Colorado School of Mines is a uniquely focused public research university dedicated to preparing exceptional students to solve today's most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

This is Mines.

Santiago Gonzalez, a graduate student in computer science, started his undergraduate degree at Mines in 2010 at the age of 12. He is currently teaching the Mines course, Operating Systems, and getting ready to defend his thesis in November. Gonzalez is set to finish his master’s degree in December 2015.

We asked Gonzalez about his experience at Mines, what it's like to teach a 400-level course and what he plans to do after he graduates.

Why did you choose Mines?

It’s more that Mines chose me. I got in contact with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Tracy Camp who is my advisor. She invited me to apply and come to Mines. Everything ended up working out really well.

Did anything surprise you about Mines after coming here?

I was super happy to be with a group of people that thought like me, very scientifically-minded and nerdy.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

I’m not sure it’s as much a favorite spot as it is where I have to get my work done on campus, but the SINE (Sensing Imaging and Networking) lab in the Brown Building. It’s where I’m doing work for my thesis and getting it ready for my defense Nov. 16.

I spend about 30 hours a week there.

What else are you doing aside from defending your thesis and getting ready to graduate this December?

I’m taking a class this semester called Distributed Computing Systems with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Associate Professor Qi Han.

I’m teaching CSCI-442 Operating Systems (OS), which is one of the computer science undergrad classes. That should keep me pretty busy.

Also, my advisor and I are thinking of publishing a paper from the results from my thesis.

What has been the best thing you’ve experienced at Mines?

I’ve really gotten an understanding of exactly how computers work and why they work the way they do. It’s not really just some magic box that does stuff when you type things in the keyboard. I think that’s one of the really cool things that has happened here.

What was your favorite project at Mines?

For my thesis, I had to develop some new geophysical sensing mote (hardware) for the SmartGeo research group.

Right now for Distributed Computing Systems, my partner and I are building a simulator to validate different computer systems in high radiation environments in space. We’re simulating a spacecraft around some body and all the different subsystems you would have like reaction wheels. We had an idea for how to make the spacecraft computer systems much more resistant to radiation without having to use any super fancy expensive hardware, just using redundancy with commercial systems. Probably a larger project than we should have chosen for that class, but it’s fun.

How did you choose that project?

The class is studying how to get a network of computers to accomplish some goal. So that goal could be storing data across a large number of computers so that it’s more reliable. Or in our case: spreading computation across several systems to make it more resistant to radiation. We were discussing a bunch of ideas and this evolved out of the discussion.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Mines?

Physics I was so difficult. It’s a very demanding class. Conceptually, the material is pretty understandable. Physics I is basically mechanics—how things move given a system of things. If I have this book and I tilt it, how long will it take for something to slide down it? But then you start getting into the math and all of the work—it’s just a lot of work.

There’s definitely been tons of challenges, but nothing so insane that you couldn’t overcome it with tons of work.

How did you get involved in teaching?

Dr. Camp has been the professor who taught OS for the past decade here at Mines. She was busy with other work this semester, so she’s teaching another class this time. She invited me to teach the course, and thought it would be a fun experience for me.

What’s it like standing in front of the class instead of sitting as a student?

It’s really different. It’s interesting how different things are. You notice a bunch of things you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

I remember on the first few days, everything seemed super quiet so you try to talk faster to make it less quiet. It’s really interesting.

It’s really cool seeing how when you explain something, suddenly some students understand the material and they’re like, “Oh, OK!” Just being able to see them understand the material is really cool.

Do you think it makes you a better student having that other perspective?

It definitely makes me appreciate it more.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching here at Mines?

Since I’ve been teaching OS, I’ve changed the curriculum and projects a little bit. It’s fun thinking of new projects that students can do that will both be challenging and fun while still relevant to the class.

How do you balance teaching and schoolwork?

It’s one of the things I thought would be easier. It’s actually kind of challenging. You could devote so much time to the class, but ultimately you have to set a stopping point. Because you could either completely change everything (the entire curriculum) and that would take a really long time and you wouldn’t have time to dedicate to other things. But in general, I think I found a good balance.

If you could offer advice to a new student, what would you say?

Make sure you understand calculus because it will come up everywhere, even when you least expect it.

Persevere through everything. Mines is definitely demanding. Make sure you’re on top of everything instead of putting things off until the end. Just keep a good pace throughout the semester.

What are you up to this summer? Tell us about it.

I’ll be interning in a development position with Apple from January through August. I got the internship through someone that I met at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this past summer. I was planning on applying anyway, but I got offered the internship. So that was cool, not having to worry about that.

What are your plans after Mines?

I will be pursuing a PhD, and am working on applications right now. My top two choices are MIT or Stanford. They are some of the best engineering universities in the world for computer science.

