Environment

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

CONTACT
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.

CONTACT
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

Two Colorado School of Mines microbiologists have coauthored an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examines the widespread impact of a paper, published a quarter-century ago, suggesting that microbial life exists up to several kilometers deep throughout the Earth’s subsurface.

The deep, hot biosphere: Twenty-five years of retrospection” appears in the July 3, 2017, issue of PNAS and was written by Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor John Spear and postdoctoral fellow Blake Stamps with Montana State University’s Eric Boyd, Saroj Poudel and Daniel Colman.

The authors say “The Deep Hot Biosphere,” written by Thomas Gold and published in PNAS in 1992, “heavily influenced the scientific field of geobiology, bringing together researchers from the disparate fields of geology, geochemistry and microbiology.” Gold’s paper, which was followed by a book with the same title, “forever altered how scientists think about microbial life in the subsurface and its implications for the origins of life on Earth, as well as life beyond our planet,” the authors said.

Gold, an Austrian-born astrophysicist and professor of astronomy at Cornell University, did not have a doctorate, but was a highly recognized scientist. He authored more than 300 papers, and had a tendency to delve into fields beyond his own.

According to Spear et al., “Gold’s deep, hot biosphere contribution challenged paradigms in subsurface science, petroleum research, the origin and evolution of life, and the search for life on other planets.”

While some found logic in Gold’s ideas, and others argued that they were highly flawed, the authors note that they had a tremendous impact on scientific discourse—the article has been cited more than 325 times, often outside the field of astrophysics, and the book remains a top seller on Amazon.

Life on Earth is dependent upon microorganisms in the subsurface—bacteria and archaea—and their ability to cycle and recycle chemical compounds necessary for life on the surface, both deep under continents and under the oceans. But despite intense study in the 25 years since Gold’s paper, the researchers argue that key questions remain about life in the deep subsurface, “including its origins, extent and contribution to hydrocarbon formation worldwide.”

The scientists also touch on emerging data and approaches to studying the subsurface that continue to provide promising new hints toward answering these questions. Their review further expands on how the field of geobiology also may help answer questions relevant to industry such as hydrocarbon degradation, and form beneficial partnerships that would allow further study of the subsurface.

“As Gold suggested, and is becoming increasingly evident, to better understand the subsurface is critical to further understanding the Earth, life, the evolution of life and the potential for life in the solar system and worlds beyond,” researchers said.

The scientists conclude by suggesting the need to develop a robust network of interdisciplinary scientists and accessible locations for long-term monitoring of the Earth’s subsurface in the form of a deep subsurface microbiome initiative. The hope, said Spear, is to be able to understand how Earth functions as a large organism dependent upon something we know biologically little about—the subsurface.

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Mines hosted the American Chemical Society's 2017 Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy.

Colorado School of Mines hosted the American Chemical Society’s 2017 Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy from June 21 to 26, giving students opportunities to explore potential solutions to global challenges.

The weeklong residential program brought more than 50 graduate and postdoctoral scholars to Mines for lectures, collaborative projects, poster sessions, open discussions and networking sessions. Experts from the University of Notre Dame, Queen’s University, the University of Pittsburgh, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Colorado School of Mines, among others, led the talks covering topics such as greener solvents, building a green business and greening fossil fuels.

“Solvents are a real environmental concern associate with chemical industry,” said Ryan Richards, professor of chemistry and associate vice president of research at Mines. “One of the projects the students do in teams is choosing the greenest solvent. The exercise has students examine a chemical process and its life cycle before choosing the greenest solvent for that process.”

The summer school has been hosted by Mines almost every year for the past decade.

“Mines has several faculty who have contributed to the program over the years, and NREL has also provided a number of the key instructors,” Richards said. “This gives Mines students and faculty a great opportunity to showcase all of the great people, research and infrastructure we have here.”

 

CONTACT
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

A Colorado School of Mines associate professor of chemical and biological engineering has been recognized for her research into capturing mercury and carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and preventing their release into the atmosphere.

Jennifer Wilcox was awarded the 2017 Arthur C. Stern Award for Distinguished Paper, which is given annually for an outstanding contribution to the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. The paper, titled “Heterogenous Mercury Reaction Chemistry on Activated Carbon,” was published in 2011 with coauthors Erdem Sasmaz, Abbigail Kirchofer and Sang-Sup Lee.

Jennifer WilcoxThe work examines materials that can oxidize mercury, allowing it to be captured. “Coal burning is the number one anthropogenic source of mercury emissions worldwide,” Wilcox said. “This work leads to a deeper understanding of how materials may be modified for more effective mercury removal from exhaust streams of coal-fired power plants,” said the citation from the Air & Waste Management Association.

