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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu

Marc Edwards will be the keynote speaker at The Young's Environmental SymposiumColorado School of Mines is hosting a film screening, panel discussion and keynote speaker in a two-day symposium on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with the Hennebach Program in the Humanities and former Mines President John Trefny, is organizing the Young’s Environmental Symposium on October 18-19.

The symposium opens Wednesday, October 18, with a screening of “Noah: Rising from the Ashes in Flint” at 6:30 p.m. in the Green Center’s Metals Hall. The film tells the story of Noah Patton, a young Flint resident, who is working to positively shape the future of his community.  The film will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Dana Romanoff; Pastor Robert McCathern, a local Flint religious leader; Margaret Kato, the executive director of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity in Flint; and Marc Edwards, Thursday’s keynote speaker.

Marc Edwards, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who was a key player in bringing the Flint crisis into focus, presents “Citizen Science and the Flint Water Crisis – Triumph, Tragedy and Misconduct” from 7 to 9 p.m. on October 19 in the Green Center’s Friedhoff Hall. Edwards will discuss case studies of engineering and scientific misconduct that have been perpetrated by government agencies meant to protect the public health.

"The purpose of the symposium is to bring awareness of environmental issues that have important social significance to Mines and the surrounding communities,” said John McCray, professor and head of Mines’ Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

This symposium is sponsored through a gift from The Young Foundation and is named after Herbert Young, a 1939 Mines graduate who majored in mining engineering and established the symposium.


Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 | jdelnero@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Mines Tiny House at the 2017 Celebration of Mines event

It may be tiny, but a 220-square-foot house under construction on the Colorado School of Mines campus is about to find itself in front of a big audience. 

The solar-powered, net-zero Mines Tiny House will be on display at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 Solar Decathlon in Denver Oct. 5-9 and 12-15 as part of the international event’s Sustainability Expo, a consumer-facing exposition showcasing energy solutions and services.

And while Mines is not entered in the decathlon’s signature competition this year, the student-led team is excited to show off what they have accomplished. At the expo, visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look at tiny house construction and the decisions that went into maximizing every square inch of space for livability and energy efficiency. 

“The decathlon is going to bring out a lot of people who are interested in building science and it will be fun to show our progress and our process,” said Katie Schneider, a junior majoring in engineering physics and Mines Tiny House president. 

“We want to get as much as we can done to show off our sponsors and show what we’ve gotten donated,” she said. “A lot of it, we’re just going to have in place—it’s not going to be functioning but it will be a proof of concept.”

Mines students have been working on the tiny house for almost two years, building it from the trailer up after class and on weekends. Once complete next spring, the solar-powered house will be used as a classroom and meeting space on campus as well as an educational and outreach tool in the community.

That community outreach has begun even before the house is finished. A recent event with Xcel Energy brought dozens of elementary and middle school kids to the tiny house on a Saturday morning to learn all about energy. 

“We’re going to see if we can keep this tiny house completely off the grid and educate the tiny house community on how that’s possible,” Schneider said. “We really want to use it as an educational site.”

Another big goal of the tiny house: prepare Mines to compete in the next Solar Decathlon in 2020. Colorado School of Mines has never fielded a team in the international competition. 

For the decathlon, collegiate teams spend almost two years designing and building full-size solar-powered houses to face off in the 10 contests, evaluating market potential, innovation, health and comfort, water usage and more. Unlike many of the other schools that compete, though, Mines does not have an architecture or construction management program. 

“Working with the tiny house has given us a lot of ideas and things that work and don’t work. It’s been important for the experience of the students,” said Tim Ohno, associate professor of physics and Mines Tiny House faculty advisor.

That learning process will continue after the tiny house is complete. A sensor network is being installed to track the home’s temperature and humidity, and decisions were also made in the initial design process to allow for some flexibility moving forward, should students want to try out new materials or technology.

“The biggest deal for our house, because all the power we have is from solar panels, is during the winter we have to be pretty well insulated,” Ohno said. “There’s nine inches on the roof, five inches on the floor. There’s about five inches of insulation in the walls.”

Those solar panels—five in total—will provide about 1.3 kilowatts of electricity, Ohno said. The club’s calculations indicate that in combination with the house’s lithium battery storage, the panels will probably be enough to meet the energy demands of the house, “with the emphasis being on probably,” he said. “That’s the experiment part—we’ll find out.”  

Plans also call for a “living” wall to help improve indoor air quality, an extra-low-flow shower head, a solar-powered window awning and an electrochromic “smart” window donated by ViewGlass.