I know I don’t want to become a professor, but I’d like to work in industry. I’m not sure what I’d be doing; I haven’t thought that far ahead. It would be cool to work at SpaceX or something like that.



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

Chemical and biochemical engineering students Corey Brugh and Mallory Britz are leading 32 freshmen as part of new themed-learning community, Engineering Grand Challenges. Incorporating elements of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges Scholars Programs at universities across the country, Brugh came up with the idea when he was brainstorming a living experience that would encourage students to be more innovative.

“This community gives students the unique opportunity to explore social justice and engineering in a creative way that inspires future engineers to use their expertise to help others,” said Brugh.

Teaching Associate Professor Stephanie Claussen, along with Brugh and Britz, attended the invite-only Global Grand Challenges Summit in Beijing in September. The summit, sponsored by the NAE, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and the Royal Academy of Engineering, focused on themes from the NAE Grand Challenges, such as sustainability, energy, and infrastructure. There was also a business competition where student teams pitched ideas focused on the grand challenges.

“I think it was beneficial for our students to see the international momentum around these grand challenges,” Claussen said. “They also got to meet a lot of students from other universities who are doing this. That was a huge thing—creating this community and shared conversation around what’s important and what they’re working on.”

Currently, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Kevin Moore, is working with Claussen, Brugh and Britz to draft a proposal for a student-run Grand Challenges Scholar Program at Mines. The program will combine curricular and extra-curricular activities with five components designed to prepare students to be the generation that solves the grand challenges facing society in this century. If students achieve the five requirements to be such a scholar, they will receive a certificate from the NAE upon graduation.

Liberal Arts and International Studies (LAIS) Teaching Assistant Professor Olivia Burgess and Teaching Associate Professor Alina Handorean are co-teaching a pilot course that focuses on one of the Grand Challenges: “Providing Access to Clean Water.” Twenty-eight freshmen are currently enrolled in a LAIS 100-level course that integrates Nature and Human Values with EPICS I. Next spring, these students will advance to an integrated EPICS II with a Human Systems course.

Across Kafadar Commons, LAIS Adjunct Professor Mateo Munoz is teaching 18 upper-level students in a new course, “History of Innovation: Engineering Grand Challenges in Historical Perspective.”

“Throughout the course, we move back and forth between historical case studies and a critical engagement of the challenges and opportunities facing engineers of the future. The innovative process is explored and we learn how to identify opportunities for innovation along intellectual and technical lines,” Munoz said.

These two courses further Mines’ commitment in the spring to advance programs that support the grand challenges concepts. In March, Mines and more than 120 U.S. engineering universities committed to a White House initiative dedicated to educating a new generation of engineers equipped to meet the grand challenges of today and the future. Their commitment was unveiled at the 2015 White House Science Fair.

“Historically, back when I was younger, people became engineers and scientists because they liked math and science in school,” said Moore. “But we see lots of people today picking math and science fields as careers because they altruistically want to make a difference. These programs provide students the opportunity to be impactful and to make a difference in the workplace.”

The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges identified 14 sets of opportunities for engineering in the 21st centuryfrom making solar energy economical to reverse-engineering the brain and more. Many of the challenges overlap with areas of research already active at Mines.



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

On Sept. 30, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson visited the Colorado School of Mines campus to speak to a sold-out crowd of students, alums, faculty, staff and community members in Lockridge Arena.

“This has got to be the geekiest audience I've ever seen; I’m not holding back,” Tyson said at the beginning of the night.

Tyson’s talk, part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and a kickoff to the 2015 homecoming weekend, was centered on “Astronomy Bizarre”— a grab-bag of unusual objects, phenomena and ideas in the universe. He included recent NASA images indicating evidence of salt water on Mars, and reminded the audience of Pluto’s status as a planet.

“We all thought Pluto was just trying to be a victim of its environment with craters and stuff that happened to it. But if you have mountains that means you’re doing something from within. You’ve got some action of your own,” Tyson said. “But regardless of all this, it’s still a dwarf planet; get over it.”

Tyson dropped “knowledge eggs” on the crowd, including his love of black holes.

“The Earth wants to kill us! So does the universe,” Tyson said. Later he added, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

Recently Tyson served as executive editor and on camera host and narrator for “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey," the 21st century reboot of Carl Sagan's landmark television series. Tyson is the fifth head of the world-renowned Hayden Planetarium in New York City and the first occupant of its Frederick P. Rose Directorship. He is also a research associate of the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.


2015 Neil deGrasse Tyson


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

Two Mines researchers have been awarded NASA grants to work on an “out-of-this-world” extraction technique called optical mining. Mechanical Engineering Assistant Research Professor Christopher Dreyer and Director of the Center for Space Resources Angel Abbud-Madrid are developing novel technologies to obtain valuable resources from asteroids, which can be used as rocket propellants.