The award is based on the publication of a paper in JA&WMA that has greatly advanced science and technology; is technical, scientific or management in nature, while advancing the mission of JA&WMA; and is considered to be a substantial contribution toward improving our understanding of air pollution and waste management problems, their impact on environment and health, and the use of sustainable practices in reducing our environmental footprint.

Wilcox also received a Best Presentation Award in the Fall 2016 session of the American Chemical Society, which led to an invitation to publish in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. The paper, titled “Effect of Water on the CO2 Adsorption Capacity of Amine-Functionalized Carbon Sorbents," was subsequently featured on the cover of the journal’s May 31, 2017, issue. Wilcox’s coauthors were Peter Psarras and Jiajun He.

The exhaust of coal-fired power plants is comprised mostly of nitrogen, with near-equal amounts of water vapor and CO2, Wilcox said. Because water is often more reactive than CO2, it is important to design materials that have an affinity for carbon dioxide. “This work, through a combination of modeling and experiments, shows a novel material with promise for the selective removal of CO2 from coal-fired power plant exhaust in the presence of water vapor and acid gases,” Wilcox said

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Marte Gutierrez, Petroleum Engineering Professor Azra Tutuncu and alumnus Luke Frash have been awarded the 2017 Applied Rock Mechanics Research Award by the American Rock Mechanics Association.


Luke Frash and Marte Gutierrez during a visit with Darren Mollot, Director of the Office of Clean Energy Systems in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.
Luke Frash and Marte Gutierrez showcase their research during a visit from Darren Mollot, Director of the Office of Clean Energy Systems in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy.

Frash earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering with specialties in civil engineering and a PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Mines, studying under Gutierrez. He is now a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The team is receiving the award for their 2015 publication, “True-Triaxial Hydraulic Fracturing of Niobrara Carbonate Rock as an Analogue for Complex Oil and Gas Reservoir Stimulation.” The main topics of research, funded partially by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute, were development of enhanced geothermal systems and hydraulic fracturing in shale oil and gas reservoirs.

“Well stimulation by hydraulic fracturing is a common method for increasing the injectivity and productivity of wells,” Gutierrez said. “This method is beneficial for many applications, including oil, gas, geothermal energy and CO2 sequestration; however, hydraulic fracturing in shale and other similarly complex geologies remains poorly understood.”

Seeking to bridge the gap in understanding, the team conducted research on large natural rock specimens using true-triaxal stresses, intended to represent field-scale complexities of known oil and gas reservoirs.

“Results from such large-scale hydraulic experiments, particularly on naturally heterogeneous rock samples, remain very limited,” Gutierrez said.

The research team developed special equipment to conduct these innovative field-scale experiments, and Gutierrez says “the results from the scale-model hydraulic fracturing experiments are envisioned to be of important value to the practice of hydraulic fracturing in several fields.”

The award will be presented during the 51st U.S. Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium in San Francisco, California, on June 25-28, 2017.

Support for the research was provided by the Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute (UNGI) Coupled Integrated Multi Scale Measurements and Modeling Consortium (CIMMM), and the U.S. Department of Energy under DOE Grant No. DE-FE0002760, “Development and Validation of an Advanced Stimulation Prediction Model for Enhanced Geothermal Systems.”

Contact:
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

Rosie-FryerGeology graduate student Rosemarie (Rosie) Fryer has been awarded two grants from national organizations for her research on the submarine lobe deposits of Point Loma in San Diego, California.

Fryer received a $2,500 grant from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Grants-in-Aid Program, and a $1,775 grant from the Geological Society of America.

The AAPG program provides financial assistance to graduate geoscience students to promote research in petroleum and energy mineral resources or related to environmental geology issues, awarding scholarships ranging from $500-$3,000 to approximately 100 graduate students nationwide every year.

The goal of the GSA student research grant program is to support geoscience master’s and doctoral thesis research, awarding approximately 400 grants averaging $1,752 to graduate students across the United States each year.

Fryer plans to use her grant money to fund field trips to the Point Loma study area during the 2017-2018 academic year. “I am extremely excited that these funds will be used directly towards a field season in the fall, for creating thin sections and laser grain size analysis for my master’s thesis,” she said. 

As these sand-rich submarine lobe deposits form significant hydrocarbon reservoirs, Fryer’s research could prove extremely beneficial to the oil and gas industry by allowing for more accurate geological reservoir models. According to Fryer, the project has immediate applicability to reservoirs currently hosted in submarine lobe deposits, such as the Deepwater Wilcox Reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico and others in the North Sea, West Africa and the Permian Basin.

