Faculty

Colorado School of Mines Computer Science Assistant Professor Hua Wang has received an NSF CAREER Award for a research project to create a new machine-learning model for mining various kinds of data that could lead to easier, earlier and less-costly detection of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Computer Science Assistant Professor Hua WangThe project, called “Robust Brain Imaging Genomics Data Mining Framework for Improved Cognitive Health,” will receive $409,641 over five years.

Wang will develop algorithms aimed at revealing the relationships between people’s genetic information, how their brains appear in scans that measure volume and function and their performances in cognitive tests. “The algorithms can extract information from large amounts of data that cannot be directly analyzed by ourselves,” Wang said. The data for Wang’s project will come from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which collects information to share with scientists around the world.

“How to fuse all this available information from different sources is a challenging mathematical problem,” Wang said. But the payoffs could be big.

Determining one person’s full genetic profile can cost several thousand dollars. If Wang’s project determines a link, for example, between a disease and a small section of that long genetic chain, testing one’s likelihood of developing the disease would be much cheaper. “I wouldn’t mind spending a few bucks to find that out,” Wang said. “For most people, that should not be a problem.”

The project could also determine which cognitive tests are most effective in diagnosing diseases, again saving patients and doctors money, time and effort. Early detection is important in Alzheimer’s, for example, because while the disease is currently irreversible, there are therapies that can slow down its progress significantly. Discovering these relationships could also contribute to cures for such diseases down the road.

The project will contribute to the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, a public-private research partnership that includes numerous government entities, universities, corporations and other institutions. The initiative seeks to create a better understanding of how exactly the brain—with its nearly 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections—functions.

Wang said his method of analyzing data could also be used to improve treatment of HIV/AIDS. While there are now many drugs that can treat the disease, the virus is highly adaptable and mutates quickly. Examining genetic data can help match the right drug to the right strain.

In addition, the technique could be used to create cheaper materials for storing clean energy, Wang said. Currently, such batteries require very expensive metals such as platinum as catalysts. A composite made with iron could work, but there are an almost infinite number of ways to combine metals and arrange their atoms. “It’s almost impossible to do for human beings, and it costs so much,” Wang said. “If we can solve this problem computationally, it would solve the cost problem.”

The project will also develop materials than can be used in K-12 classrooms, introducing students to machine learning and data mining fields “while communicating the relevance of their mathematics and science classes to futures in engineering,” Wang said.

Wang joined Mines in 2012 after completing his PhD in computer science and engineering at University of Texas at Arlington. He also holds a BS in electronic engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing and an MS in signal processing, electrical and electronic engineering from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

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

 
The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering recently hosted WarmeFest, a two-day celebration in honor of Professor Emeritus Dr. John Warme, bringing together over 100 alumni, colleagues and friends from across the world to celebrate his 50-year career. 
Professor Emertius John Warme reminisces on past expeditions during his keynote speech.
Professor Emertius John Warme reminisces on past expeditions during his keynote speech.

“Planning for the WarmeFest was a complete surprise to me, and was set up before I was told," said Warme. "The committee who put it together kept it a secret from me for three and a half months while they set it up, attending to every detail with cooperation from the Alumni Association, Foundation, college and department.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College in Illinois and a PhD from UCLA, Warme went on to hold a postdoctoral appointment as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He began his teaching career at Rice University in 1967, moving up the ranks from assistant to full professor prior to joining the Colorado School of Mines faculty in 1979. Warme served as the director of the Exploration Geosciences Institute during his tenure. He was granted emeritus status upon retirement in 2002.
 
Warme stated that he felt "deeply grateful to realize many things through this event" of which he was not fully aware. "It was a chance for me to review my career for myself as well as outline it for others, and realize that my academic history touched so many people who expressed their feelings,” he said.
 
“We all enjoyed learning more about Dr. Warme’s distinguished and eventful career,” said Geology and Geological Engineering Associate Professor Piret Plink-Björklund, one of the event’s organizers.
 
The Friday program included a welcome from Mines President Paul Johnson, as well as both technical talks and personal stories reflecting on research, field and classroom experiences with Warme.
 
