GOLDEN, Colo., Aug. 12 — Colorado School of Mines has long held the distinction of playing in one of America's most historic football stadiums. Now, they'll enjoy playing in one of America's best.

The 2015 season marks the debut of Marv Kay Stadium at Campbell 

Kathleen Smits is a Civil and Environmental Engineering assistant professor at Colorado School of Mines. Smits has been interested in the environment from an early age and her interest for engineering grew as she advanced throughout her college career, but there are some things about Smits that you might not have known.

1. She is currently a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves

Smits was on active duty in the Air Force for eight years; for three years, she taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Currently she is an operations research analyst in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, working part time at U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

“At Mines I study current and emerging environmental problems that are of interest to our nation and the world using both analysis and experimentation. In the Air Force, I do the same thing for different problems and applications. A lot of the understanding and training that I have from being a scientist directly applies to what I do in the military.”

2. She has been scuba diving 150 times

As one of her first jobs out of college, Smits worked with the National Aquarium in Baltimore to help replant eelgrass in the Chesapeake Bay, a job requiring lots of underwater time. 

Since then, Smits has been on several scuba diving trips, mostly in the Caribbean but also in Japan and Hawaii.

Smits also enjoys sailing with her family, starting trips either in Lake Michigan or the Grenadines Islands.

“I love every minute I’m either in or under the water, which is ironic because even though I study water, I focus mostly on water availability in dry, arid regions.”

3. She’s lived all over the place

Smits grew up in Pennsylvania and went to high school in Illinois. She studied Environmental Engineering as an undergraduate student in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and then studied Civil Engineering–Water Resources at the University of Texas in Austin. While in the Air Force, Smits deployed to a military base in Saudi Arabia for about six months and lived in both Virginia and Colorado.

“When I came to Mines to do my PhD, I realized that I really love teaching but I equally love the research. That’s why I wanted to work and contribute at a university like Mines that has both a research and teaching focus.”

4. She loves running and has a top three list of the most beautiful places to run:

  • Zion National Park, Utah

    Since high school, Smits has been an avid runner. Whenever her family took her to a national park for a vacation, she didn’t hesitate to use it as an excuse to go running.

  • Nakuru, Kenya

    “There are giraffes and chimpanzees all over the roads that I had to dodge to run down the street. If you run in a straight line, you’ll hit a large animal!”

  • Diablerets, Switzerland

    During a research conference in a small, ski town in the Swiss Alps, Smits went for morning runs along a river that runs from the glaciers through the town.

    “Where the path ends, there is a road that passes by all the farms with the sheep and cattle to keep you company. What a beautiful place!”

5. Her favorite hobby is photography

Smits started taking photos regularly seven years ago when her daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Now Elizabeth is immune to her mom taking photos and poses regularly when Smits has her camera around.

Smits also enjoys playing around with Photoshop to make her photos appear different than the original.

“I also water color to get the other side of my brain work.”

Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Kathleen Smits has been teaching at Colorado School of Mines for three and a half years, but began her journey at Mines in 2007, when she was a PhD candidate. Smits currently teaches Hazardous Waste Site Remediation, Fluid Mechanics and Environmental Pollution.

Smits is working with fellow CEE professor Tissa Illangasekare on studying natural gas leakage from oil and gas production into the environment. She is also one of two Mines recipients of the 2015 NSF CAREER Award, in which she aims to advance the science and education of land surface-atmosphere interactions.


Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 /
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 /

GOLDEN, Colo., April 28, 2015 – Forty teams of students in the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences have spent the last two semesters working on projects to present at the Senior Design Trade Fair which was held April 23. Faculty, industry representatives and alumni judged teams on their ability to define, analyze and address a design problem and to present their work through display and dialogue.

There’s more to Mines’ ‘Introduction to Brewing Science’ course than making beer. Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) associate professor Paul Ogg is using the class to teach students the science behind beer production.

“The process from going from barley to beer is the almost exact same process as going from cellulose to bioethanol fuel,” Ogg said. “When students interview with an employer, they can say, ‘I didn’t make bioethanol fuel in a semester, but I did make beer.’”  

