The Humanitarian Engineering program at Colorado School of Mines has begun leading workshops on the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the education of engineers.

Liberal Arts and International Studies professors Juan Lucena and Jon Leydens, as well as other Mines faculty, will present during the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference in Seattle June 14-17, 2015.

Leydens will lead a session titled: “Integrating Social Justice in Engineering Science Courses.” Lucena, who is also the director of the Humanitarian Engineering program, will speak in a workshop on “Building Intentional Community Partnerships,” as well as present during the Integrating Social Justice session.

Associate Professor Jessica Smith and her colleague, Nicole Smith, presented another workshop, “Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development: Exploring Opportunities in Engineering Education,” at the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development conference held June 9-12 in Vancouver.

Both of these presentations expand on the “Corporate Social Responsibility in Extractive Industries” workshop Mines hosted May 14-15. The workshop was funded by the Shultz Family in Humanitarian Engineering and brought together leaders from various fields to brainstorm how to integrate corporate social responsibility into the education of tomorrow’s engineers.

“The workshop was exciting because we brought together people from academia, NGOs, corporations and industry to actually brainstorm CSR and how it is practiced in different places in different ways, and how we can bring those insights into our educating of engineers,” explained Lucena.

Roger Fragua, a member of the Pueblo of Jemez and president of Cota Holdings, presented, as did Will Rifkin from the University of Queensland’s Center for Social Responsibility in Mining. Professors from Stanford University and Missouri University of Science and Technology attended, as well as others from South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Australia. Corporate participants included Shell Co., Enbridge, and Newmont Mining Corporation.

One of the key insights from the workshop called for expanding the concept of corporate social responsibility beyond the moniker of corporate to include the social responsibility of individual engineers.

“A second takeaway was the issue of word choice, with some industry leaders expressing discomfort with the term “social justice” and suggesting alternatives such as “social performance” and “co-governance,” said Lucena. “Others brought up the need to expand CSR beyond just the extractive industries, to include civil engineers who aren’t necessarily working in oil, gas or mining, for example, but whose work still impacts communities. And a fourth insight centered around the issue of risk, how we educate engineers and our society in general, because pretending there are no risks involved means choosing to be naïve over being proactive.”

The Humanitarian Engineering program at Colorado School of Mines was the first in the country. A generous gift from Mines alumni, Chuck Shultz and his family, has revitalized the program, so that it now sponsors a speaker series, five Shultz scholars, and research on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.


Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu


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

GOLDEN, Colo., April 22, 2015 – The Colorado School of Mines Office of Special Programs and Continuing Education will host the fourth International School for Materials for Energy and Sustainability July 13-20. 

The weeklong school will present state-of-the-art and future perspectives for materials as they can be applied to energy generation and storage for sustainable energy technologies.

Eleven students are part of a humanitarian engineering course that is designing plans to relocate a village displaced by mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. The course “Projects for People,” taught by corporate social responsibility and Human Centered Design professor Benjamin Teschner, is geared toward students interested in the social challenges associated with the extractive industries and how engineering helps address these problems.

During the first class, Teschner gave each student $20 to design a prototype that would act as a tool to explain to someone living in the village how their lives would change after relocating.

“Commonly, students think of prototypes only as something they build to test their idea or to help themselves as engineers refine a design. What this assignment does is force them to think about how to design a prototype that will show someone else how their idea works so they can engage non-engineers in their design process,” Teschner said. “Students will immediately lay their assumptions about the problem out on the table for everyone to see—assumptions that they didn’t even know they were making.”

Aina Abiina is one of two graduate students in the class. The course is not required for Abiina’s Liberal Arts and International Studies degree, however she chose to enroll because she wanted to learn about the interaction between multi-national companies and people that are affected by these companies’ activities.

“In order to minimize a negative impact on the environment of those people and to optimize the production of the mine, a proper assessment is needed,” said Abiina. “Designing solutions to this complex engineering and social challenge will help students gain valuable skills in human-centered design methods, research techniques, brainstorming tools and approaches.”

