Colorado School of Mines: Inspiring global change through collaboration

How do we design sustainable societies of the future?

It’s clear that we must find sustainable ways of harvesting the Earth’s resources. To achieve this, we must develop sustainable methods for adding value to these resources to provide power, fit-for-purpose water and manufactured products. We need to design new products for transportation, housing and the remaining infrastructure that supports the various operations of everyday life. These new products and practices must fit into a sustainable lifecycle, allowing the products to be recycled and re-manufactured to significantly reduce impact on the Earth’s finite resources.

To become a valued contributor in this important journey toward sustainability, science and engineering educators must depart from traditional teaching methods that tend to be compartmentalized in specific disciplines. Instead, educators must provide broader perspectives on the societal implications of their specialization, including such things as lifecycle considerations, economic influences and public policy concerns.

With its focus on earth, energy and environment, Colorado School of Mines (Mines) is uniquely poised to provide future scientists and engineers with the knowledge and expertise needed for faculty and students to meet these challenges head-on. Within Mines, the College of Applied Science and Engineering (CASE) combines knowledge from a range of science and engineering disciplines – recognizing that collaboration is key to unlocking creativity, finding new ways of approaching familiar problems and generating widely accepted and impactful solutions.

Mines is fittingly located near the modern and diverse state capital of Denver – a thriving hub of high-tech industry. Major players in this high-tech city include Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and CoorsTek – with which CASE works closely. This concentration of industry leaders pushes Denver’s percentage of STEM workers to 50 percent above the U.S. norm, making it an appealing destination for any prospective graduate looking for career opportunities.

While the city is highly multicultural and globally accessible, the college itself strives to operate an inclusive atmosphere for international students, with 26 percent of graduate students hailing from overseas. Mines also runs the Multicultural Engineering Program in a bid to enroll and graduate underrepresented students from diverse backgrounds.

CASE’s collaborative and interdisciplinary approach has garnered it a wealth of success and an abundance of accolades for its faculty and students. The college hosts several cross-cutting research thrusts and students are encouraged to get involved with research within these unique activities. Aimed at manufacturing, resource sustainability and environmental stewardship, example institutes and centers include:

  • The Critical Materials Institute, an Energy Innovation Hub of the U.S. Department of Energy whose focus is innovation to assure supply chains for materials critical to clean energy technologies. At Mines, the CMI includes faculty and students from both the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department (MME) and outside of CASE (Economics and Business).
  • The Renewable Energy Materials Science and Engineering Research Center (REMRSEC) has made a research mission of identifying, launching and advancing innovative research directions in sustainable materials for renewable energy, meeting its human resource mission of educating the next generation of renewable energy professionals, creating outreach programs to inform the public about the potential of renewable energy and promoting diversity among faculty, research associates, staff, students and future students. Given the breadth of the subject of renewable energy, the center involves faculty and students from all of the departments in CASE and many departments outside of CASE.
  • The Nuclear Science and Engineering Center supports faculty and students in (Physics, Chemistry and Metallurgical and Materials Engineering) and outside (Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering) of CASE who are conducting research related to nuclear science and engineering. An example is the recent collaboration between a synthetic chemist from Chemistry and a nuclear physicist from Physics who won a proposal to develop stable, inexpensive materials for detecting dangerous nuclear radiation. This example showcases the proliferation of interdisciplinary collaborations throughout the college.

Such fruitful, collaborative experiences will be enhanced significantly with the upcoming opening of the CoorsTek Center for Applied Science and Engineering – an interdisciplinary academic and research facility situated in the middle of the Mines campus. This haven of flexible lab space and technologically advanced classrooms will support the highly-collaborative partnerships between the college’s four departments (Physics, Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering and  Metallurgical and Materials Engineering) and two interdisciplinary programs, (Materials Science and Nuclear Science and Engineering). The space will foster thematic institute thinking and nurture industry connections through the provision of a co-located, centralized major equipment user facility. Students in CASE will be able to take advantage of these world-class facilities and work alongside some of these award-winning visionaries when making their own mark on pioneering, and potentially world-changing, research.

To integrate Mines’ unique interdisciplinary research and education environment, Mines has developed non-thesis and professional master’s degree programs in each department and program in an effort to provide students and professionals the opportunity to receive a coveted master’s degree from Mines without the need to conduct and defend a master’s thesis. These degree programs have been designed to attract working professionals, as well as ambitious international students who seek a prestigious Mines degree to help them design a sustainable global future.

In an article titled “Great Research, Great Teaching”, the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education ranked Mines second in the U.S. for high-quality professors and teaching excellence, as well as recognizing the university’s exemplary blend of teaching and research.  With access to exceptional training, students are encouraged to turn their visions into reality and to watch their work impact practical policy.

This attentive quality has resulted in an impressive 93 percent of the MS degree students landing themselves in employment or further study within a year of receiving their degrees. This, paired with affordable tuition and some of the highest average starting salaries, makes CASE the ideal springboard for those with an urge to drive progress and become leaders in the responsible creation of future societies.

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