“WarmeFest was a wonderful event honoring Dr. John Warme,” said College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering Dean Ramona Graves. “John’s scientific contribution to geology and his commitment to education are renowned. I personally enjoyed reminiscing with him about our co-taught classes and research. He was an important mentor to me as a young faculty member.”
 
A similar event honoring Dr. Robert J. Weimer’s 54 years of contribution to the Geology and Geological Engineering Department, WeimerFest, was held in 2004. In October 2011, the Mines Geology Trail was dedicated to Weimer. Similarly to WeimerFest, attendance registration fees for WarmeFest will be used to enrich the department, particularly students’ field activities.
 
“Every faculty should have such a marvelous chance to gather with former students, faculty and research colleagues, family and good friends, in the campus setting that was their academic home,” said Warme, giving his sincerest thanks to all involved in organizing the event.
 
View more photos from the event in the slideshow below.

 
 
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
 
 
 
Hugh Miller, an associate prrofessor in the Department of Mining Engineering, received two awards from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration at their 2017 Annual Conference & Expo, held in Denver, Colorado on February 22, 2017. SME is one of the member societies under the umbrella of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers.
 
Miller was selected as the 2017 recipient of the AIME-SME Mineral Industry Education Award, which recognizes distinguished contributions to the advancement of mineral industry education.
 
He was also one of two recipients of the AIME 2017 Honorary Member Award, one of the highest honors that the Institute can bestow on an individual. It is awarded in appreciation of outstanding service to the Institute or in recognition of distinguished scientific or engineering achievement in the fields embracing the activities of AIME and its Member Societies.
 
Also honored at the conference was Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering Research Professor Erik Spiller, who was one of three 2017 recipients of the SME Distinguished Member Award, given to individuals who demonstrated significant and sustained contributions to the minerals industry and to SME. 
 
View more photos from the conference here.
 
Contact: 
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
 

A Colorado School of Mines associate professor in metallurgical and materials engineering has been named to a national team of expert educators charged with identifying the knowledge and skills workers will need to deploy new lightweighting technologies and materials being developed by industry.

Amy ClarkeAmy Clarke is one of six named to the Expert Educator Team (EET) by Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences. The team members were selected from APLU’s member universities and LIFT research partners for their significant knowledge of manufacturing technologies and experience within the manufacturing industry.

"I hope to learn more about ongoing LIFT projects and how our team can help to facilitate collaborations and workforce development," Clarke said. "It is my hope that our team will focus on best and future practices to promote diversity and inclusion and a workforce that includes exposure to and the adoption of state-of-the-art materials processing across a variety of sectors."

Before joining Mines in June 2016, Clarke was a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory for seven years, and spent a year at Caterpillar Inc. as a senior engineer. She is the site director for the Center for Advanced Non-Ferrous Structural Alloys and affiliated with the Advanced Steel Processing and Products Research Center at Mines.

“These experiences have enabled her to understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in academia, government laboratories and industry and have prepared her to serve on the EET,” said Michael Kaufman, dean of the College of Applied Science and Engineering, who nominated Clarke for the team. “I believe she is one of the most successful young scientists in the field today.”

Clarke holds a BS from Michigan Technological University and an MS and PhD in metallurgical and materials engineering from Mines. Among other honors, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2012.

The team will begin its work at a kickoff meeting February 23-24 in Detroit with LIFT’s technology project leaders. The teams will review several technology projects underway and begin to determine where gaps in curricula exist. Closing these gaps will provide students with the right knowledge and skills needed for jobs working with new technologies. In addition to identifying in-demand skills, the team will work to develop recommendations for effective technology-aligned education strategies and will review the LIFT technology portfolio to recommend additional education and workforce development initiatives.

“The key to developing a workforce with the skills employers are looking for is closing the gap between the information and technology taught in the classroom and the advanced technology being deployed by industry,” said Emily Stover DeRocco, education and workforce development director at LIFT. “The experience of this team and the impressive array of researchers and engineers working on LIFT projects will create the vital connections between technology and education to develop a definitively skilled pipeline of workers to meet future demand.”

