higher social and environmental responsibility ratings—is also actively courting them.

 

Read the rest of the story and more on the Mines magazine website. Blastercast interview with Dr. Priscilla Nelson.

 

By Katerina Gonzales
The Oredigger

The E-Days carnival provides a place to eat and be merry; however, for some, the carnival is a chance to return to old stomping grounds. The Oredigger caught up with Shamus McNutt, a Mines alum and cofounder of Belong Designs, at the E-Days carnival.

 

What inspired you to start Belong?

So we started about eight months ago at School of Mines. We were sitting through our final year of engineering classes and kind of realized, "What are we passionate about in life?" Skiing, snowboarding, helping others follow their true passions, and when you follow that passion, you "Belong", and that birthed Belong Designs. And so right now we are making apparel. We make hoodies, hats, shirts...we started to make outerwear jackets, and we'll be in full production of these in about a month and have them in August. And yeah, we have been sponsoring events: we sponsor fourteen athletes, a few Mines athletes actually, from slackliners to skiers to snowboarders. We're looking to go full-time in about a year. So we'll start our own headquarters in the Highlands, and hopefully start hiring some Mines grads. We're making long boards right now, and we'll be starting skis and snowboards in about a few months. Yeah, we're looking to expand.

How does having engineers benefit the business?

Being from Mines, you have that technical background, and honestly when people ask me "What's the most valuable thing you gained from going to Mines?", it's not the classes I've been through, you know, I don't exactly remember what I learned in Thermodynamics, but it is how to learn and how to learn efficiently, and that's why it's great for Mines grads.

Where do you see Belong going?

I see Belong going pretty big; we're hoping to grow it to a good-sized company, probably a mid-sized company from a hundred to five hundred people working for us. Eventually, sponsoring athletes, sending to the X-Games, sending to the Olympics...you know, really helping develop athletes and making sure they're going down the right path in life, and that's what Belong is about. We kind of want to keep it a clean brand in really following your true passions, with a lot of positivity coming out of the brand.

What's your favorite E-Days memory?

Oh man, favorite E-Days memory...there's too many. I would say it would be coming to see Air Dubai and we actually afterwards knew a guy from the band and were hanging out with the guys. It was cool to see that.

 

This interview originally appeared in the April 7, 2014, issue of The Oredigger.

Former Mines PhD student and recipient of the 2014 Nicholas Metropolis Award for Outstanding Doctoral Work in Computational Physics, Michael Wall, was invited to present “Quantum many-body physics of ultracold molecules in optical lattices: models and simulation methods,” at the American Physical Society March Meeting 2014 in Denver March 3-7. Nearly 10,000 physicists, scientists and students are expected to attend the conference and present research from industry, universities and major labs from all over the world. Nearly 50 abstracts will be presented by Mines researchers.

 

Q: Why is winning the Nicholas Metropolis award significant in the world of physics? What is the potential impact of your research?

A: The Nicholas Metropolis award is the dissertation award given by the American Physical Society (APS) for computational physics, named after one of the inventors of the Monte Carlo method. The APS dissertation awards are significant because only one person is awarded each year in a given area, even though there were nearly 1,800 physics PhDs awarded in the U.S. in 2012!  It is an honor for me to receive this award, and a great reflection on Mines as an institution.

My research is focused on understanding the behavior of very, very cold gases of molecules.  These systems are expected to enable revolutionary advances in quantum many-body physics, precision measurement, and chemistry, and may also have practical applications in quantum metrology (i.e. atomic clocks).

 

Q: What was your graduate experience like at Mines? How was it working with (physics professor) Dr. Lincoln Carr?

A: I loved attending graduate school at Mines. I visited several schools all over the country when deciding on graduate school, and Golden immediately struck me as one of the nicest places to live. In addition, Prof. Carr took me both around the school and around Golden personally, something that potential advisors at other schools did not do. Lincoln is very enthusiastic about research, and also very dedicated to his students. While Mines was the smallest school that I visited, I still had every opportunity I could wish for.

 

Q: Talk a bit about finding the balance between your PhD work and parenting/other responsibilities.

