Environment

“What is it you think you’re gonna find? Boredom sets into the boring mind.”  - Lars Ulrich, Metallica

Weimer Distinguished Chair and Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology professor Lesli Wood isn’t a Metallica fan, but uses the song lyrics to explain that “life is too short to be boring or bored.”

And this Mines professor is far from boring.

Here are a few things you might not learn about Wood in the classroom.

1. She grew up in rural Arkansas where she first became interested in geology.

Wood grew up running around in the hills and creeks of central Arkansas. By the time she was a junior in high school, she already knew she wanted to major in geology at Arkansas Tech College.

“We backpacked several times through the Wind River Range in Wyoming and we camped in the Medicine Bow Mountains. I was immersed in nature and looked for an occupation that I could be in nature. I also grew up liking mysteries. Geology studies the mysteries of earth and other planets. It was the perfect science.”

2. She has a pot belly pig named Bartley.

Along with two Australian Heelers and a chiweenie (chihuahua-dachschund mix), Wood owns a pet pig. The pig named Bartley has his own Twitter account @TheMountainPig where he has more than a dozen followers and a few selfies.

“He is the ultimate miner, able to dig up a stretch of ground in record time—mostly placer mining. But I would not put it past him to don a hard hat and grab a pick, or knowing Bartley, he would be blasting.”

3. She is a singer and songwriter who has performed in four states.

Wood has played in several venues in and around Austin for the past 18 years with her band, The Spiceboys. Over the summer, the band played its fourth appearance at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Annual Convention and Exhibition in Denver.

Wood has played in music festivals in Texas and Utah, and at a bar in Massachusetts.

Recently she released the solo album, Larger than Life, which is available on iTunes.

“Just like music, geology can be boring or fascinating. It is how you present it to the audience that matters, and I enjoy that stage.”


At Mines, Wood teaches three courses: Seismic Geomorphology, Integrated Petroleum Exploration and Development and Engineering Terrain Analysis.

“I study everything from river systems and dunes, all the way down to the deepest parts of the ocean.”

Most recently, she has been fascinated with researching sea-floor landslides.

“Up to 70 percent of the fill in some of the ocean basins around the world are these huge landscape deposits. We have a lot of affect on them, not only drilling for oil and gas, but also hazards that companies create drilling in deep water. Some of the largest tsunamis that happen in the world are because of landslides that perturb the seafloor.”

Wood hopes to create increased integration between her own research in submarine landslides and that of her colleague Paul Santi, who heads the Geology and Geological Engineering Department and has immense expertise in subaerial landscapes (mountain landslides).

“I always felt like those two communities—those studying ocean landslides and subaerial landslides—could learn a lot from each other. I have already seen the fruits of that relationship. It’s going to be an opportunity to set Mines apart from some other institutions, and I’m looking forward to that.”

 

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

GOLDEN, Colo., July 23, 2015 – The development of affordable and efficient ceramic fuel cells that could be used to power homes, the culmination of five years worth of work by Colorado School of Mines researchers, is featured in the July 23 issue of Science magazine.

The research, led by Mines Professor Ryan O’Hayre, would enable more efficient use of natural gas for power generation through the use of fuel cells that convert the chemical energy of a fuel source into electrical energy close to where it is used.

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.

 

Contact:
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.

 

Contact:
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.

 

Contact:

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

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