Over the next few months, teams in two groups will have three phase gate reviews that will explore problem definition, design exploration and design analysis. The unique thing about this course is that the grades and passage of the phase gates are not linked. Grades are determined instead by how the team works within these phase gates.

“I hope students are able to develop empathy for people who use the things they design and that they recognize by bringing these people into the design process, they can create better, more sustainable engineering outcomes,” Teschner said.

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering student Karyn Burry hopes to end the course with better design flow skills.

“I am a super organized person and that usually is really helpful in a group, but this class is pushing me out of the organizer position into a position where I am forced to think outside the box in attempt to find a solution to this relocation project,” Burry said.

To better understand the village and relocation process, students are working with Thabani Mlilo, manager of sustainability for the America region at AngloGold Ashanti, who is acting as the ‘client’ on the project. Mlilo’s goal is to catalyze a paradigm shift early enough in an engineer’s education so that it is “part of their DNA” and a natural part of how they approach problems or solutions wherever there is a sustainability aspect to their work.

“In the sustainability field, one of the biggest challenges we have is shifting the paradigm of professionals in technical and scientific disciplines to the changing landscape of the business-society interface,” Mlilo said. “My impression of Mines students is that they don’t shy away from a challenge and are not afraid of treading unknown waters.”

For questions about the course, please contact Benjamin Teschner at bteschne@mines.edu.



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

We spend 90 percent of our time indoors (according to the EPA) without realizing that the air we breathe could be potentially dangerous to our long-term health. Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Tissa Illangasekare has spent the last five years researching how volatile organic compounds, which are commonly entrapped as non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) or dissolved into groundwater to produce plumes, affect our indoor air concentration.

“We drink so many liters of water a day, but we inhale so many thousands of liters of air,” Illangasekare said. (According to the EPA, the average American inhales close to 3,000 gallons a day.) “Sometimes we go to a contaminated site, test the water and we find it’s clean but later we go inside the building and find the vapor is contaminated.”

In 2009, Illangasekare and his research group, including a collaborator from the U.S. Air Force Academy, received funding from the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Office. The funding allowed the researchers to improve their understanding of the processes and mechanisms controlling vapor generation from entrapped NAPL sources and groundwater plumes, their subsequent migration through the subsurface, and their attenuation in naturally heterogeneous vadose zones under various natural physical, climatic, and geochemical conditions.

As the director of the Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes, Illangasekare has an advantage. In his lab, he works with students to control experiments in multiscale test systems, studying vapor and airflow through unsaturated soils. The tanks are instrumented with soil moisture, relative humidity and temperature sensors. Using computation models, Illangasekare can predict how various climates affect soil concentrations expected to be found in a building. 

Their hypothesis was that some of this variability could originate from weather and hydrologic cycle dynamics, such as surface heating, rainfall and water table fluctuation.

“We learned how contaminant vapors move preferentially through the ground and make their way into people’s basements or crawl spaces,” said Kathleen Smits, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who has worked with Illangasekare for the past five years. “We also discovered how this is influenced by changes in climate (e.g. temperature, wind conditions and precipitation).”

In April 2014, Illangasekare received the 2012 European Geosciences Union's Henry Darcy Medal for his scientific contributions in water resources research and water resources engineering and management. Two months later, he was one of the coauthors on a report to the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program on “Vapor Intrusion From Entrapped NAPL Sources and Groundwater Plumes: Process Understanding and Improved Modeling Tools for Pathway Assessment.”

“Our research has contributed to fundamentally understanding what’s happening to this system, which will help decision makers and regulatory agencies give better guidelines on how to manage these sites,” he said.

Illangasekare’s research will impact closure decisions on waste sites based on vapor intrusion risks.

“There’s a need for this science to exist. We are training a new generation of scientists and engineers to look at these kinds of problems.”



