Research

It was a first for Mines when Linda Battalora, associate teaching professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering, presented her research on bone density and fracture risk in HIV-infected adults at the Joint Session of the 14th European AIDS Conference and the 15th International Workshop on Co-morbidities and Adverse Drug Reactions in HIV, in October 2013 in Brussels.  

And as a Young Investigator Scholarship awardee, she presented her research at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in March 2014 in Boston – another first for Mines.  

Breaking new research ground for Mines has been part of her pursuit toward a doctorate degree in Environmental Science and Engineering, but it was Battalora’s career in the oil and gas industry that sparked her interest in studying a health-related topic.

During her career in the oil and gas industry, she served as engineer, attorney and negotiator for international oil and gas project development. Her interest in the health of people stricken by infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in resource-limited countries led her to pursue cross-discipline, cross-college research with her Ph.D. advisors, John Spear in Mines’ Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Benjamin Young, of the International Association of Providers in AIDS Care; APEX Research, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering from Mines, in 1987 and 1988 respectively, and then a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 1993. She is licensed to practice law in Colorado and Louisiana, and is a registered patent attorney.

“I grew up on the Gulf Coast, so I was familiar with offshore oil and gas development. I was good in math and science and I wanted to see the world,” Battalora said of her decision to study petroleum engineering.

In addition to her teaching role, Battalora has been a part time graduate student at Mines since 2009. She earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering in May 2014. The title of her thesis was, “Bones, Fractures, Antiretroviral Therapy and HIV.” 

“When I’m asked about my research, and I explain that it’s a public health topic, the typical response is another question: What does this have to do with petroleum engineering? It becomes a teachable moment,” Battalora said. “The short answer is that corporate social responsibility is an integral part of every oil and gas project.  When we enter a location for project development, we have a social responsibility to the community. Depending on where we are in the world, this may include building roads, health clinics, risk-prevention programs, schools or addressing other community needs. “

Asked how her Ph.D. will inform her teaching at Mines, she explained “Every engineering project involves the human workforce and regulatory frameworks.  Understanding the integration of health, safety, security, environment and social responsibility (HSSE-SR) is essential to maintain a healthy workforce and a safe, cost-effective engineering project. Students must understand these elements, integrate them in project development and be able to communicate effectively with representatives from the community, government agencies and other stakeholders.”

Battalora incorporates HSSE-SR in the undergraduate and graduate courses she teaches at Mines. She is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) HSSE-SR Advisory Board and was recently awarded the 2014 SPE Rocky Mountain Regional Award for her work in HSSE-SR.

Battalora plans to continue her research with the CDC, and collaboration with Spear and Young, on HIV-related topics and HSSE-SR.

 

Contact:

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
 

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.

 

Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate student Skylar Zilliox received an Engineering Physics degree from Mines in the spring, but this was not her first degree. She also received a bachelor associate degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe in 2009. Being a non-traditional student, we asked Skylar to tell her about her experiences here on campus and give advice to future students like her.

What was your experience like before you came to Mines?

Since it's kind of an unusual program, I'll give you my 30-second cocktail party spiel on it. It's a Great Books program, which means that we read the original texts in philosophy, literature, math, and science that have been most formative for western civilization. We start with the ancient Greeks (Plato, Aristotle, Homer), and move forward in time from there, up to about mid-20th century; every class is discussion-based, with a strong emphasis on building critical thinking and conversational skills. I loved everything there, but I was probably most passionate about history and philosophy of science.

Why did you choose Mines?

I graduated from St. John's thinking I wanted to become a high school teacher, but three semesters working as an in-class tutor for a college prep program in Denver Public Schools convinced me to seek out a different career path. As important as teaching is, I found myself wanting more concrete results from my work. My parents are both engineers, and my mother actually graduated from Mines in 1980, so going into engineering was a fairly natural transition. I grew up in Denver, and I knew I wanted to stay close to my family, so Mines was far and away my first choice, particularly given the high academic standards here.

Afterwards you became a teaching assistant. What did you gain from that experience?