“The optical mining concept is very exciting because it is a large-scale approach for producing resources in space that can be attempted soon,” Dreyer said. “We are contributing experimental evidence for the conditions under which intense light will disassemble carbonaceous chondrite asteroids.”

Optical mining will use concentrated solar energy to heat and fracture asteroids causing them to release volatile elements. These resources will be extracted and used in space to avoid the high cost of transporting them from Earth.

Mechanical engineering student Alexander Lampe and engineering physics student Travis Canney are helping with this research by preparing vacuum chambers for experiments, designing the test matrix, writing experimental procedures and running tests.

Their research project is funded by a $500,000 grant for “Laboratory Demonstration and Test of Solar Thermal Asteroid ISRU,” by the NASA Early Stage Innovations program and a $125,000 grant for “Demonstration of Optical Mining for Excavation of Asteroids and Production of Mission Consumables,” by the NASA Small Business Innovation Research program.

Mines researchers are working in this multidisciplinary effort with Missouri University of Science and Technology Professor Leslie Gertsch (Mines alumna GE ’82, PhD ‘89) and TransAstra Corporation Founder & Principal Engineer Joel Sercel. Other research participants include the University of Hawaii.

Mines’ research efforts were recently highlighted in Space.com, SpaceDaily, Sputnik International and Missouri S&T.



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

“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.”


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

The 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air looks prepped for a vintage auto show, but a different fate awaits. All fins and sharp edges, it takes off straight at a silver teardrop of a Chevy Malibu a half-century younger.

The closing speed is 80 mph, notes University Emeritus Professor David Matlock, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, whose computer monitor presents this generational clash.

The crash-test dummy is crunched in the collapsed cabin of the ’59. The one in the ’09 sits as it had before, spared by advances in automotive engineering and high-strength steel. There are many kinds of steel in a modern vehicle frame, Matlock explains, each designed with an exact set of properties which, in combination, has helped make cars much safer.

Matlock co-founded Mines’ Advanced Steel Processing and Products Research Center (ASPPRC) in 1984 with University Professor Emeritus George Krauss. By the early 1980s, American steel-industry research labs had begun to shrink and university funding for ferrous metallurgy had all but disappeared. Krauss and Matlock approached steel companies with the idea of partnering on a university-industry steel research center, in which a consortium of industry competitors, suppliers and customers would discuss the industry’s unmet research needs, set the science agenda and share results. Mines strengths in ferrous metallurgy research and teaching made it a logical hub.

Six companies signed on, and the National Science Foundation provided seed funding. The center survived a variety of changes in the landscape, including significant industry consolidation in the early 2000s, with member companies merging (for example, five of the current members now represent what was at one time 18 discrete ASPPRC members) as well as globalization of the steel and manufacturing industries.

Constant throughout, though, has been a focus on the research needs of industrial partner member companies that include many of the world’s biggest names in steel, automotive, heavy industry and oil and gas. In addition to annual dues to the center, they commit to sending one or more staff to biannual meetings in Golden where students present, and companies and researchers map the road ahead.

Thirty-one years since its founding, the ASPPRC’s focus on collaboration continues, with 31 companies from 13 countries now jointly setting the course and sharing the fruits of advances in testing methodologies and alloying strategies, and production processes. Eight full or part time Mines faculty lead a team of five research assistants, four postdoctoral researchers and 31 graduate students on a wide array of projects.

Member companies have hired many of these ASPPRC students, including Grant Thomas, a research engineer at AK Steel in Middletown, Ohio, who earned his Mines master’s and doctorate degrees for his ASPPRC work. The center, he said, is “industrially driven, so they’re relevant, and they have the time, the resources, and the equipment that really lets them get to the core of the problem — or opportunity, which are one in the same.”

Wang Li, a senior engineer and member of the board of directors at China’s Baosteel, the world’s fourth-largest steel producer, cited four major benefits in its ASPPRC membership: sponsors share in the center’s research achievements; it’s a good platform for interaction with other sponsors, including steel producers and users; it’s an opportunity for Baosteel staff to get involved in automotive steel research (Baosteel has a researcher doing a fellowship at the ASPPRC); and in helping set the research agenda, Baosteel gains early insights into trends in automotive steel.

All members receive royalty-free licenses for technologies that emerge from the center’s work. Despite many members being competitors, the nature of the business helps this sharing model work, said AK Steel’s Thomas. Fundamental insights into the behavior of a certain type of steel processed in a certain way — the ASPPRC’s calling card — can be taken different directions by different firms, all who have proprietary production techniques and established lines that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“That’s where the competitive part comes in: putting it to use in a specific mill,” Thomas said.

Mines Professor John Speer, who has been ASPPRC director since 2013, spent 14 years at Bethlehem Steel before coming to Mines in 1997, said “we work hard to be relevant because many of the sponsor companies have outstanding corporate research facilities of their own. If the companies become interested in working on an idea we are pursuing, they can put a lot of people on it very quickly. Some of these companies have a thousand researchers.”