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

Metallurgical and Materials Engineering doctoral student Joseph Grogan has developed an environmental friendly dezincing process that recycles the galvanized steel in its entirety. While the steel component of galvanized steel is mostly recycled nowadays, the zinc component is often not. This technology produces a zinc sulfate that could be marketed as fertilizer and the remaining steel used as an alternative feed material to a foundry.

Due to issues including health and safety concerns at facilities that would recycle this type of steel, Grogan has created a simple hydrometallurgical (water based process) method with lower costs for removing the zinc coating on galvanized steel scrap.

“For reasons including environmental stewardship and sustainability, the reuse of metals in society is a good thing,” Grogan said. “This de-zincing process has zero waste discharge – minimizing environmental impact while completely recycling the zinc and steel.”

Galvanized steel has a lower market price compared to regular scrap metal, but is problematic to recycle as zinc vaporizes at lower temperatures than iron. Facilities that recycle this type of steel require gas and dust collection systems to capture the zinc. The dust can be recycled at a significant cost, but it is often landfilled, dependent on the jurisdiction.

“As commodity prices rise with increased demand and mine supply constraints, resources from recycling are frequently a more viable and significant supply for many metals,” Grogan said. “These increasingly complex recycling streams will require a host of new processes to recycle them economically. Extractive metallurgy is a field which specializes in developing the techniques and technologies needed to recycle these complex materials.”

Grogan’s research was supported through the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling, of which Colorado School of Mines is an academic partner.

In the fall, Grogan was the recipient of the 2014 National Scholarship from the Recycling Research Foundation for his research supporting scrap processing and the recycling industry.

Grogan began this research in 2011, along with Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering professors Corby Anderson and Gerard Martins. He is studying at the Kroll Institute for Extractive Metallurgy at Mines and will earn his doctorate degree in May.



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

The College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Senior Design Trade Fair is an opportunity for Colorado School of Mines students to showcase projects that they have been working on with a client during the past two semesters. Nine teams presented their work, while judges consisting of faculty and alumni graded them on their ability to define, analyze and address a design problem and to present their work through display and dialogue.

Trade Fair Results

  • 1st Place: CSM FlightLab
    • Client: Mounir Zok, Faculty Advisor: Joel Bach, Consultant: Sam Strickling
    • Team Members: Michael Blaise, Adam Casanova, Andrew Eberle, Ryan Elliott, Kelli Kravetz and Perry Taga
  • 2nd Place: JB Engineering
    • Client: Edge of Seven, Faculty Advisor: Judy Wang, Consultants: Joe Crocker and Juan Lucena
    • Team Members: Matthew Craighead, Steven Johnson, Ali Khavari, Brian Klatt and Jasmine Solis
  • 3rd Place: AutoBots
    • Client: Jered Dean, Faculty Advisor: Judy Wang, Consultant: Jenifer Blacklock
    • Team Members: Arveen Amiri, Dorian Illing, Adriana Johnson, Keeranat Kolatat and Jennifer McClellan
  • 4th Place: SolTrak
    • Client: iDE, Faculty Advisor: Judy Wang, Consultant: David Frossard
    • Team Members: Miranda Barron, Lincoln Engelhard, Oluwaseun Ogunmodede, Brenda, Ramirez Rubio, Eric Rosing and Kevin Wagner

Broader Impacts Essay Results

  • 1st Place: Jace Warren for "The World Cup, It's Not Rocket Science"
  • 2nd Place: Aaron Heldmyer for "The Modern Renaissance Men and Women"
  • 3rd Place: Jennifer McClellan for "Engineering Modern Vehicles for First Responders"

Winning teams will receive plaques at the post-graduation banquet in December.

You be the judge. Listen to two teams present their projects at the Senior Design Trade Fair.

Senior Design Project: SolTrak

Senior Design Project: CSM Outreach Engineering

View more information about the Senior Design Program.



Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator, 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


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