“This initiative aims to catalyze participation in the critical manufacturing sector by fully realizing the role higher education institutions can play in defining education and workforce strategies,” said Jim Woodell, vice president for economic development and community engagement at APLU.

The Expert Educator Team also includes Fazleena Badurdeen, University of Kentucky; Chad Duty, University of Tennessee Knoxville; Muhammad Jahan, Miami (Ohio) University; Gene Liao, Wayne State University; and Kelly Zelesnik, Lorain County Community College. The team will be led by Woodell and Rebecca Taylor, senior vice president at NCMS.

LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Institute, is a Detroit-based public-private partnership that seeks to develop and deploy advanced lightweight materials manufacturing technologies and implement education and training programs to prepare the workforce.

APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences is the largest cross-industry collaborative research and development consortium in North America and is dedicated to driving innovation in commercial, defense, robotics and environmentally sustainable manufacturing.

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

jpeg

Two Colorado School of Mines professors in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have been recognized for their achievements in geotechnical engineering with national awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Ning LuProfessor Ning Lu received the Ralph B. Peck Award, given for outstanding contributions to the geotechnical engineering profession through the publication of a case history or publication of recommended practices based on case histories. Professor D. Vaughan Griffiths received the H. Bolton Seed Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions to teaching, research or practice in geotechnical engineering.

Lu was recognized for his multiyear case study monitoring the subsurface hydrological and mechanical conditions leading to landslide occurrence on the coastal bluffs between Seattle and Everett, Wash., and for using the data collected to develop a new hydromechanical framework for slope-stability analysis.

The ASCE said Lu’s research over the past decade has made significant contributions to the study of rainfall-induced landslides. The recurring landslides in Washington are a major concern for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Sound Transit, which operates a railway along the bluffs. Results from Lu’s research is now being used to develop a comprehensive hazard mitigation strategy for the railway.

D Vaughan GriffithsGriffiths was honored for his innovative software developments, publications, textbooks and professional short courses on finite elements and probabilistic methods. According to the ASCE, “his highly cited work on finite element stability analysis has transformed the way engineers perform slope-stability analysis in practice.”

Griffiths’ workshops have made him a de facto “ambassador” for the profession, according to ASCE. He is currently chair of the ASCE GeoInstitute Risk Assessment and Management Committee, a core member of the equivalent ISSMGE TC304 Committee and has co-chaired two major GeoInstitute conferences. He is a current editor of Computers and Geotechnics, a recent past editor of ASCE’s Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering and on the editorial/advisory board of two other journals.

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

 

Robert G. Underwood, emeritus associate professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, passed away Saturday, January 7, 2017, after a long illness.

Underwood received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina in 1967 and completed his PhD from the University of Virginia in 1974. After graduating, he accepted a teaching post at the University of South Carolina and later joined the Mines faculty in the summer of 1978.

Underwood taught in what was then known as the Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences. His family says that he was “dedicated to teaching and tried to make learning math fun for his students.” He preferred applied projects, such as optimizing mining operations.

After retiring from academia, spurred by a fascination with the “Star Wars” films, Underwood discovered an interest in filmmaking, specifically special effects. He came out of retirement and moved to California to work on the film “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), developing the movie’s water animation effects. He also worked at Rhythm and Hues Studios, a visual effects and animation company, on the film “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005). Here, he used his engineering background, applying wave theory to animation techniques to make the lion’s mane move realistically.

He retired for the second time to Annapolis, Maryland, where he continued to play tennis, cycle and sail.

Underwood is survived by his wife, Louisa; his son, Will; and his two daughters, Margaret and Katherine (Kate).

Memorial services will be held on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at Christ Lutheran Church in Ferndale, Washington.

 

 

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

 

 
 
A global engineering firm’s diversity chief spoke to students about how inclusion not only makes for a better workplace, but also sparks innovation and benefits the bottom line, in an event organized by the Mines chapter of Out in STEM, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Multicultural Engineering Program.
 
