Multidisciplinary

In a state with an energy economy as purple as its politics, it can be hard to decide where to stand.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines has teamed up with Inside Energy to host Spark! Unpacking the Politics of Energy in Colorado at 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 in the Ben H. Parker Student Center (1200 16th Street, Golden), Ballrooms A and B.

Join the Payne Institute and Inside Energy to explore everything Colorado’s energy portfolio stands to lose, gain or change in the 2016 election. Journalists from Inside Energy will press a panel of experts on critical energy issues to help the public make their own decisions in November.

The panel includes Ian Lange, PhD, Mineral and Energy Economics Program Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines; Tracee Bentley, Executive Director, Colorado Petroleum Council; Meghan Nutting, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Sunnova; and Lee Boughey, Senior Manager, Communications and Public Affairs, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

“This panel covers the full spectrum of the Colorado energy landscape,” says Dr. Lange. “I’m excited to hear the views of my fellow panelists and share my thoughts on how Colorado could be impacted by the policies on the ballot this fall.”

Come enjoy drinks, heavy hors d'oeuvres, energy trivia, networking, and a multimedia presentation at this signature event. RSVP online by Aug. 31 or visit EarthPolicy.Mines.edu for more information.

About the Payne Institute at Colorado School of Mines
The mission of the Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines is to inform and shape sound public policy related to earth resources, energy and the environment. Its goal is to educate current and future leaders on the market, policy and technological challenges presented by energy, environmental and resource management issues, and provide a forum for national and global policy debate. For more information, visit EarthPolicy.Mines.edu.

About Inside Energy
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative among public media with roots in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. It is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its mission, in collaboration with its partner stations, is to create a more informed public on energy issues. Inside Energy seeks to make energy issues a household topic and to inspire community conversations on the topic of energy. Learn more at InsideEnergy.org.

Contact:
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

Unsafe levels of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, industrial chemicals linked to potentially serious health problems, have been found in the public drinking water of 33 states, according to a new study coauthored by Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Chris Higgins.

The study, “Detection of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S. Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and Wastewater Treatment Plants,” will be published August 9, 2016 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.  Higgins is one of twelve researchers contributing to the study, with Xindi C. Hu, from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, as the lead author.

The researchers looked at concentrations of six types of PFASs in drinking water supplies, using data from more than 36,000 water samples collected nationwide by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2013-2015.

They also looked at industrial sites that manufacture or use PFASs; at military fire training sites and civilian airports where fire-fighting foam containing PFASs is used; and at wastewater treatment plants. Discharges from these plants—which are unable to remove PFASs from wastewater by standard treatment methods—could contaminate groundwater. So could the sludge that the plants generate and which is frequently used as fertilizer.

Higgins, who has been researching the effects of PFASs for more than a decade, said, “Poly- and perfluoroaklyl acids are highly fluorinated synthetic organic chemicals that do not occur in nature. Their highly-fluorinated tails repel both oil and water, which is why they are used in so many consumer products. These compounds are used as stain repellents, paper packing products, and in making polymers like Teflon.”

The study found that PFASs were detectable at the minimum reporting levels required by the EPA in 194 out of 4,864 water supplies in 33 states across the U.S. Drinking water from 13 states accounted for 75% of the detections, including, in order of frequency of detection, California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

“It is a complex topic,” explained Higgins, “because these compounds stick around for a very long time in the environment and enter the environment in several ways. We are also exposed to them for a variety of sources.”

Higgins continued, “They are extremely difficult to remove from water. At Mines we are working on a variety of water treatment technologies to treat these compounds. A great deal of work remains to be done.”

 

Learn more about PFASs by watching our Facebook Live video of Associate Professor Chris Higgins explaining perfluoroalkyl substances and the implications of this new study.

Contact:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-383-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

 

 
Emerita Associate Professor Cathy Skokan has been named a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) at the society’s annual conference this week in New Orleans. 

Founded in 1893, ASEE is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. The organization promotes excellence in instruction, research and public service, and fosters technological education. The honor of fellow is bestowed by the ASEE Board of Directors upon members in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering or engineering technology education.

The first female to earn a graduate degree at Mines

Skokan’s early interest in rocks led to a love of science, and a wise high school counselor suggested she combine her skills in math and science with her passion for the outdoors and study geophysics.

“I remember I applied to LeHigh University as C. King, my maiden name,” said Skokan, “because they weren’t accepting women at the time. But they eventually figured out I was a woman.”

Mines, on the other hand, offered Skokan a full scholarship. She received her bachelor’s degree in geophysical engineering in 1970, and went on to become the first woman to receive a graduate degree from Mines in any field, receiving her master’s degree in 1971, and PhD in 1974. Her goal remained conducting research for a government organization.

