Inside Mines

Lucky Strike for the Geology Museum
Kiefer Stumpp, 10, and his parents donate a rare find of fulgurite to the Geology Museum. Sometimes referred to as “petrified lightning,” fulgurite is a root-like hollow tube of natural glass formed when lightning strikes moist sandy soils and creates intense heat. (more...)



Degrees Conferred, Admissions Applications Soar
As degrees were conferred in December, the number of prospective students vying for the same privilege was heading off the charts: 178 bachelor’s, 167 master’s and 20 doctoral degrees were awarded at the convocation ceremony, and now more than 9,500 students are jockeying for only 950 spots for next year. (more...)


Pre-med at Mines
Colorado School of Mines isn't an obvious choice for pre-med, but that is slowly changing. When the school's Bioengineering and Life Sciences Minor Program was given a kickstart in 2001, a pre-med track was formalized. Today, the school is attracting more students with medical school ambitions, and seeing success in gaining acceptance to med school. (more...)


Revamped Energy Minor Launched
A newly configured Energy Minor Program is beginning a three-year rollout at Mines, offering a range of new options for students in renewable, fossil and general tracks. The interdisciplinary minor is accessible to all undergraduates interested in bolstering their technical knowledge with a broad perspective on the complex role energy plays in modern society. (more...)

In Brief...
Announcements and additional news items. (more...)


Lucky Strike for the Geology Museum


Kiefer Stumpp, 8, was on a hike with his parents west of Eldorado Canyon when something just off the trail caught his eye.

“We thought it was smelting waste at first glance,” says Kiefer’s mom, Donna. But after a closer look, her husband, Peter, realized his son had discovered fulgurite—a rare find.

Sometimes referred to as “petrified lightning,” fulgurite is a root-like hollow tube of natural glass formed when lightning strikes moist sandy soils and creates intense heat. If the electrical charge heats silica to temperatures exceeding 3,000 degrees, sand fuses to form glass. “It was likely formed in a matter of a single second,” says Bruce Geller, director of the Geology Museum, adding that a mineral found in fulgurite, iron silicide, is so rare that the only other place it is found is in meteorites.

After Kiefer’s initial discovery in spring 2008, the family returned to the site twice, collecting the surface pieces first and then digging down for the rest. In its entirety, the specimen is almost 10 feet long and weighs in at 11 pounds—the largest and
most complete specimen found in Colorado, according to one local fulgurite expert.

“We used soft toothbrushes to carefully dust off all of the little pieces,” says Kiefer, now 10. It was he who came up with the idea to donate the fulgurite to the Geology Museum. “We’ve been bringing Kiefer to the museum for years now,” says Donna. “It just seemed like a natural home for our discovery.” A self-professed “nerdy family,” the Stumpps have long been keen on geology and interested in Mines. Kiefer plans
to one day teach geology at the school; he already maintains his own collection of rocks and minerals. And his uncle Hans, Peter’s brother, is a 1986 geology
alumnus.

Geller will assemble the fulgurite for a special display in the museum. The family held
on to a couple of small pieces and plans to have one cut and polished. “We can’t wait to see what the glass inside looks like,” says Kiefer. Depending on impurities in the silica, the glass can take on a variety of colors.

“We think it’s important to be part of the scientific community here,” says Donna, “and Mines’ museum has been a unique place to encourage Kiefer’s love of geology.”

“As the museum’s youngest donor of such a specimen and quite the geology enthusiast, Kiefer is helping build our collection,” Geller says. “We are honored that the Stumpps chose Mines to house their discovery.”

The Stumpp’s gift makes them members of the Friends of Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, a distinguished group of supporters that includes Martin Zinn, who recently donated five specimens for display; David Oreck, who gave the school a rare and much sought-after pyrargyrite specimen; and Gayle Price Vannatter, whose large collection of minerals originates from Bolivia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru and the U.S. NASA will also be named as a friend of the museum after a donation of an Apollo 15 lunar basalt moon rock comes through from the agency later this year.

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Degrees Conferred, Admissions Applications Soar

As degrees were conferred in December, the number of prospective students vying for the same privilege was heading off the charts.

At Midyear Degree Convocation 178 bachelor’s, 167 master’s and 20 doctoral degrees were awarded. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who received an honorary degree at the ceremony, encouraged graduates to apply their scientific knowledge to solve real-world problems through collaboration and innovation. Student body president Jamie Thorpe urged her classmates to stay connected: “As engineers and scientists,
our collaborations with institutions like Mines, and with each other, may serve as
a critical variable in addressing the grand challenges of our era.”

All indications are that Mines’ newest graduates will find themselves in high demand: among December 2008 bachelor’s degree recipients, 86 percent reported that they had either found employment or gone on to graduate school by the end of last summer; among master’s and doctoral degree recipients, 96 percent reported a similar status.

Despite such positive numbers, the 40 percent jump in undergraduate admissions applications seen this year is still dramatic—more than 9,500 students are jockeying for only 950 spots. At the graduate level, applications for next year are up an additional 13 percent over the 40 percent increase seen for the current academic year. Provost Steve Castillo attributes increasing interest in Mines, and ever-higher demand for its graduates, to the university’s focused mission: “We’re at the right spot in terms of offering education and research programs that align with our world’s greatest challenges and opportunities right now,” he says.