I was a TA for Physics II, which focuses on electricity and magnetism. I would say the main thing I learned was how to quickly adjust my explanations for different learning styles. I am a very visual person, so to me, the concepts in that class were easiest to grasp by visualizing what the electromagnetic fields were doing. However, many students respond much better to equations, or to analogies to physical objects. Learning to switch up my teaching style was probably one of the most important skills I took from being a TA. That, and compassion: if you assume that everyone in there is having a hard time (because it's a physics class, so who isn't?) and treat them gently and with lots of encouragement, students learn better. Being intimidated by a subject is a serious hurdle to actually learning it.

How did you get involved with the Nanoethics and Policy Education Effectiveness project and what resulted?

Physics professor Chuck Stone was actually a major factor here. I applied to REMRSEC, but told Chuck I was particularly interested in the ethics of energy development; he told me to go knock on Liberal Arts and International Studies professor Carl Mitcham's door, since Dr. Mitcham does a lot of work on ethics and technology. Dr. Mitcham, after a few meetings, arranged for me to work under fellow liberal arts and international studies professor Jessica Rolston's guidance last summer. I analyzed data from courses in Human Systems and Nature and Human Values that looked at how student's views on nanotechnology and related ethical issues changed as a result of those courses; this work continued this past school year as part of an Undergraduate Student Fellowship, culminating in one paper, submitted to NanoEthics, which is currently under review; we will hopefully get another paper, examining impacts across multiple semesters, written and submitted by the end of the year.

As a graduate student at Mines, what will you be working on with Jessica Rolston in the fall?

I will be in the Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate program, as part of a fellowship through the new ConocoPhilips Center for a Sustainable WE2ST (WE2ST stands for Water, Energy, Education, Science, and Technology). My research will be focusing on social aspects of the joint sustainability of water and unconventional energy sources. Jessica Rolston and civil and environmental engineering professor Terri Hogue will both be advising me—Terri will provide support for engineering aspects of the work, and Jessica, with her background in energy anthropology, will be guiding the "human" side of the investigation.

What advice would you give a non-traditional student at Mines?

It's not a race! I think it's easy to feel out of place, unaccomplished, or just "behind" when you're surrounded by people several years younger than you. Forming study groups with other non-traditionals is an excellent way to make friends with people in the same boat.

What do you intend to do after Mines?

You'd think, at my age, I'd have that figured out. Part of me wants to follow up on my passion for education, and end up teaching at the college level; however, I'm also quite interested in environmental remediation, and there are several companies that do very interesting work in that area. If past performance is any indication, I'll probably end up doing a mix of things. 

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines mechanical engineering student Katarina Bujnoch was recently selected for a remote operated underwater vehicle (ROV) engineering summer internship, during which she will be studying the seafloor aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus. The Ocean Exploration Trust oversees the vessel and more than 150 rotating scientists, engineers, educators and students who are part of the mission.

Bujnoch will be examining the impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coral reefs and other marine ecosystems.

“I wanted to get into robotics, and I think this internship is unique because I get to be on the research side of the field,” Bujnoch said.

Bujnoch will study and maintain ROVs, Hercules and Argus. She will work with the two systems to explore, locate and describe new habitats, geological processes and cultural sites, to name a few.

“I’m hoping to have a better idea of how an actual ROV works,” Bujnoch said. “It will be exciting to learn what research is like in the field, especially in this different environment.”

Currently, Bujnoch is designing an underwater vehicle that can move around and transport objects as part of an undergraduate research fellowship.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

If you have seen the James Bond movie, GoldenEye, or played the Nintendo 64 video game, you might remember the radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Mines mechanical engineering student Alexis Humann was selected for a 10-week summer research program, during which she will working on building an autonomous robot to clean the world's largest single-dish telescope.

“Right now when people clean it they put on giant snowshoes to even out their weight; the weight of a person would collapse it,” Humann said. “We will need to build a robot that is really light and well distributed.”

The observatory telescope is used to study the properties of planets, comets and asteroids. Scientists who want to use the telescope are required to submit proposals for an independent scientific board. It will be a unique opportunity for Humann to work with the telescope firsthand.

“Everyone in the aerospace industry knows about this observatory and it has a great reputation,” Humann said. “I will be working with some of the top scientists in the world. I am so excited to be able to meet them and learn all about their work.”