Donations of both expertise and materials have come from a variety of local and national businesses, including Front Range Lumber, Johns Manville, JLM Energy, Milgard, Hunter Douglas and Xcel Energy.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Schneider said. “We’ve had to problem-solve—which is what we’re good at as engineers.”

After the decathlon, the tiny house will return to its temporary home in the parking lot of the Moly Building in Mines Park. The team is looking forward to finding a more permanent—and visible—location on the main campus once the house is done. 

“It’s going to be a pretty amazing tiny house,” Ohno said. “When we finish, with respect to its energy efficiency, there aren’t going to be many tiny houses that are better.”

If you go: The Solar Decathlon, located at 61st & Pena Station near Denver International Airport, is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 5-8, 1 to 7 p.m. Oct. 9 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 12-15. For more information, go to solardecathlon.gov

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

A Colorado School of Mines professor is working to remove chemicals and potentially harmful substances from the groundwater supply in Fountain, Colorado.

Chris Bellona, assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and a team of researchers have just finished Phase I of their project, testing different ways to remove perfluoroalkyl substances from the city’s groundwater supply.

“Various municipalities across the U.S. are struggling with these perfluoroalkyl substances,” Bellona said.

Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, are a large group of man-made chemicals used in a wide variety of products, often to make them more stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. The health effects of PFASs in humans are not well understood, but studies have found that animals exposed at high levels resulted in changes in the function of the liver, thyroid and pancreas, and changes in hormone levels.

Communities near airports and firefighting training areas that have used aqueous film-forming foams to fight fuel fires have been especially affected.

“The chemicals that are in these foams get into the ground and into the groundwater and they are mobile and they don’t break down,” Bellona said. “In the U.S., there’s an estimated five million people who have these chemicals in their drinking water supplies.”

This includes municipalities near Colorado Springs. The three utilities that still have groundwater available for use are Security, Widefield and Fountain. This led to Bellona’s current project, “Pilot scale evaluation of the efficacy of granular activated carbon for perfluoroalkyl substance removal at the City of Fountain.”

“We starting working with the city of Fountain because they traditionally use groundwater part of the year and their levels of PFOA and PFOS exceed the EPA health advisory limit,” Bellona said. “They are going to need to put in a treatment system using granular activated carbon (GAC). They approached us to do a pilot scale study.”

GACs can be made in different ways, but it is usually coal burned in the absence of oxygen, then activated. With a large surface area, GACs can absorb large amounts of contaminants.

“The PFASs are relatively hydrophobic, so they stick to the carbon,” Bellona said. “Activated carbon works for a variety of contaminants, but eventually becomes exhausted. Part of this study was to look at how long we could operate the carbon before we have breakthrough of the contaminants.”

The study evaluated four different carbons side by side for the city’s groundwater.

“There are a lot of carbon options but it hasn’t been established which could be most effective,” Bellona said. “The goal of this project is to learn more by using four commercially available options.”

The next phase will compare the effectiveness of the top-performing activated carbon option to ion exchange, another way of filtering perfluoroalkyl substances, and the cost-benefit trade-offs.

“Ion exchange is more expensive but it can be regenerated on site; however, you have to deal with this waste stream,” Bellona said. “That may be more advantageous than dealing with the spent carbon residual. In addition, ion exchange resin may provide for longer treatment for these compounds compared to activated carbon.”

“These compounds are very recalcitrant and there is no silver bullet that has been developed for treatment,” Bellona said. “We aren’t only looking at these substances above the health advisory level. We are looking at a wide variety of these substances and how well activated carbon works on them.”

On this research project, Bellona has been working with diverse faculty and staff from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the Advanced Water Technology Center including associate professor Chris Higgins, professor Tzahi Cath, research assistant Tani Cath, lab manager Kate Spangler, research associate and facility manager Mike Veres, as well as Charlie Liu, a doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.  


Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 | jdelnero@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines professor Andrew HerringA Colorado School of Mines professor is part of a team of researchers working to develop a commercially viable fertilizer that farmers could produce themselves using agricultural wastewater.

Andrew Herring, professor of chemical and biological engineering, is a principal investigator on the $2.4 million, four-year research project being funded by the National Science Foundation and led by the University of Arkansas.

The goal is to develop a chemical process that can take the nitrogen and phosphorus in wastewater and create the fertilizer struvite, a crystallized mineral made up of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate. Struvite is also commonly formed as kidney stones in cats and dogs. 

The model system will use the effluent from an Arkansas hog farm, but the team hopes that the technology will eventually have wide applicability.