“Diversity truly, truly promotes innovation, which sparks better decision-making, problem-solving and an overall increase in creativity,” said Faye Tate, CH2M’s director of Global Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, who addressed a packed Ballroom A in the Student Center on February 7, 2017.
The organizers of the event with the speaker. Left to right: Deb Lasich, Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Mines; Petere Weddle, President of oSTEM at Mines; Faye Tate, Director of Global Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion for CH2M; and Kim Pattillo, CH2M University Relations.
The organizers of the event with the speaker. Left to right: Mines Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Deb LasichPresident of oSTEM at Mines Peter Weddle; CH2M Director of Global Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion for CH2M Faye Tate; and Kim Pattillo, CH2M University Relations.

Tate said her company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion has not only resulted in a better workplace, but has also helped CH2M secure jobs over other companies that did not share the same core values.

“We see diversity as a part of our culture, part of our DNA,” Tate said. “There’s so many dimensions of diversity, and what we are trying to do is harness all of those dimensions to be better as a company."

Faye Tate speaks to a full-house.

Peter Weddle, PhD student in mechanical engineering and president of oSTEM at Mines, said he was excited to bring such a dynamic speaker to campus to “discuss how diversity and inclusion and LGBT-inclusiveness is beneficial in both an engineering sense, and also in a business-practice sense.”
 
Weddle explained that students at a school like Mines may not always experience the same level of diversity as they might at other colleges. “In the engineering space, specifically, we have detriments for both women, but also for people of color and those in LGBTQ spaces—the whole topic of diversity and inclusion can be more glossed over at Mines than at other schools," he said.
 
Although oSTEM is focused primarily on LGBTQA communities in the STEM fields, the organizers hoped to reach out to a broader audience by working with MEP and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 
 
Weddle is optimistic about the growth of support for diversity and inclusion at Mines. “I think that bringing awareness to these kinds of issues shows that Mines is an accepting space for all types of diverse people, and that they are working toward reflecting what is shown in industry—trying to move toward a more diverse and inclusive atmosphere.”
 

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

 

 
A three-day NSF-sponsored workshop will bring to Mines 20 of the world’s top scholars focused on the societal aspects of mining and other extractive processes.
 
“STS Underground: Investigating the Technoscientific Worlds of Mining and Subterranean Extraction” will take place February 5 to 7, 2017. The workshop encourages a research approach that is often referred to as Science and Technology Studies, or Science, Technology, and Society (STS).
 
“STS sheds light on how mining, energy and other extractive processes are not just technical, but sociotechnical practices that have everything to do with questions of knowledge, power and expertise,” said Jessica Smith, Hennebach Assistant Professor of Energy Policy in Liberal Arts and International Studies. Smith is cohosting the conference with Ropali Phadke of Macalester College and Abby Kinchy of Renesselar Polytechnic Institute. “Industry leaders have learned that to be successful and sustainable, they need to be proactive in engaging these sorts of sociotechnical questions.”
 
The conference is the first one in STS to focus specifically on extractive activities. “The existing social science scholarship on mining and extraction comes largely from anthropology and geography, especially in terms of the consequences for vulnerable communities. Yet these fields remain largely distinct from STS and rarely engages practitioners, such as scientists and engineers,” explained Phadke. 
 
Workshop participants who are interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences scholars will have the opportunity to engage with scientists and engineers who work in those fields. They will also have an opportunity to tour the university’s Edgar Experimental Mine. Organizers say STS is well positioned to make an impact in these industries, opening up crucial questions about the technologies, practices and forms of knowledge related to subterranean extractive practices.
 
“We’re proud that Mines is playing a role in bringing these industries from the periphery of this field to the center of it,” said Smith.
 
While the majority of the three-day event is closed to the public in order to workshop papers in a forthcoming book, there are two public events on February 6: a panel discussion with invited guest scholars, who will synthesize and comment on the themes of the workshop, and a keynote address from renowned historian Gabrielle Hecht, an internationally recognized expert on nuclear energy policy and uranium mining. 
 
The panel will take place 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Ben Parker Student Center, Ballrooms A and B, with speakers Anthony Bebbington of Clark University, Trevor Birkenholtz of the University of Illinois, Elizbeth Ferry of Brandeis Unvieristy and Phadke. More information about each of the speakers can be found here.
 