Humman is also looking forward to the opportunity to combine her mechanical engineering skills with her interest in aerospace.

“I think space exploration is going to move away from man exploration and go into the robotics side of things,” Humann said. “There is so much technology to improve upon there, and the possibilities are endless.”

Currently Humann is working on an undergraduate research fellowship with Dr. Douglas Van Bossuyt to build a robot that can analyze its health and make its own decisions.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

An informational event providing insight into the function and practice of hydraulic fracture stimulation in the oil and gas industry, “Hydraulic Fracturing: Facts and Fiction,” was presented by the Mines student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development on the Mines campus on Feb. 26.

Attendees watched Phelim McAleer’s documentary, “FrackNation,” which aims to address concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing as featured in an earlier documentary “Gasland.” Following the film, a panel discussion was held including Dr. William Fleckenstein, Mines petroleum engineering interim department head, Dr. Steve Sonnenberg, Mines Geology Department Boettcher Distinguished Chair Professor, and David Neslin, the past director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“We had a lot of people there, I estimated around 800,” said Fleckenstein. “There were a lot of questions from the audience and I think the film gave a great contrast to ‘Gasland’.”

Student organizers recognized the importance of holding the event as a way to provide technical insight into a controversial topic.

“The practice of hydraulic fracture stimulation is a politically polarizing subject around the world; even to people that know very little about it. We created this event to shed light on the practice and discuss facts and fiction,” said Alex Gibson, geology graduate student and vice president of the Mines chapter of the AAPG.

Mustafa Al Ibrahim, a second year geology graduate student and an AAPG student officer, said that as a geologist he has been focused mostly on the technical aspects of hydraulic fracturing, but this discussion revealed the importance of the relationship between science, politics and public perceptions.

“My personal hope is that people, irrespective of their position, left the event with the mentality that they should question what they hear and see about such polarizing issues. I also hope that they realized that there are a lot venues to learn more about the issue,” he said.

The Feb. 27-28 Conference on Earth & Energy Research gave graduate students the opportunity to practice presenting their research in a professional environment, while judges provided feedback. Last year, two undergraduates showcased their work, but this year, that number rose to nine.

“I’m very happy about the turnout,” Graduate Student Government Academic Chair John Bristow said. “In the past, they’ve been very grad-centered.”

Two speakers presented keynote speeches between students’ poster and oral sessions.

Ken Salazar, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Senator from Colorado, delivered the opening keynote address on North American energy independence. Salazar told stories of the BP oil spill in 2010 and shared conversations with President Barack Obama two years after the disaster.

Dr. Pieter Tans, Senior Scientist and Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA, closed the conference with “Climate Change: Man Made Climate Change and Energy Policy.” Tans shared his research on measuring carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere, detailing some of the causes of these increases and what this means for our future.

2014 research competition winners:

  • Overall 1st: Tara Pandey
  • Overall 2nd: Susana Guzman
  • Overall Poster: Tara Yoder
  • Overal Oral: Pascale Meysing
  • Overall Off-campus: Vishal Nangla (U Wyo)
  • Undergraduate: Sarah Rommelfanger
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering: Nicholas Rorrer
  • Chemical and GeoChemistry: Jacqueline Cloud
  • Economics and Business: Ben Johnson
  • Geological Engineering: Joshua Day
  • Geophysics: Joyce Hoopes
  • Hydrology: Rachel Feist
  • Liberal Arts and International Studies: Nathaniel Mauger
  • Materials Science: Alyaa Elramady
  • Mechanical Engineering: Brandon Blakeley
  • Metallurgical and Materials Engineering: Stephanie Miller
  • Petroleum Engineering: Taylor Patterson
  • Physics: Lauryn Baranowski
  • Applied Mathematics and Statistics: Brian Zaharatos
  • Mining Engineering: Yu Koizumi
  • Nuclear Engineering: Michael Servis
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering: Kerri Hickenbottom
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: Craig Champlin

More information can be found at ceerconference.org.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

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.