Before Ogg’s course was offered this spring, students could take the class, ‘Biochemical Process Engineering,’ to study fermentation products and alternative fuels. CBE associate professor John Persichetti works with students through most phases of brewing, and sometimes vinification (wine making)—including enzymatic breakdown of starches to sugars (brewing), fermentation and product analysis— which at times includes chemical analysis using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (students make beer or wine as part of the fermentation portion of the course lab), to test the impact of process parameters on flavor and color.

The CBE Department is in the process of finalizing a still system designed to remove alcohol from the beer and wine products (those that aren’t as desirable as a beverage).

“This will give us a new experiment where students can step through fermentation to make ethanol, then concentrate the ethanol to levels suitable to industrial use,” Persichetti said.

In Persichetti’s class, students making beer use already malted barley, similar to homebrewing. Ogg wanted his course to take it one step further and have students learn the process of malting their own barley, and explore how to design a recipe to achieve very specific desired product characteristics.

“My hope was we could have local brewers taste the beer students are making and say, ‘This isn’t what the big breweries are making but this works for me because I have a different market and I’m looking for new flavors in my craft beers,’” Ogg said.

This past year, CBE Laboratory Technician Michael Stadick designed and built a small-scale malting system in the Unit Operations Building (located behind Alderson Hall) for students to use in Ogg’s class.

Chemical engineering student Tanner Taylor is one of 40 students in the course. He is working in a team of four students to create a Scottish ale for his final project.

“Learning how to make my own beer and hearing from head brewers has made me want to work at a brewery in the future,” said Taylor. “This course is continuing to help motivate me to follow that path.”

Visit the malting system and you will see students learning all aspects of the brewing process including testing, cleaning, bottling, malting, flavor extracting and tasting beers. Guest speakers from MillerCoors, Odell Brewing Company, Golden Moon Distillery, Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Mountain Toad Brewery and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have spoken on a variety of topics ranging from sour beer production to malt whiskey production. Several guests have been Mines alums, including Josh Robbins (Chemical Petroleum Refining ’95, ’00, 03) from Mountain Toad. On April 29, local brewers and staff members will be judging student teams on the sensory basics of their beer and will give them a tasting score that will make up 10% of their final grade.


Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 /
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 /

Eleven members of the Mines Band, along with Teaching Professor & Music Program Director Bob Klimek, Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association Board President Ray Priestley ’79 and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professor Cathy Skokan '70, '72, '75, spent Spring Break (March 9-13) in Jamaica.

While in Mona, the group visited with the environmental science and engineering departments at the University of the West Indies to hear about their senior design projects and see their preparation for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers robot competition. In Kingston, they teamed up with the Alpha Boys’ School to perform in a five-hour recording session in the Tuff Gong Studio that was founded by Bob Marley in 1965.

Engineering physics student Nick Smith said his favorite part of the trip was recording at the studio, where Mines students had to learn, arrange and record a song in real time.

“We met the students the day before recording, and did not even start rehearsing a song until the morning of the recording session,” Smith said. “Once I figured out the chords, I ended up arranging many of the instrumental parts of the music, and guiding the players through the song as we recorded it.”

Smith plays many instruments with the Mines music department—bassoon in concert band, tenor saxophone in marching band, cello in the orchestra and bass in the jazz band. He wanted to make sure that even though he was not majoring in music, he still had a connection to the arts.

“The greatest way that music makes me a better engineer is that it gives me some sort of connection to humanity, rather than just being a number-crunching, science-doing machine,” Smith said. “I am currently taking an ethnomusicology course, where we study the music of different cultures and how the music is intertwined with their cultural history. Everything in music can teach you about the culture it came from, and this allows me to have a sense of humanity in my engineering.”

As one of the organizers of the trip, Skokan also juggles multiple instruments, playing bassoon in the band, violin in the orchestra and erhu in the Chinese Band. She is not only active in band, but also in the music program, where she organizes small ensembles. Skokan picked Jamaica given that it has a musical as well as technical component.

“Our music students at Mines are very well rounded and are able to use both their creative and analytic parts of their brains,” Skokan said. “We try to expose students to a culture different than in the U.S., but one that they might encounter in their professional careers. Because they have traveled and worked with people from other cultures, they will be more able to adjust when needed.”

In mid-March, the Music program received approval for a new Music Technology minor and will see its first graduates this fall. Next Spring Break, the marching band plans to travel to Dublin to perform in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.


Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 /
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 /

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 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.


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