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Pre-med at Mines

Colorado School of Mines isn’t an obvious choice for pre-med, but that is slowly changing. When the school’s Bioengineering and Life Science Minor Program was given a kickstart in 2001, a pre-med track was formalized. Today it’s one of six in the bio and life sciences.

Joel Bach, associate director for BELS, advises students interested in the pre-med track and serves as faculty advisor for the student-run Pre-Medical Society. “Medical schools are increasingly looking for students with a strong science and engineering background,” he says. “And now that we’ve got a solid set of course offerings in the life sciences, we are just the institution to prepare students for those pursuits.”


Mellisa Wu and Damian Illing, both enrolled in the BELS pre-med program, talk with Assoc. Prof. Joel Bach.

Dr. Stuart E. Bennett ’66, who earned his degree in petroleum refining engineering at Mines, is now a dentist. “The problem-solving skills of an engineering education are superior to a purely scientific background for preparing students for medical school,” he says, “and as the technology of medicine continues to advance at a rapid pace, an
engineer’s solutions-oriented approach is increasingly important.”

Despite admission to medical school being highly competitive, Mines graduates have been achieving nearly 100 percent placement on their first or second try. Bach credits student success to the unified curriculum, bolstered by mock-interview sessions and a formalized recommendation process. Another factor may be the success of the Pre-Medical Society. Mellisa Wu, president of the student group, helps bring doctors, nurses, medical students and alumni to campus to provide advice and assistance to students interested in medical careers.

Wu says, “The course offerings and Pre-Med Society here allow students to explore their options while pursuing other degrees … it’s a good choice for motivated students with an interest in the medical field.” Wu is a biomedical and biochemical engineering student pursuing a master’s degree and hopes to attend medical school after Mines.

The increasing bio and life science offerings, as well as the BELS pre-med track, are attracting a new group of students to the school. Sarah Engel, assistant admissions director, says, “The bio and life science offerings through BELS are our fastest growing areas on campus. They are attractive to pre-med students and to students, women in particular, who want to work in the health care profession and use their math, science and problem-solving skills to help people live healthier lives.”

Bach is excited about growing student interest: “We’re definitely attracting more students with medical school ambitions, and it’s great to know that they’re thinking of us for these reasons, and knowing that we have what it takes to prepare them for their future careers.”

Damian Illing, student trustee and a senior majoring in chemical engineering, was recently accepted into the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He says Mines
has given him an excellent preparation for the challenges of a medical career, chiefly because it has taught him how to learn, and how to think critically and solve problems.

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Revamped Energy Minor Launched

A three-year rollout of the newly configured Energy Minor Program is under way at Mines, offering a range of new options to students. A survey conducted last spring
showed great interest in such a program, and a committee led by now-director Jim McNeil got to work. They removed prerequisites that made an old program prohibitive for many and created five new courses to unify the minor. “An interdisciplinary energy
minor was a twinkle in many of our eyes for some time,” says McNeil. “Growing student interest, paired with the university receiving NSF funding for the Renewable Energy Materials Research and Science Engineering Center, gave us the push we needed to take off running.”

The program requires an Introduction to Energy course, followed by options in renewable, fossil and general tracks, enabling students to craft a set of electives that also fulfills some core course requirements for their major. Students come together in their senior year for a writing-based Global Energy Policy capstone course, which challenges them to apply technical knowledge to real-world problems. In its initial semester, the Intro to Energy course enrolled 36 students, 21 of whom plan to complete the 18-credit hour minor, and two of whom will pursue a 12-credit hour
“area of special interest.”


Energy minor director Jim McNeil with Introduction to Energy students.

Mechanical engineering major and varsity volleyball player Grace Bol is leaning toward the renewable track. “Even with my mechanical coursework and athletics obligations, fitting the minor into my schedule is achievable,” she says. “Having a background in energy will allow me to make a positive impact and give me a leg up as I look to career options.”

“Our goal is to create socially literate students who can work effectively under social, political, legal and environmental constraints,” says McNeil. “And our learning
objectives ensure that they will develop depth in their understanding of energy technology, while gaining a broad perspective on the complex role energy plays in modern society.” More information on the program is found at energyminor.mines.edu.

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In Brief...

Stewart A. Bliss and Mohan S. Misra PhD ’86 joined the Mines Board of Trustees January 1. Appointed by Governor Bill Ritter, the new trustees will serve through December 2013. Bliss is a senior consultant with Faegre & Benson LLP in Denver. Misra is founder and chief executive officer of ITN Energy Systems.

Mines’ first-ever Diversity Week, themed “Celebrate (You)niqueness,” took place in
January, kicked off with events on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and brought speakers on a variety of topics to campus. Learn more about the student-initiated event in Web Extras.

A new undergraduate “area of special interest” in space and planetary science and
engineering
was approved in November. The 12-credit-hour program offers courses from across disciplines related to space, astronomy and the planets.

A $1.2 million commitment from Newmont Mining Corporation is making possible a
new multidisciplinary center. The Center for Innovation in Earth Resources Science & Engineering (CIERSE) will focus on educating new professionals and developing solutions to mineral resource industry challenges.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced a $33.8 million investment in a National
Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC)
, led by NREL and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with Mines as a partner. NABC will lead research to develop biomass-based sustainable and cost-effective hydrocarbon fuels.

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