 

From government researcher to university professor

Skokan’s many contributions to engineering education and to Mines, in particular, almost never came to be. She originally saw herself solely as a researcher rather than a teacher. Thanks to a delay in her government paperwork, she returned to Mines to do postdoctoral research in electromagnetics while waiting to start her new job. Skokan shared how her plans changed: "Just before the beginning of the fall semester, George Keller, who was the head of the department and my thesis advisor, came in and said, ‘We need someone to teach linear systems analysis.’

“I said, ‘I don’t teach.’

"He said, ‘Classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ He handed me the class notes, told me what time it started and walked out the door.

“Linear systems was not one of my favorite subjects, though it is now.”

Skokan credits Keller as a mentor throughout her early career. She went on to accept a tenured faculty position in Geophysics. In 1996, she moved to what was then the Engineering Division at Mines (now the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences), where she spent the next 20 years teaching linear systems, senior design and geophysical courses to electrical engineering students.

“Several of my research grants centered around electromagnetic methods of mapping earth structures,” Skokan explained, “so I got to combine electrical engineering and geology, which was the best of all worlds.”

Humanitarian Engineering Program

Skokan was also one of the initiators of the Humanitarian Engineering program at Mines, the first in the nation. Initial funding from the Hewlett foundation aimed to take student engineers to communities that needed their skills most. As a result, Skokan took student groups to Senegal, Honduras and Ghana to work on solving real problems with engineering solutions.

Skokan recalls a particular Humanitarian Engineering trip to Alaska:

"An Alaskan tribal community had invited us to help with projects to prepare them for a community center. Over multiple years, we designed a road and septic system, among other things. One year, we were driving out there from the airport, and a student asked, “Do they live in igloos?” I told him, no, and that he would see what they lived in soon. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had built a series of prefab houses intended for Hawaii, and when they weren’t needed in Hawaii, they were sent there. Some members of the community lived in old school buses, and it reached -40 Fahrenheit during the winters. We left with a real sense of doing work that was needed. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us.”

 

Humanitarian Engineering students traveled to the University of Ghana with Associate Professor Skokan in 2007 as part of their senior design project.

Music at Mines

Skokan still believes that international experiences are essential for every engineer’s education, and often travels with Mines music students. She currently plays violin with the Mines Orchestra, bassoon with the Mines Band and erhu with the Mines Chinese Band.

"I’ve played in the band since I was a student here in the 60s,” said Skokan. “Believe it or not, I was the first director of the orchestra here, until they finally hired a real musician rather than an engineer to conduct the orchestra.”

 

                                                   Catherine Skokan and the Mines Marching Band in Dublin's 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade.

In 2016, Skokan led 150 Mines music students and alumni on a spring trip to march in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “We always combine an engineering and musical component on these trips,” explained Skokan. “In Ireland, we visited Dublin Institute of Technology, with whom we are now working on a collaborative effort. I also took a group of students into the Tara Mines, a lead and zinc mine near County Meath. Because we are engineers, not just tourists, they took us underground and the students had a blast exploring the machinery. It included electrical, mechanical, civil, mining, geology— talk about interdisciplinary!”

 

                                                   Students prepare for an underground tour of the lead and zinc Tara Mine in Co. Meath, Ireland.

In 2015, Skokan accompanied Mines music students and alumni to Jamaica. In addition to meeting with engineering students at the University of the West Indies, the Mines group participated in a recording session with Winston “Sparrow” Martin, Bob Marley's percussionist, at the studio that Bob Marley founded.

In 2017, Skokan will be taking Mines music students to Florence. “We’ll be visiting Santa Croce,” said Skokan, “where Galileo, Michelangelo and Rossini are buried. It’s also right on the Arno River, which flooded in 1966, killing more than 100 people and destroying millions of masterpieces. So we’re going to talk to a professor from the University of Florence about flood mitigation and art restoration."

Innovation in engineering education

Skokan became involved in ASEE around the time that she joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She spent a sabbatical writing a pre-engineering curriculum for Adams School District, which is still in use.

“Every project had a computer, math, writing and engineering component,” said Skokan.

“I joined the multidisciplinary division of ASEE,” continued Skokan, “because electrical, mechanical and civil were all under the Engineering Division in those days. I went from Secretary, to Treasurer, then Program Chair and finally Chair.” Skokan is currently the ASEE Vice President for External Relations, which includes chairing ASEE’s international advisory committee and external projects.

"The best thing ASEE offers,” according to Skokan, “is workshops and venues to look at innovative teaching methodsthose that worked and those that didn’t. I believe looking at the failure papers can be even more educational than the success papers." 