A: While on one hand obtaining a Ph.D. while raising two small children was challenging, being a graduate student also gave me scheduling flexibility while my wife worked long and odd hours as a nurse. The most important skill for balancing work and family life is good time management, which is key for any graduate student. It also helps that Golden is a wonderful place to raise a family.

 

Q: You are from Alabama, was moving to Colorado a difficult adjustment on top of everything else?

A: The hardest thing about moving is that all of my family is still in Alabama. Several generations of my family are from my hometown of Huntsville, and my brother and all of my cousins and their families still live there. Modern technology makes the distance so much easier, though. My kids routinely see their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins by video chat. Also, while a Colorado summer beats an Alabama summer hands down, the snow took some getting used to...

 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: After leaving Mines I took a postdoctoral research position at JILA (CU Boulder), working with Ana Maria Rey. JILA is one of the premier places in the world for atomic, molecular, and optical (AMO) research, which is the field of my Ph.D. JILA is also home to the most successful ultracold molecule experiment. My current research is still in the general area of many-body physics of atoms and molecules and computational techniques. However, I also work more closely with the many great experiments here at JILA, including the next generations of ultracold molecule experiments and atomic clocks.

Mines hosted the biannual Career Day Feb. 11, which featured global organizations in engineering, science and technology. More than 2,200 students, graduates and alumni attended.

“I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity because I don’t think many schools have more than 200 companies come twice a year,” said civil engineering student Greg Proulx. “It’s nice to see what’s out there.”

Julianne Fantich, who graduated in December, said it was helpful there were more biomedical companies this year.

“Now that I am looking for a full time job, I want to build connections in the industry,” Fantich said.

Mines has a high success rate for 2012-13 graduates. Ninety-one percent of undergraduates and 95 percent of graduate students have strong outcomes and employment.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

This story appears in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of Mines magazine.

Seven years into his presidency, with plenty of milestones on record, a capital campaign in full swing, and some big changes on the horizon for Mines, we recently sat down with President Scoggins for an informal Q&A. Partly retrospection, partly introspection and partly forward-looking, the conversation that follows will be of interest to all those who support the growth and success of Mines, and are curious to learn more about its president.

Mines: Nearly seven years ago, you transitioned from the corporate world to academia. What motivated your decision?

Scoggins: Not too long before I retired after more than 35 years in the oil and gas industry, I joined the board of trustees of my alma mater, the University of Tulsa. After I retired, I became increasingly active, serving on the executive committee and spending a great deal of time on campus. My wife and I both enjoyed the experience of being involved in the university. When I received the call from Mines asking me to consider being a candidate, I realized this was an opportunity to be part of a remarkable community.

Mines: What aspects of leading Mines do you find most rewarding?

Scoggins: The most rewarding moments revolve around students—seeing them be successful. I’m getting ready to participate in my 15th commencement, so I have had the opportunity to watch many wonderful students walk confidently across the stage, proud of their accomplishment, and poised to make great contributions to society. It’s very special to be a part of that.

I recently heard about an alumnus who is about to graduate from the University of Texas with master’s degrees in environmental engineering and public policy. At Mines, he was a lineman on the football team, and we got to know each other a little. Whenever he saw me on campus, he’d ask, “You gonna come to the game this weekend?” At his graduation, just before I handed him his diploma, I called out his jersey number and said, “James Tyree, #65, you did a hell of a job.” I got the biggest bear hug I think any president’s ever gotten during a college graduation ceremony.

Karen and I try to attend as many student activities as possible—from athletic events to plays and concerts—and we enjoy them all. I particularly enjoy the graduate research conference and looking at the students’ posters, even though I have to admit I really don’t understand all of them.

Really, the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing the growth in our students over their time at Mines, which is a testament to their own hard work and to the dedication of the Mines faculty and staff who teach and interact with them.

Mines: When you speak to individuals or groups less familiar with the university, how do you make “the case for Mines”? What does the university have to offer that sets it apart?