“Basically, you’d have a hog barn and you’d collect the liquid effluent from the farm and run it through a reactor and you’d get a solid fertilizer out of the back and, hopefully, energy,” Herring said. “At the end of the day, we hope to optimize this thing so it makes energy, saves water and produces fertilizer for food production.”

Herring will build an electrochemical reactor at bench scale to precipitate struvite from wastewater plus added magnesium. What is learned at Mines will ultimately feed into a farm-scale reactor, most likely at an agricultural experiment station at the University of Arkansas.

”This is an exciting project,” Herring said, “as no one can yet recycle agricultural phosphorous, and preventing its entry into aquifers will prevent algal blooms.”

Herring and lead principal investigator Lauren Greenlee, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Arkansas, have been collaborating for a number of years on research at the water-energy-food nexus. They will also be working with another assistant professor, Julie Renner from Case Western Reserve University, on using peptide engineering to further modify the project’s electrochemical output. 

Three other researchers from the University of Arkansas will study the composition, chemistry and viability of the struvite fertilizer compared to commercial fertilizers; the economics of implementing the technology; and the life cycle of the proposed technology.  

“For farmers, the bottom line is so tight that they don’t want to be buying fertilizer,” Herring said. “With this technology, for a very low capital cost the farmer would be able to buy a unit where they would be able to use their farm’s own waste to produce a more widely applicable fertilizer.”

Photo credit: University of Arkansas

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Fleckenstein delivers his talk.A Colorado School of Mines adjunct professor of petroleum engineering delivered a talk about hydraulic fracturing to the Weld County Council, which he will also take on his world tour as a Society of Petroleum Engineers distinguished lecturer for 2017-2018.

Will Fleckenstein presented "Shale Development —  Does Cheap Energy Really Mean Flaming Tap Water?" to the council July 17. He will deliver the same presentation at locations around the world, with talks already scheduled in Vancouver, Edmonton and Clairmont in Canada, and Comodoro Rivadavia and Buenos Aires in Argentina.

In light of the Firestone, Colo., home explosion in April related to an abandoned gas flowline, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered that all oil and gas lines within 1,000 feet of a building be tested. Shortly after the incident, nearly 3,000 wells across the state of Colorado, many in Weld County, were temporarily shut down until further inspections could be performed. As of July, the Greeley Tribune reports that few of these lines failed.

Fleckenstein spoke with the Weld County Council about hydraulic fracturing, its history and how to protect aquifers during the “fracking” process. Having conducted a research study on the Wattenberg Field sponsored by the National Science Foundation, he was able to bring practical results to the table. Fleckenstein’s research found that 10 wells out of 18,000 had leakage, and said if a well is properly drilled and completed, the chance of leakage is very small compared to older methods.

Photo courtesy of Linda Kane, Weld County Council.

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Assistant chemistry professor Shubham Vyas works in his lab at Colorado School of Mines.Shubham Vyas, assistant professor of chemistry at Colorado School of Mines, has been awarded $417,643 by the National Science Foundation to study the breakdown of perfluorinated chemicals in the environment.

Perfluoroalkyl acids, or PFAAs, are synthetic chemicals that were previously used in firefighting foams and coatings for carpets, textiles and paper. They are known to be extremely resistant to biological and natural degradation and are listed as global persistent organic pollutants of concern. 

“In the last two decades, people have come up with technologies to break these compounds but many of these technologies are not field-deployable,” Vyas said. “You can use γ-radiation to break these compounds but you’ll break everything else, too. You can use 3.6 volts of power, but water breaks at much lower voltages. All these techniques work in lab, in a test tube, but we can’t use them in the field.”

Vyas’ three-year grant, funded through the NSF’s Environmental Chemical Sciences Program, will allow researchers to figure out exactly how PFAAs break down and what intermediates are involved and then take that information to design new field-deployable techniques to aid in their degradation. 

“Once we figure out how they are breaking, we can devise new technologies and new approaches to degrade these compounds,” Vyas said. 

His research team will utilize both chemical computation and experimental methods, a unique approach for tackling an issue that has both local and global impacts. 

Near Colorado Springs, the communities of Fountain, Security and Widefield south of Petersen Air Force Base are all grappling with drinking-water contamination stemming from the use of a PFAA-based firefighting foam at the base

In May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory for two types of PFAAs, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), establishing drinking water limits of 70 parts per trillion.

“Research herein will be transformative with respect to the growing need to remove PFAAs from contaminated water supplies, especially when more than 6 million people are exposed to drinking water above the health advisory levels set by the U.S. EPA,” Vyas said.  