Despite retiring in 2015, Skokan remains as busy as ever. She will be giving a talk in Japan at the annual Japanese Society for Engineering Education meeting, and another in Korea in November at an engineering education conference. 

Skokan is the third Mines faculty member to be named an ASEE Fellow in addition to Theodore A. Bickart in 2000 and Joan Gosink in 2010.

 

All photos from the personal archives of Emerita Associate Professor Catherine Skokan.

Contact:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

On June 17 and 18, a team of five Mines students placed third in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) International Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) competitiona prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students around the world. More than 250 university teams from over 50 countries partipate in the IBA competition each year and one winner from each of the 12 AAPG regional sections was chosen to move forward to the international competition. Mines received the Stoneley Medal and $5,000 in scholarship funds, creating a legacy after two previous third place wins in 2012 and 2014.

"With all of the excellent scientists participating at the international level, winning the Stoneley Medal was a great recognition, and we are proud to help continue the tradition of excellence here at Mines," said geology and geological engineering graduate student Michael Harty.

From left: Matt Bauer, Abdulah Eljalafi, Sarah King, Michael Harty and Evan Allred

Geology and geological engineering graduate students Abdulah Eljalafi, Sarah King, Michael Harty, Matt Bauer, Evan Allred and faculty advisor Steve Sonnenberg participated on the 2016 Mines team. Prior to the competion, teams were given a geoscience dataset to analyze. Teams delivered results in 25-minute presentations to a panel of industry experts, and winners were chosen on the basis of the technical quality, clarity and originality of their presentations.

"The IBA competition offers such a great experience. I recommend it to any geology, geophysics or petroleum engineering student looking for a hands-on experience," said Bauer. "Our team evaluated a real dataset and presented our findings to a panel of worldwide industry experts. We feel lucky to utilize the excellent technical and applied instruction that Mines providesit definitely helped us stand apart from the competition." 

A full list of winners can be seen on the IBA website.

Contact:

Agata Bogucka, Information Specialist, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

 

Team Airband, an interdisciplinary all-women team, received the top prize of $20,000 in the Colorado School of Mines Mining Innovation Challenge sponsored by Newmont Mining.

The team’s invention is a wearable air-quality monitor that utilizes special sensors to detect the levels and presence of hazardous air pollutants. The team included students Michelle Pedrezas, Arjumand Alvi, Micaela Pedrezas and Daniela Machnik, and was led by EPICS mentor Leslie Light.

Teams Recon and Low-Cation also won awards and received $5,000 each. Team Recon was recognized for being the most market ready and Low-Cation for being the most innovative.

Ten student teams have been working on prototypes and pitches since the Jan. 20 Innovation Challenge kickoff. On April 20, the finalists presented their 10-minute pitches to an evaluation panel who ranked them on five criteria: presentation, prototype, innovation, marketability/business viability and impact/value.

Judges included College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering Dean Ramona Graves, Mining Engineering Department Head Priscilla Nelson, Director of Technology Transfer Will Vaughan, Newmont Group Executive and Global Exploration Solutions Perry Eaton, and Traxion co-founder Chris Cone.

To learn more about the three winning projects, visit the Midea hub.

See more photos from the April 20 Innovation Celebration.

 

Contact:
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

 

The ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE2ST hosted a Research Symposium for WE2ST, the Department of Civil and Environment Engineering (CEE), and Hydrologic Science and Engineering (HSE) students on April 14. Posters from 20 WE2ST undergraduate scholars and graduate fellows were presented and judged. An additional 18 posters were presented by the CEE and HSE programs, although they were not part of the competition.

First and second place for the best poster by a WE2ST Graduate Fellow were awarded to Ella Walker and Chris Ruybal, respectively. Best Poster by a WE2ST Undergraduate Scholar went Kate Newhart, and second place to Kaylie Haynes. The faculty award for most student presenters outside of WE2ST went to CEE Professor Timm Strathmann.

Attendees also voted for the overall favorite poster at the Symposium, and this award went to Skylar Zilliox.

Finally, the Symposium showcased the winning water project from 6th graders at Shelton Elementary. The four elementary school students presented posters and a model to show off their water-saving shower design.

The symposium connected more than 75 distinguished guests from industry, academia, and the community. Mines students, faculty, and staff enjoyed an evening full of networking and conversations while reviewing student research in the overlapping fields of hydrology, environmental and civil engineering.

 

The ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE2ST welcomes you to learn more about their program and get involved by visiting their website.

 

 

Contact:
Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering and Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

GOLDEN, Colo., March 25, 2016 – Colorado School of Mines won first place in the University of Denver’s Analytics Challenge earlier this month. Sponsored by Daniels College of Business, the competition centered on finding insights from two large data sets about Denver crime over the previous five years.

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