Scoggins: I talk about the focused nature of the school’s mission, the quality of the education our students receive, and the relevance of our research programs. Mines is uniquely positioned to deal with global challenges related to our focus areas of earth, energy and environment. These issues are at the forefront of the world’s most pressing concerns, and Mines is playing a critical role in educating students who will be leaders in addressing them—through their careers and through meaningful research.

I also always point out something you will hear from almost every Mines alum—and that I completely agree with—which is that our students develop a work ethic unlike almost any other university. By the time they graduate, our students truly have the skills to hit the ground running. They are a very special group.

Mines: The financial crisis erupted relatively early in your presidency. This must have posed some significant challenges.

Scoggins: When I interviewed for the position, the board of trustees indicated they wanted a lot of focus on the school’s financial condition. When I arrived, Mines was already in the process of putting together the all-funds budget. We tightened down our systems, controlled our costs and planned carefully. As a result, we have managed to weather some major cutbacks in state funding. We faced some financial challenges, but the school came through it with minimal adverse impacts...

Read the rest of the story on the Mines magazine website.

The Mines Society of Physics Students (SPS) will be hosting the Haunted Physics Lab Oct. 26 in Friedhoff Hall in the Green Center, 924 16th St. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. and the event will start at noon.

This family-friendly event will display the spirit of Halloween while SPS members demonstrate several experiments including a Frankenstein electricity bolt contraption called a Jacob's Ladder, a bed of nails and a Ping-Pong ball cannon. Younger children can enjoy hands-on experiments that will focus on physical principals such as total internal reflection, diamagnetism and laminar flow.

The Society of Physics Students is a national organization under the umbrella of the American Institute of Physics.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

The Student Recreation Center was overflowing with students, alumni and employers during Career Day Sept. 10, despite rainy weather most of the day.

Junior Madeline Levy said she was looking forward to meeting with Phillips 66 and Chevron.

“I think they are great employers and I like their work ethic,” Levy said.

Graduate student Katie Lehmann said that even though she is interested in some of the bigger corporations, she embraces the chance to talk to some of the smaller organizations.

“They definitely still have a lot of resource opportunities but with a smaller structure. I think I would have a chance to be more incorporated in the organization if I worked there.” Lehmann said.

During the remainder of this week, organizations will conduct more than 1,000 interviews on campus. There are around 5,000 interviews that take place during the full academic year, according to the Career Center.

See photos from Career Day on Flickr.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

Only the second woman in the country to earn a doctorate in petroleum engineering, Ramona Graves PhD ’82 found her passion—but it wasn’t what she thought it would be.

By Lisa Marshall

On her first morning of classes at Colorado School of Mines in 1977, Ramona Graves walked into Stratton Hall and stopped to ask the secretary for directions to the ladies’ room. The answer she got said a lot about the industry that the young Nebraska transplant was stepping into.

“She said, ‘Go out this door, then one block over and one block right,’” recalls Graves. “I looked at her and said, ‘Pardon?’ There were no women’s facilities in the building. I had to go to the student center.”

At the time, less than 2 percent of engineers in the United States were women, and Graves was one of only a handful of female students on the Mines campus. No woman in the U.S. had ever earned a PhD in petroleum engineering, and those trying to break into the field faced an uphill battle.

“It was this totally male-dominated culture,” recalls Graves, a sharp, spirited redhead with a reputation for straight talk. “It was not a welcoming environment for women. It is now.” (In May 2013, Mines awarded more degrees to women than in any previous graduation ceremony.)

Thirty-four years later, Graves had become—as Provost Terry Parker puts it—“the face of petroleum engineering at Mines.” Through more than three decades of teaching, she has helped usher into the field hundreds of adoring students from around the world. Her research, largely focused on reservoir characterization and the use of lasers to drill for oil, has advanced the field. And as the Petroleum Engineering Department head from 2007 to 2012, she helped grow the program, building its diverse faculty and shaping the department’s glistening new $27 million home, Marquez Hall.

Today, after six months as inaugural dean of the newly formed College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering, the 62-year-old Graves says she is just getting started.

Read the rest of this story on the Mines magazine website.

This story appeared in the Summer 2013 issue.

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