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Lauren FosterLauren Foster, a PhD student in the Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program at Colorado School of Mines, will spend next year researching the effects of climate change in complex terrain at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program.

The program provides opportunities for graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE laboratory in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist—53 awards were granted to graduate students across the country in this cycle.

Foster’s graduate research focuses on the impacts and feedbacks from climate change in complex terrain, and she will be continuing this work with Kenneth Williams, the lead for the Environmental Remediation and Water Resources Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

“More than one-sixth of the world’s population depends on mountain snowpack for their water supply, but there is currently a large gap in the scale of our climate change research,” said Foster. “Global climate models are unable to resolve the complex feedbacks in mountainous regions and observations rely on proxies to scale point measurements over larger areas. My work uses supercomputers to try to bridge these differences by modeling the East River near Crested Butte, Colorado, from 10m resolution up to 1km resolution.”


East River supercomputer model at 10m, 100m and 1km resolution (note: this image can be viewed with 3-D glasses to see topography).

Foster is currently working under Reed Maxwell, Rowlinson Professor of Hydrology and director of the Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center at Mines.

Maxwell characterized Lauren as a stellar student interested in the broader impacts of her work. “Never satisfied with just the science answer or engineering solution, she wants to know how best to communicate her results to stakeholders, managers and the public,” he said. “She is currently in Africa doing an internship to provide low-cost, low-energy filtration systems, providing an easy path to cleaner water.”

Steve Binkley, acting director of DOE’s Office of Science, says “the SCGSR program prepares graduate students for science, technology, engineering or mathematics careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission.”

Binkley also noted that the program is meant to enhance an awardee’s doctoral thesis by providing access to the expertise and resources available at DOE laboratories.

Foster said that she is very excited to spend a year working with LBNL staff and learning from Williams’ expertise.

Contact:
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
 

The Association of American State Geologists announced that their annual John C. Frye Memorial Award for 2017 is granted to the Colorado Geological Survey and the staff members who authored the report The West Salt Creek Landslide: A Catastrophic Rockslide and Rock/Debris Avalanche in Mesa County, Colorado (CGS Bulletin-55). CGS geologists Jonathon White, Matthew Morgan and Karen Berry utilized a rich field data set to put together the report, which includes a comprehensive review of the geologic history of the area and presents a detailed timeline of the events surrounding the “the longest landslide in Colorado’s historical record.”

White, Jonathan L., Matthew L. Morgan, and Karen A. Berry. “Bulletin 55 - The West Salt Creek Landslide: A Catastrophic Rockslide and Rock/Debris Avalanche in Mesa County.” Bulletins. Golden, CO: Colorado Geological Survey, 2015. Bulletin 55.

History of the Award:
Environmental geology has steadily risen in prominence over recent decades, and to support the growth of this important field, the Frye Award was established in 1989 by GSA and AASG. It recognizes work on environmental geology issues such as water resources, engineering geology, and hazards.

John C. Frye joined the US Geological Survey in 1938, he went to the Kansas Geological Survey in 1942, he was its Director from 1945 to 1954, he was Chief of the Illinois State Geological Survey until 1974, and was Geological Society of America Executive Director until his retirement in 1982, shortly before his death. John was active in Association of American State Geologists and on national committees, and was influential in the growth of environmental geology.

The Award is given each year to a nominated environmental geology publication published in the current year or one of the three preceding calendar years either by GSA or by a state geological survey. A shared $1000 prize and a certificate to each author is presented at the AASG Mid-Year meeting, held Tuesday morning at the GSA annual meeting.

Contact:
Jonathon Hopkins, PhD, Technical Media Specialist, Colorado Geological Survey | 303-384-2641 | jchopkins@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

 
Colorado School of Mines President Paul C. Johnson and GERENS President Armando Gallegos Monteagudo shake hands after signing the MOU.
Colorado School of Mines President Paul C. Johnson and GERENS President Armando Gallegos Monteagudo shake hands after signing the MOU.

On May 22, 2017, the Colorado School of Mines entered into a memorandum of understanding with GERENS Graduate School in Peru. 

Mines President Paul Johnson and GERENS President Armando Gallegos Monteagudo were in attendance to sign the document.

The agreement will mutually benefit mining engineering research and education at both universities by developing projects and learning opportunities for graduate students at both institutions. The agreement will also address the economic, environmental and sociopolitical aspects of the industry.

 

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

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