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

REU program participants share their research at the poster session.

Students from universities across the United States and Ireland participating in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs at Colorado School of Mines presented their work at a poster session last week.

Forty-two students presented their research covering topics in renewable energy, water infrastructure, chemistry and chemical engineering at the poster session held on July 27, 2017.  Mines hosts three REU programs through the Renewable Energy Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Engineering Research Center for Reinventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure and Advancing Polymer Materials by Integrating Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. These programs support the education and training of undergraduate students in a closely mentored independent research setting.

“Undergraduate research programs exist to help students transform themselves into contributing members of the professional research community,” said Physics Teaching Professor Chuck Stone, director of the renewable energy REU summer program.

“I learned that research can be very frustrating,” said Mines mechanical engineering student Gretchen Ohlhausen. “But it’s very rewarding when you finally get the results you are looking for. This has made me want to get a master’s and work in research for the rest of my life.”

During the REU programs, some students had the opportunity to work across disciplines.

“I’m studying to be a mechanical engineer but I worked in a chemical engineering research lab,” said Mines mechanical engineering student Brockton Sterling. “I found that blending the two together really helped me. This experience shifted my interests quite a bit.”

In addition to the laboratory research, students participated in the Joint Networking Program for Front Range REU Students and Summer Interns on June 28. This event brought together undergraduate STEM majors from across campus and nearby internship and research programs to discuss topics including ethics in science and engineering, how to present scholarly research and transitioning academic skills into a career in STEM fields.

"The most important component of our undergraduate research enterprise is the Mines faculty and research staff that selflessly contribute their time, energy and expertise to our students," Stone said. "Initial, thoughtful, one-on-one training sessions with both an REU student and his or her peer mentor eventually leads to independence in the research environment. Along with this, students augment their research experience with a curricular thread that includes field trips to other research centers within the Front Range, a hands-on laboratory program, professional development sessions and weekly technical seminars. Joint networking programs with other nearby REUs and summer internship groups provide a social network that fosters an appreciation of other STEM areas.”

“I would definitely recommend this program,” Sterling said. “It’s very flexible and the amount of information you learn is great.”

At the end of the poster session, five students received awards for best poster presentations and best technical achievement:

Best Technical Achievement

  • Clare Lanaghan, Iowa State University, Faculty Mentor: Jeff Squier, Physics

Best Presentation

  • Austin Shelton, Morehouse College, Faculty Mentor: Jason Porter, Mechanial Engineering
  • Mayassa Gregoire, St. Joseph’s College, Faculty Mentor: Lakshmi Krishna, Physics
  • Rileigh Casebolt, Bucknell University, Faculty Mentor: Carolyn Koh, Chemical Engineering
  • Will Schenken, Colorado School of Mines, Faculty Mentor: Reuben Collins, Physics


2017 REU Summer Poster Session

Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 | jdelnero@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Nicholas Rummel is sailing on the SSV Robert C. Seamans research vessel.

A Colorado School of Mines student sailed across the Pacific Ocean to conduct research near the remote Phoenix Islands.

Nicholas Rummel, a rising senior in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, participated in an eight-week program with SEA Semester where he conducted research in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). PIPA is one of the last remaining coral wildernesses on Earth. Roughly the size of California, it is the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage site in the world located about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji.

"I chose SEA’s Protecting the Phoenix Islands program because I wanted to be pushed outside of my comfort zone in both physically and academically," Rummel said. "This program gave me the flexibility to apply skills and passion to an environmental problem that I feel is important to the global community."

Rummel, along with 23 other undergraduate students from across the U.S., collected samples from the marine environment to study the impact of El Niño, a large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction connected to a periodic warming in the sea’s surface temperatures across the Equatorial Pacific that affects weather patterns and ocean conditions, and assess the effects of climate change. The results will contribute to a greater understanding of the marine ecosystem and environmental management goals.

"One aspect of my research required me to pull on a geostatistical method called kriging in order to have a better understanding of tuna larvae populations," Rummel said. "Mines and the research I have done in my undergraduate career here at Mines prepared me well to get a lot done on a short voyage."

The SEA Semester program started in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on June 12, where students developed their own research projects in ocean science or conservation policy and completed preparatory coursework. For the next five weeks, Rummel sailed roughly 800 nautical miles aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, one of the most sophisticated research sailing school vessels ever built in the United States, before returning to America Samoa for the program’s conclusion on August 11.

Read about Rummel's experience on the SEA Semester blog.

Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 | jdelnero@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu


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