This article is part of a series on the undergraduate research fellowship program

Engineering physics junior Steven Hackenburg is working with physics professor Dr. Lawrence Wiencke on programming that remotely controls the laser systems at the Pierre Auger Observatory, located in Argentina. Hackenburg studies cosmic rays, high-energy particles, mainly originating outside the Solar System, as part of his undergraduate research fellowship.

“Relatively speaking, we understand light and its properties quite well, and we use it to learn about the universe, from confirming Einstein’s theories concerning gravity, to discovering the composition of planets,” Hackenburg said. “On the other hand however we know little about cosmic rays compared to our understanding of light.”

Hackenburg fires laser shots into the sky in directions where potential sources of cosmic rays are believed to exist. He uses the fluorescence detector to study the tracks in the sky created from the laser. The data from the laser tracks are used to verify that the fluorescence detector is measuring the directions of the rare cosmic ray tracks properly.

Hackenburg said he has always been interested in the mysteries of space and the universe.

“It's amazing for me to think about how little of the universe we have been able to explore in any depth compared to the size of the universe or even our own galaxy,” Hackenburg said. “Also, think about how we get the information about the universe; we observe it. We, as scientists, look to the stars for answers.”

In early 2013, research analyzing data from Fermi revealed that supernovae were a source of cosmic rays. However, supernovae do not produce all cosmic rays, and the proportion of cosmic rays that they do produce is a question which cannot be answered without further study.

“The sources of these particles remain an important question, coming from somewhere outside our galaxy. They are very rare,” Wiencke said. “At the highest energies (10^20 eV), the flux is something less than one square mile per century.”

Weincke and Hackenburg generate many tracks with the laser systems every night of operation.

“This data is used to demonstrate that the observatory is working properly and ready for the monster cosmic events when they occur,” Wiencke said.

Applied physics graduate student Carlos Medina helped with the construction, system integration and testing of the Central Raman Laser Facility in Argentina. He collects data from the CRLF that he is analyzing for his PHD thesis in astrophysics.

“I am happy to have the opportunity to study and analyze data that will help us better understand our universe,” Medina said.

Undergraduate research fellowships are administered by the research council. Students can apply for a fellowship to work on a project with a faculty member.

 

Contact:

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

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

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in this country. Chemical and biological engineering professor Dr. Keith Neeves and department head Dr. Dave Marr recognize this significance and are combining chemical and mechanical methods to treat blood clots in stroke patients. Their research uses microbots, otherwise known as mobile robots, carrying the clot busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), as an inexpensive and noninvasive application in healthcare.

Currently, tPA must be used within the first three hours of somebody showing symptoms of a stroke, which makes it difficult to get to the hospital in time to treat the clot.

“If you could open up the therapeutic window so that it could be used in a longer time past its first presentation, that would be a pretty significant advance,” Neeves said.

Neeves works with graduate student Abimbola Onasoga to analyze blood clots under flow conditions. She uses her expertise to study blood samples, imitating what cells would look like when a clot forms. Physicians often don’t have an engineering background in fluid dynamics, so Onasoga is able to approach this research in a unique way.

While Neeves and Onasoga are examining blood clots, Marr is assembling microbots into different shapes and sizes. The devices he is designing have particles on the order of three microns, around one-twentieth the width of a human hair. These microbots are separately injected into the body, charged magnetically to attract to one another in the bloodstream and directed to the site of injury. After the microbots finish dissolving the clot, the device is turned off magnetically and the beads disassemble.

The ability to direct drugs to a particular area in the body is still a novel approach in the healthcare world. Marr hopes this research could have the ability to distribute healthcare into the doctor’s office and beyond.

“If we do enhance the ability to target, it could have applications in cancer as well,” Marr said.

Neeves said this field of research is challenging, as there are drugs that address bleeding disorders, but could cause complications with clotting.

“You end up walking a fine line. Can you prevent clotting without causing bleeding, and can you prevent bleeding without causing clotting?” Neeves said.

During 2013, Neeves and Marr received a $375,000 two-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to pursue this research. Next year, they will be working with neuroscientists at the University of Colorado School of Medicine to test animal models of the disease using their therapeutic strategies.
 

Contact:

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

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

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