A reception will follow from 5:30 to 6 p.m., where posters showcasing Mines students’ research engaging with the social responsibility dimensions of mining, oil and gas, groundwater and geothermal projects will be on display. 
 
The keynote address will be held immediately after at 6 p.m. Hecht will present “Residual Governance: Mining Afterlives and Molecular Colonialism, seen from an African Anthropocene.”
 
“It’s exciting to see Mines at the forefront of defining the underground as a vibrant specialty inside of STS,” said Smith, “and the workshop is advancing our efforts in the Humanitarian Engineering program to grow research and teaching on social responsibility on campus.”
 
This workshop is being made possible by NSF Award 16322651.
 
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
 

Xiaoli Zhang operates a robotic arm in a lab at MinesColorado School of Mines Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Xiaoli Zhang has received an NSF CAREER award for her project on human-robot interaction teleoperations.

“My work is focused on how humans and robots collaborate, especially in teleoperations where the human and the robot are not in the same location,” said Zhang. Normally the user is operating a keyboard, a mouse or a joystick to remotely operate the robot. Teleoperations involves several challenges, such as the indirect visualization and manipulation, as well as the discrepancy between the robotic grip and the device being used to manipulate it.

Zhang explained, “Even using a data glove, the physical structure of a human hand and the robot’s hand are extremely different. If we want robots to do fine manipulations like a human can, we must solve this control problem.”

One of the most successful employments of robotic teleoperations is in a hospital surgical room, where it might be used to remove a gallbladder through a surgical robot. However, there are several situations where teleoperations are also extremely helpful, such as in repairing or inspecting mines, space exploration, search and rescue operations and anywhere that is difficult or dangerous for humans to access.

“The field of robotics is growing quickly, and robots are getting smarter,” said Zhang. “Ultimately, if we want a robot to think like a human, to be intelligent and have autonomy and the capability to regulate itself in order to work with humans, the robots have to first become more aware of how humans achieve those things. Even when it comes to something as simple as picking up a cup, there are multiple ways we approach it, depending on whether our goal is to pass it someone else, place it on a shelf, drink from it or wash it. We have to investigate our own behavior patterns in order to formulate a knowledge-based model through machine learning methods for a robot.”

The primary research goal of this project is to develop a novel goal-guided control interface. Instead of passively following the operator’s motion input, the robot will understand the operator's high-level objective during an object-grasping operation and autonomously conform to task constraints in order to reduce control difficulties and ensure the success of subsequent manipulation. 

Xiaoli Zhang demonstrates a drone Another component of Zhang’s research is improving distance learning systems using robotic teleoperations. When students are in a different location than the instructor, it is challenge to involve students physically. Zhang hopes to develop an interactive distance learning system that will involve remote students using teleoperated robots. The system will immerse remote users in the classroom environment through student tele-controlling of a robot's arms and hands for object manipulation and/or interaction with other classmates in the classroom.  Its immersive nature will enable remote users to feel present in the classroom and engaged in class activities.   

Ultimately Zhang hopes to reduce the control burden on the human operator, and as she puts it, “the goal is and always has been to improve how robots can help humans.”

The National Science Foundation CAREER award is the most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

 

Written by Deirdre O. Keating

 

Contact:
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Professor Carl Mitcham
The 2017 Colorado School of Mines Faculty Senate Distinguished Lecturer, Liberal Arts and International Studies Professor Carl Mitcham, will present “Engineering Ethics: Thinking Small and Big” at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25, in the Student Center Ballrooms.
 
Mitcham’s talk will focus on the history of engineering ethics, and how an increasingly changing, engineered world affects the work of engineers in modern society, also discussing what this means for “everyone who directly or indirectly contributes to and is influenced by the engineering way of being in the world”.
 
In addition to his appointment at Mines, Mitcham also holds an appointment as an International Distinguished Professor of Philosophy of Technology at Renmin University of China. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Colorado, and his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University.
 
For a full bio and abstract, see the faculty senate website.
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Faculty