“Mines’ advantage,” he said, “is time.”

“If you’re fighting the daily fires of industry, it can be more difficult to sit back and think about the fundamentals,” Speer said, “or on potential processing routes that do not match existing facility investments.”

The ASPPRC’s research focuses on simulating solid state processing done on steel (after it has solidified), explained Assistant Professor Emmanuel De Moor. Important considerations can include combinations of alloying, heating, cooling, or changing its shape at different temperatures.

The center is focused on three major categories of steel: sheet, bar and plate. Sheet steel research is mainly driven by automotive needs; while bar steel research includes cables, gears, crankshafts, axles and wire; and plate steel activities are related to oil and gas pipelines, earth moving equipment, wind-turbine towers, ships, etc.

If the center’s research has a common focus, it’s on microstructure and properties. De Moor, an alloying and thermochemical processing expert, is interested in microstructure along with Associate Professor Kip Findley, a mechanicalproperties specialist whose students spend their days analyzing steel properties and performance. Microstructure, they explain, dictates the steel’s ultimate strength, ductility, formability and hardness.

Caryn Ritosa, a PhD student, is doing her work on the Gleeble 3500, a thermomechanical processing simulator — in this case mimicking an industrial process called multi-pass plate rolling. She’s testing six different steels, each about as thick as a pencil representing the thick plate steel used in pipelines. They’re low carbon, with microalloying additions such as niobium, vanadium and titanium. Ritosa heats each to an orange-red 1,250 degrees Celsius, then commands the Gleeble to twist them 180 degrees, 360 degrees and beyond. Her goal, she said, is to understand how the steel’s recrystallization behavior at high temperature affects its microstructure, with the ultimate goal being to produce higher strength steels at lower cost.

In another lab around the corner, PhD student Lee Rothleutner is fatigue-testing thumb-thick bars, each hour-glassed along the length, of induction-hardened steel. Automakers are interested in improving this steel for drivetrains, he said. Automotive lightweighting is a hot topic in steel, informing many ASPPRC experiments: average light-duty fuel economy standards are poised to leap from today’s 32.5 mpg to 54.5 mpg in 2025. The less a car weighs, the less fuel it takes to move it.

“The drivetrain is really one area of the automobile that hasn’t been intensely lightweighted,” he said. He mounts an article specimen in a fatigue tester that rumbles at a motion-blurring 30 hertz. As Rothleutner works the machine, Findley explains, “Over time, he’ll look at alloying effects, processing effects and some in combination. Which has a better fatigue life? Where are the cracks initiating? How?”

Back in Matlock’s office, shelves of engineering books share space with scores of snapped bits of steel whose failures helped keep so many drivers alive.


This story originally appeared in the 2015-16 issue of "Colorado School of Mines Research."

Mounir Zok, senior sports technologist for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), was researching how boxers moved during a match through video taken by an overhead camera suspended in a boxing ring, when he got an idea that evolved into a Colorado School of Mines field session project.

“We are constantly thinking about how can we help coaches and athletes make the best informed decision through current technology,” Zok said. “Because gymnasts are performing coded actions, their movements are ideal to be measured and analyzed.”

In December, Zok met Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professors Bill Hoff and Hao Zhang and computer science graduate student Brian Reily to observe male gymnasts and collect performance data with computer vision technology—a Microsoft Kinect v2 camera. The color camera uses a depth sensor and microphone array to sense the location and movements of people.

Within a few months, Reily was able to take their results to develop a method to track gymnasts and produce data on their performances.

“It was a great opportunity to collect a unique type of data. I'm working on human detection and pose estimation, and pretty much all existing data out there is collected in a lab,” said Reily. “Collecting this data and publishing it as a dataset would actually be pretty important just on it's own.”

Reily requested the help of four Mines students and USOC coaches to add features—such as tracking gymnasts to create useful data visualizations for both gymnasts and coaches. Computer science students Austin Kauffman, Zac McClain, Evan Balogh and Travis Johnson took Reily’s data to build an app that could record and analyze a routine, playback video, and provide performance statistics.

“I’ve always been interested in computer science and bioinformatics,” said McClain. “I would like to use this project to get into a more active area of computer science.”

The Computer Science field session team, advised by Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Teaching Associate Professor Christopher Painter-Wakefield, sees their app advancing in the future if more features could be added, such as color video playback, consistent frame rates and angle tracking.

“We’ve had students involved in our projects for the last year and a half. The engineering talent coming from Colorado School of Mines is helping us gain insights into some of our sports programs,” Zok said. “These students are scientifically prepared to face the challenge.” The USOC has also been working with Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Joel Bach and a senior design team to develop other technologies to help further athlete development and training.


Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu


Subscribe to RSS - Faculty