Aaron Noble, assistant professor of mining engineering at West Virginia University, has been awarded an inaugural Academic Career Development Grant from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration. The three-year, $300,000 award supports junior faculty members with an eye toward ensuring the academic sustainability of mining programs in the U.S.
Noble, one of only two nationwide to win the award, plans to use the funds to support doctoral candidates in mining engineering who are interested in conducting research in mineral processing systems and particulate separation technologies.
“Looking to the future, changing ore mineralogy will require mines to extract and process much more material in order to produce the same final product,” Noble said. “If current technologies are applied, these processing systems will be extremely costly and energy inefficient. By analyzing and modeling these separation technologies, we can identify bottlenecks and fundamental causes of the process inefficiencies.
“Oftentimes when we have that fundamental understanding, we can modify or redesign the process to overcome these issues while improving the quality of the final products,” Noble continued. “The challenge is in understanding the complicated, microscopic particle-level physical interactions occurring in separation units that can be as big as a small house. The results can then be applied to nearly any mineral commodity: copper, gold, rare earths, silica, even coal. Most commodities use similar separation processes, and the fundamental physical interactions do not change.”
In addition to his membership in SME, Noble, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mining engineering from Virginia Tech, is a member of the American Society of Engineering Education and holds two patents for energy efficient equipment designs.
“I really appreciate the support for my career development that I have received from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and WVU,” Noble said. “I am delighted that I can bring recognition to the university with this prestigious award.”
“I’m thrilled to see our young faculty members recognized on the national stage for their research potential,” said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. “Dr. Noble has been a wonderful addition to our faculty and his work is important to the future of the mining industry.”
SME implemented two grants – the Academic Career Development Grant and the Ph.D. Fellowship Program – to address the long-term challenges that threaten the sustainability of U.S. mining engineering, mineral processing and extractive metallurgy academic degree programs, as well as the looming future labor deficiencies associated with retirements over the next two decades. When fully implemented, the programs will be disbursing $1.4 million in grants annually.
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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